Lessons from the past

Council Bluffs, IA. 1931

Council Bluffs, IA. 1931

“The more things change, the more they stay the same”, I do not know who said that, but the more I delve into the past, the more I realize the truthfulness in those words.

I have been saying for years that it is going to  be hard to take all of the bad that has been happening in the world and make our world a more innocent place. I keep hoping that somehow, someway, future generations will not have to be faced with so much, in-your-face, death, destruction and promiscuity. Sometimes I see the light of hope but for the most part, I think that the future has a lot to be desired. And then….I see something from the past that makes me think, “The more things change…”

Eighty-two years ago this year, my grandmother graduated from high school. The year was 1931 and the United States was in a depression. Thomas Edison died, and Pearl Buck‘s “The Good Earth” was the best-seller of the year. While times were not easy, I often think that things were much simpler and the world didn’t have near the problems of today. Maybe I should say that I thought things were much easier until I started going through my grandmother’s things.

When she died twenty years ago, I was the recipient of all of her cookbooks (probably 500) and when my grandfather died seven years ago, I received all of the photographs to archive and any other papers, books,  and magazines of interest.Scan10066

One of the things that I just recently reviewed was my grandmother’s graduation journal. There wasn’t much in it, a few names, a couple of photos and a couple of newspaper articles. I found out that her class colors were red and gold. The class flower was the American Beauty Rose and the class motto was: “They conquer who believe they can.” There was nothing on the pages for ‘dances and parties’ or ‘clubs and societies’. So that will remain a mystery to me.

One of the articles was about the Baccalaureate ceremony that was held in her town of Council Bluffs, Iowa, on Sunday, May 31. Grandma wrote that Martha Klotz was her partner for walking down the aisle to be seated for the address. The headline of the newspaper article was “COOPER PREACHES TO A.L. SENIORS” Under the headline, the drop-headline read, “DECLARES WORLD IS CALLING FOR PURITY, CONSECRATION, SACRIFICE.” Below that headline there was a third headline “CITES BIBLE EXAMPLES”.

(As a clarification in case you do not know, a baccalaureate address is a church service for the graduating seniors and their families. When I graduated our baccalaureate was for the four high schools in my community. I do know that my community, where I live now, does not offer a baccalaureate address. I do not know if it is held in any communities anymore with all of this political correctness and separating schools and churches.)

“The world is calling for separation, purity, consecration and sacrifice as portrayed by Abraham, Joseph, Saul of Tarsus and Jesus, more loudly than it did in biblical times, Rev. Francis E Cooper, pastor of the First Baptist church told members of the Abraham Lincoln high school graduating class at the baccalaureate services held at the Broadway theater Sunday morning.

‘Our worth in life will be measured not by our personal happiness but by our personal service, he said.'”

Rev. Cooper went on to compare the above mentioned men of the Bible to the character traits also mentioned above: Abraham with separation, Joseph with purity, Saul (Apostle Paul) consecrated to service and Jesus to sacrifice.

The end of the article has Cooper urging students, “You students are going out in the world with your soul in your hands. Remember the law of Christ.”

While I understand that we are not a world of Christians, I think we can all agree that there are lessons that come from a faith/religion that apply to all people’s no matter what their faith. Can we all agree that the premise of the Ten Commandments is good? Do we not want to teach our children not to lie, not to steal, not to kill, etc…? I think if we look passed the fact that the laws came from Moses, who received them from God, we should be able to agree that they are good rules in which to live.

Reverend Cooper did not go into details as to why he felt he needed to deliver the words that he did. I can only imagine that he felt that there was too much promiscuity and too many other things happening that broke the Laws of Moses. I have to think that he felt our world was “going to hell in a hand basket”.

I wish I would have seen this book when my grandmother was alive so I would have had the chance to ask her about it. I wish I would have taken the time to get to know more about her when she was in high school; what was her life like? What challenges did her generation face? Sadly, all of the members of my family from that generation are dead. There is so much that I will never know.

While I still wonder what life is going to be like in the future. While I still worry that we have taken so many steps towards a life without following the Ten Commandments. I can rest assured that Rev. Cooper probably felt the same way that I felt. Because of this, I have hope.

I know that my husband and I are raising our children to follow the Ten Commandments and grow to be great adults, just like my grandparents raised my parents and the way my parents raised me. I pray that my children do the same, so that there is hope in this world, that in the end, goodness wins out.

“The more things change, the more they stay the same.” There are challenges in every generation to test the character of individuals. And while there are some that fail, it is obvious that over three generations of my family history, goodness has won and we walk in the confidence that we are living our lives with personal service in mind, which gives us great happiness.

While she was not Baptist, I think Rev. Cooper would have been pleased with how Jessie Fogle (maiden name) lived her life and taught service to the future generations of her family.


The Power of a Day

I am amazed how certain days bring about certain feelings; how giddy I am, to this day, when my birthday comes around; how happy I am on my anniversary; or how January 1st makes me think about starting anew.

Years ago, I swore off making New Year’s Resolutions. The theory behind it was that I should try to improve throughout the year and it shouldn’t begin one time a year.

When I decided to lose weight, it began on September 20th. When I accepted Jesus Christ into my life, it was in the fall, not at the beginning of the year. I was engaged on April 1st and married on April 15th. So you see, there have been no major changes in my life that began on January 1st.

