A Recent Loss: Grief and Gratitude

In grief my senses become heightened. In still moments, I am acutely aware of everything around me – the hard bench underneath me, the bright sun above, the cold wind fanning my hair around my face. I am sitting next to the place where we buried our dog Toby earlier that morning, and for once, I am truly present in the moment. It is an overwhelming moment of grief, and it is everything.

The details of Toby’s death are important only to us. We talk about the things we could have done differently, if we had paid closer attention, acted faster, been able to access the clairvoyant powers we should have had. We know this is fruitless, and we fall back into silence.

We all fought hard, Toby by far the hardest, but heart disease is a losing battle.

We bury him under one of the peach trees. My husband points out that the flower buds are already beginning to grow. We cry. I think about how Toby won’t be around to see them when they bloom. We cry harder.

We carry sandstones from one end of the yard to the other, carefully setting them over the place my husband just filled in with dirt under which Toby is resting peacefully. I think of him being cold and lonely in that dark place and I begin sobbing. My husband in his grief can barely speak. I continue carrying stones because I don’t know what else to do.

Later, sitting next to that pile of stones, Haley jumps into my lap. She has never been without Toby. I know this loss will be hard for her. I scratch her ears while we look out into the bright sunshine and listen to the birds chirp. Toby would have loved this day.

The previous day was beautiful, much like this one. Toby struggled to walk and even stand, so we all sat with him in the warm grass. My husband, our dogs Haley and Cora, and I each sat with Toby, feeling the peaceful energy of life flowing around us and being so incredibly thankful for it. Toby did not want to go back inside. I wonder if he knew those were his last moments in the sun.

I am beyond grateful to have that image of Toby in my mind, the sun so bright in his eyes and his fur blowing in the breeze. He was truly happy. I think of so many moments I had with him and vow to remember all the things he showed me in his canine wisdom.

Version 2He was accepting of everyone, always eager to share his love and friendship. He was always indulging in the best things in life – treats and naps, both of which he indulged in as much as possible. He tolerated Haley’s bossiness and Cora’s infatuation, carefully picking only the battles that truly mattered. He was always happy to help with chores, keeping the lawnmower in line and sitting on the swept up dirt piles so they couldn’t get away before I vacuumed them up.

Toby appreciated and reveled in the quiet moments. He often snuck outside alone in the early mornings or late evenings to watch the rise or decent of the sun and simply enjoy the world around him.

He was sweet and silly and oh so charming, and home was his absolute favorite place to be.

He had such a strong presence in our household, only I didn’t realize it until he was gone. It feels emptier now. I know that Haley and Cora feel the emptiness, too. My husband and I have vowed to spend more quality time with them, to engage more with them and be even better dog parents.

We vow to take less for granted, to love harder and to show that love more often, to indulge in the good things, and to spend more time in the sun. I know that Toby would approve.

 

A Welcome Surprise

It has been a really bad week. I have been grasping for any and all positive distractions, so this nomination could not have come at a better time.  I am very surprised to receive a Versatile Blogger Award nomination and am so incredibly grateful. Thank you to Ioana of Music Teacher Lifestyle for thinking of me! I am new to blogging as of this year, and it has been more of a learning and thought provoking experience than I anticipated.

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As part of accepting the award, I have to show the award on my blog (happy to!), thank the person who nominated me (see above), share 7 things about myself (eek!), and nominate 10 blogs (see below).

This is the hardest part:

7 Things About Me

1) Coffee for me is a daily requirement. I love the smell of it, love the taste of it, hot or cold. The best compliment to coffee is pie. Anytime I watch a movie in which the characters meet in a diner and order coffee and pie, I am instantly envious.

2) I have been journaling since I was 12 years old. Having a place to let my thoughts pour out has kept me sane and self-reflective and made me a better person.

3) When you’re stuck in traffic and you look into the car next to you to see a girl singing and car dancing like she’s at the club, it might be me.

