28 June 2016

Schultz and Schatzi

Just over a week ago these two were off to a rocky start; so much doggie discord in those initial encounters. I was a little bit nervous. Now I'm pleased to report that they seem to be fast friends. As for us, we love them even more now than we did when we first saw them on the schnauzer rescue sites where we found them. Which is saying a lot because it was mostly love at first sight. 

Schatzi - miniature schnauzer mix, 7 months old, 12 pounds - feisty and sweet - from SRT
Schultz - miniature schnauzer, 2 years old, 18 pounds - a big old lump of sugar - from MSRH
We found Schatzi through Schnauzer Rescue of Texas. We had already put in an application there as we had found several promising candidates but who already had adoptions pending. Why Texas? Because apparently Texas has a lot of schnauzers. At least more than KS, MO, and OK combined. Not to mention, the Texas organizations we'd reached out to we're all comfortable adopting to us in Missouri and to a household with small children. PS: if you want to adopt a schnauzer anywhere in the contiguous 48, let me know; I've done all the research. 
many hours in the mini van - almost home
Anyhow, through the SRT listing on the All Pets website we found Schatzi who was being fostered in Texas while she recovered from two broken legs. Her previous owners couldn't or wouldn't pay for the surgery to repair her broken legs. So a kind vet tech (to whom we are eternally grateful) intervened, arranged for her surgery, and monitored her care for about 6 weeks. We found out that Schatzi would be ready to adopt out about June 20 and - knowing that we were already planning to travel to Texas June 17-19 - realized it would work out perfectly. 

meeting the neighbor dog
We began to choose a name. Julia wanted to name her "Sweetie Bell" - we nixed that. Clara wanted to name her "Knife" or "Tablecloth" or "Chair" or whatever she happened to be looking at at that precise moment. Sergio and I wanted something German (because schnauzer) and when we found the name Schatzi, we liked that it sounded like Schatten, which was the name of my aunt Jetta's dog before Daisy. We were going the schnauzer route any way, in part because there were so many things we loved about Daisy but also because we felt it was a sort of homage to Jetta who had had two schnauzers in a row. We also learned that "Schatzi" was German for "sweetie," which Julia liked. 

on guard at the back
on guard at the front
So where did Schultz come from? Good question. By the time we found Schatzi I had signed up to get notifications about adoptable dogs and was following every schnauzer rescue organization on social media. So of course I kept finding dogs. Sergio told me to stop looking. I said "I'm not looking!" But when on the Miniature Schnauzer Rescue of Houston site I found a handsome salt and pepper fellow with the cinnamon ears, I realized I was totally still looking. 

I asked Sergio one night if he'd ever consider having two dogs at once. I fully expected a no. But instead he said "maybe." I was ecstatic. I reached out to lots of folks for advice on two dogs at once - folks I did know who have experience with multiple dogs, schnauzer rescue folks that I didn't know but who were so helpful. We decided we'd try to get Schultz (whose name was Todd at the time). If we don't get Todd, we decided, we won't get two dogs right now. (I was really hoping we'd get him.)

Todd was pretty popular so I tried (and failed) to not get my hopes up. There was one family interested in him but who chose another dog. Then there was an adoption event where I was sure someone else would snag him - but that event got cancelled. At last his foster mom (to whom we are also so grateful) chose us as his "furever" home. The next thing I know - he's ours and we're trying to figure out how to get to Texas, see all our family, and arrange to acquire two new dogs. 

they love tug of war with Daisy's favorite toy
Schultz and Schatzi had never met until last Sunday morning. Despite being perfectly precious on their own, they weren't too keen on each other right away. We accidentally introduced them to each other as we were waiting to get on the hotel elevator with Schultz and Schatzi and my niece were coming off the elevator. So much growling and barking. 

Those were the moments where I thought "oh no oh no oh no - what have we done?!" 

We got them to OKC in separate vehicles, Schultz melting into Tyler's lap in the passenger seat of our minivan and Schatzi climbing and snoozing on top of Sergio in my parents' car. 

At my parents house they did their growling dance and little by little shifted slowly from aggression to playfulness. By the time we left OKC we were okay putting them in the same vehicle. By the time we got home I thought - wow - this might just work after all. 

And so far? It's working perfectly. 
matching names - matching tags - matching collars 

06 May 2016

Missing Daisy


Well, it has been two weeks since we said good bye to Daisy and if I'm totally honest with you it has been one of the hardest two weeks I've had in a long time. And I've had quite a few hard weeks recently. I knew it would be hard to say goodbye to Daisy. But I had no idea it'd be this hard.

There are a lot of uncomfortable questions - could we have caught the cancer sooner? How long was she suffering before we found out? Did we do the right thing with her treatments? Did we do the right thing when we said goodbye? Questions with no good answers and questions that it does no good to ask.

So I am learning to stop asking them and to instead focus on the certainties. She led a very good life for 10 years with a multitude of beloved companions and care takers (Jetta, Mema, Papa & Honey, us, to name a few). We enjoyed her so, so much. She is no longer suffering.

