Does It Matter If We’re All The Same

Far too often, you hear people say, “they aren’t our kind of people” or “they come from the wrong side of the tracks” or even “we don’t associate with people like that” and it’s meant in the worst possible way. It’s meant to imply that the people speaking are a better cut than the people they are talking about.

Oftentimes, we think animals also have a similar code by which they live, and for the most part, animals tend to only mingle with their own kind … except for then they don’t.

Imagine how heart warming it is to read a news story where a dog alerts humans to the fact that he has found a missing cat but is unable to help that missing cat get out of the predicament in which the cat finds itself. That’s what happened recently in Northhamtonshire in the UK.

I found this video (dated 2018) where a gaggle of geese decided to include a piglet in their group. The group he originally belonged to bullied him for being too small and not dark enough. The geese weren’t having any of that kind of behavior in their presence, and so they stepped up to the plate and made the piglet an honorary gossling.

And then there’s Mzee the Aldabra Giant Tortoise who is nearly a hundred and fifty years old who was befriended by Owen the Hippo when the hippo was separated from its herd when it was a baby because of a tsunami in 2004. For two years, they were inseparable at Haller Park in Bamburi (Kenya) until Owen was moved to an adjacent pen after growing to be a full-sized hippo that might accidentally hurt his friend the tortoise.

Photo from thehindu dot com website

There are countless stories of animals doing something out of the ordinary for their species that benefits one or more animals from another species. In other words, it’s not an uncommon thing to see out there in the world of predators and prey.

What does that mean when it comes to people?

I think it means we can do better and be better than we are. We can learn to be empathetic towards those who are different from us, and learn to reciprocate instead of retaliate. Rather than look for ways to even the score, isn’t it time to look for ways to pay kindnesses forward instead? It takes the same amount of effort, and results in far more positive end results in the short-term as well as the long-term.

I’m not saying people should endanger themselves. People absolutely should not do that. If someone believes they are entitled to commit crimes without consequences, absolutely distance yourself from someone like that. Not only are they a bad influence, chances are they will bring that bad behavior to your front door for you to deal with instead of addressing that bad behavior themselves.

I’m not saying people shouldn’t call out bad behavior when they see it. People absolutely should do that.

But when you have a choice between making someone else’s life miserable because you can and you don’t like them, or making someone else’s life better because you can and it doesn’t matter whether you like them or even know them, focus on the option that is filled with promise and positive emotions.

Go with the option that becomes a wave within an ocean of compassion and consideration.

Instead of pointing to the times when you would have wanted others to treat you that way but didn’t, and using that as a reason to not help someone else, look at those same times and make the decision to break that cycle by being the person who cares and helps.

It doesn’t cost a penny to say something nice anymore than it doesn’t cost a penny to say something nasty, but the difference is that in saying something nasty, you diminish yourself in the process of diminishing the other person.

In a world with innumerable dark clouds, be a silver lining to someone else and in doing so, you are your own silver lining.

Elyse Bruce
7 May 2021

You Are Never Too Old

For cartoons. You are never too old for cartoons. No matter what most everyone else will say, I say you are never too old for cartoons.

People are under the impression that the majority of cartoons are meant to be — and have been meant to be in the generations leading up to this one — for children only, mostly because of the storylines. Those same people also believe that cartoons characters are made up of extreme stereotypes, and that those extreme stereotypes teach children to be aggressive and mean to others while other stereotypes teach children to embrace racism and sexism and other isms.

As with anything else in life, when you leave a child to his or her own devices, anything they experience can lead to a poor learning experience. And as with anything else in life, when you are involved in what your child is seeing or watching or participating in, you have multiple opportunities to guide and mentor them appropriately.

For those who say teens and adults who watch cartoons are too old to watch cartoons, they are missing out on something very important: You are never too old especially when the cartoons are well made.

Most people are unaware of the fact that originally cartoons were meant for adult audiences with a commentary on society as a whole. In fact, the 1918 cartoon ‘The Sinking of the Lusitania‘ by Winsor McCay (back when they were called moving pen pictures) required 25,000 images to be drawn, and then carefully stitched together to create the moving pen picture.

