Thursday, November 29, 2012

On Beauty

Last night, a mother posted something on Facebook that made me think.  I am the mother of a daughter...and have had the privilege of knowing many young women as they walked the road of life in their early and impressionable years.  How they would ask my opinion and hear what I had to say...and sometimes would even follow my advice and it would work out.  Not that my advice was ever meant to be intrusive.  I just wanted to help them navigate those craggy places in life where it is easy to lose your footing and plunge into a cesspool.  Where - if you make one misstep - you find yourself taking years to heal and remembering the pain of the experience as if it occurred only days instead of years before.

I looked at those years as a huge responsibility.  I doubt if any of the girls I walked with even truly understood why I invested my time that way.  They probably preferred to think of me as a helicopter parent or "overprotective."  And to some degree...there is truth in that.  But to me, the stakes were incredibly high, and although I am and was not responsible for the outcome  as that is in God's hands, I figured that I needed to do what I could and pray for the best.

But even with all of that...I may have missed something important.  I missed the chance to explain beauty.  And it is a question that every female has to come to grips with at some point in time.

Yes, sometime in every girl's life, there is a point where she asks herself, "Am I beautiful?"  Most of the things that we believe about ourselves - except for a few fortunate people who honestly do not value the opinions of others above their own - come directly from the words that are spoken to us, about us, and around us day in and day out...year in and year out.

Some girls are lucky and find that what they hear outside of themselves is positive.  They know their worth and hear it from enough people that they can drown out the one or two dissenters...of the words of a jealous girl who thinks that all of the positive things in life are baked into one "pie" and that the bigger the piece of pie...the better life is.  Eventually, she will begin to try to take more and more from other girls...while protecting the piece of pie that she has already claimed for herself.

The term "less is more" doesn't apply here.  To a girl trying to run down another to make herself appear "better" - "more is more."  The thing that they don't figure out...sometimes until years that there isn't just one pie...there are unlimited pies.  All you have to do is broaden your horizons a bit so that you can see the possibilities.

Parents help in this regard...except that sometimes there is a disconnect in what a parent is saying and what the world is not confirming.  People tossing around words casually like, "Hey, pretty girl!" without understanding that it can come across as insincere at best and hurtful at worst.  Because for a little girl who never hears those words directed at her by someone other than her parents...she may begin to see that something is indeed wrong with her at best...and that her parents are liars at worst.

Both of these are false.  But the father of lies will keep whispering it to her anyway.  Sometimes for her entire lifetime.  Which actually explains - in part at least - the people addicted to cosmetic surgery, who deal with eating disorders, who dress shockingly young to give the illusion of youth, or who just go completely in the other direction and quit caring at all.

So, what to do?

First of all, you need to understand that beauty is very compelling.  And that each person's interpretation of beauty can range from external beauty to a beautiful spirit.  How we look to others is something that we cannot really control...outside of being the best that we can be.  But a beautiful spirit is possible for everyone.  It just takes a lot of cultivation to achieve.

Some of the most beautiful women I know are not classically beautiful.

But some of them are.  My mother, for instance, is one of these.  As is my daughter. There are other family members that are as well, but the truth isn't always easy.  When you are born physically may open doors for you...but it makes friendships tricky to navigate and you aren't ever really sure if people like you...or just the way you look.  So, the nit-picking about "flaws" begins.

Sometimes, the unthinkable happens.  An illness strikes or an accident happens.  Weight is gained or time passes.  And people who relied wholly on the external view get a rude awakening.  Occasionally, someone will step in and set things right...

(By the way, I loved Dixie Carter.)

But what to do?

Well, first of all, we need to realize that every person drawing breath is beautiful because we are made in God's image.  Sometimes we forget that when we look in the mirror.

We also need to remember that everyone's view of external beauty is different...and we cannot extrapolate that because one person - or small group of people - does not see us as beautiful that it must be true.

Finally, we need to work on cultivating that wilderness within us that is internal beauty.  So few of those on television who are considered "beautiful" actually are beautiful in this sense.

When Jill was growing up, I refused to allow her to have any popular magazines around the house.  There was no Seventeen, Glamour, or most definitely Cosmopolitan.  I did allow her to have a subscription to Shape Magazine...because the models in this one were focused on fitness...not emaciation.  We joined Hogan's Gym when she was fifteen...and she did aerobics classes there...and later worked there for two years.  Having returned to Montgomery to work after graduating from University of Alabama, she is back in the gym.  To her, being beautiful means feeling fit.

