Thursday, November 14, 2013

Puppy Love

We're marking a small milestone in our house this week. As of yesterday, this little guy is four months old!

The time has passed in a flurry of housebreaking and puppy proofing. It sure didn't take me long to realize that I'd never raised a healthy puppy before. Holy smokes, a tiny thing sure can have a TON of energy!! A couple of my friends have said "Boy, I don't envy you one bit in that puppy stage", and while I'll admit it is a lot of work, it's also been full of joy, which is something my house had been lacking prior to the puppy's arrival. 

This is the first time I'd acquired a dog that I had chosen to get ahead of time. There are many great things about rescuing a pet and I've done that several times in the past. At this point in my life, still grieving the loss of Ritz, I knew what I wanted and needed from my new canine companion and I knew which breeds would be the best fit for me. I went on a search for a Boston Terrier and found the best one I could ask for! This puppy has been everything I needed and more, in ways that even I wasn't aware of. 

He is like Ritz in ways that make me laugh: he'll steal the cat food in less than a second, he'll perch on the back of the couch, and he humps my older dog, Charlie, with great enthusiasm. Then he's different from Ritz in ways that make me sigh with relief: he loves to be held, to snuggle close, and he greets visitors to the house eagerly with a wagging tail. This was the first Halloween in three years that we greeted trick or treaters without Ritz locked in our bedroom upstairs, loudly voicing his unhappiness with all these strange kids coming to his house! It was a sad occasion because it made his absence painfully obvious but it was also a relief to be free of that worry. It reiterates to me that I am in a new stage of my life, where I no longer need the security of a dog who will protect me. 

People often ask how I came up with Tinsley as the new puppy's name. I'll admit it's not very original to name a pet after a celebrity, but I knew he had to have a name that was unique and held some meaning for me. I've written before about my love for Dave Matthews Band (see here and here) so I won't go into a lot of detail. I'll just say their music has been a huge part of my life and they mean a lot to me. I knew that I would name the puppy Beauford (after DMB drummer Carter Beauford) or Tinsley (after DMB violist Boyd Tinsley). I was actually leaning toward Beauford when I traveled to Denver in August to see the band two nights in a row. There are a lot of things that made this trip special: it involved ten hours driving each way, it was the first time I had seen a dear friend in six years and it occurred on the weekend of my 35th birthday. It was also the self declared end to my Summer of Sadness

After the first night's concert, I managed to attend a gathering that Boyd held as a meet and greet for his fans. It was smallish, about 70 people, milling around chatting and waiting to talk with him. I rehearsed what I wanted to say to him over and over in my head as I waited for my turn. I had met Boyd in 1998 when I was a young college kid. To meet him again 15 years later, after his music was the soundtrack to so many important parts of my life, felt unreal. How often do we have the opportunity to truly thank our personal heros for the inspiration they provide us? It's amazing! Boyd turned to me and embraced me in the way a close friend would. My voice quavered as my rehearsed words spilled out at him. I said "I turn 35 tomorrow and that means I've been listening to you guys for more than half my life. I can't thank you enough for what your music has been to me". My eyes welled with tears and I got another hug as he wished me a happy birthday and thanked me for my words. "I love you guys", I uttered as my boyfriend took some photos. "And I love you", he replied. The incredible thing about this is I know it's true. I could feel the compassion and gratitude flowing from him. He didn't have to be there. He spent time with each and every person in that group (even my boyfriend got a hug he wasn't looking for!) because he truly wanted to and he appreciated the fact that we love his music. I have wanted to write about this ever since it happened, but each time I try I simply can't find the words to express what this experience meant to me. 

I picked my puppy up less than a week after that trip to Denver. The breeder lives in another state, a six hour car drive away so she had agreed to meet me half way. The roly poly baby dog tumbled out of the lady's car stretching and yawning, his eyes half closed. When I squatted on the ground, he came right to me, tail wagging, and put his front feet on my knee. I picked him up, he licked my face and I immediately knew that he was mine and that his name was Tinsley. There was never any second guessing or considering other names.  

When I explain his name to new people, I don't go into this much detail. Of course those who know me well have heard all of this and have seen the photos. When I first shared the pictures on FaceBook during my trip, I could feel the genuine excitement that my friends felt for me. They recognize how significant this experience was. Not a single friend batted an eye or acted surprised when they learned the puppy's name. It's totally "me"  and  it makes sense. 

I like that there's a story here that not everyone gets to hear. For me, there are so many different things wound together in the puppy's name. It's a way that I am constantly reminded of the importance of gratitude and joy. So when I look at this sweet puppy face, although I am sometimes hit with a rush of missing Ritz, I'm also reminded of all the beautiful things I've been able to experience and appreciate since his passing. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

You're Welcome

I was out for a run this afternoon when I felt compelled to stop and take this picture


I'm sure you can guess that part of the reason I like this route is for the view. Running toward those mountains always makes me feel strong, like I'm officially a Montanan. Especially on days like this when it's barely over 30 degrees and my nose is running so much it's dripping onto my chest. I snapped the picture, put my glove back on and continued on my way.  I was headed toward home, thinking about the post I wanted to write today. I tend to get great ideas when I run so I do a lot of writing/editing in my head.  As I approached a crosswalk, I slowed my pace with my eyes on a black car, trying to figure out if it was turning my way when-BAM- it was crashed into by a white pick up truck. I'm not sure if I said "Holy shit" out loud (I think I did), but I was also thinking "Woah, I'm a witness". The black car had spun around and was stopped in the middle of intersection, the white truck still up against it so I jogged over to make sure everyone was okay. Everything happened fast but at that moment I remember seeing several vehicles going around the accident, and I was surprised that no one else was stopping. Everyone involved was okay but no one had a phone and someone asked me to call 911. Once police were on the way I made sure (again) that everyone was okay, pushed my ear buds back into place and ran home. 

