Paw Prints On My Heart

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Over the last 36 hours I’ve experienced pain like never before – and it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier. Our family lost Safari at 4:02am on September 20, 2013 after 16.5 years of ecstatic joy, unlimited play and unconditional love. She was a golden retriever/basset pound puppy – a surprise gift from my husband right after we moved into our first home. She loved every human being and learned to love children even more after we had Griffin and Morgan in 2004-2005.

Dogs are so emotionally responsive – the major reason I am and always will be a dog lover. When I was sick at home laying on the couch, she was at my feet. When I left for work in the morning, she always knew I’d return and would wait patiently in the sun room in front of the big palladium window keeping a watchful eye. And when I was on the deck grilling, she would hang out waiting for a taste test. She was consistent, resilient and ever-faithful. She loved to relax in the sunshine on the screen porch at our lake house. She was always super quick to scoop up any type of food that dropped to the floor – except for lettuce. My heart aches beyond expression.

But I will also describe to you a few key experiences within the past week that are key indications she was saying good-bye and it was time for her to cross over the Rainbow Bridge. These realizations are helping me heal and I hope maybe they do the same for others.

Dog-Gone Daisies

Every year, my perennial daisy bush blooms in late spring and again in late summer. For some reason, this year, we had no white daisies in March and April. The bush itself was full, green and lush. Just no blooms. My husband and I often commented how odd that was. Then, 3 days ago, last week before Safari passed, I saw the first speckle of white in a bud about to burst open. And don’t you know by Friday morning, 4 hours after her passing, I counted 10 full daisies shining in the early morning sunrise. It was a sign. Those were a gift from Safari and a present I could share with my children. I sent each of them to school with a daisy on their binder to remind them how special Safari will always be…even when she is no longer with us.

Let Us Rejoice and Be Glad

I’m a Catholic school girl and remain to this day a very spiritual, faith-inspired person. On Thursday, September 19th I re-tweeted this: “@Scripture_Truth: This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. -Psalm 118:24”. I added the comment to this re-tweet that I say this every day. This verse has always resonated with me. I loved singing that hymn every Wednesday morning in school mass. It reminds me that every day is a gift. That same September 19th morning, I mentioned this verse to my kids in the car, who attend a wonderful Christian school, and how much it meant to me during my school years. At lunch, I went back to school for a gem-mining science exploration project with my daughter. While in the classroom, I randomly glanced up over our minerals, rocks and gems to see a huge wall banner decorated with rainbow butterflies. Inscribed in the middle was Psalm 118:24. I was rejoicing. I was glad. And now I will always remember that Safari spoke those words to me several times that week. Priceless.

A Safari Sleep Over

My kids are ages 8 and 9. Reading is a very big part of their studies as they no longer learn to read, they read to learn. We are required to spend at least 15 minutes a night reading and we love doing it. On Tuesday, September 17th, Morgan was reading to me on her bed and Safari softly sauntered in. She stood in the middle of the floor, intensely looked Morgan straight in the eye for about 45 seconds – enough time for Morgan to notice. Morgan said, “Mom, look at Safari. She’s listening to my story.” You see, about a year and half ago, Safari lost her hearing. But Morgan was right, Safari was there focusing, listening and hanging on every word that child had to say. Noting this, I got up to get her dog bed from beside my bed where she ALWAYS slept and bring it into Morgan’s room. Safari immediately curled up and in minutes, was snoring softly in a satisfied sleep. It was her first and ONLY sleep over with Morgan. How special.

Star Light, Star Bright

At dusk, on Friday, September 20th, 15 hours after her passing, our family gathered in the cul-de-sac at our home for a heart-felt balloon launch with love notes to Safari. We quivered and tearfully read our messages to one another while the crickets chirped in the silent late summer evening. On the count of 1-2-3, we released four helium balloons into the sunset and stared into the sky watching them rise up into the heavens –  one step closer to the dog we will always love. About 90 minutes later, I’m on the phone recounting the day to my parents with respect and reverence. I look up outside that same big palladium window where she always sat to see a huge, single bright star in the sky. At first, I actually thought it was an airplane landing since we sit right in the flight path of the local airport. But this light was not moving or blinking. It was incredibly bright and staring me straight in the face. It was a symbol. A message stolen in time speaking to me that Safari had made it to the other side with confirmation that she received the balloons with our messages.

