Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Life's Happenings

Well, I have certainly fallen behind in my postings. Lots has happened since the end of June!

The biggest event for me is that Jenny moved back to Austin. It is wonderful having her minutes rather than hours away! She's teaching in an area school district and seems to be happy to be among family and old friends. We're more than delighted to have her near!

Zeke was extremely relieved to be back with me. We've had to work on some health issues regarding his skin and coat. With the help of my special vet/friend, we seem to be making good progress. Zeke is on a special diet (minimal ingredients, high protein, no grain) to help avoid allergy issues. He is behaving in especially positive ways, and we are enjoying our time together more than ever. Zeke is even content going to work with me and just resting on my office floor as I work. As long as he can see or hear me, all is well. I'm relieved and blessed to have him back in my home. After the first of the year, we will hit the agility courses again, and I can't wait!

This fall, he and I attended the Celtic Festival here in Austin. My Jen was so thoughtful to join us as was good friend Rox. It was a treat to watch Zeke's parents, grandparents, siblings participate in herding exercises. Joy Sebastian is an amazing herding specialist, and her dogs are beautiful to behold. Joy enjoyed seeing Zeke, and he had a chance to observe masters at work!

In August, Caleb and I completed the Divine Canine Therapy Dog training, and we are now a certified team.  The training, our classmates and instructor made this one of the most important activities I've ever completed.  As of now, we've put in about 14 hours volunteering at facilities, schools and events; and we've also participated in some walks. It has been a joy to meet numbers of people and their dogs. Our favorite activity has been Caleb's job as a Barking Book Buddy. Once per week, we go to a neighborhood school, and Caleb listens as two students read to him--each of them have their own half hour. Those students show some pretty special smiles when we walk them to and from their classrooms to the library! Clearly, Caleb outweighs both of them, but he is such a gentle giant that they are completely comfortable in his presence. It appears that they enjoy the attention they receive from their classmates because they have a giant Barking Book Buddy! And seeing the residents' eyes light up when we enter a facility is something that makes me smile all day.

My family and friends have been understanding and supportive through this process. Just look at this photo! Can you believe they all gave up a Saturday morning's sleep to be there for us? It was a very special day, and it meant the world to me to see my family and friends there cheering us on. My dear friend, Amarante, had already left when this photo was taken. I have to say that he has been indescribably supportive through this experience. He gave me a beautiful piece of pottery to mark the occasion. Such a caring friend.

Now that I'm writing, I realize how much I've missed this blog. Time just gets away from us, I suppose. I did have surgery on my right hand, and that cramped my style for a few weeks. Now that I'm on a minimal splint, I'm able to easily type again, and that's a relief. Caleb spent most of today at the vet's office. He and Iris were playing their usual game of morning chase, and he twisted, pulled or somehow injured his left hind leg. Thankfully, x-rays show no skeletal damage. He is on limited activities and medications for 7 days. As I write, Caleb is sitting and moaning at the back door because squirrels and cats are running around out back without his supervision! I'm certain that he would want you to know that it's especially difficult to be Caleb right now!

Tomorrow is what our girls always called Christmas Eve Eve. My dear friend, Pamela, is coming over during the day. She enjoys coming over to visit and spending time with the pups. I think she has an especially soft spot for Iris, and that's nice. Jen will be around here tomorrow, and Amanda, James and Jonah will be arriving tomorrow night. Our entire family will be together for Christmas Eve Day. This year, we will go to Kate and Joe's for our celebration. Spencer is doing so well, growing and advancing, but it is less complicated if we just let him stay in his own environment with all he needs. Logan adapts and just loves being with everyone! There is always next year to be back over at my house. I'm just happy we'll all be together.

One last thought before I close for the night. My precious sister-in-law, Lana, has been battling the return of ovarian cancer. I'll be honest--it has been a frightening journey. Today she received some good news. The numbers from the lab tests showed that the cancer cells were down rather than up. That's enough to make us all thankful. Lana has been a sister, good friend, and confidant over the years. I love her very much, and I hope you'll join me in praying and hoping for her health.

Merry Christmas. I hope your holiday is everything you want it to be and more!

Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance. 
                                                                                                                                - St. Francis of Assisi

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Life has been busy...

Things are looking up for the Lutringer clan. Jonah Mark Hughes was born on Wednesday, June 16. He's a healthy boy! Everyone is well and they went home from the hospital on Friday, June 18. Amanda went into labor late Tuesday night. I was able to drive to Houston and made it for his birth. In fact, I was standing right beside my Amanda Grace and we saw him together. James was so proud...completely in awe, but so proud!

Amanda has handled this enormous change in her life with ease. It is a joy to see her so happy being a mom to little Jonah!
This photo says it all, don't you think?

Can you believe that I now have 3 grandsons? Just think how much fun it will be around here on holidays and at family gatherings! Blessings all around us, and we are ever thankful.

Spencer Thomas has been home for over a month now. He has had a checkup and all is well. Kate is one amazing mama the way she has looked after him and maintained balance with her family. I believe she told me that Spencer now weighs 9 1/2 pounds...go Spencer! And Logan is busy as always. He has grown tall and is looking less like a toddler by the day. He is taking swimming lessons this summer, and I'm going to observe Friday. Maybe I can get some good photos!

