Sunday, January 13, 2019

Pet Peeves: A Dog Lovers Lament

I love dogs. Large and small. Happy and sad. I do not love all dog owners. I’ve watched while dogs bark, lunge, snap and bite, I don’t blame them. I blame their people. People who abuse, starve and abandon them. And people who fail to teach them how to be a good four-footed being in this two-footed world. 

Here’s the deal: When you become a dog owner, you have a big responsibility to your dog. Your responsibility goes beyond food, exercise and love. You are responsible for helping your dog understand and navigate the world around them. That means your dog needs to be taught some basic rules. And you need to understand what your dog really wants and needs. 

Sit. Stay. Listen. 

These are life saving commands. Have you ever seen a dog get hit by a car? I have. Terrible as it is, what hurts me most is knowing that, in most cases, it could have been prevented. 

Basic training is not easy. It takes time, patience, determination and lots of treats. I know because I’ve trained all my beloved dogs.  And, I also know, that it’s not impossible, however it might seem at the time. Right now, I’m working with a super sweet 18 month old lab who is a combo of Scooby Doo and Tigger. He’s smart which makes my job of teaching him both easy and hard. 

I love him. So I teach him. 

We work many times a day inside and out. We are making great progress, but we still have much to learn together. Now he moves only his head toward other dogs, kids and squirrels, instead of lunging away from me. He sits and waits near the door better. He still wants to rush up to everyone, so we ‘pass’ others and then, walk back to chat at shorter and shorter distances. He knows how to go to his ‘place’ and hang out calmly. And he did amazing this week while I threw on the wheel! 

There’s more to teach him and more for me to learn, too. This is a loving, life-long relationship. I laugh at his antics and cherish his sweet, tiggerishness, knowing that our playful training sessions are creating a strong loving bond.

Dogs do not belong in a grocery cart at Home Depot on a Saturday. 

Your dog does not want to be at Home Depot, Macy’s, or Fred Meyer. Trust me. I can feel it. Your dog is feeling confused, overwhelmed and scared. 

I watched 3 small white dogs barking for release from the trap of a moving shopping cart. I worried as an old terrier tried to navigate the slippery tile floor at Macy’s. I saw a lab mix barking uncontrollably in the hardware aisle at Home Depot because he was terrified of all the people walking all around him while his owner bent and shopped completely oblivious to him. I heard repeated pages in Fred Meyer for an owner to please, please, please come and claim their loose German Shepard mix from the front cashier. And yesterday, I saw a pet owner leash their sweet young puppy to an  outside table, then go into New Seasons to shop. 

It pains me to see untrained dogs in all the wrong places. If your dog is not an official service dog, do not take them shopping with you. Do not leave them locked in your car in the parking lot. Do not leash them to a table and leave. Do not let them run ‘free’ anywhere but in a secure, fenced area. Dogs can drown. Dogs can get hit. Dogs can get lost and stolen. 

Teaching your dog to sit and stay can save his life. 

It’s that simple.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

2019 Word of the Year

The first week of this year opens with a spotlight on greed. Our president and his minions give themselves more money while denying thousands of people their basic paychecks. With the latest national debacle hitting the fan, I really feel it’s even more important to shine some light into this darkness. 

You know I tried hope in 2017 and understanding in 2018 but I really think this year needs something more. Stronger words popped up: anger, fear, frustration, embarrassment, doubt, and a huge lack of faith in our election process, officials, government, judicial system. But I don’t want to sink into the abyss of doom. 

I can’t let myself go down that rabbit hole and give up.

I know I might sound like a Pollyanna. I know there are deep, deep problems here in this country that existed before the current person took up residence in the White House. I accept that racism, sexism and elitism all exist here. I know now that even with another person as president, all these problems would still be problems. 

There is one good thing that has come out of this muck: we all see the muck now. We see its depth, darkness and depravity. It’s clear we are being attacked by foreign governments. Our legislative and judicial systems are broken. We know we need people in office and behind the bench who are there to help us and not themselves. We are paying the price of corporate greed with our very lives. 

But, still, I believe. 

I see my neighbors coming together to help each other. I watch a woman pack a huge box at the shipping store with clothes, toys, and shoes to send to her adopted child. I know people who save lives through acts of kindness, generosity and skill every day. I hear fair and just people speak out, reach in and lift up others all around me. 

And, really and truly, I know the hard-working investigators will not only reveal but right the wrongs. The media will report it fairly. Judges will make the right decisions. Our newly elected representatives will bring about a sea of changes for our health and safety. 

In you and I, I believe. 

In these people, I believe. 

As hard as it may be now, I believe. 

We’ve had many, many dark times in our lives, our country and our world. But we have climbed up, out and above it all. I know we will, now, too. Because without the darkness, there cannot be light. Trump and all the others are where they are to help us rise out of the fog of false security into a new day of cooperation, appreciation and empowerment for all. 

Believe with me, please.  

