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Dogs were not missed during my childhood. I was born to a little white poodle mix that my parents owned in Cuba, Yuni, and as soon as we got a backyard in the States we got a giant German Shepard named Yuni, in honor of the old Yuni (who, rumor has it, died of sadness a few months after my parents were forced to leave him in Cuba).  These dogs were sweethearts, just a couple of all the dogs we had while I was growing up, and always outside. I can remember very few times when my mom allowed our dogs in; usually there was a serious storm coming.

Somewhere along the line, probably right around the time when I met one of my best childhood friends, I realized even big dogs could live inside, and started to want one of my own. Jenny had all sorts of dogs at home, indoors, and they were quiet (for the most part), and the house didn’t smell at all. She used to talk about and relate to her dogs in a way I never really had. While Jenny seemed to always have a story about D.O.G., or some other member of the brood, after the age of 6 or 7 I really only ever saw my dogs when my dad forced my sister and I to go outside and spend time with them.

Well, extensive pleading, one failed attempt, some serious money, and a place of my own later…I finally have an inside dog. Believe me when I say I try to remind myself every day that he’s “just a dog.” But darn, he’s really great!

I can honestly say I love my dog. And I know this because as much as I like the fact that he sits, waits (even as I take pictures of him), and plays fetch like a pro, I do not mind doing the things that are…let’s just say less glamorous. “Picking up,” literally, after a dog…no fun. Having to bathe him in your own, human shower, because it’s fifty degrees in Florida the one night he gets truly filthy…kinda disgusting. Worrying about how long you’ve been out with friends and whether he has to pee…annoying. But man!…

The way he looks at me when he thinks someone’s at the door (like he could actually protect me), the way he sits still for minutes on end while I insist on brushing him, and the way he, without exaggeration, jumps with joy when I get home, makes me wanna melt.

There’s just something about having a living, breathing, sensitive, and dependent creature share your space…that makes him more than “just a dog.”

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I wonder what I’m supposed to be doing. Actually, I know I should be studying for family law rather than sitting here right now, but that’s not what I mean. Like Shakira used to sarcastically say:

“trabajar cada día – para vivir en la vida
contestar solo aquello – y sentir solo esto
y que Dios nos ampare de malos pensamientos.
Cumplir con las tareas, – asistir al colegio.”

But what kind of work? No one ever really tells you what in this world needs doing, and every time I think of something on my own turns out its hard (emotionally and otherwise) and doesn’t pay well. I find it hard to do homework and go to school without knowing why I’m doing it. Or is it that I find it hard to do things I know won’t lead to what people expect of me? (Not that meeting people’s expectation should tell me how to live my life. And not that I actually know what people expect) Maybe I’m just a control freak at a point in life when I can’t be in control no matter how hard I try (who knows where I’ll find myself after graduation). Maybe I am still in school because even though I gripe about it I know it’s important. But what if I’m not?

What if I’m in school because that’s all I could think was acceptable to do at the time I started doing it? What if I stay in school because I’m afraid of quitting? What if nothing were to happen either way? What if no one would care, or say anything, if I graduated in 2012 or quit school next semester?

I painted my nails dark dark brown (almost black) for Thanksgiving. The whole time I was doing it I felt like a rebel. I was never allowed to paint my nails black, or blue, or other “weird” colors, growing up, so as I added the dark coat I grinned and enjoyed it. When it was over I was torn. I loved it. I also dreaded the thought of getting to my parents’ home and having dad make a comment about how bad or ugly the color (or the idea of the color) was.  Guess what?

Dad didn’t say a thing about the color. So today, I painted my nails the same color…and didn’t have nearly as much fun. In fact, when they were half way to dry I wondered if I should start over and paint them red.

All this to say…My life is up to me now. Friends and family are great support groups, there to laugh, cry, and fight with you, but in the end…

24 is not the time to rebel. I’m the only who’s going to care if I quit school and find myself debt ridden with no good ideas for making a living and paying it back. So I guess I’ll continue to study. I guess I’ll continue to look for ways to help people with my law degree.

And in the meantime…I think I’ll take many deep breaths and learn to do what’s right because I feel it’s right, not because it’s expected.

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