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.

The Coyote Comeback

Coyotes are on the move and coming to your backyard.

When I was growing up, my first encounter with a coyote happened while I watched TV. Like most kids during the fifties, I enjoyed Looney Tunes cartoons. One of my favorite shows starred Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner.

This cartoon was set in the Southwest American desert. In each episode Wile E. Coyote tried to catch Roadrunner, but was never successful. Wile E. built complex contraptions to try to catch his prey. His contraptions always failed, and Wile E. was the one who is injured. There was no dialogue between the two characters. The Coyote only communicated by holding up a written sign. The Roadrunner always raced by and said, “Beep Beep.” My siblings and I laughed at the slapstick humor.

My parents told me television could influence a person’s thinking. Because of this cartoon, I imagined coyotes only lived in the desert, and weren’t very smart. Both assumptions are false. Today I’ve discovered coyotes are very intelligent. In fact they are one of the most skilled survivors in the animal kingdom. (After all, no matter how many times Wile E. Coyote’s master plans failed, he always lived and returned for another episode.)

In a similar way, coyotes have made a huge comeback in America due to their adaptable behavior. Despite human efforts to eradicate them, coyotes have learned to live in a variety of habitats, from snowy mountain ranges, to big cities. In fact they are now found in all of Florida’s 67 counties.

Recently many coyotes have been sighted in Orlando. Early one morning in April, Herb spotted one walking down the street. He kept a tight hold on Buddy’s leash while the large animal ran to a nearby retention pond. Buddy froze and stared, but did not make a sound. Perhaps he considered Mr. Coyote a distant cousin since they are both members of the dog family.

This spring several coyotes have also been sighted in the park area around Lake Baldwin. My neighbor saw one a few days ago and shot this picture.

Over the past month, there seem to be fewer and fewer rabbits running through the marshy areas around the lake. Coyotes love rabbits but will eat anything, including pets. You can imagine the raised eyebrows when somebody’s cat didn’t come home one night.

It seems like there is nothing we can do to get rid of these unwelcome visitors. The local wildlife commission has no plan to remove them and only advises pet owners to keep their pets inside or on a short leash. Attempts to trap and remove them to other locations have failed to keep the rising population under control.

A dog park is located on the opposite shore of Lake Baldwin. People let their dogs run free on the property because it is fenced. Be on the alert dog owners. Coyotes can swim. There is nothing to stop one from entering the dog park.

All is not lost, friends and neighbors. At least coyotes are very clean animals. They actually bury their excrement. So if you discover a pile of poop on the sidewalk, it was probably Fido’s and left behind by a human.

I have to say I am somewhat alarmed that a pet eating mammal roams through our neighborhood. I’m also concerned that we are expected to accept the idea that “coyotes are here to stay.” Wile E. Coyote has triumphed at last. He may not have outsmarted Roadrunner, but he has outwitted man.

Musings from My Garden

Growth is the result of forces working together…

I’ve waged war with killer snails. I’ve celebrated the birth of marigold seedlings. This is my first backyard experience growing Sunpatiens and the plants are out of control.

True to their name, Sunpatiens love sun. They also like heat, humidity, and lots of water. All of which are abundant in Florida. I planted my little crop last fall. They thrived all winter. April is here and they continue to bloom like crazy.

Originally, I placed a pot of Dianthus in the center of my flowerbed to add a colorful focal point. About a month ago I placed bricks under the pot to elevate the pink blooms because I could barely see them. Now the Sunpatiens have grown even taller. What a terrible problem to have right?

If I apply this story to my writing life I can see a correlation. The fulfillment of a hoped for success brings new challenges. An author succeeds in publishing a book. The release of the book demands sales. It’s now up to the author to spend time marketing the product. All of a sudden I’m running a new business involving book signings, publicity, and sales tax.

I’m not sorry I planted the Sunpatiens. Nor am I sorry I wrote a book. Life would be quite boring if we never followed our passions. If conditions are right, flowers grow. I planted the seedlings, but the increase was due to nature. Honestly, I haven’t done much to encourage them. They took off on their own. In the same way if my book speaks to readers, they will share my message with others.

Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together. —James Cash Penney

The forces which work together to encourage the Sunpatiens to grow are light, heat, and water. Location also enabled them to grow to their magnificent size. Sometimes we forget about the part of a plant we can’t see. A tree used to stand in my garden. The tree grew too big and we had to cut it down. Instead of covering the area with more pavers, we left the dirt in place for a new flower bed. The rich soil allows the roots of each plant to grow deep and spread out. Roots need space to grow.

Space is important for writers to grow as well. Most people work better when they have a block of uninterrupted time to create. I used to think writers created their masterpieces in charming little cabins in the woods. What a luxury. Here I am at my dining room table looking through a window at my patio garden.

Back to the Sunpatiens. They seem to be happy. The power is all mine to let them live or pull them out and plant new seedlings. I’ll wait to see what the forces of nature do next.

Enjoy more stories about my garden by reading “The Majestic Marigold.”

Get more info about my book here “Buddy the Beagle on Blueberry Street”.

A Life Illustration

Hope is one of the principal springs that keeps mankind in motion.—Thomas Fuller

Take a close look at these blooms. What do you see? Three colors of flowers on the same shrub? Is that possible?

I met the Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow plant at Leu Gardens in Orlando last week. I’d never seen this shrub before and I couldn’t believe it produced violet, lavender, and white blooms. I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me.

What’s the deal?

My research led me to the following information about this romantic plant.

