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Community

What does the word “Community” mean to you? While there are many definitions, depending on the context, the one that rings most true to my opinion on the term is similar to this one found in the Oxford dictionary:

“A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”

Back in my college years, I served as an Orientation Leader at the beginning of each fall semester. One thing I always recommended to my group of new students was to find at least one group or activity to get involved in. Whether that be sports, drama, music, student activities or whatever, just get involved; make some new friends. The reason I always recommended this was because I firmly believe it’s what helps bridge the gap between being a high schooler living under house rules to being a semi-independent college student who is also learning how to make their own rules. I believe it helps to relieve stress to have other things to occupy their minds when they need a break from studying as well as relieve the loneliness that comes when stepping out of the “nest” for the first time; because, as much as they always say they can’t wait to get out on their own, it’s still a reality check when they suddenly realize they are solely responsible for themselves. Life is hard and I think college is the time where we start to realize that.

“Friendship improves happiness, and abates misery, by doubling our joys, and dividing our grief.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero

Continue reading → Community

Sometimes Chocolate is the Best Therapy

A few weeks ago, I posted some thoughts on our yellow lab Molly and how she has taught me so much but we have another furry member of our family that has taught us some important lessons as well. Bailey is our nine-year old chocolate lab. Of our two dogs, she is the most laid back and truly the easiest kept dog ever. As long as her basic needs are met (food, shelter, potty breaks), she’s content to just hang out by my side. She’s my alarm clock, my reminder to let things go and not stress so much, my constant in this sometimes chaotic life. No matter what is happening in our day, she’s the one thing we can count on to be “normal” and completely unaffected by our craziness.

When Bailey was born she was pushed from the rest of the litter and almost died. Found cold and barely breathing, she was taken to be warmed and bottle fed until she was strong enough to return to her family. She slept in the bed with her people and was spoiled from day one. We were honored when we were told that we were the only people that she would be allowed to go to (otherwise they were keeping her). Because we were entrusted with this beautiful sweet girl, I’ve tried to be even more vigilant when it comes to her safety and well-being than normal. She’s my four-legged baby and always will be. My Bailey.

When we first brought her home, Molly was only a year old and was still pretty rambunctious. Poor Bailey could hardly use the bathroom without being upended by Molly on one of her romps through the yard. Because of this, Bailey has always seemed like the submissive one…to Molly. However, if she finds something that will run from her, she’ll chase it until it’s out of sight and then come running back to me with the biggest “smile” on her face. She’s so proud of herself! She might be bullied by her “sissy” but she’s no pushover. It makes my heart happy to see the sheer joy on her face.

Sweet Bailey would have made a perfect mommy dog (if I believed in breeding) we’ve found. When she was two, Matt brought home a 2 lb kitten that had been found in the median of a busy intersection where he worked. Within a few days, the kitten realized that the dogs weren’t going to eat her and proceeded to “adopt” Bailey as her mother. She’d curl into her as she laid on the couch and suckle on Bailey’s lower lip. I couldn’t believe it when Bailey just laid there and let her do it. I think it was more of a comfort thing for the kitten than a need for food though because she only did it when she wanted love. To this day, they are still the best of friends.IMG_0368

A few days after she turned two, Bailey had her first TTA surgery to fix a torn CCL (basically the same an the ACL in humans). The recovery was rough but after about nine weeks, she was better than ever. However, the surgeon who did the surgery advised us that 60% of dogs that tear one CCL will likely tear the other one within a few years. Like clockwork, the second CCL was torn about four months before she turned five. She had her second surgery at the end of October and this time took almost six months to heal. It was horrible watching her struggle through the winter with one arthritic leg (due to the first surgery) and one leg that was taking its sweet time healing properly. She pushed through it like a champ though as long as I stayed by her side as much as humanly possible. At night, I’d lay on the floor with her while she would try to get comfortable enough to drift off to sleep and she’d lay her big head on my chest and sigh. She’s never been an “in your face” affectionate dog so this time with her was really special to me. She’s such a brave and happy girl. I think that helped in her healing. Of course, it also helped her become even more spoiled and even more essential to the beating of my heart.

There have been times when I’ve wondered why she was pushed from the litter, if there was something her mom sensed about her that wasn’t “normal”. If there was some abnormality in her legs from birth that couldn’t be seen by the naked eye. But then, I look at our special girl with her crossed-eyes and stiff-legged walk and I am reminded of the movie Forrest Gump and how, even though the character was a simple man who started out life with some physical disabilities, he still had an amazing ability to love even those who seemed unloveable. I couldn’t imagine what my world would have been without Bailey in it. It makes me thankful that we, as humans, don’t always “let nature take its course” and that we sometimes go above and beyond to save something we feel is precious enough to be saved.

When I look at Bailey, I’m reminded me to never give up, no matter the odds. Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed even if our greatest joy is only an occasional burst of energy that makes us feel free from the burdens of our physical pain. Instead of seeking material things beyond our basic needs, we should all be content to just breathe a sigh of relief when those needs are met. We should enjoy every moment we are given with the ones we love and live life with a big goofy smile on our faces, just happy to be alive because life really is “like a box of chocolates”.

