Friday, July 26, 2013

Saying goodbye to our Walmart puppy.

Our sweet pooch left us this week. It was expected. He was old, and even by Akita standards, had long outlived his life expectancy. In recent years we had lovingly started calling him "old man" and granted him grace when he didn't obey as he had in his younger years. We knew it was coming. We talked often to all the kids about it being the end, but that didn't make it any easier when he finally went.

Our Rascal had the same "Walmart puppy" begining that a lot of other families tell, even that guy who-wrote-the-book-which-then-became-the-Jennifer-Anniston-flick "Marley and Me." On a vacation pit stop, our sons, the youngest was just two at the time, begged to get this little fuzzball from a family selling them at the entrance to Walmart (and who had obviously pegged my husband for a sucker from 50 paces away). By the time they came back, out of nowhere, we were a family with a puppy and some very very excited little boys. Our oldest daughter, who was then nine, took a bit longer to warm to him, because 10 minutes into our vacation journey, our new puppy Rascal vomited all over the back of the car. Oh yes, clearly, this was the dog for us.

That's when our story stopped following the freakish, spazzy, and horrifically destructive "Marley's" storyline, and became our own. Rascal was a sweet and blessedly quiet dog. He was patient, constant, and loyal. While playful, he was always gentle, and a calming presence in our home, no matter how filled with noise and chaos--which it always was. He never barked, even at strangers, making our family joke that we could all be brutally murdered, and Rascal would just look at the intruders with his big sad eyes wondering why they did that. Over the years, other dogs came and went in our family, but there was always Rascal.

About a year ago, he slowed down. Well, he stopped really. He wouldn't move from his spot in our bedroom in the open archway that connected to our bathroom. He didn't stand up all day long. When our son, Gastronosh, that little 2 year old, now grown up to a taller-than-his-dad 15, came home that day, I called him in and let him know it might be the end for Rascal. Later when my husband came home, I had them both lift him up to our bed, and we called our oldest sons Wheeler Dealer and Texter, to come home to spend time with him. He wasn't eating or drinking anything. Everyone took turns lying next to him, hugging him, talking to him. That evening was just us, together again, for our pup.

But the next day, he got up. He had a rough couple more days, but then happily for all of us, he returned to normal old Rascal. We decided it must have been some strange canine flu and went about our merry chaos. A few months after, he went down again, and we got all the kids back together to spend time with him, and again he got back to normal within a day or two. This went on every few months for the next year. Every day, I would watch his sleep a little too intently to be sure I saw the rise and fall of his breathing. I tried not to make it obvious to my littles, but I was on watch.

Last week, a new complication started; his breathing got weird. The smalls called me into the kitchen to tell me that he sounded wrong. As I came in, there he was lying down, but looked to be breathing okay. Later, I noticed it for myself, irregular noisy breathing, but it stopped again within a minute or two. Later that day, our now 16 year old Gastronosh called me back to the teen cave and showed me that Rascal was struggling again and wouldn't move. I called my husband and had him come home. Once again, everyone was called home to be with him. And once, again, by the end of the night, he was up and breathing without trouble, back to himself the next day. A few days ago, Saturday, ended up being a crazy day, with everyone out of the house in various directions. I had stopped home for a few minutes for a wardrobe change around noon, then had rushed back out. We had gotten home super late, almost midnight. Our other dog Banjo, was waiting eagerly by the back door, always happy to see his meal ticket. Rascal wasn't.

I found him in the teen cave, lying next to the foot of the beds as he always did. His favorite place had always been with his boys. Three boys who had grown up with him, brushed, fed, and played with him every day for 14 years. He had lived long enough to watch two of them leave home for their own adventures. There, at the foot of Gastronosh's bed, he had gone to sleep.

I stood, as I had so many times over the past two years, hoping, just for a second, for that rise and fall of his chest. No. Just peace. The rest of a good dog who had loved his home and family perfectly. He lived longer than any of the books or vets had predicted. Each of our smalls had gotten to grow up with a great dog, to love him the way the older kids had. I marveled at the blessing he had been to each of us. 10 humans were loved fully and cherished wholly by this sweet guy.

We drove him to Sedona, and buried him in the red clay of our family property. Arizona, which doesn't usually see much rain, got a constant soaking drizzle from the time he went, until we laid him in the ground two days later (a true miracle). I found myself thankful for both the soft ground and the weather that mirrored my heavy heart. Cleansing rain. It has always seemed to appear at the most incredibly needed moments throughout my life. While melancholy, it is heartbreakingly beautiful every time it happens, a mask for the tears, or maybe a mirror. There is never any denying its divine placement from a loving and empathetic creator.

Sadness comes and goes now as we all work through the remembering and the healing that comes in his absence. I find it in the random small things, not hearing the click of his nails on the hardwood as he walks. I strain to hear that sound that isn't there. He was a good dog. The best of dogs. I am going to miss our Walmart puppy. We all will.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Son, you'll do great! 85 tips for a good life.

Words of Wisdom for my Son

{85 Tips for a Solid Life}

For my son, as you head out on life's adventures, from a mother who tried desperately not to F it up (...and perhaps did)

(Obviously the more personal parts of this letter have been left out, but the bulk is still here in case anyone else finds value in it)

1. When it comes to finding the right girl, make a list of all the things you feel are important in a partner. When you are finished, look carefully over the list and set to work BECOMING THAT PERSON. God will provide the rest. 

2. Always do what you say you will. Make your word your bond.

3. Accept credit for your accomplishments with grace and humility, and give others credit whenever you can. Being gracious will never return void.

4. Hold the door open for others.

5. Two important things in life are love and money. Don't believe the lie that 'love is all you need', because that is crap and is only spouted by people who already have money, or don't have any and are clinging to the fairy tale. Both are necessary. Life is best when you work hard to produce them, and they belong to you and not someone else. 

6. Nobody ever made actions done out of spite, envy or revenge look acceptable. When these things are clearly the motive, you will look like a jerk. Period. The best course of action when these feelings arise is to carry on and succeed despite the actions and choices of others. Taking the high road will allow God to fight your battles without the mess of you getting in the way. He's always better at it anyway.

7. Never waste people's time or insult their intelligence with lame excuses. They've heard them all already and they won't believe you anyway. Be unique and try honesty. It happens so rarely that people find it a refreshing surprise. More often than not, they will grant you grace.

8. If you EVER let your underwear hang out of your pants (migrane forming) so help me there are no words for the shame you will bring on your family.

9. You were raised to be the best of men, but don't, even for a second, ever think of treating anyone as beneath you. NOBODY likes that guy. Check out any fraternity and you will see what I mean. They are crawling with that guy.

10. Everyone is pretending. You are not alone. Nobody is as cool as they appear. It is OK to fake it, in fact it is an essential survival skill. So on those low days when you feel like a fraud, just remember, the other guy doesn't have it all together either. 