4) I consume audio books like they are sustenance. I started listening to them when I adopted my dog 6 years ago and was agonizingly bored on our walks. Now anytime I’m doing something I don’t want to do (chores, enduring my long commute), I am heartily listening to book.

5) I am a margarita snob. True margaritas do not have mix! Almost every Friday night, my hubs and I go to a local Mexican food spot for dinner. The food is delish, but the margaritas are amazing! I crave them the entire week.

6) I don’t watch TV often, but when I do, I binge watch. Netflix gets worried I’ve been watching too long and asks me if I want to continue. 😉

7) I can’t say no to ice cream. It’s a serious weak spot.

In my short time as a blogger, I have come across quite a few blogs I have enjoyed reading.

Blog Nominations

The Little Koi
Writing the Girl
The Road to There
Daisy in the Willows
World of Widget
Kelsey L. Munger
The Gloria Sirens
Dream Bigger
Beyond Mummy
Third Time Lucky

The nominees are not obligated to accept this award of course, but if they do, they will need to follow the steps listed above.

Thank you again for this incredible acknowledgement!
Happy writing and reading!

Peace, Love, Hugs

Still Hibernating

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Last year was entirely a season of change. I got married, finished graduate school, bought a house, renovated the house, and got a new job. You could say it was a whirlwind, a tornado even, of change. The turn of the calendars to the New Year was a true time of gratitude for me. Rather than focusing all my reflections on resolutions, I felt almost overwhelmed at times with thankfulness. My heart swelled. I even got a bit teary-eyed once expressing the intensity of my gratitude to my cousin over lunch.

Winter has mostly passed by my city this year. No freeze, no light snow flurries, not even sleet. And yet, I have been hibernating. The excitement of last year caught up with me and converted itself into exhaustion. I am a lark, but I have been sleeping in some mornings. I indulge in fatty comfort foods and desserts after a full meal. I snuggle with my dog on the couch binge watching Netflix. As soon as I get home from work, I trade my slacks for warm, fuzzy pajama pants and slippers. My desire to go out weekend nights is almost nonexistent, scheduling dates with my husband that wrap up early in the evening as I’m eager to get back home and return to my hibernation, even though it’s only 50 degrees outside.

With the coming of Spring also comes longer days filled with bursts of sunshine and then sudden downpours of rain. We free our homes from suffocating clutter and dust to let in more fresh air and space. We free our arms and legs from heavy clothing. We free our thoughts from the overwhelming desire to stay in bed and pull the covers over our heads once we hear the sweet songs of birds outside our windows as daylight dawns. We think about renewal and hope.

I am not yet ready for this. Spring will arrive soon, and I’ll welcome it with open arms. But for now, I wish to stay cozy in the shadows and comfort of hibernation.

 

Seasons

A Rescue and a Birthday

I didn’t even really want her at first. I didn’t want the commitment or the responsibility. I’d never had a dog, but I gave in, and I’d do it all over again. Rescuing Cora from the shelter was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. She has made me a better person, and six years later we celebrate her “birthday,” the day she became part of the family. 

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Getting a dog was my boyfriend’s idea. We were living together in a house with a nice, spacious back yard perfect for a dog. I was very reluctant, but he finally convinced me to take a trip with him to the shelter. I couldn’t wait to get out of there and I burst into tears as soon as we got back in the car. All of those homeless dogs with no one to love them – it was hard to see that. But I was sold on the dog idea. I could give one of these dogs a warm, safe, and loving home and would never forgive myself if I acted otherwise.

The next weekend we went to the Humane Society. I brought gum this time to help distract me and fight back the tears more easily. There were so many dogs. They stared longingly into your eyes, pawing the cages, barking and crying, begging you to take them home and love them forever. I handed a piece of gum to my boyfriend. He was fighting back tears, too.

