Introducing Max

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We got a new puppy this weekend! He is a pure bred Labrador Retriever and we have named him Max. It has been two months since we lost Lady and each day that has gone by, I’ve missed her more than I even imagined. So, we made the choice to get another dog. We were looking at chocolate Labs or golden retrievers, but could not find what we wanted. I was hesitant to get another black Lab because I thought it would remind me too much of Lady since she was black. But, I decided to give it a try. I finally found Max through a classified ad and we went out and picked him from a litter of 8 about 30 miles east of our home. The breeder had four females and four males and we went out there to pick out a female but changed once we got there. I think Max was the third one I held and I fell in love with his temperament. He was calm and just sweet. The others I held were crying and hyper and seemed more anxious. When I held him, he seemed to just be chill immediately and I took to him. He was two weeks old then and we had to wait four more weeks before we could pick him up this weekend.
We are three days in and he has already become a big part of the family. We are enjoying him although we are adjusting to having a puppy. It is like having a newborn! He is a cuddle bug and loves attention and wants to be wherever you are. He has a playful temperament so far, but I also see he wants to be alpha and gets mad when he is not held enough or not receiving enough attention. He seems like he will be pretty smart and have already figured out where his food stays, etc. We are excited and look forward to having him around!

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From Fear to Love

IMG_1433People often refer to dogs as a man’s best friend and it is not until you have a dog, you can truly understand what this means. Sunday, I had to make a choice to euthanize my dog, Lady and it was a difficult decision. Lady has been with me almost 15 years and when I woke up Sunday morning, I did not realize it would be the last day we would have together. In the past few weeks, she had begun to deteriorate pretty quickly but I was not thinking the deterioration was the precursor to death. I did expect that I would lose Lady within a year though just do to her age. I felt like she was already at life expectancy and that each day was borrowed and possibly a gift. With all that being said, I was still not prepared for the choice I had to make.

I have not always been a dog lover at all. In fact, I was terrified of dogs up until the point I got Lady. Yes-terrified. Not scared or fearful, but literally terrified of anything furry with four legs and the potential of a bark. Yes, even 5 lb dogs! This strong fear came as a result of being chased by a mean Doberman Pinchon when I was about 8 years old and it literally made me afraid of all dogs after that. I was at a friend’s house outside playing and the neighbor’s dog got loose and started running over to play with us. I had never been around dogs…not sure they even allowed dogs in the projects for real. So since I had never been around my dogs, my natural instinct was to run away-WRONG CHOICE. Why? Because if  you run, the dog will run after you. And he did. He wanted to play, but I thought I was being chased by the Loch Ness Monster.  In my head, that dog was larger than life. Anyways, I ran so hard and stumbled and fell and the dog was all on top of me growling and barking, probably because I was screaming and snotting a gallon of tears every second. So sad it was that he was playing and I was having an anxiety attack. And so sad the next 15 years as I would jump on couches to avoid 5 lb poodles and skip doors that had a “beware of dog” sign when I sold donuts for church fundraisers. If it meant I came back with every box of Krispy Kreme I left the starting point with, I was serious about not having anymore dog encounters. So..you may ask how did I go from fear to love?

It started on a trip to New Zealand April 1999. Marcus and I were there for a month and stayed with a couple that had a German Shepard that lived with them. Obviosuly, I was not aware I had signed up to live with a dog for a month. I tried not to stand on their coffee table, but stayed crouched in a corner and scaling up the walls when we first arrived. Slowly, but surely though my fear eased up as he never barked at me, never bit me and never acted mean towards me. In fact, he seemed like a protector to all of us that stayed there. By the end of the trip, I was no longer afraid of the dog at all. But, just THAT dog. So, on the trip back Marcus mentioned to me I should get a dog when we get back to the States so I would not revert back to my fear of dogs. I fought it a little, but trusted him and decided to give it a try.`

