When I was young, I was devastated when our family dog died.  I had never known life without her and the loss in our home was tangible.  I remember going to our minister and questioning whether pets went to heaven.  His answer was helpful, stating that he believed when we go to heaven, we want for nothing.  If that meant being with our family pets, then so be it.
    This past week, our cat passed away.  She was about a thousand years old and everyone said it was time to put her down, but we couldn't bring ourselves to do it.  Then, on Wednesday after school and work, we came home to find her lying there, perfectly situated and looking like she was taking an afternoon nap.  When we called her name however, she didn't respond.  My husband went to touch her cheek, then he knew.  
     It's hard to lose a pet, but when your children are there with eyes filling with hurt and tears, it takes on a whole different level.  
    "When will she wake up?" Our daughter kept asking while she and our boys sat around her.  I didn't know whether to cry along with them or try to hold strong, comforting them instead. 
     One of our sons questioned with a soft voice, "Is she in heaven now?"  It brought me back to my youth.  I told him what was told to me once before, but this time I had more to add.  
     A few years ago, my grandfather passed away.  I was especially close to him and his death was unexpected.  He was in his nineties and lived a wonderful life, but he also had awful stories of his youth during the Great Depression.  
     A couple nights after he had passed, I had a dream about him that was as real as it could be.  He and I sat and talked for what seemed like hours and I kept telling him how I didn't want him to go.  Finally, he said it was time, but he wanted me to remember how happy he was and told me not to worry.  The last thing he said to me was how the best way he could help me believe it was him and not just a dream was by introducing me to his childhood dog.  He said that he loved his pet very much and was so happy to have him again.  He finished by telling me that I could go to my mom with this, but she wouldn't know about the dog because she never knew he had one as a boy.  
     Sure enough, I woke up in tears and called my parents right away.  Just like he said in my dream, mom confirmed that grandpa had never owned a dog during his childhood, due to living through the Depression.  It evidently made her wonder enough to call one of his sisters back in New Jersey.  Mom's aunt replied by saying, "Oh, I forgot all about that little dog.  How did you know about it?"
     Completely shocked, mom asked if her aunt remembered what the dog looked like and she said she'd hunt through some old photos.  
     As luck would have it, about a week later, mom received a letter from her aunt with an old black and white square picture of my grandpa with his beloved pet...and guess what...it was the same dog. 
     As much as I couldn't believe it, it was hard to refute.  
     I'm glad I had it to share with our kids whether it was simply a dream, or something much better.  No matter the case, it helped us through with just a little smile between our tears.
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Boo 10-31-99 - 5-20-15
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    When you drop your cell phone for whatever reason, several things tend to race through your mind.    
      It doesn't matter how your phone lands...facing up, down, in water, bouncing or cartwheeling across the floor...your heart skips a beat as your breath sucks in, waiting in anticipation. 
      Mine fell a couple of days ago and hasn't worked since.  My first reaction was... 
      Did it break?  Will it still work?  Please, please, pleeeeease...
      Shoot.
      The moment you realize your cell phone has died, it's not uncommon to go through different stages.  You might not think you're too attached to your phone and you'd be fine without it, until these feelings set in.
      1.)  Denial: No.  No, no, no.  It's not broken.  I just have to figure out how to fix it or shake it around and it will work again.  Maybe if I shut it down and turn it back on again, everything will be fine.  Yeah.  That'll work. 
      2.)  Anger: WHY AREN'T YOU WORKING?  You stupid phone, turn on!  You can't do this.  I have too much information on you to lose.  Do NOT do this.  
      3.) Bargaining: Okay.  Everything will be fine.  I'll just plug it in to charge and that will make it happy.  I'm sure the battery was just low and nothing else is really wrong.  Here you go.  Nice phone.   
      4.) Depression: It's dead.  It's totally broken and there's nothing I can do.  Nothing works and I'll never be able to get any pictures, videos or memories off my phone again.  Why didn't I save any of it?  What am I going to do?  The school...what if one of the kids gets sick and they can't reach me?  What about work?  What if my job sends a message?  How will I check on daily information like time, temperature, my emails?  I always listen to music...what now?  I'll be disconnected from everything.  How much is it going to cost to repair or replace it?  I'm doomed.     
      5.) Acceptance:  It's okay.  I lived my whole life before without a cell phone and it'll be fine.  The car will actually be nice without talking on the phone.  I remember when listening to songs on the radio was the only option.  The kids won't ask to play games on the phone and I won't get texts or messages throughout the day.  There will be a sense of freedom and bit of reprieve simply by disconnecting from everything.  The world will reappear and I'll notice people and things around me instead of constantly checking on my phone.
      Oh look.  Is that a bird?  How nice.  
      Um, yeah.  It's time to get another phone. 
      Editor's note: Even though I really have gone without my phone for a few days, this was meant to be funny.  The scary part is when I talked to a recruiter recently, he told me that when he takes kids (18-19 year olds) phones away from them for approximately 3-4 hours during initial meetings/sessions, they look and act as if they were literally going through withdrawals.  He said that because our generation and previous generations grew up without cell phones, we can manage without, however since this age hasn't, it's almost like an addiction and they don't know what to do without it.  yieks.    
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     Fourteen years ago, my husband and I were married.
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     It was a wonderful day shared with family and friends and still makes me smile to think about.
    Thirteen anniversaries have past since then, yesterday, being one of them.  Our first one or two anniversaries were amazing.  Romantic getaways, relaxing vacations without a care in the world...  
    Then we had kids.  
    The first few years were spent ordering pizza and renting a movie as the babies slept.  We'd half laugh, half cry at the memories of years prior.
    As the kids got older, anniversary nights in, became anniversary nights out again...only this time they were much more romantic getaways like going to T-ball games, elementary school programs and last night, the best one of all...spring football practice.
    Knowing that would be on call for this anniversary, we shuffled through the day with school and work, came home that afternoon to begin homework over the 'beautiful' serenade of trumpet practice from our fifth grader, then began getting backpacks and school lunches ready for the next day, before we headed out the door for football. 
    Then something happened.  My parents arranged to take the three boys to practice and keep our little girl, then send us out for dinner.  Not just any dinner, but a fancy dinner.  The kind with no chicken nuggets on the menu. 
    Running to put on a dress and heels, I was taken when I saw my husband.  He was as handsome as ever in a dark sports coat, reminding me of the day were married.
    With white twinkling lights around the restaurant, it was hard not to smile at our brief snippet of calm.  Actual complete sentences were formed and there was no kicking under the table or crayons being thrown. 
    Adam looked at the number of forks, spoons and knives surrounding his plate and grinned.  Taking the biggest knife, a steak knife so huge it was impressive, he put it right in the middle of the table.
     The server quickly appeared and asked if there was something wrong.
    "No.  Nothing's wrong.  We just want to keep it there for a minute or two."
    "Excuse me Sir?"
    Knowing how crazy she must have thought we were, I couldn't help but giggle.
    Having four kids doesn't bode well with big knives under any circumstance...especially one sitting right there in front of you.
     Even though life moves quickly and I know these days are short, it was nice to take a minute to stop.  As wild as things can be with kids, work, school, sports...it sometimes adds up to a lot of chaos that can make you crazy. It's good to take the time to have a steak knife every once in awhile. 
     Thank you Mom and Dad for allowing us to enjoy a wonderful anniversary.  In the midst of the chicken nugget weeks and days, it sure was nice to have a steak night kind of night.   
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     My parents were staying in the Outer Banks this past week and invited us to join.  
      Being Mother's Day, I couldn't think of a better way to spend time than with family on the beach and it ended up being wonderful.  Not because I didn't have to go to work, cook or clean all day - as nice as that was - it was instead because of something that happened.
     We stayed in a place called Duck that was just about as beautiful and low key as you could get.  The beach was quiet with very few people, making it relaxing and nice.
     Watching the kids play and run around the beach, I turned when I noticed two people coming from far off on the left.  The closer they got, I could tell they were a young couple in their twenties, going for a walk.  
     The girl was wearing a cute bikini and had a tan that was only outdone by her legs that went on for miles.  The guy was just as sun kissed, with abs you could literally eat a meal off of.  It was difficult not to stare at the two as they sauntered towards us like the pages of an Abercrombie ad.
     Holding my sundress to gather the kids out of their way, I realized the couple looking at our four wild children not with smiles, but with annoyance, as though the kids were going to block their path.  
     My husband and I both noticed, so together we began yelling over the sound of the waves to herd the kids in our direction.  
     It was too late.  As the young couple approached, they were visibly bothered.  As the kids ran to us, one of the boys was in mid throw of his football which almost totally Marsha Brady-ed the supermodel, while another one of our sons was flying a kite and all but clotheslined Mr. J. Crew.
     Mortified, my husband and I ran to get the kids and waved gestures of apologies to the couple as they shot us a look and continued to walk by.
      Just then, I remembered walking the beach in my 20's with my cute and young husband.  I remembered not thinking a thing about wearing a bikini on a sunny stroll along the shore.  I would never have thought to wear a sundress or a hat, sunblock, sunglasses...when I was young and carefree.
     I found myself elbowing my husband as they passed and whispered, "I'll give you five bucks if you yell to them, 'THIS IS YOUR FUTURE'".  
     I wondered how fast they would run.
     Run to hold onto those carefree days without a worry in the world and a complete unconsciousness as to the reality of the depths of responsibility life would bring with time and experience.  They couldn't realize how things would change even physically.  Grey hair, wrinkles, saggy bits of skin, extra weight...all the joys of getting older.
      I thought about this as I watched our kids continue to laugh and play.
      As luck would have it, a little later from the opposite direction, an elderly couple began to approach.  Their hair shone white in the sun and their pants were rolled up to their knees.
      Learning from before, Adam and I immediately shot towards the kids and scurried them in our direction to clear the way for the older couple.
      Keeping their hands linked together, they walked unbothered in sync and with smiles, enjoying the sand and waves.  Their skin was worn with tanned wrinkles mapping the years of laughter along their eyes and cheeks.   
     Nearing us, they noticed each one of the kids with a genuine warmth that came through so clearly...and then at me...with my frizzy sea blown hair, sandy wet sundress and exasperated look.
     Their eyes told a story of life and love and how important it was to cherish what really mattered...the real things that go so much deeper than looks or carefree youth.
     That's when it hit me.  They were far more beautiful than the younger couple ever could have been.  Every grey hair, wrinkle, saggy bit of skin and yes, even extra weight was worn in truth, as a joy of getting older. 
     Again, we waved gestures of apologies but without saying a word, they waved back, with love as if to remind us to cherish each minute that God has given.  Especially with the gifts that were all around us...and more importantly...right in front of us. 
     Happy Mother's Day to you and yours.  May gifts of love surround you on this day and every other day.   
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     When we had a house filled with boys, we used to dream about what it would be like to have a baby girl.  Nerf guns and footballs were constant reminders of how distant the possibility of baby dolls and fairies would be.
    We'd go to the beach and watch in amazement as the boys instinctively ran constantly in and out of the waves, laughing and throwing sand balls at each other the entire time.  It always shocked me to look over at random little girls, sitting quietly in the sand a few families away.  Their adorable buckets and shovels would sweetly build castles as the girls giggled and played...in one spot...with absolutely no...flying balls of sand.   
     Even in school, our kindergarten has an 'insect day' every year.  We've been spidered and bugged out with cool and creepy things for the boys.  The kids are allowed to dress up and the whole day is devoted to the most "AWESOME" and crawliest bugs you could imagine.  Year after year, I watched cute lady bugs with delicate wings fly about while girls held hands and danced.
     This year will be different though.  We finally have a little girl and even though she's more prone to chase after her brothers throwing sand balls right with them, this year, we'll have a butterfly.  
     Today I found the cutest little wings and outfit for her to wear and can't wait for "insect day" to arrive.  Sparkly glitter will be from head to toe as she flutters around the house for school.  Tomorrow is the big 'buggy' day and I'll post a picture for sure.  
      Even though there's nothing quite as wonderful as having a house full of energetic boys with basketballs and frogs around, it sure is nice to get to share the love and happiness of butterfly sparkly hugs and kisses every once in awhile too.  (ribbit) 
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    Thank You for your well wishes and kind words for dad.  Your thoughtfulness truly meant more to him than you'll ever know!  You're the Best!  Thank You again!!!  Love to You - XOXO
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    Seventy years ago on this very day, a young mother was living in California.  Her husband was in the Navy and off to war, so she drove herself to the hospital, once she went into labor.
     Upon arriving in the emergency parking lot, she had a contraction and crashed into another car.  Needless to say Dad, you literally came in with a bang.
     Since that exciting entrance into this world, you've been the greatest example of how to live your life with humor, love and integrity.
     You've taught me the importance of treating others with respect and compassion, and to cherish those who do the same in return. 
     You've raised me to be independent which is so important for a daughter to learn.  You've never wanted me to need anyone, but instead, taught me to take care of myself...get an education, a good job, pay my own bills and not to act like a princess...while still finding a man who would treat me like one. 
     You've been the greatest example of the importance of having a strong faith, a good family and the best of friends in this life.
     The seventy years you've been on this earth have been nothing less than wonderful, but among the countless number of things you've accomplished, you've been only one thing to me...the best dad I could ever hope for.
            Happy Birthday Dad. We Love You.   
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     When sitting around the dinner table, I try to remember that even if something is familiar to grown ups, it might be brand new to the kids.  I like to make things I think they would enjoy, but sometimes need to remember that their minds are different and inexperienced when it comes to trying new foods.  
     This is about the time I get a good laugh at remembering things I thought I hated when I tried them, then learned to love.  Take...shrimp for example...
     The first time I remember seeing shrimp, we were at a restaurant.  My brother and I were playing with our food when he told me to eat one.  It was a peel and eat shrimp, but he conveniently forgot to mention the 'peel' part.  It looked strange, but he said it was good (like any big brother would do).
     Asking if I was supposed to eat the whole thing, he just laughed and shook his head yes.
     That was my first taste of shrimp...tail and all.  You can imagine my disgust. 
     Then there's the time I had wasabi.  What's wasabi you might ask?  It's kind of like eating something from the depths of hell, in a nice shade of light green.  I'm not exactly sure what it's even made from, but even the tiniest amount, could clear your sinuses for up to a week.
     Wasabi is very common with sushi.  There's another food altogether, but that's a different story.
     I was working as a therapist in a hospital back in the 90's when my boss wanted me to get trained in a specialized field.  I was flown to Connecticut for a few days, when a night or two into it, some of the staff I had met, wanted to go to a Japanese restaurant. 
     It was the real deal.  Shoes off, sitting on the floor with a menu I couldn't begin to understand.  I was young and nervous, having no idea what to do.  A nice girl helped me order and to this day, I don't know what I had.  It was good, but the only thing I thought I recognized was the quarter sized blob of guacamole in the middle of a pretty plate.  Not realizing they served guacamole in Japanese restaurants, it was the first thing I went for.  The whole amount, all at once.
     In less than a second, the lining of my nasal cavity began to peel.  My eyes literally bulged out of my skull as tears began to pour from my face.  Trying to act cool like I knew what I was doing, it was useless.  The girl beside me asked if I was okay, but I couldn't speak.  I could only nod my head and wonder if a trip to the ER was in order.  
     I survived, obviously, but it taught me a good lesson.  Trying new things can be good, but it can also be very, very bad.
     I keep this in mind when I have the kids try new things, albeit I'll never force shrimp shells or green fire paste on them.  At times it may feel all the same to them however, and it's always good for me to remember how that feels.  Sushi, anyone?         
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     I should start by saying that I work in the medical field...and I still avoid doctors like the plague.  (No pun intended.)
     Of course I do the dutiful thing of keeping my annual check-ups as everyone should - and if I really feel there's something wrong, I'll head for the waiting room.  Too many times though, I've had less than pleasant experiences. 
     Take for instance, the time I felt just awful.  I finally decided to cry 'Uncle' and researched the best doctors in the area.  Being new to North Carolina, I felt optimistic in my selection.  
     After around an hour of sitting in the waiting room, I was beyond ready to get through the appointment when they finally called my name.  
      Going back, I sat for another length of time before an older man finally came through the door, looking at my chart and flipping through some pages.  No eye contact, no greeting...just a simple..."What seems to be the problem" as he shuffled through some more.
      "Well, I don't know really.  I just feel...off...I guess."
      "What do you mean, off?"
      "Tired, sluggish, worn down.  Just off."
      Lifting his eyes over the rim of his glasses, he said this...(I'm not even kidding).
      "We don't have a medical term for "off".  You're going to have to be a little more specific."
      Raising my brow, I didn't know whether to stay or get up and leave.  I decided to try and explain, "Sometimes my side hurts but it's not constant.  We just had our third son so it's hard to tell since I'm with the kids and the baby nonstop." 
       Closing his folder, he simply stated, "Well, there's your problem.  You just had a baby and you're chasing two boys around.  You're just tired.  Go home and take a nap."
       Turning to leave, he scribbled something on my chart and headed for the door.  I remained sitting, speechless.
       A few days after that, the little voice inside my head continued to nag at me to find someone else.  I located a female physician from a different practice and hesitantly made an appointment.
      When she walked into the room, she smiled, extended her hand and introduced herself.  Sitting across from me, she listened to my concerns, did a full check up and sent me to get some labs and an ultrasound of my side.
     Within no time, I had a call to see a surgeon.
     great.
     The following day after the visit to the surgeon's office, I was in for surgery to remove my gallbladder.  The surgeon said that in all his years, he hadn't seen one so filled with gall stones.  So much so, that gangrene had set in and it was ready to rupture, literally at anytime. 
     I hadn't felt so good in years once he removed it.  Even better than my nap.
     Currently, my dad is having lower back pain.  It hit him out of nowhere and it's so bad that he can't walk.  Mom took him to the ER where they said they could find nothing wrong.  She took him to a doctor who had an x-ray done and the radiologist said, there was nothing he could do but to come back in a week if it still hurt.
     Getting tired of the runaround, guess who I had mom take my dad to see yesterday?  Yep.  In one appointment, dad said that the doctor listened to him, respected his pain level and did everything she could to help.  Dad's seeing a neurosurgeon this Tuesday to determine the next course of action and we're praying everything will be okay. 
     I understand how busy doctors are and how much they have to do in such little time.  What I wish they understood though, is how important it is to listen not only to what they've learned in medical school and their journals, but also to their patients.  Look into people's eyes and faces.  Read more than their charts and truly hear what they have to say.
     When you get a doctor who won't do that, what's even more important, is to listen to yourself and hear what that tiny voice tells you inside.  You'd be surprised how right it usually is. 
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