Thank you, Madie girl.

 

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If I believe anything about dogs, it is that they have memories as weighted with emotion as our own. And, if their wagging tails and whining voices when we return home, or their contented sigh when settling down next to us, or their “smiling” face when a familiar person approaches are any indication, we have our evidence; Dogs love us.

I won’t wax poetic on this, as books and movies and poems have been written ad naseum on this topic (though I don’t ever tire of them – see Lassie, Marley & Me, Racing in the Rain, etc), however, in light of recent events, I must admit my own guilt in taking a dog’s love for granted.

Last Friday, my childhood dog wriggled her nose, blinked fruitlessly with eyes that could no longer see, and breathed one final breath. She was 16 years full; Full of a life lived, and full of parts of my life I like to forget about now, though I am certain she did not.

Our adoption of Madie can only be described as serendipitous. After begging my parents for a puppy throughout my childhood, I finally got one in the 7th grade. We had just moved into a house with an acre backyard that was the ideal setup for a dog. I promised to walk the dog every day – and I staunchly informed my parents that he or she could ONLY be an Australian Shepherd (this was a terrible idea; I knew nothing about training and I’d never met an Aussie before, but, not to be deterred, I had thoroughly read the AKC website).

One spring evening, my Mom, sisters, and I stumbled across a litter of puppies at a local ice cream shop. A stray Australian Shepherd had given birth over Easter on a family’s doorstep, and the puppies were free to a good home. This was my moment – I attached myself to a small squirmy brown pup and refused to leave without taking it home. Mom was firmly opposed, but we called Dad (who was away on business) and the next day we welcomed a half-Australian Shepherd/half-mutt dog puppy into our home.

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(side note: thank goodness we didn’t name her “Belle” (my favorite Disney princess), as I had initially suggested…it would never have suited…)

Madie quickly became “my dog.” She slept in my room, next to my bed, and obeyed my commands. And she had cleanest teeth of any dog I knew due to my crusade to brush her teeth nightly.

The timing of bringing this new animal into my life could not have been better. As a 13 year old, middle school years were hard years for me (as they are for so many people). I often felt like no one liked me. I didn’t play a sport and I wasn’t popular; I read a lot of books. I most certainly did not attend dances or go on dates with boys. And you know who sat beside me while I was alone on Friday nights? My sweet loyal pup. I read next to her, played piano music with her under my bench, and taught her new tricks.

I remember multiple instances of crying into Madie’s fur because I felt lonely, hurt, excluded, weird, ugly. And I remember being filled with reassurance from this warm, solid physical presence I could cling to. I knew that she loved me. She didn’t ask me to justify my feelings, nor did she expect me to talk. She just stayed beside me, willingly and tremblingly, offering her body in her best attempt to soothe and please her human.

I have no doubt in my mind that dogs (and perhaps animals in general) are given to us in the same way that we’re blessed with human friendship. Dogs fill a gap humans (especially introverts) desperately need. Not every emotion is best resolved with words. Madie was my counselor and my friend and she never spoke a word.

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As I sit now contemplating what Madie offered me, it saddens me to know I can only thank her from afar. But that is how life goes. When I went away to college, Madie became a little less mine and a little more my parents. I saw her only on holidays, and she acquired new preferences and routines. It’d be easy to be angry or saddened by this but I know that in those years she was offering her same presence to a new companion – my sister and my parents.

Over the years, Madie’s eyesight declined, her mobility decreased, and she grew grumpier (as any dog is apt to do). I continued to treasure a dream that Franklin and Madie would snuggle up on the couch next to each other in warm companionable silence. But, that was never to be – their age difference was too great: they fought and growled at each other on multiple occasions, so for my own sanity we kept them separated. Perhaps this was the hardest thing for me – to understand that my childhood dog was not perfect, and that a lot of who she was in these last 2 years was not the puppy I grew up with.

