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The Storms in our Life

(This is are repost from last summer.)

Sometimes even though you may have best interests at heart for a loved one or a pet, situations may still be stressful in your household.

These episodes of conflict, or ‘storms’ were described by our pastor, Tim, at O’Fallon Christian Church. These times often seem hopeless, neverending, physically and mentally draining.

DSC_1170 folly pier after storm copy

I am currently going through a ‘storm’.

For the past three months our home has been divided – structurally and DSC_0956 Adeline and her babies copyremotionally.

It all started with a female stray cat visiting our back deck in March. We rescued and adopted her before knowing she was pregnant.

Momma Adeline delivered six precious kitten babies, and we witnessed the miracle of birth. It was simply amazing!

Our sixteen year old cat Midnight doesn’t care for Adeline and makes it know by vocalizing in the form of hisses and pig snorts. Adeline, being protective of her babies (even though Midnight doesn’t come in contact with them) takes Midnight’s vocalization as a threat — a brewing storm. This makes life stressful. I’m always trying to make peace between the two– trying to get them to see things the same way.

DSC_0857 Midnight copyr

Out of the six kittens, four have gone to lovely homes. Two are left – Elvis, a beautiful boy with long body, tall legs, big paws, black with striped head and haunches (manx and black cat mix); and Ireland, a feisty little striped girl (manx) that makes me laugh, loves to play, and gives kisses.

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DSC_1267 Ireland Elvis on black stool copyr

Adeline is separated from the kittens now, so they can thrive on their own without momma’s milk. At nine weeks, they are eating dry food (which they love), drinking water, and being silly little felines. The kittens enjoy running, leaping, and playing in the master bathroom and master bedroom.

At nighttime, Adeline has the run of the basement, and Midnight is on the main floor. During the day, they live together with the dogs, sometimes peacefully, sometimes not so peacefully. A house often divided indeed – by rooms and by emotions.

No sure how much longer I can live like this. Hubby says it will all work out in the end.

On top of all this commotion, I’m trying to work on my writing. There are good days, and there are unproductive days. On the unproductive ‘writing’ days, I usually clean the house, run errands, fix things that need to be fixed. You get the idea.

Add to that, the trouble my husband has with cat dander. Lately, he has been retreating to the solice of the guest bedroom with Red Dog – typically a cat-free zone.

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Our Australian Shepherd, unsure where to sleep, usually follows me to the bedroom, after I tuck the kittens in at night on their favorite cozy bench in the bathroom.

DSC_0941 the culprit

“The Culprit”

Dogs are such gentle souls. With the storms brewing in our household, comes frustration, lost tempers, and sobbing. Let me just say, the dogs have adapted the best. Things change at a minute’s notice. The goofy pooches are always eager to lick away your tears.

Why can’t humans be like dogs with their “Oh, well attitude”? Nothing seems to bother them. Seems like dogs just go with the flow, don’t they?

I’ve experienced a pretty significant storm in my life – Tropical Storm Jerry – back in the early 1990’s. During a Blackbeard’s cruise off the coast of Bimini, Bahamas, Jerry struck, with twenty foot wind swells pummeling our sailboat of 20 scuba divers. The torrential downpour forced us to don our raingear purchased on Bimini. After 90 minutes on deck in the midst of bitterly cold rain and unforgiving ocean, we attempted singing show tunes. When that didn’t work, we retreated to the warmth of the galley and salon, conversing, smiling, laughing, and trying to remain positive until the storm subsided, all the while the boat was taking on water.

I wish I could tackle all of ‘life storms’ in the same way. Sometimes I forget my favorite Bible verse Philippians 4:6 which says, “Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything”.

As I write this today, I’ve decided to forego my usual morning breakfast ritual of raspberries, oatmeal, and toast accompanied by a dose of Gayle King, Charlie Rose and Nora O’Donnell from CBS This Morning. Instead, I’ve spent my time reflecting on life, and reading Coffee with God by Sarah Arthur – 365 Devotions to Perk Up Your Day.