Another good turn of events has occurred. Jenny will be teaching in the Lake Travis Independent School District this coming year. Of course, that means that she'll be moving from Forth Worth back down to this area. Kate, Jen, Amanda and I are thrilled that it will be easier to have all of us together. And I'm excited for Jen to have a new opportunity in a different area, plus she will be in a beautiful part of Texas. Being the outdoors person she is, this will be a great spot for her.

Caleb and I completed Canine Good Citizen class a week ago, and we took part in the official CGC test yesterday. The instructors out at Lee Mannix Center are all helpful, kind and supportive. I'm sure Paul could tell I was more nervous than Caleb. He was right there reminding me what was needed, and Caleb was a superstar and passed with flying colors! Now we'll go on the therapy-specific training so that he can move into being an official therapy dog. Progress! And I know for a fact that Lee must be proud. He saw something special in Caleb and encouraged me along the way with his training. On top of that, Caleb will want to find Jyl to do his pyr dance with her. Long story, but Jyl knows what I mean. :)

Zeke has returned home to us. He spent 3 months with a loving family in Mobile, Alabama and was loved by 3 generations of that family. Bless his heart, Zeke just could not adapt to life away from home (me), and was declining physically and seemed depressed. His sweet foster mom and I drove to meet each other. Needless to say, Zeke was glad to see me. He greeted me and jumped over my shoulder to get in the front passenger seat of my 4Runner! That told us that we'd made the right decision. I appreciate all of the love the R family gave him during a time I was too busy to be there for him. Something good came from this because now I have some very special friends in Mobile, Alabama!

Zeke will begin a series of tutor days with the trainers at LMCCB and then we'll move on to classes and eventually back into agility. I loved working agility with him, and, now that things have settled down, I'm looking forward to getting back into it.

I'll be off work this week. Tuesday is my birthday, and it looks like I'll be able to spend some time with Jen, Kate, Spencer and Logan. No big plans other than to rest and catch up with home projects. Time to kick back and take it easy. With these new changes in our family, I'm guessing I'll find it easy to sleep well. Mark must be proud, don't you think?

Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony.   ~Mahatma Ghandi

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Time to catch up...

It doesn't seem possible that it has been over a month since I last wrote. Funny how time seems to fly when one is busy. First of all, I must share some wonderful news. Spencer Thomas Brown left the hospital and went home with his family on Tuesday, May 4, 2010! He is well over 6 pounds and visibly growing each day. Here is the link to a short video Kate placed on Facebook. What a handsome boy, yes?!/video/video.php?v=387823166450

On April 13, Logan turned 3! He is a big boy, and he had a great birthday party. We enjoy our time together when he stays over here. In particular, he likes the livestock tanks I have in the back yard. He likes to feed the goldfish and play in the water with his boats. Oh, and he has his own set of garden tools, and he loves to dig holes for me...such a good helper!

Here's a shot of me with my first-born daughter, Kate. How did I get so short?  I wonder if she has any idea how much I respect and admire her? The journey with Spencer has been such a challenge yet she kept going a step at a time, day by day.

And here is a picture of Kate, Joe and Logan at the birthday party. A happy family.

On April 27, I drove to Houston to attend a baby shower for our youngest daughter, Amanda Grace. She is healthy, happy and very pregnant! Jonah Mark is due in mid-June.  I'll  definitely be driving back to Houston for his arrival! It is such a joy to be around Amanda--she is happy and, best of all, she laughs all the time! She has a lovely in-law family who adore her and offer support. As a mom, that's a nice reassurance when your daughter is a couple of hours away. Here is a snapshot of Jenny, me, Amanda and James.

And here is a shot of the sisters, tired from the day's events but obviously enjoying each other. Kate couldn't be with us because Spencer was still in the hospital, and she needed to be with him. Just think of the good times we have waiting now that we're going to have 3 little boys running around!

Iris began her Tricks and Triumphs class last week. She has been an outstanding student--eager to learn, happy and energetic. Of course, once she gets in the car after class, she falls right to sleep. This class was created by 2 of the awesome trainers at the Lee Mannix Center for Canine Behavior--Jyl and Inka. It was developed for dogs that are extremely shy, have social issues, physical handicaps or have been mistreated earlier in their lives.

Most of you know my little Iris came to me in December 2008 from a puppy mill where she had apparently never been out of a cage. Her nails were grown in circles, she had very little hair, she could not stand on her own and she was terrified! That little girl was 10 months old and had never known happiness. Well, over time, that has all changed. Iris is a happy girl and rejoices in life. She still lacks confidence in new situations, thus the class. After only 2 classes, she now runs through tunnels, jumps through a hoop, walks a maze, walks a raised dog walk, walks over a horizontal ladder and sits at others' commands rather than just mine. This may seem silly to some, but if you had seen this little baby a year and a half ago and then saw her now, you wouldn't know she is the same dog. This is why I am active in rescue. To bring happiness to a little creature is beyond's life changing.

Caleb was a rescue as well, and he has blossomed. He was sick when I adopted him at 8 weeks of age and 26 pounds. He is now 9 months old and 96 pounds. No doubt in my mind, Caleb is the happiest dog in the world. Everyone is his friend...everyone! On May 16 we will begin his Canine Good Citizen class which will then lead to Therapy Dog certification. After that, we will visit hospitals, nursing homes, schools and anywhere we're needed. I've wanted to do that ever since I lost Mark.  It seems  that if we can bring smiles to faces and help people forget they are in pain, then we can make a tiny bit  of a difference. 

