Sunday, January 26, 2014

giving thanks

This past weekend, there was a terrible fire in my mother's condominium complex.  My mother's neighbor, whose condo abuts my mother's condo, completely burned out. So, too, did the other three condos in the same building. Because my mother and Jim, thankfully, are in Florida for the winter months and will not be returning to South Carolina until at least April, my sister, Marylou went to survey the damage, yesterday.  As a result of the catastrophic Friday night fire that took firefighters five hours to put out, my mother and Jim's home sustained severe damage that will likely require the entire condo to be gutted.  When I spoke to my mother yesterday and again, today, she told me, "It's just stuff. Thank God no one was hurt. Things can be replaced.  People can't." 


I'm so thankful no one was hurt. I'm so thankful Mom and Jim weren't there when it happened. And I'm so thankful that they won't be going back to South Carolina for several months - so hopefully, the damage will be repaired before they return.   Now, while I'm on the topic of being thankful, although Thanksgiving was two months ago, I've been wanting to jot down some thoughts about it before too much more time lapsed. This year, my sister, Eileen, her husband, Clark, and four of their five kids came to spend the holiday with us.  So, too, did my mother and Jim.  And even though there were fourteen people packed under one roof ... and a handful of those people were sick with strep throat ... this was our best Thanksgiving ever.


Here are some highlights of our week together... 

Cousin Tommy, wearing Henry's Kindergarten turkey hat, dressed up and playing with the boys who were both on Cloud 9 that their awesome big cousin was playing soldiers with them! 


Cousins Alana and Diana teaching Carolyn how to do a cup - clap percussion gig. 




And then joined by Elizabeth, who wanted to learn, too. 


Noni and Henry having a quiet morning conversation, over a glass of orange juice. 


Tommy, who aspires to go to Annapolis, sitting with Jim and our wonderful neighbor, Tom, who both served in the Navy.  From what I could tell, they were discussing things like wartime ships and whatnot. And Tommy, the politest 17-year old young man I've ever met, asked all the correct questions to keep the conversation going. Even when Jim excused himself to go take a nap. 


Diana challenging Tommy that she was strong enough to hold him ... 


And then proving she was correct. 



Noni teaching the girls how to crochet...


And then sharing with Eileen some make-up tips that she's recently learned. 



Eileen cuddling up with Mom and Jim.


And William cuddling up with a napping Jim.


Taking everyone to visit Arlington National Cemetery on a bitterly cold day.


Charlie huffing it up steep hills from the lowest point, to the highest point in the cemetery, pushing Jim in a wheelchair, to visit landmarks such as John F. Kennedy's grave and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.



Visiting the FDR Memorial in DC.


My mother was born during the Great Depression, so this was important for her to see, and important for us to see - through her eyes. 



We also took Jim to visit the World War II Memorial, but by then, it was dark, late and cold. So Jim stayed in the car, while my mother and I braved the elements and walked around the perimeter.


We can be so tied to our "things."  Those things, our homes and possessions, are such an important part of our life and sometimes, our identity. But from my perspective, what really makes life worth living, aren't the things - but rather - the experiences and memories of time with our loved ones.  Now that we've had 14 people under one roof, we know it can be done. So Mom and Jim, you are absolutely welcome to come stay with us for as long as necessary, should the need arise.


Just be prepared, you will never be alone. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

love is ....

Making Dad breakfast.


And remembering that he likes hot sauce to go with his eggs.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

the snow is always whiter on the other side of the continent

If I had to describe a perfect day, it very well might be a day spent at home, playing games with the children next to a raging fire, while a snowstorm rages on outside.


This winter, there have been three snowstorms in our area. The first one occurred when I was on a business trip to Puerto Rico.  The second one occurred while we were in Boston over New Year's, but I didn't feel like I missed too much with that one, because we were trapped in our own snowstorm. The third one is happening RIGHT NOW, while I'm on a business trip in snowy white Canada.