  • Native to the Brazilian rainforest.
  • Grows well in tropical climates with filtered shade.
  • Average size: eight feet tall and five feet wide.
  • Blooms in spring and summer.
  • Scientific name: Brunfelsia Grandiflora
  • Sweet smelling flowers.
  • Extremely toxic to cats, dogs, and small children.

So, it’s beautiful, yet dangerous and one plant I will never grow in my backyard garden. But let’s not discount the philosophical side of the Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow shrub.

I love it’s name.

What could be a more appropriate name than Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow? For you see, each flower goes through three stages. On the first day the flower is violet, by the second day it fades to lavender, and finally changes to white on the third day. Everyday this shrub contains flowers in different stages. Wow! As far as which day represents which color, I think that’s open to interpretation.

So now for my philosophical take away… The three colors are a visual about life. Violet represents yesterday’s memories. Lavender expresses today’s challenges, and white tomorrow’s hope. Here’s a great quote:

“Hope is a renewable option: If you run out of it at the end of the day you get to start over in the morning.” —Barbara Kingsolver

The Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow shrub starts over every morning in a constant cycle of perpetual change. Likewise no matter what stage we are in the journey of life, we still have hope that tomorrow will be better. The challenges of today become hope for tomorrow.

Thanks for taking the time to read my post. You might have a different take-away about the blooms. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Until next time…

The Benefits of Board Games

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the thought of shopping for family members and friends this December? Tired of the latest electronic gadgets and gizmos?

Over the years, I’ve grown to value experiences more than things. Spending quality time with love ones results in closer relationships. This week’s post celebrates the benefits of board games. But not all board games are fun for everyone. Monopoly and Risk are both elimination games which take too long too play.

My favorite board games:

  • Keep every player hopeful that anyone might win.
  • Involve skill in addition to chance.
  • Are interesting.
  • Promote creativity.

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Many of you are already familiar with my family’s affection for Ticket to Ride. (Days of Wonder) After two years, we still play this game every Sunday afternoon. It’s developed into a habit we can’t seem to break. In this two to five player game each person draws tickets with specified routes. Players receive points for placing their train cars on tracks which connect various U. S. cities. At the end of the game, each player reveals their routes and completed trips. Points are either awarded or deducted based on the number of trips completed. All players remain in the game until the end and the winner is always a surprise.

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The 1910 expansion pack is a good idea for anyone purchasing Ticket to Ride. It contains larger playing cards and additional routes. At the end of the game a player can earn the fifteen point Globetrotter bonus card for the most completed trips.

 

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Our second favorite family board game is Beyond Balderdash.(Parker Brothers) This game has been around for awhile. We like it better than the original Balderdash because it includes a movie category. The object of Beyond Balderdash is to make up written answers which bluff the other players. A dasher reads all the answers submitted and includes the real answer in the mix. Points are awarded for fooling other players, as well as for choosing the real and often unbelievable answer.

My family members enjoy coming up with witty blurbs to describe each movie. The title of one movie was “Madhouse.” My husband, Herb submitted this summary: “An out of control builder takes his anger out on his wife by building her a two-story house without a staircase.” Beyond Balderdash inspires our creativity and can be played by as many as seven players.

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Lost Cities (Kosmos) is a card game for two players. Herb and I love this game because it’s very compact for travel and only takes thirty minutes to play. The object of the game is to form expedition routes and earn discovery points. Players draw cards and organize them in numerical order. At the end of each round, points are awarded for cards played which exceed the cost of each expedition.

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Splendor (Days of Wonder) is an artistic and mathematical game designed for up to four players. Each player takes on the role of a rich merchant during the Renaissance. As a merchant you collect gems and gold tokens that can used to buy development cards. Some development cards carry point values. Each player tries to be the first to reach the sum of fifteen points and win the game.

A good board game never goes out of style and can bring family entertainment for years. Leave a comment and let me know your opinion of any of these games, or offer a suggestion for something we haven’t tried.

 

Do you like your job?

I think most people would agree there are things they like and dislike about their job. In my featured photo I’m shown working at my desk when I taught third grade. I look happy. Maybe this was taken on a Friday after school dismissed!

Now that I’m retired, I look back on my career with amazement. How did I do it? How does any teacher manage to fulfill all the expectations of the position? The only way I survived was by learning how to multi-task. Somehow teachers manage to take attendance, listen to morning announcements, and keep an eye on the class all at the same time. Jacks of all trades, teachers fulfill many roles.

On Labor Day, we pay tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers. For most workers our jobs are the most important thing in our lives.  After years of working at the same job, we begin to identify ourselves by our career. When introduced to someone, we ask, “What do you do for a living?” This pattern continues during retirement, “What did you retire from?”

It’s difficult for people to retire because it’s hard to imagine a life without work. Some feel like life will have no purpose or meaning. I’m often asked, “So what do you do all day?”

“I fill my days in much the same way I did during summer vacation. The big difference is I never reach a date on the calendar when I start to feel anxious about school starting again.”

We confuse the value of our work with the amount of money we receive for it. When I stayed at home to care for my preschool children, I received no income, but the experiences we shared were invaluable. Our “self-worth” should not be dependent on our level of income.

Do you feel undervalued at work? Comedian George Carlin said, “The caterpillar does all the work, but the butterfly gets all the publicity.”

Too bad Mr. Carlin seems to have forgotten, the butterfly once was the caterpillar.

One of my favorite scriptures reads, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23,24 NIV

If I work at something with all my heart, I feel content knowing I’ve done my best, even if no one else seems to notice.

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Engaging in our work changes us. Our “on the job experiences” teach us new skills. By trial and error we learn new ways of problem solving to accomplish our goals. Eventually we discover that like the monarch, we can fly!

Happy Labor Day!

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