And each of us can achieve this in some measure.

Equally important is a strong spiritual life.  If matters less what people say about us if we know what God says about us.

It also helps to do what you can to be the best that you can be.  Not to impress the world...but to remove this as a cause for concern.  If you don't like your skin...get thee to a dermatologist.  If you are concerned about glasses...try contacts.  If your teeth need straightening...find a way to make that happen if at all possible.

And if you see a group of little girls standing each of them beautiful.  Because they are.  It is easy to forget...but God has plans for each of them...or they wouldn't be here.  So, do what you can to genuinely point out their achievements, their sense of humor, interesting way of looking at the world, their insatiable curiosity, their tender heart for others, their academic or athletic ability, their sense of purpose, their inner beauty, and never stop encouraging them.

Start today.

Sometimes we don't really know what is going on with a young person.  They may seem to have it all together...but their struggle is so great to them that they cannot bear to tell you about it for fear that it will all unravel.  Those who have the most sometimes have the least praise and encouragement...or those who push you away are really doing it to test whether or not you really care.  Be strong.  Help them find their inner strength and resolve.

I believe that all of us are born beautiful.  We have something to offer this world.  And our ability to make that happen is sometimes - sadly - limited because of how we view ourselves.

Be that person who honestly - and genuinely - says..."you are beautiful..." and means it.  Take a little time to dig beneath the surface and try to see each person as God sees them.

In the final installment of the "Twilight" saga...Bella is "changed" into a vampire and becomes a "better" version of herself.  This is what is possible within each of us.  Not to be a vampire (please don't miss the point...) but our best version of ourselves.  God can do that...and the people that he puts in our path can speak those words of truth to us that make us better, faster, stronger, and more beautiful than we ever dared to dream.

And if you see a young person who is in your path...they are there for you to have an impact.  Make it life-changing.  Point out the obvious to them.  Be intentional.  Love.

Thanks for reading.  I wanted to post this because my friend had a little girl who had a bad experience yesterday.  It won't be the last...because junior high is brutal.  But my wish is that we will be aware of the young people, yes, but also ALL people that He puts in our path today.  Remind them of their beauty in His eyes.

Immense, wild, crazy, unspeakable beauty.

Because it is there.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

On Minor Aggravations

One of the fun things about growing older is that you can actually remember being young.  I don't mean that in a morbid "excuse me, but the Grim Reaper is knocking at the door..." kind of way, although I do recognize that this is entirely possible.  I mean it in more of a "oh, honey, I remember doing that..." kind of way.

Because the latter is fun.  The former?  Not so much.

Yesterday, I got a text from my sweet friend, Lauren, who has learned one of life's important lessons of homemaking. Namely, that one does not put the Christmas candles in the attic and expect them to come back down the following year looking the way that they did when they went up.

Been there.  Done that.  Sadly, more than once.

Like even last year.  Because I so did it.  Again.

That is one of life's little annoyances...along with unexpected company when your house looks like an episode of "Hoarders" could be filmed there or you oversleep on a morning when it is crucial that your hair look decent and that you be to work on time.  I have spent the better part of my life getting all bent out of shape about these things...and now that I am kind of on the "over" side of the hill, so to speak...I don't care as much.

Not to say that I don't care at all...because that isn't true.  I've just split off the part of my personality that does get mad about things I can't change and allocated that to my alter ego, "Towanda."  She tends to have some limited success in clearing up matters of poor customer service, abuse by people who need to be knocked off one high horse or another, and general communication issues.

Like, for instance, she will communicate to companies when their products suck, their customer service representatives need a verbal wedgie, or when she has been ripped off and a situation needs to be corrected.  And she's actually pretty good at it, if truth be told.

But for the remaining 97% of everything annoying out there...I've learned to laugh hysterically about it at best...or act like it didn't happen at worst.  Here are a few things that have happened within the past couple of months that fall into the category of "life's little annoyances" - and what I have learned from each...if anything.