Star light, star bright,
The first star I see tonight;
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight.

I will never be the same without Safari. But I wouldn’t give up one glorious memory, one crazy day mess or one precious moment I spent with her. Safari made permanent paw prints on my heart, with several obvious clues that even loss produces miracles.

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Kids Are Like That Sometimes

It’s been a bit hectic getting back into our routines after Christmas break. Alarm clocks. Schedules. Homework. Being on time. Choosing outfits. Figuring out dinner.

But I’ve made a conscious decision to be more intentional with my family – especially at the end of the day before rushing into evening routines. So yesterday I park the car, take a deep breath in the garage to clear my head, come inside, set my stuff down and see the kids snuggled in front of the fireplace.

Before I get the first word out, my son says, “Hi Mommy! Did you have a good day at work?” Funny, that’s the same question I was going to ask him about school. It instantly brought a smile to my face to realize that there are moments like these where I feel like my children care more than I do. Or that they are reading my mind and staying one step ahead. Or that they are teaching me a lesson for a change.

I kinda like when that happens.

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Puzzling Therapy

It started about a month ago. I sat down at the kitchen table with my kids on a lazy Saturday afternoon and pulled out the 100 – 300 – 500 piece options we had in our Disney multi-pack puzzle box. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

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A heap of pieces or mind-boggling quality time?

The kids were sporadic in their participation. Finding all the flat edges. Grouping like-puzzle pieces together. Sorting by color. Trying to imagine the finished product to mirror the box cover. Then they got bored and found something else to do…leaving mom to ‘clean up the mess’. Typical, eh?

So I finished the Mickey Mouse Soccer Star puzzle and moved onto to finish up Pixie Dust and Princesses. And when it was all said and done, I actually enjoyed myself in the process. Here’s what I gained:

  1. A true sense of accomplishment
  2. Quiet time to myself
  3. Ability to let my mind wander
  4. Creative inspiration
  5. A peaceful, uninterrupted mind game with myself and the jagged edges

It wasn’t until I found myself Christmas shopping a few weeks later that I realized how much I enjoyed puzzle therapy and wanted to share it with others. So, when my sister-in-law asked what to get my son, I recommended a puzzle. When I stood and watched my daughter achieve her first ever experience on ice skates in Rockefeller Center, I bought the puzzle to match as a stocking stuffer. And I could not resist a challenging gift from the lakeside cottages series titled “Rest Stop” for my husband…1,000 pieces and all.

And the rest is history. My husband and I enjoyed the 4-day long weekend anticipating the New Year with several hours together at the puzzle table. It was a challenge. A distraction. An escape. An opportunity to sit side by side. A chance to contemplate how the sky, flying geese, lakefront, landscaping and stone cottage was ever going to come together. Hours flew by. Pieces started falling into place. We’d stand up to stretch our backs and legs. Occasionally we’d make sure the kids and the dog had food and water. 🙂

And then the moment of truth arrived…we had 8 pieces left. And we could not wait to tell the kids it’s time to finish our work of art! We agreed both of them could simultaneously put the last 2 pieces into place. We cheered ourselves in victory and celebrated our accomplishment at 4:44 pm on New Year’s Day.

Puzzles are an addiction, but also a type of therapy at the same time. It was well worth the hours put in and I cannot wait to see what puzzling mind game comes next! And I do believe that I’ve started a New Year’s tradition for the Grom family.

Cheers to 2013!

Simplify. Simple As That.

It’s only after I had some quality time off to myself that I realized how cluttered and difficult life can be. With 12 more days off in my 28-day between-job hiatus, I’ve been thinking about how my routines, purchasing habits and tasks can be tweaked ever-so-slightly in an effort to simply simplify. Here are 9 recent discoveries.

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Word to the wise.

