I Had A Message From God Today

3.14.14This was not the post I intended to write today. And this picture really doesn’t have anything to do with the post. And yet, it has everything to do with it. I’ll explain.

I had a life-altering experience earlier this morning, and it wasn’t yet 9:00 a.m.! It affected me so profoundly, so deeply, that I immediately had to come home and write about it.

I had a 9:00 a.m. conference call with a state committee of which I am a member. I had missed the last few, so I felt it was really important for me to participate today.

Sure, I had meant to get around earlier and get to the gym, but things got in the way. An early morning lack of prioritizing left me rushed. (As much as I’d like to blame someone else here, like my dogs, or my husband who wasn’t even home at the time – it was no one’s fault but my own.)

“If I hurry, I can squeeze in my workout and still make it home in time,” I told myself.

It was on the way home that life-altering moment happened.

I had my phone with me, and I was looking through emails and alternately watching the road. (Guess where this is going?)  While this sounds perfectly ridiculous as I write this, in my mind I was saving time.

“I’ll pull up that email with the call-in information, and then when I get home, I can just run in and dial the number and I won’t be late!“, is what I was thinking to myself. (Am I the only one who’s had such an idiotic thought? Or just the only one who’s brave enough to out myself?)  😉

I was on a fairly straight section of road, glancing up and down quickly between my phone and the road. The last time I looked up at the road, I had ventured too close to the right side. Ooops! I corrected, and kept my eyes on the road ahead as it was starting to get hilly.

Less than two seconds later, I popped over a small hill.

On the shoulderless right side of the road, pedaling along and minding his own business, was a bicyclist. He was blissfully unaware that a  quarter of a mile and 5 seconds earlier and I would have splatted him up over the front of my car.

My heart stopped. I laid my phone down in my lap, stunned. Thanks be to God, who’d allowed me to dodge a bullet.

I’m usually pretty careful. When I’m in town, I’m cautious not to be looking at my phone on a busy street, or to even look at it when I’m on unfamiliar roads or in traffic. But this was my road. It was familiar. I know this road, I’ve driven it a million times.

Yes, our road is curvy,  parts of it are hilly, it has no shoulder, and isn’t really suitable for biking. And people do it all the time!

But that doesn’t negate my responsibility to watch out for them, or anything else that may be in the road.

I believe the Universe gives us signs all the time. I believe that our purpose here is to learn, and that life gives us lessons to help us grow. If we ignore those lessons (or signs) they keep getting bigger and bigger or louder and louder. If you still refuse to learn, life simply forces you to. That’s when bad things happen.

How did it get this way, that being connected to technology became so much more important than life itself? It makes us hurry. It makes us frazzled. And because we have so little time to connect in a personal way, that we settle for simply connecting via technology.

Technology has put me in touch with friends that I’d not seen in years, wouldn’t have seen otherwise, and I love that. I can easily stay in touch with friends who live far away, to see what’s happening in their lives and with their kids; I see my friends having fun on vacation and admire their beautiful pictures. I love all that too.

Technology has simplified our lives, and certainly made life in the business world easier. But it’s also complicated our lives, made our schedules faster, and given us more stress.

As a REALTOR®, my phone is my lifeline. With my phone, I can do business anywhere. Rarely will you see a REALTOR® anywhere without their phone. It’s a choice we make to do our jobs.

I love my job. I love what I do. And I love people, most of the time.

Sometimes people don’t respect us or what we do. I worked with someone once who had decided to buy a house. I’d shown her a couple, and we’d spoken several times. She got ready to make an offer, and she called me. I wasn’t available at the time, so without leaving a message, she disconnected and immediately called another agent to write the offer.

In our fast, fast connected world, the early bird gets the worm. Having my phone at my hip is a hard, hard habit to break.

But today was a wake-up call for me.

Life is precious, and it is not measured by conference calls or contracts.

So if you call and I don’t answer, perhaps it’s because I’m choosing to put safety first; not only mine, but the lives of others.

Thank you God, for letting me squeak by today, and for showing me this lesson. I needed that. 🙂

And my conference call? It was canceled for lack of a quorum. 😀

Titan: One Week Later

Titan with Toys

I feel badly for people who believe canines are “just dogs”.

In our hustle-bustle busy world, taking time to connect with a pet is like a blessing from God. It’s a quiet joy, really, that puts you in touch with nature and reminds you of what’s really important.

Statistically, having a relationship with a pet even improves your health!

We’ve been experiencing a lot of quiet joys this week since Titan came along.

I took the picture above just this morning. We can tell he’s starting to fill out just a little bit. He’s starting to look ‘fluffier’. His coat is shiny, and looks healthier already.

Home from Vet

This is Mr. Man on the ride home from the vet. He has a quiet intensity in his eyes that speaks volumes. And makes me laugh sometimes.

Like when he looks at me, and I can totally tell with his eyes that he’s saying, “I don’t like this leash.” 😀

He had some wounds on his face from a tussle with something, but those have pretty much healed. Hopefully the fur will grow back in; it’s amazing he didn’t lose an eye. Whatever he fought with gave him a pretty good fight.

First TimeWelcome, Titan!

When I brought him home from the vet, I had to work at it a little to get him over the threshold. I’m guessing it was his first time ever to be inside.

He was all fresh and clean from his first bath. He’d spent nearly 24 hours hooked up to IV’s, had what was probably his first shots, and came home with four medications: antibiotics, pain pills (for his swollen, sore infected feet), and ear drops for both his infected ears. He was also anemic, so we’ve been giving him an iron supplement all week. And what a good boy! He stands perfectly still for all his meds, and has from the very first day.

He knows we’re helping him. He knew that from the beginning.

Meeting Ekko

He was encouraged to see we had other dogs. Ekko (AKA Miss Leadpants) was excited. Now she had someone to play with!

Except Titan wasn’t well enough to play.

Charra? Well, let’s just say for Charra, he was irrelevant, for the most part.