Watching Iris and Caleb together is quite entertaining. Iris loves to instigate a game of chase because, after all, she can take short cuts and go places Caleb cannot. They are best  buddies, and the neighbors love it when we go for walks because they are quite a sight with such enormous size differences. Here is a recent photo of them together on the deck.

 On a sad note, the world lost a very special person on May 2, 2010--Lee Mannix, the Dogfather, mentor to many, a genius at understanding dogs and an incredibly kind, loving man. I first met him early in 2009. He taught me how to read my dogs' behaviors. And, before I realized it, we were friends.

I remember one day in particular after we had finished the first session of an agility class with Zeke, he asked me to sit and talk awhile.  Lee had piercing blue eyes and there was no way to avoid his gaze. He said that he would "sure as hell like to know who or what broke my heart." My eyes immediately filled with tears, and I realized that he could truly read me. I told him about the love I shared with Mark, how we began so young and on to losing him at the age of 54. He told me about a book that he wanted me to read, and then went on to talk to me about working with dogs. Lee assured me, actually promised me, that I would find profound healing if I would really throw myself into working with dogs.

That fall, he gave me a scholarship to attend his annual 3-day dog camp always held around Halloween at a Wimberley resort ranch. That weekend was the beginning of an enormous change in me. Caleb was only 3 months old, yet he was awarded the overall award for Best Parlor Tricks because we had learned so much at camp!  Lee was adamant that Caleb is an old soul who has come back to teach us something--if he said it once, he said it a dozen times.  He really believed that, and, now, so do I. Another profound experience--one day, when I was out at the center with Iris, Lee sat beside me on the couch there in the office. Iris, who had been afraid of all men, left my lap and crawled into Lee's. He began singing to her and stroking her fur. Iris clearly felt safe with Lee--almost unbelievable. I'll always remember that day.

I know I've written about much of this before, but it matters so much to me that I pay tribute to this larger-than-life man, Lee Mannix. I will always be grateful that I was given the opportunity to know and learn from him. Rather than remaining sad at Lee's death, I will be thankful for his friendship and lessons. He will live on in my mind and heart, and I will continue to support his center and the gifted trainers that intend to carry on his legacy. Godspeed, Lee.

My garden is bursting with flowers--poppies, roses, rudbeckia, coneflowers, yarrow, larkspur, day lilies, and, my favorite, irises. Butterflies are aplenty out there, and it is a comforting exercise at the beginning and end of the day to just go out and browse, touch and smell the flowers. Those few minutes can offer a great deal of perspective.

God is good in so many ways.

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.  ~Kahlil Gibran

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

God is good. Many of us already knew that, but it's always nice for reassurance. Spencer is thriving...growing and gaining strength by the day. He is now in a fancy, crib with a musical mobile, an attached toy that shows moving animals, projects light and plays music, and an assortment of other things. It is apparent that he is receiving optimal care and is likely the favorite for quite a few of the nurses! When you couple all of that the devotion of his loving parents...well, no wonder he is doing so well! Yesterday, his weight was 4 lb 14 oz.  More than double his birth weight. Go, Spencer!

Last night, Kate and I went to the hospital together. After she had held him for awhile, she stood up and handed him over to me! What an experience! I felt blessed to be entrusted to hold that tiny person. He was opening his eyes off and on, stretching, making noises...Spencer is precious and eager to live.

And it felt like such a privilege to spend an extended bit of quiet time in the NICU with Kate and Spencer. Oh, sure, I've been up there often as I can, yet this was different. Maybe the Saturday night quietness, Spencer's improvement, Kate's calmness all contributed. The fact that she was willing to open her heart and share him with me in that way meant more than I can ever say.

I have been so proud of her as I watch her walk this journey with her baby. The calm yet determined focus she has maintained is impressive. I was able to get this sweet shot of her talking to her son.

Here is one more shot that will show just how healthy Spencer has become. As I said, God is good! Many thanks to all of you offering prayers, support, prayer chains, etc. You've been a positive presence and have helped tremendously. Hopefully, Spencer will continue to grow and thrive until his projected release in mid May. I'll definitely continue the updates because there is a lot more work for this little guy! My love to each of you.

Now, on to other things...
Zeke is gradually becoming settled in his new home. He and his new person, Titus, have bonded. Zeke has been taught to shake with left and right paws, find hidden treats among a group of inverted cups, loose leash walk, sleep in bed with Titus, and the list goes on! Zeke lives with a loving, gentle, soft-spoken family with three generations to love him. They said that he regularly goes in the car with Titus, they jog each day, he accompanies Titus to social gatherings and has even unearthed a possum living under a set of steps. I know he is going through adjustments because I have been as well, I missed him so much at first that I continually doubted my decision. Now, I am certain that all will be well. As my special friend, Jyl, told me--Zeke  has someone solely devoted to him. And we all know that is really what a Border Collie needs and, more importantly, deserves!  Connie, his new mom, has been quite gracious about staying in touch about Zeke's progress. Another thing that Jyl told me is that once Zeke realizes that he is no longer waiting for me, it will kick in that he is in his permanent new home and life is good. From the progress Titus has made in the first 3 weeks with Zeke, I'm more than impressed with his dedication and devotion to that pup. I'll always miss my Zeke, but I feel better knowing that he has Titus.

