Thursday, December 22, 2011

Holidays are upon us...

Jen and Brian are officially engaged! Theirs is such a sweet love story, and I'm elated for them. The wedding will be on August 4 at a terrific place on the San Gabriel River. Jen and I have made some dress hunting forays, and it seems that she is close to a decision. Just a glance of a photo of those two together will prove that they are meant to be...period. Welcome to the family Brian!

As we all know the holidays are almost here. Can't wait to share Christmas with my adorable grandsons, and I'm quite excited that I'll see Jen and Brian on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day! We've already discussed what activities we'll do--maybe walk Town Lake, definitely go to 34th Street to check out the lights, eat chili, maybe watch a movie--who knows, but I'm certain it will be fun and we'll have lots to smile about. Kate, Joe, Logan and Spencer will join us after naps on Christmas Day. There will be family time, opening gifts and sharing Christmas dinner.  Hopefully, we'll see Amanda, James and Jonah a few weeks after Christmas, but gosh, we will miss them until then.

Today is the last day of 2011 for UT employees as the university will close down until January 3. I'm looking forward to time off for rest and recreation. Asher and I have plans to walk the lake each day, and we'll also work on tricks that he has been learning. Caleb Lee and I will go to St. David's Rehab Hospital on Thursday, and, as always, both of us will leave there feeling richer than when we arrived.  And Caleb will have Canine Good Citizen recertification on January 8. Having the holiday break, we'll be able to brush up on the required test commands. I'm sure he'll pass with flying colors.

Oh, and speaking of the university--when I return on January 3, I will have 20 working days until I retire! Nice, eh? I'm looking forward to rest, my own schedule, time to truly garden and enough hours to actually do some in-depth training with Asher. A close friend (and my hair stylist), Eric, has been encouraging me to get a few chickens. Quite a few of my friends have them, and, aside from the initial setup, they are fairly low maintenance, affectionately interactive and give great eggs.  I've been interested in them for awhile now, but I'll have to think about that some more. Everyone who really knows me understands that I can never have too many animals around!

A bittersweet change--Moxie Lou has gone to her new family. Fostering rescues is incredibly rewarding, but it is understandable when love and affection grow between the rescued dog and the foster parent. I love Moxie Lou, and it was hard to let her go, yet it makes my heart sing with joy when I see her with her new mom, Mindy. They are a match meant to be!  Thank you, Mindy, for opening your life to Moxie.

Last night, I had a phone conversation with a long-time friend. Did you notice I didn't say "old" friend? : )  Fact is we've been friends since we were about 14 years old. It is such a blessing to have people in one's life that are consistent, supportive and loving, and this dear man is all of those and more. He understands me in a special way, and, when we connect after not being in touch for awhile, we simply pick up where we left off. It's very comfortable. We must have talked for over an hour--about our kids, grandchildren, our dogs, our high school years, Mark, retirement and much more. It's a stretch for both of us to believe we're actually old enough to have all of this life experience and additional generations! I didn't realize that I was a bit down before we talked, but I certainly noticed that I was in a great mood after. Thank you, Bobby!

2012 is looking like it will be a good year...let's see how it goes.

Be well,

A true friend is the best possession.
 Benjamin Franklin

Friday, October 7, 2011

Catching up

I had lunch with a special friend yesterday, and she asked me if I had been writing in my blog. With a look of surprise, I told her I hadn't even thought about it! This has been an eventful summer, and it's past time that I make note of it.

First of all, sadness with gratitude. My beloved sister-in-law, Lana Lutringer, passed away July 30 from ovarian cancer. We had an incredibly close relationship over many years.  Often we would joke about how close we were and how we seemed to have our own language--after all, being married to one of the Lutringer men takes a special sort of understanding, right? We loved each other dearly, and her passing left such a big open space in my heart. I am thankful, however, for the closeness we shared. Gosh, I can't begin to count the times we shared laughter, tears, elation, sadness and every other emotion you can imagine. We kept each others secrets and always shared a tender affection. Thank you, Lana, for being a sister, friend, confidant and pal to me. You always had my back and supported me through the most painful and happy times of my life. I love you. Godspeed, dear one.