Because sometimes…. many times, you just need a dose of God and a good cup of coffee to start your day, to get you through those ‘storms’ in life.

And the prayers of friends, family, and even strangers doesn’t hurt either…

I hope the ‘storms’ in your life subside.

Peace out and love,

Xoxoxox

 

Sheree

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The Grateful Jar 2016 – What are you grateful for?

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The last evening of 2016, I spent with long time friends, Tina and Mike, and my husband Russell. After a savory dinner and some music, we headed to our favorite coffeehouse in Cottleville, Van Buskirk’s Chocolate Bar for some conversation and drinks.

The mood was festive, with millenials and hipsters hanging out at the bar. Silver ribbons and star decorations hung from the rafters. Familiar music from bands of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s played in the background. Lisa, the cute bartender, ever so stylish in her yarn hat, handed out sparkling glasses of champagne to the fifteen of us gathered that night to ring in the New Year.

I’m sure the four of us were the oldest people there. No worries. Tina and I had fun dancing and singing; the guys had fun laughing at our antics.

As Mike and Russell conversed, Tina and I shared how 2016 was like a roller coaster with its ups and downs. I mentioned to her, how I’d just love to have a day of solitude.

I planned on opening the Grateful Jar after I returned home, a tradition I’d started last year on January 1, after seeing a facebook or twitter post, but for some reason, it wasn’t the right time.

I saved the Grateful Jar for today. A day where the sun was brilliant in the powder blue sky, and snow was packed hard in the  driveway. A lazy Saturday morning — kittens talking to birds outside, and the dogs sacked out in the living room with the hubster.

The Grateful Jar’s purpose – write down good things that happen to you on paper and place them in the jar. They could be surprise gifts, accomplished goals, the beauty of nature, LOL moments or even daily blessings. Then on December 31, open the jar at midnight and read all the amazing things that happened that year.

I opened the new and improved “Count Your Blessings” jar purchased at a home decor store.

– January 4 – Grateful for my husband and three beautiful fur babies.

– Grateful for my long time friend, Tina, who reminds me of the sister I never had.

– Sleeping in my own bed.

– Thankful for long winter walks in the snow with the dogs, and mornings of discovery in January.

– January 27 – Thankful God takes away my anxiety just by reading his Word.

– January – Thankful for my fur baby wake-up crew – a black cat diva, a neurotic Australian Shepherd, and big ole goofy red dog.

– January 3 – Grateful to have a roof over my head.

– Thankful for a wonderful birthday weekend.

-February 2 – Caramel cappuccinos at Crooked Tree Coffeehouse

-February 3 – Extra Dark Cacao Chocolate with sea salt at Kakao Chocolate in Maplewood.

-February 4 – Grateful for cotton candy pink clouds in the shapes of horses and dragons.

-February 4 – Grateful for sacked out naps with dogs, hubby and kitty in the comfort of my sofa on cold winter days.

-Beautiful landscapes of fields, farms, and barns.

-February 3 – Grateful for the shooting star I witnessed in the magnificent night sky at 12:22 a.m., and the incredible night sky blanketed by stars!

-March 3 – Glorious day of a purple sky sunset against silhouetted trees!

-March 14 – Thankful Adeline, the manx cat, showed up on our deck. Thankful we didn’t leave a pregnant momma out in the cold to fend for herself.

-Grateful for Adeline and the delivery of six healthy kitten babies on April 11. Praying for her health and well being.

-Grateful God listens to my prayers – April 12.

-Grateful Adeline’s kittens Patric, Dora, Sweet Tea, Elvis, Ireland and Skye make me laugh every day biting my legs, jumping on my back, crawling up my nightgown, and jumping in Russell’s underwear. (six weeks old)

-Thankful for a house full of love – kitties and kittens.

-Grateful Adeline’s kittens have gone to friends and church family.

-Russell snuck this one in – Grateful for Sheree’s need to be productive.