Believe in 2019. 

Sunday, December 30, 2018

I Still Don’t Understand.

2017 left the land of hope into the 2018 bumpy road of understanding. Or so I hoped. And I tried to understand, really I did. But day by day the news feeds, headlines and tweets became a messy, mudslinging pile of lies, corruption and denial.

Our president pledged to uphold the constitution of our country but has shut our borders, insulted our allies, stirred a pot of hatred and fear. Other countries infiltrate our internet, which is an act of war. Racist groups grow hotter under the flame fanned by our own president.

Where, oh where is the understanding?

Right under our noses, I believe. We all know what’s going on, yet our elected officials do nothing. We know what is right. We know what is wrong. We do understand. 

Our country is corrupted. Our president is only interested in what makes him more interest(money). Our  senators and congressmen are bribed by corporations and pharmaceutical companies. Our health and education and security as citizens are the last thing on their lists. 

Still, I tried to see the possibilities. I tried to understand that the bad getting worse would cause a wake up call for our country. We as a people, instead of becoming more divided, would unite to make a better world, country and lives for all. 

I understand less and less each day. And yet, I don’t want to give up on US or give in to cynicism or anger or hopelessness. 

What new word will this 2019 new year bring?

I’m not sure, yet. All I know is I need hope and understanding to come together. I need a word to comfort me, to lighten the darkness, to see possibility that we are not a lost country on the road to destruction but a people finding our way down a rough road together.   

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Solstice, Fire, Creations and Vacations.

The Solstice always brings a time of contemplation, rest and renewal. The shortest day and longest night of the year gives us all a bigger space in which to slow down, put our feet up in front of the fire and feel its warmth and safety. 

Fire seems to be a big part of my life all year. I’m a Sagittarius which is astrologically a fire sign. Maybe that’s why I’ve always loved sitting in front of a fire. Watching the flames is a meditative practice for me providing a flowing movement to calm me, a visual mantra to center me and light to help me see through the darkness of doubt and fear. 

Having a new gas fireplace for Christmas has helped bring more serenity to my space in a way I would not have anticipated. The old fireplace was drafty and unused and made the room cold and almost unlivable in the winter months. Now I can sit here and write, listen to music, watch the flames feeling the cozy warmth on my face. 

Kiln time.  

On the Solstice, I also loaded and fired a glaze load in my kiln. Yes, the world’s shortest day was a long work day for me. Truth be told, it’s been a longer work week for me than usual. This time of the year, I give in to the demands of the season and suspend my studio work until after the New Year. 

This year, I have a gallery delivery date the first week of January. There is a theme for the January show called ‘Winter Dreams’. I admit I don’t always do well with ‘theme’ work. But this one snuck up and crept into my clay work. At first, I was just collecting leaves, playing with shapes without any agenda. 

Then the shapes became bent winter trees. And the leaves that fell in the fall became frosted, winter sculptured bowls and a platter. And shapeshifter bust came out of the closet to become a new, small sculpture. 

Now the kiln is cooling and I won’t know if all the pieces made it through, let alone came out as I envision. I never open the kiln until four days after I fire. The waiting and not knowing is always hard. 

Time for a vacation. 

With Christmas ahead, taking a vacation from the studio gives me space to enjoy the holiday, create in a different way. 

Instead of clay, I bake shortbread, cherry cake and candy. Instead of painting, I create with flowers, wrapping paper and ribbons. Instead of feeling the sun on my face, I sit warm and delighted in front of a new fireplace. 

My wish for the solstice is simple: peace, warmth and light for everyone near and far. 

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Remembering Gratefulness.

Quiet. Soft Lights. A warm fire. Music flowing around me. A puppy snoozing on my feet. 

These are some of the things I am grateful for today. 

In this season of busyness and bargain buying, it’s wonderful to sit and savor the simple things in my life. I want to appreciate it all not just right now or today but everyday. It’s not an easy task to keep my focus with all the loud tweets, posts, commentaries made around me. I try to tune it out, but it sneaks in, under and around my life anyway. 


I believe seeing the good around the bad in our country, world and universe is essential. It is a lifeline to sanity. A path to peace. A journey that reveals the true purpose to living each day beyond basic survival. 

This is why I started a gratefulness journal many years ago. I didn’t want to spend my days hearing and seeing only the bad words and difficult people. I didn’t want my critical monkey mind to derail me. I didn’t want to be blind to the beautiful little everyday things in my days. 

It’s easy to do. 

I keep a small book and pen by my bedside. And every night before I go to sleep, I write. It’s just a few lines, no big deal. After I write, I ask my husband the same question and I write down his answers too. 

Inside the book, at the top of every page are the words, Today, I am grateful for...

Yesterday it was a walk without rain, Greek potatoes for dinner, seeing the neighborhood holiday lights. For my husband, I wrote: relaxing day in front of the fire, walk with the puppy, getting the bamboo cut up. Today for me it’s a relaxing Sunday, a walk in the park, waffles with bacon, a puppy who follows me from room to room and lays on my feet to sleep. 