BAD: Getting to the checkout at Publix and then realizing that you have the wrong size cereal than the one on sale.  Waiting for what feels like 20 minutes while someone goes to the shelf and comes back with "no, it is the 20 oz box that is on sale" but with no actual 20 oz box that you might purchase instead.  So, he goes off for another five minutes to get said box while the lady behind me with the four kids in the green cart that is a mini-replica of a car glares at me and tells her hyperactive daughter "no" at least a thousand times as she begs for candy, the two little boys fight in the aisle behind us and the baby starts crying.  Yes.  All of this for a box of Apple Jacks.  I kid thee not.  I've learned the following: Check the box size against the sale paper before leaving the aisle...but if you can always laugh hysterically at how awesome it is that your kids are grown.  Of course, Towanda would just tell her something like, "better you than me..."

WORSE: Being behind someone in the line with 623 coupons and a kid who glances my way as I am watching this and says "Mommy, why is that lady so fat?"

BAD: Offering to help someone with something that turns out to be way more time consuming than it ought to be.  What I've learned: Not just no.  But HECK no.

WORSE: Having them tell a friend about your kindness and that friend calls for the same deal.

BAD: You go to the grocery store and purchase a lot of groceries that need to be brought into the house and put away.  You pull up to the house and notice that you are the only one home.  Thirty three trips to the car later, Big Dave pulls up and asks, "Need any help?"

WORSE: Big Dave is sitting on the couch watching TV while you go in and out numerous times...even slamming the door a time or two so that he's aware that you are bringing in groceries.  Once everything is in and put away, he asks, "Need any help?"  What I've learned: Have Towanda get Big Dave off of the couch.

BAD: Decorating for Thanksgiving and realizing that you have a lot of items to put out that you don't have space for...even after taking down a lot of things and boxing them up so that you have more space in which to work.  In fact, now that you look at are wondering where you got all of this until it occurs to you that these were acquired at the Michael's 90% off fake flower arrangement deal-o-rama...and you're not entirely sure what you were thinking.  What I've learned: If you don't have a space for don't need it.

WORSE: Decorating for Christmas.  Enough said.

BAD: Making a recipe for years and then realizing that it has "jumped the shark" so to speak.  I had 3/4 of my "famous" congealed salad left over this year.  Since it costs about $10 to make...I'm thinking that this year was the last year for "Blueberry Salad."  Even if they beg.

WORSE: They don't notice.

Oh, there have been others.  Like a call to Palmolive-Colgate's customer service over a toothbrush that broke...seriously...while I was taking it out of the packaging (they sent me coupons for two free toothbrushes and good coupons for every product that they make), breaking one of the Thanksgiving decorations that I actually did like by dropping the box too hard on the floor, and trying to train a puppy how to either hold or contain his natural instincts...but that's life.  Right?

Of course it is.

But it can always be worse.  Right?  Just a few minutes ago, a friend posted the following about her granddog...

"Since (my daughter) is still battling the flu I told her I would keep Savannah here this week so she wouldn't have to take her out up and down 4 flights of stairs at her apartment. This morning Savannah has pooped and peed downstairs, run away to the creek twice, and vomited on my rug. While I was cleaning up her vomit, she went into the kitchen and ate my waffles. I think Savannah wants to go back to Athens. Clearly she is trying to make me hate her even more than I already do."

Bless her heart.

At least I don't hate my grandcat.  Other than the fact that he makes me sneeze (Benydryl is a necessity) and he can do no wrong in Jill's eyes (true, this)...he's pretty awesome.  And he's cute.  I'm not so fond of him walking on my table or clawing my chairs...but I can overlook this...sometimes.

Life is just full of those little annoyances that we all laugh about.  Generally after...and sometimes even years after something has occurred.  And I haven't forgotten how I want things to be perfect and easy to manage and to be even better than I expect.  To have the "Southern Living" house...or to have people ask for my recipes.  But the older I get, the more I realize that life is more often than not...anything but what we expect.  Sometimes that's not pleasant...and sometimes it is pretty awesome...if truth be told.

So, as you encounter the annoyances that make life what it is...try to laugh and see the bright side if you can.  My sweet other-daughter, Lauren, certainly did.  Her follow up text was..."Well, at least they (the melted candles) were all in Ziploc bags."  She's far smarter than I was...I had to throw out a box of decorations long, long ago when I did the same thing.

Laugh at what you can, bear what you must, and just remember as you are chasing your dog around the yard trying to get him to the groomer because he thought that you were trying to play (which happened last week) least it will eventually be funny.  Most of the time, anyway.

And for you newlywed girls out there...keep your candles out of the attic.  Seriously.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Worst. Shih Tzus. Ever. (Okay, PROBABLY)

This was sent to a friend today...but it really needs to be shared...because, well, you know...that whole "misery loves company" thing.  Here goes...

So, it is a fact of life that trying to do anything the day before or after a holiday is a bad idea.  I mean, just try to go to the grocery store today and you will learn the true meaning of misery.  There will be lines of people waiting to purchase something stupid that they forgot like rice or artichoke hearts or celery.  And they will all be behind the woman with 73 coupons who just had to do her Thanksgiving shopping in the midst of the rush of today in case she forgot something crucial to making something that she saw on Pinterest.  The cashiers will all be new, or slow, or inexperienced…because the good cashiers have all been around for awhile, this isn't their first rodeo...and they knew enough to ask off for the day before Thanksgiving in January.

I give you that background to show you that I know better than scheduling the dogs to be groomed the day before Thanksgiving…but I did it anyway.

Why, you ask?  Because I am obviously out of my mind.

I told Dixie last night that she was going to be “beautified” and she knows that this involves a car ride…which she always loves…and a lot of attention when she gets home.  Plus, she gets the added benefit of being able to see...since right now she resembles a sheepdog.  Riley knows nothing of this word “beautified” – his vocabulary is limited to the words he hears the most…”Riley, sit, shake, down, ti-ti and bad dog.”  So, while Dixie was prepared to jump in the car this morning, Riley was most definitely up for a game of “chase the puppy” through the wet grass at warp speed because why obey when you can be wild and free.  When I say “chase the puppy” – I mean chase…not actually catch…because I’m old and tired and fat.

C’mon.  It’s true.

So, after three trips around the yard...with me in lukewarm pursuit...he finally goes up to the house, gets enticed into the house and then thinks he is about to get a treat.  Yeah, he thinks that because I'm holding it a few inches for his nose in the hope that I can distract him enough to nab him before he takes off like a rocket again.

It is at this point that I am able to grab him, put a leash on him, and give him a piece of my mind (in between gulps of air).  He didn’t get the treat, by the way.  Dixie did because I was just that mad.  I’m not rewarding that behavior or I’ll just get more of it.  Oh, who am I kidding…he’s a shih tzu.  Of COURSE, I’m going to get more of it.  They are stinking cute dogs, but they are a general pain in the butt as a rule in equal proportions.  Kind of like the male people my daughter's age.

So, I get the leash on, and he thinks that he is having no part of it.  He sits down.  He glares at me.  He struggles.  He is furious.  And then he learns that Mama has had about enough of his antics, and I will literally drag him there by the collar if need be.  He got to the car by equal parts of compliance and dragging.

Frankly, the whole thing reminded me of Jill's "Portrait of a Two Year Old" photo.  

I finally got him into the car, and during all of this...Dixie is throwing down on the treats that he totally didn't deserve and he is just sitting in the floorboard of the car looking at me through the hair in his eyes that I am trying to pay people to fix if he will only cooperate an iota.  He wants me to hold him, but since I am dressed for work, and he is basically soaking wet from his foray through the wet grass this morning…I think not.

We drive on to Petco (where the pets go…and because they do a decent job and are near the bank) for the appointment.  I then have to figure out how I am going to get a wet puppy (while in work clothes), a dog with a loose collar that has been known to take off (because all she needs is an excuse), Riley’s papers (since he’s had his rabies shot and they won’t groom him without proof) and my purse into the building without killing anyone…myself included.

I realize quickly that Riley is not going to come to me by getting up and walking to the driver's side and is going to stubbornly remain on the passenger side of the car.  Dixie is anxious to get down and she is ready to GO, so I pick her up so that I’m not chasing her all over the Eastern Boulevard.  I then get my purse out of the trunk, and then go around to the passenger side, unclick the lock and scoop him out.  I try to get him to walk, but he is again having NO part of the leash, and I have to get his papers, so I pick him up as well.  In the process, I realize that the papers are wet because Dixie’s underside was wet as well from her last ti-ti before we left the house and she’d been wallowing all over them in the front seat of the car when she wasn’t trying to get into the back seat of the car so she could look out the windows and whine at a pitch that was not only annoying but ear splitting.  Then I take three steps and I drop my purse.  I have two dogs, the wet papers, and my purse on the ground.  Yes.

Let’s just say that anyone driving by Petco at about 7:40 this morning was probably entertained.  I can only hope that I don’t end up on YouTube.