I wandered slowly among the kennels, greeting and petting every dog one by one through the cages. The bigger dogs were in the outdoor kennels, many of them barking as much as possible to get attention. I got to the end of the row and there she was. She was a small white and ginger dog who clearly hadn’t had a haircut in a long time or possibly never. She sat quietly looking at me with sad, shifty eyes. I didn’t understand why she was outside with the big dogs given her stature. Perhaps the shelter ran out of room inside? I saw from her paper work she had been there a month.

I found my boyfriend wandering in another section of the shelter, and we compared notes. So many dogs we would love to take home! We made our way back through and stopped in front of the white and ginger dog again. I knelt by her cage. She looked at me with her sweet face, leaned back and sat up on her hind legs. I immediately fell in love, and we adopted her.

Cora and I bonded fast. She was my shadow. I worked hard to pay attention to her dog language and ways of communicating. I have countless stories of her intelligence and her sassiness, but I’ll save those for future days. When my boyfriend and I split, one of the first questions everyone asked me was, “You got Cora, right?”

When I look at Cora, I know she sees the best version of me, and thus that’s what I strive to be.

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Here are a few things Cora has taught me and continues to remind me:

1) Forgiveness is always possible.
2) Love wholeheartedly.
3) Peanut butter is the best food in existence. Broccoli is a close second.
4) Be patient.
5) Be resilient. Pull that sticker out of your paw and keep going!
6) Take time to enjoy nature.
7) Keep your promises.
8) Nap time is good any time.

Not only do I still have Cora but I also have Toby and Haley who came as a package deal with my husband.  While I am brand new to blogging (this is official post #4), I predict that my dogs will show up in future posts since they are part of the cast of characters of my life. Thus, I may as well introduce them now.

Cora: My sassy shelter dog Cora is an introvert. She enjoys napping in the sun, chewing holes in her blanket, eating broccoli, yoga, doing gorilla impressions, car rides, and Toby.

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Toby: This is my sweet boy Toby using his cuteness to sucker me into giving him a treat. It’s his favorite pastime (because it usually works). Toby also enjoys barking at dogs on TV, eating pizza he drags out of the trash, tap dancing, and cats.

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Haley: Don’t let this sweet face fool you. Cray cray Haley enjoys running zig zag laps around the yard, practicing her high jump, snacking on bird seed, licking you incessantly, making the bed, chasing balls/squirrels/lasers/cats, and cuddling.

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Three dogs can be a real handful, but they are worth it.  Every day they remind me to enjoy life and not to take it too seriously.

A Day of Love: The Obvious Opportunity I’ve Been Missing

For years I made a point of wearing black on Valentine’s Day. Then I just skipped over the holiday all together. Until now.

This overly commercialized “holiday” has always annoyed me. Couples buy each other pointless gifts, go out for an expensive dinner, and set themselves up for disappointment all out of a sense of obligation. These gestures are empty. Do they really mean anything? Some of you may say yes, and that’s cool, of course. I’ve just never really been a fan.

Yesterday I got the latest Blogging101 assignment to think about my target audience. I stayed up late working on the post and subsequently struggled to drag myself out of bed this morning. While making my way to work, I thought about my unfinished post. Something wasn’t right. I wasn’t saying what I really wanted to say…. And suddenly… Clarity! Not only did I know the message I wanted to send, but I also came to a realization that changed my own perception, which is exactly what I hoped for when I decided to start writing again (yay!).

The sensationalism of Valentine’s Day can be hard when you are alone or lonely. It reminds you of something that you don’t have. However, love and expressions of love do not always have romantic intentions. When we are growing up, Valentine’s Day incorporates friendships and even family into the celebration. That seems to change as we grow older into adulthood. We get so focused on the romantic love, whether we have it or we don’t, that we forget about all of the other loves in our lives!

Remember when you were in elementary school and Valentine’s Day rolled around? You went to the store with your parents and picked out boxes of valentine cards with pictures of Disney characters on them. You wrote peoples’ names on the valentines in your barely legible handwriting and handed them out in class to your friends and teachers, sometimes to the entire class. Many of you may have gone through this with your own kids this week.

