Sunday, February 9, 2020

Six Month Update

I love our back yard in the Fall
Poor Scarlett got the worst
of the Rottweiler attack

It's been a long time since I've posted an update.   The last six months have been difficult, as I experienced more rejection, took a week long camping trip to southern Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina in October which was the 'trip from hell'  (rained every day but one and my dogs were attacked by a Rottweiler on a hiking trail in Brown County State Park.)   I changed jobs, our department relocated and I spent a Saturday afternoon sitting behind my shed, pulling up dead brush and carrying it by the armload to curb.  Turned out it was poison ivy!  Within 48 hours both eyes were swollen shut and I had a long, six week recovery from one of the worst cases the doctor had ever seen. 

Blowing Rock, NC

Brown County, IN - Vibrant Color even in the rain
Cumberland Falls

On December 14 my brother Tim had a serious heart attack that required quadruple bypass surgery.    It was a rough ending to a year in which I had hoped to find some peace.
December 14, 2019
Meier Heart Center, Grand Rapids 
One week after surgery - Christmas Eve and a
group of Tim's friends & kids came to give us
a little violin concert.  Tim couldn't help but
pick up his director's baton even though he had been
home less than 24 hours. 

These two never cease to bring love and laughter
Same department - new location - new position 

I began 2020 - a new decade - DETERMINED to make this a turn-around year and so far, it has been.   I am more content and peaceful right now than I've been in 4 years.    I have let go and distanced myself from the source of judgment and pain, and am off social media for a year.   I absolutely love my new job and live close enough that I am able to come home for lunch every day which I (and the dogs) love!   Indiana has become home, and my 'home' is a quiet and peaceful place to isolate, rest and heal.   I am reading a lot, taking a class on line and enjoy nothing more than sitting by the fireplace watching the cardinals at my feeder and the dogs play in the snow.   We haven't had much, but it is finally white and crisp again, and I was actually very grateful for calm weather and good roads during the 4 weeks I was commuting to Holland to help care for Tim after his surgery.

The silver lining in Tim's heart attack is that it has caused me to make some lifestyle changes, since cardiovascular disease is very prevalent in my family.   We inherited it from both sides and having already had a stroke which turned my life upside down, I got serious about ramping up the exercise and taking the time to make healtheir meals.   I'm learning to make some really wonderful meals with fish, quinoa, fresh vegetables and cutting back on dairy (my weakness.)
Fun group to work with 

Our director (L) and my direct report (R) 
As I managed Tim's schedule, meeting his many, many friends and keeping them updated on his progress, I received appreciation and affirmation I hadn't experienced in four years.   I found out that the person I thought was gone forever, is still there - right under the surface - just needing to back away from those who were toxic and convincing me that I was without worth and outside of God's love.    I had difficulty backing away from them because 1) they were in my face constantly and 2) I believed them.    Tim's friends and the distraction that his illness brought, showed me that my strength is still there!    Stronger than ever, for I have learned so much!     I finally walked away, and am finding rest and healing in solitude.    The one solid connection I have is a small group I joined last summer  - a group that meets weekly, year round (consistency is something that is very important to me), and has embraced and loved me as I am.   I am so grateful for them - and the bonus is that several of them live in my neighborhood.   My work colleagues are great fun and very affirming too.   I feel like I am starting to find solid ground again.  I had friends from MN stop on their way to Florida a few weeks ago, and that was a wonderful time of sharing and affirmation as well.   I feel like my "old self" is slowly returning as I let "church" go for now - and am focused on staying safe in my own home, reading and listening to messages on line.

This afternoon has been pure delight as I have had a steady stream of cardinals at my feeder ... sometimes 7-8 at a time or waiting their turn in the bushes.   The beauty and diversity of God's creation never ceases to move me.   I had a long talk with my brother Dan this morning (the second this week) as he is currently evacuated on a beach in southern Thailand (hard to feel TOO sorry for him) and teaching his classes on line, while waiting out the coronovirus crisis in China. 


A friend from the Triumph stamp group in MN reminded me of a verse from Philippians 4 recently.  Remember the old Sunday School song, "I've got the joy, joy, joy ....down in my heart."    That joy has eluded me since May 4, 2016 - almost four years!    The second verse says, "I have the peace that passes understanding down in my heart."    For four years I have sought - and at times demanded understanding.      How can people who bear the name of Christ be so unforgiving, cruel and uncaring?     I have come to realize, more than ever, that spiritual attack is very, very real - and that I had to let go of the need to understand those who are so quick to throw someone away.    There IS no understanding.    There never will be, this side of heaven.    So I bought myself a gift to start this new decade with - and wear it nearly every day, along with my semi colon ring.   I'm never going to understand - and I no longer need to.     I have the peace that PASSES understanding - down in my heart. 

Philippians 4:7
And the peace of God, which transcends
all understanding, will guard your hearts and
your minds in Christ Jesus.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Summer Getaway!

I never get tired of viewing the Mackinac Bridge
It was supposed to be a week of vacation.  I've been working some pretty crazy hours since last December, and had only had one vacation day since LAST August.   So I was really looking forward to a week at the cabin.    But alas, a crisis the weekend before we were to leave turned our week into a long weekend.    I learned, however, that a vacation doesn't have to be long to be refreshing. 

We had just three full days at the cabin but managed to pack a lot into it.  I left home with a migraine that lingered for a week, but whenever I was at the beach or in the kayak, it was barely noticable.   We were blessed with perfect weather and capped the trip off with a stop in Plainwell, MI (an hour from home) for ice cream on our way home.    Yum!

Grand Marais (MI) music festival

For the many years we've been vacationing in the Michigan UP, I have always wanted to take in the Grand Marais Music Festival but somehow, we've always missed it.   We finally managed to get there!   Dogs weren't allowed so we found a spot just outside the gated area where we could see and hear well, and save the $35 entrance fee, to boot!  It used to be called a FOLK Music festival and I was a little disappointed that it is no longer strictly folk and acoustic groups, but we did hear a couple that I enjoyed very much.    When the metal bands took the stage, we wandered off to the gorgeous beach, and found a wonderful new pizza place.    Can't wait to go back there next year! 
I have to credit Tim with this amazing picture along the
Au Train River. 

We dismantled a fire pit at Tim's property near Grand Marais,
carried the rocks in 5 gallon buckets to the car, made three trips
out to the main road to prevent the car from bottoming out and
rebuilt the firepit at Au Train.   My back hurt for days!! 

Kayaking the Au Train River with my best bud 
Jam session at the Falling Rock
The other two days consisted of raspberry picking,  kayaking (with my brand new 12 foot Punto ..... it is awesome!), a  jam session at the Falling Rock Cafe that Tim plays in, and a LOT of beach time.    The water was warm and the dogs had an absolute blast retrieving sticks and crashing into the waves.    Zak - who is always tentative at first - finally realized that he REALLY CAN swim and just loved the water.     When it was time to go home, I knew I needed to CARRY him to the car.    Tim was a little skeptical.    I said, "No - he sees me packing up and he's not going to want to go home."    I was right.    In fact, I had trouble catching him in the CABIN - a small cabin at that.   He was under the bed, behind every piece of furniture he could find, cowering with pleading eyes,   "Mom - we've only been here three days.   We can't go home YET!"  It was hard to leave, but Tim told me that Oval Beach in Saugatuck opens to dogs (it's called "local season") after Labor Day so we plan to meet there next weekend for one last rendevous in the water.

After some serious swimming and stick-chasing, Scarlett
dug herself a bed in the warm sand, crawled in and went
right to sleep.   Have to say - I love this picture.  It
captures my girl so well. 

This boy had fun! 

It's a 425 mile trip up there, but I was so desperate for a weekend of refreshment that it was well worth it and fit the bill.    I have another week off to look forward to in October.   Those plans have changed somewhat too, but with all my reservations made, we're going to take a swing down to Brown County, Kentucky, North Carolina and Tennessee anyway and hopefully see some dazzling fall colors.   That will be our next post!

Swimming in the big waves of Lake Superior! 

Sunset at Au Train Beach

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Zacchaeus at Six

Can it really be six years since I brought home a 3 lb, squawking fur ball who cried all night? Who charmed the neighborhood and everyone who saw him? Who caused cars traveling down 8th Street to turn onto the frontage road and ask if they could PLEASE see the puppy? Who followed his big sister, Princess, EVERYWHERE for the first three weeks - convinced she was his new mama, even though she had zero tolerance for him? And who, after three weeks, got a new 'big sister' who absolutely ADORED him and claimed him as her own. The love affair between those two goes on, and though there are jealous moments, it always warms my heart to see Zak groom Scarlett - licking her face, her eyes, her ears .... she, on her back, soaking it up and then rewarding him by jumping up and giving chase. He has long since passed her up in speed, but they still have a ton of fun together.

Huge shout out to Betty Boersma, Mike and Gina Wander, and Emma Baardson for all the help, advice and encouragement they gave me in those early months. For 16 months I had three dogs - a puppy, a one year old and a very elderly senior who spent a good bit of the last year of her life at the neighbors!

HAPPY SIXTH BIRTHDAY Zacchaeus Robert; aka Zak, Zakki, or Zackaroni. You are still convinced that every person on the planet is here to play with you and you manage to convince them of the same. You have comforted me in dark times, made me laugh - along with your sister - every single day, tested my patience at times and brought so much joy into my life. You are a good boy. And there is nothing you like better than hearing that!




Summer is going fast. Other than one horribly, miserable hot spell that lasted about five days, July was pretty nice, after a very wet May and June. A good friend from MN, Joan Groothuis, came for a weekend, and we've found a few inland lakes to cool off. But I've been working some pretty crazy long hours since the first of the year, and when I finally get home at night, I enjoy nothing more than sitting in my hammock (my happy place) while the dogs play in the yard. I have had only one vacation day since last August, so we're looking forward to getting away to the cabin next week. 

Zak will lie in the front yard for hours at a time, waiting for his neighborhood friends to come play. No one seemed to be around this particular day. He's very patient and loves to watch the traffic - which we had lots of in MN and almost NONE of here. But once in a great while, a car will come by or someone will be out in their yard. And he's happy as a lark.

THIS is what he lives for. A crowd of kids gathered all around him, petting him, loving on him, playing with him. He's the center of the universe. Scarlett enjoys it to a point, but a little goes a long way. For Zak, it never gets old. The extrovert of all extroverts. He couldn't care less about playing with other dogs. He wants to play with people.


Saturday, May 25, 2019

Tulip Time 2019

It's been a long time since we've posted.  Life is hard and I don't have much energy for writing fun posts about my dogs' antics anymore.   I hope to get back to it someday.   But a few weeks ago we did make a trip to Holland for Tulip Time (annual tradition).   Actually I missed the official festival and parade due a funeral, but we went up the next day and even though it was raining on and off all day, the tulips were gorgeous - as always.   I think the colors this year were the most vibrant I can ever remember.   Here are a few pictures.

And last weekend, we held a neighborhood garage sale.     Didn't make much money but the dogs sure had fun.   Zak was his usual charming self, welcoming all who were willing to show him a little attention.   He's all about that!    Scarlett got in a on a little of it too, although she retreated to the back deck for much of the day.