I get into Petco and the lady asks 500 questions about how I want Riley groomed and what we can do to Dixie.  At his point, I turn around and see Dixie making a ti-ti in the floor of the waiting room.  Yes. Yes she did.

They got that cleaned up and we got Riley situated, and then Dixie.  I left there ten minutes later questioning my sanity.  Not only in making this appointment, but for owning dogs.

All I can say is that he had better not look like a rat when I pick him up.  I’m frankly a little worried about that.  Or worse..that I'll hear.things like "Well, he’s cute, but he’s a spirited little thing.” Or something equally horrible.  I suppose that Rebel broke me in on a lot of that (yes, we had to send proof of his rabies vaccination to the U.S. Postal Service via fax).  And then I’ll have to apologize to them for bringing my very bad dogs into their facility on the day before Thanksgiving...which also happens to be something like Half Price Bath Day which has got to be some kind of fresh new Hades for the employees of the grooming salon..

UPDATE:  Picked up the two very bad dogs and was waiting for someone to drop a bomb on me by telling me that they were banned from the facility.  Nope.  Both were perfect angels.  No issues grooming Riley...and he was one of the easiest puppies they have ever had.  Dixie was a real trooper and she was sitting there acting like she was the most well behaved creature on the planet.

They didn't fool me one bit.

Both are clean and groomed. That alone is a miracle.

The ride home was uneventful...and they have spent the evening fighting over the toys that I bought them at Petco on the 2/$5 rack so that maybe...just maybe...Riley will take up chewing dog toys and lay off of the cords to the electronics.

As if.

Bottom line: Even when they are a huge pain in the rear...they are totally worth it.  And somewhere, I can just imagine that Riley is composing a blogpost titled "Worst. Human. Ever" for leaving him to be "beautified" in the first place.  

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Quiet Year and Other Ramblings

Tonight is a Sunday night as I am writing this, and I'm sitting at my usual spot in the dining room with the television on in the connecting family room, and Big Dave is on the couch.  He's not yet that tells you that it is sometime before 8:30 or he is watching something that has his interest.  Actually, tonight, both are true.

Big Dave is watching "The Walking Dead" - a show that is apparently a hit with a lot of my friends and family - and one that I prefer getting the five minute recap of after all of the mouth breathing and violence is over.  Frankly, with two shih tzus...who are really enjoying tussling with each other when the younger one is not chewing up some critical cord to something or leaving  a "bad puppy" on the floor...I get enough mouth breathing and violence in any given hour.

Tonight has the added annoyance of a pile of burning wood that Big Dave saw fit to deal with after collecting it for months.  It has been sitting down by the pond as a general eyesore to the neighborhood...much like our driveway and that strip of land between us and the next door neighbor who rarely comes out of his house except to mow his yard.  He has - for the past eleven years - refused to mow a strip between our yards.  I don't know if he thinks it is our property, or if he just wants a hedge of vegetation between us...but it has been a point of contention between us for the better part of a decade now.

No, I haven't knocked on his door to ask him what his problem is, and his kids haven't been over here selling I think we're even.

So, I have a smoky house, a house in disarray (we got some of the holiday stuff out of the attic...failed to mention that), two dogs fighting in the next room (okay, they are playing...but it sounds worse), and I am listening to Rick lose it on "The Walking Dead."  I'm guessing that he's just been robo-called for the election again...

Okay, maybe not.

This week is Thanksgiving, and although I have a lot of things to be thankful for right now...I am not going to join the masses and tell you what all I am grateful for tonight.  I'll just tell you that I'm happy to finally get my life back in some kind of order so that I can weather the next four weeks of the holiday season.

My calendar is filling up, and my thoughts will be of how to manage the non-existent budget for Christmas gifts this year.   I'll want it to be special...but I also don't want to go overboard.  After all...this is the "quiet year."

What is the "quiet year", you ask?  Well, a friend of mine inspired me with this about five years ago.  She sends out Christmas cards every other year...because it is too much of a hassle for her to get all of her kids and her husband together to get the she makes it happen every other year instead.  She has a lot more leverage by reminding them that they didn't have to do it the previous year...nor would they have to do it the next year.  She doesn't feel guilty receiving cards from friends who send cards every year...because she has already set her policy.  She is free to enjoy her "off" years.

I liked that idea...and adopted it myself.  At least with most things.  I do still send cards every year.  But that is because I like to.