So even though I do not make New Year’s Resolutions, I can’t help to think that the beginning of a new year is special. It may not be a resolution, but it is a change.

My change this year has to do with where I spend my time writing. It is a wonderful change but did not come about because I felt I needed a change but because I was being selfish. And maybe selfish is not the correct word, but maybe the correct word will come to me by the end.

I have a family of hunters. I am not a hunter but everyone else in the family is either using a rifle or a bow to help provide food for the family. And that is totally serious; anything that is shot is eaten. (That was another adjustment I needed to make when I became married as I did not grow up with hunting. Getting used to eating and, more importantly, cooking game meat, was a challenge for me.) But I digress!

About November 1st all of the hunting clothes come out and take over my bedroom. They are in storage tubs and stay there until the end of January. While I have gotten used to, and enjoy, game meat, I do not like my bedroom filled with camouflage clothing. I do not like having to look at it from November 1st until February 1st. I needed to find a solution.

My office/craft room was the room next to my husband’s office. It also doubles as the guest room. It is a large room and should have been a great place for an office/craft room because I could have my quilt project out and not have it interfere with my desk. But it never quite felt right. It seemed cold and not conducive to creativity.

I made the decision to give up my nice, spacious, office so the hunters could have a place to store all of their gear in one spot, out of my way. This meant that I needed to find a new spot for me.

It did not take me long to realize I needed to move back to the spot where I felt creative and safe and secure, the attic. I had used this space as my sewing room for quite some time. But when I lost my office due to a remodel, I moved both rooms together. Now I was putting the rooms back together, but in a much more “homey” spot.

My father made my little room about ten years ago. He finished about 25% of the attic by adding a wall and then insulating and paneling the walls and ceiling. This gave me a dressing room which then turned into my sewing room. Years ago, that room was where I went when I was sad. It turned into my sewing room and is a nice get-a-way spot. When I moved to another part of the house. It was a nice room but it was not quite the same.

Now I am back to my small room with its low ceiling (6 1/2 foot). Being short, having a short ceiling is not a problem. Maybe the “dog” in me is coming out. It is said that dogs feel safe and secure in small enclosed spaces. I feel safe and secure in this space and I am glad to be back.

While I do not make New Year’s Resolutions, I am glad that I decided I needed to make a change in my life. I am glad that I have moved back to a place that feels safe and I can get those creative juices flowing. I hope that everyone has a chance to feel that safeness and security, if only because of a room, that I feel now.

Happy Teens, Happy Family, Happy Life

Note: I do inter-change “I” and “we” when I am writing about parenting. In parenting, sometimes it is a joint effort and other times not. So, because of that, I include my husband when it is appropriate and sometimes it is things that I have done individually.

When I woke up this morning in the new year, I thought to myself, ‘What made me most proud in 2012?’ It did not take me long at all to realize that I am most proud of the relationship that I have with my teenage children.

My newly turned 17-year old son and soon to be 15-year old daughter still like being around their parents. We joke; we talk; we shop; we still do most all of the things that we did ten years ago. I know that amongst the friends of my children, I, and my husband, are a rare breed.

Do I have any thoughts as to why this is the case? Of course, I do; we joke; we talk; we shop. That has not changed in my 17 years of parenting. While I say this so confidently, it is not easy. There is a fine line that you walk from being a friend, to a tyrant, to a pushover. And believe-it-or-not, each of those characterizations are just a step away.

My parents were not poor parents; but they also were not very good communicators. To this day, my mom has never spoken with me about sex, or even menstruation. I don’t know if it was just my mom or if it was the times but my sex education was not controlled at all by my parents. Even as a child, I knew that I wanted a different relationship with my children.

I don’t know if I value my children more than other parents. I know that about 22-years ago, my gynecologist told me that I would probably never have any biological children. After buckets of tears and thinking about our options, we decided to pursue an answer as to why we weren’t getting pregnant. Our investigation resulted in me having surgery for endometriosis and being put into menopause at age 32. (That is a whole other writing!) And as I wrote above, 17-years ago, we were blessed with our son. After a miscarriage, God blessed again and we had our daughter.

So you see why I wanted to make sure that I always would have a good relationship with our children. We went from being told we would be childless to being blessed with not one, but two children. I am sure all parents wish for a great relationship with their children. I worked from the time they were born to have the relationship we have today.

How did I do it? I think first of all, I was conscious of what I wanted and I have worked for it. From the beginning, I have always been open in our discussions. When they were younger we did not speak with them as if they were babies; we spoke to them in normal voices and used words, adult words – a penis was a penis; a vagina was a vagina. If I was uncomfortable using words, how could I speak with them about those things? I was determined to be open and honest.

The car was a great place to talk. We drove a lot, so instead of zoning out on music or movies, we would spend the time talking. Because we spoke with each other from the beginning, it was natural that it continued as the kids got older.

We are a family that cussing is not allowed. But the rule is that if you have a question about anything, that rule does not apply. I never wanted my children to think that they could not come to me about anything. We have had wonderful conversations that, I am sure, many parents have not had with their children because they have not been open to anything and everything.

I think we have done a good job in teaching our children to respect authority. It has taken a little bit but we have tried to emphasize that the way they speak with their friends is not the way they speak with us or other adults. We have taught them that there is a level of respect that needs to be given. And even though we want a good relationship with our son and daughter, we have taught them that we are still the adult, still the parent and what we say goes.

