A Day in a Life of Gratitude: An Exercise

At first, I thought it was silly.  I knew I had a great life and I didn’t think keeping a Gratitude Journal or having an “Attitude of Gratitude would make any difference.

So if you were thinking the same thing after reading my post last week, I don’t blame you.

I’d tried several times to start a Gratitude Journal, but that intimidating blank sheet of paper stared at up me every night. I couldn’t take the pressure. 😀

Usually I was too tired to think, couldn’t think of anything, or I felt like I was writing the same things over and over: health, family, husband, dogs, blah blah blah.

The big things are important, yes. But those little things that go unnoticed in your day really have Big Power to change your perception. Most of these moments end up as fleeting thoughts running through your head with everything else that day.

A common thread in every book I’ve read, whether it be Joel Osteen, Dr. Wayne Dyer or the Bible is that if you want more of the good things, you need to be grateful for everything you have now.

I find that I have greater success in any endeavor if I start by taking small steps forward, because we all know that progress, even slow, is still progress.

My first baby step was noticing these moments and acknowledging them with a simple “Thank you God!” (Of course you can modify this to fit your personal beliefs.)

To demonstrate the power of this exercise, I chose a random day to write down every Gratitude Moment as I experienced it in a small notebook I always carry in my purse.

As it happened I picked the perfect day: I was cranky.

I want to be very clear: you can STILL be cranky and grateful and positive at the same time. I do not enjoy being cranky, and certainly no one else in my family does either! 😉

The beauty of this whole exercise is that at some point you realize you have so many little things to be grateful for that you aren’t cranky anymore.

If you’re having a rough day or a difficult time, this exercise is even more important. It’s easy to get caught up in negative thoughts and forget there are good things that happen too.

So here’s what else happened that day:

  1. There was a beautiful, hushed quiet of falling snow outside in the darkness of 1 a.m. (I had a foster dog who needed to go out or I would have missed this moment of peacefulness!)
  2. My yard was a winter wonderland in the early morning daylight. The dusting of snow on everything including the trees was gorgeous.
  3. I love the way my Yoga class stretches my body, increases my flexibility and hushes my thoughts.
  4. The shop office had a cleanly swept floor and I appreciated my husband sweeping it for me.
  5. I parked in the very first non-handicapped parking space at Walmart!
  6. My lunch plate made an unexpected beautiful and colorful presentation.
  7. The excellence of a single piece of decadence in a single piece of dark, rich soft chocolate with mint.
  8. The heated towels of the body wrap softened my sore muscles and skilled hands of my massage therapist worked the kinks out. What a special treat!
  9. I noticed the sun’s rays peeking through the clouds on my way home. It was such a contrast to the clouds above it!
  10. I received great news after a routine medical test.
  11. It feels SO good to come home at the end of the day, turn on all the lights and light a good-smelling candle. And it was Friday!
  12. I didn’t have to go out in the cold anymore that day!
  13. My handmade pottery soup bowls I’ve collected over the last couple of years at a local arts fair looked so pretty holding a bowl of my husband’s homemade chili.
  14. It felt so good climbing into bed blissfully early into freshly laundered flannel sheets and a heated mattress pad.

As I read over this list, I don’t even remember that I began the day tired and crabby. I read this now thinking what a really awesome and blessed day it was. And it’s all because of a simple little gratitude exercise.

We all have a choice: we can choose to remember the challenges, or to look at and appreciate the special moments in our day that might be lost otherwise.

Give it a shot and see if it works for you.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

Here’s How I Stay So Positive

Unless you’ve been living under a rock  you’ve learned that the world is a very negative place.

Between the news, social media and negative or critical people, it’s easy to believe that the world is going to hell in a hand basket. That’s real encouragement to want to get up in the morning, eh? 😉

The great news is that most of us have the ability to make choices. Unless you have a medical issue or chemical imbalance, it IS possible to become a more positive person and become less influenced by the world around you.

I know this because I’ve done it. 

Like happiness, being positive is both a choice and a habit. Most of the times it comes pretty easy, although there are times I have to work harder at it. This summer I went through a dark period and I knew I needed something else.

That’s when I discovered Joel Osteen and his book, Every Day A Friday. As my friend Joe says, “He’s sort of a cross between a motivational speaker and a pastor.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

If you’d like to feel better about your life every day, here are my proven strategies for maintaining a positive outlook and enjoying each day to the fullest.

