Monday, July 7, 2014

Swirling emotions, but joy prevails!

A lot of emotions have been swirling around in me the past 10 days or so.  I spent a lot of time with Randy’s family on a wonderful visit to the west coast.  It began with Bill and Marge’s 45th anniversary celebration in Carmel, California where I got more time with Randy’s nephew Drew, his wife Jess and daughters Emma and Nola, as well as Bill and Marge and their great friends, some of whom I’d met and some who are new friends!  

Then it was on to Portland/Vancouver on Monday where I had dinner with his niece Diana, her husband Dea and more adorable kiddos – Charlie and Hazel Jane, then spent all of the next day with them, even while they dug potatoes from their garden for dinner (I loved that!).


Both visits involved much talking, good food and drink, hugs and kisses and lots of pictures.  I loved being with Randy’s family and meeting “new” great-nieces and nephews!  Of course I missed him, especially at the anniversary celebration, but a kind friend pointed out that she knew he loved me and was there in spirit, which I felt.  Diana and I also talked about Randy quite a bit.

And on top of that, last Thursday was our wedding anniversary!  Nine years ago, Jim and Julie and the two of us were together in Glacier National Park for a beautiful ceremony on the shore of Two Medicine Lake.  It was a unique wedding, but hey, after 21 years of dating, just what we needed.  And at least I didn’t sweat on my wedding day, which was about my only demand!


Today is the 30th anniversary of our first date.  Not everyone tracks that date, but when you date as long as we did, it becomes a fairly significant date.  It hardly seems possible that it was 30 years ago, nor does the fact that August 11 is the five-year anniversary of his death. 

I have so many blessings in my life and I appreciate every one – family, friends, dogs, volunteering, etc. – the good Lord has certainly filled my life with a lot of love, which has eased the loss.  I am able to have joy and contentment in my life, along with love – all of which are so important.  I don’t know why things have happened like they did, but I am thankful to have had Randy in my life.  He taught me how to use humor to ease stressful situations –whether at work or at an airline counter or almost anywhere.  I think I taught him a few things too.  Together I felt like we made a good pair and I still feel like he is a part of me.  

Most certainly, when I make a joke with a total stranger I know he is there!  And when something nice happens to me, I want to tell him.  And when something crummy happens to me, I want to tell him.  I am thankful for all of you in my life who I tell instead (you might not be so happy about the crummy part J.)   Losing Randy is something I will never completely get over, because he will always be in my heart.




Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Perfect Beach Day - at least for me

We had a storm last night at the beach - from 4 a.m. to almost 7 it carried on with wind, rain, thunder and lightning (but thankfully no tornadoes like Arkansas had a day ago).  It's still cloudy and very windy with occasional rumbles of thunder.  A bit ago the dogs and I went for a long walk on the beach and it was beautiful and peaceful.  The waves were crashing in close and not another soul was on the beach - it felt like our private place.  This is exactly the picture I had four years ago when I decided that Sophie and I should find a cottage on the beach somewhere to grieve our loss of Randy.  I wasn't thinking of bright sunny days, but of days more like today - maybe more normal on a beach in New England or Nova Scotia.  Friends suggested that Lucy also go and I resisted.  Lucy was not as obedient or trustworthy as Sophie, who I could let off leash and know she would come back to me.  Plus it was Sophie and I together who had the stronger tie with Randy.

However, they went on to offer to come with me to help with Lucy (the joke was on them later!) and so that's how our first annual beach trip was born.  It was great fun, even with lots of sun, partly because we were early enough in the year to still have cooler days, which I appreciate and because I had friends with me.  Lucy wouldn't do what any of us wanted her to  - she wouldn't even walk with my friends without Sophie or me.  But it was still fun.  The next year we repeated the trip, just moving next door to a smaller house that was still big enough for us.  The third year I decided to leave Lucy at home and just take Sophie.  I could never have known that would be Sophie's last trip, as she would die unexpectedly a month later.  I will always be glad she was an only dog on that trip.  The fourth year there were only two humans, as one friend was gone to the Holy Lands.  And there was only Lucy.  I had Ellie Rose at the time, but she was only about 6 weeks old and her brother was also still with me.  So, both puppies stayed with their other brothers and sisters at another foster mama's place.  And now it's our fifth year and once again there are three people and two dogs - back where we started.  Ellie Rose is so very much like Sophie, although not as well behaved.  Lucy is better than she used to be, but still has her stubborn streak.  The friends are much the same!

