Family and Pets

It’s the Little Things

My son is my hero. Truly,  he is. On Valentine’s Day I gave him a card that I made for him. He seemed surprised at what it said on the front. Around the heart I had written, You stole my heart the day you were born. Don’t get me wrong, I love my husband very, very much. He is the man, the husband, the partner I always dreamed of and prayed for. The one that would fulfill on earth what many did not think was possible. But that is another story for another day.

The day my daughter was born more than 25 years ago, she wrapped her little fingers around my hand and my heart. She was and will always be my first treasure. Her papa always called her Beansy (accept for that time period that he called her, rightfully so, Bossy Cow). She was our little beansy. Born weighing in at only 5 lbs and 10 ounces, she was small from the get go. And yet, her body, mind, and determination were strong. My little girl has grown up to be an amazingly strong woman who is and will do great things in this world for so many people.

With a daughter like that and a husband like Tom, the only thing my heart could want was a little boy. One with red hair, a few curls and fire that goes along with the hair would be icing on the cake. When Tom and I decided to ‘try’ to have a baby we had no idea if we could. For one Tom was nearly 45 years old and had never fathered a child. I, at 34 years old, although I had carried and birthed a child it had been over 15 years. In many cases with a gap that large a woman’s body decides it is no longer going to carry children. Imagine my joy when we found out I was pregnant, then when we found out it was going to be a boy, and then when he came out with red curly hair! My cup runneth over. His red hair and fiery personality are equally wonderful and at times frustrating. And yet, I find myself smiling more often than I am cringing.

If you know me well, and don’t be surprised if you find yourself saying- ‘I didn’t know that’, you know that I am not a lover of things. One of my mottos I find myself living  by is, A place for everything and everything in its place. It is something within me more so than something I strive for. Honestly if there isn’t a place for it I find myself instinctively wanting to get rid of it. Clutter confuses me and makes it difficult for me to feel as though I can function at my best. That said, there are some things that I truly treasure. Not only things that have a purpose (although that is huge for me) but things that have a story.

Last evening I found myself in front of the mirror in my bathroom doing what I do every night. Taking my breast cancer pill, allergy medicine and my calcium. I took my glasses off and prepared to remove the one of only two make-up items that I wear daily,  my mascara. As I looked into the mirror my heart sank. One of my earrings was gone. I had an earring in my right ear but not my left. I took the one out of my ear and found myself leaning to toss it in the trash. The thought that I might actually find the one that was lost did not seem possible to me. They are small and I had been so many places that day where I may have lost it. In fact, my next thought was that my puppy may have actually eaten it! The earring was in the ear that he always kisses, nuzzles and lightly chews on. More than once I have had a fleeting thought about this very possibility. I waved it off as I went about my tasks at hand. Rather than toss the one earring though I put it in my jewelry tray next to my sink where I put my wedding rings every night.

This morning after doing this, that and the other, the earring came to mind. I went upstairs and grabbed the one that remained. Bringing it downstairs I showed it to Michael and said, “If by chance you see an earring that looks like this somewhere in the house please pick it up. I lost one of them. They are special. I wear them a lot. I shared with him who gave them to me and when, making them all the more special. Michael immediately asked where I thought it might be. I could see the genuine concern on his sweet 8 year old face as his brow furrowed. He asked about all the places I had been where it may have fallen out and even contemplated the puppy eating it. I had been through the house, alongside the house, in the yard playing with Bailey and had walked home from the pet store in the dark. It could have fallen just about anywhere. I told him it was highly unlikely that we would find it but I wanted him to know just in case. Without a moment of hesitation Michael began walking around the kitchen and entry way. Suddenly he said, “Come on mom let’s go outside. Get your shoes!”

I hesitated. I didn’t want to discourage him or stifle his enthusiasm to help find my earring, and yet I highly doubted if it were lost outside that we would find it. I grabbed the puppy and clipped on his leash. He needed to go out to go potty anyway. As we headed to the side of the house I casually looked on the ground here and there. I hoped I would see it and could shout to Michael. I so wanted his efforts to be rewarded. I didn’t see it. I took puppy through the gate step by step losing what little hope I had. Michael was down in the yard looking through the grass. Having gone a different way out than dog and I. He let me know he didn’t see it anywhere. Wanting to let him off the hook, I told him it was okay and that I didn’t expect us to find it. Hearing the defeat in my voice, Michael ran up to the side of the house where I take puppy to go potty. I called after him that I had already walked through there and checked. He walked all the way up to the gate and stopped, bent down and then shouted as he sprang to his feet, “I found it mommy! I found it!”