  1. Tell yourself when you wake up that it’s going to be a great day. 
  2.  Start your day with something uplifting. Whether it’s cat videos on the internet or an inspiring, motivational book, spend your early morning hours with something that makes you feel good. One of my bucket list items is to read the Bible in its entirety, so I began reading it and a daily devotional each morning. If you have to, get up 30 minutes earlier than everyone else in your household. I love having my tea and the quiet of my living room to meditate and read. My morning routine gives my day a centered, peaceful feel and just kicks it off right.
  3. Practice an Attitude of Gratitude. Annoying frustrations happen to us all, every day, and it’s easy to focus on those things. Look for opportunities for gratitude in the small things that happen in your day. Were you blessed with a prime parking space? An unexpected treat? Did you miss having a fender bender? Lose a pet and find it again? Catch a great bargain on a long-desired item? This morning when I got my daily smoothie I noticed someone had stamped a motivational message on my $10 bill. How cool is that?! Those little things, all worthy of gratitude, add up and before you know it, you’re starting to watch for them!
  4. Minimize social media time. While I love the way social media allows me to keep up with long lost friends and family, there are aspects of it that I don’t love either. It can be a time-sucking habit. Unfollow, unfriend, delete, and block if you need to. We aren’t in second grade anymore and so what if you don’t get any gold stars? Ain’t nobody got time for that! Dirty laundry belongs in your hamper, not shared on social media. And speaking of sharing, make it a point to emphasize the good news minimize the bad. Sure, we all go through times we need extra encouragement. Don’t be Debbie Downer!
  5. Avoid or minimize exposure to toxic people. I know this is easier said than done if you work with or are related to “shine blockers”. We all have those folks in our lives who can bring on the buzzkill faster than it takes coffee to brew. My personal toxic favorite is the Smiling Digs, otherwise known as Negative Humor. Because we all know if they are smiling, they are just kidding, right?! (insert eye roll here) If you are related to a toxic person it’s more important than ever to avoid the ones you have a choice about and to build yourself up. Unless it’s constructive and your job depends upon it, ignore critical people; the problem is usually within them. You don’t have to be rude, but you don’t have to accept every invitation either.
  6. Reprogram negative thoughts. Delete those negative tapes in your head that criticize you or try to hold you back. Replace every negative thought with a positive one. Our brains like to trick us and make us believe things that aren’t true: no one will like that, no one wants to hear it, blah blah blah. Reprogram those thoughts! I promise you that if you make a conscious effort to reprogram, that inner voice will get quieter over time.
  7. Spend a little time alone every day. Some of us need more time than others, and I know it’s harder if you have the chaos of a busy family. Try to carve out 10 minutes to meditate, read, take a hot bath, or Just Be. And try to quiet your mind while you’re doing it. This is why I’ve found yoga so addictive…it quiets my mind while I’m stretching and strengthening my body.

And yeah, I’m still working on trying to quiet my mind. We’re all a work in progress, friends. 🙂

Cheers!

How I Know My Mom is With Me

On this Mother’s Day, whether your mom is in heaven or clinging to this life, this post is for you. If you know someone who is still grieving the loss of their mom, please feel free to share.

I’ve heard her say my name at least twice.

My mom went to heaven in October of 2010, 2 years and 346 days after my dad.

As a kid, I was extremely shy, sensitive and introverted, and in grade school, I remember clinging to her when she would visit my classroom.

As an adult, I had the good fortune to spend a lot of time with, and enjoying, my parents. For that, I am grateful. Like all family relationships, it wasn’t always pretty, but life never is. You don’t appreciate the good without some of the bad.

Years later, my parents’ health declined and they moved off the farm and into the town I lived in. After my dad passed away, my mom relied on me even more.

I don’t regret this. Even though it may exhaust your patience, it is time you will never get back.

Grief is very complex and personal, and unfortunately, it’s not a subject many people know how to talk about. And however you choose to experience your journey: it’s okay. If you have an ailing loved one or one who has recently passed, you may want to read my post about grieving the loss of my parents: Grief Is a Personal Journey 

I was working in the kitchen a few years ago and heard my mom say my name.

It was so clear and audible that I looked behind me to see if she was in the room. This wasn’t the first time I heard her voice.

Another time I was cleaning out the basement. I had a bin of household bills from 2005-2006 that belonged to my parents. My mother was one of those people who grew up very poor during the depression and saved EVERYTHING, so these things would probably have been important to her.

I grabbed a chair and the bin and sat in front of the fire pit. I sorted through a few things and tossed them in the fire, where soon it began smoking with the new fuel.

The smoke wafted in my direction, so I shifted my chair and repeated this process. Again, the smoke drifted in my direction. This scenario repeated itself over and over, until I had moved six times and arrived back at my starting point.

It was both funny and exasperating at the same time. I stood up and said out loud, “Okay mom, you’ve made your point. I’ll put this away.” 😀

As a creative person, you have to be open to inspiration and ideas. Signaling inspiration is like putting a huge antenna out in the Universe and trying to tune in Tokyo. That’s really the best way to explain it.

And, just like a TV antenna, sometimes you get weird stuff that comes in along with the ideas. When I get stumped, I reach out to my friend Bess, who’s been trained as a medium.

