Tag Archives: Family

My (Non-Exhaustive) Great Moms List 1

My (Non-Exhaustive) Great Moms List

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! This has been a rocky year for me with so many changes, uncertainties, and ups and downs, and I wouldn’t have gotten through it so comfortably without the help of my mom. Thanks, Mom! She prefers to take photos instead of being in them, so I improvised.

My (Non-Exhaustive) Great Moms List 2

Improvised photo of my Great Mom

That’s Stella in the window, by the way. She’s a half-coyote, half-Australian Cattle dog I took care of the first week of May. She’s super sweet and the most hilarious sleeper I know. I took approximately 40 pictures of her just sleeping on the couch.

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In addition to my mom, there are other Great Moms out there that I admire. This list is by no means exhaustive, but when I think about this last year in particular and leaving Norfolk (it will be one year since we left on May 14), these women are of special note.

First is Heath’s mom, who made it a point to teach her sons to cook and clean. When it comes to domestic skills, Heath is far and away the champion in our household, and I, unfortunately, am the weakest link. I am incredibly grateful Heath’s mom prioritized these skills in her children.

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Next is Annie’s human mom, who may be my greatest cheerleader for new endeavors and experiences. She is always enthusiastic about my choices, even though a lot of them mean we don’t get to spend that much time in person for the foreseeable future.

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There’s also Fergus’s human mom, who has a special place in my heart for giving me so many opportunities to take care of Fergus and even paying me to do it! She’s been rooting for me to find my place in this world and I am so grateful for her love and support.

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Photo by Sonja Zinke from the Norfolk Library 2nd Annual Pet Parade

Up next on my Great Moms list is Dottie, who will be turning 101 this year! A hug from Dottie can turn your whole day around. She is a bright and shiny beacon of light in this world, and I miss seeing her smiling face. She also hosts one heck of a tea party!

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My friend, Barbara, is also on my Great Mom’s list. Barbara and I would listen to music nearly every week I lived in Norfolk. It’s because of Barbara that I can identify Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream within one second of hearing the first note.

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Cecily may not be of this world anymore, but she’ll always be on my Great Moms list. Cecily had a true zest for life, and we bonded every day over our love of Dodger. Cecily also loved going out and about with Heath on her arm, and I found her endearment towards Heath so charming.

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Speaking of Cecily and Dodger, I’m including Dodger’s new mom on my list of Great Moms because I can’t imagine a better home for him. Dodger turned 15 on April 19th, and he’s doing remarkably well for his age. He is loved, adored, and well-cared for, and that’s all anyone could ask for in a second dog mom.

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Last but not least on my Great Moms list is my 86-year-old best friend, Arlene, who lives in North Carolina. We recently celebrated nine years of friendship in February. I admire Arlene’s wit and wisdom. Her penmanship is practically perfect. She loves dogs, horses, and writing. It’s because of Arlene that I know and love Rilke and that I had the courage to find my own writing voice. Arlene once wrote an essay years ago about how “the truth will set you free.” I think about her essay often and how her writing has such a profound effect on my life. Although I don’t have a photo of Arlene readily accessible, I do have this photo of her penmanship to share. When Heath and I eloped, I carried photos of my loved ones in my pocket. I also didn’t have a photo of Arlene then, but I did have one of her letters.

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So that’s my (non-exhaustive) list of Great Moms. Although I am not a mom and much prefer to be the “fun Aunt Kelly” to children and animals, maybe that will change in the future. When I went to the Boulder Farmer’s Market yesterday, I took this picture and sent it to Heath:

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Have a great day, everyone!

Dogs and Cats in Bunny Ears 13

Dogs and Cats in Bunny Ears

This year, I’m celebrating Easter with dogs and cats in bunny ears.

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These photos bring me joy, and I like to think that the time I spend creating them is one way I demonstrate my love and affection for the animals involved and their associated people.

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Now that it’s almost April, I only have a few more days with Basil and Irving. This month with them has gone by way too quickly. I’m no longer convinced they’re cats. After careful consideration, I believe they’re wizards and that they’ve cast a love spell on me.