-Some days I’m just grateful for everything! (March 28) Smiley face

-Grateful my lymphoma is in check.

-Iced cappucinnos and cake pops from Starbucks.

-Grateful for outdoor showers at beach houses in Sunset Beach and the way the cool air feels on my nubile skin.

-May 24 – Grateful for the beautiful orchid I’ve kept alive for more than 1.5 years.

-Dogs riding in cars with their heads hanging out the windows, and ears flapping in the wind.

-My husband gently washing my back in the shower.

-The hummingbird on the purple helicopter plant (Cleome) on the back deck.

-The sound of the 12:30 a.m. train whistling through my open bedroom window.

-My big red dog, Bordeaux, inquisitively memorizing our car trip to the beach.

-Conversations with strangers on planes that last for 2 hours. (Strangers no more)

-When Ireland, our kitten, carries that big yellow artificial Gerber Daisy in her mouth. My inability to catch her.

-My friend Abby snuck these in. Love you Abby!

I am grateful for Sheree and Russ sharing their fur babies with me. Love, Abby

I am grateful for Midnight, Adeline, Elvis and Ireland wait for me to come in at the door. (Three hearts)

I am grateful for my very good friends Sheree and Russell !! xoxo, (smiley face with exclamation eyes) Abby

-Toes dug in chilly Michigan sand, and warm up jackets.

-God’s grace. (heart)

-Backyard bonfires with friends and s’mores with dark chocolate and Reese’s peanut butter cups.

My husband snuck this one in.

-“My wife’s big boobs.”

-Grateful to console friends that need to talk.

-Grateful for Katie Eichhorn’s ‘wedding of the century’ held at Bissinger Chocolate Factory, with all the cousins.

-Grateful for five vacations this year.

-Blessed that Wildlife Rescue Center released 12 baby squirrels on our property.

-Grateful the pain in my breast was nothing.

-Grateful to ring in the New Year with friends, Mike and Tina, and the hubster, Russell.

Alot of people on facebook said that 2016 was a bad year. Well, it wasn’t for me. Sure there were some low periods. Even unproductive times. With all the things that bring a smile to my face, make me laugh, and gave me warm fuzzies, I think it was a pretty good year.

And Lord knows, I love all that chocolate and coffee stimulating my brain!

Isn’t that what it’s all about? Feeling, seeing, touching, hearing, smelling, talking, loving, building relationships…

However your 2016 played out, remember there’s always this year to change things up.

Hope 2017 is a good one for you.

Peace Out and Love,

Sheree

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The People You Meet on the Street

Living on three acres for the last 17 years, Halloween night brings zero trick or treaters in our neighborhood. Quiet and secluded, it’s far from an inviting atmosphere for children seeking candy.

Restless and ready to do something different this Halloween, the dogs and I hopped in the car, and met the hubster at a quirky coffeehouse on historic Main Street in St. Charles. Picasso’s was the perfect spot to watch the kiddos in their cute Halloween costumes parade through the streets. There were original costumes for sure, but more interesting were the people we met on the street.

Young children, Millenial hipsters, and baby boomers with dogs stopped to greet our friendly canine fur babies, as we sat at the quaint café table sipping cappuccinos.

Bordeaux, our Bernese Mountain Dog/Aussie mix, whined as a beautiful Spaniel came into view, with its owners. Our mini Aussie, Sabrina, approached the dog cautiously. A few quick sniffs of the dark chocolate and cream Spaniel met with her approval.  Bordeaux was more than happy to lock snouts with the pooch in an all-out sniff-off.

Holly and Tom, the dog’s owners, pulled up a couple chairs across the entrance to Picasso’s to chat with us. A lively conversation ensued, initially centering around the topic of dogs.

Their Spaniel, Jasper, was included in many of their outings, since they were empty-nesters. I shared with the couple, we weren’t so lucky to have children, but the dogs and cats were our spoiled-rotten kids.

We talked about a lot of things, and eventually the conversation lead to favorite vacations, and the perks I’ve come to enjoy writing for a travel magazine.

