Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Yesterday I saw my heart

If you’ve ever been to a therapist, or read a personal growth book, the chances are good you’ve heard the following words: “You have to love yourself before you can love anyone else.”

I don’t think I ever really understood the meaning of those words until yesterday…because yesterday I saw my heart.

I was at the doctor’s office, having a stress/echo test. This is where they hook you up to a monitor and ultrasound your heart, followed by walking on a treadmill, followed by looking at your heart again. I’m on my left side, staring at the monitor only a few inches away.

“Is that my heart?” I asked the technician as she ran the device over my chest.

“Yes,” she said, and then proceeded to tell me about the different anatomical parts of my heart.

I don’t think I heard her, because something very profound was happening to me. I looked at this organ, beating its…well…heart out for me, and without any warning I fell head over heels in love…with me.

I’d never seen my heart before. I’ve heard of pregnant couples going in for an ultrasound, and experiencing the joy of seeing their baby for the first time. I’ve never had children, but I’m fairly sure that had I ever been pregnant an ultrasound would have detected four paws and a tail.

As I watched my heart beating I could feel myself becoming very calm. I can’t find the words to tell you how deeply I connected to what I was seeing. It was like finding your soul mate…or falling in love at first sight.

My company’s name is Lighthearted Press. I’ve always described my books for animal lovers as “heartfelt.” Over the years people have blessed me with comments such as “You have a beautiful heart” or “I could feel your heart touching mine when I read about your heartbreak after you lost your dog, Jake.”

My favorite line from all my books is “Something awakens in the heart of a dog when he knows that he is needed.” (From Old Dog and the Christmas Wish by Christine Davis.)

All those thoughts came rushing back to me as I watched my heart beating on the monitor. All too soon I was detached from the wires and back in my car. When I got home I looked out the window, and all the evergreens in the yard just seemed so much greener. My four kitties, whom I love with all my HEART, seemed even more magical to me.

I thought of Jake. Over and over I had talked about his magnificent heart, but for the first time I was able to appreciate just how special he was, for inside him was a beating heart that probably looked a lot like mine.

I’ve been wondering about all the crazy experiences that led to my being at the doctor's office yesterday. A wise friend suggested that maybe the purpose of all the events of the past month was for me to have that stress test.

I think perhaps she is right. Everything seems so much clearer to me now. Everything feels more precious to me today because yesterday, for the first time in my life, I saw my heart...and it's beautiful.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

An Angel Bulldog Helping Earthly Cats

It was not the way things were supposed to go last Christmas Eve. When my dear friend, Judy Ditfurth, took her Bulldog, Jeremy, to the vet, she had no idea he would not be coming home.

There are no words to express how heartbreaking this unexpected loss has been for Judy. But the loss has also been felt by Jeremy’s other friend in the Ditfurth household – their cat, Cinnamin. Cin and Jer were best friends, and in the weeks that followed Jeremy’s passing Judy often wrote about how lost Cinnamin was.
Judy has been an animal lover all her life. Over the years she made many donations to the Morris Animal Foundation in remembrance of her beloved critters. When she learned that the foundation had begun a Happy Healthy Cat Campaign, it seemed only fitting that a donation be made to that effort in Jeremy's name, in honor of the special relationship he had shared with Cinnamin.
Today is Judy’s birthday. I am sending heartfelt good wishes your way, my friend, and Jeremy and all the other angel critters who shared your life send barks and purrs…just to thank you for being such a good Mom.
With love,

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Who's on your personal Board of Directors?

The other day I attended a great book group meeting. We discussed The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz. If you haven’t read this short, inspiring book, you really should add it to your reading list.

Toward the end of the meeting a woman mentioned something that really touched me. She talked about her Board of Directors, mentioning she was the CEO. For a brief moment I wondered how she made her living. Then she began naming the people on her board, beginning with Mary Poppins!

Turned out this was her personal Board of Directors - the group she went to for advice and counsel. I was fascinated by this! I loved the idea of having Mary Poppins on my personal board, but I wondered who else I’d invite.
It goes without saying that my beloved dog, Jake, would be there…someone would have to remind me it was time to play!

I knew Fred Astaire would have to be there, too, for at those moments when I’m befuddled by some confusing problem I suspect a few spins around the dance floor in Fred’s arms will be just what I need.
I want the Dalai Lama there, too, for wisdom and perspective. When I look at his beautiful face a calm peace settles over me.

Perhaps my Mom could be on the Board. I lost Mom to Alzheimer’s three years ago, and I believe she might have some valuable advice for me, now that she can see things with both her earthly eyes AND her angel eyes.

Finally, I think I’d like Wall-E to be part of the group. If you didn’t see this animated movie last year, PLEASE add it to your video list. Wall-E looks at everything with the innocent eyes of a child. On those days when Mary, Fred, Jake, Mom and the Dalai Lama can’t get through to me, I suspect Wall-E might have just the medicine I would need…taken with a spoonful of sugar, of course!

