To the Best Dog Ever...

It's never expected. You think they'll live forever. They are loved and adored, given  kibbles, treats and nourishment from special dishes made just for them, groomed at least once in their life whether they like it or not, pampered like there's no tomorrow, treated as one of the family, allowed to sleep on the bed simply because of their cuteness, given permission to claim one part of the couch as their own and nobody better sit there, and easily forgiven for any mistakes they make.

First night at home.

They are adopted when they are puppies, endearing us to them in a moments notice. Their puppy-down-fur so soft that if you give them a bath it puffs up like a cotton ball. Using shampoo with a fragrance that resembles baby powder, they can, for a few hours, carry that sweet smell that reminds you of a baby. You just want to plant your nose in the middle of it and take a deep breath. Kinda weird, but you'll know what I mean if you've ever done this.

Negotiating the step to the back deck

So proud, we take them for walks around the yard to introduce them to their new habitat. We show them areas that are just for them, and stand out there for hours waiting for them to "go." Praises and treats follow, hoping to reinforce that positive behavior. As they grow and their stamina increases, you take them for walks around the neighborhood, proudly holding the leash, making the statement that "hey everyone, look! This is MY dog." Yes, pride rushes over us when all the kids come running over to make friends and suddenly your new pup is the celebrity of the day. And when they are yet a bit older, you venture to the doggie park, where they run, fast and far, wind blowing in their face, in whatever direction they want, no leash, no restrictions, just free to make friends and sniff every other dog that comes near. Socialization is interesting especially when your pup is the smallest and could be lunch for the larger beasts that roam the park. But somehow they get along.

Sara getting some 'Puppy Love'

Chris and his best friend

And there's something to be said of the bonding that happens between children and puppies. It's as if there's a new baby, but different. They have to be cared for constantly, and of course, it always starts out with children promising they will do everything for the puppy. Responsibility is really big and often underestimated and will always set them up for overpromising and underdelivering. But somehow everyone finds their small way to contribute and it all works out. Because their relationship with the dog becomes what is important. Seeing the smile on your child face as they cuddle with and love their new companion is priceless. The inner joy it brings just knowing that when they come home each day, he'll be there waiting for them with wagging tail, tongue hanging out and often jumping incessantly until they are lifted off the floor up to where the view is eye to eye. Totally unconditional love. Resting in their arms, the feeling-loved pet moves into a state of contentment, after waiting all day for just this moment. I often wonder does time really matter to them? It can matter to us.

Getting a drink

Especially when the next thing you know, nearly 12 years goes by and the puppy that was completely adorable as it rested in the grasp of your hand or on the nape of your neck as you slept, has had time all of a sudden quantum leap forward and caught up with him. Or maybe we've somehow gone through a time warp and 12 years seems like 12 days. While we've aged, in our minds eye, our sweet canine companion never seems to. He'll always be our puppy. But reality catches us off guard when we learn an illness has altered his health or some inoperable situation emerges and there's nothing we can do. All of a sudden, we wish time would stand still. The thought of letting that little part of the family go, is a thought we'd rather not think about. It just seems a bit too unreal. We don't want to think about life without him. It's been a precious life for sure.

Loved that trench!

So, you start to think of the fun things and the good times and the amazing memories you've had together. Like the time when he was a puppy and would run around the trenches of the flower bed like it was a race track. Or when he drank out of the garden hose because it was a hot day outside or chewed on woodchips from the flower bed. Or the time when, at the doggie park, he met a dog that looked just like him. Amazed that they could be siblings.

Love the cold and the snow - energized by it!

King of the snow hill

One of my favorite pics...

Or how about the time roller blading with him running alongside only to have him take off after something causing the skates to come out from under. Nothing but sidewalk. Or remember how he loved the snow and would run from one side of the drive way to the other when we were shovelling or snow-blowing? The cold never seemed to matter. Or how he would run down the sidewalk through the path of snow jumping like a little rabbit. How about the fun he had running, hopping through tall grass. It would make us laugh every time.