Then comes work...two positions were eliminated in the Dept of Theatre and Dance--mine and the Grad Program Coordinator. It was a complete shock to many of us, but there was no choice but to face it. Since ending my employment in July as originally planned by the chair of the dept would be only 6 months prior to my eligibility for full retirement, one of the assistant deans stepped in and offered the same position in her office through January. Therefore, as of February 1, I will be retired!  While I have been looking forward to eventual retirement, having my position eliminated due to budget cuts and reorganization seemed completely surreal. Now that I've had some time to process (along with 7 weeks off), I'm getting closer to actual joy and celebration. Since I'd been with the dept for over 17 years, I've had a lot of support, numerous lunch invitations, visits, and loving care from many friends and colleagues. Michael and Adam were right there for me the instant the news was out. They were angry at the treatment I received, supportive, loving and ready to fight for me. Wow, little did I know when I first met them as students in the mid-90's that they would be permanent presences in my life. Blessings tenfold! Also, Jen and Amanda understood my confusion and how I felt suddenly uprooted. They called me often, and Jen treated me to Harry Potter! Now I'm looking at this shift as an opportunity for me--I honestly believe that a door has been opened and it's up to me to bravely step through it. And I'll have lots of time to spend with my grandsons and work with the pups in various ways.

And speaking of grandsons...this is a snapshot of my youngest, Jonah Mark Hughes. He turned one year old in June! Special, yes? He is one very busy little boy! It is an understatement to say that Jonah has a terrific mom. As Michael mentioned one day, Amanda is an inspiration to many. She has built, step by step, a healthy life and cares for her amazing son with grace and determination. What a girl!

Caleb continues to thrive in the Divine Canine therapy work. Since I last wrote, we have made visits to Fort Hood (to visit with injured and PTSD soldiers). In fact, his photo was used in the intro of an article about Divine Canines' Fort Hood work in Haute Dog Magazine! We also made numerous visits to St. David's Rehab Hospital, the Children's Shelter and the Acute Unit at Austin State Hospital. It is heartwarming to witness the impact Caleb has on the patients and staff at these places. When his Divine Canine vest comes out in preparation for a visit, Caleb immediately shifts to a focused demeanor and posture. I'll get a newer photo up soon so you can see how beautiful he is at 123 pounds. He loves his work! I'm so grateful to God for Caleb Lee's presence in my life.

In addition to the fulfillment the Divine Canine work brings to Caleb and me, some wonderful, positive people have entered my life. Our friendships feel as if we've known each other for many years, and we are quite protective and affectionate toward one another's dogs. I've learned a lot from each of them, and I treasure the time we share. One of the more comical ones, Alice, stated that the adventures she and I share should be considered for a reality show! She's likely right on the mark with that one! We laugh and laugh and laugh--good medicine!

Iris is still the princess of the house--if you don't believe me, just ask her! She had some corrective surgery this summer, and it has helped immensely. She is no longer plagued by the recurring infections and seems to have even more energy to boss the boy dogs! They always give in to her, and it is comical to watch!

Asher and I are in two classes at this time. One of them is fieldwork which is about distance control and following commands while away and/or off leash from me. Last Saturday, we did air scenting. The trainer covered Asher's eyes while I hid in the woods, then she would send him to find me. To say he had fun would be an understatement! The pure joy in his face when he would locate me--so happy! The other class is a foundations class with focus on agility. We're having a good time in that one, too, and he is a favorite of the instructors. He's just so expressive that it's hard not to smile when he looks at you! Both classes offer the two of us an avenue for regular physical activity and terrific interactions with nice people. When Greg (my vet) told me I hit the jackpot with Asher, I wasn't sure what he meant. Now I know. That pup is like a fullback--solid muscle, endurance and determination. I've not had a Catahoula Leopard dog before, and it has been fascinating to learn about them. I'm, indeed, fortunate. The good Lord has blessed me with 3 very different pups that fill different needs in my life. How could I be so lucky?

Right now, I also have a foster girl, Moxie, staying with me. She is a Great Pyrenees mix that was dumped by her family. Neighbors had been seeing her around a neighborhood for a few weeks, and they were finally able to coax her in, and I was contacted because I'm known for working with pyrs. Happily, I went to get her and brought her in to our home. Poor girl is heartworm positive, hasn't been spayed and I'm pretty certain she has had a litter of pups. The vet estimates she's about a year and a half old. Texas Great Pyrenees Rescue is a strong advocate for pyrs, and they have agreed to let her into the group--I will foster her and TGPR will cover her medical bills. Once she is hale and hearty, she will be eligible for adoption--only to a very special, loving family!

Words of appreciation to someone special. One of my long-time friends has been an incredible help to me for a very long time now. Whether I was sad or happy, ill or well, this beautiful woman repeatedly reminded me that she was only a phone call away. During the initial shock of the UT changes, she propped me up, joined my anger and frustration and stayed in touch daily. She understood the trauma of losing such a large piece of my existence. Looking back over the years I realize that there is no way to measure what we've been to each other. I remember when Mark was having his very first biopsy, she found me in the Seton waiting room to bring a bag of healthy snacks for me to have during our Seton stay.  When I went into a fog after Mark's passing, she gave me my space but was never far away--never. She and I have laughed and cried over many events in our lives. This lovely person understands my dogs' roles in my life, and she rejoices in the happiness and laughter the pups provide. Like a number of my friends, she has a special fondness for Iris. For those of you reading this who know Iris, I'm sure you understand.  I'm fortunate that I don't have to imagine my life without this special friend. Thank you, Dana. I love you.

Well, I'll wrap up for now. There's always more to say, but then there's always tomorrow, right? Thanks for reading.  Be well.

He is my other eyes that can see above the clouds; my other ears that hear above the winds. He is the part of me that can reach out into the sea. He has told me a thousand times over that I am his reason for being; by the way he rests against my leg; by the way he thumps his tail at my smallest smile; by the way he shows his hurt when I leave without taking him. (I think it makes him sick with worry when he is not along to care for me.) When I am wrong, he is delighted to forgive. When I am angry, he clowns to make me smile. When I am happy, he is joy unbounded. When I am a fool, he ignores it. When I succeed, he brags. Without him, I am only another man. With him, I am all-powerful. He is loyalty itself. He has taught me the meaning of devotion. With him, I know a secret comfort and a private peace. He has brought me understanding where before I was ignorant. His head on my knee can heal my human hurts. His presence by my side is protection against my fears of dark and unknown things. He has promised to wait for me... whenever... wherever - in case I need him. And I expect I will - as I always have. He is just my dog.  - Gene Hill 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Some thoughts...

A special friend forwarded this to me. He said that many of the suggestions reminded him of me and my mindset. All I know is that this elderly lady has a lot of good things to say. I hope you enjoy.
Written by Regina Brett, 90 years old, of the Plain Dealer, Cleveland , Ohio .
To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most requested column I've ever written. My odometer rolled over to 90, so here is the column once more:

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.
5. Pay off your credit cards every month.
6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.
8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.
10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.
12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.
13. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.
15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.
16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
17. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.
18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.
19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.
20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.
21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.
23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.
24. The most important sex organ is the brain.
25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.
26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words 'In five years, will this matter?'
27. Always choose life.
28. Forgive everyone everything.
29. What other people think of you is none of your business.
30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.
31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
32. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
33. Believe in miracles.
34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.
35. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.
36. Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.
37. Your children get only one childhood.
38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.
41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
42. The best is yet to come...
43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
44. Yield.
45. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.
Friends are the family that we choose.

Make it a wonderful life!

It is never too late to be what you might have been. ~ George Eliot

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spring is here...

After all of my good intentions, I fell behind again in my postings. The fact that I'm so busy is good, yet I really want to keep my friends up to date. It's hard to believe that Logan will be 4 years old tomorrow! He's such a wonderful human being, and I'm so blessed to have him in my life. This past Saturday, Kate and Joe had a birthday party for him at the park, and we all rode Sophie the Train! It was a lot of fun to watch Logan in his element--he is very interested in trains. And it was reassuring to see how much Spencer has grown lately. He is such a sweet little boy, and it was delightful watching him "dance" in the dried leaves! He was grinning and wiggling like it was the best thing in the world at that moment.

To backtrack a bit, I lost Zeke this past January. Perhaps that's why I delayed writing. His demeanor and physical characteristics pointed to some sort of neurological disorder or perhaps brain tumor. My wonderful friend/vet convinced me that I needed to let him go. Just a few days prior to that, Zeke and I had an incredibly terrific run through the agility courses out at the training center. I'll always be thankful that he had that opportunity to be joyful and run free. It was hard to let him go, and I've had lots of support from friends.

I did know that I was going to eventually look for a dog that would enjoy agility and physical activity such as hiking and camping. Well, on February 15 (Mark's birthday) a member of the rescue group who gave me Caleb called--he said that he had heard that I lost my agility partner and asked if I would consider just looking at a pup. I did meet the puppy, gave it a day's thought and then adopted him. His name is Asher, he is 1/2 Catahoula Leopard dog and 1/2 Australian Shepherd, and he is a joyful addition to our household. It seems as if he has springs in his legs and smiles in his heart. We're now in puppy basic training and will advance to field work. After field work, we will be able to get into agility! Asher certainly doesn't replace Zeke, yet having him in the family keeps me more physically and mentally active. Above is a photo of Logan and Asher taken a few weeks ago. They are already good buddies!

Caleb and I have continued our Divine Canine Therapy work. He is exceptionally good with the young ones at the Children's Shelter. The toddlers enjoy climbing on him, and he is gentle as ever. We've also continued some visits to a nursing home. It's sweet when we walk in the door--all of the residents know his name on site, but not mine! That's the way it should be. A new venue for him was a rehabilitation hospital where the patients' conditions varied from minor to lack of response. With each patient, he was quiet, calm and did his job. All of the nurses and doctors were taking photos of him so they could show their families about the big white dog they met! The best part is that we received many smiles and left there feeling that we had made a difference.

The weather has been beautiful and my flowers are all ablaze! A former student came to visit last Saturday, and he said that he didn't even need house numbers because he knew it was my house when he saw all of the flowers! Ultimate compliment, I'd say. There was a rain shower night before last but we need lots more rain. I believe the weatherman reported that our area is already 3 inches behind what would be a healthy level for this time of year. Rain dances, anyone?

Speaking of former students--I saw two of my most special ones last week. Michael met me for lunch on Friday just after landing in Austin, and the best part of this is that he will be here all week! Then, on Saturday, Shannon came to the house. I'd not seen Shannon in a long time--perhaps 9 years. We had lots to talk about and truly enjoyed catching up. I'm so thankful that he had the time to spend with me.

Our little Jonah will be here this weekend--haven't seen him since Christmas! It's a lot of fun to talk on the phone with Amanda because I can hear Jonah's squealing, laughing and talking! On Saturday, we're all going to converge on Kate's house for a family gathering. What photo ops having all 3 grandsons together on a spring day, right?

My sister, Ruth Creigh, and I have been in touch lately. How much fun it has been to laugh and talk about the happy memories. And, as many people know, our family had some extremely sad events over the years. Somehow knowing that we can at least be in contact and care about one another has been a big boost for me, and I honestly believe it has had the same effect on her. This morning she offered to send me some photographs that another sister had given her after our mother passed away. It will be terrific to see photos of my growing up no matter when the photos were taken. I only have a couple of myself when I was young, so this will be fun for me. Perhaps the girls will enjoy them, too.

I'll sign off for now, but with my renewed energy of late, don't be surprised if I write more often now!

Be well. 

People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.    ~Abraham Lincoln