40 Before 40

So… I’m still 37… but 38 is right around the corner. I attempted a ’30 Before 30′ bucket list… and did mostly pretty well… until I got pregnant with my first child (which was actually on my list!) and was SO sick the entire pregnancy, that I didn’t finish. (My 29th birthday was in April and I was pregnant by the following September… so I only got 5 good months.)

If living through Covid has taught me nothing else (and OMgoodness… it has taught me so-many-things), it is to give myself extra time for long term goals. Because things happen, plans get canceled and need to be rescheduled… and… who the heck knows when we will actually get back to ‘normal’ life??

My list has been written! It brings me so much joy to imagine accomplishing each item on it! As it happens, I’ve already begun working on it! (But, more on that later.) There are some things that have been left vague on purpose. Sometimes the fun is getting creative with how it ends up being accomplished. (It also gives some flexibility, which I feel is paramount right now.) And I can totally double dip… one adventure may meet the criteria for more than one item on the list.

Without further ado… the list:

40 Things Before 40

  1. Take a road trip, by myself. (DONE: October 2021)
  2. See a Randolph HS football game. (DONE: October 22, 2021)
  3. Have a “yes” day with the girls.
  4. Finish ALL photo albums (1 Florida, 1 Cali, 1 New York, South Dakota-family trip, wedding, JapanX2, girl’s baby books, etc.)
  5. Read every unread book on my bookshelf.
  6. Complete the Disney Princess Challenge weekend (virtual). (DONE: 2/21/21)
  7. Go back to a place I used to live as a child. (DONE: October 20 & 21, 2021)
  8. Learn how to use my Nikon camera.
  9. Finally finish purging and organizing basement.
  10. Purge and organize my craft room.
  11. Take a painting class.
  12. Take a Bestie Trip… for any length of time.
  13. Pack a picnic and fly a kite at a park with the family.
  14. Visit a body of water. (DONE: March 2022- Pacific Ocean)
  15. Go stargazing.
  16. Submit something to get published.
  17. Go a solid week of absolutely NO social media.
  18. Reschedule that trip to Disneyland… and GO. (DONE: March 16, 2022)
  19. Complete one Japanese language workbook, cover to cover.
  20. Binge-watch an entire movie series in 24 hours.
  21. Spend a day at a museum.
  22. Write a blog post every day for one month. (Completed: June 2021)
  23. Laugh until I cry… or pee a little…. whichever happens first. (DONE: February 26, 2022- Nate Bargatze)
  24. Camp… somewhere. Even if it is in the living room or backyard.
  25. Write my story.
  26. Have an entire day dedicated to board and card games.
  27. Fly somewhere for the weekend with Jared.
  28. Go to a high tea at a restaurant.
  29. Take Mommy/Daughter trip with each child.
  30. Spa Day at a real Spa.
  31. See the Titanic exhibit at the Luxor in Vegas. (DONE: March 14, 2022)
  32. Make my own birthday cake, as beautifully as if it were for someone else.
  33. Get rid of 40 things I don’t need anymore. (DONE: Fall 2022)
  34. Finally finish reading through the entire Bible.
  35. Experience a weekend (48 hours) without electricity… (plan ahead for food storage and outside temps.)
  36. Try one new recipe a month… 24 total.
  37. Go see a movie by myself.
  38. Go on a solo writing weekend retreat.
  39. Earn every virtual race medal I currently have but haven’t completed yet.
  40. Bullet journal this list.

WOTY: Progress

I’ve procrastinated writing about my WOTY (word of the year). Honestly… because it just feels like this huge (and hopefully) life-altering THING… and how does one start writing about something like that??

I guess that is why I chose “PROGRESS” as my word in the first place. Even though *CALM* worked wonders for accomplishing amazing and unexpected things last year… there are lots of items on my personal “to do” list that never seem to get smaller… or finished… or sometimes, even started! I tend to be a perfectionist… and for me, that means I also tend to procrastinate… especially when it is something that doesn’t impact anyone other than myself. So, I wanted a word that would drive me in a forward motion… a word that, no matter how small or insignificant the progress felt, could still be defined as a ‘win‘.

For example: I LOVE reading. LOVE it. I have a bookshelf FULL of new books that have gone unread – for YEARS at this point. My favorite way to read a book is to start it in the morning and read until it is finished. That usually means staying up through the night and into the next day. Sometimes, I might take a short nap…. but the moment I wake up I read until the end. You can imagine… after having kids (with sleep being a precious commodity AND not having entire days to myself)… I don’t really get to read that way anymore. I kept hoping I would… but it never worked out. Reading small chunks of books… a chapter here or there… without it being frequent enough to not forget what had happened in the previous chapter…. also didn’t work well for me.

Every year, I’d stare at a bookshelf full of books I WANTED to read… and didn’t want to get rid of… but it felt so overwhelming to even begin… that I just didn’t.

I was stuck.

I’ve gathered a lot of helpful tips over the past couple of years… from friends, advice from family, classes I took on brain development through our former preschool, and even a book or two I WAS able to read. These are the things I’ve been focusing on recently:

1. I need to break up larger goals (like a bookshelf full of books) into “bite size” or manageable chunks.

2. I have an “all or nothing” tendency. If something isn’t perfect I tend to scrap it altogether. Instead, I need to work on saying: “_____ didn’t happen the way I hoped; what is possible now?” (And actually be ok with adjusting my plan/goal.)