Last weekend, I took Caleb, my 8-month old Great Pyrenees/Anatolian Shepherd pup, to a rescue fund raiser.  It was a lot of fun with lots of nice people and dogs. In fact, Laurie, who adopted my very first foster dog about 5 years ago, was there with her two dogs, and we had a chance to visit and let the dogs socialize. Since the event was the weekend  before Easter and lots of families were expected, there was an Easter bunny there to interact with the children, take photos with dogs, and to add to the happy atmosphere. He/she approached us to greet Caleb.  When I told him to sit, he did...after he took two steps back and sat behind me! A couple of times, he stretched his neck around the side of my legs, but it was clear that he wanted no part of that bunny! A group of people were observing and chuckling at the fact that a 90-pound pup was afraid of an Easter bunny. The interaction with lots of people, children and other dogs was good for him. He and I begin Canine Good Citizen class in mid May. I'm looking forward to the work and watching him develop special skills. He is the sweetest dog and always seems to have a muppet smile on his face.

Iris. Well, the little princess is really gaining trust. This photo was taken after a long walk. It appears that she has claimed my red leather chair as her throne! When she, Caleb and I were on that walk in the neighborhood this evening, we stopped to chat with some other rescue neighbors. Iris actually let the gentleman bend over and pet her, and she showed no cowering or fear. I praised her lavishly! What a huge step for her...especially to let an unknown man touch her. She is accustomed to the wonderful staff in our office at UT. Mando is especially tender to her, and frequently talks to her and bends down to her level to show affection, and the lovely and gentle Maia does the same. Their work has contributed to Iris' growth, and I appreciate it!

On April 28, Iris and I will begin Tricks and Triumphs class out at the Mannix Center. This course  was developed for handicapped, abused, and/or wallflower dogs. As hard as it is to imagine, Iris was the recipient of abuse and neglect the first ten months of her life--then she was brought to me--that was December of '08, and I can't even describe the progress she has made. And I have learned so much from her. I've always been a large dog person, but Iris and I were definitely meant to be together, and she has as much love and spunk as the largest of creatures. My friends call her my velcro dog because she always wants to be near me. Anyway, this class will provide the ideal environment for her to build more trust and confidence. My hope is that Iris will be interested and willing to participate in small dog agility later on. Zeke and I had fun with agility, and I love the exercise and general environment. Time will tell, I suppose, but I have faith in Iris.

A busy week awaits me. My garden is thriving and loaded with blooms--I'll include some photos with my next posting. Thanks for reading...have a good week.

My little dog - a heartbeat at my feet.  ~Edith Wharton

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A brief note...

Taking a quick break to add a new photo. Spencer is over 4 pounds now and progressing very well. Minimal oxygen support and Kate gets to hold him more and more as time goes by. My Kate is really special, isn't she? Spencer is a fortunate little boy to have such a strong mom. God works in mysterious ways, yes?

Thanks to everyone for their ongoing prayers, good thoughts and support. You've made such a difference to our family! More info soon.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Monday, March 15, 2010

Look at Spencer

Happy Monday.  I have lots  of things to write about, but those will wait until later. Look at this photo of Spencer! What a boy! The last weight I heard was 3 lbs. 7 oz.--getting up there! And this is the first time I've seen him in actual clothing. Kate has been amazing through this experience, and Spencer's steady improvements are evidence of what a good mom he has!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

On the way to spring break...

First of all, I must report that Spencer is doing well. His feedings have been increased and supplemented with fortifier and he is progressing, growing and showing us that he means business. The last weight I heard was 3 lbs, 3 ozs. What a miracle...that precious baby has made it clear that he intends to stay around for a long time. 

Spring is beginning to show its face everywhere. Here is an iris from my front garden--my favorite flower.  They appear to be so fragile and delicate yet they are deceptively tough. In fact, that is why I named my little rescue girl Iris, and she is living up to the expectation!
Thankfully, this weekend will bring the change to daylight savings time. I'm looking forward to more daylight at the end of my workday. And next week will be spring break here at the university. I'll be working but only part-time and from home. If the weather cooperates, there should be plenty of outdoor time for gardening, the pups and Logan! My hope is to have at least a small to moderate vegetable/herb garden by the end of next week. Time will tell.

An important event will occur on Sunday, March 14. My beautiful border collie, Zeke, will be joining a new family. As any of my regular followers know, I adore that dog, and we've had many wonderful times together. With the changes in our family and more time needed with the grandsons, I just don't have enough time to keep Zeke engaged the way he deserves. This decision was made with a heavy heart...he is such a buddy to me. But--it made me sad to look out to the back yard on my hectic days and watch him running patterns around the yard looking for a job. I love him too much to see him without regular structured activity. He is going to join a lovely family in Mobile, Alabama. They are kind and soft spoken with multiple generations to welcome Zeke into their family. His primary caretaker will be a young man who is physically active and on the go. Zeke will adore being by this gentleman's side. We will meet Sunday, and if all goes well, Zeke will go home with them. This special family has promised to stay in touch and let me know how Zeke is doing, and I will pass it on here for those of you interested. 

For years, Mark always loved to sit cross-legged in the middle of the bed and rub my back at night till l fell asleep. I think it made him happy to realize I had finally relaxed for the day. Since his passing, whenever I dream of him, he is sitting in that same position on the bed and talking to me. One night, I went to bed particularly sad about giving up Zeke. He said to me, "Katherine, please understand that this is how it is supposed to be. You were chosen as Zeke's caretaker to prepare him for his transition to this new family. They are now ready and able to care for him, so please try to feel happy that he is going to such a good place." I awoke with chills because it felt so real. Even better, it created a calm within me and relieved a lot of apparent guilt I was carrying around. Zeke is a magnificent border collie, and I know this family will instantly fall in love with him and continue to cherish him and celebrate his presence in their lives.