Today, while I walked around on a beautiful blue sky day with -30 degree temperatures (minus thirty degrees!)Charlie was home with the kids, who were out of school on a snow day, playing with blocks in front of the raging fire.


Once I arrived back at my hotel and cranked the thermostat up to 90 degrees, we FaceTimed.  By the way, FaceTime is pretty much the coolest thing since .... ever.  Also, the heat in these Canadian hotels work very well, as evidenced by the decreasing layers noted on me in each subsequent FaceTime sequence.  Here are the kids trying to figure out where I am on the map of North America...


Here they are showing me the pot roast that's been cooking all day in the Crock Pot (mmm, I can just imagine how wonderful it smells!)


Here they are showing me what it looks like in our backyard - at this very instant...


And here they are showing me that it has already snowed 3-inches in the past four hours, and the heaviest part of the storm isn't expected to hit until tonight.


When I lamented that I was HERE, and not THERE to experience the awesomeness of a major snow day with the children, Charlie lamented that the kids were running from room to room in the house, chock full of SNOW DAY ENERGY, and making a disaster every where they turned. He felt like he was at his wit's end several points throughout the day and how a dinner out at a nice restaurant with quiet colleagues who don't incessantly tease and tattle on each other, sounded positively delightful.   


I felt myself start to choke up because I'd change places with him in a minute.

And that makes me think my ability to comprehend reality must be frozen solid.

Monday, January 20, 2014

charlie's mini me

Today during a delay at the airport, as I was awaiting my flight to Canada where it is currently -10 degrees below zero and tomorrow I'll need to be outside in this weather and the high is expected to be -18 degrees below zero, I decided to try and keep my mind off the imminent frostbite I'll surely endure and instead, scroll through the 2,000+ photos on my iPhone I've clicked off over the past year.   There are a lot of gems that I hope to one day share, but for day, I'm remembering a fundraising event we had attended for a local food shelter this past Fall.  It was a carnival style setup, and there was a face painter. All of the children stood in line to have their faces painted.  This sparkly butterfly really brought out the blue in Carolyn's beautiful eyes...


When it was Henry's turn, he said that he wanted to look just like his Dad.


He even had them add white in to the corners of his black goatee.

Saturday, January 18, 2014


When the weather is a little warmer, our family will venture out to Burke Lake, which is a fantastic spot about 10 miles from our home.  In the warmer months, we'll bring our mountain bikes and spend the day riding the six-mile unpaved trail around the perimeter of the lake. In the cooler months, we'll bundle up warmly and walk it.  This is a picture that Charlie took of the two of us during one of our recent hikes. I think it's one of the best pictures I've seen of the two of us in recent times:


That our sweet William is photobombing it, makes it even better.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

seeing the forest through the trees

Most mornings, once the kids are on the bus and off to school, Charlie and I will sit for a few minutes in the kitchen before I have to leave for the office.  Usually, he'll drink a cup of coffee and I'll sip a cup of tea, and we'll talk.  We talk sporadically throughout the day, but that time in the morning - after the hustle and bustle of getting four children up and ready and out the door has passed ... is one of the most peaceful times of my day.


During those 10 or 15 minutes, we connect and have more clarity about life and our next steps than we do at any other time.  Sometimes that connection comes from simply holding hands and staring out the window together.


This was our view, today.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

sorry seems to be the hardest word, but also - the most freeing

Two full weeks in to the new year and we're still not at cruising altitude with our day to day operations.  Last week for example, schools were canceled on Tuesday because of the freezing temperatures. On Wednesday and again Friday, the kids had a two hour delayed start.  If you think that on the other two days of the week when school started on time, we'd promptly be there, you'd be mistaken. We had two tardies (across all four kids is actually eight tardies) on the two days that school started at 8:10 AM.  And then we had another one, yesterday.

Today, though, we were on time. But only because our bus driver is awesome and waited for us when he saw our crazy van swerving down the road five minutes before the bell was scheduled to ring.

