Ninja Mom

(Tomorrow I get to meet Marcus ‘ new Seeing Eye dog. Tonight I’m writing Garret. )

 

“It’s a boy. He’s blond.”

There was nothing in my husband’s words to explain the hesitancy coming thru the phone line. We expected a male, just due to Marc’s size and strength. The blond part was a bit new, his last two Seeing Eye dogs had been black labs, but that was nothing to be concerned about – just something new.

I tried to tease out the info with out increasing his anxiety. “What’s his name?”

“Garrett… and… he doesn’t want to play… I’m just… I’m not sure he likes me…”

Truthfully we knew this was not unusual, but that did not make it easy. These dogs have been thru a lot of changes by the time they are matched. They spend the first two years of their lives doing all the intense basic training and attending classes while they live with a family called “puppy raisers.” These people are heroes – they love these pups thru all the potty training and chewing and ‘toddler’ behaviors – then give them back to the Seeing Eye to do the ‘graduate’ work of how to become guide dogs and get matched with new owners and go on to live the next season of their lives. What generous love these Puppy Raisers show. So here these dogs have been removed from their homes and emerged into intense training, and aren’t really sure what is going on. They are smart and loyal – but understandingly a bit wary of what is happening.

It was two days later Marc called me laughing.

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“Well, I found something Garrett likes! Towels! As I got out of the shower he ran up, snatched the towel from around my waist and went running around the room like a maniac! Then he brought it back to play tug-a-war! Guess he’s warming up!”

And that set the stage for the very unique playfulness and approach to life that is known as “Garrett the Ninja Dog.”

 

We grew to learn a lot about this beautiful, smart creature that came to live with us. His quirks (like how he loves to dash between peoples legs – all the way thru), how if he escapes the yard he will go immediately into the lake or the pool, how he will sneak onto furniture and stay there if Marc comes into room – silently, but hop down immediately if someone sighted enters, how he can steal a piece of steak off a plate on the kitchen counter with out making a sound or moving the plate, or wolf down your sub sandwich in the time it takes to get your car door closed. Ninja.

Garrett bonded deep and strong with Marcus. An inseparable pair, just as it should be. But he certainly allowed the whole family to have special places in his heart.

As for me – he let me be his Momma.

Shortly after Marcus received Garrett we moved to NYC for Marcus to attend Columbia Grad School. We lived in a 500 square foot apartment. All three of us. In the city. It was an adventure and adjustment and scary and intimidating – but Garrett handled it like a champ. The noises and smells and traffic and crowds – he remained unfazed. Steady like a rock. For the entire program he and Marcus navigated to campus safely.

It was also during this time we realized Garrett had some allergies. We realized this first due to horrific gas – which as you can imagine in a 500 square foot apartment was very noticeable. And once I stopped blaming Marcus we began to experiment with different food. This was trial and error – and when it went bad, it always seemed to go bad around 3 AM.

I was sound asleep the first time I felt a cold wet nose on my neck, then a gentle whining as the nose began to run down my spine. Turning toward Garrett and asking him what was wrong (because it is our pattern to talk as if they can answer which they do have a way of communicating…) he turned and walked into the corner and stood there, head down. I followed and knelt over him as he began to give back his dinner. I held back his ears. That’s when I knew he was letting me be his momma – because everyone knows it’s mom you want when you don’t feel well.

This pattern continued off and on till we got the diet right… then the magic happened.

Three AM, cold nose up and down the spine, I get out of bed, but this time Garret whines at the door. He needs to go out. I get dressed. It’s winter. Still half asleep and not knowing how urgent his issue is I pull a thick robe on and slippers – down 5 flights and pass the doorman… we are almost running. We dash across the street to the park.

Garrett runs up to a tree, then turns, looks at me, and wags this tail. Then he proceeds to drag me on a two block walk. At three AM, in my PJ’s past more people than you realize who, thankfully, don’t care at all that I’m in a robe and slippers (slippers I promptly toss upon returning to our building), and all the while he’s wagging and smelling everything and loving each moment.

I have been totally and completely punked.

And I loved it.

The city in the dead of night became our special place. Every so often Garret would get me up, we would take a long walk, enjoying the city I love, from a unique and intimate perspective.