I think one of the hardest things that I have had to face is that my daughter’s friends do not want to have any type of relationship with me. After six years of homeschooling, our daughter went back to  public school in 8th grade. While she had church friends, homeschool friends and Girl Scout friends (which by the way, I had relationships with) these new friends wanted/want nothing to do with me.  I think it was shocking for me because I have such a good relationship with her. My guess is that the relationship I have with my daughter is different from the relationship they have with their parents.

Some of her friends think I am the “cool” parent. They also know that we have rules and while they think I am “cool” they also think I am strict. Thankfully our children don’t think we are strict; they think it is just the way it is.

In a nutshell, I believe we have happy teens, a happy family and a happy life because we communicate and we set rules and expectations. We come from a position of love and respect but ultimately, our children know that we are in charge; they do not have carte blanche on their life. We have taught them to be grateful for what they have and always be thankful to God, who gives all.

Happy New Year and I hope that you have a great relationship with the people whom you love!


Copper has died; Long live Copper in our hearts. (Thoughts on euthanasia)

Note: part of this was begun on Monday, November 26, a day before Copper died.

He was terminal. He was not going to get better. His bone marrow was not producing red blood cells and the RBCs he had were dying. He was dying. He was not that same dog that would jump from five steps up to get to the door to go outside. He didn’t want his favorite treat. He turned his head when I tried to give him a cooked turkey liver.

It was painful; not for him but for me as I watched him waste away by the hour. He was not suffering, physically. A low RBC, at its basic level, causes a person to be tired, lethargic. That was Copper, sometimes too tired to lift his head. It was not natural. It was not Copper.

(Below was written on the 26th. I have tried not to edit it as the writing was fresh and raw)

He was ‘hospitalized’ at the vet’s office and given an IV of meds to help him get better. Many tests were done and many things were ruled out but it was hard to come up with an answer as to why he was so ill; he looked healthy. Comparing blood tests started showing that his blood was deteriorating but the vet did not know if it was a production problem or a destruction problem.

We now have answers and have to look at what is best for our dog, our family member. Copper is not producing red blood cells. And the blood cells that he has are looking very tired. Soon he will not have any red blood cells in his body.

What does this mean to a dog or a person? Well, he gets tired very easily; he is lethargic; he has lost his appetite. That is because the red blood cells move oxygen around the body. That is not happening. Copper also has low platelets. That is actually why he was initially taken to the vet, he kept bleeding from the nose and mouth. It was just odd, but that is what happens when there are not enough platelets, you bleed, or when you start, it is hard to stop.

We had plans to be away from home for Thanksgiving. We did not know how Copper was going to handle us being away so we left him with the vet and kept our Tinkerbelle at home with our niece. When I went to pick up Copper today, we had one last blood test to confirm what the vet had feared; Copper was dying and it would not be long before he was dead. Through many tears, I learned all I needed to know to be able to go home and share with the family our options.

I now await the arrival of our children to discuss the end of life plan for our dearest family member, Copper. I brought Copper home so we can share our last moments, to have closure, to say to him what we need to say, to say good-bye. It is hard to believe that soon he will no longer be physically with us.

(That is all I could write. The rest was written today and is still wrought with emotion but there have been a few days to process what has happened)

Murphy’s Law went into action. Talking to the family did not go as planned. My son did not get my text because his phone had died so he did not come home right after school. I had to pick my daughter up from school because…my son did not get my text. Conversations were done individually.

The initial discussion happened with my husband as soon as Copper and I got home from the vet’s. Through a bucket full of tears, we talked about, not what was best for us but, what was best for Copper. He needed to be allowed to be at peace. I cannot say that he needed to be without pain because I could tell that he was not in pain. You live with someone for nine and a half years, you get to know them and he was not in pain; he was sad. The life that he had in his eyes before we went away for Thanksgiving was gone. Before he had a sparkle; that was gone. He was oh so skinny. He had lost 5 pounds, more than 25% of his body weight in three weeks.

Kent and I decided that we would have a discussion with our children about ending his misery. Kent went ahead and called Dr. Johnson and made an appointment to have him put down the next day. Our thought was, we could always cancel the appointment if the kids were not on board.

NOW, let me tell you, I believe in euthanasia. I have believed in euthanasia for as long as I can remember. I wrote term papers on passive euthanasia in high school and college. I gave speeches on euthanasia. Kent and I signed Living Wills, as soon as we were married, stating that we did not want to be kept alive by artificial means if there was no hope of recovery. We had that discussion again when a friend of ours was in a bicycle accident. It is not something that we don’t talk about. It is something that we discuss with family so everyone knows how we feel.

I spoke with my daughter as I drove the 10 miles from the high school to home. She asked if she needed to take over driving as the tears ran down my cheeks. But I said no because I needed something to concentrate on, even if it was only driving a road that I have driven thousands of times. She knew what I was going to say. She had been preparing since I had sent the text 5 hours prior. She knew and she knew that Copper needed to be released. She was not fine but she was okay.

My son got home after martial arts and we had the talk. I can still hear him say, “Oh, Copper,” the way he did almost every day. I told him, as I had told my daughter, that he needed to say his goodbyes because tomorrow was the day.

Monday was a blur. And Tuesday came too quickly.

We have a dog door that goes into the garage where the dogs have a special place to get out of Nebraska weather. There are also dog houses and chairs for them to sit on outside, when the weather is nice. Needless to say, our dogs are very spoiled.