Dominic could do anything...

Chris was always training him to do something

Truly was a cuddle dog

Convincing him to pose for the picture was not easy....

Or how about the time we put bows and wrapping paper on him at Christmas time? I'm sure he wasn't really amused, but he played along anyway. Or how about the stuffed toys, like the cow or the hedgehog that he would love to chase if you threw it. The squeeker would always be the first thing to go. Remember trying to teach him to roll over? He just never quite got it. It was only a half-roll, but he got treats just for trying.

He really was a good sport...

The joy of carrying a big stick

We used to love when he came home from the groomers because they always had a special scarf around his neck. Looked so cute. Or how about when you picked him up, he would lay his head on your shoulder. Completely cuddly and huggable. I remember laying sideways on the couch and he always jumped up to curled up behind me, always snuggling close enough to feel how warm he was.

His crate was way bigger...but he soon grew into it

One of our favorite things to do...hike Lake County

Constant companion, love that dog...
Remember how big he was in his crate when we first brough him home? How about him running down the sidewalk always wanting to carry something, and once a long stick? Too funny. He used to get on the door of the dishwasher when it was down and you weren't looking, just to lick the dishes. And he would always sit patiently at your feet until you were done eating, just to lick the plate. The list could go on. There are so many precious memories and stories.

How do I get down???

I'm free....

Pets are a part of the family. They are loved and they love you back. They are obedient because they want to please you. They roam with the pack no matter where you go. The heart gets attached and life experiences happen. All too quickly, and then it's over.

It's quite amazing the life we've had with this dog. Dominic. I sure hope that all dogs really do go to heaven. I hope he loves it there.

A Weekend Project and Hale Navy HC-154

We've been in our house for a year and 10 months. The way time passes, it seems like yesterday we were moving in, unpacking boxes and figuring out how to make this new house our home. We were extremely fortunate in every way, and feel blessed beyond our wildest dreams, to even be able to find the house, buy the house, and move in when we did. Each month that passes, it feels a little more like our sanctuary. But not without some intentionality however. A home should reflect your own personality, your own inner feelings, your own spirit. It would be extremely difficult for me to move into a home, that someone else had decorated, painted, put their heart and soul into and find my spirit could rest there. I feel blessed to have started with a clean canvas in this home. There's something about starting fresh, with everything clean, and new. It's easier to call it your own.

As so many stories go, the previous owners had to vacate because of a foreclosure situation. Sad for them, but a blessing for us. We didn't know them, but it seems our neighbors did. Apparently the older gentleman who lived here with his wife, was "quite the character." Several have expressed their joy of having us in the house, they love what we've done with the landscaping and this past week, someone stopped to say they loved what we did with the front entryway to our house. The previous owners didn't actually paint anything inside or outside the house. It was just as the builders had left it. So, since we've moved in, there have been some dramatic changes. All for the better.

This past year we have begun to intentionally consider what we would like our home to feel like when we walk in. And what fun it has been snagging pictures from everywhere we can, (thank you Pinterest and facebook and all the blogs), processing which elements we love from those pictures and trying to incorporate the details into our own home. The latest project was redoing our front entryway. For months we labored over what we should do, the hardest being a decision on colors. So, as fate would have it, I happen to cross paths with a designer and decorator, named Abby with A Delightful Design,, who lives in Michigan. With each blog that I read and boards of room designs she posted, I felt a kinship to the style and creativity that Abby has. So, I approached her after reading that she wanted people to submit their front door pictures and she would give a quick design. This was a huge relief to me (and there was jumping for joy), since we were basically spinning on what to do and had no solid ideas.

This is the photo that I submitted to her. It was our front door, as is, with the original paint and tape still stuck on from the notices that were previously on the door. Basically, it was very blah. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't that bad, but the shutters were a darker blue and the two really didn't match. I sent Abby another picture that had the shutters so she could see what we were working with.

