Gifts

I love giving gifts.  I guess that’s my “love language,” if you subscribe to that philosophy (remember, vintage “RHOC” with Vicki talking love languages…).  It’s not a materialistic thing; it’s a symbolic gesture.  I love giving gifts for no particular occasion, other than “I saw this and it made me think of you.”  That said, my gift giving nature was tested this holiday season.  I blame the combination of the upside-down surreal 2016 and the fact that we recently moved (as I write this, there are boxes and piles of I don’t know what to my right).  I couldn’t get a handle on time and getting the mountain of tasks done these past few weeks.  I always take on a lot, so that’s not the problem.  But I think I undervalued the magnitude of moving and just how much mental effort and physical time it would take.  Again, the curse of the achiever kicked it.

I got a handle on the gifts this year in three parts: one part obsessive organization, one part miracle, and one part best friend came down from Albany and finished all that was left undone.  Far more quickly than they were selected, purchased, wrapped and arranged, the gifts were given and floated out of my existence (except for those given to the Bunny-daddy, of course).  For those of us who take a certain kind of value in gift-giving, the exchange is the true gift.  It’s the gesture of it all.  It’s not the monetary value.  It’s not given for a subsequent lauding.  It’s the moment.  It’s the look on the receiver’s face, often times a laugh, maybe even a happy tear or two.  It’s the hug and/or the thank you card.

I love to give gifts because of the feeling in the moment.  And I love to receive them for much the same reason.  I don’t like clutter (again, it’s fairy difficult to stay focused writing this because there’s an utter mess to my right!) and sometimes gifts of a particular nature become clutter in my rigid world.  But I will always love the gesture and the symbolism of gifting and that supersedes the clutter.

I have a lot of gifts, as in abilities.  I use them, I share them and I proudly kick ass with them.  I gave a lot of gifts over the past few days, although with the typical holiday whirlwind combined with 2016’s wrath, I don’t know if I let myself feel the moment enough!  Again, putting pressure on myself… that’s a trait that I need to hone into a gift.  And if history’s any teacher, I can make that happen.

Fans, friends, loves… I must go tackle the piles of stuff, some gifts and some not.  Enjoy the magic of giving.  Much love. peanut-christmastater-christmas

Advertisements

The Business of Bonding

Alternate title: Lies My Rabbits Told Me

How do you best admit struggle when you’re the leader?  How do you exhale and admit, “It’s getting tough for us over here!” when you’re the one people turn to when the stuff gets tough for them?

Confession: bonding got tough this week, out of seemingly nowhere (but not actually nowhere when I stopped to think about it).  Quick catch-up for those of you who haven’t tuned in before: lived side-by-side for 5 years, moved to a new home one month ago, started official bonding the day we moved, all was going very well.  Then, I guess middle of this past week, the little bits of circling or chasing that would happen occasionally but diffuse quickly and on their own started to pop off into near-fights or actual fights.  And I couldn’t tell anyone, besides the Bunny-daddy of course.  I’m the one who gives bonding advice or at least connects you to the people who can give you the best advice—how could I admit that the relationship-building took a turn for the tough in my own living room?

Drop the ego.  Get it together.  But in the thick of it all, I wasn’t paying attention fully.  I wasn’t using my “toolbox” of mindfulness and personal development that I teach about!  If I was, I would have realized that Tater stopped grooming Peanut, a loving and lengthy ritual that Peanut began to expect at the beginning of and periodically throughout the exercise time/bonding sessions.  Of late, Peanut had even begun to reciprocate the grooming—it was a freakin’ miracle in this house.  Maybe that milestone distracted me.  I can see clearly now that last Tuesday or Wednesday, whenever this mayhem started, that the lack of the grooming ritual was causing the conflicts.  But I wasn’t fully present.  I was coasting on last Sunday’s amazing 14+ hour bonding session.  I was coasting on the Nothing In The World That I Can’t Do mentality that all too often leaves me with blinders on to the indicators of change or of changing needs.  I was getting ready for bestie to visit, I was getting ready for a holiday that I celebrate for tradition, I was still trying to unpack and settle, all while cruising through bonding.

The realization of the root of the issue came when I finally sat with the bunnies and was fully present.  I sat with the intention to sit there, not with the intention to make sure they were ok then throw in laundry, wash dishes, finish Christmas cards, unpack a box, answer Rescue emails, etc., etc., etc… it was ONLY when I sat there with the intention of being there and there only, that I realized the grooming had stopped, thus the course of their relationship-building shifted.  Duh.  But in running the house, one day job, two small businesses, one non-profit organization and a beautiful family group, I let my true presence be absent.  I really thought they were good, that they were bonded!  Look at how they were behaving!  Yes, I had been pouring on the Stress Away when the fights started—now I knew what else I needed to add.