It’s so simple that I miss how important it is to me. It keeps from getting lost in this complex maze called life where I rush and worry and strive too much. I forget that each breath is a gift, each color a miracle, each sound magical and each puppy kiss a delight. 

Today, what are you grateful for?

Friday, December 7, 2018

Tis the Season: Trees, Memories and New Ideas.

I do love the holidays. The lights, colors, smells and sweets all help to make this darker time of the year brighter. First, I clean out fall and re-deck the halls. I put the trees on the mantle, plop bright red pillows on the sofa and get out my Santa collection and my children’s favorite Christmas books. 

Every ornament and Santa picture is a happy trip down memory lane. The candy cane Rudolph and starfish Santa my children made in school. The photos with Santa at Meier and Frank’s Toyland. But those babies are Masters graduates now. 

Many seasons, many changes. 

For the first time this year, we did not go out to our favorite tree farm for a freshly cut Grand Fir because the family sold the property to developers to make yet another subdivision in our suburban landscape. It’s sad to see it go. But we’ll always have the memories of many family treks in the woods to find that perfect tree. 

Now our perfect tree came from Amazon. I know. Some might say a faux tree is good for the environment and cutting a fresh one is bad. Or visa versa. There are good and bad sides, of course. One: it finally fits our narrow space so we don’t have to move all the furniture. Two: it’s tall and stately and clean. Three: it’s reusable every year. 

But I do miss the smell and freshness of a ‘real’ tree. 

Creative Spirit. 

I know I often see change as bad. There’s the fear of the unknown. But what I find too, is a spirit of adventure. A chance to try something new. An opening for creativity.

I missed the Grand Fir smell and I decided to see what I could do about it. First, of course, I brought out the candles and searched for ones with a ‘forest’ scent. It works. But it’s not what I was really missing: the scent in the tree itself.  

Ah ha. I work in clay. 

What holds scent? A bisque fired clay. What did I have in the kiln? Bisque fired red clay hearts. I unloaded the kiln and found 2 dozen nicely bisque hearts with porous clay on the back. I was just going to make magnets out of them, but I realized they could be more. Add a ribbon, and a magnet, a few drops of good scented oil and I’ve got a Christmas tree that smells like one again. 

Problem solved.

Now when I walk past the tree, all the lovely memories of fresh cut trees, Santa visits and sweet, little faces blend with our new faux fir. 

Monday, November 26, 2018

Thankful: A Day of Small Moments

My granddaughter, Meyer is curled up, fast asleep tucked in by her baby blankets with her head on her special purple pillow. My sweet new Lab puppy is also curled up on his soft bed, asleep. This is truly a blissful moment. And a moment that can be so easily taken for granted because it’s just a normal, rainy, Monday. 

Thankful surprise. 

About a week and a half ago, I got the call Guide Dogs had a career changer for me! Tears of joy streamed down my face, as I listened to the director’s message. I jumped. I laughed. I almost couldn’t believe it. 

What is a Guide Dog Career Changer? Quite simply, a dog who, for many reasons, would not make a perfect dog to help and guide a blind person. With all the exceptional breeding, puppy raising and training, there are very few puppies now who don’t move on in the program. The ones who are career changed have a wide range of issues from physical to behavioral. They may not fit the Guide Dog program, but they are still wonderful.  

Meet Darby.

Delightful, sleek, strong and sweet, Darby is an 18 month old, black male Labrador Retriever. Born and raised in California, he came up to the Oregon campus a few weeks ago. He was career changed for his difficult ‘home’ habits. 

This means he ‘counter surfs’, ‘dumpster dives’, plays keep away and is very vocal. Now, I’ve dealt with all of these issues with other dogs. But right now, I want to get to know him. 

I now know he loves to walk in the park, jump for balls and eat strawberries. He does not like rain, getting his feet wet or dried off. Geese, ducks, kids and other dogs all distract him. He’s very energetic and needs to be reminded to take it easy going up or down stairs, across the floor or out the door. And he whines, cries, and yowls when he is in his kennel, which  just makes me laugh. 

Progress Already. 

He already knows his new name. When I call him, he comes. When I go around the corner without letting him know, he sees me and follows. Now, instead of pulling, he waits. He walks easily up, down and around. He is learning to ‘settle’ on his blanket or bed.

He does not bark. He is lying here on his bed, listening to new noises: cars and trucks on the street, dogs barking, the furnace and yet, he is quiet. His head goes up with each sound, he looks to me, I tell him it’s ok. He puts his head back down without a sound and does not disturb my sleeping granddaughter’s nap. 

It’s 3:30 now. Today’s rain continues and the dull, cloudy light is fading. But to me, it’s been a beautiful day. Why be thankful for a quiet, rainy Monday?

Because life is all about the small moments filled with giggles, yawns and peace. Thankfully.