Bess isn’t her real name, but Bess prefers to remain incognito about her skills, which is perfectly understandable considering the rural nature of where we live.

Bess told me that my mother was hovering because she was concerned about me, and described how she was making her presence felt.

The moral of this story is you don’t need someone else to tell you how your loved one is with you. It’s not like those who have gone before us can have a conversation.

Whether a dream, a drift of smoke, a beautiful sunset, a snippet of song or a beautiful flower…your loved one is there. If you haven’t felt it, don’t worry. Your loved ones are looking over you now, and will be waiting to greet you on the other side.

Slow down, open your eyes, and breathe in what this life has to offer. Little gifts come our way every day, and sometimes the hardest thing to do is to take the time to notice them.

Happy Mother’s Day!

“Don’t Die With Your Music Still In You”

I read this quote several years ago in a book by the late Dr. Wayne Dyer, and thought “Whoa.”

It still strikes me even now. And it struck me even more when it dawned on me that I had more years in my life BEHIND me than in front of me. Now there’s a sobering reality.

And just like that, I began to embark on an extended period of change. A “transition.” You know, one of those words similar to “learning experience.” A word or description that typically indicates a tumultuous period of ups and downs, whether we’re talking about life or the weather.

In my case, it brought about a career change, learning new skills, health concerns, the painful end of one professional relationship and the beginning of another, and oh yes, lest I forget, a hurricane. (insert eye roll here.)

During all of this, I didn’t feel like myself. I began to question everything, especially my safety.

I began to worry about things I’d never worried about before: my personal safety, my family’s safety, flying, not flying, driving, blogging, not blogging, my health, hurricanes, dogs, politics, people, approval, social media, blah blah blah blah.

The irony of all this is that most of what weighed me down was out of my control anyway. And it was a waste of precious energy.

So back to the question of music.

I think the hardest question for all of us to answer is, “What IS my music?” We are all gloriously different, thank goodness, so each of us have different “music” to offer the world.

Writing has always been my music, and when blogging came along, it really scratched my itch. But then life got in the way, as it often does, and I began to overthink things.

Prior to my…ahem…”transition”…I began to worry. Am I writing what people want to read? Is anyone out there? Does anybody really care?” I feel like breaking into song. 😀

I lost the joy of making my music.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned during this period (today, actually) it’s that your music is at its best when you do it purely, authentically and joyfully from the heart, with no attachment to any outcome. That’s when it’s YOU.

On the drive back from Florida this year, a thought popped in my head: “Maybe I should start blogging again.”

A few weeks later, I ran into my friend Johnna and her husband at Colton’s.

“Are you still blogging? I loved your blog!” she said.

There’s my sign. 😉

So, I’m back.

I really have no idea where this is going or what’s going to channel onto the page. And that’s the fun of it! I’m just the equivalent of a writing pen for an intangible, unnamed creative source.

I hope you enjoy it, and if you don’t, that’s okay. Because I’m writing for me. So hang on, this may be a bumpy ride! 😀

Cheers, friends. Make it a great day.

 

 

The Gift Not Given by Julie Bauer Cook, guest blogger

Julie Bauer Cook grew up in the suburbs of El Dara, Illinois and remains her father’s daughter. She is intrigued and comforted by the ordinary in her days.

In the modern age, I assume that nearly 13 years of service is a good lifespan for a crockpot. We’ve recently suffered through a few rounds of scorched spaghetti sauce and soup to get to this point, but I’ve not been able to let go of the stainless steel model that has nourished our family’s bellies and my soul since early 2004.

I bought the crock pot whilst in a fog at the newish Farm & Fleet in Muscatine, Iowa, on a whim, with a howling newborn in the cart and a sad toddler in tow. My initial plan was to muster all the strength I had that day to return the Christmas presents I had bought for my dad, who had died on December 26, following an expeditious and aggressive illness after 67 years of exemplary health. The morning began with a mournful unwrapping of each brightly wrapped package and stuffing the contents that were Art’s characteristic plaid shirts and favorite gloves into a sack, lacking a receipt for exchange.

The Midwest farmer and his daughter ready to depart for FHA Dad's Night Out circa 1984.

The Midwest farmer and his daughter ready to depart for FHA Dad’s Night Out circa 1984.

Over the howling newborn, I learned that despite the unfortunate circumstances, I would only be afforded store credit based on current pricing. Chased by the questions of the sad toddler, I raced the cart through the home goods section to grab something to which I could apply the store credit. And, with that, I grabbed the stainless steel crock pot, which at once symbolized all that I had lost that Christmas and all that I hoped to gain by putting one foot in front of the other.

The well-used crock pot bought with the store credit from Dad's Christmas gifts not given.

The well-used crock pot bought with the store credit from Dad’s Christmas gifts not given.