I don't know what it is about dogs that makes missing them so poignant. Maybe it's because they're so constant and reliable. Maybe it's because they're always there; they don't go to work or school or have meetings ... they never even just run to the store; they're always there. Maybe it's because they depend on us for everything. Maybe it's because they're so earnest. Maybe it's because they always love you - no matter how great things are in your life; no matter how bad.

I know that many of you know what I am talking about - this particularly dogginess I'm describing. I know because you've reached out to us in the last few weeks with such comforting words of condolence, such thoughtful reflections, such compassion and caring. Thank you to all of you. Here's another "maybe" - Maybe dogs bring us together, even when they tear us apart. At least that's what I'm feeling - torn up inside but surrounded by support.

I have a very powerful memory of sitting on the couch with Daisy and Sergio one night - a long time ago. I wasn't doing anything - not reading, not watching TV, not fiddling with my phone, not talking. Just sitting. I had Daisy on one side of me and Sergio on the other side of me. We were just sitting. And I remember thinking how good it felt to just sit flanked by these two beings. How profound it was to just sit with them. It calms me to think of that moment. That was a moment that I was living in fully.

That is what I want to do more - to live in the moment like Daisy did - like most dogs do. I want to sit squarely within each moment and savor it.

03 May 2016

Thought Provoking

Between the Hallmark Creative Leadership Symposium today and the Greater KC Interfaith Council's Table of Faith's event tonight, I have had many, many thoughts provoked.

Both events stirred ideas around the power of the question "why?" and the importance of believing in something bigger than yourself. Curiously, the theme of the CLS was "We Are One" and yet I came away from the event thinking about what distinct perspectives each of us in the creative community has to offer. How do we complement or supplement each other? How are we similar? How are we different? How are we unique? The broad range of great speakers and topics helped bring that aspect of diversity home to me. And those same questions might have been asked of the range of faith perspectives represented on the Interfaith Council. The Table of Faiths event was not themed "We Are One" though there is a sense that each of the faiths represented there all exist in harmony inspire of or because of their differences.

Each presenter and storyteller that I heard today fascinated me and inspired me. Here are just a few favorite thoughts from the day.

The Highlights - CLS

"The Disease of Self" - what Dayton Moore warns will tear apart a team or a business or a family

"Choose the thoughts that you think." Toni Blackman

"If you want to write, write." Gillian Flynn

"Don't ask the designer to design a bridge; ask the designer to get from one side of the river to the other." Mauro Porcini

"Believe that what you're doing has to be done." Chris Ciesiel

"Tear down your idea - what's left standing is something pure." Matt Castilleja

"Always know why you're doing what you're doing." Ryan Wing

"You turn folded card stock into joy grenades." Rob Riggle

"Know you're number 1 but act like the underdog." Carla Moore

"Music is not just sound. It's a force." Nolan Gasser

"My work is not satisfaction from all the people I've proved wrong. It's a tribute to everyone I've proved right." Raul Alejandro

The Highlight - Table of Faiths

"People were created to be loved and things were created to be used. The problem is that people are being used and things are being loved." - Shakil Haider (winner of the 2016 Steve Jeffers Award)

12 April 2016

Daisy's Diagnosis

The day we found out that Daisy has cancer, we cuddled her and coddled her on the couch. She actually seemed more herself that night than she had in a few days. She'd had 250 ml of fluid drained from her chest cavity at the vet. She could finally breathe again! Her ears were perky! She could eat and drink! She barked when Sergio went out the back door and looked for him from her post at the side door! It was like she didn't even know she had cancer.

April 6, 2016

We began to come to terms with the inevitable. The tumor (the size of a lemon) is too big and she (a 12-pound dog, who has lost a lot of weight) is too small. They will not operate. But they gave us some medicine which we started her on right away. Medicine that was supposed to keep the fluid at bay and that might reduce the size of the tumor. But it might also have some unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects, the likes of which I ought not to recount in decent company.

She was doing well for a couple of days before those side effects kicked in and during that time, while I was wondering how long doggie hospice was going to last, I was also thinking about Jetta.

Three years ago, Jetta was diagnosed with terminal, inoperable cancer during the first week of April - same timing as Daisy's diagnosis. Jetta presented with many of the same symptoms. Jetta also had to have fluid drained from her lungs. Jetta also started medicine with everyone eagerly hoping it'd help, only to find out that the medicine was as difficult to live with as the disease. Just like Daisy. After we started the meds, Daisy began to eat and drink less and less - just like Jetta had - and we wondered "How long does she have?"

The uncanny parallels have created what my friend Pam called a "disturbing emotional echo." Fresh, new sadness with an extra tinge of old, weathered sadness. I know Daisy's just a dog. But she's not. She's Daisy.

Not too sick to do her "prewash" duty.
After a rough weekend, we were advised to take Daisy off the anti-cancer meds and to give her different medicine to help with the nausea and diarrhea instead. Today she's rallying; eating again (and eating a lot!), barking, sniffing, licking the dirty dishes in the dishwasher. She even jumped up onto the couch!

But the cancer is still there. Doing who knows what. Only time will tell. And I have no idea how much of that we have.

We will enjoy however much of it we get.

