Tuesday, January 17, 2017

And she's off!

It's been a long week. 

This sweet, nearly perfect girl, returned to the Seeing Eye last week. 
It was dreadful putting her into the van.  Her send off included every favorite activity she'd come to love while under our roof.  It was my way of loving on her for the final moments.  Truthfully, I think she knew something was up, because she rarely got THAT spoiled in the span of a few hours.  Smart puppy.

Our house has been so much quieter without her.  Even Cinnamon has been mopey.  This girl left her mark.  No puppy was better behaved, more obedient, more loving or more loyal.  That's hard to find and even harder to lose.

But she's off to do great things, by God's grace.

Ophelia, you were loved, and you loved well.
Mommy misses you.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Two dogs are not twice the work of only one dog.

At least in the case of our two.  Cinnamon on her own, equals about 3 dogs, in terms of energy level.  Do you see where I'm going with this?

3 dogs (Cinnamon) + 1 puppy (Ophelia) = not 2 dogs.

Ophelia is nearly as perfect as they come.  Behaviorally, she doesn't act out.  When I tell her "no" she understands that it means to quit that behavior.  If she wants something from me, she knows to sit for it.  When we're working on commands, her eyes are ALWAYS on me, without me having had to train that into her.  Her energy level is extremely low.  If she's out back playing with the kids, after five minutes of running around she's at the door, ready to come back in.  On occasion she will bark, but I've not once heard her whine.

You have to know that she is the complete opposite of Cinnamon.  This is why she's pure joy to raise, and why I willingly endure the work of two dogs.  It's just one simple aspect of grace in my life.

The two of them get along, although big sister has her moments of snarkiness. I have learned what can set her off and do my best to avoid those situations.  Still, Ophelia is young and isn't always socially attuned to when it's best to stay clear of her.  Thankfully, I have several friends who have given me pointers on how best to deal with her when it happens.  My wrestling skills are being honed these days...

At nearly five months Ophelia is proving to be a delightful addition.  The Seeing Eye isn't breeding as many Golden Retrievers so the fact that we have one is a rarity.  She's my companion on errands most days (except for the grocery store- that's the one place she's not allowed).  At Target every week, she's become well known to one employee.  The first time Ophelia met her, she brought the lady to tears, as she recalled her own Golden.  The ease with which she travels along side of me is proof that she will make a great Seeing Eye dog.

There's plenty of work yet to be done.  In another few months, she'll take the test to be vested.  In the meantime, we're working diligently at home on basic commands to ensure that she passes.  Sit, down, rest, come are all practiced daily in an effort to see her succeed.

                                            Sitting like a lady at a basketball game
                                                   18 inches of snow dropped and she loved it.

                                                       The trio loves a fire on a cold day.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Thing 33

Four years ago we moved into our house.  Hurricane Irene wasn't far behind, making the welcome more exciting. It certainly provided an opportunity to meet our neighbors in an unexpected way.

This weekend, we had our first official block party.  After four years, it felt like the right time.  When we moved in, there were only three families with school aged children (including ours).  Now we have about 9 new families on the block with kids.  It's delightful. 

Block parties have all but disappeared in this era.  Being old school, it was on my list of things to do.  Between the young families, new folks on the block, and general comradery we have, it wasn't going to be tough to pull off.

It was a huge hit.  We had plenty of tasty dishes, an assortment of lawn games for young and old, tables and chairs provided for relaxing, and the volunteer firefighters brought the firetruck for the kids to see. 

This is my neighborhood.  I take seriously the task of knowing my neighbors.  Moving stinks.  Do it enough times and you learn how important that welcome to the block can be. A small gesture of flowers and a note can go a long way towards building a sense of friendship and community.  Don't underestimate the power of conversation and being neighborly.  My neighbors know I'd help them out in a pinch.  That doesn't happen by chance.  Be the kind of neighbor you want to have as a neighbor.  It really is that simple.