So, this morning, after bestie left, I dripped Peace & Calming into the diffuser, I sprayed myself and the living room with White Angelica, I put Valor II over my heart and some drops of Surrender and Highest Potential in my hands.  Yes, I know, one drop of one oil would have been enough but in typical B-fashion I had to go over the top to ensure success.  Being fully present, I sat with the boys for 30ish minutes this morning.  There were some scuffles, but I get it now.  And when I’m fully present, the sessions may be shorter but they are more purposeful.  I tell my colleagues in business and Rescue and my learners at the day job that my success comes from my laser-sharp focus.  And here I was, not using it, one of my greatest tools.

Lies my rabbits told me—more like lies I tell myself!  I let their progress delude me.  I let it fuel my tendency to take on too much at once.  Now, my options are clear: I am where I am, fully present or I am shut off.  I cannot ensure their progress (or safety, for that matter) while simultaneously working on three other things.  Or one other thing.  See how even my diction reveals the pressure I put on myself… get it together.

I’ve often toyed with idea of having “Be Here Now” tattooed on my wrist.  I think I’ve hesitated because it rocks my Type-A intense achiever personality to admit that I need such a reminder, especially for something that seems so basic.  Also, I need to donate blood again before I get my text tattoo.  But anyway, the lesson here: Bonding is a business.  And just like one of my mentors-in-my-head Bethenny Frankel (love her or hate her, I don’t care!) says, “Everything is your business” and when you treat every task you take on like it’s your business, the care cultivated and the success sustained is remarkable.

Be here now.  Do one thing at a time.  Pay attention on purpose to what’s going on in front of your face and in your heart.  Much love.

121816

Our Boys, Part 2

Here’s what I meant to tell you last week…

About a month after we had Peanut and Tater Tot, they started to fight.  Not horribly, thank goodness, but they (mainly Peanut) began to exhibit behaviors intended to establish dominance.  Again, we were brand new bunny-parents; we had no idea what to expect.  But it didn’t take long to realize that this behavior could be dangerous.  Tater had to endure a few hours of being picked on before Bunny-Daddy could get out of work and purchase another cage, a plastic bottom one this time (the evolution of our appropriate housing knowledge continues—getting closer this time!).  Peanut was moved into his own cage next to Tater and there the boys were situated from January 2012 until last month.  Their physical enclosures evolved to individual extra-large dog crates with larger litter boxes as our parental knowledge expanded (thank you Rescue and our FB bunny community).  The boys enjoyed a rotating schedule of exercise time in the living room, sharing space and toys but never at the same time.

Plainly, we were scared to put them back together.  The last things we wanted were stress, an injury (or worse) because we trusted bad advice from a breeder (see last week’s story—she told us two boys would never be a problem together).  As I became more familiar with rabbit interactions I suggested to the Bunny-Daddy that we try to bond them but he was not interested, didn’t want to risk the good thing we had going.  It’s rare for two rabbits who are not bonded to be able to share space, exercise areas, and live so closely and do it without incident.  In fact, by a few years into our configuration, Peanut would lie outside of Tater’s crate and Tater would try his hardest to groom Peanut through the bars.  They would flop in front of each other in such a way that we knew, once the bars were down, snuggling would happen.

Rescue guru, my mentor and friend M put the boys together for a lengthy but ultimately one-off bonding session in February 2014 (I think).  They did great but we were still hesitant, to put it lightly (which is a rare tone for me).  Our mantra became “When we move, we will bond them.”  And we stuck to our word… well, we are sticking to it.  It’s a work in progress.

I joke that my bonding method works great—have them live side-by-side for four-plus years, then move.  It’s different; it’s fresh.  I was a little delusional for the transition, I have to admit.  I thought we would put them together the day we moved and poof, hoppily ever after.  I had a volunteer/friend/bunny-sitter hired for moving day to be with the boys while I had a million other things to do so she could monitor and keep the peace if necessary.  Thankfully a dear friend and fellow bunny-mom talked some sense into me that morning and urged me to ready their separate sleeping quarters, as they would likely need some time to adjust.  I was just assuming that they would cuddle right up and never have a problem; she was, rightfully, reminding me that even if they are doing fine together, they might just need their own crates for overnight– thank you D and Hoppy Birthday.

From day one in our new home, the boys have been exercising and lounging together.  The first day was picture perfect.  The following days, as they got more comfortable, there was a little nipping (that same friend who gave the great advice got the worst nip… sorry Auntie D!).  There has been a little chasing, circling but NO fights or bites.  I’m peeking over the top of the screen now, one month into our new set up here, watching Peanut chin a willow basket and Tater enjoy some hay in their communal litter box.  They still sleep separately and we supervise them when they are together.  They are so damn happy to be together.  So maybe our bonding method does work…  I guess it’s like any other relationship or family situation.  Families find each other differently.  Families function differently than others; many don’t seem to function at all.  I can’t help but smile, from a place deep inside, when I see our beautiful boys in our beautiful living room.

