Dogs are a huge part of my life. I’ve grown up with them and, as strange as it might sound, whenever I’ve needed a friend, my dog has been there. (They don’t call them “man’s best friend” for nothing.) Every dog I’ve ever had has always been able to make a bad day good, make me laugh and make me smile, showed me an abundance of love and taught me about loss.

This past week, I was thinking about how we spend so much of time training our dogs and saying what a great life we’re giving them. But what if it’s the other way around? What if dogs are the ones teaching us life lessons and enriching our lives?

Think about it.

M13Dogs are the ultimate procrastinators (mostly because they have no schedule). The other day when I took my dog, Maggie, for a walk, I started thinking how she could probably wander forever. Or at least a very long time. She would be completely content to sniff under every rock and around every tree.

Humans always seem to be on a time schedule. We always have someplace to be. We’re clock watchers. We look forward to the future (and there’s nothing wrong with that), but miss out on the present. We rarely seem to enjoy current moments because we are too busy looking forward to the next big thing. But maybe if we just wondered around for awhile, sniffing under every rock and around every tree (not literally of course), who knows what new adventures we could find. When I go for walks by myself, I usually only have a general direction as to where I’m going. Other then that, I just wander.

Dogs are usually always ready to play. I’ve lost track of the number of times in a day my sweet baby girl (or fur-baby, as I’ve heard this reference from others) has brought me a toy – indoor or outdoor. She runs around like crazy. But she’s really just having fun and doesn’t care who’s watching.

We seem to care a little too much, sometimes, about what others think when, really, we just need to be ourselves. I’ll admit that I’m guilty of this, but I’m better then I was in the past. Sometimes you just have to run free like dogs do and say who cares. And, at times, I do.

Dogs are always ready to love. Unconditionally.

I’m not really sure what more there is to say about this one. Dogs love you. No matter what. Maybe we should show each other more love and less hate. Maybe that would make the world a better place.

The love I’ve had for all my dogs makes it that much more difficult to let go. Everything has it’s time and where there is love, there is loss. Some may say they are just dogs, but any pet owner knows that they aren’t just dogs. They become family, best friends. And while I have my human family (who I love), my best friends (who I also love), I also have my four legged family/friends. My dogs. Every dog that’s ever entered my life. And that’s how I see it. I haven’t entered their life, they’ve entered mine.

When I lost my first dog, Misty, it was rough. It’s still hard to think about now, and writeMisty_B&W about, but she helped me through elementary, middle and high school. She was there through all four years of college and even helped me work my way through my first job. No matter how rotten of a day I had, she was always there to make it better.

Now I have Maggie. She was with me through my second job and still is, as I follow my passion for writing, photography and music. The whole time she has loved me and I’ve loved her too.

I’m well aware that dogs have a different mindset from humans, but I do believe that we can learn a thing or two from them. They can teach us about peace and tranquility, about enjoying life, exploring our surroundings, caring for one another as well as love and loss.

Maybe dogs are the greatest teachers of all.


A Birthday Message

Let’s show Jerome Fontamillas, of Switchfoot, some love, as he turned 48 on Saturday!

Happy (belated) Birthday Jerome! You are the master of the keys, of the accordion 10solos. You’re a man of many talents. They may stick you in the back, but (and I think I speak for all of us when I say) we’re glad you’re here. You’re the Crowd Pleaser, making those lovely sounds from your keyboard. You’re the king of coffee drinking (and you might be made up of 65% coffee by now). You are one of the kindest, happy-go-lucky guys I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Thank you for everything you do, all the sacrifices, all the travel, all the tours. Thank you for making beautiful music and sharing it with all of us. We appreciate it and we appreciate you. I hope you had great day. (Sorry this birthday message comes two days late.) I wish you all the best, always.

Story Time

I’m a firm believer that everyone has a story to tell. I think, if we’re willing to listen, that people have some of the most interesting stories.

When I used to write for newspapers, I worked with people everyday. In order to write my story, I had to talk to the people who had the story. Some of my favorite articles centered around people. The little boy who was given his dream by Make-A-Wish, the woman who followed her passion for Marine Science, the people who were recovering from a devastating flood, the ceramic artist who opened her own studio and the Veterans who were part of the Honor Flights are just a few of the people who were kind enough to let me into their lives and tell me their story. And this was always my favorite part of the job.

I’ve always been a curious person. I’ve always been interested in people, wanting to hear their stories. Reading is a great was to learn (and trust me I read a lot), but I would rather sit down with a person and talk. There’s something about the way they light-up when someone shows interesting them, when they can share their story, that makes me smile.

This past weekend I went to visit my grandparents. I love them both equally, but I could talk to my grandpa for hours. I could listen to him tell story after story without being board. It’s from him I’ve learned some of the most interesting things about our family. It’s from him that I’ve been given a look into WWII. It’s from him that I’ve learned so many other things. There are times that he reminds me of the Energizer Bunny. He can just keep going and going and going. Usually all it takes is one question to set him off talking. With in the last few visits I’ve grown accustomed to just asking him to tell me a story, any story.

I love hearing what people have to say on various topics – their insight, their story. Try asking someone a question about their life, past or present. Or simply ask how their day went. Who knows what you will learn.

Stop…Smell a Flower, Appreciate the World

Have you heard the saying, “Stop and smell the roses?”

Do you know its meaning?

It means to relax, to take time out of your schedule to enjoy or appreciate the beauty of life.

We seem to be on a tight schedule, no matter where we are in life. We all have responsibilities and sometimes it can feel like they begin to pile up. At a certain point we might start to feel the pressure of being buried under all this stuff.

It’s happened to me. In fact, it still happens.

But all the stuff can prevent us from enjoying life.

I’m not against being busy. I love having things to do, places to go and people to see, but it’s also nice to have quiet time. It’s nice to take some time for myself. But how do I find the time? I have to make it. I’ve found that in this crazy world of schedules and planners and dates and times that sometimes I just have to take a step back. Once again, it’s difficult. That’s why I cherish my leisurely walks. It gives me time to think and take in the world around me. This world has so much beauty to offer that I believe it’s often forgotten in the shuffle of the everyday. Maybe we even start taking it for granted.

These walks are special times for me. I can think about the next story I’m going to write, a number of other things or nothing at all. Usually, I try to clear my head. I find these walks are also a time to recharge. Mostly I take in the beauty around me.
Summer is the perfect time to slow down. Take a family vacation, a day trip or even a nice long walk on your own. Stop and feel the warmth of the sun, walk through the grass barefoot, squish you’re toes in the sand or listen to the birds sing or the beat of the ocean. Stop and smell a flower.

I believe there’s a balance between our responsibilities and relaxing. After all, one of our responsibilities is to our well-being. Every season has a beauty all its own. Everyday presents the opportunity to appreciate what the world has to offer. No matter what season you’re currently having, take some time to examine the world around you.

Take a moment and smell a flower.