And he’s still irrelevant, unless he is near where she is. And then she’s cranky.

He discovered dog beds! Soft, fluffy dog beds. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…..

2014-03-06 16.05.24

Some of us snore, some of us sleep with our tongues sticking out. 😉

Jim's clothes

Clothes will do in a pinch.

Close-up

“I’m ready for my close-up  now.”

For the first several days, he rested most of the time. Sleep and rest were the best things for him.

We worked on crate training and gently getting on a consistent schedule. Until last night, the only peep we ever heard from him was the first night. He objected to being crated in a different room than us; and he objected to the door on the crate being shut.

Now, he’s used to his crate, and does really well. He’s tried to tell me a couple of times that he should be able to stay out like the big girls.

“No, Titan, until little boys learn not to potty in the house, they have to be crated.”

Bored

“You’re boring me, Mother.”

Each day brings a new change now. On Monday, he began to play.

Toys

Yesterday, he began to tease me by trying to ‘get’ the laundry I’m folding.

Barking

He has also started barking at cars that go by.

In other words, he is acting like a puppy again. 🙂 That is a very good sign.

Housebreaking is coming along; as with any puppy, it is a slippery slope. At this point in the game, he is still learning to ‘signal’ us when he has to go. Sometimes he’ll go to the door; sometimes he’ll just go to the other room. Sometimes he’ll go on the deck and just stand there, until I walk out and ‘encourage’ him to step off the deck.

Each day brings improvement.

And poor Daddy still doesn’t do it right. 😉

When I first brought him home, I took him outside to potty for the first time. He didn’t know what I was doing yet, and assumed he was going to have to stay outside. (Really, what else did he know?)

He skulked behind my tall pampas grass and crawled into it and laid down to hide.

It was what he knew, what he thought he was supposed to do. 🙁

In the beginning, he hated going outside the house; he was afraid he would never get back in.

Sitting up

He is a handsome, sweet little boy.

He still doesn’t like the snow. (Can you blame him?)

He is scared of the dark. I can’t blame him for that either. How many dark, scary cold nights did he spend alone, and afraid?

We’ll never know.

He will probably always have some little quirks associated with his experience.

His growth may be stunted from severe malnutrition.

Whoever adopts him will probably always have to be careful with their trash. Nearly starving to death has made him opportunistic. Only time will tell if that ever goes away.

What I DO know is that he will remain ever grateful and appreciative of the opportunity to be loved, and not squander that opportunity.

It’s what makes rescues so special. It’s like they know. They remember.

I’ve had several people suggest that he’s home already. Without a doubt, we love him and are really enjoying him here. BUT…(there’s always a but, isn’t there?)

I made a promise.

I promised my husband that if we took him in, that I would find a home for him and that we wouldn’t keep him.

Where is trust if you can’t keep your promises? What does your word mean if you don’t stay true to it?

If we kept Titan, I couldn’t help anybody else. What do you think he would say the next time? Probably the same thing anyone else would say:

“I’ve heard this before!”

And so, once he has gained weight and been out in the world a little bit (as well as gotten neutered and the rest of his shots), we’ll work at finding a furever home for this most-deserving little boy. 🙂

Rescuing Titan

 

 “Saving just one dog won’t change the world, but surely it will change the world for that one dog.”

(My apologies to whomever originally said that; I have no idea who you are.)

Titan1

 

Titan was almost done for, and he knew it.

He’d been on his own for quite some time. A tussle with something left him injured, and his paws were so swollen and sore that he was no longer able to hunt to feed himself.

He’d eeked out an existence for a few days, stealing food from Joe and Leslie’s bird feeders and eating what little snow was on the ground prior to Winter Storm Titan’s approach. During the artic cold front with temperatures well below zero that came after the storm, he’d sought shelter under their porch.

It was after that they found him.

Wandering in the driveway, gaunt, his front paws swollen to almost double their size, he was quiet. Almost…resigned to his fate.

They took him into their garage, wrapped him with blankets, and gave him food and water. He was literally starving.

Joe and Leslie are friends of mine. She messaged me and sent pictures, asking if I knew of anyone who might want a BBD (big black dog.) He was only a puppy, they knew, but of course puppies grow up. They were not able to keep him, and were going to take him to the shelter the following day.

I can’t explain it. I felt a connection to him. And, I knew at the shelter he would be immediately euthanized.

Our local shelter has the same problem most shelters do: struggling with tight budgets, their limited resources have to be devoted toward saving the most animals possible. That means they have to make hard decisions: to save the ones they can, who are immediately adoptable.  They simply don’t have the resources to devote toward medical care for one dog.

Titan had another strike against him too: he is black.

It’s a universal statistic among all shelters and rescues that the black dogs, especially the BBD’s, are among the last to be adopted. They linger on, growing older and larger, until someone comes along and adopts them or, needing the space, the shelter has to euthanize them.

I’m not really sure why it’s so hard to adopt a black dog. They are difficult to photograph well (I can testify to this), I suppose they can be intimidating, and maybe they’re just not as interesting and attractive as some of their multi-colored cousins.

Because of this, Jimmy and I have kind of become champions for BBD’s. We look for the ones who are the least adoptable.

Our dogs are the ones no one else wanted.

Titan2

Back to Titan.

I named him Titan, not only because he’d survived Winter Storm Titan, but also after NASCAR’s new jet dryers, the Air Titans. They are strong, and can dry a race track in 90 minutes or less.

If Titan survives, I hope he becomes as strong as those jet dryers.

I met him for the first time yesterday. I had Joe and Leslie meet me at Dr. Lindquist’s office. I had a feeling he was going to need medical care.

He was very quiet. And he was in worse condition than I thought. He was very malnourished, and he barely moved. But I could see love in those eyes, and his tail wagged briefly several times.

At least it was warm. And there were nice people feeding him, and loving on him. His vital signs were good, his plumbing was still functioning, but he had ear infections, and several wounds that were infected.