Every other year, I go a little bit overboard with the spending and wrapping and celebrations.  On the quiet years, I just enjoy the smaller things that make the holiday special.  Watching the Hallmark Channel ad nauseum.  Making hot chocolate and enjoying a cup.  Putting up my tree.  I just don't get bent out of shape if I don't bake cookies, find the perfect gifts for my family and friends, or even attend everything.  After is my quiet year.

Last year, and three years ago, I did a big project that involved family (2009) and friends (2011).  I even blogged every day in December in 2009 and tried to decorate my house to be a little more Southern Living and a little

This year, I just want to enjoy the season.  I don't have a project, a mission, or even a lot of energy.  I may get around to cookie baking, or may buy the perfect gift for a person or two...but I'm not going to sweat it if I don't.

I mean, seriously, Big Dave never sweats the holidays.  He just enjoys them.

Novel idea, yes?

I think that the way that my world is right now...I need to focus on the reason for the season...and not try to do a ton of outreach, or a lot of overscheduling.  I want to sleep late on the weekends, have fun wrapping my purchases, and plan a lovely holiday that leaves me energized instead of stressed out and counting down the days until it is over.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Tonight, I have a lot of things to do.  Christmas cards to finish addressing, and boxes to get back into the attic.  I have to finish some cleaning so that I can welcome family in on Thursday and I'll be preparing food for the better part of the week.  But it will be worth it, you know.  The preparation...the time...the decorating.

This holiday season will be different for our family...and so I am glad that it is a "quiet year."  We won't have Big Dave's sweet mother, Mimi, with us, and our furry boy, Rebel, won't be in the Christmas pictures this year.

I haven't had a Thanksgiving without Mimi since 1983.  And even though I have her dressing recipe and know how to make a turkey the way that she did...I will miss her so much this Thursday.  But as I do what I have always done...I'll feel a little bit that she is right here with us...because if there was any place on earth that Mimi loved to was in the midst of her family.

So, as you are dealing with the aggravations of elections, football results that don't go your way, smoke in your house from a fire that will probably be smoldering until Wednesday, un-potty-trained dogs, messes, the loss of Twinkies, cooking yourself into oblivion, and cleaning toilets...try to give yourself a break.

Pray this week about all that you have and all that you are grateful for...and not just the big rocks in the jar either.  Be thankful for the little things that make life work for you...the perfect sweatshirt, the way you feel when you are leaving the gym after a good workout, your favorite coffee cup, or salted caramel anything.  Try to make it a "quiet year" and don't worry so much about making it a perfect year.

After probably did that last year...and you can always do it next year.

And I'll be right there with you.  Enjoy your week.  

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

On Dogs

In order for you to truly understand this post, I'm going to have to take you back a few years.  Perhaps you are not overly fond of details, but sometimes a good story needs to fall together in a manner that makes a little bit of sense when you retell I'm going to start from "A" and move from there.  (I'd use the word "forward"...but seeing as it is a day after the election of 2012, and I'm not an Obama fan, I can't bring myself to use that word quite yet.)


When I was a little girl, I remember having a total of three dogs.  The first was named "Dot" and I don't remember a whole lot about her because I was something like three years old and only know of her existence from pictures.  And not too many of those, if truth be told.

The second dog was a basset hound named Gus...and my memories include visions of me attempting to walk him from time to time...but at seven years old...I was neither consistent with this nor were our outings particularly successful since he was a bit of a handful.  Mostly, he stayed on the front porch and smelled bad...and was later given to a family that I'm fairly certain appreciated him and gave him a great home.

The third was a dachshund named Gretel...whose worst offense was that she would pee when she was excited...which was every time that she saw us.  I was in high school by this time...and honestly didn't really give her the attention she she went to live with MeeMaw...and was rechristened "Getrel" for reasons known only to her.

After those three...I had pretty much convinced myself that I was a "cat" person...and I enjoyed having the folks' cat live with me while they made a move out to California.  Other than the fact that she used up one of her lives in my care (wasn't my fault...she was attacked by another cat before I got her, and because of her fluff...nobody knew that she had infected wounds) and that I am allergic to was seriously okay.

Big Dave tolerated the cat because she was a temporary resident...but although he loves pets...he sees them more as a pleasure to be enjoyed outdoors.  When I got pregnant with Jill and couldn't touch the litterbox...we returned her to her rightful owner...and the sweet thing lived to be 19 years old.