Moving into the jazz era, animation studios created more light-hearted fare and because the animators were usually young adults barefuly out of high school, sophomoric humor was oftentimes included. But the realities of life were also reflected in those cartoons including the subject of overindulging in alcohol, violence, and sexual harassment.

The Fleischer Studios produced cartoons such as the Superman cartoon series and the Popeye the Sailorman series as well as the Color Classics. In fact you can watch the first Color Classic, ‘Poor Cinderella’ at archive. org by clicking HERE.

As cartoons matured and with the introduction of the 1934 Hays Code (the set of moral guidelines that all live action and animated movies had to follow until 1968), cartoons became tamer and began to cultivate an audience among children due in large part to cartoons from the Disney studios.

Last Sunday (April 25) was World Penguin Day, so, of course, it was the perfect day to watch “Penguins of Madagascar.”

Yes, there were a lot of kid-friendly lessons blended into the story line, but along with those lessons were countless nods to pop culture. For adults, it was easy to cotton on to the James Bond nods from the soundtrack through to the spy gadgetry. The ingenuity of sneaking in to a location undetected by rolling (black and white) across a black-and-white crosswalk. But it’s more than that.

The cartoon pokes fun at documentarians who go to the South Pole to film penguins on location, and pokes at other countries with a grey wolf leading a polar bear, a snowy owl, and a harp seal to form a very Canadian spylike team named North Wind who, this time around, are saving the penguins of the world from the evil genius mastermind running amuck.

There’s the stereotypical mwa-ha-ha laughter of the villain, and the equally stereotypical albeit natural silliness of real penguins.

And while this was marketed as children’s entertainment, it’s also very much the kind of entertainment an adult can easily enjoy.

So to those who say if you are well past your childhood, you are too old to enjoy cartoons, I say they are sadly mistaken. When the story is well crafted, you are never too old to enjoy cartoons. So reach for those old Mickey Mouse or Flintstones cartoons or those new Pixar or Dreamworks cartoons, and settle down for some much needed downtime away from the world. Laugh like you would if you were five years old, and laugh like you would for the age you are right now.

You are never too old for the things that bring light and laughter into your life.

Elyse Bruce
30 April 2021

From Nothing Much to Something

Every day, no matter how bleak it may seem to someone at the time, has good news tied to it. Even if you think your day has been a nothing much sort of day, out there, it’s a something important sort of day.

Back in 1995, April 23rd started out as a nothing much sort of day for a man in Liverpool known as Peter Hodgson. He was up in his attic, moving things about, when he found a reel-to-reel tape. A little digging about revealed that his father had loaned a local musician his recorder so the musician and his fellow musicians could record a few songs.

That musician was Sir Paul McCartney (who was still a number of years away from being knighted).

The year was 1959.

The reel-to-reel tape had sixteen songs on it.

And so, on April 23, 1995 a nothing much day for Peter Hodgson became a something day for a great many people including Peter Hodgson.

Something as small as puttering around in his attic led to a silver lining that brightened the lives of many the world over, and although I don’t know for certain, I suspect that upon hearing this news, Sir Paul McCartney as he remembered the incident from so long ago.

William Shakespeare was baptised on April 26, 1564, and historians believe his birth was three days earlier on April 23, 1564 (He also happened to die on April 23, 1616).

In 1597, his play, The Merry Wives of Windsor, was playing at the Globe Theatre in London. In many respects it was a nothing much sort of day for the those with tickets to take in the performance on April 23, 1597. But it wasn’t really as ordinary a day as they thought it was going to be.

On Shakespeare’s 33rd birthday, Queen Elizabeth I attended the performance as well!

And so, on April 23, 1597, a nothing much day for a number of theater attendees became a something amazing day for all of them including the actors and the playwright. Although I don’t know for certain, I suspect that even those who did not like Queen Elizabeth I were taken with her presence at the theater.

No matter how much of a nothing much day you think any day may be, chances are excellent that on each nothing much day something fantastic has happened in the past and is most likely happening on the current nothing much day you’re experiencing. Just because it doesn’t feel like much to you doesn’t mean it’s nothing. In fact, that you are experiencing the day makes it so much more than a nothing much sort of day.