3. Small changes… added up over time… can equal LARGE outcomes. (This is paraphrased from the book ‘Atomic Habits’ that I started in December 2020 and am about halfway through at this point… and LOOOOOOVE so far!)

All of that said… and sticking with the book example… In the fall, I made a goal to read 1 new book a month. Starting in August 2020 and finishing in July 2021. I figured a book a month would be easy to manage. I read 1 book in August and 1 book in September… and then didn’t finish another until December.

What I realized?? I did a lot better with reading consistently if I carve out at least 30 minutes a day. And when that time wasn’t part of an already established routine… it didn’t happen. So, sometimes… reading with my afternoon snack/tea time is when that happens. Since the beginning of January, (our kids are back in school full-time) I have utilized the after school pickup/car line (while parked and waiting)… which guarantees 30-45 minutes of uninterrupted reading! (If I don’t get distracted by my phone… ) It’s not a lot, but I’m usually able to complete 1-2 chapters… and that has added up over time.

I have finished reading 3 books this month! With 2 more I plan to finish by the 31st. It has been so WONDERFUL to be reading for fun again!

I don’t feel overwhelmed or stressed by the books waiting for me. If I miss a day here or there (because, #LifeHappens)… it isn’t too big of a deal, because I know I’ll have the time to read again tomorrow.


Word of the Year

I’ve been choosing a ‘word of the year’ for about 4 years now. I was inspired by a friend who has been doing this… for longer than I can even remember, at this point. But every year, she faithfully chooses a new word and then writes (weekly?) updates on how she is progressing through the year with that word.

It sounds like such a fun process! Last year, I even told her I wanted to start blogging about my word… and then, for no real reason… I didn’t.

To give a bit more context, 4 years ago (2018) I chose “Purge”. As in, ‘get rid of’ my excess clutter/stuff/things, unhealthy habits (ie. going to bed too late, procrastinating, etc.), and poor mindsets (perfection, all-or-nothing). I got through the year… and hadn’t ‘purged’ much of anything. So I kept the same word for 2019. Made a little more headway on the decluttering that year (woohoo!), and felt comfortable moving forward with a new word in 2020.

My chosen word for last year was “Calm”. When I picked that word… I had no idea I would be using it during a global pandemic of Covid-19. But so many wonderful things came from having that word in the back of my mind! Whenever something started to create internal upheaval or anxiety… I actively sought out ‘calm’. If it was my nerves being fried from the constant months of Covid news and quarantine, I read scripture, took Epsom baths, drank herbal teas, and/or listened to favorite songs. When my neck and back starting aching in ways that started affecting my day-to-day living, I went to a chiropractor for the first time in my life. When a decade-old broken promise came to the front of my mind, I sought out ways to honor it respectfully… and it led to a string (and then a web) of favorite moments I will cherish forever. And despite the political climate and vitriol on both sides of the political spectrum… we played games, swam in our blow-up kiddie pool, colored patios and driveways with chalk, had dance parties, cooked fun recipes, camped in the living room for family movie nights, sipped tea at tea parties, and made some pretty special memories.

Overall, it felt pretty successful. So it feels like time to move on to a new word for 2021.

My word for 2021 is: PROGRESS.

I hope to share more of WHY I chose this particular word and HOW I am using it to shape the upcoming year, in future blog posts…

33 to 34

“Adulting” took on new meaning when I turned 30. The very next month I gave birth to my first child (which completely changed me in unforeseen ways). Since then, I’ve had some time to adjust, learn, and grow. Had a second child.  Dealt with loss, death, anxiety. And been challenged in ways I never knew were possible. Experienced JOY and happiness in strengths and waves so strong… I could burst.

Here I am, on the eve of my 34th birthday, and life is GOOD. It’s hard and messy and beautiful and simple…and it is GOOD. I decided last year to not allow myself to be limited by fear of failure. I joined a MOPS group. (It has been wonderful!) I learned to play the ukelele. (I’ve played almost everyday since the first time I picked it up.) And most recently, I started learning how to RUN. That last one…is CRAZY. I have always hated running. It’s the reason I stopped playing basketball after 2 seasons. Soccer after 3 seasons. I hated the fitness tests in middle school, because I HATED the mile run. Exercise-induced asthma didn’t help either. But I saw a pretty medal for a virtual run… and decided to GO FOR IT. (Four 10ks and one 5k -in one month- later…. 🙂 )

If nothing else… this last year has taught me that I can still learn new things. Just because I’ve never done it before, does not mean that I can’t learn now. I am not “stuck” in who I’ve always been, just because I’m an adult. (Thank goodness.)

There is freedom in realizing that.

I have high hopes for this upcoming year. As my kiddos grow up and transition into new seasons… I find myself drawn toward simple things.

Like the sound of a squealing/laughing toddler, running in a diaper.(And the sound a diaper makes when a kid runs in it.)

I will miss that one day.

Today is not that day.

(Delighting in each Moment)

KonMari Method- Part One (Clothing)


I read this book and immediately wanted to get rid of everything I own.

(Half kidding… half serious 😉 )

I read it in one afternoon/evening… which included nap time and then a pause until after bedtime routine had finished. I was SO inspired!! And then I went to bed, woke up the next day and my resolve started to crumble… so I re-read bits, and got super fired up again!! (Like, Christmas-morning-is-happening-tomorrow-and-I-can’t-sleep, fired UP!)

I am not going to touch on ALL of the pieces that make this completely fascinating to me… but suffice it to say, Marie is Japanese and she has a unique approach to purging.

The goal is to purge your “stuff” until all that is left are items that bring you joy. (And even if the item may not bring you “happy-feeling joy”, its usefulness can bring joy… ie: vacuum, snow shovel, long-john underwear….)

There are 5 categories, and they are in a specific order to help you ease into severing unnecessary emotional attachment/obligation/guilt over parting with something you may not need/use/want or that doesn’t make you happy (or joyful) to own it. (Clothing, Books, Papers, Komono (NOT kimono-the clothing) [which are sub categories of “stuff” like children’s toys, craft supplies,or maybe your tea cup collection], and finally Sentimental Items… like photos.)

The other things she insists on for this process to be successful are: to gather EVERY SINGLE ITEM in the category, together in the same place, BEFORE you purge. AND it needs to be done in ONE go. (As opposed to choosing an item a day-for infinity.)

Now, I have two YOUNG children. So, I got one full day and a half (starting after dinner Saturday, cause Darling Husband works that day), and then worked during nap time over the rest of the week. So, it took me about 7 days. It was my focused goal when I had time, and it was done as quickly as I could have done it.

Anyway, I gathered every stitch of clothing (minus my wedding dress and maybe 3-4 dresses my mom has sewed for me over the years) and shoes for every member of the family. (Which also, went against what Marie suggests… which is  “do your own stuff first, then tackle your family’s stuff”… and I learned quickly why that would have been a better idea, because I got overwhelmed by the sheer number of items a few times!!)

She also recommends you dress up for the event! Nicer clothing than you’d normally wear to purge. (ahem– yoga pants and a t-shirt) The next picture is after a full day of wearing my dress, hair done, and make-up done… but I also added my Japanese apron (most of the homemakers in Japan wear these when they go to grocery stores or other household related errands). I do have to say, it definitely improved my mood!!

She also recommends silence or “white noise” so you can focus on what brings you joy… but music gets me PUMPED and helps me maintain my energy level!

I also made sure to turn on my Scentsy, and favorite scent… This also helped maintain my energy and helped me focus on the task at hand.

Because, when things are visually overwhelming… hearing and smelling should be senses that can relax!

Oh my goodness.

There was barely enough room to make sorting piles. My husband and I slept on the sofa-bed in the living room all week… ’cause, well, look at it…


Fun memory, the pile of “joy” that I kept on the first round, was still so big, that I went through it again and halved it. And REALLY tried to pinpoint the “joy” that Marie talks about. (Was I excited at the thought of getting to wear it??)

Marie also “talks” to the house before a purge. To let it know what she is going to do that day.

My house, while a blessing, isn’t who I chose to talked to.

I just prayed. I prayed to not be overwhelmed. I thanked God for the blessing of this stuff, and the needs the stuff met during different seasons. And I prayed for wisdom and discernment for when I would get rid of things… that it would be purposeful and not cause any future regret.

Marie also says that you need to touch each and every item (and even hug it) to see if it brings you joy. I touched them, but mostly because I wanted to feel fabrics. I generally knew by sight if the item brought me joy. I found myself becoming very aware of a smile that would spread over my face if it, did indeed ,sparked joy!

And yes, some of that joy was “oh! I wore this shirt when __________ happened!” which is why you also consider practicality (will I ever ACTUALLY wear this again??) and functionality (when it snows next winter, long-johns will keep me warm… and I only have the one set).

I purged the rest of my maternity stuff that week. And that was hard. They are just clothes, but it is a season of life that I am definitely passed and won’t be returning to. (Barring a divine miracle- I always feel the need to add that, just in case…) They served their purpose, and I wouldn’t be wearing them again… and someone else was going to be able to use them again.

So they went into a “give-a-way” pile.

Marie also says that you should thank every item you intend to get rid of. I really found that strange initially (and I DID NOT do it for 98% of my stuff)… but then when I got to my maternity stuff, there was one shirt I actually thanked-out loud-as I got a little teary…

And no. It wasn’t because I believe that shirt has feelings. (Ask me how I feel when we get to the stuffed animal purge though…) It was closure for ME. It was ME, verbalizing out loud what I already knew was true in my head… it was time for the shirt to go. And somehow… that closure made it easier!!

I went to bed completely happy and “lighter” feeling. The stuff had been weighing on me… and I hadn’t even realized how much!


Tried the dressing up thing again… it really truly made a difference for me!!! (The hat was something I’d forgotten I had, but was so excited to find it!! My sister made it!! Definitely something that brings me joy!)


I parted with quite a few things that I’d never been able to part with before. High School homecoming dresses (from ALL 4 YEARS!!!), a choir dress, and a multitude of too big, or too small clothes that I have no idea why I bought… because it would depress me to wear them!! I EVEN finally got rid of old high school t-shirts I’d used for painting/home renovation projects. I took pictures of them all… kept a couple that were in good shape, and then trashed the rest.

And I even purged baby clothes…ALL of the outgrown ones (newborn-12 months)…. some to be donated, some to be sold, and some to be turned into a quilt.