He felt so crummy that even when Dr. Webb cleaned his ears and went spelunking for a stool sample, he groaned but didn’t move. Except when she tried to look at his swollen feet. One of them could barely support his weight: all 27.6 pounds.

He spent last night hooked up to an IV, receiving fluids and antibiotics. As of this morning, he was eating well, still taking fluids, but had been wagging his tail. (While the technician I spoke to had been off yesterday, apparently everyone at the clinic knows Titan’s story.)

He had yet to be examined by Dr. Lindquist, and he was going to be given a bath. I’m expecting an update soon, and I’ll find out if he’s well enough to be released yet.

For a little boy who’s only about 6 months old, his life has gotten off to a really rotten start.

If he survives, he’ll come home with me and learn what it’s like to have the security of a family, food, a warm bed, and friends, both the human and canine kind.

When he’s well enough, we’ll find a loving home for this special little boy.

And Titan will always be special.

He’ll never be able to live life as an outside dog. After the mental and physical challenges he’s been through just to survive, I can’t imagine a loving family wanting him to. He deserves more.

As a young puppy, he survived a very high fever, such as distemper. It killed the enamel production on his teeth, which means that he may have to have them extracted as he ages. That shouldn’t change the quality of his life though; it just means he will have to eat soft foods.

I have no idea what’s going to happen with Titan, or where this road is going to lead us.

Sometimes you just have to keep the faith, know that there’s a grander plan at work behind the scenes and we can’t possibly have all the answers.

But for now, things are as they are supposed to be. It’s in God’s hands, and so is Titan.

Severe Weather At the Daytona 500 2014

I’m baaaackk! Poor internet connectivity (the woes of having a regional carrier) is the reason I’ve been missing in action the last few weeks. Rest assured, “management” is working on the problem. Management being me, of course. 😀

Photo by @pixelcrisp

Photo by @pixelcrisp

It’s Daytona.

If you’ve ever visited Daytona International Speedway, you were probably awestruck by it’s size and historical significance. It wouldn’t take you long to learn that the racing is unpredictable, unexpected, scary sometimes, and exciting.

The weather is the same way. February in central Florida is like May in the Midwest: anything can happen! This was our 11th Daytona 500. Every year, there’s at least one storm which goes, or has the potential to go severe.  (Hence, it didn’t take us long to learn that it was WAY too much work to decorate a campsite to only have to take it all back down again.)

Speedway personnel had been through our campground (on Speedway property just outside turns 1 and 2) on one occasion prior to Speedweeks to warn campers to ‘button down the hatches’.

In camper-speak, that means to roll up your awnings and put away anything that could blow away (e.g. become a missile in high winds.) This wasn’t our first rodeo: preparing the campsite and staying on top of the weather is something we’ve done over and over again.

2014-02-21 10.47.32For instance, this is way too much crap to have out in high winds. And notice no one has their awning out? Unless you stake it down, putting out your awning is asking for trouble.

So anyway, business had been picking up steadily as Speedweeks neared. On Wednesday before the 500, the town and Speedway grew even busier as the infield opened. There’s an excitement in the air, which increases day by day as the culmination of hard work, preparation, and the anticipation of a new season of racing grows near.

The day of the race dawned sunny and warm, with only a few passing clouds. It was going to be a perfect day for racing!

Things start happening early around the campsite. Friends who are driving in from another locale arrive between 9 and 10 a.m. to avoid traffic. The Goodyear blimp flies over, as well as planes towing banners. There’s various pools and wagers amongst friends. And a bittersweet awareness that while this is the day we’ve all been waiting for, it’s also the end of the road for our Campground Gang to be together until next time.

About an hour before race time, my friend Peggy and I began making preparations.

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There was only a 40% chance of rain in the forecast for that afternoon. However, Speedway personnel came through to alert campers of the possibility of severe weather. With the exception of closing the tailgate of our toy hauler, my husband loaded the Harley (we were leaving the next day anyway) and we secured the camp.

As race time grew near, cloud cover began to build, but the radar remained clear. We left for our seats around 1:00 p.m.; by that time, the campground was nearly a ghost town. We arrived at our seats just after the flyover, and in time to see the beginning caution laps.

Green, Green, Green!

Green, Green, Green!

Because Twitter is where I get most of my up-to-the-minute news, especially on race days, I jumped back and forth between it and the radar.

Brian Neudorff, a meteorologist in Idaho who refers to himself NASCAR’s unofficial weatherman, (@NASCAR_WXMAN) had been expecting the possibility of a rain delay for a couple of days.

At 1:40 p.m. Brian tweeted “anticipated storms were forming [ESE] of the track…are about 2 hours away with more possible to form.” It was apparently during this time frame the Daytona FanCam shot this picture of everyone in the stands, which shows me checking the Twitter feed. (Wonderful. At least I was in my seat.)

Daytona FanCam shot

Daytona FanCam shot

At 1:48 p.m., Brian tweeted “Danger, Will Robinson!” Radar update, cell popped up 8 miles WSW of Track.”

I checked my NOAA radar, which showed it as a very small system, mostly green with just a touch of yellow. This was not a big deal, and looked to be a passing shower.

At 1:58 p.m., I read Brian’s tweet which had been sent at 1:51 p.m.: Rain is about 3 to 8 min out WSW with in 3 miles of @DISupdates as of 1:51 pm ET. It’s always the rain you don’t see…

Well, pooh, by that time, it was very nearly there. I really didn’t want to get wet. And if you’re wondering how I missed the tweet…there was action happening on the track. There was a race going on, remember?

I told Jimmy a shower was coming; he said, “You’d better put your raincoat on.”

As I put my jacket on, we began to feel sprinkles. The field was under caution at the time, although not for rain. I saw a tweet that said Danica had asked her crew chief if she should come in for fuel and tires; he told no, that it was going to pour shortly.

