Saturday, October 5, 2013

Crosstown Classic 2013 - Run Because You Can

First of all I won't pretend to be Denise. Her writing is so beautiful and eloquent. My writing, well, is not but I will try to do justice to all of her wonderful blogs.

On Tuesday September 24, 2013 I had a front row seat to something that could only be termed as a blessing from God but in the form of about 500 Kindergarten through Fifth Graders
 running in th 5th Annual Crosstown Classic. This year's theme was Run Because You Can. A theme that played out beautifully on this perfect September day.

This event is incredibly hosted by Mill Street School and open to all elementary schools in Naperville School District 203. The race consists of 3 races (400, 800 and Mile) in which kids can do any or all of the races. As you might guess, the energy and excitement at this event are unmatched. Imagine, if you will, 75 to 100 kids at one time toeing the start line and doing their best impression of Chariots of Fire,minus the beach, as the gun goes off. Just awesome!

Chuck Hoff,a phenomenal runner in his own right, is the Art Teacher at Mill. He and his crack staff which is made up of Mill Street staff, other elementary physical education teachers, and parents make this race go. I cannot imagine the amount of time that is put in to such a big event. I was a little late to the party as my school, Meadow Glens, just started attending the Crosstown last year. What I have seen in 2 years just gives me chills. The cheering, the high fives, the many pictures taken and the comraderie of all the schools to each other takes my breath away. This was just the tip of the iceberg as I found out a week or so before the event.

I was informed that this year's event was doing something a bit different. As I say these words, I can feel myself becoming emotional. I will turn in my "man card" if I have one left after this is posted on Denise's Blog.

Each year T-Shirts are designed and sold for the Classic. The money raised is used to support next year's event. Not this year. Chuck and others decided that the money should be donated to the Les Turner ALS Foundarion on behalf of Denise and I. Chuck said how we inspire him and others with the marathons we do together to bring about awareness for ALS. Denise and I just try to make the best of our situation. I don't look at it as inspiring anyone but I guess others see it that way. I feel like the inspirations were all those kids running races "because they can".

As if the T-Shirt donation wasn't enough. It didn't stop there. Rene Grady, a Mill Street parent, took it a step further. She contacted Jamba Juice to come to the event and sell their smoothies. For every drink sold, they donated a dollar to the Les Turner Foundation. She also contacted Les Turner to set up a donation booth. Someone contacted NCTV a NapervilleTelevision station who covered the event and even interviewed me. Through all of these gestures, the Crosstown Classic raised about $1300 for the Les Turner ALS Foundation in our name.

Although I will never be able to thank all the people that had anything to do with the Crosstown Classic, I just want to say how blessed Denise and I were from the event. I don't know what we would do without all the support we get from friends and perfect strangers. God does work in mysterious ways and in this case used a whole school community to remind Denise and I that we are not alone and have so much to be thankful for. See you at next year's Crosstown Classic!!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Church On The Porch...


On July 21st, I gave testimony to my faith, at a budding house church in Asbury Park, New Jersey. It wasn't in my usual upbeat style of writing, it was much more raw, rough, and unpolished. In retrospect, it seemed to fit the neighborhood in which my dear friend had planted himself, to start his work, serving the under resourced. He holds a weekly service, on the porch of his home, and prepares a meal to feed them, both literally and figuratively.

It was not my intention to write about my life in this manner, but it was how the words spilled out of me, as I faced the screen. I was feeling weary, broken, and tired from the miles we logged this summer, my body ached, as I returned to seclusion repeatedly that week to write, while visiting with my family.

When Sunday evening arrived, we got a break from the oppressive heat and humidity that kept me indoors most of my visit. Still, rain threatened our outdoor gathering, and the decision was made to error on the side of caution, and move it indoors. It was no small task getting me up the stairs to the porch, and into the house. It was an older home, and the uneven, weather worn, gray wooden stairs, were too steep to traverse with a ramp, although I tried. My husband Chris, heroically carried me up the steps, onto the porch, and into the house.

I sat in a dark, wooden framed, arm chair, with burnt orange fabric, void of cushioning in it's current state, a lot like me, older and worn, but it did not lack character. Without my power chair, or table stand, we improvised and used a stack of bibles to prop up my Dynovox. Proving once again, where there is a will there is a way!

The gathering was small and eclectic, and the room was warm with acceptance. Rev. Doug opened the service in his colorful way, and there was a lovely young woman who sang while playing the guitar. Although we never spoke specifically about the content of my message prior to the service, the song and video clip played before my delivery, seemed divinely orchestrated.

Then it was my turn, arms propped up to help me sit as straight as possible, moving my head to activate the Dynavox to begin speaking and scrolling, with each movement trying to conceal the physical pain, in my neck and shoulders, my story poured out in a computerized voice, almost, as if I could separate myself from it. This was the text that followed...

Good Evening Everyone,

I'm happy to be home in NJ, with all of you tonight. Each time I visit, I regret having moved from this place, that holds such meaning...

First, I need to tell you, that I'm not a pastor, I'm not a theologian, and I did not attend seminary school, but I do have a story to tell, and I want to thank, Rev. Doug for inviting me to share my faith, with you this evening.

I would also like to start with a prayer, if you would allow me. My prayer for you, is that no matter where you are on your own faith journey, God would use me to speak into your heart. That He would give me the words to reach you, and stir something inside of you. I ask this in the name of His son Jesus, Amen.

We moved to NJ in the spring of '71, I was 8 years old, the same age, I realized, that my mom was different from the other moms. I have a vivid image in my mind, of my mom hanging onto my dad's arm, as they walked toward me, sitting on a bench, outside of our NY city apartment building. It was my birthday, and I was playing with my shiny new red transistor radio, our version, of an ipod, in my childhood. I remember the next nine years being difficult for me and my siblings, never considering at the time, how hard it was for my parents, juggling 4 children, ranging in age from 6 to 13, while my mom was battling Multiple Sclerosis.

Sitting here, with you now, at age 50, fighting my own battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, I still have trouble wrapping my head around that period of my life. I remember clearly, stealing time away from my family, to be alone with God, and pray for peace, within the chaos, of my daily life, asking God to help me get through it, and He did just that.

My mom gave up after years of suffering and frustration, and passed in '79, just prior to my 17th birthay. Regrettably, I was not at her bedside, being a typical teenager, raised on the Jersey shore, I spent that particular day on the beach. When I returned home to find out she was gone, I did not shed a tear, I remember a sense of numbness and relief. What I expected was the worst part of my life was over, what I later realized, was my childhood was over too.

I finished high school the following year, and wanting to distance myself from the years of painful memories, I moved out from under my father's restrictive hand, and began my young adult life. I first landed on Atlantic Avenue in Long Branch, sharing an apartment in a house with three other friends. Although I made one bad choice after another, God kept me safe, as I moved up, and down the coastline, enjoying the freedom of my twenties.

At 26 years old, I was brought to my knees, when suddenly, my younger brother died of what the coroner characterized, as natural causes. Seriously, natural causes, at 23 years old? How is that possible? Just, two weeks earlier, I walked in circles around the park, in an early March snow storm, praying for God to help him through his struggles. Was this, the answer to my prayers? I was angry with God, and I let him know it! Michael was hurting, and I wanted God to help him, not to take him.

The months following were more painful than grieving the loss of my mom, and there were many days, I could not contain my tears, as the world continued moving around me despite Michael's absence. It just didn't make sense, but God had already set up a community of people who surrounded me, and supported me, through the process of healing.

More than three years passed, things were beginning to normalize, my career was taking off, and I was starting to travel for work, when I got the call, and rushed home because my dad had a stroke. He passed away in the weeks shortly after. At 29 years old, three of the six members of my immediate family were gone, and yet, I still hung onto my faith, but what did that faith resemble?

That's hard to answer, I did not attend church, and it seemed the only times I stepped into one, was for a wedding or funeral. I believed in God, but, rebuked organized religion. I prayed, mostly for help and protection, and through the years I could always feel His presence.

Throughout my thirties my career continued to grow, and I spent a lot of my time travelling alone. I remember being filled with fear initially, until I realized I wasn't really alone at all. I prayed for God to be with me, and keep me safe, as I travelled to a new city each week, rented a car, got a local map, and found my way. It no longer felt scary, it was an awesome adventure, that took me on a wonderful tour, of the United States, I was grateful for the opportunity, and I always felt protected.

Jump forward to my 40's, and I was living in the suburbs of Chicago, going through a hostile divorce, with responsibility for a 15 month old baby girl from China. This child was about to teach me about God's love, like nothing else ever reached me before. Until I experienced the love I had for this tiny human, I could not begin to understand, the love our heavenly father has for us.

I had hit rock bottom, when a few short months after returning home from China, with our newly adopted daughter, my husband asked for a divorce. Turned out that we didn't have the same ideas about what family life would look like. Like clockwork God sent help in an instant! My family flew out from NJ, and stayed with me until I got my bearings. My boss, Rich granted me immeasurable grace, as I adjusted to being a single mom, and his wife, Helen, whom I had never met before, often sat with me to offer any help or guidance I needed. People came out of the woodwork to offer support and empathy.

More than one person suggested that I attend a divorce recovery program, at a church I had heard of but never explored. Having grown up Catholic, and still recovering from that experience, I was willing to try. So, with all the courage I could muster, I bravely ventured out to see what God had prepared for me, and once again found His safety net was waiting.

Willow Creek Community Church became my home, and the loving God I had always believed in, was there, waiting for me to finally find my way. That was in 2004, and now nine years later, I am still grateful to be growing in my faith, despite my circumstances. You see, this church was the place where I found help, and where I really began to learn about God. I took classes, read books, attended services, and eventually even attended leadership conferences, that reshaped my life, and my approach toward work.

I can admit today, that I was a type A, human doing, moving at a fast pace, consistently in motion, with high expectations of myself and everyone around me, leaving a wake in my path. If not for the transforming experience of my church, there is no way I could have accepted my diagnosis in 2010.

There are some who want to question why a loving God would allow them to struggle, but God never promised us, we wouldn't have troubles. We all have our challenges, mine are physical, yours may be different, but no less valid. He wants us to bring him our burdens, He wants us to lean on him in difficult times, He wants to hold us close like a parent holds a weeping child. Yet so many of us want to be in control! We think we know best, but the truth is until we surrender to His will for us, we will really never know peace!

I think about those advertisements for cars, that can go zero to 60 miles per hour in 7 seconds, and that was me, always going faster than I really needed, but this disease brought me to a screeching halt, and I had to give up control to ultimately find my purpose.

Now, my husband and I, race for a different reason, to help raise awareness, and funding for research and patient care for those suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease. We are part of a support group, and we have tried to reach out and help other families struggling with this disease. I write a blog about my experience living with ALS and the many blessings that have come along with it.

Ultimately, I have a positive outlook on life. Some people choose to look at their glass as half full, and others choose to see it as half empty; I choose to see mine as overflowing, because I know that I am not in control, and I trust God to get me through this. I pray that whatever your challenges are today, you will be able to give them to God and rest peacefully in His care, knowing that He is waiting to help you.

The room was drenched in deep silence when I concluded that evening, I don't know what I was expecting; I hadn't thought that far. I only finished writing it minutes before we left for the service. Rev.Doug said silence is good, but for me, in that moment, it was difficult to know what the silence truly meant.

Looking back now, my testimony was incomplete; it was the Reader's Digest version of my story, and focused more on the lows, rather than the joy filled life I enjoyed. I was blessed to find love in Chris, one year before my symptoms started, and marry him six months before my diagnosis. A man who has honored his commitment in sickness and in health. I also neglected to mention that after 14 years of living across the street, I finally met my neighbor Laura, my caregiver, when through a series of phone calls, she came to lift me from the floor of my laundry room in early 2011, again my safety net in place before I knew I needed one.

So, my story continues to unfold with an endless cast of characters, sometimes passing through, and often playing a major role in strengthening my faith, that someone far greater than me is in control, when I remember to relinquish my will and trust in His...

It's a bit like church on the porch, stepping out of your comfort zone, planting yourself among those that need help, and seeing what God has planned for you... Thank God for people like Rev. Doug Brown for his example of courage and faith!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Things I miss...

Disclaimer: the following litany of activities is in no order of priority, they are, as they fall haphazardly into my mind and onto the screen before me. It is, in fact, incomplete, as I'm certain that once posted, I'm apt to recall something I have neglected to include. It also excludes those things that are private, and should remain so...

I would also like to point out that I do not intend to present this as a list of complaints, it is simply one individuals perspective of living with restrictions, in the spirit of Julie Andrews, let's try to think of it as a list of some of My Favorite Things.

Hugging, don't underestimate the power of human touch.
I come from an Italian family, and we're huggers; we hug our friends, their friends, relatives, co-workers, acquaintances, and pretty much anyone who evokes the natural urge in us.