11. Please spare your fellow man. No one wants to see a photo of your meal, your feet, or your right eyeball.

12. Don't rest on your laurels. Yesterday's homeruns don't win today's game.

13. If a street performer interests you enough to stop, he's earned your money.

14. If it is already burning, put down the lighter fluid and back away.

15. Never leave a wedding without dancing with the bride or shaking the groom's hand.

16. There is just no good reason EVER to look in a woman's purse. Hand it to her or another lady to do the dirty work.

17. Stand up when you shake a man's hand. No exception.

18. Have the other guy make the first offer in a negotiation.

19. Put the seat down.

20. Putting a frame on a poster does not make it art.

21. Vote.

22. If you wonder if a lady is pregnant, keep it to yourself. It is never OK to ask. NOT EVER.

23. Freud was wrong. Let's move on.

24. Only post online content you would be OK with your grandfather, boss or daughter seeing.

25. Asking anyone about salary or politics is asking for trouble. Avoid it at all costs.

26. Help your friends move.

27. If you dress in drag, go ALL THE WAY- don't sell it short.

28. If you borrow a car, it goes back with the gas tank full.

29. Good clothing will open doors. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. 

30. Brush and floss. Seriously.

31. Surround yourself with witty people and life will always be fun.

32. Never burn bridges.

33. Find other people that have what you want and keep company with those people.

34. Remember names.

35. Drink water. Yeah drink more.

36. Good hygeine is attractive. Deodorant is not optional.

37. Don't leave anyone hanging on a high five, no matter how much it kills you. 

38. The only thing you may regret more than smoking are the photos of yourself smoking.

39. Be mysterious.

40. The only difference between truth and fiction is that fiction has to make sense. 

41. Get a library card.

42. Everyone teaches you something. Learn the lessons.

43. Normal is just a setting on the dryer. 

44. Fight the system if it is immoral or flawed, but never cheat people.

45. Smile.

46. Stories improve exponentially when you 'do the voices'

47. To avoid awkward situations, don't name pets after real peole.

48. Chillax will always sound dumb. Pixar couldn't even pull it off in Dispicable Me.

49. If someone is making money selling you something; don't ask their opinion.

50. Buying something of quality once is less expensive than replacing cheap crap over and over again. You get what you pay for.

51. If you grow your hair long, you are inviting people to touch it.

52. Take every offer to travel to new places.

53. If it's on the internet and looks fake, it's fake.

54. A foolproof way to keep your personal life private is to NEVER post it online.

55. Chicks dig grammar.

56. Own your mistakes. People will respect you more if you admit when you screw up. Apologize, make it right, and don't do it again.

57. Always have a plan B

58. Sleep is great, but don't exchange it for the excitement of doing new things.

59. Develop a win-win thought process. It isn't always easy, but work at thinking about things from all angles to come up with solutions where everyone benefits.

60. Dont argue with women. It's a waste of time and energy.

61. Don't pick on the weak; it's ugly and cheap. Only jerks suckerpunch. Don't piss off the strong with out a really good reason. It's stupid. If you're gonna be dumb, you better be tough.

62. Learn from those who came before you, deal fairly with your peers, and mentor those who come after you. Networking is a combiniation of all 3 and are important to your reputation and success.

63. Understand that very few people have your best interests at heart. Your parents and family are about it. Everyone else is too busy looking out for themselves. That being said, be compassionate, even when others are ugly to you. Everyone has issues and most of the time it has nothing to do with you...but also, don't let people take advantage of or abuse you. Never be afraid to say "This isn't working out" and walk away. This applies in both business and relationships.

64. Understand that there are things beyond your control. Past, present and future. Being at peace with things you have no power over is key to happiness. Just trust that it will all work out as it should.

65. In peer pressure situations, other guys respect the one who says 'that's stupid' and walks away. Mostly because they wish they had the guts to do the same but could never figure out how. No matter how much heat you take, it's worth it.

66. Do hard things.

67. Eat your fruits and veggies.

68. If you take a girl out, pay.

69. If you can't afford a 20% tip, you can't afford to eat in a restaurant. 

70. Popped collars...just, no.

71. Half your age plus 7. Date any younger and it is just creepy.

72. If you see a girl eating from a half gallon of ice cream with a spoon, just walk on by. You don't want to know.

73. Your jeans should not be tighter than a girl's.

74. Always respect a girl who can drive stick shift.

75. Not everything will sound as good 'out loud' as it did in your head.

76. Read for fun.

77. Write down your goals and dreams.

78. Appreciate beauty, humor and irony. Point it out when you see them, because not everyone can recognize them at first. 

79. You will not be young forever. One day your co-workers will be younger than you. The next, your boss will be younger than you. Someday the President will be younger than you, and before you know it the Pope will be younger than you, and then he will die. Cherish the youth you have and the abilities that come with it. You will miss it when it is gone. 