I passed that information along to Jimmy, and told him I was headed in. I wasn’t going to sit in the pouring rain!

Yes, I am a fair weather race fan.

“Give me your rain jacket,” he said. (Only one of us brought rain gear that day.) I passed off the coat, and grabbed my bag. It was starting to pepper rain at this point.

@nascar_wxman update

@nascar_wxman update

This is a radar image I missed that day via Twitter. That cell was much smaller on my NOAA app. Either my radar image hadn’t been updated and I didn’t notice, or the cell simply blew up really quickly.

If I’d seen this coming, I would have definitely headed back to camp!

The hallway had started to fill with other people taking refuge from the rain. I saw my friend (and fellow camper) Lisa  standing in the hall as well. It seemed like we stood there for a long time, but the reality was that it was probably only about 10 minutes.

On the track, the race had been red-flagged.

We heard the jet dryers go out, and surmised this would probably stop soon.

But wait. This is Daytona.

And so, the rain increased. Most of the people who were seated outside began to filter in. The narrow walkway in which we stood grew packed, and we were all elbow-to-elbow as people squeezed through. Jimmy came in as well as Lisa’s husband Tucker. Shortly thereafter, the skies opened.

Photo by @frankfff

Photo by @frankfff

The picture above was taking in a different tower, but this is exactly how it looked when we were there. We were standing up against the rail in the inside hallway.

At 2:34 p.m, I found a text from my friend Peggy; she and her husband John had already headed back to camp, and were in our trailer with our dogs. I remember thinking that’s exactly where I wished I was at that moment.

Water began pouring in between the bottom of the bleachers and on top of us.

“Let’s go downstairs!” Jimmy yelled over the noise of the rain and crowd of people, and the four of us made our way through the crowded narrow walkway downstairs to the front portion of the grandstand which faced the street.

Photo by @The_Dave_Cave

Photo by @The_Dave_Cave

Although this picture was taken in a different tower, it looked exactly like this where we were: large crowds of people moving in all directions. I wanted to grab a shot as we were going downstairs, but there was a whole crowd of people behind me. I didn’t think it was wise to hold up a long train of scurrying people!

(When you’re a blogger, life itself becomes almost like a documentary.)

At this point, we were only damp. (Well, I was slightly more than damp; my jacket which had kept my husband completely dry was soaked, and I got wetter as I wrestled it on.)

Once we got to street level, we stood watching crowds of people go by. I took a selfie of the four of us as we stood there. Wait. There was four of us. Is that a groupie? 😉

The selfie

The selfie.

My poor husband. He smiles for like, a nano-second, then loses patience over how long it takes the shutter to snap and starts talking. Unless I sneak up on him or he’s not looking at the camera, he’s talking. Every.single.time.

A track or sponsor official happened by (he was someone important because he had a ‘hard card’ – an all access pass which gets you in anywhere at every race) and kindly offered to take a picture. We still have no idea who he was.

Photo by The Guy With The Hard Card

Photo by The Guy With The Hard Card

We remained there for what seemed like an eternity as it poured. We could hear thunder.

And yes, I’m still wearing my headset. The announcers stopped broadcasting and there was nothing to listen to. In all the excitement, I forgot to take it off.

We saw vehicles go by driving Betty Jane France away from the Speedway (or so my husband said, I didn’t actually see who was in the car.) Other vehicles with dark windows went by. We felt this was a pretty good indicator we were going to have some free time on our hands.

At 2:57 p.m., I received the first of two texts from the Speedway advising us to evacuate the grandstands, take cover, and secure campsites.

Although we could barely hear the announcements over the loudspeaker, announcers were also advising people to evacuate the grandstands and take shelter. It was still pouring, but the radar looked like there was going to be a brief clearing shortly.

“I don’t know about you guys, but I would rather make a break for camp rather than stay here if people start to panic,” Jimmy said matter-of-factly.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this Never-A-Dull-Moment-in-Daytona Day!

How I Knew My Husband was “The One”

Fourteen years ago today, I married the love of my life. Like everyone else, we’ve had our ups and downs, but looking back, we wouldn’t change a thing. We’ve had a lot of disagreements, discussions, and disappointments…but we’re also each other’s cheerleader, ‘go to’ person for advice, and at the end of the day, we’re best friends. Here’s the story of  how I knew it was the right move, and I never looked back.

2013-04-04 11.02.11-3 - Copy

When Jimmy and I met, we lived 1,4oo miles apart. We spent a week together, and I left Missouri knowing that I would be putting the wheels in order to move back.

I was tired of the heat, the traffic, and the bright lights of the Big City. I wanted to live in a small town again, where you ran into people you knew in the store,  life moved at a slower pace, and if you need help, people are there.

I had become de-sensitized: fatality accidents were huge inconveniences that snarled traffic; billboards with girls’ behinds were such a familiar part of the landscape that we didn’t even notice them anymore. A homeless man lived behind our dumpster where I worked; two strip clubs were on the same street, we regularly had lunch or dinner at the neighborhood casinos, and it was just all part of a normal day in a large tourist city.

2013-04-04 11.02.12-1 - Copy

I wanted to be offended again.

So to move back home, near where I grew up, solidly in the Bible belt, was a no-brainer.  I was already ready to leave. It was not a surprise to me.

Plus, it seemed that once Jimmy and I met, it was almost as if we had stepped on an escalator…things just kept falling into place. It was easy, and it was happening without any effort on our part.

Not everyone felt that way, however.

My friends and family were shocked. After all, I’d lived there for eleven years: at that time, it was a third of my lifetime.

What did I think I was doing, moving back home to be with someone I’d only just met?

Never mind that my parents basically did the same thing…this was different. I was their daughter. And the baby of the family.

The morning after one particularly painful discussion with my mother, I was on the freeway headed to work. I had about a 25-minute commute to the other side of town, plenty of time to think.

I was teary and fragile, struggling to keep myself together. Doubt had crept in.

