Essay: Having Fun

Essay: Having Fun

Michelle Mantor with Neema and Miles at the Houston Zoo as published in the December 2014 issue of Houston PetTalk Magazine. Photos by Evin Thayer. One gorgeous Houston day, I was out playing my favorite sport of tennis with some other ladies. I was having a great time and suddenly I realized I was skipping back to my place to return serve. Skipping! Then I had the thought, “What are you doing? You are way too old to be skipping. That’s for children!” But in reflection. I started wondering why, as adults, are we not supposed to show such frivolousness? Why do we have to behave with such decorum? Somewhere along life’s journey, society teaches us that the silly, fun, spontaneous actions of a child is not appropriate for an adult. If we were to see someone in the middle of a shopping mall turning circles and looking to the sky and then jumping around and sticking their hand in the water fountain, we would deem that person mentally disturbed. But isn’t that a sad thing to think that we must drop our outward sense of childlike fun to show that we are a sane, responsible grown-up? Each of us has a different idea of what we think is fun but that’s what makes people interesting –  the fact that we are different. I, for example, liked to play Barbies with my daughter when she was younger. Unfortunately, she has “outgrown” Barbies and I have to wonder is that because she really doesn’t like to play any longer or because she feels she is too old? Can you just imagine how crazy my friends would think I am if I invited them over to play Barbies? It’s unthinkable! (By the way, that’s one of the little known secrets about being a mom. It gives us a chance to play our old childhood favorites without looking like we are nuts!) Having fun means “to have an amusing or enjoyable experience.” It is good food for our soul to sometimes set aside our more serious concerns, problems and worries to amuse ourselves and give our hearts a reason to smile. For me, going to the zoo and observing animals is fun. I loved feeding the giraffes during my photoshoot. They were not shy about nudging me for more lettuce which of course made me giggle. You can see by the outtakes that I was having a great time! For pet lovers, the free-spirited nature of animals may be one of the reasons that we find their companionship so fulfilling. If you watch your dog or cat (or most animals), you can see them at play essentially having fun. We may wonder why it appears so amusing to go get a ball and bring it back and go get a ball and bring it back and so on but for whatever reason they find it enjoyable. They don’t seem to really care if we think it’s crazy or not. They are just following their instincts, not rules imposed upon them by the judgments of others. And, what I really find fascinating about animals is that they are willing to play most anytime. Short of not feeling well, any of my pets will hop right up and start playing instantly out of a dead sleep if given the opportunity. I think that’s an awesome characteristic to never miss a nanosecond of a chance to have fun! Imagine if we could get every human being in the world to stop what they’re doing and have 10 minutes of fun. No matter the gravity of their problems, if they could just be allowed 10 free minutes of joy. This could possibly change the world by showing us that essentially we are all the same but we unintentionally deprive ourselves of one of the best gifts given to us by our Creator which is to experience joy in our hearts. Sometimes I wonder when I look at the strife in our world, especially the man-made strife of an evil terrorist, how that person got that way. How did their heart get consumed with so much evil? Were they deprived of life’s gifts and the depravity led them to feel animosity and hate? I know it’s idealistic but wouldn’t it be cool if these people could have 10 minutes of fun, feel the joy of it and decide they would rather spread joy than hate? Clearly not going to happen but it is an interesting thought to imagine that taking time for fun could bring world peace. This holiday season, if even for a moment, do something you think is fun even...

