Tag Archives: dogs

Because I Am That Person

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Most of us have one…

 

“You showed up in a dream last night and I wanted to check in and see if everything is all right…”

“Are you nervous about this appointment?”

“Let me know when you get back home safely.”

“I’ll be here for you in the morning before they take you back for the procedure.”

In the past few weeks I have uttered all these phrases, some more than once, to various friends or family members.  I can’t seem to help myself.  I am That Person.

Everyone has That Person in their lives, the one who asks if you have a jacket because it’s supposed to turn cold later on, who holds your hand when you’re sick, who makes friends with your dog…and everyone else’s.  When you are experiencing heartache, challenges, a loss or a life change, That Person will gift you with marbles, to remind you that you haven’t lost yours.

 

That Person genuinely cares about you, your life, your family.  She (or he in some cases) has a true heart, one as strong and sweet as Southern iced tea.  And it brings great joy to That Person when he or she is able to offer you care and compassion.

Sometimes people don’t know what to do with her, or about her.  And that’s OK.  She doesn’t care for you in order to be cared for in return.  She does it because she doesn’t know any other way to be.

So, if you have That Person in your circle, accept the care she offers in the spirit in which it is intended.  Be honest with him when he asks how you are, because he really wants to know.  At some point you may end up becoming That Person for someone else.

 

Best Friends

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Too many kinds to count…

This week many people observed National Best Friends Day.  I think it’s a nice idea to recognize the value of friendship and to appreciate the people who add such richness to our lives.  It got me thinking about the many “best friends” I have enjoyed over the years…and why I can’t really say that I have ONE best friend.

There were the earliest friendships I enjoyed with my brother and cousins, before school started and we met all those other kids in our age group.  Even though I am not as closely in touch with my cousins as I’d like to be, they are in my heart always, and I would give any of them anything I could offer if they were in need and I could help.  We share memories, blood and decades of love.

Then came the school friends, those people outside my family circle, the ones I met and learned how much we had in common.  Those moments of discovering that we liked or disliked the same foods, or shared a favorite song or hobby, were the youthful foundations upon which some of my longest-time friendships were built.  I am still in touch with some of my grade-and-high-school friends on social media, and seeing how their lives have progressed to this point is both fun and rewarding.

The church and college friends began my deepest connections, ties that bind us across years and miles to this day.  My college graduating class has a milestone reunion coming up this fall at homecoming, and I look forward to seeing many of my classmates there to reminisce about our times in the dorm and the music building.  My roommates especially helped me bridge the transition between living at home with my parents and making a new home with my husband.  I crave in my heart to see Janet and Dana, and soon.  It has been WAY too long since the three of us have been together.

These days I am still making college friends through my connections as the Chapter Mother for Alpha Gamma Chapter of Delta Omicron International Music Fraternity at Carson-Newman University.  Getting to know these young student musicians and to encourage them has been my joy for almost 10 years now, and I hope to continue in this capacity for many years to come.  My musician friends come in all ages, shapes and sizes, with specialties ranging from voice and instruments to conducting and composing.  These friendships help me to continue growing as a musician and as a human.

I’m grateful that almost every job I’ve held has yielded one or two lasting friendships as well, and since I’ve worked in predominantly male environments, I refer to some of these fellows as my “work husbands”.  At my first TV job, there was only one other woman in my department, a top-notch board operator named Linda.  We referred to ourselves as The Gyno Mafia!  I have a dream team of current and former coworkers I would surround myself with if I ever had the chance to build my own company.  The combination of professional excellence and wacky humor makes work a lot more fun, and shared goals (and grievances!)  give us much to share.

So many other “best friends” come to mind.  Mama and The Aunts who wait for me in Heaven.  My precious husband, who, after nearly 30 years of marriage, is still my favorite person to spend time with.  And our beloved, goofy dogs, Ernie The Wonder Beagle (in Heaven) and Our Boy Roy, who has been part of our family for almost 9 years now.

So, who is my “best friend”, really?  They all are!  And if I spent the rest of my life counting the reasons I love them, I would never finish.