It’s one of the many gifts Garrett gave me.

Last month we were visiting NYC and I felt the 3 AM cold nose. Garrett and I did one final private walk thru our city… A memory I will cherish and hold in my heart.

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Garrett, you’ve given us so much, and now, just as your Puppy Raiser family set you free to embrace your next life, we had to let you go to enter the next season of life.

You are safely tucked in with your new family and sharing your special ninja magic with them. They adore you and I know their lives are richer because you are there.

Thanks for everything… but most of all – thank you for letting me be your momma. It’s been a joy.

Valentines Day

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I’m Dreaming of a White…. Space

As a long time writer, editor, PR person (yada yada yada) I can promise you that one major not-so-secret secret any pro will confirm is that the White Space of any piece is a critical element if you would like others to read and understand it.

“White Space” is the highly technical term (*that’s a joke btw!) for the empty parts in a written piece. The margins, the headings, the blank spaces.

Having the right ratio of White Space to TEXT makes so much difference in the reader/viewers ability to engage, understand and be interested in reading what you’ve worked so very hard to write.

You can have the “best” or “most important” or “exciting” or “astounding” content to deliver – but people most typically can only really receive your brilliant information if you’re serving it up in a manner that allows them to actually listen.

Otherwise your great wisdom will be overlooked, ignored, misunderstood or just plain drowned out by the “noise” of clutter.

I’m so very weary of clutter. Physically, emotionally, technologically.

I am craving some white space in my life as a whole. I need the calm it provides. I need to be able to listen to what is important. To find time to hear that still small voice…

And I need to clear a path so that the things I need to communicate can be heard. I have to be sure that the importance of a message I believe in doesn’t get lost while I rant. That it doesn’t disappear in a sea of words about silly things.

And – most of all – I have to check myself, again and again, to be sure that whatever I find so important I want to share it – I’m doing it wrapped in love. Not self-interest… not personal agenda… but true, honest, love. 

That’s easy to do with people who agree with me. More difficult with those who don’t. But of course that is when it’s most important…

I do dream of a White Christmas (not likely to have in Florida!) but much more important to me is that during this time, and in fact ALL year long, I dream of being “perfect in speech” (again, not likely – but a cool goal!).

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Dancing For Joy

It had been a rough morning. Hey – it happens. I don’t believe in denying the feeling – but of course, it’s not a place we should camp out forever! So, I have a few tools for dealing with days like this:

  • Cry
  • Shout
  • Text a friend
  • Whine
  • Wine
  • Clean
  • Watch Bad TV
  • Tell my poor hubby AHHHLLLLLLLL about it

Or dance. Where ever I am – when one of my songs comes on I jam. The car is my preferred place – but it can be the kitchen. Target. Home Depot. The garage – you get the jist.

And it’s bad.  It is SO SO bad.

I am the worst dancer – i mean the very worst.

I think I am missing the little internal gears that make a body twist and wiggle the way it needs to in order to shimmy and shake.

Seriously – I’ve had lessons from all kids of people who have – I kid you not – given up on me. Walked away!

Even drunk people will not dance with me twice. 

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This Is Going To End Badly….

Mason, the worlds most adorable toddler, has officially ‘graduated’ and is now a real live boy. He starts Pre-K this August. It’s shocking and wonderful and horrifying and amazing and beautiful all at once. We are all having those universal thoughts and feelings that seem so personal and yet are experienced by parents around the world… ahhh.

So… this week was his orientation. We were all twidderpatted with emotion – it was ALL THE FEELS. We arrived early, got in line, he was excited, and he was curious as to why WE were just a notch below freaking out, but he was totally taking it in stride. Mostly he was excited because he knew he was going to pick out a lunch box afterwards.

Mason

Mason

We sat down in the auditorium up near the front because, hey! we set good examples! The preschool director was amazing – this tiny little woman who you knew instantly would be fair – but she had heard every excuse so don’t even try it.

After about five minutes of introductions she spoke words that made our blood run cold… “I’m going to call your child’s name, then he or she will go to the back and form a line with the teachers who will take them to see the classroom while I speak with you parents.”

Now, first of all it felt a bit like getting called to the principals office – which was scary enough but what the H E double hockey sticks?! (We are at preschool, remember?! jezz!) Mason has no idea what standing in line is, or going off with teachers, or even having his name called like this… he’s never been in daycare and he has no older siblings… this is going to be SOOOOO bad!

I look over at his mom who is taking big, slow blinks.

“Tyler”
“Amiee”

Dad is sitting quietly as we watch in stunned silence as these incredible children start getting up and walking calmly to the back of the room and forming a perfect line!
Who are they!?!
How do they know this behavior?!?
Why didn’t we teach Mason this?
We have completely FAILED!

His last name is “V” so we have a few moments. I lean down and whisper, “Ok boo, in a minute she is going to say Mason and you are going to go back there where your new friends are and go see your new class room! We will stay here and see you in a minute, ok?”

He doesn’t freak out, he is mostly curious. He watches. It’s ok. We are going to be ok.

Then. A little girl breaks down with a few sobs. Her embarrassed mom hurries her to the teacher. It’s ok. Before long tho a boy lets out a shriek to wake the dead. His dad drops his head and whispers bribes into his ear – unfortunately loudly enough for us all to hear.

By the time the third child starts weeping Mason understands that, while he may not know what is happening, it must not be good because way WAY too many other kids are upset…

So when the Director says “Mason” he  lets out the wail of a freight train and starts climbing up his mom with all the agility  and speed of a spider monkey.  He is practically on her head and clinging there for dear life.

And… of course, remember, we are sitting at the front.

Brave woman she is, mom stands up and wobbly (she is carrying a sack of four year old boy on her body!) makes her way to the center aisle just as Mason crawls down her leg and plants himself onto the floor  – spread arms like Jesus on the cross – right in the center of everything.

And then, somehow, this amazing child’s body turns into a giant suction cup as he becomes glued to the ground.

No matter what she does, mom can not budge him as big, wet tears fall from his eyes while the ear shattering screams continue.

His dad and I don’t move. I mean – we can only make it worse right?

About that time the director walks over, while holding the microphone with one hand, she swoops down with the other and scoops up Mason, as if by magic, walks to the back and deposits him into the waiting arms of a teacher.

She then returns to the front and says, “As you can see, your screaming children don’t scare us.”

For the rest of orientation we didn’t dare look at each other – I’m not sure if we would have giggled or cried but either way we didn’t want to get in trouble!

Mason did great and we are confident he will do wonderful. Later over lunch we were laughing at the spectacle when Mason’s beautiful mom observed, “You know, today Mason was ‘that kid’ – the one that makes everyone else feel just a bit better, because at least there kid behaved better than ‘that kid’!”

We howled with laughter knowing that this will be a family story forever… and so grateful that even on our very worst days, the ones when every thing goes wrong and we mess up and we think we have failed miserably – if we look around we realize – even then we are valuable… because even at our worst we have something to offer. 

Please, no matter what happens… don’t forget your worth today.

Valentines Day

 

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Pulse of our Heart

It happened again. I guess we all knew it would – even tho we prayed it would’t… we knew. What I never expected was that it would be five miles from my front door.

Glued to the television, struggling through tears to hear the words that barely made sense to my brain. “Worst ever.”  Here.  My city. People I love, had people they love in that building that very night. Not all of them walked out.

Orlando did what humans do – we rallied, we donated, we gave blood, we fed, we hugged, we cried. And we looked – no – we HUNTED ways to help, people to help.

It’s almost two weeks later and the air is still heavy. The memorials are growing. The victims names are familiar, their images displayed often. Survivors are speaking, and singing and sharing their stories.

And the strangers you pass on the street don’t feel like strangers because we are all wearing something that designates us as #OrlandoStrong or #OneLove – in other words – we remember that we are family. We look each other in the eye, in recognition, in respect.

During the aftermath of tragedy it’s easy to be bold about finding ways to help others. We are willing to wait in line to give blood. We open our wallets. We bandage the broken anywhere and everywhere we find them. We step up.

For a few sacred moments we remember we belong to each other –
and this happened to us all. 

As I sit and watch I can’t help but wonder how things would be if we made a habit of remembering this. Not only after a tragedy, but always.  If we walked through our life actively HUNTING ways to help, LOOKING for those in need.

It feels so easy to offer our best right now.