Well, we put Copper in the garage to be with Tinkerbelle and I would go out an check on him frequently. There were a few times throughout the day, I would go out and lie next to him, stroke his soft, curly hair and just talk. Talk to him about how much I loved him and how lucky we were to have him in our lives. I told him that what we were doing was to make him well in another place (I do believe that an animal’s life does not end here on Earth. I have to believe that) I also told him I was sorry because what we were doing, no matter how much I thought it was the correct decision, was a hard decision.

About 45 minutes before he was to go to the vet’s, I picked him up; he was no longer able to walk much of a distance without tripping or falling. I took him outside and told him to ‘go potty’. He stumbled around a little and then I picked him up and brought him inside. I sat holding him on the ‘dog sofa’. It was the last time I would hold him. His head lie limply on my chest. I was hoping he could hear my heart beat and know that it was more than just an organ that pushed blood throughout my body. I was hoping he knew that it was a heart that was breaking, that was so full of love, that it needed to let him go so  he could be healed. I just took it all in and prayed that there really was a Rainbow Bridge that our pets crossed over to another life.

It was decided that Tinkerbelle would go to the vet’s with me so she knew that Copper had died. She needed to know that Copper was not coming home. She had seen him leave over the past three weeks and he had always come home. Tinkerbelle needed to know that her friend would not be around anymore.

Dr. Johnson told me on Monday that the process would take about 20 minutes but I needed to block out an hour in case his office got busy. He wanted the process to happen without interruption so he wanted me to be prepared to not have things begin at the scheduled time. I was okay with that.

We drove to town and I continued to talk to both dogs the whole way. The tears had not started, yet. Getting out of the car I had Copper in my arms and little Tinkerbelle on a leash. Tinkerbelle was nervous because the last time she was at the vet office was to give a blood transfusion to Copper when we did not have a diagnosis.

(I am going to explain the process and my experience. If you do not want to read about it, please go down to the XXXXXX’s. You can start reading again after that).

It was 4:45. The office was not busy. It was us and the office staff. We were directed into the room where we always go; the exam room where we learned of Copper’s fate. I laid Copper on the cold, stainless steel table and continued stroking his coat. Tinkerbelle was roaming the exam room, shaking like a leaf, not sure what to expect.

The vet and his assistant came into the room and again explained the procedure that was going to occur. He had explained it Monday to make sure that we were completely informed as to what would happen. Euthanasia is derived from two Greek words which together mean ‘good death’. That is what we wanted for Copper, a good death.

It was time. I let the assistant take over controlling Copper on the table. It was really not necessary because he was lying there not moving but I moved to petting his head and hoping he felt the love. Doc Johnson leaned over and whispered something in Copper’s ear. I don’t know what was said, but I imagine it was something about everything was going to be okay, he was going to be in a better place, he was loved. It was their private moment.

At this time, I picked up Tinkerbelle and held her as Copper’s leg was shaved for the injection. A tourniquet was put around his leg and Doc tried to find the vein. “That vein is gone.” Oh wow! He explained that he needed to prep the other back leg. So he moved that leg aside and shaved his other leg and put a tourniquet on it. He told me that he was able to find that vein and started the injection.

I swear that within 30 seconds he looked at me and said, “He is gone”. I looked shocked and said, “So soon.” He looked at my tear filled eyes and said, “He was almost there. He just needed a little help.”

It was peaceful. There was no release of air from his lungs. There were no fluids leaving his body (which I knew was a possibility at death). His eyes stayed open (which I have read is natural). I think that is why I was so surprised that he was dead. It took less than a minute and his eyes were open. Oh Man! Copper was dead!

Dr. Johnson told his assistant to go get a towel so Copper could be laid on the floor for Tinkerbelle to see him. I don’t know if it was the assistant or the doctor that laid Copper on the floor. All I remember is when Copper was picked up, his head flopped back because it was not supported; the sign I needed that confirmed his death. I know that sounds weird but him laying on the table and his chest not rising, did not confirm it for me; the vet saying he was dead did not confirm it. His head flop confirmed it and I was sad.

Tinkerbelle sniffed a little but would not get close to Copper. I put her tennis ball close, but she would not go after it. I knew she knew Copper was dead because nothing would stop Tinkerbelle from going after her tennis ball.


Dr. Johnson explained, on Monday, that Tinkerbelle would go through the same grieving process that a person goes through. We were not to be surprised if she started ripping up pillows and that was okay because she needed to work through her grief. I have seen a change in Tinkerbelle. She does want to be held more. She does not rollick in the back yard like she did with Copper. She will get better. We just have to be patient. (She still likes her tennis balls though!)

It is appropriate that as I write this the vet office called and said Copper’s ashes are ready for pick up. We opted to have him cremated. We will decide at a later date whether to have has ashes stored in an urn (which my son wants to make in Advanced Pottery) or have his ashes spread in a favorite spot.

Copper is dead but he will forever live in the heart’s of those who loved him. My grief is not over. But I am better. And I know Copper is better. Two comments were made that put a smile on my face: from my sister who commented after I sent out an announcement to family and close friends,  ‘I just wondered how Copper was doing. He’s doing GREAT! He and Jake are chasing butterflies beyond the Rainbow Bridge. I’ve got tears for you all and for all our wonderful nonhuman family members. You’re right, they do tell you when they’re ready to go, even if you’re not ready.’ And from my neighbor after I posted his ‘obituary’ on Facebook, ‘We all are sorry to hear about Copper.  Will miss seeing him romp through the side yard!’ 