Here’s something to remember about your personal Board of Directors – you can fire a member any time you want! Whether that member was invited by you, or showed up all on their own, if they aren’t serving you well, they’re gone!

So, who would be on your Board of Directors?


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Dangerous Dog Breeds (hint - this will bring a smile!)

This came to me in an email. I have no way to track the picture back to its owner, so if anyone knows who took this picture please let me know.

There are so many warnings out there about dogs that are considered a “dangerous breed.” I don’t subscribe to that thinking, but when I saw this picture I thought it should be shared immediately.

If you are an owner of a dog that belongs to a 'dangerous breed' category and you also have a small child, please take this as a warning. Don't leave your dog with the child unattended under any circumstances. It only took a moment for this to happen

Told you it would bring a smile!

One thought though - oh please let these markers be water soluble!


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cat in a box

Over the years I’ve bought many wonderful beds for my critters. If a kitty bed felt soft and warm, or a dog bed seemed supportive and comfortable, I’d bring it home and give it a try.

Keep in mind my critters have always been allowed to sleep wherever they wanted to – on my bed, on the furniture, in the drawer – it was entirely up to them.

Every kitty bed I’ve bought has turned out to be a failure. The kitties might try it for a day, but then they would lose interest and go back to their usual sleeping places around my home.

This past winter Portland, OR was hit with a terrible snow storm in December. The weather turned very cold before the holidays, and even though I tried to plug up all the cracks around the doors and windows it STILL felt chilly in my home. I was worried about the kitties staying warm.

One day I grabbed a large cardboard box, put a cushy pillow inside it and draped several layers of polar fleece on top. I placed the hastily created “bed” on the kitchen rug and waited to see if there were any takers.

Oh my…it was like the kitties had discovered catnip growing in the carpet! The box was an instant hit with two of my four cats, so I made a second box. For several weeks Dickens and Star slept in the boxes, then Star went back to her usual haunts and I went back to just one box.

It’s been over three months, and Dickens STILL sleeps in that box every day. From an aesthetic standpoint it’s certainly not pretty to look at. But seeing my big boy curled up so contentedly in the folds of the fleecy fabric makes my heart smile.

Sweet dreams,

Monday, March 09, 2009

Finding joy in the middle of chaos

The other day I was in line at the grocery store. This is the same store I’ve been going to for 18 years. There was a customer ahead of me, having a conversation with the cashier. The woman at the register was young, tall, and absolutely glowing! In fact, there was so much light emanating from her face it was almost like stumbling into an episode of Touched by an Angel.

I heard the young woman telling the customer how incredibly happy she was. One look at her face told me she was speaking the truth. With our country struggling, and people doing whatever they can to make it through these tough times, I was curious to know the secret behind this person’s joy.

When I got to the head of the line, I told the cashier I had heard her talking about how happy she was, and asked if there was something special that had brought this about.

There are no words to adequately express the radiant look she gave me, as she leaned across the produce and the laundry detergent. "I've had the most wonderful week," she whispered. " I think…I’ve met my soulmate.”

“Well, then," I replied, "I suspect it’s going to be another wonderful week for you.”

“It’s going to be a wonderful life,” she answered simply.

I haven’t stopped thinking about this person. She was the perfect expression of true happiness. She was living in the moment, completely vulnerable and trusting. I don’t think she cared about the stock market crisis or her retirement account. In her world there was love...and peace...and a safe place to rest. In her world, all was well.

I have seen that same wondrous, excited, “the-world-is-such-a-wonderful-place” look on all the doggies who have shared my life. But it’s been awhile since I’ve seen this much joy on another human being's face. It occurred to me that this stranger showed me something I needed very much to see that day…hope.

I am thinking that on a cold day in Portland, in a checkout line at the grocery store, with the newspaper headlines talking endlessly about fear and desperation, perhaps I had met an angel.


Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Can we love again?

Like so many other animal lovers, I’ve spent my entire life in the company of critters. A home without fur would not be home to me - something essential would be missing.

So we people of the fur tribe invite animals into our lives, knowing that eventually the time will come when we have to say goodbye to them. Critters can live a long time…just not long enough.

Over the years I’ve spoken with many grieving people who’ve called to order my pet loss books. We've shared stories, precious memories, and more than a few tears as we talked about the animals we’ve loved and lost.

Some people have told me they were so devastated by the loss of a beloved companion they would never be able to bring another animal home. Others have said they would continue bringing home furballs until they drew their last breath.
When I lost my dog, Martha, in 1995, I knew there would be more doggies one day, but I couldn’t imagine loving one like I had loved her. Then I found Jake…and I fell in love all over again. We connected in a way that I didn’t even know was possible.

Jake is gone now, and with him went a very large part of my heart. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever will be lucky enough to meet another Jake, or Martha. But then I remember that even though I may not be able to imagine loving that deeply again, the universe…as it always does…knows better.

It’s just a matter of time…