IMG_1431My journey with Lady started 14 years ago in April 1999 when we picked her out and brought her home at six weeks of age. Even after my time spent with the dog in New Zealand, I was scared of my new little puppy at 6 weeks of age. I remember holding her in the car on the ride home and feeling so tense as she moved around and would not be still. Even with me getting her and picking her out, I did not think I was signing up to love her but just to simply get over my fear and check that box off my life record. We brought her home and of course, I am clueless because this is my first and only pet. Clueless that she was going to cry at night like a baby and boy was I frustrated the next morning. I remember telling Marcus I wanted to take her back and did not want her because at that point-I had no allegiance and could not come up with a good reason why I was going to allow this furry animal that was a box-checker to keep me from sleep. Just did not seem like it made sense to me. Marcus convinced me to keep her and said the night crying would stop in a couple of days and it did. So, I made it through that and I was officially a pet owner I guess. I would feed her and play with her every day, but I did not feel an attachment to her. That all changed very quickly when after a couple of weeks having Lady, we had to take her to the vet because she was sick. There had been a problem with her litter and she needed additional shots for whatever she had and she had to spend the night at the vet. I cried and was emotionally shaken that she may not be ok and was unsure what to expect. But, I remember being completely and totally caught off guard at my emotional reaction over this. That is when I knew that somehow unbeknown to me- I had in a very short time become attached to Lady. The fear had moved out and love had moved in. That was the first and only time Lady was ever sick until Sunday.

So basically, in two weeks after having her, I realized I was really liking my dog and did not know how much until she went to vet. So, now after almost 15 years…I definitely have been attached to Lady and love her dearly. I have so many fond memories of Lady and will always remember her as my first dog and all that she represents to me and all that she was to me. She was indeed loyal, protective and dependable. Sounds like qualities of a best friend doesn’t it?

I remember sitting and playing with her, remember our many walks together, remember her chewing phase where she chewed everything she came in contact with, and remember when we went to obedience training classes. At one point, we even took Lady and had professional dog portraits done…yes, we treated her like she was our baby. I remember the times I was pregnant and she was extra close to me and seemed to have a sense I needed extra protection and care. I remember all the times she would wag her tail, perk her head up and run to me as soon as I walked outside. I also remember her mischievous times where she would dig holes in my backyard and the times she would get off her leash and run away skipping through the neighborhood like a free bird. So many memories and I am thankful for the 14 years I had with her.

I miss her tremendously and will have to restart and get used to her being gone. My fear of dogs is gone. What remains now is love for my dog, Lady.

2013 Resolutions in First Class

I guess if I took the time to make New Year’s resolutions, I have to blog and post it before February 1 huh? I wrote them out and gave them thought early December 2012, but have not made it to the computer yet to actually publish them. I also went back and reflected on my 2012 resolutions. Below are the 4 things I committed to in 2012 and an update and grade on each:

1. Rewrite my DNA-I would give myself a C+ on this one overall just because this is probably the hardest thing to accomplish and certainly cannot be done in 12 months. When it comes to effort though, I would give myself a B. This was constantly on my mind throughout the year and I tried to be self-aware and make needed adjustments along the way. Silence was my most important ally in this process. Learning and teaching myself that every thing I think does not have to be said nor should it be. By being silent, I was able to take time and evaluate what I was really feeling and evaluate the root cause of my feelings and then deal with it from there. So many times, the words we say create damage far beyond the circumstance they were spoken in. I think 2012 was a year of awareness for me in this year and confirmed the rewrite really should take place; therefore, it will be on the list again in 2013. Also as part of the rewrite process, I not only became aware of the things that needed to change but also the things that were ok to stay.

2. Lose 30 more lbs-Grade of B even though the end result was not accomplished. I did not lose 30 lbs this year at all much to my disappointment but I did run my first 5K in May and that was indeed a huge accomplishment. I even surprised myself and am so proud to say I completed. I was also a week away from doing a second 5K but had to pause on running for back issues and pain I started having in June. 10 months out of 2012,I exercised faithfully and without hesitation. That is a huge win for me!

3. Helping others-Grade of A. I think that I did a good job in this area and have several examples of how I have helped others emotionally, professionally and financially this year. I also feel I was able to help others and take care of me at the same time. Two years ago I had a resolution to learn how to take care of myself because I had sunk into being everyone else’s savior but my own.

4. Shaping character of my children-Grade of B in terms of effort. I intentionally tried to spend more time with my kids and set certain parameters in place with work and other external things that helped me with this. I think this is an area like #1 that is a continuous process and ongoing.

So overall for 2012-it looks like I had a B average and I think that is a good result. So many people steer clear of New Year’s resolutions because they are forgotten by February 1. But, for me it is a great way to outline what I want to accomplish and serves me far better than if I never took the time to think about it and write down what I want to accomplish.

Now 2013 has started and below are the things I have identified to work on. Also this year I have a theme of “Living a First Class vs. Coach Lifestyle”. I want my decisions, interactions and efforts to be first class and not just mediocre. I simply want to care about the things I choose to do and do the things I care about.

1. Continuation of DNA Rewrite

2. Lose weight and engage in exercise as part of my regular lifestyle

3. Dedicated time with children I have committed to a quarterly Mommy/daughter date with Lauren and have several things outlined/planned I want to do with her and teach her. And with Lucas, my focus will be on helping him learn to read.

4. Personal development-I want to learn how to swim and how to chopsticks as two items for my personal development. Well, I shouldn’t say I want to learn how to swim…I NEED to learn how to swim. It is long overdue and just needed.

So, I am off to the races and ready to launch into this new year. I am excited about the possibilities! I am excited about approaching things in a first class and not a coach mentality. And I am expecting first class results.

Plant Savior

Green Thumb. Brown Thumb. What is in between green and brown? Whatever it is..that is the color of my thumb. That means I love flowers and plants and I do a decent job. Everything I have does not die, but everything does not live either. I am perfectly fine with those odds. But my dear husband is not. You see….he does not engage much in the plant process until he steps in as Plant Savior. Yes that is right-Plant Savior! He has an issue with throwing plants away. If there is any sign of a green leaf hidden anywhere, he refuses to throw it away.

I water my plants and do my part to keep them alive and healthy, but once they have lived their life and no longer thriving-I throw them away and buy me a new one. Simple to me. But my husband puts up a fight every time and tries to coax me into keeping the plant and decides in his head “If we just give it a little more water, if we just give it some premium food, if we just put it in the sunlight for 15 more minutes…” It goes on and on and instead of the plant shooting back into life, I have dead leaves all over my house with a dead plant with a sprig of green. So, we recently had this debate last week over one of the plants I had in the family room. I am not sure why, but it just stopped growing and responding and was no longer a healthy plant. I have had the plant for at least 4 years and paid less than $10 at Home Depot. As a result, I feel like I have gotten my money’s worth and I have no attachment to this plant.

I am done and ready to pick up the dead leaves and move on. Here comes my husband with the usual coaxing and I stood my ground and said I did not want the plant anymore. I thought we agreed and he picked the plant up and headed towards the garage. I sigh contentedly thinking I have won this battle. Well..to my surprise I came home from work yesterday and as I drive into the garage, there is the dead plant sitting outside on my retaining wall looking just as pitiful as it did before.

All I could do was laugh to myself and try to understand why my husband thinks he is the plant Savior.

Another School Year

School is back in session! Lauren started 4th grade and that sounds so strange. She is excited and ready to tackle another grade. As I was putting pictures on the computer from Lucas’ first day, I ran across pictures from Lauren’s first day 5 years ago when she started K-4! Look at how we have grown:

Goodbye and Hello

Lucas saying goodbye to daycare

The familiar adage of “Time flies” does not do justice to my thoughts over the last four years as we start a new school year and Lucas is part of it! Lucas started K-4 this week and said goodbye to daycare and hello to “real” school.

Time has flown, soared, catapulted, and leapt through space. It really had to have been “yesterday” when I had him and now he is sitting in a class with a uniform. He was ready and excited to start his first day and he made us proud. Part of my maternal makeup thought that maybe he was “too’ ready on the first day of school-he was 100% positive, no tears and no dependence at all for me to even be there. You know… that is hard for a mom who knows this is the last child and who looks at the time that has passed and realize it may only get quicker from here. But…I thought the reverse of this independence and 4-year old confidence may be just as unbearable. I looked around at all the other 4 and 5 year olds and there was a young boy in Lucas’ class that cried and clearly did not want to be there. That was painful to watch for his mother and also for the rest of the other parents. As a mother, you want to be the hero, the rescuer, Superman with a dress even(:-), but you know that the first day is a test of letting go and the first of many similar tests to come. As I watched the him, I realized it was ok for Lucas to be content and happy on his first day. So, I enjoyed the moment of seeing him content and happy and thus I became content and happy.

So many times in life, we are forced to say goodbye and we are not given the opportunity to say hello to something else. Lucas said goodbye to daycare on Friday where he had been since 3 months old. But, on Tuesday he was able to say hello to a new school, new teacher and new friends. Yes, I do have a tinge of sadness but I also have happiness and excitement for this new chapter for Lucas. I am thankful I am here to say hello with him.

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Happy 9th Birthday Lauren!