In 1992, I had the grand idea that I wanted to get a puppy for Christmas.  Never mind that I had two children who were toddlers, worked fulltime, and Big Dave was not in agreement...a girl at work had a litter of puppies to give away, and she brought one to work one day.  

Her name was Hannah.

I almost ruined Christmas that year.  I thought that Santa might be bringing me a divorce.

Hannah was an outside dog...and was sweet...but since she was okay to be outside and I was entirely too busy for words...I squandered the best of Hannah's years just petting and feeding her and not ever really getting to know her.  That changed when we sold the house and moved into an apartment.  Hannah was crate trained within a week, and she lived on the little screened in porch and came inside when it was cold.  She moved out here to Pike Road with us and loved the freedom she had...although her back trouble kept her from venturing far from the back door.

In 2002, knowing that Hannah was getting up in age and as incentive for Jill learning to do a back handspring, we decided to look for a puppy.  My sweet friend, Kim, found one for us...a soft, smart beautiful black pomeranian and long haired chihuahua mix that we named "Harley David's Son."  Yeah, I crack myself up sometimes.

Harley was the cutest thing...always into something...and notorious for chewing up socks and underwear.  You didn't dare leave a cup around...or Harley would be face down in it after the contents.  He was completely oblivious to the fact that he was a small dog...and his best friend was a medium sized dog who roamed the neighborhood and had no problem with Harley being the alpha male.  

One horrible day, I received a call from Big Dave telling me that Harley had run into the street after his friend, and that a neighbor had struck him by accident.  He was killed instantly.  In a bitter irony, his friend was killed in the same spot two weeks later.

To say that I was a hot mess would be an understatement.  Three days of wailing and attempting to work...made me call my Mom and ask her to help me find a puppy because I was so devastated that I knew I couldn't brave the pound, and I was too grieved to look at puppies myself...even though we did travel down to Fort Deposit to look at a litter of puppies.  The mother looked just like Harley.

After a week or two, my mother contacted a couple in North Carolina who had contacted her about using her dog Bradley for stud...and was told that they had one puppy left from an unintentional litter.  Their shih tzu, Slippy, had apparently gotten in the family way with the couple's ancient and thought to be past his prime male, Rhubarb.  

Seriously...the names?  But out of that bizarre coupling of Slippy and Rhubarb came our little shorkie...Rebel.

He was the last puppy in the litter.  Somehow he was either held back or not chosen and as he peeked out behind his mother...Mom and Ralph knew that he was meant to be mine.  And so he was.

Rebel filled a huge gaping hole in our family and was without a doubt the calmest puppy, smartest about understanding what I was saying to him, and most wonderfully bizarre dog I've ever known.  I don't want to write too much at this time...because I think that he deserves his own blogpost...and also I might cry if I delve into it too much at this point in time.

You understand, right?

A year later, Dixie Lucille joined our family...the daughter (and pick of the litter) of my folks' dog, Bradley.  She is the sweetest dog...and just pretty much loves everybody.  She also adores water (but not baths), chasing balls (but not retrieving them) and Jill (although she likes the rest of us pretty well too).  She even broke my sister Linda's kids from their fear of dogs.  

She's a bit of a rock star.

She and Rebel were the proud parents of a total of 12 puppies...Bo, Luke, Dolly, Hank, Billy Ray, Merle, Willie, Reba, Brad, Toby, Shania and one other little girl whose name escapes me.  

Life rocked on from 2004 when Rebel joined us and 2005 when Dixie was born.  We spent 2006 and 2007 in the world of puppies...and when Jill left home in 2008...we had a pretty well established household. I thought that I'd have Rebel and Dixie healthy and happy for several more years.  

And then life intervened last week.  Rebel died at the age of almost nine...

After being bereft for several days, I started doing what helped pull me out of the despair I felt when we lost Harley.  I started puppy-hunting.  Realizing that it took a month last time...I figured that it would keep me busy and would give me something to look forward to as I mourned my precious boy.

My friend, Bonnie, suggested that I try the Bulletin Board, and she gave me leads on some of the listings.  One of them showed no photos...but described a litter of four boys and a girl.  I picked up the phone.

Prior to this, I should add that I had a couple of leads.  One was a pet store and the other was an individual that was apparently some kind of breeder.  You know how you just "know" that there is something that may be perfectly all right...but doesn't quite work for you?  Well, that was my experience.  So, actually picking up the phone again was a huge deal...primarily because I thought it was going to be yet another dead end.

