dogs, motherhood

Fur-Ever Changed by Love

There are stories you never want to write. The ones that become irrevocably true once the ink leaves your pen.

This is one of those stories.

July 9, 2003 – June 4, 2021 (just shy of 18 years old)

Max lived a good life. He walked every day until he couldn’t.

That’s how he told me it was time for him to go.

When Max came into my life I did not understand the magic he would sprinkle over every part of my existence. His devotion to me was unmatched. In his younger years, though already ten when he became our family member, he would wait at the base of the stairs as I ran up and down completing the endless daily tasks of motherhood. Once he felt certain of my location and pause in movement, with Herculean effort he’d heave his stout little body up the stairs to find me and keep watch. I don’t know what exactly he was watching for but it seemed important.

As the center of his universe I did not take this lightly. I gave him as much as he gave me. Until he couldn’t give anymore, and he was tired, and his old body said enough is enough.

From the outside, the story of Max and me seems simple.

Dog meets girl.

Dog devotes life to girl.

Best friends for life.

From the inside the story reaches deeper. Max came into my world with precise timing. I was dealing with the crushing loss of my mom, raising two rambunctious boys, and supporting Mad Dog’s corporate aspirations. I was barely holding myself together and in swooped Max. He did not care how my anxiety sometimes froze me in place. He didn’t mind how I looked, if I showered, and if my writing got published. He didn’t care if my boys were on the honor roll, if I took awesome vacations, or if my house was organized. He taught me that I am enough as is. On the days I didn’t believe him, it did not phase him.

He loved me anyway.

The love he gave me was so perfect and true it has me questioning everything. We are taught by the world we must earn love through striving, pushing ourselves, winning at everything, and looking a certain, standardized way. Even if we somehow achieve this ephemeral perfection, its temporary nature has us immediately turning our attention to the next outside-of-ourselves goal.

I don’t want to live like that. I want to choose goals that speak to my heart. The kind that inspire me and fulfill me as I move through them. I want to cultivate a fluid state of being and allow the process of becoming to light the way. I want passion and purpose to rise up from within and carry me through all the twists and turns of life.

When you love someone, you dress up like an Ewok even though it makes you really, really angry.

Losing Max is a twist I knew was coming, but I wasn’t ready. We are never ready to lose something we love. It rips us apart at the seams and feels overwhelming and irreparable. And yet, underneath the surface of this gaping Ewok-shaped hole, the true-ness within me holds me steady.This is the part of me that Max loved the most.

This is where I will find my joy again.

Above all else, I want to make Max proud.

The best and only way to do this is remember each and every day no matter what, I already have.

inspiration, motherhood, Writing

To Love, Always

“There is a famous question that shows up, it seems, in every single self-help book ever written: What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

But I’ve always seen it differently. I think the fiercest question of all is this one: What would you do even if you knew that you might very well fail?”

–Liz Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

There are only two things I would do no matter how many times I fail.

Writing is the first.

Loving others is the second.

There are times I despaired when my essays were rejected or the doors of opportunity jolted shut, but I always returned to my notebook.

As for loving others, this has proven a bit more complicated. Throughout my life I have spent so much energy mitigating the love in my heart so that I might blend in, but, much to my amazement my heart lives life on its own terms.

My heart believes that each of us are intrinsically good, and when when we cover over this “goodness” it’s because somewhere along the way, we believed something untruthful about ourselves. In whatever form rejection came to us, we believed the lie that enveloped it. We mistakenly thought we weren’t enough as-we-are and in order to have love, we needed to change ourselves. We cannot blame the messengers of these lies. They, too, were lied to about their own value and worth and like us, believed they weren’t enough as-they-are.

Therefore to offer compassion and forgiveness to another, no matter how much they have hurt us, is essentially offering this same love and compassion to ourselves.

We all have traits and characteristics we wish we could change. We all have ways we could improve, but the only thing we ever need to do, is return ourselves, our views, our opinions, and our perspectives, and bring them all back to love.

Never, ever stop loving.

motherhood

From Here on Out

The worst part about having teenagers isn’t the unpredictable moods (mainly my own), its the damaged self-esteem having become the shortest member of my household.

I hate being the shortest.

However, this was what I prepared for, this moment in time when I could no longer intimidate them by being bigger.  I did all I could to earn their respect.  I carved rules into stone and quashed revolt to the best of my ability.  It’s all led to this…I genuinely enjoy them as humans.  

This has pushed me into a new precipice of parenting. While I am still a quiet, constant support in their lives, what they do with them is no longer up to me. I will serve them best if I keep my opinions to myself.  I’ve had my shot at being a teenager. I gave it my all and it’s not up to my boys to fulfill any of my unlived dreams.  And, anyway, I feel like I’m just getting started. 

