Snowflakes slowly drift down to congregate with their predecessors joining them in creating the purest white blanket. Once the blanket thickens, it is then that you can hear it, the all-encompassing silence. It insulates us from an exceedingly busy world. Time stands still.
This is a day I have no obligations, no meetings, no errands, and no demands on my time. I sit next to a crackling fire, hot chocolate in hand; dogs at my feet and my computer in my lap, helping me to spin my next tale. Eventually I will have to put on my cold weather gear and take the dogs out for another romp in the snow. Their child like fascination with the fluffy white powder on the ground is amusing and endearing.
Winter is not my favorite season but I do enjoy it nonetheless. Over the years, by watching my dogs I have learned there is joy to be found in all the seasons. Winter brings with it the closing of a year, holidays and hope for new beginnings. It is a time to slow down and perhaps accomplish some tasks we put off for later. Just like nature, we humans need the forced down time so we can recreate ourselves and come back better than ever in the spring.
This time of year makes us nostalgic for family and friends. For many it is another reminder of how wrong their lives are and how much they lack. I long ago gave up on the perfect holiday and the perfect family. Growing up, holidays were a time of conflict and hard feelings. Every year I hoped things would be different, there would be no fighting and the holidays would be idealistic. Those days never came and I failed at creating them for myself in later years. The holidays still hold their magic for me despite my lack of family to share them with. These days I enjoy wrapping silly toys and treats for my dogs. Watching them tear wrapping paper to find a toy, playfully tossing it aside then going back to shredding paper with glee is heartwarming for me.
For these few months I will be happy to sit by the fire and catch up on projects I have been putting off. Come spring there will be plentiful work needing to be done. If there is one lesson our dogs can teach us it is to keep things in perspective. Yes, we may not like winter or we may be alone again this Christmas, but all is not lost. Spring will come back, the snow will melt and the days will grow long again. There is still joy in winter. It is in the simplicity and the quiet. Find that joy. Detach yourself from the idea of a perfect life. Whatever you circumstances, there is someone out there that would trade places with you in a second. Welcome old man winter, he will only be here for a short stay.
Thanksgiving is looming on the horizon and I am preparing to roast my homegrown pumpkins in order to make pumpkin pie. Making pie from my own pumpkins has become an annual tradition for me. It is a bit more time consuming to build your pie from scratch but the sense of accomplishment and the superior taste are well worth the effort.
During growing season you will be hard pressed to find me outside of my garden. It is a place I can let my mind wander, sing songs in my head, connect with nature and see God’s handiwork all around me. Quiet days nurturing plants while cautious birds wait for me to leave so they can sneak a treat is therapeutic indeed. The birds do not realize I am not averse to sharing and I really do want to get to know them. I enjoy trying to identify them and curiously research when I notice a new visitor. When I am in my garden, I do not have my phone with me. I refuse to give time to the issues trying to pull me away from my cultivating pursuits. Social media alerts, emails trying to get me to buy something, text messages wondering what I am doing, phone calls disturbing my peace, they are not allowed in my garden. This it time for my plants. Freeing them of weeds, feeding them, watering them and ridding them of pests (this includes my dogs) are my only concern.
It is incredibly grounding to dig in the dirt and watch vegetables and fruits grow from an unassuming seed. Furthermore it is exceptionally humbling when Mother Nature destroys your efforts with a single disease blown in on the winds. Growing seasons are never predictable and it is best if you are flexible enough to roll with the punches. Many seasons have been ruined by a sudden change in the weather. Fortunately there is always the next season to look forward to and to try again.
Waking at sunrise, work one’s body to the bone and going to bed exhausted were hallmarks of simpler times. Besides the self-sufficiency, days without TV, sitting around a fire talking with family and friends, sitting on the porch having coffee with a neighbor all have massive appeal to me. Yes, I too love technology for all it has done for me but I also curse it. It has taken us away from connecting with each other in person, reduced our social skills and distracted us from the world that continues on without us. We are so busy. We run in several different directions for days on end. Often times we do not slow down enough to notice the bounty around us, the friends we have not had a voice conversation with in months, the sound of a crackling fire, the birds singing in the trees or the leaves dancing across the lawn. I am often guilty of the same thing but it is nothing my porch swing can’t fix.
This Thanksgiving I hope you are blessed with family, friends, good food and most of all, simplicity.