I am so grateful for the person who envisioned the Rainbow Bridge, a place for our beloved pets to roam after death. Whether it is true or not, whether they cross the Rainbow Bridge or head directly to ‘people’ Heaven, I have hope that Copper will be with me again, when my time comes. http://www.rainbowbridge.com/hello.htm

Blessings to all of you who have suffered the death of a pet. Copper’s death is probably one of the most devastating deaths that I have experienced. He was always true and loving and never judged me (at least I can believe that because he could not speak to me in human speak). There will never be another Copper.

In memory of Hollybriar Copper Wired Van Horn b. 5/21/03 d. 11/27/12

This is the last photo taken of Copper

This is the last photo taken of Copper

Growing old…appreciating life…damning life

Okay, I have to be honest; I don’t know if this writing is more about the thoughts running through my head or the wine running through my veins, but I feel compelled to write, to share, to cry, to vent or share whatever comes out of these fingers.

I am alone. I am not lonely. My family has just left a day before me for a Thanksgiving holiday. I will greet them tomorrow, after taking care of some household necessities, meeting up with our house sitter, getting our ailing dog to the vet and making sure that our dog staying home has all she needs.

I am sad. I have come to the realization that our nine and a half-year old dog is dying. We have had all the tests, had him hospitalized with the vet to try to figure out what is wrong. He is not making platelets or his body is destroying the platelets that are being made. Anyway you look at it, he is dying and I am sad. I look at him not being able to walk up the stairs in our home and I am sad. I watch him as he cannot eat his favorite snack and I am sad. While I know he is not my child, my tears are real and my pain is true.

I have read in the newspaper two things that truly disturb me; 1) Legalizing marijuana because enforcing the laws as an illegal substance is overcrowding our prisons and 2) not allowing nativities in a community.

If you have read my blog before, you know I am a Christian woman. I do not understand that a country that is more than 50% Christian can say it is illegal to celebrate the birth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. And it is not just that we should be allowed to celebrate Christmas and Easter as Christian holidays, I believe that acknowledging other faiths is okay if it means that we, as Christians, can be open about our faith. Having a Menorah does not lessen my faith as a Christian. Why do we have to be denied our faith? We should not have to sacrifice our faith just as those who are Jewish, should not have to sacrifice their faith. Why can’t we work, as a country, to be open to all, even Christians!

It seems that people have decided that it is easier to lower out morals than to enforce the laws we have or guide our children to lower their standards. Many may say that I am a strict parent and expect too much of my children. I will tell you, that until the day I die, I will always say that you should wait to have sex until you are married and that living together is the easy way out.

If we teach our children about commitment in a marriage and that it is not something you throw away because there are problems, we teach them to think before they act, to be sure that the decisions that they make are for the long-term. If I would have walked away from my marriage every time there was a problem, I would have been divorced by now. I love my husband, very dearly, and I would not want to be with any other man, but we have had our conflicts. That is natural. I cannot think that there are any two people who think exactly alike. That is what makes life interesting. And I am not an ultra conservative Christian, so while you might look at the above rantings as that of an ultra conservative, think again. I believe that we should teach our society to be committed and look towards the future in all: work, relationships, living and not just believe that we can just move on to the next thing when we tire of what we do or have.

BUT I think that we need to be respectful, more controlling of our thoughts and actions and realize that we should not be a society of instant gratification. What is wrong with waiting until you are a responsible adult to have sex? What is wrong with having drugs be illegal? Why is it wrong to error on the side of modesty than flamboyance?

I just don’t get it. I just have to wonder if our world is just falling apart.  As I have told friends, “It is hard to close Pandora’s box. How do we get back to a world of responsibility, of modesty, of deference, when it has all been done and accepted as normal?”

I fear for my children. I hope that in their upbringing to appreciate nice things, hard work, respect and modesty, that they are not swallowed up by the world. I hope that they can survive, be a positive influence, be a beacon of their faith and give hope to the world, that it can be a loving world.

It is funny. While I think these things, they have come to the surface because of the mortality of a dog. My thought to say, ‘just a dog’ for emphasis enters my mind, but he is so much more than ‘just a dog’. Copper, is a true dog, someone who is loyal, loving and faithful. I wish that I could be like a dog. I wish that I could be always loyal, loving and faithful. As a human, I cannot be that perfect. Oh to be a dog, for that perfection.

I don’t know if Copper is going to die in three days, three months or three years, but I know that he is better at being a dog than I am at being a person. And that makes me sad, lonely and oh so wanting to be more like a dog. Maybe that is why dog and GOD use the same letters…so close to perfection.

I will let this sit for the night. In reviewing, I believe all I wrote, and even in the light of day, wine or not, I am sure I will stand by these words. God bless my dog, for his is perfection!

(I have re-read, and stand by my words.)

Being Thankful…Always

Many think about being thankful at Thanksgiving time. I try to be thankful everyday because that is what my faith says. Whether things happen that are good or bad, I need to find something to be thankful. I learned that, many years ago, when we had an unemployed household. And I continue to learn daily.

I quit working, for pay, when our family moved to Spain. When we moved home, it was decided that I would continue to not work for pay so I could manage the home, the children, our lives, as Kent would continue to travel in the United States for his work.