So we're still not in our groove and are feeling a bit disorganized. Despite our resolutions of going to bed at a reasonable hour, no movies during the workweek, and no snacking at night ... we're going to bed too late. We're waking up too late in the morning. When Charlie asked me at 9:30 on Sunday night how I'd like to watch a movie with him, and then he made us hot fudge sundaes at 10:15 ... I just knew that we were doomed come Monday morning.  And that's how you bludgeon three of your new year resolutions in one fell swoop.

With all of this sloth like behavior coupled with remorse over delayed resolution implementations, the world has had the audacity to resume it's fast pace around us.  Result = our nerves are a little frayed as we hold on and try not to spin off the planet deep in to space.  So this morning when I couldn't find a $250.00 gift card that I recently received from work for my support on a project, my whole discombobulated world came crashing down around me and I snapped at Charlie.

Surely he saw it, because the last time I saw it, it was right there on the table.


Then he had his newspaper and magazines and various paperwork in that same vicinity of my gift card, and where did he put it?  Why, I'll bet he scooped it up and threw it out with the trash because yes, of course that's what he did!  Imagine this tense scene playing out for a painful five minutes before I huff in to the kitchen to fill up my travel tea cup with hot water, and I notice that .... wait ... what's that right there on the window sill above the sink?  And just like that I remember. OH YES! I put it there because I knew it would be safe.  That moment, you know the one when you feel like a GIANT HEEL? It's always uncomfortable, isn't it?

If my husband was more aware of my tone, he would have realized that I must have found the gift card, because my pitch lowered considerably.  But he was oblivious to my voice and was looking high and low for the gift card that I just accused him of losing.  Now, I have to tell him.  "Charlie, stop looking. Don't worry about it!"  But he kept looking and it took me another ten long minutes to summon the courage to tell him, it was not your fault ... I FOUND IT ... please forgive me; I'm an idiot sometimes.  It was so hard to admit I was pathetically wrong, but it was so good once that apology was out.  And after Charlie rolled his eyes and told me that I drive him crazy and how does he put up with me? (And I agreed)  .... It was over and we moved on in the day.

Tonight at Girl Scouts, Elizabeth and Carolyn showed off inventions that they made this past weekend, when I helped them earn their patch for "Inventor." (OH YES, I DID!)  Their inventions consisted of cardboard boxes that they designed to look like a circus (Carolyn) and a Farm, Bunny Hutch, Book Shelf, Television, and Marble Track (Elizabeth).  I should mention that when we arrived at the meeting (yes, we were a few minutes late - is it any surprise), the girls were loudly chatting and talking over one another and the troop leader was telling them that if she had to tell them to be quiet again, she'd send every one home.

That should set the scene for what we walked in to. 

Because they had spent most of the day Sunday working on their inventions, I knew how proud they were. So when during Elizabeth's presentation two other girls in the troop, who both have older sisters and are mature beyond their years, were laughing and snickering at her and kept interrupting with comments such as, "That TV doesn't even work, NEXT!" and someone else sarcastically sneered, "It's so lovely .... it would make a grown man CRY!" I caught a glimpse of Elizabeth's crushed face and I flew OFF THE HANDLE.

It doesn't happen all that often that I lose my cool, but tonight I did. I could feel the out of body experience happening, despite the fact that I was in an elementary school cafeteria barking at kids that weren't even mine.  I can't recall exactly what I said, but I know the gist of the stern verbal lashing surrounded them being very uncool and they need to show respect for Elizabeth and her project that she had worked very hard to make. Elizabeth had a lot of courage to stand up there and present it in front of the troop, and if they couldn't be nice, they could go sit ... OVER THERE ... I pointed my fingers, IN THE CORNER.  And then I concluded my rant with, "CAPISH?!"


Did I really just say CAPISH to a bunch of third graders?!

Elizabeth looked up at me with the most adoring, grateful eyes I've ever seen ... while the other two troop leaders gave me a look that was equal parts surprise and alarm.  (I'm sure they both were thinking, "Wow, we thought she was so nice! What just happened there?") Meanwhile, the girls looked shell shocked and hardly made a peep for the rest of the meeting which was a nice change since they'd been acting totally out of control up until that point the crazy lady came out.