Madie was a very lucky dog overall; she was rarely sick, outlived both of our cats, had a giant yard to roam and pool to call her domain … and she frequently feasted on Cheez-Its and ice cream (thanks to my indulgent Dad).

Her mortality reminds me that death comes to all – and almost always takes dogs before their owners are ready. And yet, grumpy though she was, age had no effect on her love for her family. It still makes me smile to remember how her tail wagged when I came home the last time I saw her. She licked my face the same way she always had and curled up in my lap, seeking that massage her now-old bones so craved.  It was then that I could whisper in her ear how much she meant to me, though it didn’t yet occur to me how important that physical comfort she gave me through the years was.

In many ways Madie saved my life; she listened when I was at my most insecure, when I had no words to express my feelings. And I hope to remember that though anyone can offer a body and an ear, it’s only a dog who can offer all of that with no ounce of judgment, and no demands for a reasonable explanation.

And isn’t that just like God? To love so unconditionally?
Please tell me a dog is not a divine gift.

Alas, my keyboard is wet; I still love you sweet, Madie girl. You’ve meant so much to me. 

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“At their best, that is what dogs do: they make us happy. At our best, we make them happy, too. That can only be true because we share so very much with them, and the foundation of what we share is our emotions.

“Dogs are emotions – living, breathing embodiments of fear and anger and joy, emotions we can read on their faces as clearly as any language.”

– Patricia McConnell

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Back to School 2017.

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IMG_4459(above are snapshots from our Labor Day weekend in the mountains – the most relaxing way to start the first week back to school!)

The first day of school has passed. All in all, a good day (read: I came home without paint stains and with all of my hearing intact!).  The sweet snuggly three year-olds (I’M ALMOST FOUR! – they will remind you) in my class are just the cutest things ever. This year, I feel more in my element than I have ever been at school. I have a graduate student, and a smaller class than in my previous three years. This year, I’m an SLP in a full-day preschool class which is very different but not the worst thing in the world.

As I mentioned last year, scheduling may be the most important part of the beginning of the school year; it helps to ensure productivity and prevent laziness.

Today, as my stubborn Franklin refuses to walk in the rain, I’ve finally sat down to post again (… after promising photos from India and Europe … I’m still not delivering … oops! … we’ll just skip over that ...). I’m thinking through what a healthy and manageable schedule looks like for this year. It looks pretty similar to last year’s morning. Though, with the darkness outside, I may opt for coffee at 5:45am and walking Franklin at 6:20am instead. Then, generally after work, I will walk or run with Franklin before prepping for dinner.

What I’m pondering this year is a regular weekly routine. Bryan and I have moved to a new neighborhood (which means my commute is slightly longer) but that I can now walk to yoga classes, and delightful dinner spots! Some tentative thoughts:

SUNDAY: Evening Yoga
MONDAY: After-School Therapy (4p & 5p)
TUESDAY: Free After-School Yoga
WEDNESDAY: 7:45pm Hot Yoga
THURSDAY: Community Group
FRIDAY: Yoga?? Later Date Night ??

How are your days being shaped by the schedule of the school year?

With Love,
Shannon

PS: Things I’m loving recently:

  • Finally listening to Anne Bogel’s “What Should I Read Next?” podcast
  • The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry. It is so delightfully written – otherworldly almost, with beautiful observations and authentic-seeming character relationships.
  • Teaching Franklin new tricks, like “raising his hand” for listening check (don’t worry, we still need to work on general social manners, too).
  • The chill trio Time for Three (listening now thanks to Tsh Oxenrider).

 

An Assortment of Thoughts II.

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An English bookshop across the street from our hotel in Paris.

This song: Hoping by X Ambassadors. Is uplifting without being sugary sweet. The melody has me humming along. Particularly this: It all feels broken, but keep your hope alive. The story goes, the band wrote this song after the election.

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The top knot: is it a real style – or is it just a way to wear your hair when you haven’t washed it in a week (asking for a friend).