I expressed my love for Michigan, and they let me in on a secret about Seattle and the San Juan Islands. They mentioned I should visit Reno and Lake Tahoe, and I wouldn’t shut up about islands in the Caribbean.

I discovered they were florists, whose family had been in the business for more than 85 years. Turns out, we even know some of the same authors. Their greenhouse, Parkview Gardens, hosts an author event in September. They suggested I drop by the shop for a visit when I’m in the area.

Chatting for more than an hour…the conversation flowed naturally. Time passed quickly, and the sky morphed from yellow-orange to blue-violet. Lights entwined on nearby trees twinkled and shimmered on cobblestone streets.

Holly and Tom graciously acknowledged it was time for Jasper’s meds, and they should probably head home.

While my conversation was coming to a close with the couple, my husband was actively engaged in a talk with the male patron at the next table. Over coffee and a cigar, the man spoke about his third round of chemo — his battle with cancer. The hubster shared with the man, our friend Dave’s story – diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. With three months to live, three years ago, Dave beat cancer – a walking miracle. The man occasionally scribbled in his notebook as the two talked. Later, hubby learned he was a writer.

Part of talking is listening. If you listen, you’ll realize there’s more to the person on the street than meets the eye.

Sometimes I’m guilty of not listening. But I’m working on it.

So take the time to listen to people’s stories. From their words and stories, you might just find off-the-beaten places to explore, like funky coffeehouses or restaurants, and their love of animals.

Who knows, you may find a deeper connection with this person, and learn about their quest to stay alive.

“Please be a traveler, not a tourist. Try new things, meet new people, and look beyond what’s right in front of you. Those are the keys to understanding this amazing world we live in.” 

Andrew Zimmern

Some people I’ve met on the street….

Jean Cruguet, Triple Crown/Kentucky Derby Winner, jockey for Seattle Slew.Met in Lexington, KY

DSC_0567 Jean Crugeut and me copyr

Lukas, a sand castle builder. Met in Sunset Beach, NC

DSCN0848 Lukas and sandcastle

Skully, an Australian vet, who walks in support of the “Run for the Wall” event originating in Rancho Cucamonga, California, ending in DC. Met in Wentzville, MO

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Dear Kindred Spirit…..How I’ve Missed You

DSC_1691 Ks mailbox copyri Dear Kindred Spirit, This is the fifth time in three years that I’ve visited your peaceful respite. The mailbox and the bench formed the basis for newfound friends – Nancy and Jazzy from Virginia, Jacqueline and Sandy – your keepers, and Colin and Dan from LA. It’s piqued the interest of friends back home, Lisa and Mark.

It’s with deep sadness since last I wrote in your journal, my Aunt Georgia succumbed to emphysema, and my sweet three-legged cat, Tripoli passed on. Though they’re gone, they shared a common thread. Both were both Kindred Spirits – bringing joy and happiness to all those around them.

And just last year, on the sandy shoreline, near the Kindred Spirit Bench, our dogs Sabrina and Bordeaux frolicked with Dan, the Italian greyhound, now running free on Rainbow Bridge. DSC_1702 dunes copyr

Oh Kindred Spirit, how I love your inspiration! From your weathered post, to the ocean’s depths,DSC_1697 flag copyright to your rolling dunes, to the red, white, and blue waving in the breeze!

A gracious ‘thank you’ to the couple who planted a foundation so many years, and started a movement of love…a way to share innermost thoughts and feelings in journals safely protected by a mailbox at sea’s door.

I come here today with my fur babies, and my husband – my best friend.

May your legacy live on! Xoxoxo Sheree Nielsen Wentzville, MO http://www.beachdances.com

Booksignings, Southern Authors, Beaches, and New Friends

The first week in March, hubby and I set out on a two-city booksigning event for FOLLY BEACH DANCES.