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The level of ardor and devotion I have for these two is unprecedented because they’re, well, not dogs. I’m as surprised as anyone!

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I did put in an offer to be added to the list of people called if there’s ever a catastrophe and their humans need to find them a new home. I’ve been fantasizing about packing them up and taking them with me, so I’m pleased my offer was accepted. Maybe someday we’ll be together again; of course, I don’t actually hope for this outcome to happen. But it’s nice to know that I can now count wizards in my extended family.

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Happy Easter to all who celebrate! For those who don’t, Happy Sunday!

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Thanksgiving 2021 20

Thanksgiving 2021

I’m glad it’s Thanksgiving this week, because it gives me a ready-made topic to write about: Top 10 Things I’m Grateful for This Year.

  1. My husband, Heath. This year has been another challenging one, particularly with sleep issues. Heath is a constant source of unconditional love and support. The last time I struggled this much with my sleep, I was single. I eventually improved, so I know I have it in me to stay the course with my health as a single person. But I’m incredibly grateful I don’t have to.
  2. DOGS! Speaking of unconditional love and support, dogs are also up there at the top of my list. Dogs bring me such joy! I can’t imagine my life without them. This point leads me to …
  3. The people who let me love their dogs. This will be my first full year since 2013 that I did not live with one or more dogs. It’s been an adjustment to say the least, and I still find myself tearing up every now and again when I think of my furry friends I’ve lost along the way. So an extra special thank you to those people who ask me to take care of their dogs and love them like they’re my own.
  4. My mom. She is one of the most generous people I know. The only way my mom could get even better is if she got a dog.
  5. My best friend, Arlene. I met Arlene while on sabbatical in Chapel Hill, NC, in 2014. Arlene is almost 40 years older than me, and that doesn’t matter in the slightest. We understand each other, and every Thursday I call her. Sometimes we don’t chat, and I just leave a message. But we always know to expect a phone call on Thursdays at 11:30am.
  6. My BFF Michelle. Michelle and I have been friends for maybe 17 years now. We can’t really nail down the date of when we went from being grad school acquaintances to good friends. The pandemic, however, changed everything. We experienced a Frien-essance (the friend version of a Renaissance) this year through Zoom and that’s one of my silver linings of the pandemic. Also shoutout to Beth, who often joins us on our Zooms. I’m grateful my friendship with her has gotten deeper this year, too.
  7. My TPEP friends. These are the friends I made when working for the Tobacco, Prevention, and Evaluation Program way back in the mid 00s when I worked in the Department of Family Medicine, UNC School of Medicine as a research assistant. I doubt I will ever have such a dynamic and fun group of friends at work. We stay in touch a few times a year and I love them all SO MUCH!
  8. My imagination and creativity. These are my two greatest natural gifts. Because of my imagination and creativity, I am never at a loss when writing a story. In fact, I often have too many stories to write, and then have to choose which ones to write and which ones to let go. As a first world problem, I’ll take it!
  9. My mentors. There are some people in this world, such as Dr. Al Forsyth and his wife Peggy, and Dr. Adam O. Goldstein, who believe in me no matter. They’ve each contributed their own way to the person I am today.
  10. My improving sleep. Friends, I am cautiously optimistic in telling you that my narcolepsy medicine is working. I am no longer waking up every morning experiencing post-traumatic stress from my dreams. I no longer need a nap at 8:30am and again at 4:00pm. I am not heading straight to the couch after I wake up. I feel so different these mornings as of late, that sometimes I don’t even know what to do with myself.

As I was writing this list, I realized that Top 10 is too limiting. I immediately wanted to make it a Top 20, then Top 50. For brevity’s sake, I’ll stop here. Kinda. Because now I’m going to give a few honorable mentions: My niece, who is brilliant and creative, my writing group, who is AWESOME, the Norfolk Library, who provides AMAZING health insurance even though I only work part-time, my productivity club, where we provide unconditional support to each other, Ruth, who reads my blog regularly and is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, Dottie, who gives the best hugs in Norfolk, and Jeannine and Jeff, who continue to make me laugh.

