Monday, December 17, 2012

The circle of life...saying Good-bye.

A couple of weeks ago, you might remember I posted that we thought we may have had some bad dog food.  Oakley starting turning his nose at it every time it was offered.  Entire bowls of dog food left untouched.  He would eat other things offered...snacks or tidbits from our we assumed it was something the vet referred to as "preferential eating."  We went out and purchased a different type of food, offered him a bowl full...and he ate that.  We assumed then we had been right that something was wrong with his former food.  That feeling was short lived because soon he was refusing the new food as well.  He was starting to drop some we knew it was time to get him into the vet.  The news was not good.  There was a slight chance that we could be dealing with an infection, so we attempted antibiotics, just in case.  The more likely scenario, according a blood sample taken by the vet, was some sort of cancer or major liver issue.  The prognosis was that he would likely deteriorate quickly.

Now, those of you who know me well...know that the dog and I have not always been on the best fact...sometimes he drove me just plain nuts.  The non-shedding breed of puppy we picked out, turned out to shed more than any dog I've ever seen.  And you could vacuum and ten minutes later find tufts of hair around.  A Labradoodle, he's part retriever, and so he retrieved...constantly.  Socks, laundry, towels, the bathmat in the get the idea.  He's also the size of a small pony but clearly sees himself as one of those small lap dogs. His head was the same height as the kitchen any food on the counters was surely left for him.   The mere sight of a ball would send him over the edge and render him uncontrollable.   Oh and one had better look out when the doorbell rang...more than once he tried to scale the sofa to get to the door to see who was there.  There were times when I think he believed himself a small child.  If the grandchildren were visiting, he had to be in the midst of whatever they were doing.  Their toys... were his toys...and we would constantly catch him trying to sneak off with whatever they were playing with.  If they were eating, he was perched as close as could be to nab anything they might drop. 

After getting the news from the vet ...we spent some time discussing our options....and trying to come up with a plan.  An "end of life" plan for the dog.  It's amazing how many memories and raw emotions from my Dad's death last January have come to the surface during this time.  Still incredibly painful....selfishly...I don't want to experience watching another life waste away...a little bit more each day.  It's gut wrenching.  That same fear I feel of walking into the room and the uncertainty of what I will find is present.

Just like when I sat beside my Dad at the end of his days...and recalled the good memories...I will try to stay focused on the good things about this wild dog.

Like the time I entered the room and witnessed him sitting there... so very still... as Ava (age 3 at the time) was lathering his mouth with vanilla chapstick.  She matter of factly announced to me that dogs, well Oakley,... loved chapstick.  Oakley licked his lips as if on command.  I overheard countless conversations she had with him him about how he... was her very best friend. 

This happens naturally when you are the size of a small pony...small children, like Finn, assume that they are supposed to ride on you...and examine your eyes.

Even the smallest of children seem enthralled by the big dog.  Sometimes, I think they communicate with him in a language that we adults...just don't understand.
Oakley loved a good game of "chase" just as much as the kids. 
I am thankful... that although a bit unruly at times...he loved those babies.
This past week, we let him eat whatever he was willing to try...bananas...occasionally toast...cherry tomatoes...Cheetos.  It is obvious...his time has come.
Once again..we're saying Good-Bye.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

O Family Tree...O Family Tree

I know...that's not how the song goes.  But in our case...our Christmas tree could be aptly titled as such.  Nine feet of tree, dressed in white lights, silver beads and ribbons... and black and white photos of our family through the years.  The photos are smaller in size, framed in black mat board that we've hand cut and adorned with crystals and hung on the tree with satin ribbons.  (You expected them to be handmade, didn't you?)  Decorating a tree this size presents its challenges, but a step stool and bbq tongs makes my job so much easier.

Every year, I get emotional when I start to place the photos on the tree.  Towards the top of the tree I place the photos of our kids when they were younger.   A reminder of times past that are no more...makes me so melancholy when I think of those early days.  Next come the more recent photos of them.  Some candid, some from special events.  And then  as I move further down the tree, I start to  add the photo's of the grandkids.  Closer to the bottom so Ty, Ava, Tanner, Finnian, Taelyn and Fletcher can find themselves easier when they visit.  This year, we will add photos of baby Lucia, who we welcomed into our family last February. Each year I try to add a few more photos of each of them to show their growth.    Another reminder of how just how quickly they grow up...

I have a second tree as well.  A smaller one with ornaments that are equally as meaningful to me.  Our first year here in Iowa we had no ornaments...and no money to buy them.  So six kids and I set off to the library and found a book with patterns for a crocheted snowflake garland and another page with instructions for making a decoration from popsicle sticks and yarn called Ojo de Dios, known more commonly as God's Eye.  We spent an entire weekend taking turns with the crochet hook, creating length after length of garland.  Several skeins of Christmas yarns later, the entire tree was covered with our handmade decorations. 
Over the years there have been several comments about "remember those lame ornaments we made when we were little"...but to me...they are priceless... a precious reminder of time gone by...and they hold such a special place in my heart.   I might catch some grief for decorating the second tree with them....but perhaps one our kids reach for their child's hand... and realize that hand now belongs to a grown up...they will understand my sentiment. 
Merry Christmas, my friends....Merry Christmas

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Beautiful Day....