First stop was the Tides Folly Beach Hotel. I’d stayed there last September when my long time friend and author, Tina Solomon, visited Folly Beach to market our ‘healing’ coffee table book FOLLY BEACH DANCES. Recognizing familiar hotel faces, I was happy to be back.

The view from our hotel balcony was the ocean. (Sigh)

In our spare time, Russell and I made it a point to enjoy leisurely strolls on the beach. The first morning, we met a twenty-something Lizzie on the pier. As the three of us walked, we conversed. She spoke fondly of her boyfriend in the military. Browsing through the pier’s gift shop, we noticed FOLLY BEACH DANCES on display. Picking up a copy, Lizzie flipped through the pages of the book, and ended up buying a copy.

Lizzie and me, at FB pier

Lizzie and me, at FB pier

That afternoon we headed to The Preservation Society of Charleston for a booksigning. At first, sales were slow, but by late afternoon we’d hit our stride. What the customers didn’t buy, Evan, the event coordinator, ended up purchasing for the store. A successful event!

The next day, we drove to the end of the island to visit the Folly Beach County Park. As I stepped foot on the sand, I felt transported to a Caribbean oasis. The white sand and muted landscape hues, drew me closer to the water’s edge. And the crisp air beckoned windsurfers to ride the ocean’s waves.

Walking the shoreline, I followed the island’s natural curves. With unbridled anticipation, I was anxious to uncover visual treasures with my camera’s lens. A weathered tree with branches that mimicked windblown hair, awaited me around the next bend.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe bid our goodbye to Folly Beach the next morning, but not before stopping at Bert’s Market – an eclectic hipster produce store. Speaking with Julia, the store’s owner, I was happy when she said she’d carry FOLLY BEACH DANCES!

Next stop – Columbia, South Carolina. After checking into Homewood Suites, we met fellow writer C. Hope Clark and husband, Gary, for dinner at Mr. Friendly’s. The time passed quickly as we spoke of writing, publishing, conferences, the beach, and the lake. I thought the waiter was going to kill us for lingering at her table for more than 2 ½ hours!

Hope and Matt

Hope and Matt

The following day we headed to Irmo Branch Library for a 15-author event. Matt Matthews, author of Mercy Creek, and the First Carolina Novel Prize sat to our right. Hope sat to our left. With her Low Country mysteries, there was a constant stream of visitors to her table. I felt comfortable wedged between these wonderful writers. At the end of the event, I took inventory of our book sales, and realized we did okay.

I told hubby, I’d be back, and took some time to find Southern writer, Tom Poland’s table. Co-author of Reflections of South Carolina. I’d seen his book everywhere – even in Missouri. Along with Robert Clarke, Tom created a wonderful journey of photography and essays, weaving personality and character into the book’s colorful pages.DSC_1220 Tom Poland crop copyr

Tom and I chatted for awhile, and I learned of his humble beginnings in writing. Back in the 70’s, he had a wild idea to take to the road with Robert. With no plan in mind, they’d write and photograph whatever they found interesting. And they never looked back. We shook hands, exchanged business cards, and agreed to meet again whenever in the South.

The car loaded with suitcases, we set course for our next destination – Sunset Beach, North Carolina. Three hours later, we pulled into the parking space of our beach rental, the Graham Sporting Goods house.

Friend and fellow author, Jacqueline DeGroot, stopped by for a visit the following night to talk, watch the sun set below the horizon, and drop off her recent book releases – The Cemetery Kids series. I snapped a photograph of Jack for an upcoming story.

The next three days were bliss. Lazy days spent walking the beach – in the morning, the afternoon, and at sunset. Oh, the sunsets. The sunsets were divine.DSC_1452 birds under pier sunset copyrWhen not on the beach, we’d hop in the car and putter along Shoreline Drive, gazing at the gorgeous homes, with the intercoastal waterway in the distance. We’d stop at our favorite coffee shop, or just shoot photos of flowers, birds, or landscapes.

Oh how I love Sunset Beach.

We made some new furry friends along the way. Sassy and Libby, whose owners live in Little River, came down for a beach visit. We met Emmy, a sweet golden, who lives a short five minute walk from the beach.

Emmy

Emmy

Libby

Libby

Needless to say, we’ll be back in Sunset in May with our fur babies. They’ll get to meet Sassy and Libby, and maybe even Emmy. I know they’ll see their friend Mosa, a boxer, who vacations the same week every year.

Oh yeah, the first day of our trip, FOLLY BEACH DANCES was nominated for the Eric Hoffer Award, including a finalist for the da Vinci Eye Award, for excellence in book cover design.

So, all in all, I’d have to say, we had a great trip.

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I Lost A Good Friend Today – Thoughts on the loss of a pet

Tripoli smaller fileJanuary 14 was like any other morning.

As a freelance writer working from home, I had a ritual from the moment I arose. Stretch my legs. Put on socks. Go to the bathroom. Let the dogs out. Feed the cats. Make breakfast. Turn on the computer.

This bitterly cold day was different. It would be the last time I would hold my sweet three-legged tuxedo cat, Mr. Trip.

I was meeting a friend for coffee at 11:30 a.m. at the local Starbucks. Shortly before I left, I let the dogs out to do their business. Mr. Trip tried to sneak out, but I knew the wind would chill him to the bone.

Around 11:15 a.m. I gently rubbed thyroid cream into Mr. Trip’s ear, and gave him a kiss on the nose, and a pat on the head, then headed out to the car.

The engine light came on when I tried to start the car.

I came back in the house, called my friend Peggy and informed her of my problem. She said she’d just come out to the house and pick me up. When Peggy showed up, our dogs and black cat greeted her. I looked around for Mr. Trip, and just figured he was hiding under the bed, as he sometimes does with visitors.

In the meantime, I phoned the auto place. They came out and recharged my battery, and suggested driving the car around town for least 15 minutes. Peggy and I were off to run errands.

I arrived home around 2:30 p.m. I felt an uneasy feeling come over me as I entered the house.

Our Bernese/Aussie mix jumped down from the bench in front of the bay window and greeted me.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Mr. Trip lying on his side on the wool rug in the dining room. I thought this was odd, as he never lays on the side with his back leg up. He’s usually sunning himself on the bench, or laying tummy up.

I quickly dropped the bags from Target on the counter, let our other Aussie out of her kennel, and ran straight to Mr. Trip.

Bending over him, I called his name several times. He didn’t answer. I stroked his soft black and white fur and called his name – again and again. His bright lemon yellow eyes stared straight ahead.

Somehow I knew he was gone, but his body was still warm to the touch. I cried uncontrollably, still stroking his fur, noticing his beautiful white whiskers. I phoned my husband and hysterically muttered words into the phone. He told me to calm down and speak slowly so he could understand. I then called my neighbor, and asked her to come over and sit with me until my husband came home. Then my best friend called and tried to console me.

I sobbed from the depths of my soul. Tears flowed like I’d lost a child. I kept mulling details over in my head, trying to figure out what happened in the two hours that I was gone.

I lost a good friend on January 14.

We’d raised Mr. Trip since he was a kitten. A beautiful Tuxedo, he was missing his right rear leg. Suckers for a cute face, we adopted the three-legged kitty from VCA All Creatures animal hospital in O’Fallon, Missouri.

Despite his handicap, he became adept at maneuvering throughout the house, and used his back leg like a tricycle.

Mr. Trip was my shadow. He’d sit on my computer desk, and follow the mouse pointer across the screen. One night I caught him watching television. I placed a chair in front of the TV so he could be closer. I observed as he ‘tap, tap, tapped’ his front paw on the screen in an attempt to swats all the insects in a popular movie.

He enjoyed dipping his toes in my bath water, loved ripping out my hair with his teeth, basking in the sunlight on his favorite bench in the dining room, sitting on my lap on the sofa recliner, watching the birds from his bench in the kitchen, talking constantly in his baby voice.
I nicknamed him “Puppy” and “Tripolipski” and “punk kitty cat” and “Tripopipoleee”.

DSC_2121Mr. Trip was famous – my essay about him titled, “Purrs, Paws, and Cat Scratch Kisses” was published twice – once in Whispering Angels Nurturing Paws Anthology and again in The Animal Anthology Project. This wonderful feline even won Third Place in the Humane Society Pet Pals contest with his canine sister Maggie (passed on). His picture was featured in the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

For years, he slept on my head in bed in the exact same spot Rory, my first kitty slept. And although they’d never met, somehow I felt he sensed Rory’s presence.

He was my little love, and my spark of happiness. No matter how bad I was feeling, one look from his sweet face would cheer me up.

I remember the day my Mom passed away. Mr. Trip was there to console me. Hopping up in the recliner, he placed his paw in my hand and gazed into my eyes as if to say, “It’s okay Mom, I’m here for you.”

DSC_1404 My sweet TripoliAhhh. His gazes would melt your heart. It was as it he was looking through to your soul.

A couple of years ago, he wasn’t able to jump as high as he used to, so I positioned a stool in the kitchen that he could hop up, then on to the next counter stool, and finally to the counter to get his food.

When I’d exercise on the floor, he had to get in on the action. And if I’d roll to one side to do leg lifts, you could be sure he’d be right in front of me; even when I changed sides.

He gave me joy every day.

He made me smile.

He calmed me down.

He had the softest tongue, and the sweetest disposition.

I loved him so much. I hope to see him again one day, with all the other fur babies that have passed on.

My heart aches without him.

***

Recently, I read two stories about loving a pet unconditionally that touched my heart.

The first, was a story on Buzzfeed about Lauren Fern Watt who took her dying dog Gizelle on an Epic Adventure. To cope with losing her best friend, she took her 160 lb. English Mastiff on an adventure that changed both of them.

Lauren’s dog Gizelle, taught her that love is the most wonderful gift she could receive, and the best thing Lauren had to give.

The second story called, “The Dog Years” tells of David Dudley’s canine, Foggy, who was there for every life event, as well as all the fun vacations and good times. And finally, when Foggy, turned 18, David knew his life was over as they rode in the car to the vet for the last time — despite his best efforts to give him everything he needed.

The piece of advice I took away from Dudley’s feature story published in AARP was that “Everything you do for a dog (or cat) to help them age well, you should do with them.”

“So eat the best food you can afford.

Go for a walk, even if it’s raining.

Take a lot of naps.

Keep your teeth clean and your breath fresh, so that the people you lick will not flinch.

And when someone you love walks in through the door, even if it happens five times a day, go totally insane with joy.”

A Writer, a Cameraman, a Castlebuilder, and a Paddleboarding Dog

Early morning Saturday May 17, hubby, Russell and I parked the Chevy Equinox near the 40th Street beach access on Sunset Beach, North Carolina.

With cameras and canteens draped over our shoulder, and two excited canines by our sides, we hightailed it to the shoreline for the 40 minute trek to the Kindred Spirit Bench.

The Kindred Spirit Bench, located on Bird Island, North Carolina was recently featured on CBS News. It’s an inspirational spot where people from all over leave their thoughts in the many journals, housed inside the Kindred Spirit mailbox. An anonymous originator placed the box there some 30+ years ago. My friend Jacqueline DeGroot, and friend Sandy Payne, are the Keepers – transporting the filled journals safely to their destination – U of NC.

The vista of the dunes and beach as viewed from the bench is breathtaking. It’s the maple syrup to my pancake, the hot fudge to my sundae, the chocolate in my cappuccino. It’s simply divine!

On this radiant Saturday morning, people were walking in droves — numbers I’d never seen before down the shoreline. More than I’d encountered on my last two visits to the Kindred Spirit Bench.

A sultry summer’s day, the air was hot, the sea was calm, and I was in my element. Russell walked briskly, and I kept rhythm by scuffling my sandals against the hard–packed sand. With the dogs’ tags jingling, our Bernese Aussie mix trotted in bow-legged fashion, and our mini Australian Shepherd stepped lightly like a ballet dancer.