Today my friends are outlet mall shopping.  Instead of going with them, I stayed here to enjoy the "bad" weather.  Getting out in the weather was perfect and immediately brought to mind the feelings I had which made me desire a beach getaway four plus years ago.  I had the girls on a long leash and even let them go a few times to chase birds.  The second time they ran a little too far for my comfort, but had stopped to sniff, so I was able to catch up with them (and deliver a small sermon, which they probably couldn't hear,  because of the wind - I'm sure they were thankful for that!).

Back at the beach house, both girls are pancaked and I can sit here and relish this day.  It may have taken four years and five trips, but God knew I needed exactly this kind of beach day to close the grief circle.  No tears have been shed because I rarely have those moments (I said rarely, not never), but I truly feel the completion of something that began four years ago.




It's a peaceful easy feeling (thank you Jack Tempchin!)...

Monday, April 28, 2014

Torn apart - in many ways

As tornadoes devastated much of central Arkansas last night, I "watched" via Facebook and the internet from our beach house in Fort Morgan, Alabama, where I am with my Lucy and Ellie Rose and two girlfriends.  During the night when I couldn't sleep, I again picked up my laptop to see the destruction via news reports, pictures and videos, along with the death toll of 11 at that time.  Facebook may have its naysayers and its problems, but I am thankful for this media, as I see friends report they are safe, even though this destructive force of nature came too near to them.  I am heartbroken for the people who lost friends and family and for so many who lost their homes and possibly everything they own.  And I am moved to tears by friends out of state expressing their concern and wanting us to report in that we are safe.

It all comes down to this - loving each other.  I know we will be hearing the stories from people who lost everything in this storm but still have their families so nothing else matters.  This reminds us that ours is a transient world which can be gone in the blink of an eye or the rumble of a storm.  None of us are safe, as terrible things happen to someone every day - whether through death, a cancer diagnosis, an accident with far-reaching consequences. But it all comes down to having people who love - whether they know you or not - and who will act on that love.  The outpouring of concern and money and clean-up - it will all restore our faith and our hope.  There is even already a Facebook page for  pets lost and found during this storm:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/644821885600924/
Of course that makes me sad, but happy that many will be safely reunited in the next few days.

I would never call this storm an act of God as I don't believe God acts in this way - a force of nature, yes, but an act of God - NO!  I believe completely that He lets things happen in this old world without intervening, most of the time.  I believe He answers prayers, but not always in the way we expect Him to.  If He did, there would be no one who didn't believe in a world of dial-a-prayer.  I believe He wants us to talk to Him every day, but not just asking for safety in storms, good health, success in work, that perfect relationship, etc.  It's so easy to turn to Him when we need things, as many people will after last night's storms in Arkansas.  To me, this is the only part of the storm that God likes - if more of His people talk to Him, I believe He is delighted.  And I totally believe that He will comfort every person who asks - often through the love of others, who are his Hands and Feet on this earth.

So, let's keep all affected folks in our prayers, as God will bless them and us for remembering He is always there and calling on him.  Keep them on your hearts and do what you can to be God on this earth - give money, work on clean up, donate according to needs - these are all acts of love.  And, last but not least, pray.  God loves to hear from his children.  And I am thankful for that.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Four Years Later - A Letter to Randy


                                                                                                            August 11, 2013
Dear Randy,

I cannot believe it’s been four years today since you left this earth.  I still think about you every day.  I miss your crazy sense of humor and your generosity and your smile, even in the midst of cancer.  I miss telling you about my day and I definitely miss the things you did that I can’t or don’t want to do – from dealing with electronics to paying bills to yard work.  And I could go on and on (and often do J)

It’s hard to ask others to help with the things I can’t do, so generally, I try to hire people to do things around the house.  Sometimes, I ask friends or neighbors for help and they are almost always more than willing to help and are very kind about it.  But everyone is busy with their own lives and not necessarily tuned into my needs – imagine that?  And when I feel like I’m intruding into their lives, I miss talking to you about that L.  You were such a good listener – you should have been the chaplain!

My life is much the same as when you were here, but different in a few ways.  Since our sweet Sophie is in heaven with you, I have a new puppy - Ellie Rose – rescued at a little over two weeks old.  She is five months old now and the light of my life, along with Lucy.  Usually there are a few foster dogs here as well.  You and I never thought about fostering or I think we would have done it, especially when you were healthy.  Without you, having a few extra dogs definitely seems to be right for me.  I’m pretty sure you would approve (well, except for the bed sharing!).

I focus a little more on my health, for several reasons.  I tell people that you often said, “Drugs should be for recreation,” so I worked to get off of prescription drugs.  I try to eat healthy and exercise and avoid chemicals whenever possible.  Some people may think I’m a little crazy, but thankfully, it works for me!

I’m volunteering as a chaplain at the Cancer Institute at UAMS, because it holds a special place in my heart.  They may not have saved your life, but they were part of giving you a little more quality and quantity, as was MD Anderson.  I will always be grateful to Dr. Colman and to Dr. Hutchins and their teams for what they did for us.

I’ve traveled some, but it's just not as much fun without you.  You were such a good travel agent and companion.  I hope to go to Rome next year while Amanda and family are there.  You probably know I am Nick’s godmother, which has given me so much joy.  I love staying connected to Amanda and the rest of the Wilcox family, especially because of your love for them and vice versa.  It is really important to me to stay close to the people who knew you and loved you.  I don’t see all of them as often as I’d like (even the local folks), but I appreciate them more than they will ever know.

I am thankful to God for the 25 years we had together and for the very positive impact you had on my life.  I will always miss you….  I will always love you.

Karen

Monday, July 1, 2013

Teary, but grateful...


Not sure why, but feeling pretty weepy tonight.  Part of it may be the new foster dog - Dumas.




He looks so much like Sophie, with a little blockier head, of course, since he is a boy, and a few white spots.  What a sweetheart he is. That's all I can figure, as it's been an otherwise good day, as most of my days are, thank God!  Cannot believe anyone left this gorgeous boy at a shelter.  Again, maybe that's a reason for the tears.  I am generally pretty positive about things, but the way people treat animals really gets me down at times....especially when one of them looks so much like my sweet Sophie girl.

All the other dogs are adjusting to Dumas.  Clover, the white pit mix foster loves him, but she leaves on Thursday.  Ellie Rose adores him and Lucy....well, Lucy is adapting and will love him in a day or two!

Of course I know that there is great mistreatment of many people in this world - babies, children, old folks and anyone who is "different" or cannot defend themselves.  It is all sad.  But I tend to concentrate on the positive most of the time.  Then sometimes it gets in my face and I just can't.  Or it stirs up those wonderful old memories buried in my heart.

So, tomorrow will be better.  Dumas will bring so much joy to us over the next month and I will be so in love that giving him up will be painful, but know it will be worth it for this great guy.  He is house broken and seems very well-behaved so far.  Who wouldn't want this guy in their lives?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Gone to the Dogs? That's not all bad!


I have been so very blessed to have wonderful, caring friends in most stages of my life.  I couldn’t have made it through some of the toughest times in my life without these dear friends.  And I’ve met an awful lot of nice people along the way.  But even with a lot of wonderful people in my life, my most recent volunteer experience has blown me away.  Since last August, I have been fostering dogs in Arkansas for Rescue Road.  These dogs end up riding transport north to New England to Last Hope K9 Rescue.  There are foster parents on both ends and adopters on the New England end (where they don’t have so many dogs, due to their strict spay and neuter laws).  We rescue dogs from kill shelters and also those who are abandoned – generally boxes of puppies abandoned at a few weeks old or less, generally requiring bottle feeding to survive. You might ask who would do such a thing?  I’m not sure I would want to know them personally, but I’ve learned that so many people are cruel to animals that it’s frightening for our world.

As foster parents, whether in Arkansas or Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont or Connecticut (or other states), we rarely know each other personally.  A few of us have met, but we mostly do not know each other’s political or religious beliefs or even sexual preference.  What we do know is that we all love dogs and are all intent on saving as many lives as we can.  We share our experiences and dog stories and pictures on a Facebook page open just to LHK9 fosters and adopters.  It’s where we seek advice about a particular issue or where we just encourage each other and share our love for individual dogs we may have fostered or for all of the dogs in general.  There are pit bulls and Labradors and Shepherds and mixes.  There are babies and seniors, some healthy and some not so much.  There are often dogs that have to undergo heartworm treatment and some who are recovering from injuries inflicted by downright mean or at least very negligent owners.

Last Hope also pulls dogs from other states and sometimes, dogs left in very bad situations.  Just this week, there was a skinny, scared dog chained to a Brooklyn, NY fire hydrant.  Again, who would do such a horrible thing?  A kind Department of Sanitation employee found her yesterday morning and sent pictures to his friends.  This went viral on Facebook and in e-mails and Last Hope agreed to take in this dog.  Yesterday, she went to a local veterinary office to spend the night and receive medical care.  Today, Last Hope co-founder Rachele Huelsman and adoption coordinator Lindsay LaRocca drove from Boston to NYC to rescue Liberty.  She is now in a 48-hour quarantine, required by Massachusetts’s law for every dog who crosses the state line.  Along the way, they posted pics and Miss Liberty seemed to be completely trusting and comfortable in her new situation.  Us crazy dog people are following her and relishing in the miracle of her life.  If you want to be inspired, just like the Lady Liberty: My Freedom from Trash to Treasure on Facebook.
I wanted to write about this not just because of the amazing dog rescue stories and people, but because of the unique relationships we have for each other as human beings who share a common goal.  Some of us became Facebook friends because we’ve shared certain dogs or experiences and we have learned to respect and care for each other even more because of this.  Or we may just connect on the Last Hope Foster page, but we do everything we can to encourage and support each other.  I have never seen so many on Facebook postings as I do on this page.  The love is obvious and not just for the dogs!

So, we may be very different people with possibly little else in common, but our love for these animals binds us together in a very special way. It is truly an inspiring thing and one I sincerely wish could be duplicated in more relationships and life situations.  In a world where differences cause us to spew hate and venom and/or tacky Facebook postings or worse toward those who disagree with or are different from us, a lot could be learned from this dog rescue group.  As a start, maybe Congress could take a lesson!

Want to be part of this amazing group?  If you’re in Arkansas, check out Rescue Road on Facebook – we desperately need fosters, for a few weeks at a time.  Also, go to Last Hope K9 Rescue to watch how it works.  A lot of dedicated people put in a lot of time to make all this happen and I am thankful for all of them (Melanie Stapleton, Chelsea Cameron to name a few in Arkansas and Rachele and Lindsay, plus Hannalore Allison Tice, Tina Muther-Hicks and Jill Monahan, along with others in Massachusetts).

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Addictions to be thankful for....PUPPIES!

I  am so thankful for so many things.  One unexpected blessing of the last few months has been the foster puppies that have shared life with Lucy and me.

Having had seven different puppies at my house, I can testify that they help ease any sadness that happens to be lying around.  When I started fostering (after Sophie had been gone for three months), I still had many moments of grief for my best girl ever.  I can honestly say that I still shed a few tears occasionally and always will miss her, but having had some puppies around has definitely eased that pain.  Most of these puppies have reminded me of her (all have LOVED their food like she did) and all have shown complete and total love, which has filled up my heart. And yes, the sneaky moments still hit when I miss Randy desperately and seeking out a puppy or two to snuggle is very comforting.  I think he would approve.

I would highly recommend this "therapy" for any of you who might be in the market for a little extra love, due to any reason.  It may be that the holidays are not going to be what you want them to be (I don't think the Norman Rockwell family exists anymore) or that you've lost a precious person or animal in your life or...well, you name it.  Snuggling with puppies and knowing you are an important part of saving them? There is just nothing like it (and I think it's been good for Lucy as well!).


There are many good foster organizations in the Little Rock area.  I am working with Rescue Road, 
whose mission is to redirect happy, healthy, adoptable dogs in high-kill shelters into other networks to find their forever families.

Normally, I foster for two to three weeks, then "my" dog(s) travel north and find their forever homes, thanks to Last Hope K9 Rescue.  With my latest pups (part of an abandoned litter at only three weeks old), I am keeping them longer, since they can't ride the bus north until they are nine weeks old. 


Many friends have asked how I can give them up.  I won't lie to you.  It is hard.  I cry my eyes out for the first few minutes after I put them on the bus.  But knowing I helped save them and that they are headed to a new home (and never to a shelter again), plus knowing there are more who need me - all of this makes that time of sadness well worth it.  I finally came to terms with the fact that all they need is someone to love them and care for them for a lifetime...and that doesn't have to be me!



Fostering has filled my heart with so much joy and I am so very thankful.  If you'd like to get in on this incredible opportunity, please e-mail melanies@rescueroad.org.


Wishing you so many things to be thankful for...  Happy Thanksgiving!