The tendency many have is to marginalize what’s good about any given day.

Ask someone, “Whatchya been doing lately?” and the most heard answer is, “Nothing much really.”

Nothing much?

Find the silver lining on difficult days instead of surrendering to the negativity.

Are you suffering from sore muscles? The silver lining is that you can feel your muscles, and if you can feel your muscles, that is far better than not being able to feel your muscles. Are you struggling with sad thoughts? The silver lining in that is the fact you have real emotions and they run deep. It won’t make you less sad, but out there exist people who are shallow or who are unable to experience or identify their emotions, so imagine what that must be like. Yes, you are suffering, but you are identifying and experiencing your feelings.

No, I’m not suggesting you should go around seeing the world through rose-colored glasses. That would be silly of me to suggest that to anyone.

What I’m suggesting is to consider all aspects of your day and situation, and find one or more silver linings because silver linings are what make cloudy times so much more than you might have imagined they would or could be.

Elyse Bruce
23 April 2021

The Shelter(ed) Life

I am a supporter of adopting pets from animal shelters. Yes, those unwanted strays and runaways and feral animals that wait around in small cages until someone decides to take them back to their apartment or home.

I’m aware that some adoptions from animal shelters don’t work out as hoped, and that some of those animals are either returned to the shelter or abandoned to fend for themselves … whether it’s an intentional or unintentional abandonment.

Eighteen or so months ago — and several months after the loss of our beloved Lola the Cat due to cancer — my husband and I decided to visit the local animal shelter. We had no intention of adopting. We had every intention of bringing some love and attention to the animals in the feline and canine sections of the shelter.

Over the course of four weeks, we visited the animal shelter five times, and, as you probably guessed, the fifth time, we left with not one, but two pets: Lillian and Gillian.

We had seen and interacted with these two cats (who were supposedly sisters and who were quite obviously very attached to each other) four out of five times (one of those times Lillian was at the vet and I’ll explain why later in this piece).

Gillian was timid, and Lillian put herself between Gillian and humans as if to protect her. In return, Gillian was oftentimes found grooming Lillian who returned the favor. It was easy to see that if they were adopted separately, both of them would struggle and suffer from the separation.

They had come from a hoarder house three months earlier, and been adopted out a while later. They were returned to the shelter and informed by the people who returned them that they were moving and couldn’t take the sister cats with them.

They were adopted out a second time a few weeks later, but that didn’t work out either. There was a dog at that home and whatever created the situation, the dog had grabbed Lillian by the head which resulted in one ear sustaining damage and a terribly nasty gash on the side of her face that left her looking like a FrankenCat and, truth be told, not very adoptable. (That one time Lillian wasn’t at the shelter when we visited — when she was at the vet — it was to check on the progress of the gash that left that side of her mouth exposed. She was fighting a terrible infection, and she was on another round of antibiotics with the hopes the infection could be cleared up.)

As with the first family that adopted them, the second family returned the sister cats to the shelter.

We decided after the fifth visit that we would adopt Lillian and Gillian, and after buying them what they needed to make our home their new home, we adopted them.

Within that first month, we took them to the veterinarian who had cared for Lola the Cat, and that’s when we learned that Lillian also suffered from an autoimmune disease. We were devastated. It seemed Lillian had so much bad luck going for her. Where was the silver lining in the hand life had dealt her?

I phoned the shelter and let them know what we had been told about Lillian. I was thinking perhaps there were some files from their vet (beyond what they had already supplied) that could be forwarded to our vet to help Lillian. However, the person on the phone at the shelter assumed I was calling to return Lillian and keep Gillian, or return them both. That’s what most people would have done I suppose, but my husband and I aren’t most people.

We always intended to keep the sister cats. Just because one of them had an added complication wasn’t what either of us considered a reason to return either or both cats. We had taken them on as members of our family and that meant being there for them through the good times and the more complicated times. An autoimmune disease was just one of things that would result in complicated times, and would require close attention to catch things as they began to flare up instead of noticing something was wrong once the flare-up was out of control.