Well, lunch is over. Time to close. More soon, I'm sure. Thanks for listening.

Hope is that thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops... at all.  ~Emily Dickinson

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday, February 28

It appears that Spencer is gaining strength. Kate just sent a message that he has grown from 13 inches to 15 1/4 in length and his head has grown from 9 1/4 to 10 inches in circumference. Last weight I heard was 2 lbs, 13ozs. It appears that he is busy growing...after all, he has places to go and people to see, yes? Thanks to everyone for all of the good wishes, prayers, phone calls, e-mails and notes. Those things make such a difference.

Between work, helping with Logan and the usual life stuff, I've not had time to write much lately. I have been working out in the yard to prepare for the spring growth and noticed that bluebonnets have re-seeded from last year. Mark always set such store in having bluebonnets, and that must have affected me. I was so happy to see the re-seeded plants--made this feel more like home, and that's a good thing.

Also been spending time with the pups. Caleb is now almost 90 pounds at 7 months of age. This should be interesting, don't you think? I'm so grateful for their companionship. It seems that they help me stay grounded and somewhat sane.

To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring - it was peace.  ~Milan Kundera

Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday, February 22

Our Spencer is hanging on and fighting...just what we hoped he would do. If I understand correctly, he has two infections in his throat, one is staph, and I can't pronounce the other! The docs are hoping that the subsequent x-rays will show that the pneumonia is subsiding, too. Evidently, there is a lag time between healing and proof on film. Time will tell, I suppose. Spencer is also being treated for a fungal infection. So, you see, his little body is working overtime. Other than telling you that we are optimistic and praying for him, there isn't much else to tell today. So many of ya'll are so thoughtful about checking in that I thought it only right to give you a bit of an update.

Tomorrow, I'll have the pleasure of Logan's company. I'll pick him up from school and he'll stay overnight with me. The pups will be ecstatic to see him. And, if the schedule holds, he will also be with me Friday night and most of the day Saturday. What a lucky Lulu am I. :)

The weather was wonderfully mild this past weekend. I spent most of it outdoors--mowing the yard, pulling weeds, cleaning the deck, working on the vegetable garden area, and the list goes on. I was tired in the back this morning but it was oh, so worth it! And I have bluebonnets that have reseeded from last year. That was a great surprise.  Now that the bluebonnets are settled, I can safely call this home. Seriously though--Mark loved having bluebonnets, and it makes me smile to have them. Keeps his memory a bit closer.

Wonder if we will indeed have ice and/or snow tomorrow?

I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love.  For me they are the role model for being alive.  ~Gilda Radner

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fat Tuesday!

There isn't a lot to tell about Spencer right now except that he is doing well. He is on an antibiotic to fight what they believe is a mild infection, and he is responding as expected. I believe that little boy is as strong as they come! Here are a couple of photos.

Yesterday was Mark's 60th birthday. Those days are bittersweet for me. While I certainly celebrate his birth and existence, I miss his presence. Of course, I'm grateful for the 37 years we shared, yet I crave his company. At times like this I need to be certain that I stay physically and mentally busy. Not only do I accomplish things, staying occupied helps to ease through the tougher days. In the words he wrote to have read at his memorial service, Mark said, "Mary Kay, I love you now and forever." That expresses how I feel about him as well.

Logan spent Saturday night at my house, and we had a lot of fun. He is always a big help in caring for the dogs and making certain they are fed and loved. While we were running errands, we stopped at Zinger's Hardware. I bought a Radio Flyer scooter that Logan rode at the store and, after we got it home, all over the house and front driveway. The scooter will remain at my place so all of the boys can enjoy it. Doesn't that sound funny? All of the boys? I have 3 grandsons, wow! Well, of course, Jonah is still in incubation, but he will be here in June. Life is wonderful, isn't it?

There are only two ways to live your life. One as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.   
 ~Albert Einstein

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Time to heal from surgery

Spencer's surgery appears to have been successful. They clamped the duct that was allowing his oxygenated and nonoxygenated bloods to mix rather than follow their proper paths. The doc said that the little guy may have a couple of rough days ahead as his body adjusts to the proper flow of blood and oxygen. He sounded quite positive and gave the impression that improvements should be apparent within a matter of days. See? All of the love, good thoughts and prayers helped! God is watching over our little Spencer, and we are all grateful for your support. I'm so thankful for all of you, my beloved friends! It was a challenging day...time to rest for now.

The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, not to worry about the future, or not to anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.  ~Buddha

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A new development in the Spencer story...

Kate called this evening to let me know the docs have decided it's best to go in and repair the opening in Spencer's heart. Once the heart is able to function properly, his body will be able to fully use or process the oxygen appropriately and efficiently. Keep in mind that I'm not a medic, so my explanations are likely incomplete at best. A nice thing happened today...Kate held Spencer for the first time. And yesterday, he opened his eyes for the first time. I couldn't resist including a couple of photos here. Kate's loving smile as she holds him is beautiful. There is no mistaking a mother's love for her baby. Can you feel the love I have for my daughter and grandson? I hope so.

Around 1:00 tomorrow, please keep little Spencer in your thoughts and prayers. That is the scheduled time for his surgery. They anticipate that the procedure will take about 30 minutes. I'll be there with Kate, but we're asking for all of the prayers, positive thoughts and good energy that anyone has to offer.

I have a feeling that in a couple of years, all of this will be a distant memory to us as we watch a healthy, robust Spencer run and play. We just have to keep the faith and persevere through these challenging times.

What a grand thing, to be loved! What a grander thing still, to love!  ~Victor Hugo


StoryPeople send out a "Story of the Day," and this is what I received this morning:

Today all I could remember was the way your body held the ocean of my self & for a moment there was only one us in all creation. ~StoryPeople

How many times did Mark and I feel that way? Too many to count, I'm sure! Time continues to pass, and he is always in my thoughts. Even though I miss him, I'll keep reminding myself that we had many years together and that is something to celebrate.

The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in.  ~Morrie Schwartz

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Things are looking up...

A good day--Spencer opened his eyes for the first time! Funny all of the things we take for granted until something unexpected happens. That blessed little boy is fighting away for his life. He is now up to 2 lbs 2 oz. He has regained all of the weight he lost plus 2 oz, and that is a good sign. Spencer was also changed to a less aggressive ventilator today. The docs are watching the duct in his heart to see if it closes the rest of the way on its own. If not, it's possible he may be facing heart surgery. No matter the course, Spencer is in God's hands, and he will survive--I just know it!

I really don't have much else to say today. After seeing Spencer in the hospital and having dinner with Kate, Joe and Logan, I feel like everyone is safe and going to be all right. May sound melodramatic, but this has been a tough road to travel. Perhaps Mark is helping to usher us through this obstacle course of life.

Time to rest for awhile. More soon. Thanks for reading...

I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish that He didn't trust me so much.  ~Mother Teresa

Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday morning

As far as I can tell, God is watching over my beautiful and Kate and her tiny Spencer. I think these two photos say it all.

People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.  –Elizabeth Kubler Ross

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thursday night...

Our little Spencer is hanging in there like the tough guy he is. The docs did order a ventilator today so that he could rest instead of spending all of his time working on breathing. He looks good, had another blood transfusion today and is remaining stable. Now that the C-pap is off, it's easy to see how handsome he is! What an amazing tiny boy. Hopefully, he can feel all of the love surrounding him.

Hope provides strength and life.
Hope is the handlebars of life we hold on to in life.
It is a process… 
author unknown 
(sent to me by a very special friend--thanks, CK) 


Spencer is holding his own this morning. He continues with the CPAP (a little mask that intermittently provides puffs of oxygen), which means that is he still breathing on his own with only a little assistance. The docs have given him some surfectant to aid his lungs' functions. Spencer is really something to watch. As I stood by his bassinet in the NICU last night, I was in complete awe. Thank God, literally, for miracles. We all have a lot to learn from this little boy. What a gift to our family! We appreciate the prayers, good thoughts and energy...they are obviously helping! Bless you for caring. More info soon.

The journey is the reward.   Chinese Proverb

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


It was a good day for Spencer yesterday. In his photo, he appears to be doing some praying of his own! Kate was able to touch him last night.  Bless her heart, I'm sure that was an emotional moment.

Kate just called to tell me that he has been diagnosed with an intestinal  infection. The nurse assured her that it will be treated aggressively and that 20% of all preemies get it. Kate is understandably distressed but she is hanging in there and maintaining a positive attitude. She will go home from the hospital tomorrow. I imagine she'll have mixed feelings--after all, she misses Logan and being with him, but it will be difficult for her to be so far away from Spencer. We'll all have to pitch in to help her feel like it's manageable. For the next few months, my daily routine will include visiting our precious Spencer.

Logan will stay with me again today, and we'll meet his Aunt Robin at the hospital later this afternoon so that he can go home with her. He has been with me since Sunday, and it will be good for him to have play time with his young cousin and friends.

In an hour, Logan and I will be going out to the Mannix Center to meet with Lee and Jyl regarding a plan for Zeke. Guess I'd better get him out of pajamas and into street clothes.  Likely I'll have updates after seeing Spencer, Kate and Joe this evening. Keep those prayers coming--they're working!

Once you choose hope, anything's possible.   Christopher Reeve

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tiny Spencer

Spencer is holding his ground...still breathing on his own and stable vitals. He is so tiny yet has made an enormous impact on our family. We all love him and are doing all we can to help him feel that love! When Logan and I went to the hospital today, I was relieved to see Kate looking so much better. Sure, her color was better, but there seemed to be a peacefulness in her eyes. It must be painful for a mom to experience that sort of delivery with complications. I'm sure it's hard not to take on responsibility and hurt about it. There is one thing I can state as a fact: Kate Lutringer Brown is an exceptional mom. She takes full responsibility for her children whether they be in utero or walking about. I hope she knows in her head and in her heart that this just happened...she was not the cause. It's difficult to understand why there have to be crises such as this, so perhaps we shouldn't spend energy trying to figure out why...just deal with what is in front of us and carry on the best we can.

After being on autopilot since this began Sunday morning, I had not let myself feel much emotion because I wanted to be sure Logan, Kate and Joe were all right. As I was leaving the NICU this evening, a gigantic wave of emotion and pain enveloped me. One of the NICU nurses saw me and gave me a long, reassuring hug. She kept saying that this was going to turn out well. What she didn't know was that part of the hurt was Mark's absence. I've made it through a lot on my own, but tonight I wanted more than anything to have him here to hold me and understand.

Tomorrow, I have an appointment with my special dog people. They are going to help me develop a plan to find a better home for my Zeke. Since moving to this smaller house and yard, he has become extremely nervous about keeping up with the neighborhood activities and continually runs back and forth between the east and west gates--over and over again. It makes me tear up just to think about having to give him up, but I love my dogs too much to see them frustrated and anxious. With my job and other obligations, it is almost impossible for me to work in enough activity for him. Now that Spencer has entered the world, my responsibilities have broadened further. Perhaps I'd been sensing that something was in the works and that is why I've been thinking about this situation with Zeke for the past few weeks. Lee and Jyl will steer me in the right direction, I'm sure of it. As a dear friend said to me yesterday, it will be difficult but it will be the right thing to do and I will feel better once I've done what I feel is best for Zeke. I'm sure he's right. Thanks, Paul.

Everyone reading this, please pause now and offer a prayer of hope and healing for Spencer. Thank you.

We long for an affection altogether ignorant of our faults.  Heaven has accorded this to us in the uncritical canine attachment.  ~George Eliot

Monday, January 25, 2010

Spencer Thomas Brown

My second grandson, Spencer Thomas Brown, was born at 9:58 yesterday morning, 1-24-10. He is  incredibly beautiful. There is one catch in this process...his due date was 5-13-10, meaning that he was born at 24 weeks and 4 days. He weighs 2 pounds and is 13 inches long. For a short period of time after birth, he needed some assistance but has been breathing on his own since. He will remain in the North Austin Medical Center NICU for an extended period, and he is receiving the best of care. I am grateful that I'll be able to continue visiting Spencer in NICU.

When I see him in his little bed, sleeping, moving his tiny hands and feet, it is impossible to describe the obvious presence of a miracle! God is good. I'm hoping that others will join us in offering prayers for his survival.

Kate, as always, is strong and determined. I admire that young woman. Aside from the unconditional love that a mom has for her daughter, I see a strong, willful, kind, loving human being. I know Spencer's early arrival has been frightening for her, and she must feel helpless.

Logan is staying with me for a few days, and I hope that it helps her to know he is here playing with the dogs, taking walks and playing outdoors. Of course, we will make trips up to the hospital to visit mom and dad, too. Jenny and Paul are coming by this afternoon to take Logan to play at the park and expend some energy. He will love that, and I can already hear the laughter! It was a good coincidence that Amanda and James were here this weekend, and Jenny joined us yesterday afternoon. How special it felt to have all of the girls together.

Times like this emphasize the importance of family. It is much harder to not have Mark physically present with me, but perhaps his absence here means that he will be able to help Spencer. As a friend of mine mentioned yesterday, we all know that Spencer has a special angel watching over him.

Every person is a God in embryo. Its only desire is to be born.
  Deepak Chopra

Monday, January 18, 2010

A nice 3-day weekend...

I talked with all 3 of my girls over the weekend. By this time next year, I'll have 3 grandsons! Guess I'd better double up on the vitamins now! Last Thursday, Amanda and James learned that their little one will be a boy--Jonah Mark. I think that's a lovely name and it's nice to see Mark honored. Yesterday, Jen and I were laughing about next Christmas and how much fun it will be. As I understand it, Kate and Joe are still talking about names for Logan's little brother. Miracles! I'm so grateful...God is good.

Zeke and I had our second Agility II class yesterday. It seems that many of the dogs were in a fog of sorts, and they were all watching each other needing reminders to stay on task. We all have days like that, yes? The weather has been sort of funky and that may have affected their concentration, but it was still a good class. Zeke was comical on his first trip through the chute. It had become twisted, and he had to roll his way through it. Other classmates were laughing and talking about how cute he can be. Gosh, he even did the teeter without falling off and easily jumped 36 inches. So, in spite of appearing to lack focus, he accomplished a lot!

When we head home after each class, it's obvious that Zeke has enjoyed himself and used some energy. He always curls up and nods off...calm and relaxed. And I leave there feeling that we've spent the morning in a good way. Nice people, loved pets, learning more about agility and a terrific instructor.

On Saturday, I took Zeke and Caleb walking around Town Lake. It was a lot of fun especially because it was such a beautiful, sunny day. Caleb was being his normal, goofy Great Pyrenees puppy self. When extra friendly dogs would greet us, Caleb would do a pyr dance as if asking them if they wanted to play. Those of you reading this with pyrs in your life, you know the pyr dance. It's entertaining and can make your heart smile in an instant, right? Zeke was in his usual Border Collie mode, watching and keeping track of all the dogs. Because of that, he was pulling on his lead, and that's not the way it should be. I'll begin taking them separately so that I can work on specific tasks and techniques. Caleb is only 6 months old (even though he already weighs 70 pounds!) and he needs particular instruction as well. And I can always use double exercise.

Funny how life works. Lately, it feels as if Mark passed ages and ages ago instead of 5 1/2 years. I  still, and always will, miss him. Yet, life goes on. Often times, I have conflicting feelings about moving on. For the most part, I'm dealing pretty well. Moving to a different house near more people has been the most beneficial thing I've done thus far. We were together for so long, and it's still weird doing everything on my own. Even after all of this time, I still miss sharing with him.

For this spring (early spring, actually), I have 3 projects of sorts: 1) continue with detailed dog training continuing agility for Zeke and therapy work for Caleb; 2) finish a couple of gift quilts; 3) create a vegetable garden on the west side of my driveway--herbs, veggies and perennials. It would be great to have home-grown food, and I love to share! All 3 of these projects are time consuming but each one has a time frame that is important.

And, of course, Iris continues to be the tiny princess of our domain. Bit by bit, she is coming out of her shell and learning to trust people. It is heartwarming to see. Going to work with me the past couple of weeks made a big difference. As time and Iris permit, I will begin training with her. Wouldn't she be terrific at small dog agility? I suppose we shouldn't tell her about the "small dog" designation, because she obviously sees herself as anything but "small!" And she actually would likely be a great therapy dog as well. She's small enough to be a lap dog for elderly people and would be an entertainer if she mastered parlor tricks. We'll see. Time will tell.

I'm thankful to have so many good people and my loving dogs in my life.

My goal in life is to be as good of a person my dog already thinks I am.  ~Author Unknown

Monday, January 4, 2010

A new year begins

Look at our beautiful family!
Our holidays were nice...really nice. Kellie, Paul and Mayson came by on Christmas Eve, and they had a chance to visit with James and Amanda, too. It was wonderful having the girls, sons-in-law, grandson, friends and pups all together on Christmas Day. We had lots of laughter, good food and genuine affection flowing through the day. As Jenny pointed out, it made Mark's absence more profound, yet we all know he was there with us. It would have been nice to have him in person with that wonderful smile. I miss him.

Logan has grown some impressive muscles and was more than happy to show me. Rest assured I feel much safer knowing how strong he is! He also had a lot of other things to tell me. Gosh, how I love that little guy.

Amanda and James received a special gift from Jenny--bride and groom Christmas ornaments. They are great. A frog bride and a frog groom! One of Mark's favorite songs was "I'm in love with a big blue frog."  Peter, Paul and Mary, I believe. Seeing those ornaments brought back happy memories. Seeing Amanda and James happy and settled is nice, and hearing them talk about baby preparations made everyone smile. There is an ultrasound scheduled for the 14th, so perhaps we'll know the gender by then. Healthy is all that matters.

On Christmas Eve, Jenny suggested a new tradition, and it was a blast. Jen, Paul, Amanda, James, Kate, Logan, Zeke, Caleb and I gathered together and walked the 3-mile loop around Town Lake. It was extremely cold with gusting wind, but we laughed and talked the entire time. Afterward, we went to Torchy's Tacos and ate outdoors around the firepit. We think we want to make this a regular activity for Christmas Eve. No matter what we do, Jenny finds a way to make everyone laugh!

Sarah Rothband Rosanky, my best friend since early high school, came over on Christmas Day. It was fun to have her there, and she really enjoyed seeing all of the girls and Logan. In fact, that was her first introduction to James, and she hadn't seen Logan in a long time. We couldn't resist a photo op!

I wrote earlier about Pearl's passing. As with any loss, it takes time to adjust. Little Iris is lost without her. She'll be coming to work with me a lot these next couple of weeks, and that will ease the transition. It's part of life, but it is hard not to feel sorry for Iris when she goes running in my studio for her snuggles and Pearl is no longer there.  
Caleb and Zeke appear to know...somehow they just seem to understand.  Here is a moving photo I took of Caleb snuggled up to Pearl just a day before she passed.

Caleb and I completed a condensed puppy class especially designed for rescues. Aside from meeting other people and their pups, it was helpful having the classes in a compressed time. Caleb seemed to enjoy it and thrived in the atmosphere. He was, of course, the star of the class, and the trainer used him for most of the examples. With the unusually laid back personality, everyone was taken to him and it was easy to teach new commands. One of our classmates, Amanda, called him a rock star!

This coming Sunday, Zeke and I begin Agility II. I'm always amazed when I watch that beautiful Border Collie at work. He watches me continually only wanting to please. Zeke is a special companion, and we do exceptionally well at outdoor activities. Sunday mornings at the Mannix Center will provide welcome doses of calm reinforcement for Zeke, and I always enjoy being there!

Over the past year, I have transformed the clean, simple, succulent planting beds in the front yard to a lush butterfly garden. There are some additions I want to make, but I'm quite pleased and my neighbors have been thrilled. The strip of lawn on the left side of the driveway has been primarily bermuda grass and weeds. I'm planning to cultivate that into a vegetable and herb garden. It would be healthy and beneficial to have fresh herbs and veggies on hand. The back yard, with the 2 large pecan trees, doesn't get enough sun. Plus, can you imagine how much fun Caleb would have with vegetable plants?  I'll begin simply and expand as time and energy permit.
 This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun, and all the animals. ~ Walt Whitman ~

Friday, January 1, 2010

Goodbye to Pearl

Yesterday I had to say goodbye to Pearl, my beloved elderly Great Pyrenees.  Her arthritic condition had been worsening and she lost critical strength in her back legs. In addition to not being able to do things she wanted to do for fun, she had become unable to handle some basic movements in order to have quality of life.

It was an extremely difficult decision, but my vet, who is a good friend and a terrific doctor for my pups, talked it through with me. We decided that it was time to let her go.

Many of my friends have loved her over the years, and they completely understand the grief I feel. The most important fact that continues to dominate my thoughts is how I was indeed fortunate and blessed to have this beautiful creature in my life for almost ten years. And, let's not forget, she was Mark's princess. Pearl was a special girl--always there in her quiet, strong way. With all of life's ups and downs over the past 6+ years, she was always there for me and ready with her special affection--she loved to rub her face in my hair! I trust she has found Mark and Opal by now and is free of pain. Rest well, Princess Pearl.

You think dogs will not be in heaven?  I tell you, they will be there long before any of us.  
 ~Robert Louis Stevenson