Once Carolyn and Elizabeth had finished their invention discussion, the troop moved on to other activities; and it was ME that moved to the corner and tried to get a grip.  You know, for all the praying and mediation and channeling of LOVE that I try to do in my life, I'd really expect that I'd be better able to keep an even keel on my temper especially when I'm with CHILDREN.

While in the corner, a little voice came to me that said, "You need to apologize." Oh, I didn't want to hear THAT VOICE. It always makes so much more work for me. Nonetheless, when the meeting concluded and the girls' mothers arrived, I took them aside and told them that I didn't mean to be so short-fused.  Then I recapped what had happened, why I was so upset, and how I would have behaved the exact same way if someone was being so disrespectful to them.

All this to say, it wasn't easy to apologize to Charlie or the girls in my children's troop. But I did it, it felt great, and now, I'm sure I'll sleep better tonight.  Provided we ever get to bed.

Charlie tells me there's a Pink Panther marathon on TV.

Monday, January 13, 2014

parents: the wind beneath a successful child's wings?

One of the fine lines that we find ourselves toeing more and more in parenting is when and how to help our children, and when to let them spread their little wings and fly.

We want for them to be successful in their activities, but we don't want to do their activities for them.  Well, except math because you know how I love third grade math. But in other events such as Scouting, we tell them that they are becoming more responsible and they need to get engaged and find out what needs to be done if they want to participate. This approach has been great for us, until we get totally eclipsed by other parents whose children have earned several patches and we've barely finished one and our children look at us with sadness in their eyes. "Why Mom and Dad? Why do they have so many patches when we have so little? Why don't you do anything to help us?"  

Well, because we have enough other things that we MUST do to keep our heads above water and fulfilling all the requirements so you can get an Inventor patch in Scouts is not on the list this month.

(Seems logical at the time, so why do I feel guilt over it?  Why?!)

When I watch the athletes who are participating in the upcoming Olympics, I am amazed at their physical abilities; but I am equally amazed at the stamina of the parents who were undoubtedly driving their child athletes mentally and physically (literally for those 5 AM practices) to train.  Just today, my co-worker was telling me that tonight he will be taking his 14-year old son to basketball practice at 9 PM.  When he told me this, I told him it's too bad my children will never play basketball because at 9 PM, I'm in my pajamas and preparing for slumber.  Making the conscious decision to be in a high school gymnasium when I could be on my way to bed is painfully unfathomable.

There are several kids in our school and neighborhood who play travel soccer and we know that the weekends for these families are consumed with traveling to different matches, up and down the eastern seaboard. Unless our children show an exceptional, sustained talent, and demonstrate extreme enthusiasm .... I think it's safe to say, we'll never play travel soccer.  Or any travel sport for that matter because weekends at home are far too critical for our wellbeing.

That's not to say we don't have our children in sports. At one time or another, they've been in swimming, diving, karate, ballet, soccer, lacrosse and gymnastics.  But not once have we finished up a session with children who are SO EXCITED to sign up again. Did the olympic athletes behave this way when they were kids?  Did their parents continue to push them to keep it up?

Usually by two weeks in to an eight week session, right after I purchase the uniforms, I'm dragging them out the door as they moan they don't want to go anymore. As of today, all four children really want to take up Irish Dancing after seeing a clip on YouTube.  I can just imagine how adorable they'd be and the sight of my four young children in coordinated outfits, tapping away to a Celtic Fiddler makes me smile!  But, if the past is a key to the future, I think I'd rather save my money and spare myself the heartache each week listening to a symphony of, "But we don't like Irish Dancing!"  and I'm telling them through clenched teeth that they'd better get their tap shoes on before I tap them.

When we recently visited the National Symphonic Orchestra for a Christmas concert, I was extremely impressed by the ability of the musicians. But once again, I couldn't stop thinking of their parents, who were likely encouraging - cajoling - threatening - or downright bribing them to practice their piano, violin or tuba when they were young.