I did the only thing I could do: I prayed.

“God, I really feel like this is the right thing to do, but everyone’s questioning me and I don’t know what to do. Please, help me! Give me a sign that what I’m doing is the right thing! I need a sign!”

(I’m a big believer in signs.You might have picked this up by now.)

2013-03-26 18.52.34-3

No sooner than I finished speaking, it dawned on me that the silence in my car was oppressive. I had been listening to a local country radio station, but suddenly, there was no music. Like, for several seconds.

Just dead air space.

Seconds went by.

Suddenly a Leann Rimes song came on the radio that I’d never heard before:

I’ve never been so certain
I’ve never been so sure.
We’re on the side of angels,
If we believe this love is pure.
Is it so hard to trust it,
‘Cause we’ve been wrong before?
There comes a time in every life,
We find the heart we’re waiting for.
After all the might-have-beens,
The close and distant calls
After all the try-agains,
Don’t be afraid to fall
We’re on the side of angels after all.
Every time you touch me,
Don’t you feel it too?
The gentle hand that’s guiding us
You to me, me to you
After all the might-have-beens,
The close and distant calls
After all the try-agains,
Don’t be afraid to fall
We’re on the side of angels after all.
Heaven only knows
Why this took so long
But only Heaven knows
A love is right or wrong
After all the might-have-beens,
The close and distant calls
After all the try-agains,
Don’t be afraid to fall
We’re on the side of angels,
On the side of angels,
On the side of angels, after all.
I felt like God was speaking directly to me. I burst into tears of joy, and relief.
And I never looked back. 🙂

 

My Goal for the New Year

SunriseI woke up this morning feeling like it was the dawn of a new day.

Well, it WAS the dawn of a new day, literally. But something was different about it. I felt different.

I don’t really make resolutions; I’m more of a big believer in setting goals and starting each new year with a Plan.

Think about it: would you start on a road trip without a map or GPS? Without goals or some sort of plan for the year, how do you know where you’re going or what you’re going to accomplish?

To me, the New Year is a time for reflections; to look back on the past year. Did I accomplish what I wanted? Was there something I needed to improve on? Did I need to make a change? Where did I see myself in the next year?

Marathon Sunset

 

Last year, I resolved to watch more sunsets. I was a strong starter, then trailed off…

When I was younger (and single and had only one dog and a 9-5 job) I would spend a significant amount of time (usually on New Year’s Eve itself) essentially saying goodbye to the past year and welcoming the new one. Now, of course, I don’t have the luxury of that time. It’s more of an ‘in the background” type of thing, in the back of my mind, with some pondering in my journal early in the mornings.

Several years ago, I read somewhere that at the first of the year, one should plan their time off ; otherwise, the year passes and suddenly you realize  the year has mostly gone by and you’ve not really done anything but work and go about the usual busyness of life.

It’s a sad but true fact that our tight schedules have forced us to plan our fun and have something to look forward to.

I just finished reading the book One Word That Will Change Your Life, by Dan Britton, Jimmy Page, and Jon Gordon. I saw the way I used to be in their words.

“There’s no question that it’s hard to break away from the busyness of life. It’s become the silent killer of our day.”

No Shirt, no shoes, COOL!

Earlier in January, I had made a list of my goals for the year. Just the simple act of writing down those goals always helps me make significant progress towards achievement, even if I never look at the goal again through the year. It was always sort of a fun exercise to review my goals at the end of the year and see where I was. Some years I do well, some not so well, depending on the circumstances happening in my life.

Sometimes I get discouraged, but I keep digging, because I believe God rewards those who persevere.

Over the last couple of years, I have really focused on trying to lead a more balanced life. To be present, to appreciate the small things (because they really are the big things), and to learn to embrace the emptiness rather than fill the time with manic activity.

I have always loved to read books, and a common thread of most of the people I admire who become really successful in their work and in life is that they always make time to read. I’m getting better at doing that.

Which led me to this book. Which has already made a profound difference.

We set ‘to do’ goals instead of ‘to be’ goals.’

Busyness is a disease that’s robbing us of life. It brings on stress and exhaustion, and it weights our hearts with anxiety so that we become numb and calloused to the most important things in life. Busyness throws us into survival mode and leaves no time for mission and meaning.”

Wow.  A truer statement has surely never been written.

This book spoke to me.

Pelican!

According to the proven process in this book, I should figure out just one simple word on which to would focus. It would become my ‘theme’ for the year.

As I went through the process outlined in the book to figure out what my word was, various words popped in my mind. But that was too easy, and too obvious.

And one thing I’ve learned in life is that the most obvious things are not usually where the answer lies. So I kept asking myself: What was holding me back from living my best life? What was keeping me from succeeding?

The answer was surprising. I realized I was already doing a lot of good things, a lot of the things I wanted to be doing.

The common factor that was holding me back in achieving the level of success I wanted was that I wasn’t doing them consistently. I would allow myself to get derailed from my vision or become influenced by other factors for one reason or another. I struggled with consistence.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you already know that. 😀

If I want to lose my last 20 pounds, I need to eat healthy consistently.

If I want to lead a more active life, I need to be more active consistently.

If I want to reduce the external forces that bring me down, I need to monitor my exposure to negativity consistently.

If I want to be more successful in my work, I need to be working at it consistently.

The Jim

If I want to lead a better life and find more joy in the small things, I need to embrace and appreciate the little things consistently.

Clearly, my word for 2014 is Consistence.

Isn’t it interesting what a difference one little word makes?

What kind of year will I have if I live a life of consistency? Time will tell…about 11 months, to be exact! 😀

Maggie’s Last Day

Our hearts are heavy tonight with the passing of Maggie (Magnolia Moose Pickle, AKA Magpie, Magda, Large Marge, Farticus, Stinky and Brutus Beefcake). Charra and Ekko are subdued, not quite knowing what to do with themselves. And neither do we. I write this post not to dwell on sad things or to make you, the reader, a part of our drama…but because there’s a larger message here that I think should be shared. And if you read my post about saying goodbye to our old friend and felt what we feel, or have ever lost a beloved pet, may this also bring you closure. And peace.

