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June 22, 2009

A Dog's Welcome

I know I write a lot about my dogs -- probably too much -- but I can't help it. I just love those boys -- and it seems like they are always reminding me about the important lessons of life. Today was no exception.

Today was such a gorgeous morning -- sunny with beautiful blue skies and cotton candy clouds (that were actually white instead of the grey that we've been seeing for most of the month of June). My office window was open just enough to let in a nice cool breeze. Truly a perfect morning, and I wanted to take advantage of it. I slipped on my sneakers and headed to the park across the street for a quick walk before the heat of summer overcame the breeze.

I know I should take the dogs with me when I walk, but for many reasons, I don't.

#1 - They've never been trained to walk on leashes, so walking them can only be described as a lesson in weaving, as they dart from side to side until their leashes are a tangled mess.

#2 - We have invisible fence which they are deathly afraid of. In order to get them to come across the street with me, I'd either have to carry them, or put them in the car and drive (which seems to defeat the purpose of using a park that's out our front door).

#3 -- There are two of them and only one of me. I am strong, but let's face it, if we came across another dog, or if a bird or bunny got their interest, I would be flat out on the ground.

#4 -- There are hundreds of trees at the park -- and dogs who walk there every day. I'd never get a good walk for all the trees we'd need to sniff (and mark).

Besides, Bear and Champ have free run of our yard all day and get plenty of exercise. I don't feel too bad about leaving them behind so I can get some exercise myself.

So anyway, off I went this morning. The sun was warm on my face, but the air was still cool -- perfect walking conditions. I didn't pass a soul on the first lap and when I walked by the house there was no sign of the dogs. The second lap was a little different -- several people (some with dogs, some without) had arrived at the park --which meant my dogs would be offering their usual "welcome to the neighborhood" greeting to each person and dog who walked by.

The neighborhood welcoming committee

Sure enough, when I rounded the final bend, about 1/8 of a mile from home, I saw them -- standing at attention on our front step, watching two walkers go by. They stood there, side-by-side, their bodies were still, just scanning the park to see who would be the next passerby. I could tell the moment that Bear saw me because his fluffy tail wagged ever so slightly. Three steps closer to home, and they both saw (and recognized) me and their whole bodies started wagging in excitement. Oh how they carried on, running back and forth across the yard, and jumping up on their hind legs as if to wave to me to make sure I saw them.

From across the park I imagined what was going through their minds:

"There she is! There she is! We've missed you!!"

"Woohoo! She's back! I hope she has TREATS!!"

It didn't matter that there were other dogs walking in front of the house. For that last stretch of my walk home, they saw only me -- and carried on in such a way to make sure I saw them too!

As I crossed the street and walked into the yard, the two of them lept around like fools, running circles around me, and pouncing on each other. If dogs could skip, that's what they were doing. They were SO HAPPY to see me. What a welcome home.

They skipped beside me all the way to the back door, and waited there as I went inside to fill a bowl of water for them. I poured myself a glass of water as well, and watched the two of them lap up what I had given them, then run out to the back yard to chase each other around for a few minutes before returning to their posts in the front yard.

I went back into the house and thought about the way the dogs greeted me versus how I greet the kids or Jeff when they come home after a day of work, school or play. I am embarrassed to say that I don't remember the last time I did anything besides shout out from my office, "Hi Honey! How was your day?"

How sad is that? The people who are nearest and dearest to my heart get a shout out -- when, in fact, they should be getting a hearty dog's welcome. It took my dogs to remind me how good it makes people feel to be greeted warmly, and to be shown how much they're loved.

Oh those little puppies -- they should be counselors or philosophers with all their life lessons. Once again -- dogs just get it.

Bear's generous kisses

Silly Champ loving life!

June 15, 2009

Good Thing He's So Cute

Who would believe that something this cute...

Could make a mess this big?

If I didn't know better I'd think I needed to call in crime scene investigators - but this is just what happens when a high-energy dog comes in the house after playing in the rain for a couple hours and decides to "decorate" the mudroom by shaking off his body.

All that artistic play must have tired him out.

Good thing he's so darn cute.

June 12, 2009

The Deals Keep Getting Better

Oh my word -- this deal takes the cake (and the appetizers too!!)
Last week I emailed my friends & family to tell them about the 50% off savings at the deals keep getting better -- check it out!

I looked at the restaurants near where my daughter is going to college to see if I could buy a couple for her to use when she is a poor college student. Limited choices but still a great little gift to send in a care package....

I wanted to pass it along to my blog buddies. It's the real deal -- just make sure you are aware of the restrictions.