After a lot of pleading by our daughter, we signed Carolyn up for violin in early November.  I'll admit, I was fantasizing that my daughter would be a violin prodigy considering we listen to classical music at our home all. the. time and she didn't put the violin down once for the first week she had it. I'd told her instructor that I was planning to sign up for classes with her, so we could practice at home together. But I never had the opportunity to do that because I was traveling so much and by the end of November, she'd had her fill of playing.

So Elizabeth stepped in and took up her sister's $35.00 weekly lessons for which we'd pre-paid for two months.  We didn't think the teacher would even notice, but he asked during the first lesson, "I thought you were taller....?"


I then held the dream that maybe Elizabeth would be our musical prodigy! But she too burned out less than a month in. Charlie returned the violin to the music store today while I took the girls out to sell Girl Scout cookies around our neighborhood.  The girls told me that they wanted to sell 500 boxes EACH.  But after an hour and 40 boxes sold, they'd decided they'd had enough. When I asked if they wanted to go out again after dinner, they told me, "No. It's not important how many we sell it's whether or not we have fun doing it and we've had enough fun for today. "

I love that logic.

So. If you have a hankering for some Thin Mints, Samoas or Do-Si-Dos, we've got 'em!

Here's more detail about what's available: Meet the Cookies.


If you're interested, please feel free to shoot us an e-mail at  Cookies are $4.00 USD a box and they'll be delivered to us by mid-February. We're more than happy to ship!

Maybe if we're lucky, we'll get a participatory patch and some of the temporary guilt for not being a more encouraging and involved mother in extracurricular activities will be quelled.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

spider-man in a sunbeam

When he grows up he wants to be Spider-Man.


Not the pretend Spider-Man ... the real Spider-Man.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

and then, he was single and living in a condo

I was talking with a good friend of mine today who has a six-month-old baby and a 2.5-year old toddler, and recently returned to work full-time from maternity leave. She was explaining to me how challenging it is at this stage, because her infant prefers nursing over the bottle and recently went on a bottle strike and wouldn't eat anything at daycare, or at home, unless it was consumed via nursing.  And when the daycare center called and indicated that this was a very serious issue, and she feared they might expel her baby from the program, she realized that she had to stop nursing altogether because she can't have a baby that goes on a hunger strike when she's got to work out of the home during the day.

So we discussed this and while she is mostly OK with having to stop nursing cold-turkey, my heart broke because I loved nursing and if I had to stop because some damn job kept me out of the house away from my baby all day, you know I'd have a meltdown. The only reason I stopped nursing Henry was because he was 2.5 and it does get a little awkward to be nursing a child that can carry on a conversation.

(Speaking of which:  Did I ever relay that story about the friend who went out to breakfast with her neighbor, who was nursing her child, and when the waitress came and took their breakfast orders - the child stopped nursing just long enough to pull her head out from beneath the privacy wrap and tell the waitress, "I'd like the pancakes and bacon, please!")  Ha! That would be uncomfortable.

Anyway, my friend is doing much better than I'd be doing, given the circumstances. But as we talked about this today, we both concluded that it would be so much better and healthier for working mothers if they were at least given the option of flexibility to work reduced hours, or from home, so that they could tend to their children's needs better than when they're forced to be in an office 40+ hours a week.

Then we went on to discuss that any way you dice it, it's not easy. It's especially difficult when both parents are working out of the home, as both she and her husband are doing. But it's not easy with one parent at home, full-time, either.  She told me the story about a friend who gave up her career to stay home and raise her children and every night, when her husband comes home from work he expects the house to be clean and dinner to be ready.  She looked at me and asked, "Can you imagine?"  And I had to take pause because I'll admit, when I come home from work at night, most of the time there is some kind of comment from me to Charlie along the lines of, "Sweet Mother of Moses, it looks like a tornado came through here. Have you done anything to clean-up?! By the way, what are we having for dinner tonight?"

Because, well ... he's home all day and I'm not.