Maggie had a great last day.

It began much the same as any other day. Through this whole process, we have worked to keep her routine as normal as possible. Routine and consistency mean comfort and security for a dog. And so, our days passed quickly, one after the other, blending all together.

We had planned to take a short weekend getaway at Christmas, but opted to stay home and not subject Maggie to any change of scene or anything that she might find stressful. The last few weeks have been all about keeping everything calm, peaceful and comfortable.

Breakfast

She got me up by 6:30 this morning, much as any morning, whether I wanted to or not. 😉 After breakfast came a nice nap. It’s usually during this nap time that I go work out; today, however, I stayed home, not willing to miss a minute.

Nap time!

A little later in the morning, as I typically started my work day, it was time for her to ‘supervise’ from the dog bed behind the desk. Once she retired herself from going to work with Jimmy every day, she became more attached to me. She needed to be close to me, and would become anxious if I were out of her sight for long.

 Working

Most of her favorite people (whom she remembered) were with her today.

Dad came home once to spend some time with her, but he had competition: the housekeepers were here! Maggie adored Traci and Tiffani. They were always here on Thursdays.

Dad visit

It was ‘Donut Day!’

The donuts started as a bribe so she would let them in the house. Of course, they became fast friends. Especially when they brought donuts.

She barked for donuts.

I want donuts!

And she got the donuts.

She had a last walk with Traci, cruising around the yard. This was also a regular routine. As they walked, Maggie would check periodically to see if Traci was still walking with her.

Out for a walk

The day passed quickly.

I have learned that it is a tremendous blessing, almost an honor, really, to be at someone’s side when they pass from this life into the next. Sometimes I think death can be scary, because it’s something we don’t really know about until we’re there. (And it’s not like you can tell anybody about it once you’ve been there.)

But to be at someone’s side when they pass is an incredibly peaceful, special time. It’s almost as if the world stops, and becomes hushed for a minute, and the arms of heaven reach out to bring you comfort as they escort your loved one away. There’s no pain, no anxiety, no hurt.

With dad

I’ve also learned there are fates worse than death. To bring eternal peace and life to a suffering soul is a beautiful thing.

My mind began playing tricks on me last night; I was awake, restless, unable to sleep.

“Maybe we should just cancel this appointment. Maybe it’s too soon. Maybe we should wait.” After so much certainty, why was I suddenly uncertain, questioning our decision?

I did the only thing I knew to do at 3:00 a.m.: I prayed. I prayed for guidance, strength and peace.

And so it came.

I am a big believer in signs. I believe that if you look for them, the signs to guide you are there. You just have to learn how to read them. (Sometimes the universe has had to provide billboards in my case, but that’s another post for another day.)

We’d had signs we were doing the right thing, which comforted us about our decision. She had failed noticeably in the last week, falling multiple times a day. If we waited too much longer, we risked waiting until she broke a hip or leg. And then she would suffer.

She had been too good a friend to us and given us her best for almost 15 years. She deserved better from us. She deserved to have us protect her from suffering; she needed us to be the strength that she didn’t have.

The final sign was there this morning; she had an accident in the house and didn’t realize it until later. As she sniffed the paper towels in the trash, she looked at me, bewildered, as if to say, “Where did this come from? Was this me?”

It was time.

Jimmy came home in the early afternoon, and we all spent a quiet hour together in the den, in her usual spot. I was at the desk, and Jimmy sat on the floor with her. Her people were with her. She was content. Life was good.

The last picture

This is the last picture I took of her today, in that spot in the den.

About 5 minutes later, the vet arrived. While they got set up, I got her a “cookie” and she and Jimmy and I all went to a nice sunny dog bed in the living room. She ate the cookie (a jerky treat actually), and laid down on the bed between both of us. Soon, with the help of a sedative, she was in dreamland chasing groundhogs.

After everyone had left, it was quiet. Too quiet.

Jimmy asked me, “Well, what are we going to do now?”

“We’ll put one foot in front of the other,” I said. And so we will.

We Have Bad Christmas Tree Karma

Our First Christmas Tree

Once upon a time, one holiday season about 15 years ago, a pair of not-so-young lovers were eagerly spending their first Christmas together. Swept up in the romanticism of it all, they visited a local Christmas Tree Farm and spent the afternoon trudging through the forest searching for the Perfect Tree. And, it was Perfect! Big and bold and beautiful, they brought it home to their little cottage.

Upon whence, they discovered that trees appear much smaller in out in the field than on the threshold of their house. After much grunting, gasping, shoving, pushing, heaving and swearing, the couple finally wedged the rotund evergreen into the house, stuffed it into the disproportional tree stand, and stood back to take a look.

Fully 3 feet remained between the Ruebenesque pine and the television set for traffic to pass through.  In spite of the fact the tree occupied much of the living room and the couple could not see each other around the tree, it was still beautiful. And so Christmas passed, and the couple noted that searching for a slightly smaller tree the next year might be in order.

Early Years Tree

Another year came, with another opportunity for the Perfect Tree. It was the first year for the new Great Room, with the 16-ft. cathedral ceiling, the majestic tall windows, and barn-wood style flooring, and its lodge-like setting was perfect for the Perfect Tree.

And, indeed it was Perfect. Admired by all, far and wide, the couple savored every day with their beautiful tree.

Right up until the time they took down the tree and moved it out, upon which they discovered had been a Perfectly Incontinent Tree. Their lovely new laminate flooring was now swollen and forever puckered from the excess moisture.

A later early tree

Fortunately, time heals all, and once again, the couple brought home the Perfect Tree. A larger living room meant a larger Perfect Tree, and this one was The Best Ever! It stood tall, regal and dignified, adorned with the finery of new decorations.