EDITED: This offer goes through June 15 -- the code to get the discount is PRESENT. Weekly Promo Offer 300 x 250

An Ah Ha Moment

We all have those times in our lives – those memories that are so vivid you feel like you could just close your eyes and relive the moment. Well I'm convinced that those vivid memories stay with us because our subconscious knows that there is a valuable lesson to be learned from that experience. Sometimes we learn the lesson right as it’s happening (visions of my first accident come rushing to mind) – but other times it takes years until the lightbulb goes off and we finally realize why that memory has lingered for so long. When we’re ready to see it, I call it an “Ah ha moment” -- a realization on life. In the past year, I've had a lot of those realizations -- and today is another one of those days.

In the very truest sense, today is a day that defines me. Today is my birthday. But today, like every birthday since I was 7 years old – my thoughts aren’t about my birthday – they’re about my brother, Jim.

Let me forewarn you, you might not like this story so much – because it’s not necessarily the most uplifting. But it’s reality – and a humbling realization about life. So here we go…

Family History
I am the youngest of five children in my family – the youngest by eight years. These days that age gap isn’t necessarily a big deal…but growing up the gap seemed monumental.

I was a definite whoops. “The best mistake I ever made,” is the way my Dad describes me. Some people cringe when they hear that. I don’t -- in fact, I think it’s pure and sweet. I have never doubted that my parents love me – my Dad is just being honest, and I appreciate that. Anyhow, the point is that with anywhere from eight to eleven years between my siblings and me, even though I am part of a big family, I grew up kind of like an only child. While my brothers and sister were off working, or dating, or doing high school and college stuff – I was going to grade school. So from my little kid perspective, the world pretty much revolved around me.

The Story Goes
So flash back to my seventh birthday -- it was the last day of school, and the first night of the church Carnival. I had spent all day peeking out the classroom windows at the rides that were set up in fields behind the school, and I had convinced myself that I was going to be brave enough to go on the enormous ferris wheel with the “cages” that spun around.

As soon as my Dad got home from work, we would all head down to the Carnival and stay there until way past bedtime. I was beside myself with anticipation. It was the perfect way to spend my birthday!

I remember playing with some dolls on the floor of my bedroom when I heard a car pull into our driveway and start honking its horn like crazy. I jumped up to peer out the window to see what was going on, and I saw my Mom walk out of the house to the car. Seconds later she and my brother, Jim, came racing into the house. I didn’t think much of it at the time and went back to playing with my dolls, but then I heard my Mom’s voice coming from downstairs. She wasn’t yelling – but I could tell she was upset about something.

I made my way downstairs to see what was going on, and though I don’t remember the details exactly, I remember seeing my brother sitting at the table with a blood-stained white towel wrapped around his hand, and my Mom was hustling around the kitchen and putting ice in a bag, yelling at Jim to keep his hand in the air.

She told me I needed to go across the street where my sister, Karen, was babysitting. She had to take Jim to the hospital and I was to stay with Karen until she came home. I had no idea what was happening, and the only words that came out of my 7-year old mouth were, “What about the Carnival?”

“Not tonight,” Mom told me. Jim just looked at me and said, “Sorry Lolly.” In the blink of an eye they were pulling out of the driveway, and I walked across the street with tears in my eyes. I'm embarrassed to say, I wasn’t crying for Jim. I was seven years old, and devastated.

A few hours later Mom called from the hospital to tell us that Jim was going to be ok. He had severed his finger in a freak accident while riding his bike. He had almost lost his finger completely, but fortunately they got there quickly and the doctors were able to restore it perfectly. Mom knew it was still going to be a few hours until they got home, so she told me where I could find my birthday present, and I opened it while I was on the phone with her. It was the “Busy Lizzy” doll that I had been wishing for, and I played with it until it was time for bed.

I don’t know if we ever made it to the Carnival that year, but I remember when we picked Jim up at the hospital a day or two later. He felt so bad for “spoiling my birthday” that he asked my parents to go to the store and get a present that he could give me when we came to get him. It was a diving mask with a snorkel and flippers – and he promised me that he’d teach me how to use the snorkel as soon as he could go in the water. What a good big brother he was (and still is). When I should have been doing stuff for him, there he was thinking of me.

The Lesson
It’s been 37 years since that freak accident, but as sure as the sun rises, Jim is the very first person I think of every year on my birthday. I guess it is just one of those “moments” that is permanently etched in my memory.

But remember how I said that I think we keep the memory in our subconscious until we’re ready to learn the lesson? Well today I think I was ready -- because for the first time since that accident I cried at the memory -- but this time I didn't crying about missed Carnivals. This time I cried for all the times when I've selfishly thought that I was the center of the universe. And for the times when I should have cared more, or done more, or given more to people who had less. And mostly I cried for the people who will never know what it’s like to love and be loved in a family like mine. I am truly blessed.

It may have taken me 37 years to figure it out, but Jim, thanks for giving me the best gift ever -- a gift that no amount of money could ever buy. Now whenever you’re ready to teach me how to snorkel, I'm game.

This has nothing to do with the story...but it's probably the funniest e-card I've ever gotten for my birthday.

June 8, 2009

Garden of Weeding

I spent almost the entire day in my garden last Sunday, diligently pulling weeds and trying to restore some order to my perennial garden.

