Lessons from a National Emergency (Part One)

What have you learned about yourself over the past week? There’s nothing like a good old fashioned global pandemic to show us what we’re made of. Americans have been fortunate to escape the wars and epidemics which may have affected the rest of world. But this is different. As many have already said, we are all weathering Covoid-19 together.

It’s hard to feel a sense of “community “when you’re told you need to stay home to protect yourself from a disease capable of killing you or members of your family. Although I have not been “quarantined,” I’ve felt lonely, fearful, and exhausted this week. I’m sixty-six years old, my husband is sixty-nine, and my mother is eighty-six with an “underlying health condition.” My decision to practice “social distancing” has been for my own and my family’s protection.

I’m exhausted from trying to ensure we have enough food and supplies to last at least two weeks. When I encountered empty shelves at my local Publix I became anxious. Why? Because we’ve always had enough, in fact we’ve always had more than enough. I’m not a fan of hoarding, especially if my behavior keeps others from getting what they need. Fortunately, I managed to purchase what was necessary, and made substitutions where I could.

The image of my newly planted flowerbed is my effort to gain control in a world that’s gone out of control. Even the Florida State Parks have closed their campgrounds for two months. If I’m going to be expected to stay home, at least I’ll have something pretty to view.

So far here is my list of seven lessons I’ve learned about myself from this emergency.

I don’t like feeling out of control.

I am spoiled.

I hate having my plans cancelled.

Disease is scary.

I take “the good life” for granted.

What I think is necessary, might not be necessary.

I don’t like limitations placed upon how I can choose to spend my day.

As the next two weeks unfold, I hope I can adjust to my new life. I hope I can see the hand of God in the midst of the storm. There is no way I can come through this without being changed, and I pray it’s a change for the better.

Sometimes it helps to remember those people who have lived before us. This morning I thought about Anne Frank, who hid in the Secret Annex for two years along with her Jewish family. She spent her time writing about her thoughts and feelings. Her diary helped her make sense of her situation.

When I think of Anne and the suffering she experienced, I realize what a “spoiled baby” I am. This is a time like no other time. It could be an opportunity for me to grow up. (even at my age)

I entitled this post part one, stay tuned for more lessons as they unfold. How has the pandemic affected your life? Leave a comment.

Love Me, Love My Dog

An example of unconditional love.

Have you ever stopped to think about how many English idioms we use in conversation each day? “Love me, love my dog” is one of these old sayings.

Origin

A medieval French monk, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux immortalized the phrase during one of his sermons. (Wait a minute. Was he the saint that Saint Bernard dogs are named after? No. That was Saint Bernard of Menthon.)

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux referred to the phrase when he was speaking about about angels and their love for humanity. Originally, “He who loves me, also loves my dog.” was a common ancient proverb. So the saying originated much earlier than 1100 A.D.

As a person living in 2020, I find it hard to believe dogs once had a negative connotation. In medieval times people did not want to have dogs as pets. Dogs were dirty and carried diseases. Grooming and vaccinations were unheard of. To own a dog was considered a fault. To love someone who had a dog, was to love them unconditionally.

Usage in Modern Times

Over the years the old saying was shortened to “love me, love my dog” and has be taken literally as well as figuratively. Sometimes a child would bring a flea-bitten stray mutt into the house, expecting to be welcomed with open arms. The child was often met with mixed results depending on his mother’s mood at the time.

The literal meaning isn’t as popular now because people love dogs so much, they own more than one. Pets are considered members of the family. People take their pets everywhere. We are quite accustomed to seeing dogs in Florida parks, campgrounds, and on hiking trails. (leashed, of course)

But the figurative meaning of love me, love my dog states an important message for couples. In order for a marriage to succeed, two people need to accept each other as they are— including their wants and needs.

My Personal Story

Given how much I adore Buddy, you might be surprised to learn I never wanted to own a dog. I didn’t want the responsibility of walking a dog, and I certainly didn’t want to pick up after one. I also disliked the idea of any pet getting up on the furniture.

Herb was the one who always wanted a beagle. We had been happily married for over thirty years. Since he was nearing retirement, how could I deprive him of something he needed? “Love me, love my dog?”

When we met Buddy in 2011 my heart melted. Buddy has changed my life. This week I’m visiting schools to speak about Buddy the Beagle on Blueberry Street and praising this adorable dog.

Everywhere we go, we meet people who love Buddy. He’s become a celebrity in our neighborhood and his presence always helps me sell me more books at local events. Buddy gets more attention for being a dog, than I do for being an author. I’m ready to put a new twist on the old proverb.

“Love my dog, love me?”

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…