There are so many more people and things I could list. I’m really going to stop now. At least for now.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

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Cool Winter Blues

Our daylight hours are dwindling. With the shortest day of the year only two weeks away, here in Norfolk we’re down to about 9 hours of daylight each day.

That’s a lot of darkness we’re up against.

On the other hand, it means that when I walk Dodger on Sundays, I get to see some spectacular light displays shining through the tree branches in the Barbour Woods.

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Cool Winter Blues 23

I know winter is not the favorite season for most people. I think I’m in the minority as it’s my favorite season.

At least, I’m pretty sure it’s my favorite season. I do enjoy the leaves changing in fall and the promise of new life and growth in spring. And then we have those long summer days.

Maybe my favorite season is the one I’m currently experiencing?

Anyway, I do love winter. I especially love being outside when it’s sunny and cold. With the proper equipment and clothes, the experience can be wonderful.

On my walk with Dodger this afternoon, the light cast a gentle blue tint over the woods.

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It’s magical, don’t you think?

And let’s be honest — Dodger is once handsome devil!

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Feeling grateful to have this experience with one of my favorite dogs! At the same time, the experience is blue in other ways. Much like I wrote about when the leaves were changing color a few weeks ago, I can’t help but think of my Dad and how he didn’t know it was his last fall in 2019, just like he didn’t know it would be his last chance to see snow fall last winter. I suppose this cycle of “lasts” will continue as I work through my grief.

The only way forward is through. It’s not easy. It’s certainly not quick. But it is good. I think I’m starting to understand the expression good grief. 

Thank goodness I have such a wonderful support system in place, with includes Heath, and Cecily and Dodger here in Norfolk.

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Speaking of them, I managed to coax Heath and Cecily into participating in an Advent wreath lighting for UCC Norfolk’s online service this Sunday. You can catch us around the 11-minute mark. Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1308360392861281

I hope you all have a wonderful week. Maybe it be blue in the very best ways!

 

We All Fall Down 27

We All Fall Down

This past week, I had to cover the Circulation Desk for the afternoon hours at the library. So, I didn’t get my usual dog/nature fix with Annie on our bi-weekly afternoon romps in the woods.

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Annie!

Thank Dogness, I also have this guy in my life:

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Dodger!

Just like Annie, Dodger is a spirited dog with lots of heart and personality. His sassiness level is several notches above Annie, whom I’m convinced is an actual angel in a dog costume. As such, instead of nicknames like Annie Banannie, Dodger gets nicknames like Bossy Britches and Sassafrass.

Nevertheless, I LOVE him. I’m also grateful I had an excuse to be out in the woods this last week as fall lives up to its name and our trees are starting to get a little bare.

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That’s not the case everywhere here, as evidenced by this glorious tree I came upon on Saturday while driving back from Oblong Books in Millerton, New York.

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When I see this kind of overwhelming beauty these days, a sense of sadness wells up in my heart and spills out as tears. It’s the same sadness that takes over me when I watch leaves swirl through the air, then tumble to the ground for their final resting place.

I can’t help but think about how last fall, my dad didn’t know that would be the last time in his life that he would get to see the leaves change to their ultimate glory. He didn’t know it would be his last Halloween. No more eating the stash of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups my mom started buying in September, just to make sure she had enough. He would never again get to wish my niece or mom a happy birthday.

He didn’t know.

Most of us don’t.

So on this cold and chilly fall day in Norfolk, I take a few moments to Thank God that I’m still here. I Thank God that I get to watch the leaves light up my drive to and from work and brighten my already delightful time in the woods with Annie and Dodger. I Thank God for my loving and supportive husband and my family and friends.

Thank you, God.

Thank you, God.

Thank you, God!

And thank you Dogs, too!

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Happy Birthday to Me, Happy Birthday to My Blog

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Yesterday I turned 43 and this blog turned 4. The amount of joy I feel on any given birthday can be hit or miss.