 

Insomnia

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Broken sleep, broken hearts…

Last night my head ached, again, and I could not find a comfortable way to hold it so that it would not hurt.  So eventually, I just got up from my bed and went downstairs, hoping that a drink, my couch and some medicine would bring comfort and rest.  As usual, when I got up, our dog, Roy, got up with me.

My thoughts wandered to all the people in my life who need prayers, and I mentioned each of them to the Lord as they came to mind.  So many people, and so many needs, streamed through my mind and heart as I prayed, even as my head continued to ache. Over the years I’ve learned that, sometimes, when I am wakeful and unsettled like this, the only way to find relief is to pray my way out of it.

Last night my prayers went up for people who suffer affliction, addiction, loneliness.  I thought about the bereaved, the deceived, the diseased.  People around me are struggling with burdens I cannot even begin to imagine…but when I lift them up in prayers, I know that, at least for that moment, they don’t struggle alone.

And neither do I.  God is with me, whether I am conscious of it or not.  I can feel Him, in the quiet of the night, in promptings to pray…even in the comfort of my couch, a cold drink and doggie snuggles.

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Happy Leap Day

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Why it’s special to me…

My whole life I was blessed to have not one, but TWO, Uncle Johns.  Uncle John Flanigan married my precious Aunt Ruby, about whom I have written numerous times.  Uncle John Bryant married my larger-than-life Aunt Martha, about whom I have also shared memories here.  Uncle John Bryant was unique in several ways, not the least of which was his birthday, February 29, 1928.  Just as Mama’s July 4 birthday and Aunt Martha’s May 5 “Cinco de Martha” birthday seemed to foreshadow their personalities and idiosyncrasies, so did Uncle John’s Leap Day birthday.  He was without a doubt one of the most fun people in our family.

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The above picture was made in 1971, with him and Aunt Martha all dressed up fancy for either an Eastern Star event or, more likely, a Lion’s Club function.  He was a longtime member/officer/President of his club in Knoxville, an organization which devotes itself to helping people with impaired vision and blindness.  One of the ties in my ugly necktie collection has a lion embroidered on it, and I think it might have been his.  The above picture also shows him the way I always think of him, goofing off and cutting up.

He and Aunt Martha were a huge influence on me as I grew up, especially in my love for dogs.  They never had human children, choosing instead to be dog parents, and the first dogs I ever remember getting to know belonged to them.  Very early in their marriage they raised a Fox Terrier named Trixie, but the only dogs I remember are Chihuahuas.  Susie was the first I remember, followed by Buffy and then Ginger.  (Chihuahuas and other small breeds have long life spans, so Aunt Martha and Uncle John’s dogs were with them for a long time, with the exception of Tina, of whom I have no pictures and Aunt Martha always swore that the vet killed.)

 

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His way of showing affection was teasing.  For much of my childhood before Granny died, he and Aunt Martha would come over almost every Friday night, Susie, or later Buffy, in tow, wrapped in a little red flannel blanket (which I now own and sometimes put in Roy’s dog bed).  He was a big barrel of a man, about 6 feet, 4 inches in height and carrying all his weight around his waist.  He’d come ambling into the house laughing and saying, “What are you up to, Rastus?”  (I’m not sure where the name Rastus came from.  The only thing similar I’ve ever heard is the name Erastus in the Bible.)  His odd sense of humor became more finely honed once he went to work for the funeral home.  Those fellows developed an unusual sense of humor in response, I think, to the sadness they saw so much of the time, as well as to the frequent overnight shifts they worked.

Around Christmas every year, Aunt Martha would get her promotional funeral home calendars, share some with the kinfolks, and then mark her copy every three days for the nights Uncle John would be staying over at the mortuary on call.  Often, when his overnight fell on a Friday, I’d go and spend the night with her and the dog.  Sometimes those Friday overnights were when Mama, Aunt Ruby, “Mamaw” Allred and I would pile into the car and head up there for a late-into-the-night quilting party.  He was a bit superstitious about Friday the 13th, and when his overnights were on that date, Aunt Martha sometimes would call him and, in her best scary voice, remind him, “It’s Friday…the 13th!!!!!”