As I healed my soul, I slowly returned to a new normal and slow cooking food that would bring a smile to the sad toddler’s face and cease the howling of our family’s second baby boy.The slow cooker produced food that comforted us through post-trick-or-treating dinners, cold winter nights, soup day Sundays, and freezer meals following my own health hurdles. While no one else knew, each time I washed and dried the crock by hand, I was reminded of the comfort I felt in being Art’s daughter—the gifts I was unable to give to him that Christmas nourished me for all those intervening years.

So, as I retire the stained and dented silver slow cooker, it is yet another act of putting one foot in front of the other.

aqua

Moving on. Aqua makes me happy, and I’ve decided that happy is a good thing to be.

What Would Happen if You Let Go?

2016-01-24 18.12.32Because I spent about 40 years going to school, I think of a New Year beginning in September rather than January. How can you get excited about turning over a new leaf in the middle of winter?

Anyway, the “Back To School” time of year always gets me excited. Time to start a new year, new energy, new changes, new stuff, new adventures, a new opportunity to re-invent myself!

A necessary part of that Re-invention is Reflection: the pursuit of evaluating your life and looking at what’s working, what’s not, and where do you want to go with what you’ve got?

“They” say with age comes wisdom. And that wisdom eventually brings the realization that suddenly, without being quite sure how it happened, you wake up one day and there’s more life behind you than in front of you.

Wow. Heavy, eh? That’s exactly what happened to me.

I began to examine my life, the way I was living it, the things I filled my time with. While many of those activities were enjoyable, and at one time even satisfying, had I simply kept doing them without thinking? Like I was on auto pilot?

Suddenly I felt like I was wearing a pair of shoes that had grown a little too snug. While they didn’t exactly hurt, they felt…constricting. Uncomfortable. And SO  last year! 😉

When you realize there’s more of your life behind you, what’s in front of you becomes precious. 

This doesn’t involve leaving my husband, either, just in case you were wondering. 😀

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What do I want to do? What am I good at? What brings me pleasure? What endeavor brings me so much joy that it doesn’t feel like work?

Tom Corley, author of Rich Habits, said in a recent newsletter: “Your job is to figure out what your superpowers are, your strengths, and then figure out a way you can use your superpowers to add value to the lives of as many people as possible. The money will follow when what you do for a living adds real value to the lives of others.”

Ok, great! But what does that mean for me?

While I haven’t totally figured out the answers yet, it’s really made me slow down and think. How can I add value in this lifetime? What does the world need? What should I do differently?

Of course, there’s always the issue of time: Do I have enough time? How will I fit this in around my work? (Because after all, we all have to earn a living!)

I began to take a serious look at how I spent my time. 

I began to take stock of everything I was involved in; what rewarded me? What brought me satisfaction? What did I enjoy? What fit into my life’s mission? (Whatever that is!) What felt meaningful? What did I look forward to?

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On the opposite side of the spectrum, which activities that, once enjoyable, now felt like an obstacle course? Where did I feel like I was exerting enormous amounts of energy only to see minimal or no progress?

It’s human nature, especially as we age, to want to avoid change. Yet sometimes change is necessary on a personal or organizational basis in order for us to grow, and none of us embrace it or realize it at the same pace. Neither right, wrong or indifferent, that’s just the way it IS.

And then suddenly, you wake up one day and realize that you’re wearing those ill-fitting shoes that I referred to earlier. If you’re very involved, it can feel as if you are trying to drag a lumber wagon up hill. Both ways. It can be exhausting and frustrating at the same time!

WHAT IF…I opened up my schedule enough to leave myself time to think. What if I started all over again: freed up my schedule outside of my work and opened up blocks of time.

After all, if you want good things to come into your life, you have to make room for them.

My niece and I were just talking about this very topic today. (Funny we were on the same wavelength!) What new ideas, projects or opportunities might come my way if I opened up some space?

Inspiration is a necessary ingredient for creativity. And it’s impossible to be inspired with a packed schedule and a long ‘To Do’ list.

At first, the thought was kind of scary. In some form or another, anything we’re involved in has a reward of some sort. Whether it’s public recognition or the simply the good feelings of having made a positive difference, that reward is why we keep doing things.

The first thing I had to do was let go of the need for the reward. And that, my friends, took some doing. I’ll be honest.

But now that I’ve taken that step and let go of some things, I find I’m looking forward to my days again. I’m enjoying my work, enjoying my daily round and that peaceful feeling of contentment has returned. And with it, inspiration. For myself, and for others.

I have no idea where this adventure will take me, and that’s OK. That’s part of that beautiful mystery of life. We’ll see what opportunities come along and see where it takes me.

What about you? Are you on auto-pilot? Are there things you’re doing still that you no longer enjoy?

Cheers, friends!

5 Things Someone Should Have Told Me When I Was 18

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It’s graduation time! I remember those days like they were yesterday, instead of 13,140 yesterdays ago. Give or take a few days, that’s when I joined 27 other classmates in the right of passage into adulthood.

