Introducing Beck

Beck's first day at his new home.

Life has a way of organizing itself. As I drove home Thursday afternoon in the beautiful spring-like weather, something caught my eye. I looked again to see a dog’s head poking out from the passenger’s window of a car. The sweet breeze blew back the floppy ears of a boxer. I knew that was my sign, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Ruby loved to go for a ride. While she usually rode in the back of the station wagon, sometimes I let her ride next to me with the window cracked open so she could smell the wind. Her death just after last Christmas left a gaping void in our family. With Rob out of town the past two weeks, James and I felt lonelier than ever.

When James came into my office the next morning, we decided to search online for boxer breeders to see if there were any puppies available this Spring. We found a breeder nearby that had a litter of four boxer puppies – another sign. It wasn’t even 6 am, so James and I had to wait until a respectable 8:30 am to call. One puppy was left, and the breeder was thinking about keeping him because he had such a sweet temperament. After talking with the breeder for twenty minutes, I booked an appointment that afternoon to meet him and his dogs. Minutes after Rob arrived from his red-eye flight, and despite my warnings of “we’re just looking, not buying,” James announced that we were getting a puppy.

It turned out that James was right. We took a look at the calm, three month old boxer puppy and fell in love. He was brindle – a dark, tiger-striped coloring- with floppy ears, a white chest and a square jaw. He followed James around, curious and interested. James rolled his ball and held his rope tug. We all laughed when the puppy instinctually used its front paws to play with his toys, just like a boxer. Rob and I looked at each other and knew he was going to join our family.

The breeder said to me “everything happens for a reason.” He was almost resigned to keeping the pup until I called. It helped him to know that our family had owned boxers, but what made it easy for him to let go of the pup was James. It was important for him to place his puppy with children. Boxers have been described as exuberant, energetic, playful, silly and affectionate. They are all that, and then some. But the greatest thing I love about the breed is that they are wonderful with kids – gentle, patient, loving and protective.

Now, James has a little buddy to take care of and play with. In return, I’m sure Beck will teach James a lesson or two about life, love and happiness. Life does have a way of organizing itself for the best.

P.S. We chose Beck as the abridged name of one of our favorite soccer players David Beckham. Coincidentally, James and Rob wore their Beckham jerseys the day we got Beck.

What leotards taught me about happiness

There’s a picture of me as a young girl on Facebook surrounded by family. I think we were celebrating Easter at my aunt’s house. There I sat on the floor of the family room in a very unladylike position, wearing a yellow dress and white, saggy leotards. While the rest of the family around me smiled, I looked sullen.

My brother-a rabid Facebook user-commented on it. He wrote, “my sister does not look happy, maybe the leotards were on the creep.”

I hate to admit it, but my evil little brother may have a point. If creep is the slow, gradual downward movement of a leotard in response to prolonged stress, then I definitely had it. No wonder I looked like I would rather be somewhere else. No child should be made to wear white, creepy leotards, but I digress…

It’s tough being a kid.

Growing up, all I wanted was to be loved, feel safe and have fun. However, as a kid your definition of fun doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing as your parents’ definition. Often, you have no choice. You are told what to do, whether it’s to get up, clean your room, eat your carrots, or stop reading the last chapter of a book to sit still for a family picture that is definitely not as much fun as discovering what happens next to your heroine.

Like leotards, being a grown up can get the creep, too.

Being a grown up can be overwhelming, from shoveling three feet of snow on the sidewalk, to paying taxes, to sitting in unproductive meetings, to attending a function you don’t want to be at, to dealing with temper tantrums. The creep moves in, wears you down, and makes you anxious, frustrated and angry. Before you know it your leotards are a sagging bag of misery.

It’s the creep that gets in the way of happiness.

You can learn a lot about happiness from watching a kid. James is happy kicking a soccer ball, winning a thumb wrestling contest, drawing pictures of animals, eating a cookie, singing, playing in the bathtub, petting a dog, or reading aloud while curled up next to me on the big chair in our family room. According to James, “Happy feels good.”

Occasionally, however, the creep gets in the way and meltdowns occur. For James, the creep might appear 20 minutes after he has consumed three Kit Kats, or when he can’t get his drawing perfect, or there’s nobody to play with, or I make him come to Wegmans with me.