Then, she sent me a link to this picture and pinned it to my Pinterest board. Being an extremely visual person, I immediately saw her vision and thought it would be perfect.

Little did I know just how perfect it would be. She sent me the details about the paint colors I could choose from, options that included painting the shutters and an option that included leaving them the way they were. Of course, we wanted to get the most for our time and energy, so we opted for not repainting the shutters and we went with Benjamin Moore Hale Navy, HC-154. Our house is a light grey (even though in the picture it looks light blue) and this was a beautiful combination of navy blue and dark grey.

I was a little nervous about painting with such a dark color, but being the adventurous ones we are, we forged ahead with getting it done. As we started to paint, we realized that the color we were using was the exact same color as the shutters. And we just marvelled at the fact that without ever having seen the house in person, and only from cell-phone pictures that really didn't do it justice, she matched them perfectly! Yes, she is that good!

 So, the front doorway, with the side windows panels were painted; we repainted the black iron rails on either side, as well as the outside lights a glossy black. We also added new locks and the door knocker that we received when we closed on our house. It's been waiting to go on the door all this time!  
Daniele 2010
It only took an afternoon to get it done, but the results were amazing. So good, in fact, that the next day, I painted the outside entrance door to the garage, (inside and outside) and the door from the garage to the basement. What a difference. Those two were previously white. It's easier to opt for finding more uses for the same color when I buy an entire gallon and could have gotten by with a quart. And now that I think about it, I used my Living Social coupon for the paint store, so I even got the paint for half the normal cost. Such a deal.

So, thank you Abby, for the direction. We never could have done it without you! We love the results and even the neighbors think it was a beautiful change. Just one more thing we've done to make our house our home. I love things that are simple that make simple changes. But, sometimes the obvious isn't so obvious. I would not hesitate to work with Abby again, in fact, we are looking forward to getting some help on other rooms in our home in the very, very near future. I can't wait for the transformation that is just around the corner! And, as usual, pictures and a blog will follow.

It's Not About the Cookies.

Long story, short....It never fails.

What begins as a good idea, soon becomes a delectable dream and always, always sends me back to 1985. It never fails. Seriously, when do lessons of the past stop being something that is emotionally or consciously attached to a present day activity? And something as simple as....making cookies.

When my children were 4 and 1, we lived next door, on Lilac Drive, to a nice young family. The mom's name was Julie and she had a son named Justin. We would speak on occasion, the kids would play out in the sandbox that Justin's dad made for him, and we would talk about planting daffodils in the yard. Just the usual stuff. Justin, even though he was only 2, was a bit of a "rough-house" and would always test Julie's patience. They would be out playing for a while, but soon after, Justin would have a melt-down of some sort and they would have to go in. Sara and Chris would continue to play in the sandbox with the toys. But I could tell that Julie liked the adult mom-to-mom talks. Occasionally, we would bring our iced tea outside, sit in the sun and watch the kids play while we chatted for a long time. It was nice and they were nice neighbors.

One particular day, as they were heading inside, Julie said to me, 'hey, you guys should come over later and we'll make cookies.' I thought, great, I love to make cookies. So we planned to meet up in the afternoon and make chocolate chip cookies.

And show up we did. Got those cookies made and I felt so good helping a neighbor do something she needed help doing.  Finding a time to even make cookies is difficult with a two year old. And if I remember right, she was pregnant with their second child.  So, helping her bake something up, was nothing but joy for me. The next question she asked me, took me by surprise, 'should we make some tea to have with the cookies?' And I probably had somewhat of a puzzled look on my face, and I remember the words that came out of my mouth were, 'you mean you wanted us to eat these?' I'm not sure what that sounded like to her but to me I was confused. You mean I could go next door to my neighbors house, help her make cookies and sit and enjoy them with her, too? I wanted to cry.  I seriously didn't know what to make of that. Accepting the invitation, we stayed and helped them eat the cookies.