(Oh my goodness… holding a newborn outfit that your babies wore, will make you want to have more babies… just so it can be worn again!!!

Which is insane.

So, just add that to the PILE of EMOTIONS I was also sorting through… 🙂 But not to worry, I am completely sane again, and very happy and at peace with the completeness of our family!)



Oh. My. Goodness.

This is: one bag of shoes, one bag of legit TRASH clothes, one bag of my husband’s stuff, and the rest were mine and the girls’. This photo is missing the large box of maternity stuff we were able to send to a loving home…

The black trash bags held about two kitchen garbage bags worth… so total, I’d say this is about 22 kitchen garbage bags worth of stuff.

I’ve never felt so free!! And because all of the clothes we currently have bring me/us joy… laundry doesn’t seem to be as much of a bummer (OR pile up as high, or take as long to do!!) anymore! 🙂

Books are next!!!


Growing up in a military family (Air Force brat), I had never lived in any house longer than 4 years. (And that only happened once.) There were maybe two places we lived for 3 years but everything else was 2 or less.

That didn’t change once I went to college.

It actually got worse. Because you move into a different room each year and out again each summer.

After college I moved to Japan for a year.

When I got back, I lived with my parents while I was engaged (4.5 months) and then our first home was a rental (for a year), before buying our first home in December of 2007.

And we are still living in that home today!

It was weird as we approached that 4 year mark… I had an itch to move again. But we’d bought a house for the future. We bought our house knowing that we’d never HAVE to move. It would fit our family once children came along, had a great yard for the dogs, and had it’s own mailbox and wood-burning fireplace.

The interesting thing about living in one house for so long, are the memories you accumulate there. And while the decorations and home-improvements have changed the scenery a bit over the years… the rooms are still the rooms where things happened.

All of the writing I’ve done over the past week or so… about our animals and their passing… has brought up a lot. And I was reminded how often something remains from those pets in the house, long after they are gone.

Like the claw marks I find on cabinets or baseboards… when I stoop down to clean them. (Our cat Pepper left them all over the house.) They aren’t really noticeable unless you are REALLY close… so they surprise me from time to time… that they are still there.

The only evidence that we ever had rabbits in our house, are the 5 or 6 little tiny bite/gouges in the side of our fireplace mantel… from that one time I left the hutch too close to the wood.

Let’s not forget Scarlett’s carpet holes or the random dried-blood droplet I occasionally find (from Lady’s tail) in a random place on the wall. (That I was sure I’d cleaned completely.)

I remember the last spot I held, petted, and said good-bye to each animal.

I remember where Pepper died.

I remember the carpet in the hallway being damp still, even after Lady was gone. And remember thinking it didn’t seem fair that the water from steam cleaning the carpet should be longer lasting, than the dog who had the accident.

Animals are  only one genre of “ghost” for our houses… aren’t they? I mean, there are so many happy memories too… or baby/child memories. How about illness??

I suppose my point in all of this is that I never realized how much more the memories build up, the longer you live in one place. It makes sense… since I have very vivid memories from the houses throughout my life. But 8 years… whew! It’s a lot! And it’s completely foreign and amazing to me. To actually still be living in a place where something special happened “x” amount of years ago… where I can picture something happening while being in the exact spot where it happened… there is just something about that.

I don’t know how many more years we will live in this house. But I do know that whenever that day comes…. it will be really, really sad and REALLY hard to leave. For all of the good, the bad, and the ugly that has happened in this house… it was where our life happened.

So many memories…so many ‘ghosts’.



Ugh… you guys.

It hasn’t even been a full two weeks since we said good-bye to our “Lady-baby” (her nickname). I still feel completely raw on the inside about this one… and I am still in the “waves-of-tears” stage. Some days are better than others…

We hadn’t even fully transitioned (for lack of a better word) from our last loss in December, before this one happened. And it came as more of a shock… because we expected to have YEARS left with her.

We’d gotten our first dog, Charlie, after about 5 months of marriage (May 2007). He was 8 weeks old, and neither of us had ever owned a puppy. It became apparent, when I went back to my teaching job in the fall, that Charlie needed a friend. Especially if he was going to be by himself for most of the workday.

So, when summer started (May 2008) we went to our local Dumb Friends League and brought Charlie to find a friend. We met with a chow-mix first. And they seemed to get along well enough, but mostly because the chow seemed more interested in the fence. (Turns out this dog had problems with escaping and jumping fences.) We decided to try one more match, just to see… and they brought out Lady.

She was named “Stacey” at the kennel. They thought she was about 1.5 years old.  There was a brief moment of tension to see who would be the ‘alpha’… but they took to each other very quickly after that. (It was her, by the way. 🙂 ) She was VERY high energy, and the worker who brought her out said that their energy levels seemed to match… which was a good sign.

I don’t think we REALLY knew what we were getting into… but she had a really beautiful face, and was very friendly. Very hyper. But friendly. And she’d already been brought to the shelter twice… because people didn’t know what to do with her. Which completely tugged at my heartstrings.


