After The Ribbons and Bows

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Another Christmas has come and gone, but this one will remain strong in my memory long after the holiday season has passed.  This year was different from all the rest.  I had just sparks of Christmas spirit here and there, but managed to minimally decorate to join the traditional seasonal forces.  I shopped, cooked, baked, wrapped, travelled, visited and gave.  I attended a very nice impromptu Christmas Eve gathering and a small planned Christmas day dinner.

I am so happy and proud of my nephew who finished college this semester and is “officially an Economist”.  I am always happy to see both of my nephews, whom I love dearly, but don’t get to see them nearly enough.  I made it a point to see my brother, include my Uncle for Christmas Eve, have dinner with my mom and Aunt on Christmas day.  I coordinated schedules with my son to be sure he would share some family Christmas time between going to his dad’s and girlfriend’s.  I travelled back and forth to MA to accommodate schedules and parties.

When it’s all over and I reflect back, what sticks out most in my mind is not one single family member remembered my son.  Not one.  Not a card, gift, email, phone call, text, note, nothing.  That cuts me deeply.  He of course would never say anything.  He’s the quiet, non-assuming, non-expecting  quintessential type.  He spent Christmas Eve at his dad’s and came home with roaring stories full of laughter, well thought out gifts, and a feeling of Christmas that made him feel special.  He spent Christmas day with me, mom and Auntie and Christmas night at his girlfriend’s family’s house.  He came home delighted and happy.  I’m so happy they make him feel special and loved.  He loves all of them, and they clearly love him.   Of course it’s not about the gifts, but the feeling behind the gifts that someone actually spent a little time thinking of him and what would make him feel special on Christmas.  My son shopped for days, and I wrapped for hours to be sure everyone had a nice, perfectly wrapped gift. 

I said nothing about it because it seems I’m always apologizing to him for my family.  This isn’t the first time he’s been forgotten by my family, however, it is the first time everyone in my family forgot him, everyone but me.  I never forget my son.

And so, we move on to the New Year, with hopes that this year will be full of gifts from within that make us grow stronger and wiser.  Remember you cannot control adversity, but you can control how you handle it. 

Peace, love and warmth to all of you.  Pay it forward. 

Happy New Year.


A Christmas Spark


I haven’t blogged in a while, I’ve been overwhelmed with so many things going on in my life, all at the same time; and Christmas.  Every day I think about the next pending crisis and remember that in a day or two this will be old news so don’t get all wrapped up in it.  But the Christmas thing just nags at me in the back of my mind.  I guess December 25th is going to arrive with or without me being ready.  For me, the whole “ready” thing is a state of mind.  If I’m not feeling it, how can I possibly prepare for it?  I’m just sort of going through the motion, doing the minimum amount of participation and preparation.

Today, after I returned from lunch, my boss dropped in to say hello carrying an oversized, beautifully decorated Christmas bag.  For a moment I thought he was on his way to deliver it to someone and was just stopping to say hello.  He does that, always says hello if he’s in my area.  He handed me the bag, said Merry Christmas, and thanked me for all my hard work!  I was shocked, overwhelmed and touched.  He really meant it.  He was so proud when he told me he picked out everything in the bag and even wrapped it himself.  I held back the tears.  In an instant he wiped away the Christmas blahs and made me feel special.  He told me he didn’t just shop, he shopped for me, keeping in mind stories we’ve shared. 

There it is… Christmas has arrived.

Merry Christmas!


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Could this week by any busier?  I have something major every single day and I haven’t put up one single Christmas decoration yet!  On top of all that, I was approached and offered a catering gig for 75 people on New Year’s Eve.  I had to think about it for a bit because I have plans that night, but I could really use the (very generous) money offered for the night.  The truth is, I wouldn’t have time to pull it all together with all that’s going on right now.  Sadly, I had to say no.  I feel like I missed a tremendous opportunity since that’s the direction I want to go in.  Oh well, I will have to re-evaluate my path as I venture forward.

Of course I won’t stop thinking about this now…. Oiy…

Phase Two – Lake – Complete Success!

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It was a gorgeous weekend at the lake, seasonably crisp and sunny.  Lizzie was getting excited as we got closer to the lake house.  She knew where she was and couldn’t control herself.  This was her stomping grounds, where she was living off the land for so long.  This is where I caught her.  As I drove to the house, I decided this would be the weekend I test Lizzie off the leash at the lake.  I knew it could go either way, but I also knew it couldn’t wait any longer.  She was ready.