While I still receive hugs, my arms are not strong enough to wrap around anyone and hug back, so while I still enjoy them, I feel like something is missing. I've also noticed, the hugs I receive are much more gentle. I know I'm not looking very strong, but I assure you, I won't break from a more robust hug if you are so inclined. My daughter is proof of that as she often embraces me with the approach of a wrestler attacking his opponent, and I have managed to survive.

Driving, after more than a decade of commuting in bumper to bumper traffic to get to work, I can hardly believe I'm saying this but I miss driving. There is just something about the freedom that I felt when I was driving alone on a sunny day, with the sunroof open blasting my favorite music. Yes, of course I was singing along, and there were times, my hands may have left the steering wheel as I made a joyful noise...

Shopping, I know what you're thinking, what woman doesn't like to shop and well... I can still shop online or go to the store in my power wheelchair. It's just not the same. Shopping was therapeutic, relaxing, and though I avoided malls, I enjoyed taking a leisurely stroll through Target on Sunday with my husband, Chris. Although, he insisted on having a list, and imposed a maximum number of impulse purchases, sometimes putting a damper on the excursion. It was all in good fun, as I rarely got reigned in for exceeding the limit.

Movies, yes I can still go to the movies, but the experience is not quite the same... Handicapped seating is safely located at floor level, you know this area as the place you have to sit if you arrive late to a popular movie on Saturday night. It can be hard on the neck, unless of course you have a Permobile C-300 with tilt controls! While I can see the logic, I really miss the view I might otherwise enjoy in the upper rows of stadium seating! Refreshment options are also limited, as I want to be considerate of my fellow patrons, and spare them the delight of spontaneous aspiration on a rogue kernel of popcorn. Luckily, the popcorn at our local theater smells better than it actually tastes.

Rollerblading, one of my greatest passions! There were times when I thought my feet could literally leave the pavement as I experienced the joy of skating! I could circle the neighborhood repeatedly in the early hours of a summer day listening to Casting Crowns, Chris Tomlin, Third Day and a variety of other christian rock groups. I can clearly remember raising my arms in sheer joy and gratitude for the pleasure it gave me, acknowledging it as a gift. Who knows what the neighbors thought, as the crazy middle aged woman raced by, while they sipped their morning coffee from their decks overlooking the lake... I am still grateful that I have those memories to meditate on as I sit here.

Singing, I enjoyed singing from an early age and later with my daughter, Maddie. We would have show tunes pouring from the iPod dock most mornings, and sing and dance as we got moving, a trick I learned that often helped get a sleepy toddler up and ready to embrace the day! We still enjoy music together but I'm leaving the singing to Maddie, and it still brings me joy knowing it's a passion we share.

Cycling, I logged many miles along the Prairie Path and the Great Western Trail over the past decade and a half, and I really miss that too. The smell of the woods always reminded me of camping with my dad and siblings, I could hardly get enough of it as I breathed in deeply, filling my lungs to push my legs as fast as they could go. Racing past the trees, ducking from the lower branches, and drinking in the colors of the prairie grass and goldenrod against the deep blue sky. I was experiencing heaven on earth.

Cross country skiing with my husband Chris, a sport we took up together the winter after we met. Chris had been teaching it for years at school with the kids, but really wasn't doing it for fun outside of school. First, we started out in the open spaces behind our home with the girls; it was a fun family activity, and then we branched out to actually buying gear, and finding trails to explore. It was peaceful in the woods, gliding along together, enjoying the wildlife as we spotted deer, bunnies, and field mice... Actually, I recall several dead field mice along the prairie path, still scratching my head over that...?

My favorite memory of this was our trip to Hickory Hideaway for Valentine's Day weekend! Chris rented a log cabin and we ski'd at Lake Carol Country Club! It was pretty hilly out that way, and we had a few scary moments as it challenged us a bit beyond our skill level, but I enjoyed every bit of it!

Physical activities with my husband and our girls, I miss skating and cross country skiing with them, riding the waves in the ocean, playing in the pool and snow tubing, the list goes on... While I have never been much of a spectator, I can still enjoy watching them! My favorite is watching all three of them compete in Dance Party on the Wii. I'm certain Chris will deny it, but I have video proof!

Work, I loved my job, and the people I had the pleasure of working with! I had the opportunity to challenge myself, and my team to continually look for ways to improve the process. I had the best team of people; they often taught me more than I taught them. I'm grateful that I had the kind of job that I was excited to be at every day!

Dressing up, at the risk of sounding vain, I must admit I miss the dresses, the heels, the feeling of being comfortable in my own skin! We attended a very special wedding this weekend, and while I got to wear a dress, pretty patent leather flats, and some jewelry, my body just barely held the dress up. I just don't look like myself anymore... Yes, it's vanity, but its also a feeling of confidence. I was completely stressed, out worrying about how I looked, whether I could keep it together through the ceremony, and not become a spectacle as I often cry at weddings. I didn't want to be the woman sobbing in her wheelchair disrupting the ceremony.

It was also awkward to have my speech device attached to my chair outside of my home to attend this kind of event, but I needed it to communicate. Turns out everything went smoothly, Chris took super good care of me, everyone made me feel comfortable; I even enjoyed a few sips of wine, totally relaxing me, and had a wonderful time!

So to sum it up, life is different but it's still good, and I'm thankful for the memories, they are vivid in my mind and this disease cannot take them from me...

Friday, June 14, 2013

Impact... Community In Action

They say that victims of earthquakes experience them in slow motion; as the walls come crashing down around them in minutes, time seems to stand still. Sitting with my husband, in the doctor's office, after months of searching for answers, I had a similar experience when the neurologist delivered my diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. The words hung in the air, as if I had the option to dismiss them, or accept them. I remained calm, almost frozen, as I noticed the tears begin to stream down my husband's face. “Two to five years,” the doctor said, “That's the prognosis for this disease. There's no cure, no effective treatment for what you have, I'm sorry.”

I had heard of Lou Gehrig's disease, but frankly, I knew nothing about it. I was always concerned about Multiple Sclerosis, as it runs in my family, so when my symptoms began to progress, I was almost certain MS would be the conclusive diagnosis. I was prepared for that, not for ALS, not for something worse, not for something fatal. In the days to follow, I remember thinking, why isn't there a cure or at the very least an effective treatment?

Unfortunately, like an earthquake, when we hear about ALS, it only lasts a news cycle and then we lose focus, but the devastation remains.

And then come the aftershocks, as you tell your family and close friends, your boss, co-workers, and eventually the person who cleans your home, cuts your hair, and paints your nails, because you can no longer hide the fact that you're sick.

Each time it becomes more real, more terrifying, and more overwhelming, until you decide to accept it and live your life despite it! Today I am living with – not dying with – ALS.

I don't say this flippantly, like someone in denial and I didn't get here easily, but I did get to a place of hope and optimism because of the people that surround me.

In my twenties, I read a book about family systems; the author used a mobile to illustrate how an event in the life of just one member of the family, will impact every other member of that family system. Try it, watch a mobile moving effortlessly in synchronized harmony, now touch just one of those dangling pieces; and the next thing you see is utter chaos, each piece flying through the air in a different direction. You see, the expectation is that there is always a negative impact; that has not been my experience; that is not my story.

As I sit here in my power wheelchair, feeling the warmth of the afternoon sunlight on my face, I am reminded that spring is coming. Each year, when I think that I just can't take another day of winter's biting cold, spring pops and a daffodil breaks the earth's crust and pushes through. This is one of my favorite things. It's the way I've come to think about living with my disease... Just when I think I can't endure another day, something happens to remind me there are good days still ahead.

Days when I get to share lunch with friends, see musicals at the theater, receive a note of encouragement from a dear friend I haven't seen in 20 years, and recently, I was able to see my beautiful, ten year old daughter sing "You Make My Dreams Come True" on stage, while she literally was making my dreams for her come true. Her joy was my joy!

Since early 2010, I have experienced what it's like to move from an active working mom who exercised daily, enjoyed rollerblading, cycling, cross country skiing and running with her husband and children, to a mom that has learned to use assistive technology in order to help her daughter do her 4th grade math homework because I could no longer speak. That said, if not for my illness, I would not have been home after school with her to spend those precious moments.

What I have learned in the past few years as my body gradually deteriorated is that being sick is not for those weak in spirit. It takes determination, strong faith, and the ability to see the blessings that come along with the pain, to get through it one day, one hour, and sometimes one minute at a time.

Most importantly, I've seen how my illness has impacted those around me. Over the last three years, I have seen co-workers, friends, and neighbors become my hands and feet when mine would no longer serve me. They provided child care, transportation, and meals when we needed them. They packed up our things, and unpacked them again, to move us into a new home when I could no longer climb the stairs of our family’s home. They participated in walkathons, and ran alongside us, as my husband pushed me in a specially designed jogger, to honor a commitment he made to run my first marathon. A special group of neighbors even went door to door to tell our story, and raise awareness and funding for research and patient care.

