life

Family Threads

I interviewed my grandma in 1991 during one of her last visits up from Florida. She was 91.

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Here she is at 101. This time I was visiting her.

I wanted to record as much family history as she could remember so one evening, after my 1 year old was tucked in bed, I made us each a cup of tea and got out my notepad.

For the next hour I coaxed as much info out of her as her stamina and memory would allow.  So much tender, loving effort on her part, and mine, and I no longer have the notes. I’ve forgotten the names and the dates and the places, but a few of her stories made a permanent impression.

One such story came to mind this morning as I was folding freshly laundered sheets and blankets – wet in the night by my elderly – and, I fear, newly incontinent dog, Max.

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My sweet white-faced boy.

Standing in my kitchen – now doubling as a dog hospital – folding bedding, I thought of Christian Attridge and his wife, wish I could remember her name. I’ll call her Anna.

When Christian was courting Anna he led her to believe he was a veterinarian.  He wasn’t, he was a vet tech.

After they were married and she learned the truth, she exclaimed, “Oh no you don’t! You told me you were a veterinarian and you are GOING to be a veterinarian!”

So he went back to school.

Apparently strong women run in my family.

And so does taking care of sick animals. Though I think horses were my great grandpa’s specialty.

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#justfortherecord

 

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the friends

One minute you’re getting your face bit off and the next minute you’re living in Hintzville.

One minute you’re basking in a glorious sunny, 61 degree day in February in Michigan and the next minute you’ve got mascara all down your tear-streaked face.

Because that gloriously warm February day reminds you of a similar unseasonably warm February day when you were basking in the excitement of a new relationship.

Which you loved.

And lost.

And still grieve.

And there’s really nothing you can say to grief while it’s barreling through like a freight train.

But what if you could stop it in its tracks?  What if, instead of looking back at last year’s happiness and grieving what you’ve lost, you could look forward to next year’s happiness in anticipation of what you’ll gain?

Because where you are is not where you’ll stay.

Dixie would tell you that if she could talk.  She would tell you that life can turn on a dime.  She would tell you that one day you’re living in a garage in Ohio, getting your face practically bit off by a mean dog and then, a couple of months later, you’re on a walk on a glorious sunny, 61 degree day in Michigan.

And you’re eating organic, grass-fed, home-cooked meals and getting belly rubs and snuggling on the sofa. And life is good.

Dixie and her sister were found on the side of the road in southern Ohio when they were 3 months old.  Life must have looked bleak for those two babies. But then they were taken into foster care and Dixie was immediately adopted by the foster mom’s mom – Betty.

Apparently Betty treated Dixie like a queen.  She even cooked for her.  They lived happily together for about 10 years.  And then Betty developed dementia and was moved into a nursing home.

And Dixie, near as I can figure, was bounced around from relative to relative and then eventually ended up back home at Betty’s house – where Betty’s grandson and his wife are now living.

But one of their dogs kept attacking Dixie – she has the scars under her right eye to prove it.  So she had to live outside and in the garage until she was finally surrendered back into foster care for her own safety.

For six weeks she lived in a foster home here in Michigan where, according to the foster mom, Dixie was heartbroken.

I wonder if, while being shuffled around this past year, she grieved the memory of her life with Betty. I wonder if she despaired ever curling up on a sofa or getting a belly rub or enjoying a home-cooked meal again.

But beagles are optimistic so I prefer to think that instead of grieving what was behind her she dreamed of the love that lay ahead.

And now here she is in Hintzville, curled up next to me on the sofa, her days filled with love and walks and really good food. She even has a gentle new brother, Max, who just stepped aside and made room for her when she started eating the food from his dish after polishing off her own. (Of course I intervened on his behalf and reminded her of her P’s and Q’s.)

Today I stopped to say thank you to God for providing for Dixie.  For Betty’s sake. For Dixie’s sake. For my sake. For Love’s sake.

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#AllthatglittersisGod.

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the friends

There is no remedy for love but to love more.

One of the good foster moms told me that the only way she could cope with the heartbreak of saying goodbye to a child – especially when the child was leaving her to return to a barely stable birth parent – was to quickly welcome another child into her home.

Yesterday my family received two cards in the mail.

One was a sympathy card from our vet and the other was from the Michigan Animal Adoption Network notifying us that our vet had made a donation in Bebe’s honor.

So this morning, of course, I googled the Michigan Animal Adoption Network and read all about fostering dogs.

And now I want to foster one.

Then I clicked on the adoption link and read the profiles of several beagles in foster homes near me who are awaiting permanent families.

And now I want to foster a dog AND adopt Dixie.

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This is Dixie.  We haven’t met yet but I think I love her.

I sent a text to both the hub and my daughter… Haven’t heard back from the hub.

The only thing that gives me pause is Maxy.  He might prefer to live out his elderly life in peace and quiet.

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This is how Maxy prefers to spend his days.

But he does still love his walks.  And a new friend might make him feel young again…

I’m thinking the Maxers and I could at least go visit Dixie, see how they get along.

And now I’m thinking that donation might have had a threefold purpose:

  1. to honor Bebe
  2. to provide needed funds to a good organization – specifically to provide comfort to suffering dogs through their Animal Care Network.
  3. and to perhaps make the hub and me aware of the organization; to spur us on toward love and good deeds.

There is no remedy for love but to love more. – Thoreau

I’ll keep you posted.

#exposure

 

 

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family, love, the friends

Sacrificial Gifts

A few weeks before Christmas my daughter texted me a picture of Sorel Slimpack II Waterproof Boots – in case I needed a gift idea.

I had already bought her gifts but I was tempted to buy just one more.  Except the hub said we needed to scale back this year due to all the vet bills.  So I resisted.

The Monday before Christmas I stood at the pharmacy counter with a prescription for a colonoscopy prep kit – the same kind my husband used back in October when he had his colonoscopy.  The kind that is a lot easier to take than the Golytely jug I’ve used in the past.

“Your insurance doesn’t cover this one,” the pharmacist said, “it will be $100.”

“What?” “Is that how much my husband paid back in October?”

She checked her computer.

“He paid $86, he had a coupon. I’ll try applying that same coupon code to yours.”

With the coupon it would be $91.  The price must have gone up she said.

“Is there another kind that my insurance will cover?”

She advised me to call the doc’s office and ask them to authorize a switch.

Golytely. The dreaded 4 litre jug.

Dreaded but 100% covered.

I texted the hub.  He said go ahead and pay the $91.

But then I remembered the boots. I was willing to suffer for the boots.

So I took home the jug.

The day after the colonoscopy I went to Nordstrom to purchase the boots – for $145.

“I thought I saw them on sale on your website for $114,” I said, as the clerk rang them up.

Apparently not.

As I was leaving the mall I spotted the same boots at another store – on sale for $109.

Back to Nordstrom to return, then back to Journeys to buy.

Those 8 hours of gut-wrenching misery – literally – plus the return and repurchase paid for all but $18 of them.  The hub could live with that.

Sacrificial Giving

As we were heading to the theater to see the matinee showing of La La Land the day after Christmas, I told my daughter the story of the boots – my own small version of the Gift of the Magi.  Not because I wanted a medal or anything, but because I wanted her to know the depth of my love. And because giving a sacrificial gift felt so good, I thought receiving one might feel good, too.  Judging by the expression on her face at the end of my story, I think it did.

Same Love, Different Scenario

That evening, after dinner, I said, “Time for family goodness.” (“Family goodness” = all of us taking the friends for a walk.  One of us takes the hound, another takes the beagle and the third is on bag duty…”)

“It’s almost dark,” the hub said, sitting comfortably on the sofa watching some sort of sport on tv.

“Bring a flashlight,” I replied.

My daughter didn’t say anything, but the look she flashed revealed that she wasn’t thrilled either.

It was a rare 50 degree day in December and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to walk the little beagle. She cannot tolerate the cold anymore and getting oxygen to her lungs is so important.  I had been waiting all day for the rain to stop so we could take her.  It was still drizzling when I made my announcement, but it was getting dark and the window was closing.

“Come on,” I said.

As my daughter put on her coat she said, “You’re never going to be satisfied with the manner in which I parent your granddogs.”

“I just won’t come over,” I replied.

She continued, “Because I’m going to treat my dogs just like the rest of the country does.”

It snowed 8 inches the weekend before Christmas.  I bundled the beagle up and took her for a walk a few days later when the temp rose to 32 degrees.  She begged to romp through the woods.  “Sorry, little Be,” I said, “but your legs are too short, your belly will drag through the snow and you’ll get too cold.” I promised her that once the snow diminished enough we would take a walk through the woods.

And on that rainy, 50 degree day after Christmas when the snow was just about gone, we did.

The five of us took a walk through the woods, the hub carrying a flashlight and me using the flashlight on my iPhone.

It felt good to keep a promise.

It felt good to take my friends for a damp, drizzly, sacrificial walk in the woods.

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It’s all the same.

I thought about my daughter’s comments as I was unloading the dishwasher the next morning.

It’s all the same love, baby girl, I thought.  The same quality of love that bought your boots kept its promise to the Be.

It’s that way with God, too.  The quality of His love is always the same  – whether He is extending it to the saint or the sinner.

It isn’t about how lovable we are, it’s about how able to love He is.

And I so love Him. ❤

#nomoping

 

 

 

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faith, Jesus, the friends

Calm, Bright, Holy Beagle

It was not my usual week-before-Christmas.

Monday, instead of baking and sampling, I was fasting and prepping for Tuesday’s colonoscopy.  It’s not ideal to schedule a colonoscopy the week before Christmas, but it had already been rescheduled twice… The good news is I passed with flying colors. Doc says I don’t have to “Golytely” again for another ten years. Misnomer that.