He's her favorite.

I'm happy to be second fiddle.
Our Girls

27 March 2016

How to Make Your Own Natural Easter Egg Dye while also Struggling with Doubt - in 14 easy steps!

1) Find a recipe for all-natural dyes using any of the bajillion links on Pinterest. Choose whichever recipe you can find quickly before your demanding children distract you from your quest with an urgent need. (I used this one from kitchn.com. Because it was the first one that popped up in my Google search.)

2) Stop by the store to get an assortment of vegetables to make dyes (assuming you weren't able to grow and harvest all your own organic vegetables in your backyard).

3) Gather every single pot or lidded pan that you own and boil every drop of water you can find. Boil all your farm fresh brown and green eggs. (I used eggs from Green Gate Family Farm located in Wheatland, Missouri.) Don't watch the pot.

4) Start peeling, chopping, shredding. Get your first batch of dye material onto the stove top (and fast since you'll have to do this again to make 3 more colors. Since apparently you only have 3 pots and pans with lids).

5) Find an activity for your children to keep them busy while your dyes are cooking (and while you figure out what in the sam hill to do with 4 whole, peeled onions and half a cabbage). May I suggest the following activity for your kids: dying Easter eggs with artificial colors from PAAS. Why not a bit of nostalgia, right? You know you love it - that octagon-shaped bendable egg tool, those little tablets (especially that orange tablet that strangely makes green dye). Memories! I know, I know. It's artificial. (Gasp!) But isn't that part of growing up? Realizing just how much artifice there is around you? And looking for something a little more real even while you hold on to your past because it's simple and comforting?

6) Go ahead and get factory farm eggs for the PAAS project - you know - the white eggs sold in grocery stores that come from undisclosed locations.

7) Trade some of your brown eggs for some of the white eggs from your children's batch - that way you can really test both the artificial and the natural dyes. Kids always love a good experiment.

8) Marvel at how little time the artificial dye project takes while you are using your bare hands to wring "blue" dye from a hot wad of boiled purple cabbage.

9) Hustle all your eggs (brown and white) into their little dye baths in mason jars. Because seriously - what else would you use for a project like this. And also because if you're interested in natural dyes you probably already have a supply of mason jars that multiplies constantly in your cabinets (not unlike bunnies - Easter bunnies, perhaps). Leave the bathing eggs in the fridge for hours on end.

10) Spend some time while you wait thinking about the enormity of the Easter message and about how joyous Easter is supposed to be but also recognizing how sometimes Easter arrives in a cloud of bad news and about how sometimes that joy doesn't come out just right.

11) Check on the natural eggs and see how strange and weak their colors are compared to the bright, confident, unwavering, familiar pinks and blues, etc. of the PAAS project. Put the natural ones back in the fridge for more dye bathing. Keep trying, okay? Don't give up!

12) Wait a few more hours for things to sink in (including the colors). Look to some deep thinkers while you process what Easter means for someone like you. (I used some work by Rachel Held Evans whose chapter on Easter in Searching for Sunday is spot-on perfect.)

13) Unveil the naturally dyed eggs at last - remark on how well the colors actually worked! Combine these eggs with their artificially dyed friends and be amazed at what a rich array of character this motley crew exhibits - even though, quite frankly, none of it looks like the pictures on the Pinterest board or the PAAS packaging. Notice how downright lovely your family's Easter eggs look - irregularities and all.

14) Remember that even if things don't turn out exactly as expected, there is joy to embrace and beauty to behold and so much to be grateful for. And you'd better do that whenever and wherever you can.

Happy Easter. 

06 February 2016

Valentine's Day

In one of my last conversations with Mema last year, less than a week before she died, she gave me her ideas for valentines. She must have known that very soon I would be assigned to the Valentine's Day line at work and that I would, in fact, be making valentines. Her ideas were as follows: "a heart with a heart, a heart on top of a heart stacked high, a heart with a hole in it, a heart with a bundle on it." I don't know what "bundle" meant. But today - on the one year anniversary of her death - we are making a bundle of all sorts of valentines. 

Mema always did think that love could solve any problem. Or as my mother phrased it last year, Mema "lived her life as if unconditional love is the cure for everything. And she's right."

30 January 2016

New Year's Resolution

This year for my New Year's Resolution I'm doing something I've never done before. I'm reusing last year's New Year's Resolution. Exactly as I used it last year. No change. No update.

Am I doing this because I failed at it so miserably? No. I'm doing it because it was a smashing success.

In a sense I guess I'm not doing something I've never done before - I'm doing something that I have already been doing.

So here it is: last year my resolution was to never say anything about someone behind their back that I wouldn't say to their face.

It was hard. But it was so good. If I'm honest, I just did it so I wouldn't get myself in trouble. But it went way deeper than that. I found myself not only striving to say things that are kind ... but I found myself feeling more gracious and compassionate. I spent a whole year really challenging myself - and not always succeeding - to think the best of people, to assume positive intent, and to not let pettiness get in the way of a more charitable worldview.

I didn't do it 100% of the time, but I still feel like I succeeded. So I'm renewing it for 2016