Every time I make cookies, I think of that moment. Not sure why, as I stir the butter and sugar together by hand until it's creamy, then add the vanilla extract and other ingredients, why does it take me back to Lilac Drive and that awkward feeling about eating the cookies? Obviously many years have passed and neither of us live on that street anymore. In fact, I'm not sure when the last time was I saw Julie. But that episode keeps haunting me.

Earlier today, while working hard on a project, Michael proclaimed he was hungry and without pause said 'I feel like I need cookies.' (need being the optimum word here) We had nothing in the house that was both a snack and sweet, nothing that resembled cookies, so I decided I could just bake some. I've done this a thousand times before, so the recipe is well etched in my memory. However, the scene with Julie and the cookies, came back almost immediately. But this time, the phrase that accompanied it was 'socially inept.' Seems a bit harsh, wouldn't you say? But there must have been a reason it spilled out of my consciousness so easily. As I reflected on those words, I decided that in this present day, to share a plate of cookies, or anything really, with a neighbor, co-worker, family is totally within my nature.

At that time, it was also in my nature but it looked different. I could have someone come to my house, we could make cookies, or a meal, and of course we would share it together. At that time, being a part of a sequestered church society that we were, sharing didn't exist outside our home, except with other family members or church friends. Sharing with a neighbor, well, we didn't do that. The larger commission was to serve your neighbor,because you had to, you were supposed to, and it would give the appearance of humility. You would do things for them. You would share things with them, as in, give things to them. You would sacrifice and give of your time and effort.  But the sharing of a moment to enjoy each others company, over a plate of cookies, was awkward, as we were supposed to be in the world, but not part of it.

Stupid church.

All that did was create people who were socially inept. Truly, why was I afraid to think that my neighbor might actually want to spend time with me? And if she did, what was wrong with that? I don't know. I still can't really explain it. It should never have been awkward. I wish that I had been a more individual thinker, someone who thought about (and subsequently did) what was right, in spite of what you heard over and over each week in church.  But the fact that I chose to believe so strongly that the church was right, that everything it taught was gospel, that our only close friends had to be in the church, created this void in my social life, my personality, my being a good neighbor, my need to be an individual and stifled my ability to do life with others around me. I am indeed ashamed to think that this was the way life was. It wasn't normal then, and it surely wouldn't be normal today. For us to think that the world around us or our neighbors had nothing to teach us, to give us or share with us, was completely self-centered and now, embarrassing. I think perhaps the lesson is obvious. It's. not. all. about. me.

These days, I crave sitting around with friends and sharing what's going on in everyone's life. I am no better, I can't elevate myself above them, and I'm not keeping score any longer. That is the norm. That is what feels good. That is what heals the soul when it's wounded, broken or hurt. It's what we all deserve and long for as humans. It would even be better, if we all brought a plate of cookies to share. But then, it's not about the cookies. It never really was.

The Canning Experiment

Canning. It even sounds like an old-fashioned word. Who does that anymore? Even though anything you could ever want is already canned, frozen, or somehow processed and on the shelf in the store, canning hasn't lost its appeal. A big reason it's still popular is because home canning food you are going to eat later ensures it will contain ingredients that have your approval. You can rest assured for the most part, unless you really screw it up, your food will be delicious, fresh tasting and healthy for you. Not to mention canned food lined up on the shelf is very beautiful, somewhat artistic and can have it's own romantic look about it. Anyone in love with food, will see crystal clear jars packed with some amazingly colorful favorites and immediately want to pop one open and grab a fork or a spoon. 

Canning, with all it's steps involved, really can be a messy adventure. Produce lined up on the counter tops, the sink is overflowing with soapy water, the stove and the floor has everything imaginable splattered on it. But when the jars have finished processing and are resting on the counter as they cool, with each "pop" of a lid, the little kid inside us, just wants to do cartwheels and start dancing. Success sounds so good. 