Summer 2008

We didn’t like the name Stacey for her. We were at Walmart typing in the name we’d chosen (I don’t remember what it was now…) and I told Darling Husband it didn’t seem right. Then I said, “What about ‘Lady’?” There had been a dog that lived next door for a few months (a rental property) when we’d first moved in. Charlie had loved that dog. At one point, a section of fence had fallen down, and for two days the dog (named Lady) and Charlie roamed the backyards together. His ears always perked up at her name…

Darling Husband liked it! So we deleted the other name and typed ‘Lady’.

We got her home and learned fairly quickly that she knew ZERO commands. Didn’t know how to sit, stay, lie down… NOTHING.

But she did know how to fetch a ball.

Like it was her JOB.

I don’t think we ever could have tired her out. She would have fetched that ball all day, every day, for FOREVER. She’d bring it back, drop it at my feet, and bark her much-too-high-pitched bark, until you threw it again. And out of our three dogs, she was the only one who understood the whole bring-the-ball-back-so-we-can-throw-it-again concept. Though, she would give herself small break now and then… if snow was available… for just a minute or two.


Playing Ball

And she LOOOOVED that red ball. (It was the only indestructible thing we EVER had and still have to this day.) She’d get it in her mouth so that it would push her nose up like a pig… causing her to sound like a pig grunting.

The vet we took her to for her vaccines and first check-up, said Lady had the equivalent of doggy ADHD. We were going to need a lot of patience. And our first job was to work on her focus.

Eventually her focus got better and she was able to ‘sit’ and ‘chill’ (our ‘lie down’). ‘Stay’ always proved a bit difficult as she turned out to be QUITE the “velcro dog”. (which is basically a term applied to dogs that want to be with you all the time no matter what…) If I left the room to go to the bathroom, she would follow me in and sit so I could pet her. 🙂 If I was cooking, her favorite place was between my legs and the stove/cabinets. But “Lady, come!” was never a problem. (Unless she got out the front door… cause then she was off and down the street before you could blink.)


Darling Husband’s and my 5th anniversary. (December 2011) We have so many pictures of Lady like this.

On walks, she did pretty well if she could walk beside Charlie, but if we ever separated them, she would constantly walk forwards and then backwards to make sure she wasn’t walking too far in front of us. Which sounds like something a dog on a leash SHOULD do… except the way Lady did it made it difficult to walk without tripping over her or the leash. Because the movements were erratic and sudden.



I still remember the first time I saw her tongue during a walk. It looked twice as wide and twice as long as what it SHOULD be. It was kinda freaky.

And she loved to give kisses… all the time.

Back, B.K. (before kids) we let the dogs sleep in our bedroom… and Lady’s favorite spot in the room was on the bed right between us! But that didn’t last long… we eventually got dog beds for the floor and insisted (quite repetitively)  that all the dogs use them.


One year for Christmas I got her this sturdy dog-toy, pink dragon. We called it her baby. Her favorite game was for us to throw it down the stairs. Then she’d run down and back up with it, for us to do it again… and again… times infinity. 😉DSCN4561

She had the most soulful brown eyes, that seemed to have so much emotion.


She tolerated baths, loved water (like lakes, ponds, streams) and got so excited to play in the snow.

It also didn’t take too long to discover that Lady suffered from something called “Happy Tail”. (I had bruises on my legs to prove how hard her tail could wag.)  It became problematic when the tip of her tail would connect with something hard, cause it to split open, and then stream blood anywhere and everywhere.

Seriously… it looked like a crime scene from CSI.

All over the house.

And then the cycle would begin. Because even once it scabbed… it would hit something, re-opening the wound… and cause it to bleed all over the place AGAIN. (Wash, rinse, repeat… for-e-ver.) So, it wasn’t uncommon to see her with one of those EPIC-sized  band-aids on the tip of her tail.


Her exuberance for life was 100%. And that meant car-rides too. 🙂 She actually loved it so much, she’d bark at every car she saw… for however long we were on the road. (We discovered, even our 6 hour drive to Pagosa Springs was not long enough to cause her to get tired and go to sleep.) We actually had to drug her for our drives down to Texas… because we couldn’t handle the barking for 17 hours in a row. (And neither could the other two dogs.)

Lady went from “completely normal” to “not okay” in almost a day. I woke up with a cold on Sunday, February 21. Darling Husband informed me that Lady had peed all over the bed/rug the night before. That day, she needed to pee all the time, which caused her to drink way more water than normal. It was a warm day outside, so eventually, we put her cleaned/dried dog bed on the back patio for her to lie on between bathroom breaks. She suddenly looked very old…. and tired…. and not like herself at all.

We scheduled a vet appointment for the first thing the next morning.

That night, having had too much water, Lady threw up (what seemed like a GALLON) all over the floor. It was really frightening.

And it seemed like she was having a rough time walking.

I went to her at bedtime, made sure I gave her extra ear scratches, head pats, and belly rubs. My gut was starting to realize that it might be much worse than we thought… and she may not recover from this.

Everything I’d read seemed to point to kidney failure. But I didn’t know how extreme it was OR if it was treatable. But she hadn’t eaten all day, and wouldn’t take the treat I’d offered her at bedtime. (The same kind of treat she’d gobbled out of my hands 48 hours before.)

The next morning, I found myself saying my goodbyes and told Lady what a good dog she was… before Jared took her. (Just in case. I didn’t want her to have to suffer longer if a decision needed to be made.) I also told her that I hoped the vet had a way to make her feel better and that I hoped she would come home. The girls were both still sleeping, and I was on the worst day of my cold, so Darling Husband took her himself. Charlie had to go with them… because since we’d gotten Lady, if we separated them, Charlie would bark until Lady was with him again.