Charlie tells me that I put so much pressure on him to have a clean house and food on the table and when I see the mess and ask, "WHAT DID YOU DO TODAY?!" he gets really bent out of shape because he did a lot that day, and everyday.  He makes breakfast and lunch for four children; he volunteers at the school at least three days a week; he does laundry and coordinates Cub Scouts and a whole lot of other things. He also tries to convince me that the house was clean before our little hellions came home and messed it up again.

Anyway, it's a topic of conversation at least four days a week for us.

So when I was telling Charlie this story tonight, about the woman who is home with her children and stresses out all day because she needs to have a clean house and dinner on the table when her husband comes home, he vigorously nodded in agreement.  "Yes!" he said, "Exactly! You're out of the house all day and you expect SO MUCH of me at home. You have absolutely NO IDEA how hard it is to run this ship when you're not around!!"

My husband then continued, "If you were home, you'd probably lay around all day and eat Bon-Bons."  I told him, "Yes, you're right. Somedays, I probably would lay around and eat Bon-Bons and I would love it and when you asked me what I did that day, I'D TELL YOU THE TRUTH!"

Charlie looked at me in shock and said, "Oh my gosh, if I ever told you that I laid around and ate Bon-Bons all day, I'd be single and living by myself in a condo."  Then he added, "Actually, I doubt I'd be completely by myself .... I'd probably have the dog."

That conversation happened four hours ago and I'm still cracking up over it.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

louie's miracle

We have a dog.

His name is Louie.


We adopted Louie two years ago from an animal shelter in South Carolina, when we were visiting my mother for Thanksgiving. Here's how that played out ...

Scene: My mother is in her kitchen on Saturday morning preparing breakfast and she cheerfully says to her then seven-year-old and four-year-old grandchildren, "Children, I know what would be fun for us to do today!  How would you like to go play with puppies at the animal shelter?" The children erupted in to cheers and laughter as my husband and I grimaced at each other because THIS is how it starts: we're going to go "play" with puppies at the animal shelter. 


Something tells me we'll be puppy owners before the day is done.


It was just a matter of time. We were beginning to think we were ready for a new dog, and one of my mother's favorite pastimes is taking the kids to the animal shelter, so it was a perfect storm of sorts.

After holding every puppy in the animal shelter no less than three times, we chose an adorable little ball of fur that we named Louie, and we nearly chose his littermate, Lilly, too.  But Charlie stopped me in the nick of time because I obviously neglected to recall how challenging two dogs can be and how could I ever forget the pact we'd made that we'd NEVER own two dogs, at the same time, again?


So we come home with "only" Louie. And the first day I'd returned to work after adopting our pup, I was excitedly telling one of my co-workers that we'd adopted! a new! puppy! and he gave me a deadpan stare and said, "YOU ARE A $@%*ING IDIOT."  Then he went on to tell me that he'd adopted a puppy almost two years ago, and the past two years have been miserable and it was only within the past few weeks that he's begun to rethink his plan to drive the dog out to the middle of nowhere and drop it off.

"These past two years have been hell!! Do you hear me? HELL!" he exclaimed with wild eyes and frantic hand gestures.

Ha ha ha, I laughed to myself. That was "his" experience ... that won't be "our" experience because we've owned dogs before and we know ALL about dogs. Ha ha ha!

Ha!  Look at our cute Louie puppy! 

Woof woof!