The process for canning (at least water-bath canning) is similar no matter what you're doing. You prep your food, prep your jars, fill jars, water bath for a time, allow to cool. Simple. Anyone can do it even on the first try. There are plenty of recipes online these days, many with photos of the process. Don't be afraid to try this, you'll love the results.

A while back I ventured into the kitchen and actually canned some pickles. Easy, delicious. Actually, I made two batches. The first batch of pickles turned out to be too mushy. The reason? I sliced them entirely too thin. (OK, so you can screw up) But after blending them in a food processor, the result...several jars of dill pickle relish. Genius! Great solution. Second batch, turned out great...tasty, crunchy, just perfect. Made me want to can more. But I wisely chose not to. (too time consuming) 
Reality check: there's enough to last a while without making more.
The next adventure was all about peaches. They are in season here in New Hampshire, so all the local farms are putting their harvests into the local grocery stores. And they are delicious. After eating several, the idea came to me that I just needed to preserve some of that fresh, peach goodness, for the cold winter months to come. When I was younger, I remember my mom canning lots of things, fruits of all kinds, vegetables, pickles. Just about anything that could go in a jar. 
As I read through recipes and instruction books about canning, it all comes back to me. 

The process isn't hard, but you have to have a few necessary items, the fruits or vegetables you want to can, jars with lids (preferably new lids since they have to seal - not good to reuse lids because they won't seal properly),

a funnel to sit on the top of the jar so when you're adding the prepared food it actually makes it into the jar, tongs to remove the hot jars from the water bath, 

a very large canning pot with a rack inside to sit the jars on. 

The Peach experiment helped me realize there was one more tool that I needed to get the job done perfectly. I'll explain that in just a bit. But it has to do with texture. It's all about the texture.

Fast forward to today, apple butter was on the agenda. Not applesauce, apple butter. It's thicker and spicier than applesauce. Easily spreads on fresh bread or toast. Making your own you can make it as thick as you'd like and add as much cinnamon as your cravings encourage you to add. The best thing is being able to control how much sugar goes into the recipe. Many brands from the store, while they may be healthy, have a ton of sugar. Apples are naturally sweet and really don't need as much as you think.

For this batch, I chose McIntosh apples, fresh from a local orchard. Notice on the bag it says "1/2 peck." Not sure who uses that measurement these days, but I got 4 large bags which I thought might equal about 1/2 bushel. That measurement I understand. 

After washing them, then the fun begins. If you've never seen or used one of these, it's the greatest thing since sliced bread. It's an apple peeler, corer, slicer. And in five seconds, you will have accomplished all that for one apple. Simple. Fast. Amazing. I've had this one since my kids were small. At that time, it was a novelty to prepare apples for consumption with this, but for larger jobs, like today, it's a life/time saver for sure. Every apple comes out completely peeled and evenly sliced. Great for making pies, too.

The next step since we're making apple butter, is to take all the apples, add a little water and cook them in a large pot until they are soft. You want them soft because the next step involves managing the texture. Using a food mill, that task is much, much easier. When I made the peaches, the recipe called for chopping into small pieces. Not so bad. But, when they were finished, and we tasted them, the chunky texture wasn't our preference. A more creamy, applesauce-like texture would have been better. 

So, we picked up this food mill. The OXO brand is really great. It's a little bit of an investment, but well worth it. After cooking the fruit, spooning the soft pulp into the mill and mashing it through the bottom, creates this soft, creamy texture. You'll be thrilled at the results. It worked great with the apples after they were cooked. And we even took a couple of the jars of canned peaches out, ran them through the mill and the texture is now something that is much more palatable for us. And it will be easier to spread. Incidentally, the peach recipe was a no-sugar, fruit juice sweetened only recipe. First time. Not that bad at all. 