Along the way, we met a lovely couple, Justin and Ashley, and her parents. As we walked, we talked, and learned a lot about each other. A writer, Ashley liked to collect shells for her students as a way of expressing themselves. They lived a mere three hours from Sunset Beach, and visited the Kindred Spirit Bench the same time each year.

DSCN0830 the four of usSpotting the Kindred Spirit mailbox, we climbed the sand dune and sat on the bench. Ashley and I chatted more about writing means to both of us. Afterwards, the six of us each took a turn penning our thoughts in the journals. We snapped some photos together to capture the memory of our visit.

DSCN0826 Ashley and me

At the bench, we met a guy wearing a Jason Mraz hat, and some cool spectacles – Colin, and his Italian Greyhound, Dan. On our return walk, we talked about photography. Exchanging pleasantries, I discovered Colin was the cameraman for The Big Bang Theory, and Two and a Half Men. The Big Bang Theory is ONLY my husband’s favorite show.

We took a few breaks so the dogs could frolic. Dan, a mere 10 lbs., ran in circles on the firm sand while our 75 lb. Bernese Aussie mix chased him. Unable to trust our mini Aussie, she was given only 15 foot of lead to run. In her mind that wasn’t enough.

DSC_1576 Dan the dog copyr

 

Sauntering down the beach, we neared the 45th Street Beach Access. I spotted a young man in white shirt and black sunglasses building sandcastles, and told hubby, “I’ll be back.”

Upon my approach, I stood back for awhile, and just admired the artist at work.

 

DSCN0848 Lukas and sandcastle“Hey, that’s pretty cool,” I said in an upbeat manner.

“Thank you.”

“ That’s pretty intricate. You an architect?”

Shaking his head no he admitted he had no formal training but came from a family of castlebuilders. “I’m pretty much the only one that’s kept up the castlebuilding.”

His name was Lukas. With a ‘k’.DSCN0852 sandcastle

The sandcastle displayed his handcrafted pottery on different levels. He described himself as a visionary.

As I bid Lukas “Good Day” he neatly wrote his email address on a piece of paper, of which I took a snapshot. He didn’t carry business cards.

As I meandered back to the spot where hubby and Colin were standing, I noticed a young woman with a paddle board entering the water.

Following behind, a man with a board, and a big black dog, entered the ocean. Steadying the board, the woman hopped on, then kneeled. The man, placed the board on the water’s surface, and the black dog jumped on, balancing on all four legs. Amazing. The man jumped on, kneeling astride the dog. The three of them floated effortlessly in the shallows for sometime – a serene watercolor painting.

DSC_1585 roscoe paddleboard crop copyrThere’s something peaceful and magical a man and his dog bonding with the rhythm of the sea.

After the couple and dog exited the crystal clear water, I headed in their direction. Russell, Colin and the dogs followed behind. I was curious to learn about the surfboarding dog.

“What’s his name?”

“Roscoe.”

Close up, Roscoe made our dogs look insignificant and tiny. He was an enormous canine, and appeared lean and muscular under the mass of wet black hair. The couple admitted Roscoe started surfboarding as a pup, and loved it. As I shook hands, and bid my goodbyes, I let them know they’d just made my day.

DSC_1595 roscoe and his owner copyrNearing the 40th Street beach access, we spotted my in-laws waving at us.

And I think we made a new friend. After running into Colin all week, we just decided to exchange information.

colin and the dogsWe keep in touch through social media. I love seeing photos of Dan the Dog, who has his own twitter feed. Colin’s a talented photographer. Maybe he’ll meet us on the sandy shores of Sunset Beach next May, and make the trek to the Kindred Spirit Bench once more?

Hope you get the chance to make new friends on your journey through life.

Writers, photographers, cameramen, poets, painters, sculptors, and songwriters all creating their own dream.

And even paddleboarding dogs…