There are certain things you learn as you go through life that you think, “Gosh, it would be helpful to have known that.” I like to think that I might have been forward-thinking enough to plan a little better and not be caught by surprise by nature’s cruel jokes. 😀

Personally, I think it’s nature’s way of ensuring that we don’t take ourselves too seriously. How else can you explain some of these things?

Recessional 1

1. You will always have zits.

Really? I was lucky enough not to have a ton of them at the same time. Oh, no, the kind that I had was the occasional huge festering pustule which seemed to linger for weeks. Like a beacon signaling a ship to shore,  they were especially fond of the tip of my  nose, graciously appearing before a major social occasion.

They still pay me the occasional visit, only with age I’ve become more resigned to them and better at ignoring them. Kind of like a familiar friend who overstays their welcome and you’re relieved when their gone.

And if you are one of my friends reading this, I promise it was never you. 🙂

2. You will always pee your pants.

What a bittersweet irony that something really funny can be such a curse. 😀 (It’s okay, you don’t have to tell me if you peed just a little reading this.) Or, OH NO HERE COMES A SNEEZE IF I SQUEEZE MY LEGS TOGETHER REALLY TIGHT WILL I BE OKAY….Nope. Dang.

Mom and Dad

3. Men really don’t want to hear it.

Thanks to Cinderella and all those Princess stories, we grow up thinking that our handsome Prince is out there, life is beautiful and you talk about everything with the man of your dreams.

I remember very clearly a young woman I know well, having fallen madly in love unexpectedly, told me “I can tell him everything!”

I remember thinking at the time, “Whelp, that will be the death of that relationship!” And, eventually it was. (Of course she has gone on to bigger and better things and is happily married now.)

We all think this though, and I remember my former boss’ wife who finally broke the news to me after listening to me gush, “Men don’t want to hear everything. They really don’t.  My husband and I have a very shallow relationship, but it’s worked well for 26 years!” (That was over 25 years ago, and they are still happily married.)

Grad lineup

4. A key to staying happily married is deciding what your definition of clean is.

When I was younger, I was nearly neurotic about keeping a tidy, spotless house. In order to do that, you have to make lifestyle choices that support that goal.

Because my lifestyle choices included multiple large dogs and a husband  whose life mission is not tidiness, it was an unattainable goal. Working towards that goal was like spinning my wheels on an icy road and going nowhere. If I did achieve it for 20 minutes, I can’t say I was ever happy. How can you be when you’re exhausted and crabby? 😀

So, my solution was to redefine my definition of ‘clean.’ In other words, what can I live with?

Nowadays, I can have a foot of dust on everything, but if my floors are reasonably clean and the house is mostly picked up, I’m a happy camper. 🙂

I remember very clearly the picture below. I felt very awkward, walking in front of the crowd. Because people were looking at me! What if I trip? What if I stub my toe? I never realized it was so far during practice?!!!

Stage Processional

5. Like sands in the hourglass of time, friends will come and go in your life. And that’s okay.

Another thing I wish someone would have told me when I was 18  is how my friendships will evolve over the years.

If life were a carnival, I think of the sphere of our friends as a ginormous Bumper Car Ride. We all go and go and go on our own route, working on our own stuff and goals and families. We may have started out with one group of friends, but we all went our separate ways as our individual decisions zinged us down different roads.

Many of us still meet occasionally, which is awesome. We wave, hug, laugh, catch up, and happily enjoy every moment before we’re zinging down our separate roads again. (Can’t you just picture it?) 🙂

And all of that is okay. Sometimes friends cycle back into  your life, sometimes they don’t. It doesn’t mean you don’t love them anymore, it just means you’re on different paths. It is part of the color and fun of this big, beautiful thing called life.

Group shot

What do you wish someone had told you?

Cheers, friends! 🙂

Living in the Shadows, Part 2

2015-10-05 10.22.49Now where did I stop in Part 1? Hmmm..

Ah yes, my epic meltdown.

That would be the one where I irrevocably dented Ekko’s poor food bowl.

We were both different after that, in a good way.

I began to actually embrace our walks, and felt a wealth of patience and love. I knew that we’d both passed a milestone; now that we’d both found peace. It was time, he was ready.

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Shortly after Buckley came to the Rescue, we received an application from a potential adopter named Lauri from Seattle. Gordie, her aged Gordon Setter had passed over the Rainbow Bridge earlier this year. From her half-acre lot with a creek to her love of dogs and rescue experience, she was perfect!