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I’m obsessed with all Audiobooks – they have been my saving grace with packing. Currently Googling: How to Become an Audiobook Narrator because wouldn’t that just be the best? Although, I read that it takes about 2 hours to every 1 hour read aloud, in addition to the time the author has to pre-read and check pronunciations and then edit later… but still… it is reading aloud for a career! Don’t fret, I’m happy to share my findings:

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The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson. Read it instead of Small Great Things immediately. I’m obsessed by the quirky characters and profound lines that caught me off-guard. It didn’t hurt that I love the South, and “got” the many references to Baptist churches, cookouts, and small towns.

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The latest thing that reminds me I’m actually an adult: buying a mattress.

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A story: Last week, I was walking Franklin (who is often on high-alert just in general). All of a sudden, he tenses on the leash and backs away from the woman further up along the sidewalk. “C’mon, buddy,” I tell him and tug him along. Suddenly, the woman – whose boldness in pairing striped harem pants and polka dotted shirt I was admiring –  turns around and yells at us. Shocked I stand to the side, and Franks skids away. She then opens an umbrella and jabs it toward Franklin screaming “Get away! Get away!” Startled Franklin hides behind my legs and we jog a wide circle around her while she continues to yell. I shout a warning to a blonde-haired woman and her white dog ahead.

Today, I found out the polka-dotted lady subsequently slapped the blonde and poked the dog with her umbrella.

Turns out, sometimes dogs have a sixth sense. They can predict behavior better than we give them credit for.

Abraham’s Hope as Faith.

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From our hike to Lac Blanc from Chamonix-Mont Blanc, France.

“In hope [Abraham] believed against hope.”
– Romans 4:18

I love this phrasing. According to the Greek commentary, one is an objective hope (the impossibility that Abraham could be a father of many nations) and a subjective hope (faith that God would fulfill his promise).

PS: More updates and photos on all the travels to come.

Running Moods.

HIKINGAs someone who is easing myself back into running after being out for a while. And, as someone who is consistently dragging a 55-pound dog behind me on the leash (he thinks 3 miles is a marathon), I’ve been needing some audible motivation. Different days call for different mood music. And I don’t always know quite what mood I’m in before I run, so I end up changing the songs quite a bit before I find that “just right” tune. But I’m always looking for new music. So I’m sharing some of my fave playlists for running (or working out!), and hope you’ll share your motivational music, too!

CLASSICS:

  1. Walking on Broken Glass by Annie Lennox
  2. This is How We Do It by Montell Jordan
  3. Homegrown by Zach Brown Band
  4. Drops of Jupiter by Train
  5. Fast Car by Tobtok
  6. You Are the Best Thing by Ray LaMontagne
  7. Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Deep Something Blue
  8. September by Earth, Wind & Fire

RUNNING OUT your BAD FEELINGS:

  1. Love Yourself by Justin Bieber
  2. 7 Years by Lukas Graham
  3. Who Says by John Mayer
  4. Gone, Gone, Gone by Phillip Phillips
  5. When We Were On Fire by James Bay
  6. Home by JohnnySwim
  7. Take a Bow by Rihanna
  8. Treat You Better by Shawn Mendes
  9. Wake Me Up by Avicii

WHEN YOUR MOTIVATION is LAGGING:

  1. Work This Body by Walk the Moon
  2. Sail by AWOLNATION
  3. Can’t Hold Us by Macklemore
  4. Can’t Stop the Feeling by Justin Timberlake
  5. Body Like a Backroad by Sam Hunt
  6. Fight Song by Rachel Platten
  7. Testify by NEEDTOBREATHE
  8. On Top of the World by Imagine Dragons

THOUGHTFUL RUN / CLOUDY DAY RUN / MOODY RUN:

  1. One Night Town by Ingrid Michaelson
  2. Brother by NEEDTOBREATHE
  3. Ship to Wreck by Florence + The Machine
  4. Hold Back the River by James Bay
  5. Hello by Adele
  6. Sons & Daughters by Allman Brown
  7. Take a Moment by Will Reagan
  8. All the Pretty Girls by Kaleo