I’ve celebrated some birthdays in the most wonderful ways, surrounded by friends or family.

Four years ago, on the day this blog was born (and my first birthday married), Heath surprised me with the one thing I asked for: a birthday party with the animals wearing party hats. We were housesitting in Johnsonville, NY, for the summer and the animals included dogs, cats, and goats.

Only the dogs wore actual hats to the party. The cats and goats smiled for Heath’s camera and then Heath photoshopped the appropriate party wear onto those pictures.

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Happy Birthday to Me, Happy Birthday to My Blog 35

Other years, particularly my first few in Illinois, I spent my birthday alone. On those birthdays, I sat alone on my couch. An occasional text or phone call would come in. Sometimes, I responded and sometimes I didn’t. Because in those times of loneliness it can be hard to accept long-distance birthday wishes when all you want is someone right there next to you.

This birthday, I am not alone. I am with my mom and brother. They made my favorite cake – butterscotch!

 

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Heath showered me with treats on Thursday night before I drove to Pennsylvania on Friday, including surprising me with vegan bacon cheesy fries from Arles & Boggs, my favorite restaurant, located in Wallingford, CT. Wallingford is 65-miles one way from Norfolk, so this was quite the commitment from Heath. He then made a trip to Dee’s One Smart Cookie, an allergen-free bakery in Glastonbury, to get me gluten-free chocolate chip sandwich cookies. They’re a favorite sweet indulgence of mine and I enjoyed every bite of them.

I also received multiple birthday cards in the mail. Dozens of social media birthday greetings and text messages blew up my phone. I spoke with friends and family on the phone, some for over an hour. It was a perfect birthday.

And, yet … this birthday of mine has been underscored with sadness. On July 19th, my father died of complications from Guillain-Barre syndrome. Then, on July 23rd, Smudge had to be unexpectedly put down. It is a lot of loss and grief to experience, especially during a time of pandemic when there is already so much stress and uncertainty bubbling around us.

This birthday is an excellent example of the duality of life in which my therapist has been working with me over the past few weeks. Yes, it was a perfect birthday. Yes, I feel sad. Both can be true.

I don’t really have much more to say right now.

Thank you to everyone who made this is a perfect birthday.

Dad, I love you!

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Smudge, I love you, too!

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Celebrating Father’s Day 2020

Celebrating Father's Day 2020 39

I wrote a celebratory Father’s Day post in 2018. You can read it here.

This year is quite different. It’s hard to celebrate when there’s so much trauma and uncertainty in the world. It’s especially difficult for me because my dad is currently in the hospital for what appears to be normal pressure hydrocephalus. We don’t know for sure and we’re in the wait and see phase.

All the spiritual and psychological work I’ve done in the past five years suggests the following:

  • Allow myself to feel any and all feelings that come up
  • Practice gratitude, if you can, during these difficult times

Since I don’t really know what feelings I’m feeling and it’s a rickety roller coaster of an experience – and to be clear I’m talking about the 5 tickets to ride take your life in your own hands carnival type roller coaster and not the aerodynamic engineering feats at theme parks – I’m going to let that first bullet point just be.

Although, I am grateful that I recently started seeing a therapist again to help me process some of the other emotions I’ve been experiencing this last year.

Ironically, I didn’t even force myself to write that previous sentence. It just popped up in my stream of consciousness, so I guess that’s why spiritual masters often preach of the benefits of practicing gratitude.

Even when you don’t want to or don’t think you’re ready to feel grateful, it comes out anyway.

Since my heart still isn’t really into this blog post, I’m going to leave you with the best thing (so far) to happen to me today. It happened during my morning mindfulness walk. I heard some scritch scratch sounds behind me, turned around, and spotted this little critter waddling down the middle of the road.

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You can watch the full 42-second video of our encounter here.

Despite having made a promise to myself that I would not whip out my phone to take pictures during my mindfulness walks in the morning, I have now epically failed two mornings in a row.