Fast forward to high school. At my high school for Valentine’s Day, we could arrange to have a flower and note delivered to someone during 3rd period. I was nervous as hell as I bought a flower for my crush and quickly wrote him a note before I changed my mind. (Side note: Said crush and I messaged back and forth today reminiscing about this as years later we are happily still friends.) Aside from the butterflies in my stomach over how my crush would react when he got my flower, I handed over more cash to send flowers and notes to my girlfriends. They meant so much to me, and I was excited for the opportunity to surprise them with this token of my love and friendship.

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We can create our own holiday traditions that align with our personal values. It dawned on me this morning that Valentine’s Day can be a reminder to me to show love towards everyone in my life. It is an opportunity to reflect on the people I cherish, just like I do on other holidays and birthdays, and to express to them how much they mean to me.

I decided that on Sunday I’m going to call some of my loved ones and send out messages to them, thanking them for being part of my life. It is something that I don’t do often enough. In fact, most of us probably don’t do this often enough. 

I encourage you to take the opportunity to show your love to people around you who positively influence your life. Let them know that you value and appreciate and love them.

Love doesn’t just extend outward, however. It also flows inward. Self-love is something we all struggle with and can all improve. Loving and nurturing yourself is a key major component to a happy and fulfilling life. That said, I have also decided to celebrate Valentines Day by meditating on how I can be kinder to myself and by treating myself to an afternoon of something I love to do: reading.

I again encourage you to do the same. Take some time to think about all the things about yourself that you like and that make you awesome, and think about how you can better take care of yourself. Also, spend some time doing something you love to do!

Crazily, as part of my Blogging101 assignment to add something new to this post, I decided to embed a video and found the perfect one! It’s from Soul Pancake. They do some cool things. Check them out if you aren’t familiar with their videos.

This Life

I thought I knew who I was and where I was headed. When I was growing up, I was very self-assured. I felt confident in all my decisions and had strong faith that my path in life would continue to unroll in front of me clearly and seamlessly without any detours. That, of course, did not happen.

Like everyone else in this world, I’ve gotten lost, taken detours, hit dead ends, made u-turns and gotten turned around to the extent that I’m rarely sure that the path I am on is the right one. Pavement turns to gravel and then dirt and I know I missed a turn some where behind me. How could I have missed it?

With every day that passes I continue making my way through this life. But I refuse to travel aimlessly and passively. Have you even taken a road trip and found yourself on a long stretch of highway with scenery that seems to repeat itself mile after mile? While there may be a sense of comfort in knowing that this ten minutes of the journey will be the same as the next ten minutes and the ten minutes after that and the ten minutes after that, soon that long stretch of road grows tiresome. Your eyes glaze over and you no longer see the landscape around you. It’s just a blur in your peripheral vision that you no longer even acknowledge. I want to experience and feel all that I can. Otherwise what is the point?

I have realized that life is messy, amazing, winding, and constantly under construction. That’s part of the journey, and I wouldn’t wish it any other way. But it’s not always easy. Sometimes the challenges and obstacles seem insurmountable. Sometimes we have to pull over to scream and cry and pound our fists against something. But then we start again and go.  Other times we are in awe of the world around us. The sun shines brightly from above and everything feels right and aligned in our favor.

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I want to be present, to really see the world around me, in both the easier and the hard moments. This is better than life passing me by in a blur, than me passing through life with my eyes closed or in a daze, never really seeing or feeling anything.

This blog is my attempt to capture some of these moments. It is my attempt to find a stronger sense of purpose and meaning and to make more sense out my chaotic, beautiful, disastrous, and magical journey. It is my attempt to embrace the twists and turns and the detours and, by sharing it, to let others know that they are not alone in this life.

 

Photo credit: Marga M. via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA