blog

Doggie Dangers

This Halloween I wanted to get away from the hundreds of trick or treaters who descend upon our neighborhood. Some are respectful, while others drop candy wrappers, and treats along the sidewalk near our home. For days afterwards, our beagle, gobbles as many discarded goodies he can find, including chocolates.

In order to avoid a potentially dangerous situation for our pet, my husband and I decided to take Buddy camping at Johnathan Dickinson State Park in south Florida. Herb suggested I bring candy to the campsite. “After all, some trick or treaters might show up at the park.”

As any good wife would do, I packed a bag of assorted miniature chocolates. (Even though I knew we would be eating all of them.)

Our first night at the park was special. The campground was located near the Atlantic and we appreciated the cool ocean breeze. Although the sparse trees gave little shade, we marveled at the beauty of the night sky.

When our campfire was reduced to embers, we took Buddy for his last walk of the day. Outside the community shower-house we noticed a huge toad sitting in front of a Pepsi machine. “That toad looks like it’s trying to decide if it wants to drink Pepsi or Mountain Dew,” Herb chuckled.

By the time I snapped a photo, the toad had hopped around to the side of the machine. It was very sensitive to our presence.

Soon a neighboring camper joined us. “Keep your dog away from that toad. It’s poisonous.”

Lucky for us, Buddy didn’t approach Mr. Toad. Still, we were thankful for the information and walked on.

The next day we asked a ranger about the toad at the Pepsi machine. She informed us several Bufo toads live under the machine. They come out at night to catch the insects attracted by the light. They are very dangerous and dogs can die within minutes of licking a Bufo toad. Although the park staff has tried to get rid of them, they keep coming back.

Herb and I were shocked. In our efforts to protect Buddy from “dangerous trick or treaters,” we put him square in the path of a deadly toad!

We were successful in keeping Buddy away from the Bufo toads for the rest of our long weekend. As we drove home we congratulated each other for being such good pet owners.

Then Monday came. Herb noticed Buddy licking his doggie lips on their morning walk. He reached in Buddy’s mouth and pulled out a bubblegum wrapper. Sigh

For more information about Bufo toads and dogs click here.

Fallen Leaves

When I bend low in autumn

to gather fallen leaves

Each one holds a memory

I’m longing to retrieve.

My childhood home before me,

the window up above,

where I beheld each season

the maple tree I loved.

Mother was a gardner

raising corn for harvest.

Father was a builder

with wood and brick an artist.

We children ruled a kingdom

in summer we would seek

to exercise our power

over crawdads in the creek.

The golden leaves speak clearly

of fireflies in jars.

Dreaming by the campfire

and watching shooting stars.

Then the leaves fall silent.

Their voices disappear

Now rise as word on paper

to speak in later years.

The Buzz about Busyness

“Hello, how are you?”

“Busier than I’d like to be.”

Is this your response when you meet a friend? Everyone’s busy. In fact, our culture becomes busier everyday. As Americans we’ve become a nation of multi-taskers who find it difficult to wait at a stoplight without texting.

Our schedules are so crowded we’re uncomfortable with down time. We link our self-importance to our level of activity. The thought of too many blank spaces on our calendar makes us feel unneeded. We complicate our lives further by projecting our self-image through social media. We are addicted to non-stop interaction in a virtual world.

Even before the rise of Facebook, I was busy. As a mother of two children, mastering the ability to multi-task helped me survive the demands on my day. When I got home from work, I usually prepared dinner while I helped my kids with their homework. As an elementary teacher, I became a pro at taking attendance, listening to morning announcements, and monitoring the students simultaneously. Every year I became more goal driven in my efforts to be a good teacher, mother, and church member. On Sunday mornings, after I sang with the worship team, I raced to help with children’s church. I was beyond busy…and eventually I burned out.

Retirement ushered in a major lifestyle change for me. After considering several creative interests, I decided to pursue one hobby—writing. I also cut back on my volunteer work. In this season of my life, my old self tries to make me feel guilty about how happy I am. (I’ve also discovered it’s impossible to multi-task while I write.)

Is all busyness bad?

Bees are busy. They work all day flitting from flower to flower collecting pollen in order to fulfill God’s plan. I’ve never seen a stressed-out bee. They’re focused on the one mission they were created to do. Like the bees, each one of us has God-given talents which he purposed for us to use. When we stray from our destiny, we flounder.

The busyness that’s bad is not the busyness of work, but the busyness that works hard at the wrong things.” —Kevin DeYoung, author of Crazy Busy.

In addition to working hard at the wrong thing, we can also work for the wrong reason. In my case, compliments from others about “what a good job I was doing” encouraged me to work harder, and take on more responsibilities. I was trying to please man more than God.

A familiar story comes to mind from Scripture. Jesus came to visit Mary and Martha. Upon his arrival, Martha was “distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.” She complained about Mary not helping her.

Jesus answered, “Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her.” Luke 10:41,42 (NIV)

Was Martha working hard at the wrong thing?

Was she working for the wrong reason?

Either way, Martha had not chosen what Jesus thought was best. She busied herself with what she thought was important, instead of spending time with him.

We cannot get off the treadmill of busyness until we make the decision to keep our relationship with God our number one priority. After all, isn’t that why he created us?

Dressed for Success

Whether we’re donning shorts and flip flops, or a suit and tie, most people choose how to dress depending upon their plans for the day. Our clothes contribute to our level of comfort and self-confidence. We wouldn’t fight a fire or a war without wearing the proper gear to protect ourselves.

One of my favorite passages of Scripture is found in 1 Samuel 17. Here we read the story of David and Goliath. It’s hard to imagine a small shepherd boy facing an angry giant. King Saul thought he would prepare David for battle by dressing him in his own tunic. “He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head.” v. 38. David could not move in this heavy armor and discarded it saying, “I cannot go in these, because I am not used to them.” Instead, he put five smooth stones in his shepherd’s bag and raced off to face the Philistine.

You know the rest of the story. David won the battle against Goliath by slinging only one stone, knocking his enemy to the ground. Then he finished Goliath off with the giant’s own sword.

I love this chapter because it expresses something I’ve known in my own life. It’s hard to succeed by wearing someone else’s armor. As a new teacher, I often felt inadequate. The task of managing an environment conducive to learning challenged me. I turned to veteran teachers for advice, which they freely gave. The more teachers I consulted, the more overwhelmed I became because each response was different.

Through prayer I began to reflect upon what skills I already possessed which could be transferred to my new challenge. You see, before I became a teacher I worked as a social worker with diverse groups of children who lived in the inner city of Columbus, Ohio. I remembered how I dealt with conflicts among the children through group discussion. I decided to do what I already knew how to do.

I began to conduct weekly “class meetings” to give the students an opportunity to air their grievances with one another. It worked. Although our “meetings” took up thirty minutes of instruction time each week, the children grew to understand how they could handle conflict on their own and didn’t always need me me to solve all of their squabbles. In addition, the children complimented one another for acts of kindness which built friendship within the class.

Although self-help books and advice from peers have their benefits, what works for others might not work for you. Like David, maybe God has already equipped you with the ability to handle a new challenge by using your skills from past experiences.

Saul wanted to help David. He couldn’t imagine anyone facing Goliath without an armor. But David knew something about himself. He knew he had already killed a lion and a bear with his slingshot. Why wouldn’t God help him now as he squared off with a ten foot Philistine?

All he needed was the right stone… and the same level of faith which carried him in the past. Imagine the conversations among the hundreds of Israelite soldiers who witnessed David’s victory. His success is still talked about today.

Dear reader, I hope this story encourages you whenever you’re feeling intimidated. Don’t compare yourself to others but use the combination of skills and talents that are uniquely yours. You will be dressed for success.

Butterfly Dreams

We all have times when inspiration ignites. At five a.m. this morning I felt the burning desire to write a post. In my in-between state of wakefulness, with my head still on the pillow I wondered…Why have I only posted one time this month?

I did a little mind traveling, remembering the events of the past three weeks. The words floated through my imagination in the form of a poem.

Maybe…

Maybe it was the broken dryer

and the mountains of laundry

that made it difficult to walk through the bedroom

after our anniversary hiatus to the Florida Keys.

Maybe…

it was the weeds in my garden

their ugly heads raised in defiance

and gnarly fists fastened

around the marigold stems

gasping for air

Maybe…

Maybe it was the hurricane which by-passed my state

but demanded my attention

with weather channel theatrics.

Maybe…

Maybe it was the sick dog

and the never ending schedule of medication

which made him pee on the floor.

Maybe…

Dear readers,

Inspiration is as fragile and illusive as a butterfly. The flutter of the butterfly’s wings can be heard any time of the day or night. (Some writers keep paper and pencil on their nightstands.) I know I’ve been all over the map with my posts this summer. I’ve learned I cannot force my writing into a schedule. That’s the beauty of creativity.

Have You Hugged Your Hound Today?

September 8 is National Hug Your Hound Day.

The past month has been a challenge for us. Our beagle, Buddy, started limping on three legs. His lameness required a visit to a vet neurologist. At first we wondered if he might be having another episode with degenerative disk disease, but an MRI showed he did not have a significant level of spinal pressure to warrant another surgery. Whew! We were glad to hear that information.

The neurologist prescribed prednisone and crate rest for four weeks. Buddy likes his bed, which we’ve placed in a small pen in our family room. So that’s where he’s been confined for the past three weeks. The treatment is working. Lately, when we’ve taken him out to do his “business” he hasn’t limped anymore.

During this time of strict rest, I really missed petting and hugging Buddy. I missed having him under foot whenever I cooked a meal. I missed long walks with him around the neighborhood. I can watch him sleep and hear him breathing over there in his pen, but life just isn’t the same. One more week to go.

I’ve learned how much I need my dog. Did you know owning a dog has lots of benefits for people? Here are a few:

  • Improved heart health (studies have linked owning a dog with lower blood pressure and reduced cholesterol)
  • Increased exercise
  • Weight loss
  • Improved social life (talking to neighbors who walk their dogs)
  • Reduced stress (spending a few minutes with your dog lowers anxiety)
  • Greater meaning and purpose to life.
  • Less depression
  • Prevention of allergies in children
  • Reduce doctor visits (especially among senior citizens)

Wow! Doesn’t this list inspire you to give your four legged friend a hug? Or if you don’t have the pleasure of owning a dog, you might consider the idea.

National Hug Your Hound Day is about observing the world from your dog’s point of view.

I share Buddy’s point of view in my book, Buddy the Beagle on Blueberry Street. The story follows his recovery from paralysis caused by a herniated disk in 2013. I appreciate this endorsement from our veterinarian, who helped us get through Buddy’s medical challenges.

“Buddy teaches us how to keep perspective and maintain a positive outlook on life no matter what the situation may be.” —Enrique G. Duprey, DVM

This post is for all of you dog lovers who continue to invest in the health of your pets. If they could speak human and thank you, they would! Dogs love unconditionally and inspire us to be better people. How has your dog enriched your life? Leave a comment.

When You’re Stuck in the Cone of Uncertainty

Like many Floridians, I am waiting and watching to see where Hurricane Dorian might make landfall. At the moment the storm could come onshore anywhere on the east coast between Jacksonville and Miami. Some weather forecasters call this the cone of uncertainty.

Sometimes I think the days prior to a hurricane are worse than the storm itself. Every storm season the same scenario unfolds. People do a lot of panic buying this time of year. We all rush to buy bottled water, batteries, and non-perishable food items. The grocery stores are crowded with anxious people wearing confused expressions. Hmm…don’t we still have a few cans of beans from last year, or have they expired?

After I moved to Orlando in 1989, I kept all of my supplies in a box for the purpose of always being ready. Over the years my supplies have dwindled, but I still have an emergency cooking kit complete with sterno. In thirty years, I’ve experienced four significant storms. Not a bad record. I’ve never had to light up my emergency kit.

So everyone wonders…how bad will it get? Is this our year for the “big one,” or is Dorian going to have a deadly effect on some other community? No one wishes trouble on residents of another state, but everyone breathes a sigh of relief if their hometown manages to escape the worst.

Anxiety hangs over most people in my town. I feel sorry for those who have to continue to perform their normal routines while they are under the cone of uncertainty. On the other hand, maybe the best way to deal with the stress is to concentrate on something else.

I ask myself, why do I feel anxious? The answer is always the same…because I have no control over what might happen in the future. Then I’m reminded, do I ever have control? When the weather is calm, do I have control? I act like the cone of uncertainty is something new, but don’t I always live under a cone of uncertainty?

Once again my spirit is convicted. Everyday I make plans for tomorrow, or next week, or next month, assuming everything will be the same. How foolish of me to forget, ultimately God is in control.

Proverbs 19:21 reads “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

Right now I’m taking a deep breath, and leaving tomorrow to HIm.