Tag Archives: dogs

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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Cinco De Martha

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Because I had many mothers…

Last week’s calendar contained both Cinco De Mayo and Mother’s Day, which got me thinking about the many women in my life who mothered me in addition to my own Mama.  Because Cinco De Mayo/May 5 was also Aunt Martha’s birthday, I naturally had her on my mind.  She would have been 87 years old.

In describing Mama I have always said that if she were a color, it would be red because of her fiery and passionate nature.  I also noted that all of Mama’s sisters, in my mind, have a color of their own.  Aunt Martha, to me, is purple…regal, unconventional, stand-out-in-a-crowd purple.  Like Mama and the rest of The Big Five, Aunt Martha was a true original, and in many ways unlike her sisters.  But she and Mama were very much alike in their big-hearted, laugh-till-they-peed-their-pants humor and personalities.

Aunt Martha never had human children, choosing instead to be a dog mom.  I have followed in this path, and I think that being around her and her little canine companions so much as a child shaped the love of dogs I developed over the years.  The first of Aunt Martha’s dogs (or anyone else’s dogs for that matter) in my memory is Susie, a Chihuahua, the breed that Aunt Martha and Uncle John always favored.  She was a tiny little thing, even though she was overfed, and because her bones were fragile, Aunt Martha was forever reminding Reed and me, “Don’t run the dog,” meaning not to chase her.

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When Sweet Pea and I were finally able to adopt a dog, we chose a Beagle/Basset mix from the shelter.  Ernie The Wonder Beagle was not a huge dog, but he was larger than Aunt Martha was accustomed to.  She asked me once, “Ain’t his teeth awful big?”, to which I responded, “Well, they fit in his mouth so they must be the right size.”  She and Ernie would see each other at Dad’s occasionally and she was always sweet to him, and he loved her as well.  Big teeth and all.

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Some of my musical genes came from Aunt Martha as well.  She had a lovely soprano voice that I loved listening to when we would gather around the piano after Christmas Eve supper, harmonizing out of the ancient hymnbooks that lived in Mama’s piano bench.  Her voice singing songs like “Ivory Palaces” and “Sunrise Tomorrow” echoes through my memory.  She wanted to take voice lessons but Granddad would not allow her to, so to spite him, she quit high school before graduating.  When I graduated from college with a degree in voice, she wrote in the card she sent me that she was proud of me and doubly proud of my majoring in music.  Maybe she lived out a piece of her dream through me.  I hope so.

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She and I always seemed to be kindred spirits and we spent a lot of time together throughout my life.  I spent many nights at her house as a child and teenager.  There were the Friday night TV shows we both loved watching and the trips to the Pixie Drive-In for onion rings and milkshakes.  There was the favorite housecoat I wore when I was there and the stash of “feminine supplies” she kept on hand for when I visited.  (She was always very compassionate about cramps.)

She was a meticulous quilter, her stitches so tiny, close together and uniformly spaced that even a machine couldn’t have done better work.  It seemed like there was always a quilt up on frames in her basement.  Countless nights I would go with Mama, Aunt Ruby and Mrs. Allred to Aunt Martha’s house.  They would work on whatever quilt was in the frames until they couldn’t see straight anymore, drinking tea and Cokes, telling stories and laughing.  ALWAYS laughing.  And even though I wasn’t helping them, they included me.  I didn’t sew then and I don’t really sew now.  But when I concentrate, I can do decent hand work.  I wish now that I had pulled up a chair with them around the frames.  I suspect that I would have learned much more than how to stitch.

Christmas Eve 1994, I presented her with a special little gift.  I had found a picture of her and me together with Susie, the one from earlier in this post.  I set about shopping for the right frame for it and ended up choosing a beautiful silver frame with a heart-shaped opening that fit the photo perfectly. It was like it had been made to hold that very photograph.  I placed the picture inside and gave it to her that Christmas.  The picture below is of her opening that gift as I looked on.  Her expression is priceless.

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I think my penchant for collecting things comes from her as well.  She collected all sorts of things.  Cartoon character glasses and figurines from fast-food places, Beanie Babies, state quarters and California Raisins.  Little things like that gave her huge pleasure.  She also really enjoyed jewelry and sparkly things, another trait I inherited.  She was gone before I bought the Original Kissy Shirt, but I know she would have loved it, because it is funny and splashy…much like she was.  She would approve of the new smaller Kissy Shirt as well, although the weight loss surgery I had and the shrinking process that made the smaller shirt necessary would have worried her to death.

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I miss her all the time, just like I miss the rest of them.  I imagine that her house in Heaven has quilting frames and that she and Mama, Aunt Ruby and Mrs. Allred are reunited there from time to time, working on a quilt for the next family member who arrives there, a warm covering for the bed in their mansion.  When I go to meet them, I will have sense enough to pull up a chair and join them around the frames.