WORSHIPFUL RUN:

  1. Soul on Fire by Third Day
  2. Old Church Choir by Zach Williams
  3. When My Days are Done by Green River Ordinance
  4. Farther Along by Josh Garrels
  5. From This Valley by The Civil Wars
  6. Head to the Heart by United Pursuit
  7. Set a Fire by Will Reagan
  8. This is Living by Hillsong Young & Free

SUNNY DAY RUN (POP & MODERN):

  1. Shut Up and Dance by Walk the Moon
  2. Geronimo by Sheppard
  3. Domino by Jessie J
  4. Closer by Chainsmokers
  5. Homegrown by Zach Brown Band
  6. Sight of the Sun by fun.
  7. Pompeii by Bastille
  8. Brighter Than the Sun by Colbie Caillat
  9. Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles
  10. Classic by MKTO

Recent Happy Diversions. 5.17.17.

It has been a while, friends. I’m currently off today because of a variety of India-preparatory appointments (could only get a doctor appointment today this week!). So, in an effort to catch you up on life lately, I’ll share a few things that are making me happy – or that are occupying my thoughts. You’ll also find some cute outtakes from our weekend with Franklin’s best Corgi friend, Huey:

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  1. Allman Brown. I love starting out with music to listen to while you read. I don’t know much about Allman Brown, except that he is on Spotify and has  a lovely voice and haunting lyrics. I can’t stop listening to all of his songs. Particularly these:
  2. Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst. This book is saving my life. I’m in a book study with some very honest and sensitive ladies, and it is changing my heart to view myself as loved, whole, full. I’m also working to remind myself of this everyday so I start off with a cup full. I’m not great at it yet, but I’m glad to be focusing on it and to have women who share the same struggles.
  3. Our “California Salad” invention. Bryan and I had the most delicious (filling) creation while visiting Laguna Beach earlier this year, and I’m not obsessed with recreating it. You don’t need precise measurements, but if you throw the following ingredients together you will be full of happiness and summery thoughts:
    • arugula
    • basil (lots of it!)
    • rice
    • feta cheese (or goat cheese)
    • chopped apple (I recommend pink lady)
    • prosciutto (this is KEY!)
    • dates (optional)
    • lemon vinaigrette (lemon + EVOO + S&P)
  4. Being generous with “taking days.” I’m usually a very strict “must-not take any days off,” person, but as I grow older and you find it’s more difficult to reschedule a doctor’s appointment, or a conference call, I’ve decided to just use the 7 extra days I have before the end of the year, and not let myself feel bad about it!
  5. India Pants. aka, Harem Pants. They are just so comfortable. And I’m growing more comfortable wearing them in public. They slightly look like pajamas, so it’s a struggle against feeling self-conscious. Wearing them has the added benefit of reminding me of those adorable kiddos and all the curry-jasmine memories, which I love. Speaking of, have I shared that I’m going back this summer? In a month, actually! I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about this.
  6. Rose. Just so refreshing.
  7. The SUNSHINE. All the sunlight, the early morning sunrise, the sun shining long past 8pm. I love all of it and it makes me feel energized, happy, focused. I will forever stand by the idea that sunlight is essential to happiness (so long as there’s a bit of rain mixed in).
  8. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell on Audiobooks. File under, Classics I haven’t yet read. This has made walking Franklin about 10x’s better (and I’ll walk for twice as long – so we both win).

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Rejection as a Liability.

“Rejection isn’t just an emotion we feel.

 

“It’s a message that’s sent to the core of who we are, causing us to believe lies about ourselves, others, and God.

 

“We connect an event from today to something harsh someone once said.

 

“That person’s line becomes a LABEL
That label becomes a LIE,
And the lie becomes a LIABILITY in how we think about ourselves and interact in every future relationship.”

 

– Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst