Monday, December 29, 2014

Maine Frost; the most amazing gift...

My husband often tells me, "you could have done worse in the in-law department." He is SO right. I have been blessed to marry into a family of lovely, kind, generous people.

Sister-in-law Brenda recently confided in me that she had made a small quilt as a surprise for my daughter for Christmas. She is an artist with fabric. I dutifully kept the gift quilt a secret.

When the box arrived it was HUGE and rather heavy. I thought that perhaps I had misunderstood, this quilt must not be so small. When my daughter arrived home from work I excitedly showed her the package. "Open it, it's a present for YOU!" She happily noted the return address and sliced the box open. When she pulled out an enormous quilt in all of my favorite shades of white, and cream and soft, batik blue, I was jealous. It was the most beautiful quilt I had ever seen in my life. The stitching was in lovely swirls, enhancing the incredible combined effect of the fabrics. And then my daughter read the enclosed note, and that quilt? That incredible, amazing, stunning quilt? It was for me! (It was for my husband, too, but really? It obviously was made with my tastes in mind.) Brenda and her awesome daughter Lisa had worked on the quilt together. (The promised quilt for my daughter was there, too, bright and owl themed and adorable.)

The way the colors are arranged, they reminded me of the magic of a winter New England landscape.I love this place, in every season, but I have to say, the winter landscape transfixes me. And then I noticed the perfect name they had given this wonder...

As usual, my husband is right. I could have done worse in the in-law department.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Sad goodbye...

When we lived in Memphis, many years ago, I volunteered with local animal rescue groups to raise orphaned kittens. I would bottle feed them, and raise them until they were reliably eating solid food, then they would go to a new foster home until they were old enough to be adopted.

The people at the rescue groups knew that I would not foster dogs. This is because though I love both dogs and cats, I was more apt to fall head over heels in love with a dog. I knew myself well enough to understand that unless I wanted to be a dog hoarder, I couldn't bring them into my home.

One day a friend involved in rescue called me. "I KNOW you don't foster dogs, but I have a Pug puppy I need immediate placement for. If you could just keep her for a couple of days, I promise I'll find another person to take her." I thought about it, and realized something else about myself. I am a dog snob. I am very much attracted to beautiful dogs. And Pugs? Let's face it, they are kind of funny looking. "Sure," I said. "I can help you out for a few days."

The story was that a family had tried to relinquish a 5 week old Pug puppy at the big city shelter. My friend was there at the time, and knew that a pup that young stood little chance of surviving there. Surely she would contract some sort of disease and perish. I agreed to take the dog,just for a short time, while she found a more permanent solution.

The puppy arrived 4th of July weekend in 2000. She was tiny,a mere handful of a dog, and honestly? The ugliest puppy I have ever seen. Fleas ran rampant on her little black body, her abdomen was swollen with worms, and the signature curly tail that Pugs wear with pride hung like a limp noodle.

My friend was unable to find another home to take her in, and she wasn't much trouble, so I agreed to keep her a while and screen potential adopters. A few days into her stay I found myself looking down at her little, wizened face and soulful eyes and saying, "Oh! You are SO beautiful." I realized I was in trouble.

I shelled out the $50 adoption fee and Poppy became ours. For 14 1/2 years she has been a sweet, solid companion. She taught me a lot about enjoying comfort, because seeking and savoring all things cozy and squishy and warm was her passion. Every sunshine puddle that slanted in through a window was cherished by her, every soft pillow claimed and treasured. She never met a dog she didn't like,or a human, either. She had a long and healthy life, and seemed to be the happiest of spirits.

As a young dog she was an equal opportunity snuggler. She'd be happy to cuddle anyone. When she was a pup Rachel would sometimes sneak into our room at night and steal her. I would wake and find her missing and call to Rachel, "Are you a Pug napper?" She would reply, "I'm a PUG smuggler!" But as Poppy got older she became more and more attached to me. In the past few months I couldn't leave her sight. She followed me from room to room and could not settle unless I was near.

And that was fine with me. I treasured time with her.

Yesterday she died peacefully in my arms. For a small dog, she has left a large whole in life. But I am so grateful to have had her. The best $50 I ever spent? It was buying her companionship and unfaltering love.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas at FairWinds...

This year, more than before, I noticed people around me having problems with the holiday. There was frantic shopping and cooking and preparation. One friend wrote, "I wish the world would slow down a bit. Get gentle. It feels jagged out there with all the hurrying." Those words resonated strongly with me. I have done the hurried holiday, and didn't enjoy it. And I have realized more and more that we can make choices.

For our family, we kept the decorations simple. We cooked meals that we liked but that were not horribly involved.

We chose gifts for each other with great thought and care.

And today, when people I know were rushing from one place to another to "celebrate," we stayed home.

We had waffles with mimosa's for breakfast, opened our gifts at a leisurely pace, watched Christmas movies together. I stayed in my pajamas all day! For supper we had stuffed shells that daughter Rachel and I cooked up earlier in the week. We made them with creamy goat cheese I created myself, and the sauce was homemade, too, and safely tucked in the freezer, tasting like late summer. All I had to do today was pop them in the oven.

We end the day happy, relaxed and rested. It was time filled with the people we love the best, quiet contemplation,
and gratitude. Because we chose it to be that way. And we'll make the same choice next year.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


I have been happily grooming dogs and cats for 30 years now. It is a vocation I cherish, but I have to admit, sometimes I wonder. I wonder why it is this job I was clearly put on earth to do. I look around me, at people I admire. My sister the librarian who has fired a love of reading in the minds of thousands of children. My other sister, a teacher, who gives the gift of loving to learn to small children. I think of doctors who cure the sick and scientists who discover things to improve the lives of humans everywhere. Lawyers who find justice. Farmers who feed the world. I admire veterinarians more than words can say. So why, why, was I given the drive and desire to groom dogs? In the greater scheme of things, my work does not seem very important. I joke that God gives everyone certain gifts. Some are brilliant at business, some are skilled artists... but me, he gave me the ability to scrub dog and cat butts.

I will probably never know just why I am programmed to do the work I do, but I know two things. I know I am glad of it. And I know that I have been blessed more than I can ever say by the relationships I have developed with the owners of the pets I groom. This was brought home to me today with great clarity when I received a phone call from a dear lady I met around 11 years ago when I first moved to Maine. I liked her instantly and as I got to know her over the years I liked her more and more. I pet sat her sweet little dog many times while she traveled. A friendship that I treasure developed. Her dog recently went to the rainbow bridge, and I miss her. I also miss my friend. It was a joy to me that she called today, and we had a happy chat.

And this got me to remembering all the wonderful souls I have met because I groomed their dog or cat. People who still send me cards and emails and gifts 12 or more years since I have seen them last. People who populate my memories with colorful, joyous thoughts. All because I was given the gift of loving to groom pets.

Sometimes I remember just how blessed I really am.

Sunday, December 14, 2014


Poppy the Pug has been a completely wonderful little friend for 14 long, happy years. I never meant to have a Pug. I agreed to foster her when her owners took her to a shelter at 5 or 6 weeks of age. They wanted a Boxer, instead. My plan was to find her a wonderful home.

To be honest, she was the homeliest little puppy I had ever seen. But after about 3 days I found myself telling her, "Oh, you are SO beautiful!" Despite her wrinkled face and non-regulation un-curled tail, a sweet spirit emanated forth from her 2 pound body. In no time she had us all under her spell. And the home she found was in my heart.

She has been loved by all the other dogs we shared our hearts and home with over the years. Except Ziva, who has little use for her. Poppy and Flirt are special friends. They snuggle together, and when Flirt had her pups Poppy laid close against her, spine to spine, while Flirt labored.

She's been a sturdy, healthy little dog all this time. Other than surgery to enlarge her nostrils when she was a pup, an infected salivary gland and spay surgery, she's only ever seen the vet for routine shots. Even now she is sleek and shiny and has a sparkle to her eyes.

But Poppy is what Chris likes to call "Wore out!" She has not been able to manage stairs for years, and now is having trouble walking on flat surfaces much of the time. Although she is on heavy duty pain medication for arthritis, she is beginning to have more bad days than good.

I wish with all my might that she might go to sleep and not wake up snuggled in front of the wood stove or even sleeping next to me as she has most every night for all these years. But I will most likely have to choose to have our veterinarian come here and ease her to that final rest. And that is a decision I dread.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Life's a kick..!

We have not had a new baby in our family since I gave birth to Rachel, 25 years ago! That is a long, long baby-less time.

Sunday we gathered for a big, happy, family baby shower. My beautiful, smart, talented niece Emily and her kind and gentle husband Jeff are expecting a daughter in January. And to say we are excited is a gross understatement.

After the food and the cake and the wine, after the chatting and catching up and laughing, after opening the presents and oohing and ahhing at tiny socks and hand knit blankets and booties and lovingly sewn baby quilts, after the guests had left, Emily gathered some of us together to feel the baby kick.

The baby performed on cue. And we women, gathered around the magic of new life, celebrated with joyful laughing as we felt her swim and dance beneath our loving hands.

There is magic all around us, but nothing more magical than the promise of a wee new babe to love.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Help or hindrance..?

Today I schlepped a bag of shavings out to the pony shed after I had cleaned it out. Normally I carry a knife in my pocket or start a hole in the bag before I leave the garage where it is stored. The shavings are compressed into a rather thick plastic bag and it is tricky to open without a sharp tool. Today I had no knife and forgot to start a hole before I got out to the shed.

Just as I was pondering how best to get a hole started one of the young bucklings that are visiting to breed with the does took the project on. He butted the bag with his sharp little horns and gave his head a shake. Back up, repeat, over and over, until the bag was in tatters. I stood back and admired his work.

Then I used all those holes to my advantage, opened the bag, deposited the shavings on the floor and went about my business.

Little boy goats with horns present a myriad of challenges to live with, but they do come in handy from time to time!