Well…that was the thing, there needed to be employment. That did not happen for nine months. We were faced with financial and social strains that we could never have imagined.

All of the friends that we had in Spain were no longer available in our life. There were no more business lunches or dinners or drinks. And things had changed at home as well.

Kent would go to his office, in our home, every day but there was no connection to others. I would take our son to the bus for Kindergarten and take our daughter to pre-school and we would go to church on Wednesday and Sunday, but things were different. There was a disconnection with our life.

Life moved forward without us in the United States. The friends with whom we had socialized had met new friends and it was hard to fit us into their busy schedule. We had our son at school in one town, our daughter in pre-school in another town and our church was in a different town. It was a mess and it was getting difficult to act as if everything was okay in our home. There was a lot of stress and arguments. How could we pay our bills? How did we get to be so distant from our friends? How are we going to survive?

There did not seem to be much to be thankful. I felt my life was falling apart. But I had to find something. So I began thinking: ‘We may not have a job, but we have money to pay for insurance; if someone becomes ill we can still go to the doctor. We still have a roof over our heard. We still have food to eat. The adults may not be getting along, but we still need to be thankful that our children are happy.’ No matter what our ailments, place in life, our financial status, I can be thankful that I wake up in the morning.

In my life as a Christian, I do not always do what is proper. I don’t always pray as I should. But, I think, always give credit to The One who sees to my needs. While things were not easy for those nine months, we survived and grew stronger. It was because of my faith that I muddled through and learned and became a better person.

I P.R.A.Y.

When I have a conversation with God, I Praise first. I thank God for all of the things that he has given me. Sometimes what I am given is not what I want but it is what I need. It is through our trials and tribulations that we grow in our faith. If things were always hunky-dory, we could not grow as a person; we would become spoiled brats, always getting our way.

Next I Repent. I ask God to forgive me for falling short of His expectations. And I fall short every day.

Thirdly, I Ask. I don’t ask for things because that is not what we need. I ask for guidance and inspiration and His patience, while I try to figure it all out.

And lastly, I Yield. To me that means that I give myself to Him to use my life as He sees fit. Does that mean that I become a Job-type character and I am inflicted with sores and poverty? Or am I blessed to no end and can take my blessings to help others? I don’t know. On any given day, I think that I could be used as either. But however I am used, I remain thankful, thankful for my loving, imperfect family and my blessed and imperfect life.

Now, after nine months of unemployment, my husband did find a job. We have not had that sort of turmoil in our home since. It was a great learning experience and through our trials, we grew as a family. I do not have all of those lessons down pat; I still make huge mistakes in my life. But I know that I can survive. When it does not seem that I can, I P.R.A.Y.

Happy Thanksgiving, every day!

For the love of a Dog

For anyone who is a pet owner/lover, there are many things that you would do for your pet. But what happens when something needs tobe done but you don’t know what it is? There are many people; I can be counted as one of them that says many times, “Wow, wouldn’t it be nice to live a dog‘s life.” That is kind of like saying something about the grass being greener on the other side of the fence.

What we fail to think about sometimes are the downfalls to the dog’s life. We don’t realize the hard work, maybe chemicals that have gone into that greener lawn.

I have wondered about those things this week as I sit and watch my eldest dog suffering. Is he suffering? I don’t really know because he cannot tell me. Does he hurt, is he sad, does he know we love him? All of these questions run through my head as I watch him. If I were a guessing woman I would say, no he does not hurt, but it is irritating; he is sad and he knows we love him.

The frustrating thing is the vet says he has never seen anything like it before. Last Sunday, my daughter says to me, “Mom, I think Copper is bleeding.” I looked at his face and there was a brown spot on the side of his mouth. I took an old towel and gently wiped the area and saw the towel turn red. Yep, he had been bleeding. As I was cleaning, the area seemed hard so i wasn’t quite sure what to do so I did not look inside his mouth. I just thought that he got snagged on something which caused the bleeding.

A little background: Copper is 9 1/2 years old. He is a Lakeland Terrier, a smaller version of an Airedale Terrier. He is from Virginia and not a well-known breed in this area. He is an indoor/outdoor dog and is spoiled rotten. He does not run around loose and is very protective of his home.

He did nip a boy’s finger once when this boy was teasing Copper and the boy stuck his finger through our chain link fence. I don’t know if Copper really bit the boy intentionally or if Copper was barking at him and happened to close his mouth in a bark with the boy’s finger close. May it be noted that this boy constantly poked at Copper with sticks through the fence and would yell at him. Like I wrote, Copper was very protective of his home. Copper seems to know when the “bad boys” are walking near our fence because he will bark; he does not bark at good kids!

I haven’t heard Copper bark for days. He just does not have the energy. By Monday, he seemed ok and we decided to lay low on calling the vet. If he had injured himself, it would heal. That all changed on Tuesday.

Tuesday morning, I noticed blood coming out of Coppers right nostril, the same side where there was the blood spot near his mouth. It was time to go to the vet. The vet looked at Copper and had this concerned look. He looked up his nose and then looked into his mouth. The concern on his face grew. He said that he had never seen anything like this in a dog and asked if there was a chance that Copper chewed on electrical cord. I told him, “Absolutely not!”