Yesterday, this little chipmunk pretty much begged me to take their picture with this stunning display of adorableness.

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And, today, well … who can resist a porcupine?

Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there and all the women and men who serve as a father capacity in someone’s life. Thank you for all you do, all you are, and all you strive to be.

If you are a person of prayer, please say a prayer for my parents. For my dad for healing and for my mom for strength as his caregiver. Thank you.

Happy Birthday to Me! And My Blog!

Happy Birthday to Me! And My Blog! 42

Photo by Delaney Dawson on Unsplash

Today I turn 41 years old, and today my blog turns 2.

These last two years have been the best of my life! That’s not a coincidence. Nor is it luck, magic, or random chance.

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Anyone who reads my blog on a regular basis knows I value mindfulness. I’m a big believer in taking stock of my life on a regular basis and checking in to see how I’m doing.

I also believe in God. When I say God, I do NOT mean I believe there is a some man with a long white beard and a gold letter G on a white robe hanging out in heaven with a score card keeping track of my every move.

Because I was made in God’s image … and I don’t look like that! Neither do approximately 7.5 billion people on this planet.

Although, my good friend, Lem, does so maybe that what’s God looks like to him.

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To me, God is the Divine Source of energy or Spirit, that connects us all to each other and to the universe. The holiest Holy Spirit that resides and dwells in each one of us. Both male and female.

I can’t take credit for that idea. I learned it from Father Don McLaughlin at St. Thomas the Apostle in Naperville, IL. On Mother’s Day 2013, I sat in a church pew mesmerized as Father Don discussed God as loving Father AND Mother and how the feminine is nearly forgotten in the church today.

Now that was an idea I could get behind.

In fact, when I now pray to God I pray to my Loving Father/Mother God. So my Our Father prayer begins with Our Father, Mother, Spirit Who Art in Heaven.

This realization that God is Mother and Father to us all and we are all a part of God is why I care about girls receiving an education in Burkina Faso, children being separated from their parents at the US borders, and polar bears losing their habitat in the Arctic.

Because I am them and they are me. The only difference between us is that for the Grace of the God, I ended up being born to the parents I did. 

So when I take stock of my life on a regular basis, it’s to make sure I’m on the right path. The one that God intended for me, and the one in which I am an active participant and creator.

Two years ago for my birthday, my best friend Arlene sent me a beautiful card in which she hand-wrote a prayer for me. It’s from Matthew Kelly, founder of the Dynamic Catholic movement.

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Prayer by Matthew Kelly. Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

I’ve been saying this prayer every day before I start my morning meditation for two years now.

Even when I added Rumi’s Prayer of the Chalice to the start of my meditation practice because I wanted to keep the practice fresh, I still found myself saying the one Arlene sent.

It’s not like you can go wrong with TWO prayers.

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I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that these past two years have been the best of my life. My life is God AND Kelly willing, and I choose for it to be this way with love and guidance from God.

So on my 41st birthday, I say thank you to God for showing me where I need to be in my life and what I need to be doing, especially these last two years.

These last two years brought me to Norfolk and gave me more dogs to love than I could possibly imagine, friends that keep my spirit up when life gets me down, a community that makes me a better person, writing that makes me proud and takes me one step further towards my goal of published author, visits with family near and far, travels to new and wondrous places, and time with my husband to love and laugh and love and laugh some more.

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There has also been loss; of course there has! This is life, after all, and that comes with being here. But through the love around me and which dwells in me through God, I am able to accept it and channel it into making me a better version of myself.

Thank you also to everyone who reads my blog and supports me on my journey. I couldn’t live this life without you either.

 

Happy Father’s Day

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Happy Father’s Day to my Dad!

I’ve been thinking a lot about my Dad, lately, and parents in general, as I see more and more news stories about immigrant children being taken from their parents while coming into the United States. These stories make me wonder how I was lucky enough to be born into my family.

My father is a retired physician; his specialty was internal medicine. When my father went to medical school, his textbooks cost more than his tuition each semester. His father, I believe, was an engineer, who traveled the world as part of his job, and his mother was a nurse.