80. Never EVER speak badly to others about your wife or girlfriend. She should know she has a partner who backs her up against the world (even when she is wrong).

81. Don't be an internet troll. Live life.

82. If you do something that goes 'against the norm' expect to be harrassed and prepare a defense. 

83. Things break down and need replacing all the time. The more you plan and save, the less it feels like a disaster and crisis when it happens. 

84. Listen. 

85. Make marriage the sacred commitment that it is. Don't marry until you are prepared for a lifetime of joy and compromise. It is both wonderful and difficult. Never cheat. Date your wife your whole life and enjoy her as your partner and best friend. Raise your children to respect and honor her. Take the word 'divorce' out of your vocabulary and off the table as an option before you take your vows, and never use it, no matter how rough the argument or situation. 

Picture in your mind the end result of a lifetime of commitment and work backwards to where you are in any given moment, always asking yourself if what you are doing or saying is leading you toward that end result. If it isn't, FIX IT. Never stop laughing together, holding her hand, or seeing her beauty. Be the first to apologize. Listen. Talk. Above all, trust God to be there and stand in the gap of your shortcomings and hers, understanding that only HE can be all things.

               I love you and am proud to be your mother. I can't wait to see all the places you'll go.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Bloggy Bloggy Blah Blah (or Why in the heck are you doing this????)

Well, I have stuff to post that doesn't fit into 140 character Twitter feeds and isn't always appropriate for Facebook soundbites. What is an overscheduled mom to do? Well apparently there is this new fangled techno-nonsense called blogging. Actually it is practically vintage, I am just a few years behind the curve. What can I say, I have procrastinated for a while. Yeah, I have the 8 kids card, and I will be pulling it out and using it...a lot. I am a big proponent of playing the hand you've been given, so that is my excuse and let's move on.

 The blog will have multiple "topics" and series within it. The people who know what they are doing, (or at lease fake it well enough that I am following their direction) say I need to blog about something I am passionate about in order for this blog to last more than a week. Well, daaaang. I am passionate about a lot. So I have mocked some key areas out on the back of a {currently being used for phone bills} manilla file folder (seriously, does anyone else have a huge issue with finding a notebook to write in when you need it? It is an enormous issue for me.) Among them are Servant Hearts (Faith in Action), Delicious Super Easy Food, Health and Feeling Good, Vegan/Vegetarianism (and how to trick your kids into eating well), Homeschooling, Family Shenanigans, Financial Stewardship, Large Family Logistics (or the survival guide to parenting many), Running a business, Party Planning, and Apps, Blogging & Design Love.

 Within each of the topics, I will post random tips and invite guest bloggers to share their wisdom and humor, as well as ongoing post series. The common theme among them all will be a slight quirkiness and those tongue in cheek observational patterns you have all come to know and tolerate with in my facebook ramblings. If you are a friend of mine in person, you may even be surprised that they are a little more coherent and less fragmented than actuallly having a conversation with me, because I am able to prepare my posts before my house wakes up in the presence of just my precious coffee.
^^^ Not as creepy as it sounds... 

 In any event, I am excited for this new and fun way to put my brain into words. There's a lot in there and it sometimes gets crowded and lonely. Thanks again for being here!

Monday, July 22, 2013

In the begining...

You Should be writing. Recently, I have heard that a lot. So today, I think I will start. There is a lot in my head that should probably be put down. If you are reading this, THANKS! This is the story of my family. By default, that means it is not a short story. There are 10 of us, so there is usually a lot to say--So strap in, because we usually do our life roller coaster style. By that I mean hands up and screaming.

^^^ That is pretty par for the course with us...

Blog Disclaimer: I ramble, I brag, I am irreverent, and I am human. I try to do all those things in a way that is relatable and funny, but if I come off as scatterbrained, cocky, snarky, or biting, it is usually not my intention. Let's just call that the cost of doing business in internet writing.