Despite the story that my pictures tell, I'm really not much of a gardener. In fact, over the years there have been many times when my husband and I have stood there and examined a plant that was growing, trying to decide if it was friend or foe to the garden. Sometimes it can be hard to tell. So hard, in fact, that I have already let full crops of weeds grow for a season, sure that eventually they’d bloom; and in the same season wondered when the daisies were going to sprout, only to realize that I had mistakenly pulled them as weeds early on in the season.

The wild violets that have slowly overtaken my garden are my most recent brown thumb blunder. I had always admired what seemed to be a very delicate violet growing along the side of a friend’s house. When she offered to divide a plant for me a few years ago, I jumped at the chance to add it to my garden. Little did I realize that these violets weren’t so delicate at all. In fact, in just a few short years, they have invaded my garden to the point that they appear to have a strangle hold on peony plants that have bloomed in utter abundance for at least two decades. These stunning peonies were the hub of my garden when we first moved here, but this year they have been reduced to just a handful of blooms. I’d like to believe that they are just tired or that perhaps the soil needs to be enriched – but when I see those little violets flourishing below the peonies, I know the soil is fine – it’s just that the violets are literally strangling the roots of my peonies.

Fortunately, I'm pretty sure that I’ll be able to uproot and transplant the peonies later this season to free them from the grasp of these invaders, and restore them to their full beauty. It will require some intensive care and attention, but I'm hopeful that it can be done. Sadly, it all could have been avoided if I had I only known that the violets were garden bullies.

Anyhow, as I worked that day in the garden, trying to distinguish the weeds from the plants, my mind drifted, and it dawned on me how similar a garden is to life. The soil -- our foundation that needs to be tended to keep it rich and fertile. The plants -- our blessings, our talents, our gifts that grow in the light of day. The water and sun – that which sustains us. And the weeds – the vices that keep us from being our best. It’s scary to realize how quickly (and sometimes unexpectedly) the weeds can invade. Like the violets, sometimes we even plant them ourselves – mistaking them for something that will enhance the garden -- only to find that over time they invade and choke out the good.

These thoughts have been weighing heavily on my mind lately. What are the plants that are essential to my garden? What are the weeds that are invading? Are there plants that need some intensive care and attention?

We all have weeds growing in our garden – heaven knows they’ll never be perfect. Our best hope is that we spot them easily, remove them quickly, and let the flowers bloom in fragrant abundance.

June 4, 2009

Going to the Birds

I work from home, and as I've mentioned before, my office is in the front of my house, overlooking a beautiful walking park across the street. My two furry friends, Bear and Champ, love to sit in the front yard during the day and watch the people (and dogs) walking by.

It's kind of funny to watch them really. When it's just people, they are unfazed. There are also a handful of dogs that they are apparently pretty cool with, because they just sit and watch them go by. But the majority of the time when they see a dog frolicking in the park they carry on like crazy -- running back and forth along the property line and barking their heads off. I'd love to know what it is about the ones that they don't bark at, that makes them so special.

Anyhow, this morning I was trying to concentrate on my work, and they would NOT stop barking. I kept trying to tune it out, but then I realized that it wasn't their typical bark that sounds like they're begging the passerby to come and play with them. No, this was a fierce and protective bark that said, "We're the masters of this property and you are not welcome here."

I got up from my desk to go peer out the window to see what the commotion was all about. A brief wave of panic overcame me as I flashed back to an armed robbery I was involved with a dozen or so years ago (another story for another time), but quickly subsided when I looked out the window and saw the cause for the doggy-hysterics.

An uninvited guest was helping himself to a bag of trash that was awaiting pickup -- and if my dogs couldn't get to the trash, they were not going to let some stranger eat it. No way, not on their watch.

I am still not sure exactly what kind of bird this is -- initially I thought a wild turkey -- but as I got closer I started thinking maybe buzzard, or [gasp] vulture. Whatever it is, it is definitely not going to win any "pretty bird" awards.

I'm sending the photo over to my former Ornithology professor, Dr. Dan Klem, at Muhlenberg College for help in identification.

I look forward to your feedback. In the meantime I'm heading out to clean up the debris that this beast spread around the street...and to calm down the pooches after this "hair-razing" morning!

June 3, 2009


I poured a cup of coffee for myself twice this morning. Both times when I went to add the milk, I accidentally grabbed the jug of iced tea from the refrigerator door instead. Fortunately I caught myself before pouring it.

After the first pour, I made a mental note that the milk was the 2nd jug in when I opened the door. Obviously my internal post-it note system failed, so after the 2nd pour, I switched the position of the tea and milk in the fridge, to avoid making the same mistake a third time.

Alas, when I poured myself a bowl of cereal, that initial mental note sprang to mind and I reached for jug #2.

Yepper. Who knew iced tea and Total Cranberry Crunch was such a good combo? Yuck.