When he was in high school, my Dad read the book Arrowhead by Sinclair Lewis. The story is about a man, Martin Arrowhead, who is from the Midwest and who becomes a doctor. This story was one of the motivating reasons my Dad wanted to go to medical school.

For many years, my Dad worked 14+ hours days, multiple days in a row. When he was on call at the hospital, our phone would ring all hours of the night. I’ve overhead phone conversations where he’s had to tell family members that a loved one has died.

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Because of my Dad’s hard work, I had the privilege of attending private nursery school, private grade school, and private high school. Reading was the #1 activity of my childhood and almost any book I ever wanted at Waldenbooks was mine to be read. Stacks and stacks of books filled my bedroom and kept me company during childhood.

I spent summers going to horseback riding camp and Disney World. We traveled to Bar Harbor, Maine, and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for vacations.

Every opportunity was afforded me as a child. I wanted for nothing. I’ve never had to know what it’s like to be hungry or wear second-hand clothing or have to worry about how a bill was going to be paid or what would happen if someone in my family became sick.

When I turned 18, I then attended college without having to take on any student debt. My summers were filled with working at a bank in downtown Harrisburg auditing mortgage loans for $6.25 an hour – this was $2.00 above minimum wage at the time.

I also got to experience international travel for the first time, as I spent not just one summer studying abroad at Oxford, but two. The programs lasted three weeks each and part of me didn’t want to come home because there was so much to see and do.

In 1999, I graduated from college with a 3.93 GPA (magna cum laude), named an outstanding senior psychology major, and earned honors in the psychology program. I had already been awarded a small research grant for my psychology honors thesis and this research had been presented at the American Psychological Association’s national conference in Boston that year.

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After graduating from college, I landed a full-ride at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill to pursue a doctorate in psychology. Again, I graduated with zero student debt, a university award, and the opportunity to present my research at conferences and through publication.

I immediately landed a tenure-track position as an assistant professor of psychology at a suburban Chicago University.

I continued achieving milestone after milestone in my career – professional development grants, publications in peer-reviewed journals, and presentations at national conferences. These achievements lead to promotions and raises. The university had a 7% matching program for my retirement account. I took full advantage of it. That money got added into my already growing retirement accounts that my father started for me after my first job working at Hersheypark when I was 15.

Let’s not forget my paid sabbatical for the fall 2014-spring 2015 academic year. I know full well how lucky I am to have been given nine months of time to consider my career and the changes I wanted to make. It was during my sabbatical that I realized I wanted more in my life, to pursue the other dreams I’d had, the ones that started in childhood that never got fulfilled.

And that’s exactly what I’m doing now.

Everything about my life has been an absolute privilege because of who my Dad was and how hard he worked.

Because of his hard work and sacrifices, I am now able to lead a life that is centered on creativity, imagination, kindness, compassion, and generosity. I do not have to worry about basic security needs and I never will.

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So when I read stories about parents wanting a better life for their child and coming into the United States, I understand. I will not judge them for doing something “illegal” because some laws are arbitrarily created and not rooted in equality and justice but are more based on fear and lack and limitation. If you want an excellent example of this, look no further than Jesus Christ, whose own family had to seek refuge in Egypt when he was born because living in Judea was not safe at the time.

My Dad raised me to believe the messages of Jesus Christ and Jesus was quite clear in what he considered his greatest commandment: Love one another as I have loved you.

Every child deserves the same privileges and gifts I received from my Dad’s love. My Dad gave up years of his life working so I could be taken care of. And I was.

That doesn’t make me special, though, just because of who my Dad is and how hard he worked and how much he loved me. Some Dads work just hard and love their children just as much but will never be able to achieve the same kind of security that I grew up with.

Imagine what kind of world we would have if everyone could share their gifts instead of having to worry about where their next meal is coming from. That’s the life my Dad created for me and it’s one I now want to create for others in the world.