I couldn’t believe it. It couldn’t possibly be. Seriously? Could he really have found it? He is known for teasing as he calls it. Thinking he is quite funny when he does it. Not lying, just teasing. Michael was so excited. He leaned down to the ground again as though he were picking an item up. Quickly he turned and dashed toward me with the biggest smile on his face. As he came closer, his arm out stretched I could in fact see a small shiny object pinched between his thumb and pointer finger. I could hardly believe my eyes. There in my son’s hand was the little blue and silver earring that I had lost yesterday. The very earring that matched the one that I had almost tossed out thinking it was nothing more than an orphan earring with a mate that would never be found. The earrings were a gift from a sweet friend, Elizabeth Krout. I admire her as a woman, friend, nurse and mother. Elizabeth gave me these earrings at my 40th ‘Red Carpet’ birthday party over 3 years ago. An evening I will never forget that was filled with love, laughter and friends. I would describe it as the second most perfect celebration in my life. The first being mine and Tom’s wedding. Both events having been held at our home. The earrings are small and simple, and yet they hold the weight of the memories of that special night. They mean so much to me.

Michael handed me the earring. As I held it in my hand my heart was overwhelmed. I wrapped my arms around my son and he in turn wrapped his arms around me. We hugged each other tight, so tight. Michael knew beyond a doubt that I appreciated his efforts to help me find this little earring. We lingered in our hug as I whispered in his ear telling me how happy and thankful I was for what he had done for me. It’s the little things. A little earring. A little time out of my son’s Saturday looking for my lost earring. Even if he hadn’t found it, I would have felt the love he extended to me while he searched all around inside and out for my treasure. Oddly, I believe that he was convinced the entire time that he would in fact find my earring

Family and Pets

Under the Quilt of Love

My childhood memories are few and far between . I have a small selection of snapshots of memories, mostly ones of pain and suffering that my father put our family through. Some are literally a photo that has been shared with me and a story to go along with it. I do not recall the memory but can hold on to the story that connects with the photo. Most of my life is stored away in a vault in the deep recess of my mind. Coping mechanism, that is what my therapist calls it. That is not to say that my entire childhood was bad. I know that those close to me who lived in the same houshold would likely cry out, “How can you say this? How can you not recall the good times we had?” My response would be, I don’t know. I can’t explain why the good is locked away and only the bad, the pain stands out strong. I believe it has something to do with the fact that I am that person. The one that calls out the pink elephant in the room when all around stand quietly by, looking the other way or whispering to someone next to them. I am the one who stops the couple in the park when a teenage boy is verbally assaulting a teenage girl. I am the one that cries out when a young girl is being taught at a very vulnerable time in her life that anger, manipualtion and control are somehow not abuse. Maybe that has something to do with why certain memories stay strong when so many others, good and I know more bad ones too, stay locked away in the vault.

There is one part of my childhood that remains very clear to me. I can vividly see many moments, the seemingly endless hours I spent at my grandma’s house. My safe haven. I don’t know if I called it that as a child. I don’t even know if I knew that is what it was. I just know that I went there whenever I possibly could. One of my favorite memories at Grandma Ruthruff’s house was not a one time event. It was a regular occurrence. Often times when I hopped off of the school bus at the end the day, I would bounce into the house only to drop my backpack and holler, “I’m going to grandma’s house!”

I would run down the street and around the corner to her home. We lived in the same neighborhood just about 10 houses or so apart. Lifting the latch of the chain link fence gate, I would step into her front yard and look to the front door. More often than not the door would be open with the screen door closed. Making sure to latch the gate tight behind me so the dog would not get out, I would rush across the lawn. Leaping over the stump in the middle of the grass from a tree long since cut down, I  reached the screen door in a flash. As I opened the door I would hear my grandma call, “I’m in the kitchen.” No doubt, my mom had called her to say I was on my way. Or maybe she just had a feeling I was coming.

I couldn’t reach her quickly as the entire living room was blocked. A giant obstacle stood between me and the woman who I loved the most, the one that I knew loved me beyond what any child could hope for. There in front of me lay a piece of our family history and one that many of us would cherish for a lifetime. Definitely one that I would never forget, even long after my material memory of it had been thrown in the dumpster by the one person who destroyed nearly everything that I loved and cherished. A framing block, for all I know hand-made, filled the entire space of the front room. The frame was nose to nose with the Davenport, which is what my grandma called her couch, at the one end opposite the TV at the other, from the front window and door all the way to the other side of the room where the my grandma’s rocking chair sat by the telephone (near the kitchen). On the frame was a lovely queen size quilt that my grandma had pieced together herself. First she cut the block pieces, next she pinned the pieces together, then she sewed the pieces together to make squares, then she made rows of the squares that would be sewn in strips., that were finally sewn into a giant quilt. It was a lot of work! Grandma was set to tie this quilt off. She would tie each yarn knot by hand. Most likely with a prayer said while doing so.

I crawled under the frame on my belly army style, until I reached the edge by the kitchen. When I stood up, I saw her. My grandma, standing in the kitchen in her house coat and slippers. We used to call her dresses moo-moos. Or maybe she called them that. Shapeless dresses made of the most simple cotton you could imagine. Nothing fancy, nothing special. Simple, practical, easy to care for. Her grey and frizzy permed hair all a muss, a smile spread across her face as she said, “Come and give grandma a kiss.” Every time I saw my grandma Ruthruff up until the final time I saw her before she died she said the exact same thing, “Come and give grandma a kiss.” She got a kiss and I got a hug. A grandma hug. She would wrap her soft and squishy arms around my entire body and pull me in close to her. Not so tight as to hurt, crush or stifle you, but tight enough that I could think of nothing else but the endless unconditional love she had for me.

There on the cutting board that extended from underneath her kitchen counter, were graham crackers, an orange ceramic bowl of homemade frosting and the box of food coloring sitting next to it. She had waited for me to choose the color for the frosting. I chose yellow. Sometimes she got out some flavorings, lemon and pineapple, and I got choose a flavor too. With the coloring added grandma would spread a generous amount of frosting between two graham crackers. Snack in hand I headed back to the living room. I would carefully crawl under the quilt on the framing blocks, turn on the TV to the PBS After School Special and enjoy my treat. Grandma would go back to tie-ing off the quilt all the while humming one song or another. Songs that she often sang to me while rocking me in the rocking chair when I spent the night on a Friday or Saturday night.

The sweet sound of her voice, the lull of the TV, the loving quilt above me and my home-made snack of graham crackers and frosting. It was all a little girl needed.

Writing For The Moment



frightening and disturbing
paralyzed by the silence
overwhelmed by the thoughts that race around in my head


His voice
never ending
constantly condemning
never approving


Alone, afraid of the emptiness
not knowing what I wanted
what I needed
no one there to tell me what to do, what to think, how to feel


Fast forward
the hustle and bustle of a busy life
the laughter and joy that surrounds me
friends here, there and everywhere

Longing for
just a little bit
even If only for a moment

Writing For The Moment

Let Them Freely Say

Yesterday as I drove to a puppy play date I heard my 8 year old son say from the back seat say, “Mommy, I’m glad that we are known as the freedom country.”

I do not recall being into politics when I was a kid. I do not recall having thoughts or opinions on the President or things happening in the world. Maybe I did but just didn’t voice them or maybe my family didn’t sit and talk about things of the world. Maybe we were too lost in the turbulent ocean of our own problems to be aware of what was going on in the world outside our home.

I told Michael I was glad too. I asked him to tell me more. He said, “Mom, we watched a video in class about immigrants. One man in Japan filled out paperwork and waited 9 years to get to come to America. 9 Years! My teacher said her mom, I think it is her mom, is stuck in Mexico because of what Trump has done and can’t come to America right now. You told me about people in India and how there are really rich people and really poor people. In the video we watched we saw poor people in Kenya eat cakes made of dirt and oil or water. They eat them so their stomachs feel full when they are so hungry. Mom, people want to come to America to have a better life! What does it mean when Trump says he’s going to build a wall between us and Mexico? Where will he build it? What will happen if people try to climb over it?”