For two people who got two bunnies without too much preparation, life for us and for them could have turned out so, so differently.  Most people give up.  I can say that for sure because I’m the person they email when they’ve given up (or haven’t even tried) in the rabbit world on our island.  I didn’t know where any of this was going when we brought the boys into our home but I let my instincts guide me and we kept just taking the next step.  And ultimately, our boys brought me my life’s purpose, opened up a part of me I just couldn’t find a way to access.  I have them, I have Rescue and I have Reiki.  I have it all.  And I have our boys to thank for it.  Much love.

Our Boys

The natural inclination is to cover up the beginning of this story but I’ve never been one to edit.  We bought our boys from a breeder.  I’ve told you here before that I wasn’t an animal person, at all, until being a mom changed my life.  About two months after the Bunny-daddy and I moved into our first home together we decided to “get” the rabbit we had been talking about since date two or three.  He wanted a Dwarf Hotot.  I figured, I know how to make anyone’s dreams come true so while he was sleeping late on December 28, 2011 I threw a few quick terms into Google, clicked the first link that came up and called the lady whose phone number appeared on an aesthetically busy website.  She answered promptly and informed me that yes, she still had some Dwarf Hotots in stock; they hadn’t all sold for Christmas (I shudder now to think what happens to those who are considered overstock).

I woke the Bunny-daddy up and said we were going to get a bunny today!  We headed eastward.  We were led into a backyard and then down a set of basement stairs.   Straight ahead, amongst what appeared to be typical basement clutter, was a square metal and wood cage with a huge rabbit inside.  Thinking back now, knowing what I know about appropriate housing for a domestic rabbit, there’s no way that rabbit was able to hop more than once, if that, or “periscope” up in that enclosure.  This giant rabbit, we were told, was “her” rabbit.  We turned left and there they were, two rows of cages with piles of baby rabbits inside.  I remind you, we knew nothing about what we were getting into!  Bunny-daddy had done some rabbit care research; I had done none.  I fell into the sadly common category of people who get a pet on somewhat of a whim, not quite preparing for much else than where this cute little guy or girl’s cage would sit in our home.  I now know that these rabbits were too young to be weaned from their mothers.  I now know that, even though I suspected it then upon sight, that a pile of 5-10 rabbits, no matter how small in body size, should have far more space to exist than the veritable boxes this woman housed them in.  But hey, I worked in retail years ago—I know you sometime cram the stock wherever it fits.

Anyway… we left that backyard and basement that day with two rabbits.  Bunny-daddy selected whom you know as Tater Tot.  I selected a Lionhead, black, gray and white, whom we named Sammy.  When we brought up the idea of getting two, like any good salesperson, the breeder explained that two boys would be no problem, ever, that they would do great together (let’s revisit this later).  Sammy was toward the top of the caged pile of Lionheads.  Each rabbit was placed into his own cardboard box and we climbed back up the basement stairs.

We were sold a wire-bottom cage, some pellets, a corner litter box, a water bottle and some hay.  We were instructed to feed some hay, maybe a handful, every other day or so.  Again, we didn’t know better and this lady sure seemed like she knew what she was doing, in some kind of way, right?  She was in business, right?  Don’t worry—we did more research soon and started feeding the right amount of hay.  We set the boys up in their new home.  Tater Tot was a rascal right away—didn’t want to be held or touched much.  He was kind to Sammy though.  Sammy, I thought, was just the best.  He sat in my lap for hours, let me carry him around.  By the next day, I realized he wasn’t very active but Tater Tot was grooming him and trying to show him how to eat and play.  Again, what did I know?  I thought they just had different personalities and different styles.

The next morning, I was positive something was wrong.  We were only rabbit-parents for maybe 36 hours at this point so we had no idea what to look for or to expect.  I called the vet closest to our house.  They said to bring him right in.  Sammy passed away in Bunny-daddy’s arms in the waiting room.  I had to go up to the desk and say, “I think my rabbit is dead.”  The doctor came out immediately, left what he was doing to attend to us, complete strangers, not established patients or anything.  He confirmed that Sammy was gone and, although he is not a rabbit-savvy vet, he felt his belly and surmised that something gastro-related caused his passing.  Knowing what we know now, it was likely stasis or bloat that took him.

We called the breeder.  She offered our money back or an exchange.  I think we were just numb.  We drove back to her house, handed over the cardboard box with Sammy inside and went back to the basement.  I picked the brownish Lionhead who was at the very bottom of the pile.  I remembered him from two days prior.  You know him now as Peanut.  Five years later, I know he remembers the feeling of being at the bottom of the pile; I can see it in his behavior.  He doesn’t trust easily.  He doesn’t like confinement or even snuggles if he doesn’t initiate it (which is going over great with his incredibly affectionate brother as we are finally starting to bond after 5 years!).

When I sat down to write this, I thought this was going to be about bonding but look at the different turn it took.  I sat down with the intention to regale you all with the Denise method of bonding… unconventional and slow, yet effective.  Yet I ended up telling the origin story in more detail than I had before—ah the best laid plans, as they say.  Maybe we’ll talk bonding next week.  By then, I may have another story to tell entirely.  Now, you know it all…