Sadly, I lost both of my Uncle Johns within about 6 months of each other.  Uncle John Bryant was semi-retired, and had gone in to work at the funeral home one chilly day in January, 1992, when he had a massive cerebral hemorrhage and was taken to Baptist Hospital, lasting for another 8 days but never to awaken.  Not long before he went into the hospital I remember telling a friend at my job how cool it was that in 1992 Uncle John would get to have another “real” birthday.  He spent that one and all the ones since in Heaven.  I spent his next to last night with him in the hospital, and he began what I now understand was the active dying stage while I was with him.  All I knew then was that the nurse said I should call Aunt Martha and have her come as soon as she could, but he held on for many hours after that.  I was not present for his death and that bothered me for a long time.  Now I know it just wasn’t meant for me to be there, and that’s OK.  I’ll see him again someday.

He loved the Tennessee Vols and the Lion’s Club.  He loved going to the 1982 World’s Fair and seeing all the sights there.  He loved to joke about retiring and opening up a hot dog stand outside Neyland Stadium and becoming a millionaire.  He loved to joke, period.  He loved the succession of little dogs that were part of his and Aunt Martha’s family, and they both passed that love of dogs down to me.  He loved Aunt Martha and her kinfolks.  And he loved me.

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R.I.P DivaMobile

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She was more than just a car…

Most people have probably seen the insurance commercial in which a cute girl speaks to the camera, saying “You owned your car for 4 years.  You named it Brad.  You LOVED Brad.  And then you totaled him…”  The script goes on to describe the relationship between the car and its owner.  I can relate to this scenario more strongly since, after nearly 12 years of driving her, I wrecked my beloved DivaMobile.

The sadness of watching her getting towed away was overwhelming.  I cried and then I threw up.  No kidding.  (I think the throwing up had to do partly with my taking antibiotics at the time…but only partly.)

In order to explain my attachment to her, I need to give a bit of backstory.  I found myself in February 2004 needing a replacement for my previous car, which had been rear-ended and totaled in that wreck (which was not nearly as traumatic as this one). Jeff and I looked around and test drove a few, and decided that it made the most sense for us to go ahead and purchase something brand new.  So we bought a new 2004 Honda C-RV.  I named her Veronica, nicknamed The DivaMobile.  She had 153 miles on February 20, 2004 when I took delivery, and the only reason those miles were on her was because the dealership did not have a stick shift in my desired color on the lot.  So mine was driven over from North Carolina.  She was not fancy, but she was silver, shiny, new and all mine, and I loved her from the start.

The DivaMobile carried us on many vacation adventures, including, I believe, our first trip to St. Simons Island.  We took her on several trips there and to Destin, our other favorite vacation spot.  She was my companion on my work commute, to music and volunteer activities, taking our dogs to the vet, and she always had more than enough room for all the gear I carried around with me.  (It is difficult for me to travel light, whether literally or metaphorically.)  She saw the transition when Ernie The Wonder Beagle died and then Our Boy Roy became part of our family, hauling them both when they needed to go to the vet or anywhere else.  Roy always gets excited when I ask, “Do you want to go for a ride?”

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From February 20, 2004 until January 20, 2016, The DivaMobile carried me safely everyplace I needed to go. I spent all of my 40’s with her, and then some.  And with God’s help, she kept me safe in the worst wreck I’ve ever been involved in as either a passenger or a driver.  I walked away from this nightmare with only some bumps, bruises and scratches.  Physically, I am OK.  And I am grateful.

For years  I had a tiny angel on a leather cord hanging from my rear view mirror.  I liked the thought of an angel riding along with me.  I still do.

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Jeff and I don’t trade cars often.  We tend to make long-term commitments, driving them until they die…or in this case, until they are killed.  The DivaMobile and I traveled 154,408 miles together…minus her first 153, that is.  I’m praying my next car relationship is as long and satisfying, just with a happier ending.