Today is my firstborn’s birthday and of course, I am in shock at how fast the time has gone. She is growing up to be a wonderful young lady and I cherish each moment I get to spend time with her and be her mother. Birthdays of your children also push you into a state of reflection because right after you see how much time has gone by and how quickly it evaporated-you began to question the results of your parenting and evaluate how you can be better. There are some moments I am proud of and there are some wasted opportunities as well. You only get one shot at parenting and you never get a guide-book on what to do and what not to do. It is truly one of those experiences that are trial and error and you learn every child is different and that every experience is unique. I know it is not healthy to wallow in the past in a state of “If only I had, I wish I had….”. But as I look back over the 9 years, I definitely have some completed statements to those. I cannot change the past, but I can change the present and make it a better future. Today, I am extremely grateful to have her as my daughter and that she is in good health and an active 9-year old. I want her to know how much I love her and I wrote her a love letter for her 9th birthday to express how I feel. So many times as parents, we make the mistake of pushing our children into an assumed state and hope that they assume we love them because of the things we do, the things we allow, and the things we buy. Today, I did not want Lauren to assume-I want her to know just how much I love her and how much she means to me.

Here is my love letter to her:

A love letter to my Daughter on her 9th Birthday

When I was in high school, all my friends would talk about wanting to get married and have kids. I never joined in the discussion and when asked, I always said I wasn’t sure that I wanted to have kids. I never babysat or took a liking to kids. I eventually got married later on and was still tentative on having children. Then one day my feelings changed and I decided I wanted to have kids. I originally wanted a boy because I thought it would be easier. I remember crying when then told me I was going to have a girl. But I quickly became thankful that I was having a healthy baby regardless of it being a girl.

My first child Lauren Gabrielle Mason was born on Tuesday, July 8 at 7:43 am. Wow! It was a miracle and I was filled with so much joy and love that I never knew was imaginable. I had to fight Daddy just to get a chance to hold you because he was holding you and didn’t want to let you go. You were such a beautiful little girl and I was proud to be your mommy.

When we brought you home, I had no clue what to do and was terribly afraid I would mess up. I remember crying and begging Granny to stay when it was time for her to go back to work. But I survived. You and I had a schedule each day and things begin to fall in place. Each afternoon we would go outside and sit on the porch and you would enjoy that.

All of those memories are 9 years ago today and it’s hard to believe that the time has gone by so fast. I’ve watched you grow up and I’m amazed how it feels just like yesterday I was watching you in a bouncy seat or pushing you in a stroller. I have so many great memories as you have grown up.

  • Your first birthday party-you had on the cutest outfit but cried most of your party. You didn’t like the clown and all the entertainment that was there.
  • Your first steps-that was so fun to watch you start wobbling and walking.
  • The field trips we would go to at Covenant Classical and Hoover Christian.
  • Your potty training days-you learned so quickly and it was a breeze. You were fully potty trained at day and night by two years old.
  • The move to Birmingham-it allowed you to come out of your shell quite a bit even though by nature you tend to be reserved at first.
  • You starting to read at age 3 1/2- Wow I remember you with a little book in your little hands reading, “Sam ran…”
  • Your kindergarten graduation-that was a proud moment to see you in your gown and then you gave a class speech at your kindergarten graduation and everyone was amazed at how well you could read.
  • Your first piano recital-you have had several since then and it’s amazing to see how much you have grown technically and with your self-confidence.
  • Getting your first trophy in 2011 at the piano competition was a huge accomplishment.

You are an extremely smart and caring young girl. You are inquisitive beyond your years and you never settle for surface answers but always explore to go deeper in your thoughts.  You have a sweet nurturing quality inside you that likes to take care of others. You are highly affectionate and do not mind showing dad, your brother or me how much you love us.

In 9 short years, you will be 18 and finishing high school and starting a new chapter in your life. If the next 9 go as fast as the first 9 have–I’m not sure I’m ready. Not ready because I feel like I have so much more to teach you and show you that I haven’t. I want you to be prepared to live your life with a love for God and a love for yourself. I want you to know that you can do anything. I want you to carry yourself with a high degree of integrity and respect. I want you to love others and find continual ways to help others and to give unselfishly. I want you to love yourself and be comfortable with who you are-both your abilities and your shortcomings.

Above all, I want you to know how much Mommy loves you with all of my heart! I’m so grateful that God gave me such a wonderful gift and that he trusted me to raise you. I am sorry for my shortcomings and the things I have not done well as a parent. I would ask that you forgive me for any times you have felt unloved, undervalued or not appreciated. Parents make mistakes just like kids you know and I can say I’m sorry when I’ve done those things.

Mommy is so proud of you today and think the world of you. You are becoming a young lady now and I’m proud to be your mommy. I love you to the stars and wish you a happy 9th birthday sweetheart!

Love,

Mommy