We talked for a very long time. My son had a lot to say. He wrote an article for a newspaper he started that he plans to sell at school. He has several other kids writing about topics of interest to them or drawing pictures. His article is about the Freedom Country.

I was impressed by his knowledge and thoughts.

I was humbled by his compassion for others.

I was emboldened by his bravery to speak about it to his peers.




Writing For The Moment

Bailey, Guardian Protector

My heart was caught when I saw his blue eyes. Hook, line and sinker. I didn’t know I wanted a dog with blue eyes. A few years ago I didn’t know I wanted a dog at all.

During my year of cancer (2016), 2 kinds, 4 surgeries, 12 rounds of chemo, 22 rounds of Herceptin with a few more to go in 2017, something began to stir within me. I can only relate it to a woman who suddenly finds herself longing for one more child. The emotional tug for little one to hold, to depend upon her for sustenance, for love, for protection. Quite easily she down plays the 9 months of pregnancy – the pounds she will gain. Never mind the labor pains and the fear that will encompass her very being that childbirth will bring on. Forget the sleepless nights, the painful nursing and never mind potty training. All of that seems so small compared to the great love a new family member would bring. No, I didn’t want another child, another human being. I wanted a dog. An endlessly devoted companion that would love me, shadow me, be with me.

My husband thought I was crazy when I brought it up. Still does actually. I left it alone for a while – secretly researching breeds, puppy vs mature dog, family friendly options, hypoallergenic breeds, and training info. I became a wealth of knowledge. I was gearing up for battle. The next time I brought up the idea of a dog to my husband I was prepared. I had an answer for every question. An informed, intelligent answer. He was impressed but not persuaded.

I felt his resolve weakening – just a little. I decided to leak the idea to the kids. I needed to beef up the army and weight my side of the debate. My husband kept quiet. Contemplatively listening as the kids got excited and discussed names and where the dog would sleep. I mentioned the idea to a few close friends when my husband was in ear shot. His voice although silent was loud in my ears. He didn’t say no, but he didn’t say yes either. Finally a friend asked him point-blank, “So, you’re getting a dog?” My husband responded, “I know when a battle is lost.” I knew I was getting a dog. I began to prepare. I gathered more information, puppy supplies, put a puppy on hold with the breeder and asked more questions. The kids and I were getting quite excited.

About a week before getting our dog I found myself in a slight panic. What was I doing? I love my sleep. Cherish it actually. I hate (and I do not use that word lightly), hate getting up in the middle of the night or early in the morning. I naturally wake up around 7:15 AM in the darker months and 6:30 to 6:45 AM in the sunnier months. I NEVER set an alarm unless I am going on vacation. Seriously. My son has woken me up when I slept longer than him and he needed to get ready for school. How is that for honesty? I like to naturally wake up. I know that sounds spoiled, Or you could call it privileged. I have been blessed with the opportunity to not have to wake up to an alarm clock for the better part of about 12 years actually. That’s not to say I do not work, I do. My appointments typically aren’t before 10:00 AM. On the rare occasion that they are earlier I either have my husband wake me up or somehow my body wakes up knowing it is time to get up. Phew! Bunny trail sort of…. I began to think through the fact that this puppy would not sleep through the night (initially), would need to go out side day and night, rain or shine (or snow in the case of this winter). And I would be the one responsible for this event, each and every time. I had promised my husband that this was my deal. If we got a puppy it was all on me. What was I thinking?!?!? I, like the woman wanting one more baby, was willing to look past what I hoped would be a  temporary period of painful wake ups in the middle of the night, as well as the not as temporary frustration of potty training an infant (dog) and set my eyes on the prize of the joy and happiness a dog would bring our family. And yet, in these final moments I began to question my ability to in fact make it all work.

A few days before I drove the nearly two hours to Bellingham to bring home our puppy, I made a name plate for his kennel.

Bailey – Guardian Protector
Psalm 121:7
“He will watch over your life.”

While making the name plate it all came together for me. I wanted Bailey – a dog, a loyal companion that would guard and protect my family and I. I wanted a family dog. Something that I have never had. I knew it would bring chaos to our lives  for a while and change how we do things going forward. But amidst the chaos and beyond I think we will build a lot of amazing memories going forward – post cancer.