I brought her in the house when we arrived, where she immediately implemented her entry ritual of searching every room.  Then straight to the toy basket she goes, while I turn the house ‘on’.  Minutes after our arrival I decide to execute the plan by opening the back door and calling Lizzie out to go potty.  She stops at the door, questions me with a look and I coax her out by going on the deck with her and then down the few steps to the ground.  She’s unsure, but decides not to address it by bolting out of sight within seconds.  Gone!  I just look up, pray to my dad to guide her back, and go back in the house.  I try to distract myself by putting things away, opening blinds and putting all the toys back in the toy basket.  I look at the clock, I look out the windows, turn on the radio… nothing.  OK, OK, she’ll come back, don’t panic I tell myself.  A spec in the distance moves and I’m relieved to see her way off in the woods.  At least she’s around.  Then, just like at home, she bolts in the yard, too fast for anyone to catch her (not that I tried) and swooshes around me as if to say “I’m not ready to come in, but look mommy, I’m still around”.  I just give her a wave and mutter “good girl” as she quickly fades back into the deep woods.  Now I’m sure she’ll come back and gingerly go about my business in the house.  It was the longest 30 minutes of my life, but with two viewings in that timeframe, I never doubted she’d be back.  While she was gone, I planned her return.  I had brought up something she’s never had with me, something I wanted her to remember as a treat for coming back to the lake house, bacon!  I cooked the bacon while she was on the run, knowing all to well that she could smell it.  By the time she came back the bacon was cooked, cooled and degreased, just waiting for her.  She came in, all smiles and panting, following the smell of bacon.  I could tell she was unsure of the reception she would get for taking off.  I believe in positive reinforcement.  I hugged her, told her repeatedly she was a good girl and gave her several small bits of a piece of bacon.  She loved it!  After that, the rest as they say, is history.  Lizzie was in and out a hundred times throughout the weekend, running all over but never stayed away that long or that far again.  She played with other dogs, came when she was called and really seemed to figure it all out. 

Now I need to work on her jumping on the couch… and the bed:

Phase One, Day Two – No Victory Dance

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Feeling confident that Phase One had gone so well the day before, Sunday morning I decided to try again.  At the crack of dawn, Lizzie and I headed out to the park once again.  Lizzie was delighted when we arrived, and could hardly wait to get out of the truck.  Same drill, leash on as we get out of the truck, we headed to the trail.  Lizzie was so good, waiting for me to take the leash off.  As we walked the trail, she was more confident and took off running.  OK, I thought, she’ll come back.  I called her, and called her, and called her.  Really?  Right out of the gate you’re not coming back?  Nah, I shook it off and continued walking.  She came back, dashed past me and started back the other way.  Umm.. Lizzie?  I turned around and called her.  She stopped, head down, butt up, tail wagging.  She wanted to play and off she went.  She’s excited I thought, and happy.  I walk on my merry way watching the white spec in the distance slip further and further away.  Gulp.  She comes back and all my worries vanish.  We walk towards the rolling greens again and then it happens.  Something by the street catches her eye and off she goes, right towards the busiest street in town.  My heart sank and I go dashing after her.  I see her cross the street (thank God it’s early and no cars in sight) into a neighborhood.  I happen to know this particular street is a cul-de-sac so there won’t be any through traffic approaching.  It’s very early Sunday morning, most people are either sleeping or having morning coffee.  She’s out of sight in a neighborhood she’s never been in.  Keep calm, I tell myself and continue walking.  I see a jogger take the street and figure Lizzie will join her down the road.  Minutes later the jogger comes back and I ask her if she saw Lizzie.  She said yeah, just for a second but said the dog was too fast for her and took off.  I’m calling, calling, calling and I wonder how I must be ruining someone’s sleep or lazy Sunday morning with my distress calls.  At this point I can’t believe her behavior after such a successful day yesterday.  I feel defeated.  Just then, she comes back and I’m relieved.  Just before she reaches me (at bullet speed) she makes a hard right turn into someone’s yard and I panic knowing she will continue on at that speed into the next yard and the next until she comes to the very busy street. I make a decision to run back to my truck to try to find her.  Please God, don’t let her get hit by a car.  I’m running back to the park fumbling for my keys and just as I put the key in the lock I turn around and see her bounding after me.  I opened the door and she jumped in.  She knew I was upset and I just sat in the car with her trying to compose myself.  What to do, what to do… what kind of reinforcement is appropriate at this moment?  She is all over me, kissing me, nudging me.  She knew she did wrong.  I was so relieved she was back I found myself hugging and kissing her, telling her she was a good girl.  She came back.  I cringe at the thought of her crossing that busy street to get back to the truck, but that’s something we’ll have to work on.  She was asking me if we could stay and play.  I could almost hear her say “Please mommy, I promise I’ll be good.”  No, I took her home because she made bad choices today.  She knew she did wrong.  Small victory today, she came back.  However, there’s more work to be done here.