  1. Super shiny tinted lip gloss. It used to be full-blown lip liner, lipstick and a top coat of gloss. But why? A super shiny tinted lip gloss in a tube creates less mess in the purse/make-up bag and is a 3-in-1 no brainer.
  2. Dishwasher gel packs. No more messy, flip-top gel detergent. I explained them to my kids using the solid versus liquid science analogy and they got excited to help me do the dishes. WOW!
  3. No iron. No dry clean. No hand wash. No explanation necessary. Shop smart.
  4. Few or no throw pillows. There are days I just want to fall into bed without any more hassles. But I always have to clear away throw pillows first – which are only there for decoration anyway.
  5. Electric candle warmer. A good friend bought me one last year and when I think about it, I use it. NOW I’M SOLD!! No wicks, no smoke, no flame, less danger. Plus, constant scent management.
  6. Indoor griddle/grill combo. Perfect for our 2nd home out on the lake where space is tight but we always have time for great food and good friends.
  7. Organized linen closet. Roll the towels. Sheets inside pillow cases. Baskets for the little stuff. All thanks to Pinterest!
  8. Try the magic eraser first. Not sure how, but 99.8% of the time, this wizard of a product can get the job done – including ink pen on a sweatshirt.
  9. 12 uses for Vicks VapoRub. One jar can do all this? Can’t wait to try this on mosquitos and headaches.

 

A week full of firsts

What a whirlwind week. I’ve been to Vegas and back in 2 1/2 days. A bit much actually. On my 4 hour plane ride yesterday I was reflecting on all the things that I have encountered, realized and done for the first time just this week alone.

1. Stayed at my first Hard Rock Hotel.

2. My kids had 2 field trips in one week during Wild Wild West summer camp.

3. Business trip to InfoComm2o1o. What a spectacular event!

4. Lounged in the Vegas Playboy members only nightclub at the Palms. Quite an experience.

5. My husband bought a new water toy for lake fun this summer – a 2-man tube with no seats. Wild ride!

6. I watched the Discovery Channel “Disaster in the Gulf” documentary. My opinion has changed.

7. Spent $210 CASH on taxi cabs because so many of them don’t take credit cards. What?

8. Enjoyed quality time with several co-workers who I don’t often see or have time to get to know.

9. Witnessed a rooftop open to the moon and stars  at 53 stories high. Bone-chilling!

10. Felt bones and muscles in my legs and back that I never knew I had after hours working a tradeshow booth.

The world is so full of opportunities to experience new things and become a better, more well-rounded person because of them.

What’s on your list of firsts this week?

It’s been one of those weeks…

Frick and Frack

It’s just been one of those weeks. Even though it was a short one, things have just been spiraling out of control.

1. new routines at Summer Camp

2. child #1 diabetic roller coaster ride with BGs from 60 – 469

3. child #2 ear infection requiring antibiotics

4. total thunderstorms, hail, rain damage all week

5. 14 year old dog on heart monitors with 2 sets of blood work

6. can’t get ahead of anything at work and I’m traveling next week

Yes, I could go on.  But in the grand scheme of things, these are not life threatening. Sometimes it’s just nice to vent, list these all out in an open forum and then begin to realize how lucky I really am. This week:

1. I was able to watch a cool Netflix streaming video with my husband called Play the Game with Andy Griffith. Great life message.

2. I haven’t had to go to the grocery store once for something I forgot.

3. My kids told me I looked like Hannah Montanna this morning before work.

4. My mom and dad are considering getting an iPad and they still use a VCR and do not use the ATM!

5. #1 child’s best friend agreed to attend the American Diabetes Association Camp Independence at the end of June.

Thanks. I feel better already.

The courtesy of an RSVP please.

Not sure what has happened to the simple act of replying and responding to event invitations in this world. It does not matter if it’s my non-profit charity banquet fund raising gala, a cul-de-sac BBQ, my 5 and 6-year old tae kwon do and skatepark birthday parties or a simple voicemail request wondering, “are you coming or not”.

I have always been taught (and still practice today) common courtesy. There’s a ton of time, effort and, most importantly money, that go into planning events of every size. Yes, I understand everyone is busy. But someone thought highly enough of you to invite you in the first place, so you should at least extend the favor of a reply. Is this crazy??

I will admit that online e-vites tend to get responses and it’s a bit easier to send reminders electronically than via snail mail. Maybe people feel more compelled to respond since often times all invitees can see who is coming, considering or declining the invitation. Peer pressure sets in. Maybe I need to do more inviting online, but to me it seems so less personal.

Really people. Please RSVP for heaven’s sake. It doesn’t take much and small things make a big difference. Yes or no. Your friends and family are counting on you.