And, while the couple treasured the outdoors and enjoyed bringing nature indoors, the infestation of spider mites on the tree 3 days before Christmas created finery of an undesirable type. Two sacrificial houseplants, five now crackle-painted ornaments ruined by bug spray, and one burned evergreen later, the couple felt perhaps next year it would be wise to patronize a different Christmas Tree farm.

Spider mite tree

By the next year, the ever-optimistic couple had of course forgotten the pain and inconvenience of all the prior years, and brought home the Perfect Tree. This had to be the best one yet! It was the perfect shape, perfect height, and it’s beauty was simply breathtaking.

The ornaments were perfectly coordinated; the lights sparkled, it was a  joy to behold. The couple rejoiced in their good fortune and the beauty of the Perfect Tree, and agreed that indeed, this one was the Perfect Tree.

It stood alone, rising above comparison above all the others. Right up until the moment, precisely at 1:32 a.m., that it crashed to the floor.

And that, my friends, is why the Stantons now have the Perfectly Pre-Lit Artificial Tree. 🙂

Saying Goodbye To An Old Friend

Maggie CoalDecember is turning out to be a  bittersweet month for us.

Not tomorrow, probably not this week, and maybe not next week, but soon we will have to say goodbye to Magnolia Moose Pickle (aka Maggie, Large Marge, Farticus, Stinky, Magpie, Magda…).

It’s a bummer that a  dog’s life is so much shorter than ours. In a lifetime, that can add up to a lot of goodbyes. She will be the 5th one we’ve had to let go in the last 10 years. It doesn’t make it easier; but it does give you more perspective on why it becomes important to let them go sooner, rather than later.

Maggie2000.4

Maggie came to us in early 2000. It was a cold, blustery March evening, and pitch dark. Some nice people on their way into town had hit her on the highway; there was no way they could have seen her. She was lying in a ditch with icy water. She would have died.

They came to our house to see if she was ours. Soon, she was. We collected her out of the ditch and brought her home to our basement. To warm her up, I fed her chicken noodle soup. To this day, she still drools, always hoping… 😉

Maggie 2000.3

She was in bad shape; she was in heat, wormy, had the mange, her pelvis cracked in 3 places. She’d had puppies at some point, and her tummy still sagged. Who knows what happened to them. The vet said she was about 2 years old.

Maggie 2000

When you rescue a dog, you can sometimes piece together their history by their behavior. She wore a choke chain; we surmised that she’d been kept on a chain, tormented/teased by older children, and abused by someone (or several someones) in a big heavy coat. Her body healed; her spirit took a little longer.

Dr. Wayne Dyer calls people who come  into your life to teach you lessons ‘scurvy elephants.’ Maggie was our scurvy elephant.

She taught us patience.

She taught us that sometimes what you see on the outside is not what’s really there.

The Big Mags

She taught us that love really can wear down rough edges.

She taught us that while you never forget really, really bad things, it is possible to forgive.

She showed us that she had a large vocabulary, and that she could actually understand words, and names.

She showed us that really, she would have preferred to be an only child.

With Boo

She was a Doofus Maximus; big, goofy, with a sense of humor and she loved to tease. You could always tell she was teasing by the way she held her ears.  She was naturally loud, boisterous, and an incredible escape artist. She embodied exactly what you would imagine a Weimaraner/Rottweiler mix to be.

Clover

She was my alarm clock (and still is), making sure I’m up by 5:30 or 6:00 whether I want to be or not. And she loved to carry my purse.

She could be intimidating; she knew it, and liked it. But inside, she was a big, sensitive, dramatic baby who just wanted love and attention.

Spiderman

For 12 years, she went to work with Jimmy nearly every day. Two years ago, she retired herself. The long hours in the truck didn’t agree with her anymore, and that left hip, the one damaged when she was hit by the car, began to limit her mobility. Short trips with me, and once the shop office was done, a nice soft bed at the shop suited her much better.

2013-01-27 13.58.00

She is now about 16. She is not the same dog as she was.

Tired most days, and no doubt stiff and sore, she has increasing anxiety when we’re out of her sight. Even in the house, she’s not content unless she can see us. She has more bad moments than good ones. She doesn’t hear or see very well, and doesn’t remember many people. The world is a much scarier place for her now.

Sleeping

We do our best to make life easier for her, but we’ve arrived at a point in time where it’s becoming harder to watch her. She has increasing trouble walking, and can nolonger navigate stairs; there’s no muscle left in that hip, and when I lift her into the car, I can feel those hip bones grind together.

Maggie Relaxed

She doesn’t want medication; she began refusing that last year. And we’re not going to force her. Because then it’s more about us, than her.

We know where this is going. She has no desire to live forever, any more than we do. If we wait much longer, we risk an injury. And then she will suffer. Because we love her, we’re doing the last thing we can do for her: we’re letting her go while she still has some dignity. In the meantime, we’re keeping her life as comfortable and peaceful as we can. Soon, we will say goodbye.

And we’ll think of her as she used to be,  running and playing with everyone else in heaven, with her head out the sunroof, and the wind blowing her big Dumbo ears.

Sunroof

In our lifetime, we’ll go through this again and again, and it will hurt every time.

But we’ll keep doing it. Because the joy they bring us and the things we learn from them not only make us better people, but brighten our lives more than you can imagine.

Thank you for the ride, Magpie. You’ve been a huge presence in our lives, and we’ll miss you.

5 Easy Christmas Decoration Ideas

Oh Christmas Tree

 

Happy Friday the 13th! And if you’re reading this in the Midwest today, you know the weather is crummy. With a capital C! This is one of those weekends where most of us should probably just hunker down and lay low until the roads are cleared.

That’s probably why I had the sudden urge to go shopping. I had nothing I needed, mind you. I just wanted to go. Probably it was because I knew I shouldn’t. Or couldn’t. ha ha

Anyway, this post is for those of you who have been stressed to the gills and are feeling guilty because not only have you not done much decorating, you aren’t sure you want to bother.