Imagine taking one persons unspeakably horrific action – and having it birth a city, a state, a country, a world – where we hold on to the knowledge that we are in this together.

It’s so much bigger than the opinions and views that divide us – it’s truly the life and death matters that hold us together. The quick compassion, the empathy, the grace that bursts from our hearts when the world crashes down around us.

The love is strong here.  It has poured in from around the nation and even the whole world. In the ways that matter – in those first moments after tragedy we remember that we really are one… I hope and pray we can hold on to that … so that actions so evil give rise to the greatest movement of all: love.

 

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Paisley Park at Midnight

I can not say I was ever the biggest Prince “Super Fan.” Truthfully… I don’t believe I ever actually owned an album.

I was enough of a Church Girl to be completely horrified by many of his lyrics / behaviors. It is equally true that I am also enough of a child of the ’80’s that much of my life has had a soundtrack curated by the Purple One’s hits. Also it’s entirely true that as a musician I have been left speechless in a non-verbal puddle of awe time and time again by the sheer and incomparable genius of The Artist.

And then – there is no denying the absolute power and emotion of the music.
The way it moves you.
And holds you.
And makes you feel…
even when you don’t know what in the world purple rain is…
you know you need to be standing in it. Now.

So – when earlier this week life happened to land Marcus and I in Minneapolis for one evening – the day after Prince passed away – I simply could not miss this life event.

Which is how it came to be that at nearly midnight I was in the back of an Uber speeding out of Minneapolis toward Paisley Park, while the driver filled me in on what he knew of the local hero.

Same stories we’ve heard again and again:
Prince never left behind his hometown, he didn’t become famous and move away, he never forgot where he came from, he stayed invested in his city. He did mammoth amounts of charitable work – with no fanfare. He was incredibly generous. 

There were hundreds of cars on the side of the road. Officers and the Fire Department had set up parking areas and things were organized. I honestly didn’t expect that at this time of night there would still be so many people! But they were everywhere – like ants walking the hillside.

Purple balloons and roses covered seemingly every inch of the fencing that surrounds the building we’ve all seen on TV.

People huddled together everywhere. Mourning. Singing. Holding each other. There was a quiet, respectful feeling.

Many were willing to talk – to share their thoughts and memories. Lots of folks seemed to be locals.

I think I was most surprised at how many claimed to have encountered Prince in a public setting… and they all spoke the same way: He was kind. He spoke to their child or their mother. He smiled at the cashier. Things like that.

After a while the driver and I headed home. It was quiet. He left me to my thoughts for a long time – just the night and the highway.

An unexpected death – a person whose name the world knows – a city who feels the loss intensely – strangers who stand on the side of the road in the wee hours of the morning because they feel a kinship…

When the Uber driver opened my door and I got out I reached up and hugged him. I am not sure exactly why – it just felt like we had shared something important.

I slipped as quietly into the room as I could and laid in the dark a long time thinking about things…

It’s not a hard bet to say most of us will never have the cast of Hamilton do a tribute dance for us when we pass. The streets of London won’t light up in our favorite color. And the world won’t know us by only our first name.

But we can still make a difference. People who cross our paths can whisper, “She was kind.”

I mean, at the end of the day – all we really have is the people we touch… the ones we are given. The gifts I have are the people in my life… I can’t leave a vault full of musical creations… But I can leave a heart full of laughter. And memories of love, and thoughtfulness. I won’t be leaving millions of dollars, but I can do my best to leave a million smiles. And look for something every single day that I can indeed give away.

I can’t think of anything more important to leave behind than that.

 

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Giant Horn Beetle Saviors

Traveling to different parts of the country means getting to experience so many different things – new foods, new customs, new accents, new decor… and new bugs.

The bug part is not my favorite part – I readily confess this to be true. As much as I’d like to be all brave and tell you differently – it would be a lie. I’m not a bug girl. I’m an NFL girl… I’m a mud girl… I’m a go ice fishing girl… and even a take her to the shooting range girl (and I’ll probably out score you…) but bugs? Yah. Keep those away please. PLEASSSSEEEE!

So when we were walking into our hotel lobby here in Michigan last evening and this mammoth – I mean nearly prehistoric creature was in our path it’s totally understandable I nearly lost my religion! Continue reading

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