I plan to appreciate wherever my one, wild, and precious life takes me.

The point of all this, and yes, there is actually a point, is that I want to declare that my boys are in charge of their destiny from here on out.

I want Full Speed to choose his college (if college suits him) and career path based on his own criteria.

No limits.

From what I can see, he is thoughtful in his musings about his future. I trust him and I trust life to take him wherever he needs to go. As long as he is following his curiosity, the answers will come.

As for T. Puzzle, who at this stage remains committed to verbalizing the least amount of words possible on any given day, I support this endeavor. Who I am I to know what he needs? Maybe my penchant for feeling-based talks aren’t the answer to everyone’s problems. What works for me may not work for him. I did recently ask him to at least alter the inflection when he says “good” or “ok” just to give me some auditory variance.  If he decides not to, that’s fine by me, too.

The greatest superpower a parent has is their ability to witness the incredible, pure essence of what makes each of their children awesome. This will help see you through the conflict particular to raising teenagers.  

And remember, the best way to get them to listen to you is to say as little as possible.

I think T. Puzzle is really on to something there.

motherhood

Little Miracles (2020 Year in Review)

As the year draws to its conclusion, this is the time to reflect on the adventures we have embodied and to highlight the triumphs and glory that made our hearts sing. For our family, we had these moments. Mad Dog’s new job, moving to the beach, Full Speed’s coaching dreams pursued, T. Puzzle’s spelling bee victory, but they somehow pale in comparison to the one simple fact, …

we survived.

So did you.

If no one has told you lately, let me remind you what a marvel you are. You didn’t give up, even on the darkest mornings and the bleakest days. You kept rising to the challenges that erupted like land mines across all your expectations.

I am dedicating this post to you.

What an honor you continue to be a part of our family’s journey. Thank you for all the ways big and small you have shown up for us, for your loved ones and I pray above all else, for yourself.

Now that we have the scars of survival etched in our hearts, this is our roadmap to the turnaround. This is where the lessons learned, the gratitude gleaned, and the hope harvested move us beyond our collective healing.

This is where our survival becomes a revival.

We can’t prevent disaster but now we know whatever happens, we will get through it. 2020 tried everything in its power to stop us. It knocked us down more times than it lifted us, but we kept righting ourselves back to the life in front of us. To all those tiny, precious details we never had time to notice, until 2020 halted our motion and busyness and these little miracles were all we could see.

What beauty to know our strength is infinite and that together or apart, we are one.

Thank you for reading. May the year ahead provide us with all that is needed to grow our courage, cherish what matters, and cultivate love for ourselves and for one another.

marriage, motherhood

This Is The Way (of a Courageous Heart)

December 6, 2003

Within each family are the stories of shared memory. For example, ask T.Puzzle how the boys earned a day of ‘Unlimited Video Games But with Limits’ and you will hear a little bit about what makes our family tick. It’s a whole lot of teasing and humor with a generous dose of love.

Another such story that lives on as family legend is how Mad Dog broke up with me not once, but twice.

Twice.

I can find the humor in it now, but living through it at the time was anything but funny.

Not surprisingly, my boys find this fact to be hilarious.

As today marks the anniversary of our 17th year of marriage, I realized something. Following one’s heart is not without fear, but following it at all is enough to sustain you through life’s uncertainty.

While we were dating, Mad Dog was always honest with me that forever may not be in the cards for us. Through the course of our relationship I learned I was worthy of commitment and decided I would not settle for less.

Mad Dog clearly disagreed.

Not once. But twice.

Twice.

Then at some point, he had a change of heart and I was faced with a dilemma. Do I follow my heart or do I let this guy go once and for all?

I followed my heart.

My heart knew better than all the naysayers and it knew better when my head spouted fear and worry. I chose to live from the heart because I figured if it all blew up in my face, at least I wouldn’t have regrets.

I would never have to wonder ‘what if?’.

This is a life lesson I have carried with me. It has helped me leap forward when my head is adamant I stay still. It helped me know it was time to return to Florida. Moving during a pandemic in the middle of a school year is not the circumstance one dreams of when contemplating major life decisions. While all signs pointed to stay, my heart knew without question it was time to go.

This knowing, one might assume, would make life immune to hardship as if our gut instincts will shield us from adversity. Yet it has been quite the opposite. I can’t even begin to describe the stress and challenges we have faced in these past few months. We have fought, I have cried, there were quiet moments of genuine despair, and yet, we have not broken. We seem to weather each day as it comes, storms and all, and keep going. It’s as if these hurdles when woven together bind us closer as a family.

Through every up and down I continue to listen to the knowing within. Whatever happens, my hope is to never let a ‘what if’ define me or my life.

I would marry Mad Dog all over again.

No regrets.

Our anniversary sunrise. Worth every bit of the journey.