Monday, December 28, 2009

Jilly at home with her new Christmas toy.

Jilly: A good dog comes home when she’s called. Finally.

Jilly ran away from home today and I didn’t even know she was gone. How did that happen? Well, earlier today we had new internet and phone service installed in our home. The installer left the gate open on the side of the house and I didn’t notice until after I let Jilly out in the backyard.

Big mistake. I know. Especially because Jilly has a history of running away and not coming when she’s called.

Three years ago, when we adopted Jilly from Guide Dogs, she was being ‘career’ changed because, she wouldn’t come when she was called. They called it puppy training issues. I called it a good dog with bad messages.

It’s taken me a lot of time, treats and training to get Jilly past most of these bad messages. Some, I know will never go away. But Jilly and I have worked hard to get past the big one, coming on command. And we’ve made huge progress this year.

She played on the beach, off leash, and stayed close to me. She follows me up and down the street off leash, too. Now, she’ll even run from one end of the street to the other between my husband and I and not run away.

So today, when I found the gate open, I whistled for her. When she didn’t come running to me, I used the ‘call’…Jilly, where am I? No response. Ok, I responded with quite a few @#$$##@@ but we won’t print that here.

Then I ran in the house, put on my coat and Michael got the car. As he turned off our street to the left, I went to the right looking for her. Michael hadn’t even gone ½ block when he tooted the horn, there she was!

I stopped, turned and yelled, “Jilly, where am I?” She started running right to me and I started running for home. She followed me, passed me and ran right up our driveway into the garage and sat on the rug in front of the door looking up at me. What did I do? I gave her a treat and a kiss, of course. Then I told her what a good dog she was to find her way home. And come when she was called…finally.

That makes my year happy new or old.

Then I locked the gate!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

En-lightening holiday:
Bringing creativity, heart and spirit back to the season.

A few posts ago, I wrote about how life changes had changed my holiday over the past year or so. And that’s not a bad thing. I realized that this gave me a chance to change some things, keep others and add something new.

I asked myself these questions: What cookies do I really love to bake? What do I want to light up with lights? How many decorations do I really want to get out and set up?

The answers were simple, really. I baked what I love to eat: Grandmother Gallacher’s Cherry Cake, shortbread and chocolate candies filled with walnuts. I lit up the tree and stairway with lights. I put out my Christmas Tree China that I love, filled a few bowls with pretty purple and gold balls, added snowy trees to the mantle, a wreath to the hall table and set out a few scented candles.

It all seemed to come together simply and easily.

As an artist and writer, I really love to create. This year, I let myself do that with my Christmas baking. When we had chocolate left over from the chocolate candies, I spread it out on waxed paper, added two kinds of chopped, salted nuts and put it in the freezer. Voila’…chocolate nut bark, yum!

Another thing I love to do is solve problems. And this year, I did that too. Long ago, my mother had gotten a recipe from my Grandmother Gallacher for her Filled Butter Cookies. But when my mother tried to make them, they didn’t turn out. I’ve had the recipe in my file for decades, but now, I wanted to make them myself. Looking at the recipe, it was clear to me that the proportions of butter to flour were all wrong. So, I fixed it. For the first time since my Grandmother died, I tasted these delicate butter cookies filled with cream cheese and raspberry jam. They are delicious!!

I really believe creativity and inspiration are meant to be shared, so I asked you: What do you love to do for the holidays around your home?

Lynn H said:
“I like peace and quiet, and days alone at home with my beloved Brian. I like making soup in the crock pot which does not need watching. I like the strings of Christmas lights which we leave up on the windows all year, and plug in from November-March while the sun is so absent. I like "less is more" for holidays. Last year we had our (1940's silver tinsel) tree but no decorations upon it. It still bounced light around the house and made it festive. I think holidays are about celebrating relationship. About telling those I love that I love them, one more time.”

I agree! This is a time to show our love for those we love, and that includes ourselves. Loving myself has always been hard for me, but doing these small things to light up my own holiday has been en-lightening to me. Because it’s not about doing things differently, it’s about being who I am, doing what I love and sharing that spirit with those I love. And that includes all of you!

May the season lighten and enlighten you, too and I hope that you’ll feel welcome to share it here, too.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Walk in the Park -
An occasional series

Ice Lessons

This week taking a walk in the park is freezing, literally. Early morning temperatures are in the teens and the ‘highs’ for the day are in the 20’s.

As I walk by the lake every morning, I see a new layer of ice. The ducks are crowded into smaller and smaller ponds where the ice isn’t frozen until finally, the top of the lake is completely covered in ice. While the ducks huddle as best they can, the heron stands in solitary splendor on the ice.

When I usually spot the blue heron, I find her camouflaged by tall grasses beside the lake or perched on a grey branch near the shoreline waiting to catch the fish swimming by. This week is different. The heron stands on the ice in the middle of the lake waiting and watching. I wonder, why would she even bother? She can’t catch the fish through the ice.

Perhaps there’s a lesson here on the ice for me.

When I look out onto the icy lake, I see a barrier, like a solid floor, closed door or glass wall. I see what’s on top, the ice. I don’t see what’s underneath hidden from my view.

But maybe the heron does. And that’s why she’s standing in the middle of the lake on the ice. She sees what’s underneath the ice. She sees fish, food, possibilities and life.

Suddenly, I see it too.

I see that although the top layer of the lake is frozen. Nothing is moving. Nothing is growing. The trees are bare and appear lifeless. That’s just the surface. Below the fish are swimming. The algae are growing. The trees are very much alive even without their leaves.

At this time of year, when the sun comes out only briefly and darkness covers more of our days, it’s easy to get stuck in an icy frame of mind. Feeling cold, gray and seeing the world around me as frozen and unmoving.

But the heron showed me that below the icy, grey surface, the world is teaming with life. The world is moving and thriving. Just because I don’t see it or hear it, doesn’t mean that the things aren’t happening all around me. Things that, like the heron knows, take time to come to the surface.

What do I do in the meantime? Take my cue from the heron, walk out into the world, then wait and be ready to catch those fish when the ice melts.