When it was time to go… Lady couldn’t walk anymore. Darling Husband gently picked up our 60 pound dog and carried her to the car… for what would be her last ride with Charlie.

I got a phone call about 30 minutes later. The vet wasn’t even concerned about the possible kidney failure. Instead, she was concerned about the lack of feeling in Lady’s back legs. She said it was either a blood clot or a tumor. But there was nothing they could do for her there. (We’d have to take her to a larger facility.) And the quote to get her an MRI was around $2000. Either way, the vet said surgery was necessary but she said having the surgery wouldn’t guarantee survival. And the recovery process would be very, very long.

It made me angry, in the middle of thinking about what to do, that it costs so much- just to find out what a problem is…. and then costs so much more to fix it. (And that just seems to be how all kinds of healthcare in this country works… but I digress.)

And it made me even more angry that money was a factor in our decision (no matter how small). It wasn’t the only factor… she was very sick… and old. And some black labs just don’t make it to the 10-12 year expectancy age. (Although, with her shelter background… she COULD have been and we’d never know.) But, when you have two small children, other pets, and one income from a brand new job that has ebbs and flows…. you have to make the best decision you can make. And quality of life is so important to me. I never want an animal to suffer longer and needlessly because I don’t want to say good-bye. So, we made the decision. And it was awful….

Girlie was up by then, and I had her tell Lady she loved her, that she was a good dog, and she’d miss her, over the phone. (Darling Husband said THAT made the vet tear up a bit.) He pet her and told her what a good girl she was… Charlie was there… eating tissues… but the vet seemed to think he “understood” what was happening.

And then she fell asleep…. and was gone.

Darling Husband came home after… with Charlie looking like he didn’t even have a clue…. and we both hugged and cried. And then I took some cold medicine and went to bed. It felt surreal. And I still have moments that I can’t believe it all happened so fast.

The next day, we had to drug Charlie with Lady’s car-trip meds. (The irony of that is not lost on me.) He thought we had her somewhere… and just kept barking, until his medicine kicked in. And then he just looked like a sad, droopy-eyed puppy.

He’s better now… but I think he misses her. I still catch him running into rooms like he’s expecting to see her. (It hits me right in the heart… every. single. time.)

Our family dynamic has changed so much. Lady had so much energy and desire to be with us… her missing presence has left a huge, gaping hole.

Darling Husband, Girlie, Little Sister, Charlie, and I went on a walk as a family the other night …. and I actually wondered out-loud, “Is this it? We are such a small group!”

It’s a smaller and calmer group now.

We THINK Lady’s birthday was in the fall sometime. Which would mean she was 9.5ish on February 22. (She was only 6 months older than Charlie.) And we would have adopted her 8 years ago this May. It was an incredibly large chunk of my life that I got to spend with her.

And I would do it all again… all of the ‘crazy’ that came with her personality. All of the hard work and time spent cleaning, teaching, petting, and loving her… all of the vet trips, and summer baths outside, and the games of fetch, and dog hair in my food, and scrubbing the blood off the walls, and getting her tail bandaged (which wasn’t easy).

It was all worth it and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Lady, you were so loved…. we will remember you always….and our family will never be the same without you.


Sunday, February 21, 2016






Scarlett joined our family in October 2010. She joined two other dogs, 2 cats, and 2 rabbits.


-Lady, Charlie, Scarlett     (Mother’s Day 2011)         photo credit Darling Husband


Darling Husband said, “We don’t need a third dog.”

And that was probably true.

But we needed THIS dog.

We’d dog-sat for her before. She was so calm. At night, she curled up into a tiny ball (that seemed much too small to be comfortable for a dog her size), went to sleep, and didn’t make a sound until morning. I gushed when our friends (her owners) came to pick her up, about how good she was. And we’d be happy to watch her ANYTIME. Cause I LOOOVED her! She had the most beautiful brindle colored coat. And she had the softest ears I’ve ever felt on a dog.

When our friends could no longer keep Scarlett… they thought of me first, and asked if we’d be interested in giving her a new home! And I was! Darling Husband took some time to convince, but agreed on a trial week to see if it would work.

When I went to pick Scarlett up, (or maybe they dropped her off, I can’t remember now) our friends also gave us her chair… a really pretty chair, that matched our house… and was Scarlett’s to sit in whenever she wanted. We got her all set up and the first thing she did was curl up in the chair.


This dog was more of a third cat, than our third cat  (we got HIM a few months later) would be! She was so quiet and calm.

Scarlett never got a song, but she was nicknamed “deer-face” because she had a very doe-like face and she was timid at first.

She had a few quirks that weren’t immediately evident. Eventually we would find out Scarlett HATED thunder. or lightning. or fireworks. HATED. The poor thing could hear thunder before we even knew a storm was coming. Her whole body would just shake… and the only thing that seemed to help was to be in the same room with someone. I still remember one storm that started during the night, and all of a sudden, Scarlett was on our bed… trying to sit on my face. (Trying to get as close as she could.)

She liked carpet. And so she licked it. And licked it. Until carpet pieces started coming out, leaving a hole down to the mesh backing. (Not sure what the official word for that is…) There are currently three “Scarlett holes” in our living room/hallway area. All about the size of a silver dollar.