Apparently, I should have looked inside his mouth; I should have been more diligent in my looking him over. The vet said that his mouth looked all cut up and bleeding. He asked if he could have gotten into rat poison; another answer of NO. A swab of his mouth and nose were taken; we received and antibiotic to treat for a viral infection, just in case and were sent on our way. I asked if I should be feeding him soft dog food and was told yes. Oh and I was told to isolate him from our 3-year-old Lakeland, Tinkerbelle.

Got home to a phone call from the vet telling is that he had contacted the lab 60 miles away and was told they needed blood work from Copper. The nurse first told us to come in at 2:00, Wednesday and then corrected herself and told us to come by at 5:30. I guess they realized they did not to expose any of their other patients if Copper was contagious.

I woke up Wednesday morning to see that his other nostril had started bleeding and I immediately called the vet. I was beside myself. I had no idea what was wrong with him and there was nothing I could do to help. He went back to the vet and tests sent out.

As of Friday here is what we know: he is not in renal failure, a couple of tests done in Nebraska are leaning towards possible rat poison based on certain levels in his blood. Because of that, he was given a Vitamin K shot and Vitamin K pills. Plus it seemed that his bleeding was lessening.

By Saturday and continuing into today, the bleeding is back, he is lethargic and to get him to eat, I have to hold his bowl in such a way that he does not have to bend his head. While Friday his tail was wagging, that all stopped on Saturday.

I know that you do not need these details. I know that Copper means nothing to you. But he means the world to me and I know that there are many out there that have an ill pet or a pet that they have lost. It means something to you to remember that loved pet.

I hope by Monday that we have more answers and that we can work on a cure. Or if there is no cure, at least we will have some answers.

I think of Tinkerbelle who has no idea what is going on. She just knows that her buddy is not around to pester her, or she him.She might be worried if she is going to disappear. She wants much more loving than usual.

No matter how much we want to believe that a dog is just a dog or a cat is just a cat, when it comes down to it, I would do anything for my dog; I have bathed his bloody front legs that he uses to wipe his nose. I make burger and rice for him because he quit eating the soft dog food that we bought for him to ease the irritation in his mouth. I cleaned his bottom because his intestines didn’t like switching from hard to soft food (another reason for adding rice to his diet). I have cried more tears than I thought possible. And through all this, Copper still looks at me with love, even through those sad eyes, I can see the love.

I pray that there is a cure and I pray that he can get back to the same old Copper that we all know and love. But more than anything, I want him to not be in pain. Maybe the answer will come soon, for that I pray.

It’s Beginning to look a lot like Christmas! A memory of Grandma Thom.

I am not a young thaang! (Sorry about the bad slang) but conversely, I am not as old as dirt. While my children are teenagers, when my grandma was my age, she had four grandchildren ages 6, 4, 3 and 1 (I am the one year old). We would be the only grandchildren she would have; as my mom’s only sibling never married. Since there were only four of us and we lived six blocks from them (six blocks is about 1/2 mile), we saw my grandparents a lot.

I loved my grandma probably more than any other relative I had/have. She made me laugh, cry, think, but mostly grow as a person. I think of her almost every day. And I definitely miss her. Even as I write this my eyes fill with tears and I think of the empty spot in my life. I know that she watches over me and sees what I have done in my life, but my children never met her. They never got to eat her Christmas cookies or learn how to separate an egg or just sit with her and share stories. You see, she has been gone 20 years this December 26th.

I have to tell you that the tears are really flowing now and I don’t know why. I thought I was finished grieving. It has been three Christmases since last I cried while singing “Silent Night” at our  Christmas Eve service. Maybe because I have never written about her; never put my grief to paper that the tears are flowing.

I have written about traditions and many of those traditions came from Grandma (and Grandpa) Thom (Thompson). Our Christmas tree went up on Christmas Eve because when my mom was growing up, the tree went up on Christmas Eve and Santa Clause decorated it. (We didn’t leave the decorating to Santa, we did that on our own). When I was older, I found out that the tree going up on Christmas Eve was all about the 12 days of Christmas because it always came down on Epiphany (Day 12).

On Christmas Day, we always had dinner at Grandma and Grandpa’s. We would have the same meal: bone-in ham, creamy mashed potatoes, fluffy Jello salad, homemade Christmas Pudding (Plum pudding) and mincemeat tarts with Hard Sauce. And as my Grandma was a tried and true Methodist *, the Christmas Pudding and Hard Sauce were not made with alcohol.  Our evening meal was ham sandwiches, Ruffles Chips, cheese always homemade cookies with English Tea (English tea is made with milk and sugar).  So many memories… (* She told me, at the end of her life, that the reason she did not drink wine was that she was worried she would like it too much!)

Grandma taught me how to iron. I will never forget the low ceilinged, dark basement where she ironed. She would sit with the ironing board at a low position, the green 7-Up bottle filled with water and the sprinkler attachment on the end to sprinkle the item to be ironed. She would have the old vacuum-tubed television on, with its Rabbit Ears, watching “A Secret Storm”. We would talk about the characters on the television, or what was happening at school or any crazy thing that entered our minds.

