April 10, 2015

One Perfect Day

Do you ever have one of those days that just feels like one for the record books, in a good way? It's not like anything particularly monumental happened, but then again, maybe it did. 

Good Friday was just such a day for me. 

It started with a breakfast date with one of my dearest friends. What is it about feeling heard AND understood by someone that just makes life better? If you have someone who listens to you and gets you, you're pretty lucky. I definitely am. 

Then it was on to my hometown, where the beau and I had lunch with an old friend who is performing part of our marriage ceremony. Some of the time was spent catching up, and some was spent just chatting about marriage in general and what it all means. It's nice to be able to connect with someone who knew you at age 14 and still loves you in spite of it! 

Later, I got a wonderful visit from the mother of my preschool bestie. My friend lives in California now, but I've remained close with his family through the years and it was such a treat to visit with his mom and catch up. We have a lot of common interests and having an uninterrupted hour to discuss them was heavenly. 

Then it was off to the hairdresser for a trial run of my wedding day hair-do. I have to admit, this was the first time I've ever had my hair professionally styled....I wasn't sure what to expect. But the stylist came highly recommended and the entire experience was great. We settled on a style that I really liked and I got more comfortable with the whole veil scenario (which is kind of awkward the first time). 

Then my mom (who I rarely get to spend quality time with) and I hung out for a bit and ended up attending a dance recital for my other bff's 8 year old daughter. 

As she took the stage for the first time, I thought about the day she was born. My friend had invited me to be in the delivery room and it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. New life coming into the world. Somebody who just moments before hadn't been part of your reality, and then poof, there they are. As I watched her little personality shine on stage, my eyes filled up with tears. I squeezed my friend's hand to let her know just what a special moment this was.  

I thought about how it hadn't been that long ago we were just silly teenagers in high school. So much of the past 15 years has been a blur, from graduating high school to college and my twenties. Maybe it's because I'm getting married or maybe it's because I'm approaching my mid-thirties but I feel like I've hit a big wall in some ways. Like I finally realize life is just about the people who matter to us. And I don't want to miss anything important in the lives of those folks who are important to me. 

Is this normal? Do other people figure this out much earlier and I'm just a late bloomer? You don't have to answer...these are just hypothetical questions. However, if you have any wisdom to impart, please feel free to share! 

Have you ever had a day like this? When all things point you towards a feeling of wholeness and you are convinced you could die happy right there on the spot? 

April 9, 2015

Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day - Easy Projects for the Family to Enjoy Together

Earth Day takes place each year on April 22. Whether you consider yourself to be environmentally conscious or not, Earth Day matters. We all share this beautiful planet. Why not take some time to really appreciate and celebrate it?

If you'd like to celebrate Earth Day this year, here are three simple ideas that you might enjoy making with your family.

Citrus Bird Feeders 

I ran across this idea here and thought my backyard birds would probably love it....was I right! Such an easy project that the entire family can help with. 

All you need to create cute citrus birdfeeders is some type of fruit (I used large pink grapefruit), birdseed, oats, peanut butter and a little oil. Scoop out the fruit from each half. Then mix together the birdseed, oats, pb & oil. Spoon it into the citrus halves and use twine to hang them from your nearest tree. 

You can refill the fruit halves over and over again and eventually, everything goes back to nature. So cute! 

Pretzel Trees 

Earth Day is a great opportunity to start conversations about conservation. While making trees out of pretzels doesn't necessarily help the earth, it can give you a way to start talking to your family and friends about how to think more earth-minded. 

Plus, these treats are just so adorable! For the full how-to, check out this fun blog. 

All you need are pretzel sticks and candy melts. And it's just that simple. Seriously. Take this opportunity to spread some earth love today! 

Eggshell Seed Starters 

Spring is here and the time for planting is upon us. I love gardens but don't really have room for lots of plants in my small condo. Still, I enjoy starting and tending to seedlings for transplanting later on. 

Eggshells are a great way to start seeds. All you need are clean, eggshell halves, potting soil and seeds and voila! Seedlings! Once they begin to grow, you can transplant them to a garden or larger container. The eggshells provide some nutrients to your young plants as they decompose and until then, they look so stinking cute! 

These are just three simple ways you can focus on the earth around us. There are plenty of others that have a greater impact...but it requires creativity and willingness to try! What other ways does your family celebrate Earth Day?

April 8, 2015

Heaviness & Light

What is it about love that both weighs you down and helps you fly at the same time? This week has been tough. After the passing of our boy Leon Spears (the greatest dog who ever lived) on Easter, I've felt sort of in a fog. There's plenty of good stuff to enjoy and look forward to as our wedding quickly approaches, but I still feel such a heavy sadness.

In my Tuesday yoga class, I shared how I was feeling with my teacher and she was very sensitive about the whole situation, taking me through poses and postures that are supposed to increase joy.

During our final relaxation (my favorite part of the class), she asked me if I'd like to have some heavy sandbags to rest on my abdomen. At first it seemed weird, but once I settled in and let myself get lost in the moment, it was nice.

I thought about how loss is like that sometimes....a heaviness that sits squarely across your gut, holding you down, making each breath more difficult than it should be.

To some people, the loss of an animal might not warrant such grief. Clearly those people never had a pet like Leon.

But loss is loss is loss. Whenever someone is dear to you and they go away, there's a sense of missing. When you love someone, it's like you're connected by an unbreakable invisible thread. No matter how far they might be or how long it's been since you saw them, the connection remains intact.

The spirit is such an incredible thing. We think the body matters so much, but really it's just the temporary house for something way more important.