She loved squirrels, rabbits, and birds… but mostly squirrels. She would stand under a tree and just bark until someone would go get her.

She hardly barked at all in the house… but on walks, she would pull, jump around, and bark at anything and everything. She always seemed so young on our walks… even as the years went on.

She never licked our hands or us… unless it was by accident and there was a treat involved.

And after a bath… she would RACE around the house. Think bucking bronco meets playful puppy. It was the most excited she ever got in the house…. and it always made me laugh!

We did the math with our friends, when they gave us Scarlett… we THINK she was around 7 years old. She always had a bit of white on her face, which made a lot of strangers comment on our “old girl”, but 7 isn’t so old.

If she was, in fact, 7 when we got her… then in October of 2015 she was around 12. She’d already begun to slow down… and math alone told us she’s be the first of our dogs to pass. She had started to lose a bit of weight and slow down a bit more… but everything else seemed ok.

I went out of town during the first week of December. I got back on December 6. The next day, I asked Darling Husband if he’d noticed that Scarlett wasn’t acting normal while I was gone. He hadn’t. But I knew something was up. She kinda chose one spot and didn’t really leave it most of the day. She’d eat and go outside to go to the bathroom… but other than that… she’d just sleep. And WHERE she would choose to sleep was unusual for her too. We’ve since gotten rid of the chair, and she had a nice, plush dog bed by the fireplace in the living room. When she slept, it was usually there. And she wasn’t sleeping there. She was choosing a weird spot in the middle of our hallway.

She wasn’t in any pain that we could tell, and she was eating and going outside to use the bathroom without issue… so I wasn’t overly concerned. But I knew something was up. And began to wonder if this was “the end”. My gut told me we were close.

But it didn’t help that, during this week, my older daughter was up for two nights with a fever that turned into chicken pox (we’d vaccinated her and it was a mild case, but I was more concerned about our younger daughter who was still 3 months away from being old enough for HER vaccine), and my baby was cutting 4, yes FOUR, of her first teeth at once. So I wasn’t sleeping at all. When that kind of sleep deprivation happens and you go into survival mode. A sleepy dog who seemed otherwise normal, didn’t set off any alarms… but by the evening of December 12 I knew something was wrong when Scarlett was walking to get water and her legs gave out and she collapsed.

Scared me to death.

But she was ok…. slow to get up and shaky after that.

December 13th is Darling Husband’s birthday… and we spent the day taking pictures with Scarlett and saying our good-byes. We had a vet appt scheduled for the next morning… she had collapsed a couple more times that day. We hoped to be surprised and the vet could recommend an easy treatment. But we just… knew.

That night, Darling Husband went to the store and bought some nice canned dog food. Our dogs only get dry food, with few exceptions. When I saw the cans, I teared up a bit. He’d been thoughtful to bring something tasty for her last meal. Which our older daughter served her the next morning. (One of her first chores was giving Scarlett her food… which speaks to how gentle this dog truly was.)

One of the hardest things for me to do was not be there. I couldn’t take my contagious child with me, and I couldn’t do the hard thing (if that was what was needed)… alone. So Darling Husband went without me, and put me on speaker for the vet consult and through the entire process.

Basically… they couldn’t say exactly what was wrong. She had pain in her stomach (that we didn’t know about) and her pulse was so weak, the vet could hardly believe she was alive. The low blood pressure is probably what caused her to collapse… and she was old.

Darling Husband let me listen while he told Scarlett what a good dog she was…. she fell asleep, and then she was gone.

I knew she would be missed. But I didn’t expect to be be suddenly surprised she was gone again and again. She was just so quiet most of the time… it kinda felt like she was still here. And then the fire would pop in the fireplace, and I’d instinctively looked around to tell her it was ok. Or I’d go to vacuum, and be ready to comfort her.  After the girls are in bed, sometimes I putter around the living room (read, do projects, etc.) and as it would get later, Scarlett used to do this very sleepy/dramatic sigh. Even now, MONTHS later… I can still hear her in my head when it is dark in the living room…

And I wasn’t ready for my older daughter (2.5 years) to ask often “Where is Scarlett? I miss her.” I certainly wasn’t ready to explain death yet. But, there you go.

Scarlett was so, SO loved. And is SO missed. We are so grateful to have gotten 5 years with her.

Though, no amount of time is ever “enough”…


December 13, 2015


It’s Over

It was a long day and I was glad for the distraction of the Broncos’ celebration parade, Facebook, and last night’s X-Files episode on Hulu (Cause I don’t watch that stuff at night. EVER. Anymore. )

I’ve known for weeks that Little Sister’s birthday would be a big moment of transition for all of us. There is something about that first birthday… whether they are hitting those milestones in a timely manner or not, another bit of that teeny tiny baby you brought home from the hospital just… slips away.

After her birthday dinner, a quick bath, and a quick DIY photo shoot… I sang her happy birthday as her birth TIME appeared on my phone. Got her dressed in her pajamas. Suctioned out the masses of boogers out of her nose (for the HUNDREDTH time TODAY). Put some orajel on that 5th tooth popping through her gums. (It was a rough day for her too!) And started setting the scene…

I found the nursing pillow that I’ve used for both of my children and put it on my glider. I took one of the Aden&Anais muslin blankets out of the drawer I have kept them in for the last 3 years… and I chose the one with the cherry blossoms, cause it has always been my favorite. I turned off all of the lights, except the nightlight by the door. Turned on the humidifier.