Trees don't grow fruit the first year they're planted.  Four years ago, we never could have imagined the neighborhood we now have.  A lot of watering, sunlight and care, has produced a fruitful tree.  Relationships take time and energy, and I'm so thankful we're seeing the payoff. 

Thing 33 I love about New Jersey is our wonderful block.  It's precisely the kind of place I wished for, and feel privileged to call home. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Kitchen reno

Two weeks without our kitchen and powder room as of today. 

My people have been troopers thus far, for which I am ever so grateful.  It's far from pleasant being squeezed into one room where we have to relax, prepare and eat our meals.  There's not much wiggle room- and I used to think our family room was big. 

It dawned on me the other day that this process is amounting to much like training for a long race.  The first few miles (weeks) produce excitement, because your energy level is at it's highest and you have dreamy hopes of what you'll accomplishment.  Then come the middle miles.  Settling into one's pace happens here, and the mental toughness is drawn out, as the body is taxed.  Arriving at the halfway point can be a milestone mentally- if you know when that point is (in a renovation it's not so obvious).  The last few miles require the training one has done to be put into practice.  All those pace workouts, hill repeats and long runs, were in preparation for the last bit, when the body is most tired and ready to give up.  Here is when one hits the proverbial wall. 

So where are we in this run?  If I had to guess, somewhere still in the first third of the race.  We've settled into a routine; as much as we can given the circumstances.  We aren't complaining much.  It's still somewhat fun- I say that lightly of course.  Some aspects are enjoyable, and some are not.  Friends that came by in the beginning wouldn't notice much change at this juncture. 

The best part of this process is learning to be content, flexible and patient.  God is drawing this out in all of us. 

Our neighbors have even brought dinner or allowed us to cook at their place.  This is no small thing!  My love for my neighbors has only grown.  Four years ago when we moved in, I wouldn't have expected such a thing, but it's been delightful to watch our neighborhood grow and become a place of good old fashioned kindness.  We are blessed.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

That day

That day arrived.  The one where you catch you breath after seeing the large white envelope in the mail.  Where your fingers can't move fast enough to open it, and your vision blurs instantly with the tears.  She's been matched.

Fourteen months in the kennel, three separate trainers, several sightings by me, and she's done with it all.  Off to live the life she was bred for, giving "independence and dignity" to the blind person she now calls her own.

Few people understand this feeling of loss, and pride simultaneously.  No one finds it easy to give them back, NO ONE.  It's why The Seeing Eye struggles to find families willing to raise their puppies.  There's a searing sense of emptiness for days, even weeks following their departure.  Why not just avoid it all together?  Why even raise a puppy if you'll not see them again?  Sacrifice, that's why.

This culture of ours has lost the art of sacrifice.  Webster's defines it as : "forfeiture of something highly valued for the sake of one thought to have a greater value or claim."  Raising Ester was a true lesson in sacrifice for our family.  Time, energy, resources, and emotion were invested into her daily.  Did the kids want to go out and play?  Absolutely, but Ester had to be exercised first.  Do we want to go away for the weekend?  Sure, but we had to find dog care for her or we couldn't go.  Ultimately, giving her back to The Seeing Eye meant relinquishing any hold we had on her as a family member.  Her purpose, her role in the future COULD NOT happen without our seeing her future blind person as more valuable than ANY desire we had to keep her.  This is the essence of sacrifice.  Whatever I desire surrounding that puppy, must be less than my desire to see her change a life.

 I'm saddened by the cultural shift in our thinking, as of late.  When raising these puppies, the first question is always- "how do you do it- the giving up?" Why must strangers see the parting as the pivotal moment we raisers have?  There are thousands of moments that define the relationship we build with our puppies.  Hours of training, and exposure, and of course, love, go into making them well rounded and adventurous. The shame is in wiping out all of those moments, for the one that is the hardest.  When we allow hard moments to keep us from doing good, and right for others, we have welcomed selfishness in it's place.