I think the heaviness of loss can be good because it reminds us of just how connected we are to the ones we love. And there's a certain lightness that comes with that too...because when someone we love leaves this world, it takes one end of that invisible string into another realm. So there's a constant battle between sinking into the heaviness and allowing ourselves to float up to a place where we might begin to fly.

April 5, 2015

Obituary for Leon Spears

Leon Otis Spears, ten years old, of Knoxville, Tennessee passed over the rainbow bridge and into the arms of Jesus on a glorious Easter Sunday, April, 5, 2015.

A mixed breed dog, Leon had a beautiful black coat that shined and spots of white that gleamed in the sun. He had magnificent touches of the purest pink around his cheeks and nose and on his underside. Leon self-identified as a boxer, but unlike traditional boxers, he had a long majestic black tail with a tiny bit of purest white on the tip that whipped anything in its wake. According to one kindly man Leon met at yard sale, he was definitely 7/8 boxer. Maybe.

Leon's birthplace is unknown, but at or around the end of his first year of life, his home was Young Williams Animal Shelter on Division Street in Knoxville. At that time he was going by the name Frost and had been at the shelter for nearly 28 days, meaning he was near the end of the road if not adopted. But God had other plans.

On January 2, 2006, a naive girl visited the shelter seeking a dog to adopt. She didn't then fully understand the magnitude of this decision or how her choice would alter the course of her life, her heart and her family forevermore.

In the small room where that first meeting took place, she was struck by the pup's big dark eyes, turned up "pig" nose and cheerful demeanor. As he pressed his full body weight against her, tail thumping like mad, it was clear this dog was the one.

Leon was forced to spend at least two additional days at the shelter for a procedure that was not pleasant, but mandatory as required by the adoption facility as a way to control the pet population.

On the day he was to be officially adopted (aka his 'gotcha day'), his new mom had to attend a new adoptee orientation class and fill out necessary paperwork before standing in a long line with other folks who were adopting pets. When Leon Otis Spears stepped through the doors into the front lobby of the shelter, there was a collective gasp as each person murmured "that's the cutest dog I've ever seen."

Leon was brought home for the first time in a 1997 Ford Explorer that proved to be the source of much joy in his life, both for trips around town, to the park and across the state to see his family.

Like a prisoner set free, Leon nee Frost blossomed in his new life like a flower turning its face toward the sun.

Several health-related set-backs had the potential to derail his happiness as he was stricken with the mange early on, but in the face of all obstacles, as he would for the next decade, Leon met each situation with joy, gratitude and dignity.

In his early years, he had several important role models to help shape his character, including his uncle Commodore, a wise black lab; a sister Zelda who constantly encouraged him in every sort of mischief; a cat Scarlett who treated him with general disdain; and his brother from another mother, Jordan, a boxer/lab mix who lived next door.

Important human companions in Leon's life include his former co-worker and best buddy Reid; dear friend and futon companion Mr. Henry and Aunt Terry who always moved aside in the good-natured way so Leon could get to Mr. Henry faster.

Leon's life was full of adventure, including one memorable boating excursion with his buddy Jordan's family. He traveled to exotic locales such as Cookeville, Tennessee, Murfreesboro, and Cleveland. Highlights of each trip included seeing cows alongside the road, stopping at drive-thru windows for special treats, and having the entire backseat of the car to himself for stretching out.

He was employed for a time in the University of Tennessee's Art Department but was let go for undisclosed reasons (there was talk of discrimination of the species variety).

Leon then flourished in his new role as HR Director of Screen Door Media where he supervised one employee, Mister Phillip.

One might say Leon and Mister Phillip had an adversarial relationship, but deep down each loved the other in a unique way. Some of Leon's fondest memories of Mister Phillip would probably be when he had to pick up his poop and keeping him company during horror movie marathons. Prior to his passing, Leon was very much anticipating his momma's upcoming wedding to Mister Phillip and had finally come to terms with the fact that he would have to share his king-sized bed with his new dad from hence forth.

Other special friends to enter Leon's life would include Bentley, a 12-year old rescued Yorkie, and Donatella, a box turtle with an approximate age of 40 years old.

In early 2014, Leon was diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy, a condition that causes nerve damage. Even after losing the use of both back legs, Leon's spirit was always strong and his positive attitude never wavered over the next year.

He left the world surrounded by his family and was laid to rest in the middle of a green pasture at his great-great grandparents' farm in Baxter, Tennessee.

Leon is survived by his Gramma Cindy and Grandpa Burton, an uncle Will and aunt Camille, Mister Phillip and his beloved Momma.

Said his momma, Kate Spears of Leon: "I never knew my heart could hold this much love. I thought I was just getting a dog. I ended up getting a precious companion who looked at me with more kindness, more adoration than I've ever experienced. He increased my capacity to give and receive love and for this, I will always be grateful."

Spears went on to say, "If I had a dollar for every time Leon and I were out in public and someone commented on how cute/sweet/adorable/great-looking he was, I'd be rich many times over. He spread joy everywhere he went. He lived a life of joy and it made the world a better place...or at least my world." 

"Loss of a dear friend is devastating, but I'm so glad I never have to face the reality of a life without ever knowing Leon. I'll always carry him in my heart." 

My Sweetest Friend

I'll be kind, if you'll be faithful
You be sweet and I'll be grateful
Cover me with kisses dear
Lighten up the atmosphere
Keep me warm inside our bed
I got dreams of you all through my head
Fortune teller said I'd be free
And that's the day you came to me

Come to me my sweetest friend
Can you feel my heart again
I'll take you back where you belong
And this will be our favorite song
Come to me with secrets bare
I'll love you more so don't be scared
When we're old and near the end

We'll go home and start again