I was optimistic, but Seattle was oh, so far away, and it was a long way to come to get a dog and then find out he didn’t fit in. We began corresponding regularly via email. I gave her detailed information and honest descriptions of our ups and downs so she would know what she was getting into. (Okay I might have glossed over the whole meltdown thing.) 😀

In turn, she confided that she wasn’t completely sure she wanted another dog. Her long-time boyfriend, also named Lori – his family is Scandinavian, where that is a man’s name – has Alzheimer’s. She thought Buckley might be a bright spot for both of them as the disease progressed, something they could simply enjoy with no remembering needed.

She surprised me with a ‘care package’ of coffee for the 5 a.m. walks and dental chews to help with his teeth, which needed cleaning.

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We seemed to have a lot in common as the weeks and emails, which now included video and pictures, passed. My reaction when, focused on shooting video, I ran into a stick dangling from a tree and gouged my forehead was just a bonus. 😉

Around the end of August, about 5 weeks after we began fostering Buckley, I received an email from Lauri:

“I wonder if I found the reason that you didn’t give up on Buckley.  Without you providing updates and info on exactly what Buckley is like I might not have continued to have interest in him, because of the distance.  As it was the stories kept me thinking.. hmm,maybe.  Well last night I showed my boyfriend the photo of Buckley looking at the printer and the photo of him standing on a leash looking at the camera with his head cocked.  I’d shown them to him before but he didn’t remember.  Anyway, this time he looked at the first photo, and looked and looked.  I reached to take the phone to bring up the 2nd one but he held on to it a bit longer.  Wanted to look some more.  When I showed him the second one he did the same… lonnng look…  with a dreamy-eyed smile.  It made me think, whether *I* need Buckley or not, I think my boyfriend needs me to have him so he can enjoy him.  It was a look I hadn’t seen for a very, very long time.  

The photos came up in conversation because I’d sent them to a trusted friend.  I told her I was considering adopting and asked if she wanted to ‘talk me down’.  Her reply;

Lauri, you can’t say no now, this one needs you and you need this one, just look at this face,  he needs your love!!!!!!!!!!!  (Not much help, am I?)”

I was too moved by Lauri’s email to respond right away. It brought tears to my eyes.

Lauri and Lori must be incredibly special people for God to weave his handiwork to bring Buckley into their lives.

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If we had never lost Harley, who was a boisterous handful, we would have never been able to take in Buckley. And if I had refused to listen to my inner voice and given up on him, this adoption would not be happening.

From that point forward, things began moving quickly. I began things to prepare him for his new people: we stepped up the car rides and increased our leash training.

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Labor Day weekend Lauri surprised Lori with a drive to the airport; she told him they were flying to Minneapolis, renting a car and coming here to pick up Buckley. He was overjoyed.

My friend Jenny suggested wisely that we get him an Adaptile collar, which emits ‘happy’ pheromones to calm him for the transition to a new home and a cross country car trip. I placed the collar on him as they pulled in the drive, hoping that he would associate the ‘happy’ feelings with seeing them.

It worked like a charm! See? 🙂

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Lauri and Lori were as nice as I knew they would be. They had planned to stay for an hour or so to get to know him, but thanks to the ‘happy collar’ he took to them so quickly that it seemed they were here only a few minutes.

Off they went on an epic road trip back to Seattle, venturing through the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore, visiting the Corn Palace in Mitchell and the famous Wall Drug among other highlights. 2, 552 miles later, they were home safe and sound.

Buckley is now Bo, and is settling nicely into his new life.

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He has some challenges: he still needs work socializing with other dogs,  and he still hates being crated and left alone. But he’s learning to play, and he’s getting love and patience from people who have plenty of it to give.

“And Lori.. well he’s totally enjoying Bo.  Loves to watch him run in the yard, the way he hunkers down and walks low when he hunts, the way he sits so tall and watches for squirrels and birds in the trees, the speed Bo has when he takes off on a dead run (after who knows what), his playfulness when we throw toys for him in the house and he fetches and prances around.  (another video I need to get).  He calls him Gordie 90% of the time and it makes me think that not always, but sometimes, Lori thinks this is Gordie.  Has this allowed him to go back to when Gordie was still with us?  Wouldn’t that be wonderful for anyone.. to be able to go back in time, before a loss, as if it never occurred?   What a gift that would be.  Sometimes I’ve thought it might be too confusing to have gotten a dog that’s the same breed as the one we recently lost, but maybe for Lori it was exactly the right thing to do.” 🙂

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As for us, Bo gave us a new appreciation for our sweet little girls we have. Sometimes it’s easy to ‘want’ instead of appreciate what you have. It reminded me how precious time really is and how you shouldn’t squander it on things that don’t matter. And, thanks to him, I have a new friend.

It’s an amazing demonstration of God’s work that a sweet little boy who spent the first years of his life living in the shadows should accompany a man as his life’s journey takes him deeper into the shadows of Alzheimer’s.

