Essay: Being Thankful

Essay: Being Thankful

Michelle Mantor with  “Remy” – Published in the December 2010 Issue of Houston PetTalk – Photo by Evin Thayer Well, we’re back! Remy and I are together again for our values feature photo. As many of you know, two years ago when Remy was 13, I thought that would be our last year together so I chose to be photographed with just Remy and not include my two Maltese mixes. Last year, when Remy turned 14, I definitely thought that was the finale and so the little dogs were once again left behind. Look who’s still here at 15! Yes, the little dogs are like “when will it ever be our turn?” but as long as my girl sticks around, I’ll stick by her as my number 1 sidekick. Although I make light about Remy’s perseverance in life, I know that having her by my side is a blessing that I am so thankful for. A 15-year-old Briard is quite extraordinary and I find it ironic because she herself is such an extraordinary dog. I gave thought to writing about perseverance but in the end, I believe Remy’s presence in my life most exemplifies the value of thankfulness: I’m thankful for the wisdom she has taught me…she inherently knows the right thing to do in all situations. I’m thankful for her loyalty…she never gives up on me. I’m thankful for her forgiveness…she doesn’t hold grudges for the walks not taken. I’m thankful for her inspiration…she gives me lots of ideas for the magazine. I’m thankful for her protection…she stands guard to defend me at all times. I’m thankful for her dignity…she is showing me how to grow old with elegance. I’m thankful for her consistency…I know what to expect from her and there is a confidence in knowing something rather than guessing. I’m thankful for her sense of humor…she can turn my tears to laughter with her silly antics. I’m thankful for her attitude…she looks for every opportunity in life to be cheerful. But mostly I’m thankful for her love…she warms my heart, stands by my side, kisses my cheek and feeds my soul. So Remy, I sure hope you surprise me and turn sweet 16. But whatever the future holds, just know that I love you my big girl!...

Read More

Essay: The Value of Nature

Essay: The Value of Nature

Michelle Mantor with Azi; Published in the December 2012 Issue of Houston PetTalk – Photo by Evin Thayer As young people, we often underestimate the value of nature. The vibrant colors and patterns in a peacock, the calming effect of morning mist rising from a lake as the sun rises, the simplicity in the design of a daisy…these are all gifts that nature bestows upon our lives but appreciating their value can take many years of living a complicated life before we truly understand the brilliance that is simply…nature. Last year I visited Costa Rica, a country blessed with a plethora of natural resources and beauty – gorgeous beaches, a lush rainforest, fascinating wildlife including colorful parrots and cute monkeys, waterfalls and spectacular sunsets. While there, I also noticed the infrastructure was nowhere near our standards (roads, buildings, etc.) and the locals in the area I visited were living in tiny rundown houses and seemed to have very little economic advantages. And yet they were all smiling, happy and positive in their overall outlook. I spent some time pondering this (I had a lot of time to ponder on a 4 hour bumpy journey to the coast in what would have been a 1 hour drive on a freeway) and I thought about all of the “unnatural” elements that consume our lives in the U.S. like shopping malls, movie theaters, bowling alleys, treadmills, video games, TV and so on. From cosmetic surgeries and injections to diamonds and expensive adornments, our society has a radar focus on plastic, manufactured and synthetic. When I was a kid, I can remember that our entertainment was playing outside with whatever things we could find. We made forts, played stick ball, caught fireflies and tadpoles, picked berries, played with our dogs, created games and road bikes. Essentially, we used the outdoors and nature’s bounty to explore and play. Now, after years of participating in our culture’s move toward gadgetry, multi-tasking, frenzied schedules and indoor entertainment, I’ve come to appreciate and even crave nature. As in most things, balance is key. Being a Libra, I am keenly aware of balance and whenever I feel something in my life has swung too far toward imbalance, I get frustrated and then I realize the reason and work to get back to the “middle”. Yes, we have come to depend on technology to the point that we almost have no choice but to use it otherwise we cannot function effectively in the business world and to some degree our private lives. We marvel at the latest features of the iPhone and stand in line for hours to see a Twilight movie release. And although these are impressive, nothing is more impressive than God’s design of nature. The majestic beauty of this horse next to me, the perfect colors on a Clownfish, the glory of an old oak tree that comes to life again every Spring…these are also things that I hope we never forget to marvel at. Perhaps the Costa Ricans have it figured out. They are still living close to nature without so many unnatural elements pushing through into the relationship. They work with their hands, eat natural foods from their gardens, play outdoors with whatever Mother Nature provides. As another year wanes, it seems “natural” to take stock of our lives and figure out what is working and what isn’t. Take a look at your own relationship with nature. Do you stop to appreciate it? Do you work to preserve it?  We are surrounded by natural “art”. Don’t speed through the museum of life and miss the best part....

Read More

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.    ...

Read More

Turquoise

Turquoise

I have loved turquoise for as long as I can remember (along with anything American Indian/Navajo). When I was a kid, we would visit my grandparents about once a month and on the way to their home, we would pass a hoky little TeePee that sold lots of American Indian trinkets, etc., and my happiest moment was when my Dad would say “yes” to my begging to stop and shop. I wanted anything turquoise, beaded or with feathers. This hasn’t changed..I still love all of those things! I not only love turquoise jewelry, but I love the color itself – furniture, animals, clothing, etc. Turquoise is ancient, yet again and again it finds itself back in fashion. Its shining sky blue is one of the most popular trend colours in the world of jewelry and fashion. I have pieces from when I was a child to a beautiful Squash Blossom given to me on my 50th birthday from a special friend. I will never stop acquiring it, wearing it and loving...

Read More