The creep rears its sloth-like head and clings to its little host however long it likes. When I help James to understand why he’s unhappy and have him focus on something else, I get positive results.

What if we act the way we want to feel?

When we understand our strengths and virtues, maybe we can trump the creep and get happy. Channeling positive emotions such as confidence hope and trust along with good qualities of courage, truth, and loyalty serves us best in times of trouble. Having a clear understanding of who you are can go a long way in the pursuit of happiness.

Repeat after me: Today, I’m happy.

Now and then, I forget that the simplest things in life can make me happy. Changing my mantra seems to help. Today, I’m happy. I’m happy because it’s Friday and I’m writing before 6 a.m. I’m happy because my family is safe. I’m happy because the sun is shining. I’m happy because it’s a fresh, new day full of possibilities.

I’m happy because never again do I have to wear white, saggy leotards that creep.

What do you think?

Care for a Game of Chat Roulette?

(image from Fast Company)

Do you know what your kid is doing on the Internet? If it’s ChatRoulette, I’m warning you now: it’s creepy.

The new rage on the Internet, a friend told me, is some video roulette thing that her teens discovered, where you interact with random strangers through a live video cam. ChatRoulette draws thousands of users every day. The catch is, you never know what someone is going to do on their end like sing, dance, wave a knife, or pull down their pants. That’s why it’s called roulette.

Made by a kid

A 17 year-old Russian high school student Andrey Ternovskiy created ChatRoulette mainly for his friends so they could to link random strangers who want to video chat with somebody. In a video interview with Russian Times (RT), young Andrey describes it as an out-of-this world experience where people have no idea who or what they’ll see. It’s definitely not a dating service, but a game. A no control game.

Like all things social, irreverent, digital and potentially addictive, ChatRoulette could become the next wildly successful platform on the web, or a dud. It’s hard to pin it down, exactly.  Intrigued, yet dubious, I decided to check it out.

The ChatRoulette experiment

It helps if you have a video camera like iSight, so people see you and you see them via live video streaming. I landed on the site before eight one morning. You don’t need a password, just click a button and you’re in a video chat room with a random person. Stay and chat with live video (sound) or text, or leave and go to the next person. Out of 17,508 users online around the world, the second thing I see is a penis. (It’s a good thing my office door was closed to curious eyes.)

The policy on the site states:  “Chat roulette does not tolerate broadcasting obscene, offending, pornographic material and we will have to block users who violate these rules from using our service.” However, the creator explains that there is no permanent ban on violators, just a temporary block. After all, people love to take risks, violate rules and see reactions.

You can’t control what people do on their video cams, but you can click next and try again – such is the game of roulette. During my “game,” I saw several middle-aged men sitting in bedrooms and college kids in dorm rooms. I chose not to engage and skipped around from stranger to stranger. It was weird to be a voyeur from my home. What if I witnessed something really frightening and not some middle-aged dork? The site is anonymous so I had no idea who or where these people are from. And even if I did strike up a conversation, they don’t have to tell me the truth. Does this sound familiar?

Young Andrey thinks its cool that his simple concept can be useful to so many people. He believes it gives people a chance to stumble upon those whom they would never encounter in their normal lives.  “Although,” he states in this blog by NY Times writer Brad Stone, “some people are using the site in not very nice ways – I am really against it. Others do really unbelievable things I could never think of. They make up songs about strangers and sing to them, draw them, listen to music, broadcast them their own music. Two groups of teenagers can party together. That’s just great in my opinion. I am glad that I made this project and it is a pleasure for me to work on it.”

Cool or freaky?

ChatRoulette is definitely not something I want my child to experience on purpose or accidentally. For adults, the experience can be interesting and rewarding, a place where you can chat with engaging people from anywhere on the planet. However, anything can happen on ChatRoulette. Be aware that this kind of “no control game” attracts creeps, encourages deviant behavior and may be addictive. For now, I think I’ll stick to my friends on Facebook.

What do you think?

P.S. In the time it took to write this, the ChatRoulette site swelled to more than 21,000 users sitting around waiting for someone to video chat with.