Cotton Candy and Carousels

Our first trip home since the big move held a mixture of emotions for all of us. We were all so excited to see our families again but were also missing our “girls” who stayed behind with some friends while we travelled. I think the hardest part for me was the fact that both of our dogs love our house back home as much as we do and would have been so happy to be back to see their friends and neighbors as well as lay in the cool grass of the front yard where they’ve both spent almost their entire lives. I’ll admit, I felt a little guilty. Continue reading → Cotton Candy and Carousels

Silent Observation

I’ve always known that my yellow labrador retriever, Molly, is very intelligent; almost human in a lot of ways. I’ve always said that I expect her to just start talking to me any day now. She is so observant of the world around her and so in-tune with it. She always knows when to come around and pass out hugs or slobbery kisses. Since our daughter was born, Molly has become her protector. From the first moment she met her two-legged sister, she has responded to every little cry, squeal, and laugh as if Kylie were her own offspring. She kept me company in the wee hours during that first year and has been my constant companion ever since. It’s funny, when we got her, I was still healing from the horrible loss of our black lab Rudy and had a hard time bonding with Molly. Even though I would play with her some, she was mainly my husband’s dog because it felt like a betrayal to me. Somehow I think she understood and she gave me plenty of time to sort it all out. I believe with all my heart that she was meant to be our dog; sent by an angel named Rudy. Now I don’t know what I’d do without her.

Molly has always been quiet and reserved. Back in the US she would sit on the bank outside our house and look up at the sky at night. She looked like she was counting the stars. Or, as my husband would always say, “contemplating her existence”. She’s never been a big barker unless she’s playing with a ball that she wants you to throw or kick. It’s at that point that her natural dog instincts seem to kick in and she forgets all else in the world except for that ball. Most of the time though, she’s very quiet and notices every detail of her surroundings. She’s even that way with food. When you offer her something from your hand, she has to smell it first and often will take it from you and drop it on the floor so that she can thoroughly inspect it before tasting it. She can seem to be in the deepest sleep possible and one slight move by anyone else in the room will awaken her to full alert in a split second even at ten years old. We’ve always called her our walking barometer because hours before a storm arrives, she’ll start shaking and wanting to be as close as possible to us. Her extreme sensitivity can be both amazing and frightening at the same time.

This morning I watched her in one of her moments of silent observation as she got to know a baby monkey that was teasing her from the wall around our pool. So innocent, so beautiful and so hilariously annoying. She never barked or made even the slightest movement toward it. She just sat and watched as it would come closer, then run away, then closer still. It was almost like a dance between the two of them as the monkey tried to get her to react. I so wish I would have been able to hear the “conversation” that was taking place between them. I wanted so badly to move closer. But, taking a cue from Molly, I too became a silent observer.

I have been thinking about that scene all morning and about how it made me realize that Molly and I are alike in a lot of ways. We both like to take our time when meeting someone new. But, unlike Molly, I’ve gotten caught up in “life” and forgotten how to slow down and enjoy each moment in my day to day life. As I look back, I wonder how many beautiful moments I’ve missed by being in too big of a hurry; in a hurry to grow up…to finish college and start my life…to get married and start a family…to start over when I realized I wasn’t where I was meant to be. I’ve always been a firm believer that God has put me in certain places at certain times so that I could be influenced and inspired in the way He intended. I think today, He intended for me to be inspired by Molly; by her sweet way of observing the world and just taking it all in. I think He’s guiding me to something that I never would have imagined on my own. I think what I need to do now is just silently observe and open my heart to whatever He has in store for me next. Thanks for the reminder Molly.

Learning How to Say No…and Ice Cream Sandwiches for Breakfast

Moving to St. Kitts, for me, has meant giving up a lot of things I’ve been very used to. I’ve never been a huge fan of long-term change. But also feel like I have an adventurous side too. So, even though it was a hard thing for me to give up my job (where I felt like I was an important part of the team), time with my family, and my friends, I felt like this move was a one time chance to experience life in a whole new way. Continue reading → Learning How to Say No…and Ice Cream Sandwiches for Breakfast

Amazing Encounters

In looking back at some of my previous posts, I have realized that I haven’t really talked about some of the amazing things we’ve experienced so far while living in St Kitts. Some of my favorites have been the encounters we’ve had with the animals here. From snorkeling with skates, rays, turtles and all sorts of tropical fish to watching a dove lay and protect her eggs in the palm tree just outside our door. This has been a wonderful opportunity for Kylie to learn first hand about wildlife that she would have never experienced back home (like the starfish she got to touch on Sunday before it was returned to the ocean floor where it belongs). There is so much I could say about the wonder in seeing these different creatures but I think I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves.

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Crazy Things I’ve Seen From the Left Side of the Road

For the first week or so that we lived on St. Kitts, I didn’t drive anywhere. It wasn’t that I was particularly afraid of doing it, I just had so many new things happening at once that it seemed like an insurmountable hurdle. For starters, I didn’t have a clue where anything was. When I learned to drive at the age of 15 back home I had lived in that town for my entire life. I knew the streets like the back of my hand, knew where to get gas if my tank was running low, knew where to go to get food, and knew where to go to find my friends. Here everything was new and it seemed like we took a different route every time we went out somewhere. I was just not really excited about it. But, I was tired of being stuck at the house all day with nothing to do so off we went to the Fire Department to get my driver’s license (yes you read that right). No test, just had to show my US license to prove that I knew how to drive. I didn’t even have to prove that I knew how to drive on the “wrong” side of the road or that I understood the traffic laws. Kinda weird… Continue reading → Crazy Things I’ve Seen From the Left Side of the Road