You see, I was looking for a male shih tzu puppy that had been raised in a home...not a puppy mill.  I wanted him to have some brown on him like Rebel did.  I am still missing Rebel terribly as I write this...but at that time...I was just coming out of that area of sadness that people who have never owned pets do not understand and thought that this would more than likely be another dead end. wasn't.

The lady answered...sounded way normal...and said that she only had one puppy left...a little brown and white male.  He was the pick of the litter, but the sire's parents had decided that four dogs and two cats was about all that they cared to manage at that point in time.  They had instructed them to go ahead and sell the puppy.  The mother was the couple's daughter's dog, and they just wanted a litter of puppies...they weren't in the business per se.  She mentioned that the puppy's mother's name was Miley, and the father's name was Harley.


I made an appointment to meet him last Saturday morning.  They live nearby in Cecil, AL (near Pike Road where I live...yes, these are actual places) and would be home in the afternoon because they were planning on attending the Pike Road Arts & Crafts Festival like all the rest of the locals that morning.  (I liked them already.)  

As I drove out, I had steeled myself for a disappointment, and vowed that if the puppy didn't win me over in the first fifteen seconds...I would have to just thank them for their time and move on.  After all, I wanted to be fair to the puppy and my heart was still broken.

I pulled into the driveway and was met by a shih tzu that looked exactly like Dixie...except she had silver markings instead of taupe ones.  She was friendly and was extremely sweet.  She was joined by a large red dog who looked like a red version of Black Dog from next door.  As I got out of the car, the man said, "C'mon Rebel..."


And then he walked up with the cutest bundle of fur...white like Dixie with brown ears like Rebel and black tips like Harley.

It took me three seconds to decide.

So, in what I can only believe is a God-ordained acquisition, we brought home the son of "Marie's Little Harley" and "Royal Princess Miley."  He is 14 weeks he's ready to be potty trained easier, sleeps through the night, and is not so small that he freaks Dixie out.  He is also highly enamored with that totally rocks as well.  

We named him "Mixon's Rebel Prince Riley."  Although "rebel prince" probably doesn't sound too awesome to the average sounds perfectly right to me.  We named him Riley because his mother was Miley...with an "R" for Rebel.  We thought an R name might be easier for Dixie.  I think it is.

Big Dave rolls his eyes when I say things like that.  Just so you know.

I know that he cannot replace Rebel...and we do not expect him to.  Any more than Rebel could replace Harley or Dixie could replace Hannah.  We just want to fill our home with the sounds of dog tags rattling, the occasional bark-a-thon, and the occasional mess so I can complain about it.

Riley was absolutely still when I picked him up.  And then he came into our house full of company this weekend and stayed in the dog bed and observed it all.  Dixie was not exactly rolling out the red carpet, but she didn't try to eat him like she does the I thought that there was hope.  Had Rebel been here, he'd have had Riley's bag packed and his ticket for Siberia waiting for him beside the door.

He's a bit of a bundle of joy right now.  He's somewhat potty trained...although most shih tzus take 40 forevers to get it completely right.  Here, let me interpret that for you...they never really do.  He has been in this house since Saturday and has already learned to "sit" and we are working on "shake."  Although he is a bit ADD...he's smart...and he is trying like the dickens to impress Dixie.  Since she seems to enjoy it...I think he's succeeding.  

I am watching him right now as he drags clothes out of Brian's room into the dining room and chews on them.  Uh oh.  Every dog we've had has enjoyed eating underwear...and for years...before guests came...we had to make sure that there wasn't a pair of boxers or a thong in the foyer.

Harley and Rebel were the worst in this regard.  Boys.  And Harley has the distinction of being the only one of them who actually ate part of the house.  There is a corner of a windowsill in my bedroom that has been like he left it in 2002.  I haven't had the heart to repair it.

Dixie just turns over the trashcans in the bathrooms...because she can.

I don't know what Riley's personality will turn out to be...but I do know this...he's already one of us. He looks like Dixie, and he was made to order.  And honestly?  Although I'd give anything to have my Rebel back...I am honestly okay with bringing another baby into this family while we are working through our grief.  It is a little bittersweet...but it has been really nice to smile through the tears.

So there's that...

I'm sure that there will be many stories to tell down the road...but I wanted you to have the backstory first.