Lizzie gets spayed this week.  By the time she is healed, hunting season will be over and I’ll test her off the leash at the lake.   They’ll be new worries there as that is where she roamed wild for 5+ weeks.  Her old stomping grounds…

The bottom line is I will not have a dog that is not well-behaved.  I cannot have a dog that needs to be on the leash all the time.  I like to take my dog with me where ever I go and let them in and out at their leisure.  Of course, they’ll always be times when the leash is necessary, but for the most part, my dogs are trained to be friendly, approachable, loving… and obedient.  She has lots of dog friends and loves to play.  It consistent training and attention, but in the end, it is worth it.

It’s a symbiotic relationship.  Having an awesome life is Lizzie’s reward for being an awesome dog. Do good things, make good choices and I will provide you with a life that is better than most people have.  I’m committed and in for the long haul.  She’s figuring it out.  I think she’ll do just fine.  All in all, it was a good testing weekend for Lizzie, and for me.

Phase One – Complete

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Lizzie has been with me now 3 weeks today.  I have spent all of our time together training her.  Even our play time has been in training mode.  When she first arrived, I was her meal ticket, her warm bed and her security.  She was my new responsibility, my new pet.  Although we were strangers getting to know each other, it wasn’t long before we really connected.  It’s official… we’re together.

This was a pivotal weekend.  Lizzie has been showing signs that she’s ready to be off the leash, but I wasn’t quite ready to put her to the test until this weekend.  I knew she was ready, but it was my own hesitation that kept me from releasing her.  After all, what if she bolted and didn’t come back?  At some point, you just have to have faith and do it.

It was a gorgeous Saturday morning. Lizzie and I were up at our usual 5:00am.  I took Lizzie out to go potty after her warm breakfast.  She seemed eager to start the day and somehow knew I wouldn’t be leaving for work.  She was playful, inquisitive and obedient.  I took a deep breath and decided today was the day.  I didn’t want to let her loose in the neighborhood but decided to take her to a nearby park with lots of trails and a small lake.  It was the place I’d always taken by beloved black lab Sadie to play and swim.  In fact, I haven’t been back since I’d taken Sadie.  Lots of warm memories and good Karma.  Lizzie eagerly jumped in the truck and was ready for whatever adventure we were about to embark on.  I planned it early enough in the day so there were no cars or people at the park.  Better to test Phase One with  minimal distractions.

I put the leash on her to get out of the truck.  As we neared the entrance of the trail, I said a silent prayer to all the animal Gods, and my dad.  Please let this go well.  She was all about the trail and while she was busy sniffing every scent she could find, I seized the moment and nonchalantly undid the leash from her collar.  She didn’t notice at first until I began walking in front of her.  I turned back to look at her and simply said “Lizzie come”.  She came right to me, stopped for a second, figured it out and off she went.  I knew she’d follow the trail because it was loaded with dog scents.  I let her go, watching intently.  I didn’t say a word and noticed she kept stopping to look back at me.  She was figuring it out, and when she saw me continuing to walk toward her telling her she was a good girl, she would advance a few more feet before looking back again.  Each time she would go further and further with more confidence that I was coming along too.   We stayed on the trail quite a while before I heard a dog bark in the distance and knew this would be a test.  Although there were no cars or trucks in the parking lot, that certainly didn’t mean there wasn’t a dog in the distance that could meander onto the trails.  I called her, just once, and waited.  I could have cried with delight when I saw her come back.  Wow, she’s doing great!  I turned around on the trail and called to her to come with me.  She followed me.  Back at the parking lot she dashed past the truck.  I took this to mean  “Hey, I’m not quite done running around here, can we stay?”  Hell yeah we can!  I started walking over to the rolling greens and tennis courts, with a tennis ball.  She loves to play ball at home so I thought I’d bring one along for insurance.  I threw the ball and she went dashing after it like a bullet.  I was thinking we’d have a little game of fetch, but Lizzie had a different idea.  She had no interest in the ball and kept going, and going, and going.  Crap!  Things were going so well.  Keep calm, this is new to her…  I kept walking and calling her for a few minutes.  In the distance I saw this spec of white coming closer and closer and closer.  She came back!  Now she wanted to play ball!  Play ball we did, until she was so tired she just stood there panting with a big ole grin on her face.  Good girl Lizzie.  You passed with flying colors. I felt victorious.

Lizzie napped for the rest of the morning.  She was ready to do it again in the afternoon, but I knew the park would be full of people, dogs and distractions.  We took our normal walk in the neighborhood, after lunch, on the lease.  Maybe we’ll try it again tomorrow.

Phase One – Complete!