What a rush! Talk about being in the right place at the right time! If I hadn't stopped to snap that photo and admire the view, I would have been just a little further along the path and might not have seen the accident. As my Nikes crunched on the snow in my driveway, I let out a big exhale and thought "I am so glad I was there to help". And this leads me back to my original idea for today's post that was going through my head as I ran...

This is the fifth day of the Gratitude Project I wrote about in my last post. Each day I've been posting a FaceBook status that lists three positive things about the day. Maybe you're doing something similar or have friends who are. Just a few days into November, I'm noticing something I wasn't expecting. (Although I suppose I should have been, it is FaceBook after all.) People are complaining about other people's daily posts of gratitude! When I saw the first comment a few days ago, I cocked my head and read it again. I couldn't tell if it was a joke or not. The next day I saw another person's comment which was clearly not a joke. Today I say a meme that said "November- When people who complain on FaceBook for 11 months are suddenly thankful every day". I wanted to shout into my computer and across the internet "YES! YES! THAT'S THE WHOLE POINT!" Everybody complains, it's human nature. I like to think I don't do it much, especially on FaceBook but I know I'm guilty at times. Everybody needs to vent. The friends I've seen posting daily words of thanks are people from all over the country, from every walk of life. Some of them haven't surprised me by participating but a few of them have. To me, that's the beauty of this. That's the whole point! You can be grumpy for 11 months and then think "Oh crap, it's the month of Thanksgiving, I should really think about what I'm grateful for", or you can post what you're thankful for every single day of the year, I don't care. I like to think that maybe someone who's been down in the dumps might see my posts of gratitude and think twice before they gripe about whatever is under their skin. I know that's some serious wishful thinking but hey, I'm an optimist.

Not everybody is full of gratitude every day. That's fine. Bad stuff happens, I get it. We lose loved ones, lose jobs, cars break down, people and pets get sick. It sucks. It makes us feel hopeless. Trust me, I've been there. But I know that when I've been down that low I would never have recovered had I not been able to find other positive things around me. It doesn't happen right away and it's certainly easier said than done, but it's the truth.

I've been doing a lot of self reflection in recent months. I've been reading about meditation, karma,  a path to awakening. Everything I read tells me the same thing, which I've now come to see as true with my entire being: Our joy and suffering is not caused by what happens to us but by how we respond to it. The reason I write for this blog is the same reason I post my FaceBook statuses; I want to share my experiences with others and connect with people who can relate to them and view the world as I do. Everybody likes different things. If someone doesn't like what I write, I can't let that stop me.  I have faith that The Universe guides me to be where I need to be and my run today was a perfect example.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Gratitude Project

For the past two years, I have posted FaceBook statuses throughout November to mention at least one thing I was thankful for that day. I'd seen other people do it and thought it was a lovely idea. Last year in particular, I received a lot of feedback from friends who enjoyed seeing my posts and some who were inspired to do the same. This year one of my friends, who is also a writer/blogger, took it one step further by inviting her friends and readers to join her in what she is calling a Gratitude Project. I love that name, by the way. She has challenged us all to post three positive things each day. She is posting to both her blog and her personal FaceBook page. It brought me joy to see her suggestion, to have a friend who obviously values a gratitude practice as much as I do so I've committed to join her by posting to my personal page as well.

Among my 400+ FaceBook friends, there is a mix of optimists and pessimists, along with a few fairly apathetic souls. Everyone seems to have a different view of what FaceBook is for and how it serves them. Sadly, I think I'm in the minority when I say that I find FaceBook to be useful and beneficial, although I will admit it can also be a huge time suck. I have quite a few friends on there who are a real part of my personal support system, even if they live far away and/or I haven't seen them in fifteen years. The older I get, the more I appreciate the people I know who grew up in the same area I did. We may be scattered all over the world and be different types of people, but we all started in the same place and I think that's a special thing to share. What I'm trying to say is I have lots of types of people as FaceBook friends so I'm curious to see who joins the Gratitude Project.

Since I won't be blogging every day this month, I thought I'd share a list of some of the things I am feeling most grateful for in my life right now:

         Having a supportive partner who "gets me"

         My dogs

         My life coach


         My above mentioned friends/support system.

         All the time I get to spend writing

         Good food


         That everyone I love is healthy

         The fact that I've recently been learning about my family history and tracing my ancestry

         Playing roller derby and having amazing women as teammates.

Of course there are many more things that make me happy but these are the ones that come to mind that have been making my life awesome lately.

To everyone reading this, I challenge you to take time this month (and every month!) to think about what you're truly grateful for and make a list. Even if you don't want to share it with anyone, write it down and look at it every once in a while. I've found this to be helpful on a crappy day when it feels like everything is going wrong. I can just flip through my notebook and see how much good stuff can be packed into a "bad" day: a nice bottle of wine, seeing a rainbow, catching every traffic light green. If you want to share your list, I encourage you to do so here or on my friend's blog or on your own FaceBook page. I promise you that people will notice your positive way of looking at things and they will appreciate it!