All is Calm, All is Bright

Wednesday, instead of shopping, I was sitting on a folded quilt on the floor of the veterinary oncologist’s exam room with my back against the wall.  The little beagle lay on her side beside me, head on my lap. A mild, pleasantly soothing incense wafted through the air, mingled with the gentle music playing beside it. I stroked her soft little head and spoke quietly to her as she lay still for the twenty minutes the acupuncture needles needed to do their thing.

“It’s worth it little Be,” I whispered, as I stroked the side of her face, “they are stimulating your immune system and helping to clear the lung congestion.”

She lay perfectly still. Completely calm. Not a single needle fell out this time. What a sweet little love.

Acupuncture needles in place of pine needles.

She has been doing so well – her eyes clear and bright, her energy high – that I was starting to imagine her a medical miracle.

And then Thursday she started coughing. Really coughing. She coughed up a hunk of tissue and what looked like a blood clot.

Silent Night, Holy Night.

So Friday she went back on an antibiotic.

She’s sleeping a lot now, her little body battling pneumonia. So last night, while she slept, I broiled filet Mignon, mashed sweet potatoes and sauteed Brussels sprouts. And then my daughter and the hub went to the 10 pm Candlelight Service while I stayed home with our friends.

I was going to have our own little silent night, holy night – just me, the hound and the beagle. I was going to read them the Christmas story. I was going to tell them what Jesus said about not a single sparrow falling from the sky apart from the Father’s care. I was going to read them the story Nathan told David and explain that God considers pets members of the family, too.

“but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.”

God had no problem with the way the poor man lovingly cared for his lamb, but He certainly had a problem with the way the rich man treated her as property.

I was going to say, “God loves and cares for all of the creatures He created, guys, and He loves you even more than I do.”

We were going to have our own holy moment while the rest of the family was at church.

But the night turned out to be more silent than holy. The beagle’s breathing was labored as she slept on the sofa beside me. I didn’t want to disturb her by reading aloud. I knew she’d try to respond to the sound of my voice and she needed rest more than anything else.

So I scrolled silently and came upon this from Muddy Boots Manor:

A precious telling of the Christmas story. I think the hound was listening as he lay awake on the floor nearby. The beagle slept through most of it – awaking only briefly and raising her head to see who was talking. Then she drifted back off to sleep.

Now it’s Sunday. Christmas Day.

When my daughter wakes up I’ll make pancakes. I’ll embellish the maple syrup with minced figs, dates and walnuts because on Tuesday the recovery nurse handed me a brochure with a list of high fiber foods and dried figs was at the top.

We’ll open gifts and then I’ll make stuffed mushrooms and a mushroom pate for the hub and the daughter to take with them to the family gathering.

I’ll miss out on some amazing food, but Christmas, it turns out, is not about beautifully set tables and skillfully prepared feasts.

It’s about giving presence to a sick little friend.

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The hound – 96 in dog years – wants extra presence himself these days.

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I did take time to do some fancy wrapping this week.

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Merry Christmas everyone!

#anewkindoffestive

 

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the friends

‘Tisn’t it the Season to be Jolly?

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The beagle and I have not missed a single walk since she was diagnosed. Because walks are medicine. They stimulate her immune system, they help the flow of her lymphatic system and they get oxygen to any anaerobic infections that may be present in her lungs.

Yesterday I smiled and said hello to a couple we encountered. They were on a (dog-less) walk of their own.

The woman responded, “I hope you are as warm as the dog.”

I chuckled and nodded.

Maybe she couldn’t think of anything else to say, I thought. Maybe what she meant to say was, “I like your dog’s coat.” or “Your dog looks nice and warm.”

Maybe she meant to say it with a smile.

But her tone and her look were disapproving.

I was wearing a hooded sweatshirt under a very downy down jacket. The hood was pulled up unto my head, my hands were mittened and my feet booted.

Clearly I was as warm as “the dog.” As my sweet dog.

Did she think my dog was too warm in her coat? Did she think I was cruel to put it on her? Did she hope I was as too warm as the dog?

I wanted to tell her that my friend’s little belly was shaved for a CT scan and the fur hasn’t fully grown back yet. It needs protection from the cold.

I wanted to tell her that senior dogs have difficulty regulating their body temperature. Just like cardigan-clad senior people.

I wanted to tell her that my friend was shivering by the end of the previous day’s cold, damp walk.

I wanted to tell her that my friend has LUNG CANCER.

So quit judging.

But we just kept walking.

We saw them approach a second time as we rounded the final bend.

The beagle stopped to wait for them, tail wagging.

She’s a greeter.

But the couple did not acknowledge her.

Clearly not dog lovers. Clearly her earlier comment was not out of concern for “the dog.”

Clearly she doesn’t deem dogs worthy of warmth.

“Come on little Be. Let’s go home.”

The Be didn’t move.

“Are you worn out little friend? Have you had all you can take today?”

I kinda’ hoped Mrs. Crabby Appleton heard my questions. I kinda’ hoped she realized that there was more to the story.

On today’s walk the Be is going to wear her silver “American Beagle” puffy jacket. Because it’s cold and windy and the jacket is warm and adorable.

Fa-la-la-la-la  La-la  La-la.

#treasuringourtime

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