Things with Louie were great at first.  Or at least until the novelty of a little animal that poops all over the house started to wear off (give or take four weeks in). I'm sure we could have done a better job with the housebreaking, but we exerted our best effort with crate training, and walking, and rewards, and bells on the door and all that kind of stuff.  In hindsight, the fact that we were able to 98% successfully housebreak him by June (seven months after we brought him home) considering we also had four young children at home - who weren't fully housebroken themselves - was really a great accomplishment.  But then there were a number of things that happened that caused me worry, and for each thing that happened, I'd do my best to justify why it had happened. For example:
  • He growled at me when I got upset at him for licking butter off the counter.  In Louie's defense, I reacted much angrily than I should have; when he cowered under the table - I really shouldn't have chased him and kept yelling BAD DOG! (Also, BAD HUMAN.) 
  • He growled at William when my son pulled his tail.  Lesson learned, every action has a reaction. If you want the dog to be nice to you - be nice to the dog. 
  • He was hard to walk and would pull hard on his leash.  For the past several weeks, I've stopped focusing on our dog walking challenges and have been observing a lot of other dogs and what I've come to recognize is that until a dog is older (greater than 3 years old),  they're going to PULL on their leash, because that's what the vast majority of puppies do. And unless you've got a Bernese Mountain dog or some other giant canine, most dogs are puppies until they're 3. 
  • He nipped at our neighbor's puppy (and then aggressively chased him) when the puppy was relentlessly jumping all over him and biting his feet.  In hindsight, I should have stepped in and removed him from the situation when I saw that the puppy was annoying the kibble and bits out of Louie. It was obvious, I just ignored it - hoping he'd lighten up. He didn't. My fault. 
  • He pulled away from one of our neighbor's who was housesitting and went after another dog in the neighborhood. Come to find out a month later, our neighbor had hooked up his leash incorrectly, so when he gave the slightest pull to go see the other dog, his leash came off because she'd affixed it to his light-weight dog license and identification tag, not the heavier duty collar loop.  Also, a third party who witnessed the event, said that Louie didn't "go after" the other dog, they ran around in circles playing as dogs often do.   
There were a few other things, comparable things, that he'd do that would make us think we had an unpredictable dog on our hands.  So the night after I wrote this post, Charlie and I made the decision that he was not the right dog for us, and we need to get a big old Labrador retriever - a breed that we know and love. Despite Carolyn who fell asleep crying her eyes out, because she loves Louie so much that if we give him up, we need to give her up, too ... our minds were decided.   

I went to work the following morning, and Charlie packed for a business trip to California.  On his way to the airport, he swung by the shelter to drop Louie off.

But, when he arrived at the shelter, he noticed that the clock in his car read 11:45 and his plane was due to depart at 1:00.  There was absolutely no way that he'd be able to drop Louie off, fill out any necessary paperwork required for surrendering our animal,  drive to the airport - park - get to his terminal - go through security - and arrive at his gate in time.  So he called me and giving an exasperated sigh, explained that he couldn't do it today and it'd have to wait until he came back. Then he raced home, dropped Louie off, and hustled himself to the airport.

When he arrived at the airport and saw the big clock that read 11:30, he realized that he'd forgotten to set the clock back in his car for daylight savings time.  So in reality, he would have had plenty of time to drop the dog off at the shelter.

Plenty o' time. 

Now here's some interesting trivia.

Charlie has been dabbling quite a bit in the writings of Joel Osteen and is really aligning himself with the Christian faith. To the point that he looks forward to church every single week and never misses a service and has become very prayerful.  I mention this because Charlie is convinced, without a doubt, that it was absolutely meant to be that he didn't turn Louie over to the shelter that day.   He is certain that it was a sign from God that THIS IS YOUR DOG AND YOU ARE HIS PERSON.  AMEN. 

HALLELUJAH, Divine Intervention! 

Ever since that day,  Charlie (and me, to a lesser degree) has heaped a lot of love upon Louie. And Louie has responded in kind. Over the past two months, he has morphed in to the most mellow, amazing little dog.  He listens to commands and although will still wander under the table during dinner, is usually perched on his bed in front of the fireplace, or is beneath Carolyn's bed, fast asleep.  He has calmed down, considerably, and is a great, fun, happy little companion to have around.

When we were in Massachusetts last week, my brother and Donna told us that they'd really like to keep Louie. If we wanted to leave him, he would have a forever home on their farm.  But Charlie (and Carolyn who likely loves this dog more than any of us) said NO. And one evening when we drove back to my sister's home, we were amused to hear that my brother-in-law (not much of a dog lover) was sitting on the couch with Louie sound asleep in his lap.  In his words, "What? We were both doing each other a favor. I was keeping him company, and he was keeping my hands warm!"