She started me on my grandpa’s handkerchiefs. When I mastered those, I graduated up to trousers and then dress shirts. To this day, I love to iron. I always start with handkerchiefs, then I move my way to dress shirts. Do I iron that way because that is the order I learned? I don’t know but it is always how I iron. My husband likes the fact that I don’t grumble about ironing, because he does like his things nicely pressed. (And please no grumbling about my domesticity. I do these things with a smile on my face. Anyone who knows me knows that I am my own woman and not a domestic slave. I learned those things from my mom and grandma. I can “bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan…” {Enjoli commercial from the 70’/80’s})

Grandma Thom was a fabulous cook. She was an artist at Christmas. Her baking began in August because she had so much to do that she had to begin that early to get it all done. She was famous for her “Christmas Cards”. These were Santa Cookies that she made for over 30 years, some years making 750 cookies to share as the Thompson Christmas Card. There were always enough for each of the grandchildren to give to their school classmates and friends outside of school. We would place our order and she would package them up to make sure we were taken care of first. Our family was known for our Santa Cookies and, even now, those cookies are remembered.

As well as taking the time to make the coconut bearded, raisin-eyed, royal icing covered cookies, she made peanut brittle, pecan brittle, divinity, 3 kinds of chip cookies, many old English favorites, popcorn balls and probably 30 other treats. She was amazing and such an inspiration. My grandpa made a Christmas Tree that would hold some of her scrumptuous gifts from the kitchen, all made with love. We looked forward to that tree appearing and were always sad when it had to be put away.  You can see that she used Spode Christmas Chinain the photo and the tree was always a short needled fir.

In January of 1992, my grandma went into exploratory surgery. I was at the hospital when the word came out that she had ovarian cancer and that it had metastasized to other parts. We were all devastated. There were many tears, but we all forged on and did the best we could for her.

As time went on, she found that the Chemo did not work and it made her feel awful and not herself. We all tried to spend as much time together as we could. In late November/early December, my sister and I went to Grandma’s home to bake. We wanted her to have those same Christmas-time smells. She was unable to be in the kitchen; she was too weak. Individually, we would go to the Living Room and spend time alone with Grandma. My sister and I both told her that she was so important to us but she needed to take care of herself and that it was not selfish to let go and be where she could be healed, where she could be whole again.

You see, she was a very faithful woman and we knew that her dying was not the end for her. She had stopped being that happy, always there for a smile and a laugh, lady. And she was a lady. She never wore pants in public, never swore or said a bad word about anyone. If she could find someone to drive her to her destination, she would. She really did not like to drive. I knew that she did not like everyone, but never a cross word left her mouth. She was the epitome of grace. She is who I want to be when my children marry and become parents.

She went into the hospital in December. I was going to my in-laws for Christmas so on Christmas Eve, I went to visit her in the hospital, as I would not able to be there on Christmas. By then, she was semi-comatose. I sat with her and talked to her and did the best I could to hold it together.

I remember her saying, “Mmmmm, good apple pie,” as I sat with her. Even at the end of her life, she was still thinking about food. She was having good thoughts, comforting thoughts. It was very hard for me, but I had to leave. I told her I loved her and walked out of her hospital room.

The doctor was there as I left, tears beginning to fill my eyes. He told me that tests showed that her kidneys were shutting down and she had very little time left. He knew I was going out-of-town and this was his way of telling me that would probably be the last time I saw her. I made it to my car and totally lost it. The tears flowed; it was that ‘I can’t catch my breath’ kind of crying. I had to sit in that cold hospital parking lot, feeling alone and so sad, until I could gain enough composure to drive to work.

I drove the mile to work and when my boss looked at me, she sent me home because she knew that I was in no position to be at work. She also knew my family, well, and knew that this was a devastating loss. This was the first time our family had had a matriarchal loss in a long time. All of the other generational losses had been at such a young age that the “matriarch” position had not been established, or so late that someone else had stepped in.

My husband and I left for Christmas, knowing that it would be hard. We survived Christmas Day but decided to leave earlier to get back home, just in case we could make it back before Grandma dies. We left on December 26th and drove to Kent’s grandmother’s home to spend the night. Almost as soon as we walked into Rubye’s home, the phone rang. She answered the phone and said the call was for me. My heart sunk. I took the phone, trying to prepare for what was going to be said. It was my dad. He had to be the bearer of bad news probably because my mom was inconsolable.

It didn’t take long for all of us to realize that my grandma was in control until the end. Christmas was her holiday. She prepared for this holiday for months. No other Christian holiday received as much time, joy and love as Christmas. While she could not control how her cancer progressed, she controlled how it would end. She was not going to die before Christmas, as we would be thinking of how sad we were instead of the anticipation of Christ’s birth. She definitely was not going to die on Christmas Day. She held on until the day after.

While I still mourn her, it was because of her death that I am who I am today. She never met my children. In 1992, I was told by my Ob/Gyn, that I would probably never have any children. Because of that, she and I had great conversations about her struggles. She would say that she could get pregnant, but being pregnant almost killed her. After my mom was born, she was told never to have another child. She went against the doctor’s orders and had my uncle. She did stop after that. I don’t think I ever would have known that if she wouldn’t have known her time on this Earth was coming to an end.

I still love her and this writing has been very cathartic for me. Today, many tears have flown and many memories, good and sad, have been shared. I thank you for letting me share this with you and I hope that it has helped you remember someone who has had a lasting impact on your life who is no longer with you on this Earth.

It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas and it has nothing to do with the decorations at Target or the advertisements that are beginning to air. It has a lot to do with memories of Grandma Thom.

Written in loving memory of Jessie V. Thompson  (photo of the Thompson family)