 This is the beginning of a very delicious pot of apple butter. Basic instructions called for cinnamon, cloves and allspice, with some sugar. This cooked down for a couple of hours in order to get to the consistency and thickness we wanted. But during those two hours, the aroma completely engulfed our home, upstairs and down. It was better than any apple/cinnamon/spice candle I've ever used.
After cooking for a time, it has a darker, richer color and taste to match.

The final step today was using a couple cups of the applesauce (before all the spices went in) to make apple bread. Omg. Too delicious.

I think I'm going to love having freshly canned apples and peaches this winter. Four bags of apples made 7 quarts of apple butter. On second thought, I'm not sure if we canned enough. (I should go take a look at the kitchen mess one more time.) But with all the other things we'd like to can this fall, I'm thankful for the 7 jars. 

They will add color to the pantry with all the other jars of canned goods and be delicious, each and every spoonful. Yum!

The Young and The Old

This chapter of my blog is about the bittersweet moments in a day. It's also about all things young and all things old, because everything fits in one of the two. And it's also about the fact that emotional stuff is the hardest thing in life to  walk through. Like it or not, some days are filled with emotional challenges and each one leaves a direct physical imprint on our very being, on our heart and on our soul.

For the past six days I was in Chicago with my son, Chris and daughter, Sara and her son, Wyatt. There are no better moments than sitting watching a  2-1/2 year old play, innocently, without inhibition and full of life and spirit.

Each time he smiled, or looked at me with those big beautiful blue eyes, I just melted into a pliable, mushable blob of squishy-heart feelings.

Once as he was going down for a nap, he asked me to lay on the bed with him so we could talk. Then as we laid our heads on the pillow, he turned towards me, just staring into my eyes, smiling. In my mind, I was hoping he was thinking how awesome it was that I was there and that I was special to him because I was his flesh and blood Gramma Debbie. There's something familiar within us that allows that genetic connection to be stronger than anything else. Come to think of it, I'm sure he must have been thinking that. At one point he reached over an put his hand in mine as if to say, let's connect. I may be projecting but I do believe we connected on some spiritual level, and there was definitely some bonding happening.

It was amazing to see my daughter be his mommie. How precious it is to be in the moments of her being the loving, tender, caring, nurturing mom, the ones in which I was immediately re-winding the clock, and emotions, to when she was 2-1/2. Many of his mannerisms, movements, actions, facial expressions and laughter reminded me so much of her, that the emotions I felt when she was that age came right back to the front of my spirit. She was being the princess I knew she would be and she was certainly living up to her name. She is a most dedicated, hardworking, give-it-everything you've got kind of mom. He is the luckiest kid in the world and I pray that he grows up to love and respect her the way a little child loves and respects the primary care-giver in his formative years. She deserves that. I'm very proud of her for being true to who she is.

My son's work schedule was a bit off our social schedule, but we made time every day to see him and spend time together. Most of those times were in the morning, having breakfast and playing with Wyatt, who absolutely adores his Unca Chris. Those testosterone infused moments were simply adorable to watch as this little 2-1/2 year old became a football throwing, soccer ball kicking, dinosaur growling, rough and tumble boy. So flipping cute! Chris was the patient uncle, showing him how to do everything, sharing his oatmeal everyday, whisking him up if a meltdown over anything was about to happen, diverting his attention to something else, loving him as only his nearest and dearest uncle could. I wondered if somewhere in the back of Chris' mind he was praying for a little boy he could call his own. Wyatt's middle name is Christopher, after his uncle. That's truly special. I'm very proud of him for being true to who he is.

Fast forward to day six. I dreaded this day, for no matter how old or mature I supposedly am becoming, goodbyes just suck. I have massive separation anxiety just thinking about the hugs goodbye, the last words spoken, the last glance as one or the other of us drives off in the car, or walks into the airport revolving door. And every time I ask myself, what is wrong with this picture? It isn't supposed to be this way. We are supposed to do life together, closer, not a two hour drive to the airport and three hours on a plane apart. It's just not the way our hearts were meant to function. Sara and I said goodbye in the morning, Chris later in the morning and Wyatt in the afternoon.