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Thank you for helping all of us grow into better people, Bo. Have a wonderful life. You deserve it. 🙂

Living in the Shadows

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I really wouldn’t have believed this had I not lived it myself. It just goes to show how God’s plan for us is so much bigger than we can ever conceive.

I almost gave up on him.

He was a mess.

Dogs tell you a lot about their former lives through their behaviors. Buckley was a timid and sweet but nervous, un-socialized ball of fur who’d lived on scraps supplemented by dog food. He didn’t know how to play with toys and had never had treats. He’d never had a collar much less walked on a leash and most likely his only bath had been right before he came into the Rescue.

It’s not like people tell you “Basically I had this dog in my backyard, I fed it and occasionally he got to play and that’s it.”

Buckley was the product of an accidental litter between a Gordon Setter and an Irish Setter. His parents were breeding stock, and the only time in his 5-year life he’d been out of the backyard was to go to the vet. He saw the same people, the same dogs, and did the same thing every day.

It’s like he lived the first part of his life unseen: he lived in the shadows.

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His previous owners were not bad people. They were very nice, former breeders who had simply had grown older and out of the business with several dogs they had never placed. Life is busy, and time had simply slipped by.

One quality I’ve observed about breeders is that most of them think of their breeding animals more as livestock. It’s not a mindset I understand nor share, but that doesn’t make them wrong and me right; it just IS. And that’s why we live in America. 🙂

There’s obviously a need and a place for breeders in the world. I have friends who are good, responsible breeders and are huge advocates of rescue. Not all breeders are bad. (Some are, but that isn’t what this post is about.)

Buckley 2

The reality was that we had so little information about him when he came in that we didn’t realize Buckley had all these issues. It’s very likely his owners didn’t either. After all, he had lived in their backyard all his life where everything was comfortable and familiar, and since they didn’t spend any time with him, how would they know?

“What was I thinking, fostering a BIRD dog without a fenced yard?”I ask myself now.  😀

And yet, he taught me more about life in the 6 weeks I’d had him than anyone else ever had.

He was full of nervous energy, unmotivated by treats or toys, hated being crated with a passion. My friend Jenny, very knowledgeable and wise about these matters, offered wisdom and crate toys to prevent boredom. Unfortunately, he wasn’t treat or toy motivated.

For the first week or two he was here, he would wail constantly when I left the house, no matter who was home. My poor husband, who is notorious for being impatient, was wonderfully patient. He was much more gracious than I would have been after listening to him wail for 45 minutes.

After several battles, Buckley and I finally came to a mutual understanding: I would agree to stop crating him, and he would agree to stop wailing every time I left.

Everything was new to him. Sounds, mirrors, dog beds, television.

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He hadn’t yet learned healthy outlets for his nervous energy, such as chewing on a bone or toys. So, we walked. And walked and walked and walked.

I walked my yard more in the 6 weeks I had him more than I had in the last 15 years. When I look back upon that period, I feel like it was spent walking Buckley, with short stints of productive activity in between.

And we walked.

In the rain. In the heat. In the dark.

I prayed daily that he would be adopted, and yet in my heart I knew he wasn’t ready.

I had grown to care about this sweet little boy who deserved a life and a loving family. And certainly no one would be willing to take him on at this point; I could barely do it myself.

Something inside me just kept telling me to hold on. “Don’t give up on him! Don’t give up!” the tiny little voice said.

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And so I kept plodding along. Get up, walk Buckley. Work out, walk Buckley. Shower, walk Buckley. And so it went.

One hot, miserable summer day my increasing frustration bubbled over. I couldn’t take it.

I had an epic meltdown.

Fortunately, only the dogs were here to see it. It involved yelling, screaming, and repeatedly banging poor Ekko’s food dish on the kitchen counter top. It has a nice little dent in it to remind me of that day.

And then, it was over. I was exhausted, and but relieved. I felt lighter.

Sitting at my desk a while later, I realized something that was so profound, I wrote it down in my notebook so I would be sure to remember.

“I’m focusing on the wrong things for the direction I want to go.

Spend time working on the activities that get you where you need to be.”

Time is a precious commodity, and life will always be busy. I needed to spend my precious hours between Buckley walks working on the things that are really important. The big things. The things that matter. And my family, the parts of my work that really matter, those are the things I needed to be focusing on, not the busy work of scratching things off a list.

WOW.

And just like that, I let the “To Do” list go.

I still make notes  and write down things I’m afraid I’ll forget to do so I don’t have to carry them in my head. That list just matters less.

Most people have to get sick or suffer a loss to come to these conclusions. All I had to foster a difficult dog. I am truly blessed.

BUT THE STORY DOESN’T END HERE.

2015-09-03 19.52.31This picture is blurry, but it still makes me laugh.

“What, momma? Is there more?”