The injuries from the attack healed, but those first nine months resulted in a number of trips back and forth to the vet for Lillian. I worried she might think we were punishing her in some way, and that’s why she was being taken back and forth to the vet while her sister stayed home, waiting for her return.

Across all those months we loved and treated those sister cats as best we could. We noticed which wet food and dry good combinations they preferred. I knitted them their own blankets to lie on. We spent time with them together and individually.

We bought them a large cat tree with two baskets and countless levels to laze about on. They had their own food dishes and water dishes (no sharing needed) and their own litter boxes (no sharing needed). They enjoyed wet food and dry food, and they hung out on the desks in the office.

Ten months ago, Lillian went in for more medication for another flare up of her autoimmune disease.

For the past ten months, knock on wood, she hasn’t had to return to the vet for anything more than the yearly physical she and her sister had late last summer.

Both sister cats have beautiful, soft fur (so unlike the straw-like fur they had when we adopted them). Lillian who would run out of the room every time my husband would enter that same room eighteen months ago now cuddles up to him every evening to get one-on-one time with him. Gillian who was my husband’s friend from the start also loves to lie in his arms every evening (after her sister has decided she’s had enough cuddle time) to get one-on-one time with him.

While the silver lining for the sister cats is that their lot in life has improved considerably since coming to live with us, the silver lining for my husband and I is that these sister cats, simply by being themselves, bring a lot of joy and laughter into our lives. When all is said and done, isn’t that a beautiful lining for each of us?

Elyse Bruce
16 April 2021

Rain, Rain, Go Away

For several weeks now, rain has been the go-to weather forecast nearly every single day. Rain. More rain. Even more rain. There may be a few hours that are rain-free — maybe even a few hours where the sun shines brightly — but where I live, it’s been endless days of rain.

Now you might think that’s reason to be somber. Rivers and creeks are overflowing. Gardens waiting to be tilled are turning into mud holes any self-respecting mud-loving animal would enjoy wallowing in for a few hours. Plants are struggling to deal with all the water in the soil. It’s a frightful sight!

March came in like a lion and contrary to popular belief, it’s also leaving like a lion.

But it’s also a great time to contemplate what you plan to do with the weeks that follow — the weeks without quite as much rain and the sun warming the earth for than 12 hours each day.

Some will find something to complain about when that weather comes about, and even more will find a way to tie last winter’s cold weather in to the beautiful weather to dampen other people’s feelings on how welcoming the climate is. Some will tell you tales of their childhood when summer was either so hot no one lived through it to tell the tale or was so cold it was as if summer never happened at all that year.

Instead of focusing on what displeases you about the weather, now is the time to take stock of the silver lining the rain clouds have brought along with them.

There’s a saying that reminds us that April showers bring May flowers, and indeed they do even if those flowers are also called weeds.

Wait a minute! What?

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in 1878, “What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.” Now, isn’t that a nice way to describe something most of us have been taught to hate?

Poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox wrote in 1911, “A weed is but an unloved flower.” Isn’t that also a nice way to describe something we would rather not find growing in our yards?

Both those commentaries are true, aren’t they?

Here’s something to consider: All of the plants we cherish most in this era had their beginnings in life as weeds until someone saw their value and began breeding and cultivating them as plants instead of mistreating them as weeds.

What takes a plant from weed status to plant status is how people perceive and present it. In nature, all plants are nothing more and nothing less than plants. The plants we love grow easily alongside the plants we derisively refer to as weeds.

And were it not for the rain that falls, those plants and weeds wouldn’t grow. That’s why we need to embrace what we may perceive to be bad luck or bad weather.

People aren’t much different than plants, are they? Some are labeled bad seeds before they have a chance to prove themselves, and some rise about their bad seed beginnings to become cherished beings. Some who are poorly tended to fail to flourish and some who get too much or too little sun wither and die.

Instead of hoping for rain to go away, consider all the reasons why it matters to have some rain in your life, and how to deal with rain when there seems to be too much of it in your life. Accept that rain has its place in the world and in your life, and embrace it. After all, once those hot summer days arrive, you’ll be glad you understand the value of rain falling from the sky.

Elyse Bruce
9 April 2021

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