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Essay: Innocence

Essay: Innocence

Michelle Mantor and “Friday” – Published in the December 2011 Issue of Houston PetTalk – Photo By Evin Thayer As many of you know, I recently lost my beautiful Briard, “Remy” after 15 wonderful years. I had always promised her a 2-page tribute in PetTalk when she passed. Because she lived to be 15, I had to go through shoeboxes of photos to put the story together since there were no digital photos of her early years. As I looked through family photos spanning more than a decade, I experienced many emotions…joy, laughter, sorrow…and the tears to match all those feelings came pouring out. My daughter was with me and she asked, “Mom, why are you crying because of pictures”? It struck me that one of the very reasons I was crying was the quality she was exemplifying at that moment…innocence. Innocence can bring forth feelings of great happiness as well as sadness. As I looked at the photos of my children when they were toddlers with their sweet little faces and cute poses, I realized those days of “young child innocence” were gone and my babies had grown up to nearly be teenagers. Never again would I have that baby in my arms, that small hand reaching up to grab mine to walk with me or the outstretched arms wanting me to pick them up and swing them about. Those thoughts hurt deeply in a way only a mother can know. But juxtaposed to that sadness, was the joy of innocence. I smiled at the photos of my son at his Chucky Cheese birthday party as he fully believed Chucky was a real being. I smiled at the photos of Remy as a young pup exuberant to play the same game of chase over and over. I smiled at my daughter’s innocence of asking why I was crying by the mere simple act of “looking at pictures”. Innocence to me implies a naiveté, a vulnerability that can so easily be harmed or lost forever. When I reflect about my strong feelings toward animal abuse or the pain I feel when I see a stray, neglected dog, I know my passion for helping them is born out of knowing how innocent they are. They don’t have the tools to survive in man’s world and they rely on us to be their stewards. As adults, our innocence is lost. We are full of pretense, racism, insecurities, and falsehoods. Just one look at our society and we see cheaters, phonies and fabrications. From the “reality shows” that are scripted, to artificial body parts to photoshopped images and dishonest politicians, it can make one wary or even cynical. What’s real? Who is honest? Where do I place my trust? When we look at children, we don’t see those impurities. We see pure awareness, honesty and joyous attitudes that are open to possibilities. We see hearts willing to love and accept with no preconditions. I see those same characteristics my pets. And, just like in my children and my pets, I love their innocence and feel great pain if they are mistreated or if they were to lose this wonderful virtue. I don’t think it’s possible for us to back to the state of innocence as an adult, but I think we can appreciate the existence of it in children and animals and do everything in our power to protect it. I also think we can momentarily find the wonder of innocence as adults if we just allow ourselves to lift the burden of the knowledge we have and the restrictions we place on ourselves. Playing chase with our dog or barbies with our child gives us the chance to be an innocent kid again. Truthfully, this is one of the reasons I love the holiday season and all the Christmas traditions. It brings out wonder, hope and the excitement of possibilities to come. This Christmas, let the child inside you have fun. Go ice-skating, make a gingerbread house, go caroling, bake a cake for a lonely neighbor…let the age of innocence return, if only for a moment.    ...

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Essay: Forgiveness

Essay: Forgiveness

Michelle Mantor and “Remy” – Published in Houston PetTalk, December Issue, 2008 Photo by Evin Thayer FORGIVENESS It is my deep-seated belief that our souls mature and age over time (like a good wine or cheese) and one of the signs that we are progressing toward maturity is the ability to embrace forGIVEness. Living life in this world challenges us with obstacles and envelopes us with our own construed expectations. So, as we live amongst other souls, undoubtedly we will be hurt, transgressed against and disappointed by others. Our real test of personal growth is to give up the negative feelings, let go of the ill will and seek the positive forces in the situation. The yen and yang of life assures us there is an opposite side of bad and that, of course, is good. The exciting thing about forgiveness is that it is good for us! Releasing negative energy frees us and opens our hearts to more goodness. We make room to love, give and through our giving, receive. The best way to observe and learn forgiveness is to look at our pets. They don’t hold grudges; they love unconditionally and their hearts are open to giving and receiving every single day. Time and time again, we witness an animal that has been mistreated by humans but still runs to a new person, ready to love and be loved. They are not burdened with thoughts of revenge, jealousy or disappointment in the actions of others. This Holiday season, take one more step in the journey of life and give the gift of true forgiveness. Your gift will come back to you many-fold as you lift up someone else’s spirit and nourish your...

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