Yep, there sure is. I hope you’ll come back for the rest of the story, because it’s awfully special too. 🙂

Recovering From Fibromyalgia (Part 2)

A fibromyalgia diagnosis doesn’t have to mean the end of everything fun. Here’s the rest of the story of how I got back to feeling like a Rock Star (or, if you remember the 80’s, better than a Rock Star most likely.HA)

2. Exercise.

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Your body was made to  move, not made to sit on your ass all day every day. But, modern living being what it is, we all have to make a living. That is what makes exercise doubly important.

I know it’s hard to start new habits, but it’s an absolute necessity if you want to feel better.

Exercise is also one of those things that’s a process. You need to do it consistently. Find something that you enjoy doing that helps you move.

Be patient! We live in such an instant gratification society that when people don’t get fit or feel better instantly, they give up.

If you’re starting an exercise program for the first time, start out slow. Walk 5 or 10 minutes every day for a couple of weeks to give yourself time to adjust. Each week after that, add a couple of minutes or a couple of blocks.

For instance, let’s say you’ve decided to take the plunge and start exercising. The absolute worst thing you can do is overdo and end up really sore, which makes you dread your workouts. You’re simply dooming yourself to fail if that’s the road you take.

For example, what if you started walking 5 minutes every day for a week. That’s it. Just 5 minutes a day. The next week, add two minutes per day, and the next week, another two minutes. That’s 120 seconds of additional walking per day each week. Then continue adding two more minutes per per day each week after that.

At the end of 3 months, you’d be walking almost 30 minutes per day. If you walked 6 days per week, that’s THREE hours of exercise a week! Phenomenal! See how it adds up, folks? Where else would you be in 3 months?

Just think: you went from ZERO to THREE hours a week in only THREE months. That doesn’t sound too shabby, does it? And you only started with 5 minutes per day.

I’m a Slow and Steady Wins the Race kind of gal myself, that’s why I think this way.

Progress is still progress, however long it takes. Do you think it matters now that it took me 12 years to finish my college degree? Heck no! And as far as I was concerned, it didn’t even matter then! 😀


Jackin steel

Once you’re up to speed with a walking program, gradually add in some weight bearing exercise. Weight-bearing exercise is so important to prevent osteoporosis as well as help keep your strength up as you age. Weight-bearing exercise will help you balance out your body strength so you don’t fall, help slow or prevent your muscles from shrinking which naturally occurs as you age, and help you get up off the toilet. 😉

I highly recommend consulting with a trainer or utilizing machines to make sure you are doing the exercise correctly in order to prevent injury. Again, work up slowly.

When I started lifting weights is when I really started to see improvement.

And remember: not all muscle soreness is bad!

If you’re starting an exercise program, you may feel some soreness. A little soreness is natural; you just want to avoid the intense muscle soreness that hurts so much it discourages you. Shoot, if you’ve ever had a massage, you know your muscles are sometimes sore afterwards.

This does not mean it’s bad, or that your fibromyalgia is acting up. There IS a difference.

3. Consider Supplementation.

2015-01-12 15.47.56You’re right, this picture has absolutely nothing to do with this post. I was just checking to see if you were paying attention. 😉

Do you take a probiotic regularly? If you don’t, you should. A probiotic is an over-the-counter supplement which contains good bacteria to keep your gut healthy. Gut health, or lack thereof, is a factor behind many illnesses. While you may not notice an immediate improvement upon taking it, over the long term it makes a huge difference.

If you don’t like or eat seafood, check out a good quality fish oil supplement.

Talk to your doctor about other supplements. Besides a probiotic, I take Vitamin C, Vitamin D (unless I’m out in the sun), and Magnesium. I also am an avid user of essential oils, which promote and support good health, energy and a healthy immune system without adding chemicals to my life.

4. Get Plenty of Sleep.

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Wind down naturally at the end of the day, allowing yourself some time to relax, at least an hour before bed.

Stay off electronic devices. Make sure your room is dark; get some blackout drapes if you have to. Keep a small flashlight by the bed for bathroom breaks.

Watch your alcohol intake; it can be especially disruptive to sleep. (I know this from experience.)

Try bathing at night instead of a shower if you have a tub to help you relax. Rub your pillow with lavender (a good quality essential oil) to help you sleep. I diffuse lavender at night, which helps us relax and sleep better.

Try some gentle stretches to release muscle tension and prepare your body physically for sleep.

Consider the use of white noise to help you sleep better and block out other noises. My husband and I use a fan. The TV does NOT count as white noise, sorry. 😀

5. Take Care of Yourself.

Keeping your stress level low is incredibly important. Learn to say no, stop trying to do everything, recognize your limitations, and give yourself a break.

I have taken up yoga this year, and I really love what it does for me, mentally and physically.

2015-03-07 09.56.56Not to mention the people in the class, of course. 😀

I hope you found this helpful, and wish you the best of luck in your journey to good health. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts! But day to day, it will make a difference. 🙂

Cheers!