So I’m now doing that the best way I know how, the one that brings me the most joy – taking care of animals, loving my husband, and writing stories. On face value, these choices may not seem like the most proactive in terms of working for peace and social justice. Yet, I think of Gandhi’s words of “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

I’ve written about Gandhi’s words before, but today, on Father’s Day, and on a day when some fathers and mothers are being separated from their children, these words seem much more alive to me than ever before.

Thank you, Dad, so much for everything you’ve done for me. I am trying to make the world a better place because of you and be that change I want to see. I love you!

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Happy Mother’s Day!

My Mom doesn’t like having her picture taken, so I didn’t have that many photos from which to choose. I’m also pretty sure she’s only going to be okay with having a picture posted on my blog at all, so I chose one that also features several of my family members so she can blend in better.

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The above picture is maybe 18 years old and a lot has changed in that time except for one thing: My Mom continues to be a generous person.

I think my favorite example is that she took in my dogs, Limit and Jack, not once, but twice in their lifetimes.

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I adopted Limit and Jack in 2002. Limit came with an age guesstimate of 7-9 years old. From the story I was told, a woman out in the country in North Carolina took in whatever stray dog wandered up to her door. When that dog turned out be Limit, he was dog #8 and so the woman said, “Enough! This dog is the limit.”

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But Limit wasn’t the limit because none of the dogs were spayed or neutered. So Limit begat Jack and a sister, who unfortunately got hit by a car at some indeterminate length of time before they came to live with me (allegedly).

The woman ended up being evicted from her rental home and she abandoned her dogs; Limit and Jack had been locked in the house and were found by a kind neighbor. It looked like they had survived by drinking out of the toilets. They were both brought to me because at that time I volunteered as a foster mom for Independent Animal Rescue.

Within a few weeks I fell in love with both Limit and Jack and officially adopted them. But then, in the fall of 2006, Limit began struggling to walk up the stairs to my second-floor apartment. One day he collapsed going up the stairs and fell the whole way down.

I didn’t know what to do, so I called my Mom. She checked with my father to make sure her plan was okay and then she drove from Harrisburg, PA, to Chapel Hill, NC, to pick them up and move them to Harrisburg. Limit could live quite comfortably in their house since they had two floors.

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And he did. So did Jack. They stayed with my parents until August, 2007, when I graduated from my doctoral program at UNC. We all moved together to the Chicago suburbs so I could start my tenure-track position as an assistant professor of psychology.

In 2009, we lost Limit to a tumor on his spleen. It ruptured and through the grace of God I was able to lift Limit up and put him in the back seat of my car. I got him to the vet in time so he didn’t have to suffer too much.

Jack and I stayed together until January of 2013.

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He had started showing signs of dementia a few months earlier. Because I lived alone and worked long hours, Jack had become a danger to himself with the things he started eating in the house. He also started to confuse night and day and would continually wake me up in the middle of the night for walks.

As someone who has narcolepsy, this was dangerous for me. I once fell asleep walking him and when I woke up I had no idea where we walked to. It was after 3:00am.  I did not have a smart phone and honestly I didn’t know who to call with the regular old cell phone I had. What would I say? “I don’t know where I am. Come find me?”

I eventually found our way home.

Jack’s dementia got worse. Again, not knowing what to do, I called my Mom. The next day, she drove 10 hours from Harrisburg to Naperville, IL. She packed up Jack and his belongings and the next day drove back to Harrisburg. Of course, I missed him terribly; I still do, both of them. But with my Mom now taking care of Jack I knew he would be in good hands.

Jack managed to live another 14 months with my Mom, Dad, and brother in Harrisburg. He remained happy the entire time. In January, 2014, he developed Lymphoma. He lasted until March. On my spring break, I made it home just in time. We’re all pretty sure he waited for me.

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Then my Mom gave me one of the greatest gifts of all. She paid to have a vet come to the house so Jack could die in my arms.

I will never be able to say thank you enough to my Mom for all she has done for me. Taking care of Limit and Jack when I couldn’t is just one example. There are hundreds more.

Thank you, Mom, for being so kind, selfless, and generous. I love you.