This wasn't our first opportunity to give Louie away.  In fact, last month, when I was on a business trip in Puerto Rico, Charlie called me one night and told me that we'd had a big snowstorm in Virginia.  That day, they'd all been outside playing in the snow, when he realized that Louie was gone. For six hours, he looked for the dog.  When he'd called me that night, he was so distraught because he was certain he'd been hurt or frozen and would never come home, again.  And since we hadn't replaced his dog license and ID tags which came off when the neighbor affixed his leash incorrectly, even if someone had found him - they wouldn't know where he belonged.   So I suggested that he contact the animal shelter and lo and behold, there he was on their website.

Here's his mug shot:


Upon seeing his face on the internet, the thought raced through's Charlie's mind that just one month ago, he was trying to unload him at the shelter, and now, a mere 35 days later - there he was and that was the absolute last place on earth he should be. That was our dog and he needed to be home with us! So the family piled in to the car, braved a snowstorm to drive to the shelter, picked up Louie, and on the way home bought him a new bed and shiny pair of identification tags.

Today, Charlie took him to the vet and even the vet asked if this was the same dog that six months ago, we were considering giving up, and when Charlie said it was indeed the same dog, they wanted to know if he was still available because even people there wanted him.  Charlie said NO and then proceeded to drop several hundred dollars on vaccinations, heart worm and tick medicine. He also had a microchip installed so he'd never be lost again.

It would seem that Louie's here to stay.

And I've since let my co-worker know that he was spot-on. It took exactly two years.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014


On Friday evening, we stopped by to have dinner with my Dad and my beautiful niece and godchild, Angela, who drove over to visit with us.  Angela is my sister, Mary's oldest daughter. The last time we saw Angela, the triplets were only eight-months-old. So as she looked at them and commented on how much they've grown, I looked at my 33-year old niece and thought the exact same thing.


Angela is smart and beautiful and at the moment, is courageously pursuing a dream in her life that is 180 degrees opposite what she's been doing, professionally.  I'm so impressed with her bravery and resolve and as her Godmother, would like to take partial credit. (Although it's completely unjustified.)

We had a wonderful time on this trip. It was everything that the week after Christmas should be; it was quiet and fun, filled with late evenings spent with family and friends, and mornings where we slept in until 8:30 (which by our standards, is nearly noon).


All of us had a wonderful time, everywhere we went.


We are so appreciative of my sister, Beth, and her family's hospitality to invite us to stay at their home - in the midst of a kitchen remodel. And even though we displaced them from their very own beds, and one of our children left the upstairs sink running when they washed their hands after waking up to use the toilet in the middle of the night (YAY they remembered to 1) wake up and 2) wash their hands! BOO they forgot to turn it off!), and the bathroom flooded and dripped through the ceiling to the kitchen and then, basement, they've told us that we're welcome to come stay again at any time because they're clearly crazy.

(On the upside, they hadn't yet installed the new ceiling or drywall in the kitchen. On the downside, my children flooded the bathroom at around 2 AM and although neither nor Charlie heard them, Beth and Michael were up from 3 AM until 5 AM drying their house, before having to get up and start their work days at 6 AM.)

William said that the highlight of his time in Massachusetts was visiting with his cousins Michael, William, Wally and Wyatt.  Carolyn said that they highlight of her trip, was visiting Aunt Janet in the country and seeing the sheep, rabbit, and little shop.  Henry's highlight was inner tubing and sledding with his big cousins. Meanwhile, Elizabeth said that the highlight of her trip was playing BINGO with my father and the other residents at the nursing home on Friday night.



She said that she loved how they smiled so warmly when they looked at her, and how they were so happy when she would point out plays on their cards that they had missed the caller announce.



Most of all, she loved winning three of the four games played, and giving her gold tokens to Grampy so he could buy something for himself (and his friends) at the little store on the grounds.


I adore her heart.