As I dropped him off at Sara's best friend's house to wait for her to get home from work, I cried getting him out of the car. He was sound asleep, he didn't even wake up when I put him down inside. I didn't really get to tell him goodbye, but I sure told him I loved him enough when we were together. In an I'm-missing-you-already kind of way, I hope he walked down the stairs this morning looking for me and wondered where I was. I hope we can talk soon just so I can hear that little voice. Thank goodness for the dozen or more little video vignettes I captured on my cell phone. I've already watched them so many times.

As this little boy is just starting his life in a most precious way, and all the bittersweet moments that surrounded my visit, I return home to a busy day of work, buried in emails from while I was gone. My thoughts were so focused on getting the work done that my spirit didn't feel the passing of someone near and dear to my heart who was almost 98 years old. I just found out that my Grandma Dahlia Booth passed away early this morning. On Mothers Day I had a teary conversation with my mom, who informed me that her vitals were going down and that her days were numbered. Three days later, she's gone. Just like that. Softly, slowly. Her kind life was over.

My Grandma had lots and lots of grandchildren. Having had ten children of her own, our family was large. One-on-one time with Grandma was few and far between, but she loved each of us and we knew it. She grew up in Alabama and I always thought she had an air of a Southern Belle in her spirit. She wore cashmere, always had her hair done, went to church every week and was very religious in taking care of herself. When I was in high school I believe, she had a heart attack. This pushed her on a life long regimen of extreme self care.

I've observed as long as I've known her that everyone around her took care of her, they gave her tremendous respect, and served her in any way they could. My mother was one of those in particular. Her relationship with her mom was very close, they talked about all sorts of things, they went shopping together, she always took her to appointments and other places. My mom served her mom. She gave her an abundance of respect and care.  What an example she has been through these years.

One of the earliest memories I have of my Grandmother was when my sister was born. I didn't know it at the time, I was only 3. But I stayed with her while my mom was in the hospital. She took me to see a movie, Island of the Blue Dolphins. I still remember it. She then took me to the hospital parking lot so I could wave to my mom through the window and she told me to ask her what did she have up there. A baby sister was the answer. I also remember that on one particular Valentines Day, she gave me a little handkerchief with hearts on it. I have cherished that little gift, it was very special. Later I remember that each year she and her husband would go to Mardi Gras, fish fries every Friday night at the VFW, and go to the World's Fair where ever they were. She loved traveling and seeing the sights. Throughout her whole life, she always had a southern accent. She was quite a Grandma, as Grandma's go. At her 90th birthday, we had a big party, with cake, and balloons, and a meal and showed a PowerPoint of her life, celebrating her and all that she had done. The early and middle part of her life wasn't easy, but she endured it all, persisted in moving forward, and lived nearly 98 years. I am proud of her for being who she was. I loved her and I will miss her.

Life isn't all a bowl of cherries. It's mixed with enough stress-inducing events, episodes and scenarios that it can make you think you won't make it sane even one more day. It's filled with intensely emotional moments, many of which are bittersweet, each of which provide character and framework to our existence in this life. Rather than run from it, just walk through it, but keep going, don't stop. Winston Churchill said once that if you are going through hell....keep going. It doesn't have to defeat you. Even though I feel I could succumb from separation anxiety, I allow myself to cry, get it all out, tell someone I'm sad and that this is hard. Being able to admit that I don't have to be strong and that crying isn't a sign of weakness, makes it easier to stop in the moment, feel it, then keep going.

So as one life ends and another begins, thus goes the cycle of life. Maybe one day there will be a formula for handling either better than the day before. I wish that Grandma could have met Wyatt, I think they would have hit it off. Even with 90+ years between them, I'm sure their spirits would have met in a very familiar place - love, joy, happiness.