Life Is a Bowl of Cherries
Or the Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

Several weeks ago, I wrote about Ginger being a chick magnet. It was, from my perspective, more than a cute story. I have an extremely hectic life crammed with important things that I must accomplish. For example, of my 24/7 workload, I sit in front of my computer while I teach and write. When I am not busy doing that, I take care of Ginger. Additionally, I make a couple monthly trips to Indy to visit Jack and Owen and a weekly trip to get groceries.

Therefore, a major part of my life is divided between teaching, writing, and caring for Ginger. Weather permitting, I take Ginger for a daily long walk around the lake where my home is located. Ginger is a half-year old Irish Setter with an energy level unmatched by any marathon runner. She enjoys walking and chatting with me, but what she loves most is to get to the area at the end of the lake, called the trails. I let her run free as I walk that half mile of undeveloped area, which means that Ginger will run a hundred yards back and forth across my path. I can hear a joyful one-liner, “Free at least; thank God I’m free at last.” Once we get back into the area of homes, I give her a treat and connect her to her leash again. Then we continue our walk and conversation.

We do this routine based upon when I can get away from my busy schedule. We will do it before breakfast, at noon, or in the early evening all of which depends on my duties that day. Several months ago, as chance would have it, we were walking in the early evening. While we were just starting out, I was trying to figure out whether we had enough time to complete our intended circumnavigation of the lake. As I reminded Ginger that I loved her, I was engrossed in figuring the time to get around the lake and back home before the sun went down.

Out of nowhere, the next thing that I noticed was a woman saying hello. Ginger assumed that she was saying hello to her…and probably was. Out of my trance-like ponderings, I responded with my hello. However, by that time, Ginger and this mystery lady were down on the sidewalk playing. The lady knew about handling dogs, and Ginger had found a friend. Over the next ten minutes, I wasn’t the suave, urbane, debonair, charming, and composed person inwardly as I portrayed outwardly to the lady. Here was a woman who knew about dogs, had read A Dog’s Purpose, was attractive, and wasn’t wearing a wedding ring.

I wasn’t speechless. I managed to pull together a handful of sentences, but, when we parted, I was wide awake. Go to this essay, Chick Magnet, if you are interested in how dumbstruck I was with my excitement about that moment.

Several days later, I went to my mother confessor, Maureen, and asked her who I had run into while walking Ginger. I don’t think that I got my story half out before Maureen named the person. I told her about wanting to reconnect with this lady, but I wanted Maureen to run interference for me first. If she happened to see this woman on the street someday, I would like Maureen to mention my story of meeting the mystery lady.

I went home, wrote the essay about this mystery lady, proofed it, and sent it to my web administrator. The next day, I did the video intro to the essay. As I was doing the video, I realized that I was capable of being a man and just introduce myself to this person, which I did.

The story, while fascinatingly cute and exciting from my perspective, didn’t turn out to be as unbelievable of a fairy tale as I had hoped. While I was correct about all that I saw in this lady, she and I were not at the same place as each other in our lives. We weren’t on the same page or even in the same chapter. Talk about soaring to the heights and returning to terra firma abruptly. I felt like Icarus. Looking back upon this encounter, I should have been more cautious and less running around in La La Land. I still remember the excitement, uncontrollable exuberance that I felt when I first met the mystery lady. However, that loss forces me to address it. I went to bed that night a sad man but got up the next morning at 6:15 am as I always do.

I looked at Ginger, and she must have sensed my mournfulness. She has a habit, when I reprimand her for something, of licking my hand. The licking is like her saying that she is sorry. This morning, she knew all wasn’t well with me and licked my hand. In response, I suggested that we go for a walk around the lake, which we did. We did the regular dance. We walked and talked while in the section with the homes. Then Ginger ran in the trails. Returning from the trails, we talked about my Icarus-like anguish of falling from exuberance to despair.

I know what Icarus felt like.

Ginger finally said, “Okay. So, you lost this quest of yours. You write about Don Quixote all the time and his dreaming the impossible dreams. Perhaps, you ought to think about what you wrote. The Man of La Mancha didn’t win every joist in his life. Hey, you met a Dulcinea. She was attractive, smart, educated, and charming. Move on.” Then Ginger stopped.

What did Ginger want me to say? It is true. I tried to convince Ginger that I was attempting to deal with my dashed dreams about this lady, but it was to no avail. The loss of an impossible dream isn’t a part of my character. It still hurts.

One of the things that I adore about Ginger is that she will speak her mind, regardless of how it might rub me the wrong way. Ginger inquired, “So, life for you isn’t a bowl of cherries. What are you going to do about it?”

Life as we wish it to be…

My retort was that grieving wasn’t working, which didn’t satisfy Ginger who pressed her point. “Have you succeeded in everything or even half of your dreams during your life?”

I laughed Ginger off and gave her the answer that she already knew. No. Ginger issued another obvious question. “What did you do when you failed? You have written about Bobby Burns and his line, ‘The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry….’ It is important to be honest in relationships, but they don’t always proceed as planned.”

I responded that I picked myself up and began living again. Ginger interrupted my statement with her pushing her point further. “When you danced with death, recovered, and went on with life, you understood Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture. Dancing with death taught you to live. We don’t know how long you and I will be here on the Earth. Therefore, as our clocks are ticking, we need to get on with living. Or we can sit moping around wishing that we could achieve all our dreams.

“My mother was a champion at one of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Shows. I, like most all dogs, but especially Setters and Pointers, have dreamed about going to Westminster. Irish Setters have dreamed about going to Westminster for nearly a century and a half. We get that drive instinctually. However, I’d rather be with you.”

Westminster Kennel Club’s logo

I started to reply to Ginger’s affection, but she was on a roll and kept on talking. “Now, what you need to do is to make a list of things that you still want to accomplish in life. It is a lot like your essay about ikigai, the Japanese word for the reason for getting up in the morning. What is your reason for getting up in the morning?”

Ginger’s question was obvious. I have written about talking with Aung San Suu Kyi about Burma/Myanmar for years. I also have some ideas about how I could help the Lady related to the military. Sitting down with the Lady is the greatest thing that I will ever do.

Ginger again interjected, “You also want to interview Barack Obama. You and I hold him in high esteem. He is honest and works hard to help America. You also want to talk with Clarence Page for the Chicago Tribune. He gave you the idea of using the video as an intro to your essays.

I added that I want to see some Burmese friends like Ti Ti, her sisters, and her parents to which Ginger added, “Those are cherries in your bowl of life…go for them. Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture taught you that the clock is ticking. Therefore, you must act before it is too late.”

We were nearing my home, and I told Ginger that I appreciated her gentle nudging of me. She responded, “If you don’t follow my ideas, the next time, I won’t be as gentle. Remember, that is my purpose to be with you and to help you. You care for me, which is your purpose. Be honest and true to yourself and others. That should everyone’s purpose.”

Burma flag

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