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Puppy Love

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Our Four-Legged Fur Family…

Last night driving home from work I received a text message from Jeff telling me he was at the vet with Our Boy Roy.  When Jeff got home from work, he let Roy out and at first the dog seemed fine.  Then he began to whimper and would not put one of his back legs down.  Roy is not much of a complainer so Jeff knew that he must have hurt himself and got to our vet hospital right away.

Dr. Rick examined Roy and said it was a stretched tendon, gave him a laser treatment, sent him home with pain medication, instructions for us to try to limit his activity, and a follow-up appointment for Monday next week.  Dr. Rick also said that at some point the tendon could break and that would mean surgery.  Jeff and I have been down that road before, and neither of us relishes the thought of revisiting it.

Just last week was Roy’s “birthday”, the 8th anniversary of the day we brought him home from the shelter.  Since his estimated age at that time was about 2 years old, he is about 10 now.  Definitely a senior statesman, but still very puppy-ish in his personality.  Little dogs seem to stay that way longer than larger breeds do.

We never really intended to, but we became “those people”.  Our dogs have been like kids to us, and Roy’s injury brought back memories of our last year with Ernie The Wonder Beagle, who died from mast cell cancer.  We went through tumor surgery, medication, more tumors and more surgery and more medication, before Ernie’s llittle body just gave out and he died.  Jeff said he was concerned that, at Roy’s age, “this might be the beginning of…”.  I tried to reassure him, and myself, that this is just an injury, a temporary situation that Roy will overcome.

Roy is an agile little 22-pound Terrier mix who loves to jump onto the couch.  One evening last year Roy jumped up on the couch like he does dozens of times every day.  But this time, he got a weird look on his face and began acting like he was in pain.  Somehow he had landed in such a way that he got a hairline fracture in one of his little ribs!  Medication and rest took care of that and soon he was back to his old self.

And I am hopeful that rest and meds will take care of him his time as well.  He is usually a pretty light sleeper, but not long after he got his half a pain pill, he was bearing weight on his leg again, and he slept well through the night.

I’m glad one of us did.

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The Queen Of The Snot People

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Springtime in East Tennessee and the glorious paradox…

The Dogwood Trail signs have gone up in Knoxville in anticipation of the Dogwood Arts Festival and the beautiful springtime blossoms that are on the way.  The Bradford Pear trees are already blooming.  If sneezes had a face, the Bradford Pear would probably be it.  The temperatures are moderating, and after the crazy winter we endured during February, the change of season is a welcome one.  But spring does bring its own set of seasonal allergy symptoms.

I’ve suffered with hay fever for decades, as many East Tennesseans do, and different seasons with their various kinds of plant life will cause different symptoms.  Eyes that itch/sting/water, sneezing, drippy/stuffy noses, headaches, fatigue, coughing, congestion…and crankiness.  Even the dog has allergy symptoms in the spring and fall.  We do what we can to keep on top of his sneezing and itching with medication.

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As a singer, I try to stay on top of my allergies as well, because the mixed multitudes of mucus that happen make a difference in how my voice feels and sounds.  It is a constant balancing act of antihistamines, decongestants, hydration and prayer!  Years ago, I went to my family doctor, affectionately known as Dr. Awesome, for yet another sinus infection and he came into the exam room and asked how I was doing and why I had come to see him.  I replied, “I am The Queen of the Snot People!”  He roared with laughter, checked my ears, nose and throat, gave me prescriptions and said he loved how I described my symptoms.  (I figure I might as well keep a sense of humor, especially at the doctor’s office, because usually that’s the only thing I can control there—modesty and dignity usually fly out the door!)

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Here’s the thing, the glorious paradox.  As snotty as I am this time of year, it’s worth it to be able to enjoy the incredible beauty of God’s creation.  The winter is giving way to spring’s vibrant color in flowers, grass, trees, and the returning birds and bees.  My senses can rejoice in the glory of nature all around me, in sight, sound and scent.  How blessed I am to have the chance to take in such great majesty in even the tiniest of these miracles.

Gracious Lord, thank You for the loveliness of Your creation.  And thank You for each sneeze reminding me that my immune system works!  Forgive me when I complain and keep me mindful of the beauty all around me.

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