Let me just say, I feel your pain.

I love having my house decorated for Christmas. I just hate doing it. And there have been Christmases past where I haven’t, usually because we were remodeling and I couldn’t face packing and unpacking more boxes!

Here’s some quick little tips to help your house look festive without doing a whole lot, and using what you have. Honestly, the smartest thing I EVER did was to bless someone else with my gorgeous but huge, heavy, and unlit tree. If you’re tree shopping, I have one word for you: PRE-LIT. I also went for a tall, but slim tree last year. And I’ve never looked back.

1. Choose a color or a theme.

New coffee table

 

Meet my new coffee table. SIGH. I’m totally in love with this table. This was my birthday and Christmas present from Jimmy, which just came a couple of weeks ago. He even liked it when it came and he realized it was my gift.

BAH HA HA HA HA.

The best part about it is no more lost bones or hooves underneath! But I digress.

If you’re having trouble deciding WHICH of your decorations you want to get out, don’t feel like  you need to get them all. Simplify this year.

Pick just the ornaments that are your favorite color. Or go with just your favorite ornaments. Or just the ornaments that the kids have made. Or use patio lights that already have a decorative exterior. Or simply smother the tree in lots of pretty lights and some tinsel and call it good. At night, it will be breathtaking!

Several years ago, I blessed my nieces with my “collectible” Hallmark ornament collection, all still in the little boxes, which were the biggest pain come the holidays. I couldn’t bear the thought of opening all those little boxes one more time. I’d collected them for years and was so completely over them.

My ornaments are now primarily white, silver, clear, or brown (twiggy spheres and pine cones) with “ice crystals.” And a few antlers thrown in, because we like the rustic look.

2. Lights maketh a winter wonderland. 

White lights

If you’ve ever been to the Ethel M. Chocolate Factory in Las Vegas, they have a huge cactus garden that’s drenched in lights during the winter. No ornaments. No big generator-powered yard displays. Just lots and lots of lights. It’s quiet, peaceful, and absolutely magical. And breathtaking. And not an ornament one. (Or at least there didn’t used to be.) It was always one of my favorite Christmas stops when I lived there.

You can do the same thing to your house.

If you love red lights, use all red. Blue would also be gorgeous! Lots of vibrant colors? Awesome!

Let your kids help, then turn out all the lights in the house and have dinner or even just hot chocolate with only the Christmas lights on. Wowww… 🙂

We happen to prefer white lights. There’s something clean and simple and always elegant about white lights. This year, we did manage to decorate the outside of our house with them. (We’ve not accomplished that some years.) And, no one was injured in the process, which is always a plus. 😉

More white lights

We have them around our big windows on the inside, and trailing over in front of our fireplace. Doesn’t that look nice? You almost don’t notice that I forgot to light the candles!

I have them above my kitchen cabinets year-round. It’s a terrific way to add a little bit of ‘mood lighting.’ During the winter, I throw some garland up there and leave it to look festive. I usually leave the garland up all winter until about March, as it is just pine garland with pine cones and some snow.

Garland and white lights

Do you have stairs? Wrap them around your banister! Drape them through your house plants, whether real or faux. Do you have a ficus tree? Stick some in there!  Your house will look like a winter wonderland in no time!

3. Less is more.

Let it snowDon’t feel like you need to put everything you own out. Often, a little sprinkled around looks better anyway than if your house looked like Christmas threw up in it.

During the Great Basement Clean Out, I emptied about 10…yes, 10..totes full of decorations I’d accumulated over the years. I could have decorated 3 houses! With so much stuff, it’s no wonder decorating was an overwhelming task. I kept all my favorite things, and still didn’t put everything out. I didn’t feel like I needed to.

Less is more

 

I placed some of my favorite things around the house, like this little snowman guy who looks perfect sitting on this table. Nearly everything in my house I have decorated you see in these pictures.

Put out just a few of your favorite things, or let your kids pick out a favorite. Everyone will think your house is tastefully underdone! And simple. And elegant.

4. Be quirky!

Quirky!Don’t be afraid to put things in unexpected places.

This stuffed moose is one of my favorites, but for the life of me I couldn’t think of a spot for him. So I sat him on top of the armoire, where he can nonchalantly survey the landscape. That pine tree, by the way, is faux. And it has patio lights in it.

It was downstairs in the bar, but got squeezed out by a neon light. The tree looks great here, and really adds something to the room. I will say he’s suffered a bit from all my repurposing and moving around, so I think here he’s going to have to stay.

Even Morty the Moose gets gussied up! I put a Santa hat on him every year at Christmas. Unfortunately, the lighting wasn’t good enough for me to get a good shot. I’ve thought about putting lights on his antlers, but somehow, Morty is too dignified for that. 😀

5. Make something you already have festive.

Galvanized pails and pine conesWe don’t do much in the way of a gift exchange, so the bottom of our tree always looks bare. I decided to dress it up a little this year, and picked up several galvanized pails of varying sizes at Tractor Supply. (I love Tractor Supply!)

I already had the pine cones and over-sized ornaments, so it was a matter of placing them around the bottom of the tree. The red you see is actually a sphere with pine cones, plums, ice crystals, and some other stuff.

You know all those ornaments you aren’t putting on the tree? Fill a beautiful crystal bowl or candle holder with them and use it as a centerpiece. Or fill some pretty baskets with them and place several of them under the tree. Or collect some pine cones and do the same. I actually had collected these you see in the picture during my crafting days, painted and glittered them.

All these are easy Christmas decoration ideas that anyone can do, and they aren’t time consuming. With this approach, all you need is a few minutes here and there. Don’t be afraid to try something a little bit different; I rarely do the same thing twice, mostly because I can’t remember from year to year. You might be surprised at how something fresh (and easy!) can be a holiday pick-me-up. 🙂 Good luck!