Snow Day

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There are many kinds of warmth…

Knoxville is not known as a mecca for snow lovers.  We have just received the first significant snow of 2014 and, along with it, record cold temperatures are coming.  I just went outside to get some bottles of water out of my car for fear they’d freeze and I had to go back into the house to get a bottle of warm water to pour down the door seal in order to unfreeze my door to get it open so I could GET the water bottles out.  While I did this, Our Boy Roy went outside for a brief tinkle and was pretty eager to get his business done and get back in the house!

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I scratched on my windshields and the snow looks fluffy, but it’s camouflaging ice underneath, so scraping/hacking/chiseling when I need to drive eventually will be necessary…and not fun.   For today, though, I am burrowed in, snuggled up with Our Boy Roy and grateful to be home.

I’ve called and texted Dad and Reed to make sure they are warm and dry.  Sweet Pea is at work and I am praying he can make it home safely tonight.  Right now the sunshine has broken through the cloud cover, which could actually make weather issues worse if melting occurs where the sun hits and then it refreezes, making ice where the snow used to be.

Days like this make me grateful…and a little sad.  I know that, while my house is not ideal, I have a roof over my head, I am safe and warm and dry.  I think of our homeless population on days like this and pray that they can find shelter and a meal.  I am grateful that I sing and serve at a church that helps neighbors in need and I know that my church and many others are providing warmth and food.  I am reminded of the fact that I and mine, we who are so few, have been blessed with so much, while there are so many among us with so little.  The paradox is not lost on me.

I think of the bereaved and the lonely on days like this and pray that they can find warmth of spirit.  I give thanks for the abundance of love in my life, for the provision of material needs and the gift of health.  I wrap myself in an old quilt, a flannel nightgown and fluffy socks, and settle into the simple comfort of just being warm enough.

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Creature Comforts

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Why I need a dog in my life…

My days off this past weekend were wasted, and wonderful! I didn’t accomplish anything except sing in church and get a lot of rest, which I sorely needed after the prior weekend’s concerts and church solos in an unheated sanctuary. I didn’t even do any reading, which is unusual for me on my days off from work. I just rested.

Our Boy Roy, our little Terrier mix, rested with me, or more accurately, a lot of the time he rested ON me. Maybe it is the changing weather, or maybe he is just a little moody lately, but it seems like he has been wanting to snuggle closer in recent weeks. Not that I mind, of course. He is a sweet little companion, and a source of warmth for me in more ways than one.

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Physically, he puts off a lot of heat, which is so welcome when I plop on the couch or into bed at the end of a long day. At my age and with my hormones doing whatever it is they’re doing, I freeze all day and burn up all night. The cold actually seems to bother me more, and Roy is like a little furry space heater when I get home from work.

Then there is the warmth of companionship that he provides me, a relationship spoken in the language of scratches and belly rubs, snuggles and dog kisses.  He listens without interrupting, or judging, and he never tells my secrets.  He never cares if I haven’t had a bath (sometimes I think he prefers it that way!) and his idea of an excellent adventure is a ride with me to the pharmacy drive-through.

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 He seems to want to do whatever Jeff and I are doing, even if what we’re doing is nothing.  He seems content simply to be with us.  I have heard some people say that dogs don’t feel emotions, and that they are not capable of loving their people.  I can’t bring myself to believe that.  I have cried and had a dog put his head on my chest, sighing as I sobbed.  When I fell years ago walking Ernie The Wonder Beagle and broke my leg, I dropped his leash, but he never left my side as I crawled to get back into the house.  When I have been at my lowest, I have looked into the soulful eyes of a dog and felt the warm comfort of a creature looking back at me with nothing but love.

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Pieces of Peace

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Reading, Writing and Rain

Sitting on my comfy couch one Sunday afternoon recently, I found myself enjoying a little moment of Heaven right in my living room. My sweet husband had gone out to do some errands and to see a movie (this was not the Heavenly part!), and I was snuggled up with tea on the table next to me, a book in my hand and the dog, affectionately known as Our Boy Roy, curled up on top of the quilt in my lap.Image

The sky was cloudy and grey, and soon I began to hear thunder. Not sharp claps of thunder, but low rumbles, the kind of thunder that can lull a person to sleep. After a few minutes of this, raindrops began their gentle, percussive dance on my windowpane.Image

I closed my eyes for a moment to take in the stillness, thinking that life is sweetest at moments like these. It was a chance to give thanks for all my blessings. Life can be so hectic and fast-paced most of the time that these little pieces of peace are rare. As I sat feeling the knot of stress behind my sternum gradually unclenching, I wanted to write and try to capture the stillness of the moment…but first I wanted to feel the moment.

In my desire to share the patchwork and potpourri of my life, there is a balance I have to strike between documenting an experience and experiencing the experience. Sometimes my world swirls around me in what seems like a great big tornado of crazy! My Sunday piece of peace reminded me of what stillness feels like, enabling me to savor it, and to share it.