It looked like every other evening I have had this entire year…

I sat down and got choked up as I snapped down the corner of my nursing tank. The one that has always been so comfortable.

And as she latched, I was quickly reminded that it had been 5 days since I’d nursed, and OUCH, cause Little Sister was still getting used to those teeth! It was a little bit of reality amidst the sentimentality… “Oh, right… yeeaaah…. this is one part I won’t miss.”

But she found her groove, and we settled in without any more discomfort. My phone was on to take a picture of our last time… but she grabbed my thumb in her hand and held it.

The way she used to nurse all the time… at the beginning… but hadn’t done in months. Cue more tears.

I got my picture when she started playing with the straps of my shirt, the blanket, my face… and then we changed sides. Again, a bit of discomfort to bring me back for a quick second, before we got comfortable…. and she fell asleep.

So incredibly peaceful.

And suddenly I was remembering her whole life… the nights I was so tired, it hurt to stay awake to feed her, but how I tried so hard to soak it all in every single time, because I knew how I’d feel when the day came that she no longer needed me that way.

Over and over, in my head, I just kept thinking, “It went too fast! It went too fast! I was intentional, and it still went too fast!! It was also hard, and beautiful, and had ugly, human moments, and painful, and joyful (her first laughs happened while she was sound asleep in my arms, belly full), and emotional, and I know it’s time…. but… but…IT WENT TOO FAST!”

Before I knew it, and after taking in as much detail as I could (her breaths, her eyelids, the nightlight, her cheeks, the crib, the pictures hanging on the walls) she was full and asleep…. and I was empty.

So, I put her on my shoulder, the way I’ve done every night and after every feeding… I gently pat her back until a small burp slips out. She is nuzzled against my shoulder and is just starting to get long enough to have to bend her legs in order to sleep on my chest. (With all my understanding about seasons and phases… I never realized that a child would actually outgrow sleeping on your shoulder, until suddenly my older daughter didn’t really fit anymore…)

So I let her sleep.

And the tears started to fall.

How do I let go of this moment?? How do I actually say to myself… “Ok, Aris.  It’s done.” ????

I held her longer than I normally do, but eventually the salt from my tears started to burn my cheeks, and my stomach was starting to growl, since I hadn’t eaten yet.

I stood up and walked her to her crib. I slipped out of her room and the tears are streaming again.

I walk out to the living room where Darling Husband seems surprised that I am still crying.

(I should mention here, that I rarely cry under normal circumstances. And when I do, it is silent and brief. I usually save my tears for the shower, if I can… cause it just feels better to cry in warm water.)

I heat up my Wendy’s french fries in the microwave and pick up my (now cold) cod sandwich. I head over to the couch and sit by him. I start to eat and he asks “Is it pretty good?”

And it’s not. Cause the fish is cold, and dry, and my french fries have been microwaved… and I just put my one-year-old to bed, with the last milk I’ll ever make in her stomach.

And I lose it.

With my mouth full of french fry and fish…. I am WEEPING, out loud, for probably the first time in our 9 years of marriage. I couldn’t control it. Sounds and tears were happening all over the place…

And I mourned.

That might seem silly to some, but that is how it felt to me. I’m not exaggerating or embellishing. It’s like a part of my life, and who I am, and what I’ve done, is gone… and I will never get to be that, do that, experience that… again.

After the sobbing stopped… but the tears kept coming, Darling Husband asked if I wanted ice cream.

(He knows me so well.)

And we prayed and thanked God for helping him sell 3 cars today, because he hasn’t sold any in a while. God has provided for us! And Darling Husband prayed for me… peace and excitement for the future.

And we turned on an episode of “The Office” (US)

And I am going to be ok.

Life is moving forward and there are so many moments, so many WONDERFUL moments just waiting for my family.

But I needed today, and tonight, and a way to honor this milestone and grieve it.

Thanks for letting me do that here.


Astoria, Oregon: July 2010                                   copyright Aris Greene



Tuesday Happenings

SO many things are happening today!!!

  1. Little Sister’s 1st Birthday!!! (And now I *get* why my mom calls me at the TIME of my birth… because I don’t feel like it is REALLY her birthday until 7:57pm… I am soaking in these last few hours before she is a legitimate 1 year old!)
  2. The Broncos’ Celebration Parade !! 😀 That the girls and I are going to fully appreciate from the comfort and quiet of our living room. After all, even the moon landing couldn’t be 1st-hand-experienced by EVERYONE. 😉
  3. My official last nursing session EVER (to be completed tonight). I timed it so I could bookend this year of Little Sister’s life with this experience. And I am experiencing mid-life/menopause emotions about this, because she is our last baby. This is the last time I will be using my body in this way. EVER. There is great sadness and great relief at the same time. (TMI alert: I hate sleeping in a bra, and I HAVE to wear one in seasons of nursing, or suffer the leaky consequences….) But tonight, it will be mostly sadness at the inevitable close of this incredibly special chapter… while I remember those first sweet moments of her life, one year ago.

Time passes quickly… take time to really focus and remember something about today.