That's not the kind of place I want my home to be.  So we press on, loving that fact that we have successfully raised a working Seeing Eye dog. 

"Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others as more significant than yourselves." Philippians 2:3

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Things to know about Labs

She's only our second Labrador Retriever, so in no way can be called professional in regards to them. We have two kids, and trust me, we're not pros there either.

That being said, there are distinct breed characteristics that you will find in every Lab, and some of those are displayed more strongly in one dog than the other.

According to several sources, the Labrador Retriever is one the "easiest breeds to train" .  Can you hear my laughter?  Folks, there is NO dog that is EASY to train- they all require work, consistency, and hours of effort.  At all times as a pet parent you must keep the end product you desire in view.  If you want a happy, well behaved dog, then you have to ensure that through obedience training, and PRACTICE.

There's been no lack of training going on around here, but she possesses a certain stubbornness that is challenging.  Easy breed, remember?  Right...

Our memories have gone a bit soft since January.  The kids keep mentioning how perfect Ester was, and I was quick to remind us all that she wasn't.  After listing some of her foibles, she quickly fell from the pedestal.  How easily we forget.

Cinnamon is four months old now, and proven over and over that she is a Lab.  For entertainment purposes, I give you the following:

1) EVERY thing that is left on the floor, toy or otherwise, makes it into her mouth.
2) A water bowl is just a small swimming pool.
3) A meal is NEVER missed, and if it ever is, you KNOW something is wrong.
4) A gate is an invitation to jump.
5) You can never have too many friends; dogs or people.
6) Alarm clocks are antiquated.  You will never sleep in again.
7) You can plan for every outcome and she will find the one you didn't.
8) When the doorbell rings, it must be for her.
9) Love is always better when it's given away.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Dear Children

Dear Children of Mine,

I love you dearly.  Parents say this to their children all the time, but what does it really mean?  In terms you can understand, let me explain.

When your father or I ask you to do a job, we expect YOU to do it, and in a timely fashion.  Letting the job wait until the end of the day in hopes we'll forget or do it ourselves, is not going to happen.  Not only is our memory still sharp, but you are a bonafide member of this family, and that membership comes with it's own reward- contributing to the running of this household.  No slackers allowed.

You may be the only children for miles around that are helping with yard work, but that doesn't change our minds.  Truthfully, it only solidifies what we're doing.  We refuse to add to the generation of entitlement.  Listen carefully- HARD WORK NEVER HURT ANYONE.  Nothing good was ever achieved by being lazy, and the hours of lawn mowing, raking, weeding, and trimming will only serve you in the long run.

The greatest example of love we have is found in Christ, and we aim to be His ambassadors in what we say and do.  From helping others in our neighborhood, to raising a Seeing Eye puppy, or bringing meals to those in need, we look for ways to put others first as Christ did for us.  This may mean stretching ourselves from time to time.  It may mean missing out on a favorite activity.  You can NEVER go wrong in loving someone this way.

When you can be trusted with a little, then you will be trusted with a lot.  A simple principle.  We parent inside the funnel, meaning, we give you a bit of leeway at a time, since too much too soon can be detrimental.  It would be careless for us as parents to leave you for a weekend by yourselves (and against the law).  An hour alone, however, is reasonable at this stage and allows you to grow into the freedom.  If at any time that small bit of freedom is abused, we reign it back in, until we see the trust regained.

Certain items that are deemed "necessary" in our culture really aren't.  We've been sold a bill of goods, and the payment will come due in the next generation of people who can't communicate face to face yet can text at the speed of lightning.  Your youth should not be filled with all the latest gadgets.  Instead, you should be reading, running around in our yard, playing with the puppy and hanging out with friends.  All this technology only serves to keep us connected ALL THE TIME, which is far from beneficial.

And that my loves, is just a few examples of how we're trying our best to love you.  God willing, one day you'll understand it all.  For now, just know we love you.