Leaves set the landscape on fire with their bright oranges, lively reds, glimmering yellows and subtle browns. There is crispness in the air. It is a typical early fall portrait in the Pacific Northwest. At my home a decades old Paper Birch lines my driveway reaching thirty feet in the air. This time of the years it’s leaves turn a golden yellow and litter my driveway with its gilt creating a path Dorothy of the Wizard of Oz would envy.
This year was an anomaly, an El Nino year, which comes around every few years, causing a warming and disturbance in normal patterns. The trees and other vegetation enjoyed the delay in the arrival of fall weather this year. My vegetable garden continued to produce, reblooming irises livened the beds and the leaves lazily began to change their color. Very few trees were dropping their leaves at this point.
And then it happened. The weather suddenly snapped. Night temperatures plummeted into the teens and daytime temperatures rose ever so slightly. Plants were frozen, the irises snapped and the leaves turned an ugly brown, burnt by the cold and clinging to the branches. Instead of a colorful transition to fall, everywhere I look, we now have brown, crispy leaves. They will hang on to their branches until next spring or a harsh wind blows them from their post. Spring will come and change will be welcome. Until then however, the landscape will be stuck in a season of ugly.
Human beings have a tendency to resist change. Change forced on us makes us hostile, it scares us and makes cling to our ways with the staunch denial that change can be forced upon us. Is it because we want to control our own destiny that we resist change?
Normally I embrace change. If something is not working for me, I am quick to change, embracing new opportunities. I was very ready for change when I graduated from College. I packed up my belongings and moved two thousand miles from home to a place I only knew two people. That change has worked out very well. Occasionally I will change things out of boredom but mostly it is because I see a need. When I managed retail stores my managers noted their surprise I was able to adapt so quickly from managing a small store with five employees to a large store with over one hundred employees. Adaptation is crucial to success. Yes this means you may have to change. I also do not like to have change forced on me but if we don’t adapt, we may not survive.
Vegetation of the Pacific Northwest was lulled into a sense of security. The warmer than average temperatures made time slow down. Scheduled changes were delayed. Then suddenly, change was forced upon the vegetation and now it is stuck in a season of ugliness. Move forward, make changes, adapt and overcome. Do not become stuck in a season of ugliness wishing for what once
Please let me know what you think about my attempt at a book cover.
Obviously I would have this done professionally. I want to know what you think about the title, subtitle and layout.
Please be brutally honest.
Doubt is the work of the enemy. It will creep in slowly and work it’s way into your mind until it has you convinced that the easy was is the only way. Stop trying so hard. Your efforts are fruitless. If this were meant to be it would come naturally to you. If you are not aware of the seeds of doubt they will spread. You have to be prepared to stop the ember before it becomes a wildfire and you no longer have the energy to put out the fire.
No path is easy. If you are looking at a successful person and you think they have had it easy, just ask them. They will tell you about the rejections, the doubt, and the comments meant to defeat them. Perseverance is the only way to cap the doubt. Good old-fashioned hard work and dedication.
Habits are formed by practice. Someone figured out that it takes 21 days to create a habit. How do you get to the 21 days to create the habit you want? Drive is important. No one achieves a goal without the drive to succeed. Sometimes though, drive is just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other and carrying on. Dragging that foot from behind and making it push you forward.
Most of us have been on that diet when someone near you orders a pizza or something you just cannot resist. But if you stick with it long enough, you no longer crave unhealthy foods. It’s no different than working out or any goal you have in mind. The longer you do it, regardless of desire; you will eventually crave the habit that you have worked so hard to create.
You would not have had the desire if you did not have the ability. You can learn, you can change your weaknesses to strengths. Can you be an Olympic gymnast if you are clumsy and lack strength? Probably not but that should not stop you from training and giving it all you have.
Chase every dream that comes to your mind. Believe in yourself, push yourself and commit to yourself. Eventually you will find your niche and it will be everything that you thought it would be. We are all gifted in someway. It is your job to find that gift and bring it to it’s fullest potential. When you are ready, you need to share that gift with the world. Every writer started with that first book, article or blog. You take that first step and you keep trying, taking the criticisms and moving forward becoming better with every passing day.
What if the greats had given up on themselves? What if they had never shared their exclusive gifts with the world? Maybe you would not have been inspired to discover your gift. Maybe someone is waiting to see your gift and be motivated to discover his or her own gift and share it with the world.
Every day starts the same. A steaming hot cup of coffee touched with real half and half glides its way down my parched throat. Is there anything better than waking up to a warm cup of brew? I don’t think so. Sip after sip of warmth and caffeine gently wakes me. As my mind comes around I check to see what it is that I missed. There are always so many emails, most of them irrelevant, some company trying to sell me something. Facebook is my next stop. Notifications let me know what possibly important posts I may have missed. I’m informed now and I can start my day.
Sundays are not a day of rest for me. They are a day of planning and preparation. Regardless of what I think however, Moose always has different plans for my day. He will let me get away with some cooking, some cleaning, and some yard work. But, if I dare to get on the computer, he lets me know how bored he is. A simple sigh lets me know I am dropping the ball on my duties. I better get up and throw a ball or a Frisbee, many times so Moose can get some much needed exercise. A muscle bound dog resembling a bodybuilder needs lots of playtime. Sprints and jumping are on the agenda today. Moose is so very athletic. He loves to chase a Frisbee more than anything else. His athletic prowess is second to none. Now I can carry on with my chores but I will be reminded in a few hours that it’s time to toss a Frisbee again. This ninety-pound mix breed dog has set the standard for athleticism.
Chores are boring even to me but they must be completed. Cooking for the week clears up time in the evenings during the workweek so I can do more. More playtime is the priority. I do workout five days a week. I am nowhere near the athlete that Moose is. To be fair, he is ten years younger than me in dog years. Who are we kidding? I wasn’t that fit when I was ten years younger.
My favorite part of the day is retiring with a good book, a nightcap in hand and Moose by my side. He is not a thoughtful sleeping companion. His comfort is of the utmost importance. One thing is certain; he has to be touching me most of the night. So many times I have woken with a backache because of the awkward positions I was forced to sleep in during the night. If my sciatic is acting up finding comfort is pure torture. These are the things we dog lovers will sacrifice for the love of our dogs. The most endearing sleeping position that I have awoken to is Moose stretched out, back-to-back with me. When he realizes that I am waking he scoots his head to be even with my head. That is the best way to wake up.
My greatest fear is dying and not having a caretaker lined up for my dogs. What would happen to these dogs if I died suddenly or tragically? Who would take care of them? Lenny is old. He has been through so much. He is a timid, shy dog that can be so easily misunderstood. Raising your hand above his head is a trigger that makes him cower and back away. I have no idea what happened to him in his prior life but it has taken him many years to trust me. He is too old to make another transition. He also has a seizure disorder which is so easy to handle but add that to the fact he is a black dog and his chances diminish.
Ruby is also old. She has been through a rough patch where her previous owner’s boyfriend did not like her at all. She needs attention and she is beginning to have issues with her joints. It is sad but true that people do not want older dogs. Without attention, Ruby would languish at a shelter.
Panzer is old and is mistrustful of strangers. He does not like children and he does not care for many people. Panzer is attached to me and is always looking to me for direction. He is often difficult and can be aggressive towards people when he becomes scared, and he is often scared. He likes to be the dominant dog and he is willing to fight to obtain that position.
Dear sweet Cowboy is a gentle giant. He is however a timid dog. Strangers scare him and he does not like to be told what to do. Getting along with other dogs is not an issue. He will follow the pack mentality. If it is a mellow playful pack, he will be mellow and have fun. If it is a high-strung pack he will follow that also. Cowboy comes with many medical issues. He has bad knees and spondylitis in his back, a degenerative arthritis. Cowboy is also a black dog.
And then there is Moose, my greatest love in a dog and my greatest challenge. Moose does not like any other animals. He is a great lover of people as are most dogs that do not care for four legged creatures. His challenges are many. He too is a black dog. I would be shocked if Moose was not put down immediately once the shelter realized he is animal aggressive. This is the path that many dog aggressive dogs and especially pit bulls fall into once they reach the shelter.
Planning is crucial but so far, no one is willing to take on my special needs dogs. What do you do when you are one of a rare few that is willing to take on a special needs dog and not judge them but love them and keep them safe from the cruel world. If you know the answer, let me know. I love my dogs and pray they go before I do. They are the very best part of my life.