Nothing like spending a Fall day driving around Iowa and enjoying the beautiful colors.  Today's travels took me to Charles City, Iowa. The local guild just happened to have some quilts on display at the Art's Center.
This was part of the gate that is on one end of the city park.

Groovy statues outside of the Art's Center

Polka Dot Rock...should be the name of a song.

Really cool building from 1904. 

Pretty quilts...pretty stained glass windows.

How cool is this stained glass window?

This quilt was created to display a collection of drink coasters from a gal's trip to England.

Closer view...pretty cool.

Charles City was devastated by a tornado in the late 1960's  and lost several churches.  This quilt shows the current church steeples...and the embroidered outlines of the steeples that were lost. 

Closer view...note the outlines of the steeples.

Mexian Stars...on my list "I want to do"'s a long list.

All about Iowa....

Love the colors and the movement in this quilt.

Dear Jane....wasn't quilted yet but stunning nonetheless.

Another shot of the gate at the entrance of the city park

loved this big statue...there was room for me to sit on that book...well...except that she wouldn't have been able to see the words to read...

Red Hot Chili Pepper.....on the sidewalk?

beautiful view of the river that runs through Charles City...loved the reflection of the fall colors.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Reach out and touch...somebody's hand.

Have you ever given any thought to how important our hands are to our relationships with others?  When you meet someone new for the first you reach out and shake their hand?  Don't you just love that person that you meet and you reach out your hand for a handshake, only to realize that you're about to be pulled in to their bear hug. (these happen to be my personal favorite)

Someone asked me today if I could share something very meaningful and unsual about my trip to Ireland and my very first thought was about all the wonderful people that I met and the relationships that blossomed there.  And then I remembered how during many of my conversations, my hand would be  entwined with whomever I was speaking with at the time... creating the intimacy of friendship.......forming a bond.  Occasionaly, there was the mere grasp of someone's hand and a gentle squeeze.......and even that connected with me and touched my heart.

Four years ago, following my Mom's brain surgery, I walked into her recovery room and the first thing I did was grab her hand.  We had just learned that despite a successful surgery, she was terminal.  Her hand was warm........and so incredibly soft..........and I remember thinking that I never wanted to forget that very moment and how her hand felt in mine.  I thought about the fact that she was once a child who lovingly placed her hand into that of her mother..........and then became a mother herself...and lovingly held my hand........and then I became a mother........and held the hands of my own children........and now those of my grandbabies. 

Now this is where I thought it would be really cute to upload a photo I thought I had taken of  Baby Fletcher's hand in mine.  I know I took one.  I searched my photo folders on my desktop to no avail.  Assuming it must be amongst one of the many on my phone, I started flipping through to see if I could find it.  And instead I found this...a photo I had totally forgotten I had taken of my hand...nestled in my Dad's.  I spent the last 18 days of his life, at his bedside........with my hand in his.........every day.........until his last breath.........I held his hand in mine. 

Now I know why...reaching out and touching someone's so meaningful.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mother's Day - Perspective from a Supper Supper Mom

It amazes me how over the years,  Mother's Day has evolved and changed and continues to have new meanings for me, especially since becoming a mother myself.  Some may not be aware that I became a mother, one month after my seventeenth birthday. Very young...very clueless...and babies didn't come with a manual back then. (These days there is a book, What to Expect: The First Year...did you know there was a manual?) 

 As a new mom, I called on my own mother a lot for answers.  She didn't have a manual either...but she'd raised six kids ...and always had an answer for every question I posed.  Sometimes those answers were quite comical.  By age twenty three I was mother to three.  Jami, Brandi & Joshua.  At twenty seven I became a step-mother to Kimberly, Aaron & John.....again no manual....and yet a Mother's heart expands and grows and fills with love for each child. 

       A parent's love is whole no matter how many times divided. ~Robert Brault
kim, jami, brandi, john, josh, aaron

Becoming a mother helps you to appreciate the mother that you had, especially when you realize just how much hard work there is in mothering.  I remember calling my mom when my children became teenagers.... and apologize for every bad thing I had ever done....she just laughed at me.

Losing my mother...has also redefined Mother's Day for me.  It has been almost 4 years since her death and I think about her so often.  We shared a passion for quilting...she would be thrilled beyond measure that I now work in a quilt shop and spend my days with fabric.  Our visits always included trips to quilt shops.  When she died, I looked for photos of her and I together and found none....I was crushed.  Several months later, we found this photo in a folder on the computer from Brandi's wedding.  The only photo I have of my Mom and I....

And just when I thought my heart could swell  no more....I became a Grandma....and it has swelled it seven times over.


tanner, taelyn & ty

But...I think the most important thing that has affected how I see and view motherhood and Mother's Day... has been watching my own daughters, step-daughter, and daughter's in law, become mother's themselves. Seeing that look of pure love on their faces... as they delight in their own children...opens a floodgate of memories from when I felt those very same joys as a young mother.  And is a reminder of how much I love them and how proud I am of the women they have become. 

finn & jami
brandi & fletcher
emily & lucia

kim & ty

crystal & ava

So today, this Mother's Day, I salute the women who have given me the greatest gift I have ever received....