Just when we thought we had seen blessing after blessing, two former students of my husband's, now in junior high school, organized an annual dodgeball tournament. Recruiting support from local businesses, parents, fellow students, and teachers to help, these young ladies engaged the entire community in our efforts to fight!

They've organized the dodgeball tournament for two years now, and each time I roll into the high school field house, I am overwhelmed by the number of people who participate and attend. There were teams of teachers, parents, high school students, and junior high students, each team dressed to show their unique spirit, each more amusing than the next! Bubble wrapped teachers, moms in tiaras, and students in their brightly colored t-shirts and wild socks, they made me smile and laugh.

Many of them greeted me, or stopped by to ask how I was doing, and reminded me that they keep us in their prayers. One adorable group of tiny elementary school girls, who attend the school my husband works in, walked by the bleachers back and forth, selling wristbands, and stopped by to ask about my new puppy, Sally. Apparently, word got out about my furry Valentine's Day gift! I did not have my Dynavox (communication device) yet, so it was difficult to respond, but I smiled and nodded my head to acknowledge them, and mouthed the words, thank you.

I also had the pleasure of meeting the lovely young ladies who inspired us with their vision for the event, along with their parents, grandparents, and siblings.

One family who participated had recently lost their high school aged son, Michael to brain cancer. Yet mom was at the front table welcoming people as they entered the event, collecting admission, and dad led a team, "The Heavy Hitters". Both greeted me individually, and although there was little spoken dialogue, I sensed a connection of deep understanding in their eyes, a moment of mutual compassion, that won't be erased from my heart. My husband had been one of Michael's teachers, and even in their time of grief, they were present to support us, nothing short of amazing.

This was impact we never saw coming! This was community at it's best, and I am humbled, and filled with gratitude, because no matter how bad it seems, I know we are not alone.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Puppies In Heaven...

Sometimes it seems like a three ring circus around here, but I wouldn't trade it for anything! If you've been reading my blog, then you already know about Blue, our 50 pound Border Collie mix, who thinks he's a lap dog. Given the chance, Blue would gladly sit on my lap, if he could just figure out how to get up here without hurting either of us. Luckily, he has not found a way.

Then there's Crabby, our cat. She has earned her name with her "Don't call us, we'll call you!" attitude. Don't misunderstand, she wants attention, it's just going to be on her terms, and not yours. You cannot pick her up, you cannot brush her, or move her, unless she approves. Weighing in at about ten pounds, I am often amazed at the effort it takes to get her to budge.

She is a beautiful long haired, grey and white kitty, with bright, hazel green eyes. Unfortunately, if she won't let you brush her coat, it becomes matted, and since that was my job, well... you get the picture. Recently, we had her groomed into a lion cut. It's exactly what you would imagine, she was shaved with the exception of her head in the shape of a lion's mane, and what appears to be a duster at the tip of her tail, simply hilarious! I'd imagine she's feeling a bit naked, having lost much of her body mass in the process!

She has taken to new behaviors as a result of the whole traumatic event: sleeping on the heating vents, my right shoulder during naps or overnight, and walking the length of the edge of the whirlpool tub, as if it were a balance beam, to jump on my lap during my therapies in the morning. Not that I mind so much, but she's disconnected my feeding tube a couple of times now, and that's a big mess!

Overall, I'd have to say, she has been a lot more cuddly.  She was living in the basement for about six months after we moved, and she has finally moved up to the main floor to live with the rest of the family. I still don't think that she's forgiven us, but it's nice to see her back.

Then after years of pleading, my wish came true on Valentine's Day, and my dear husband placed a ball of fur on my lap, later known as Sally or officially, Mustang Sally Brown, on her pedigree papers. She is the cutest thing on four feet! Golden and white, the most adorable menace you've ever met. Living up to her breeding, she's a little Shih... Tzu much of the time!

Nothing is safe anymore, Sally drags around whatever she can get to: slippers, shoes, towels, and unmentionables of all kinds. She loves to play in the backyard, hops through the grass like a bunny, and enjoys trudging through the flower beds to find a stick to chew on in the mulch. Sally doesn't subscribe to the idea of being a little lady, and returns looking like a scruffy mutt, enveloped in dirt! The only thing to do at that point, is to drop her into the laundry room tub. My husband seems to enjoy it and so does she, especially the blow dry to follow.

Blue and Sally are great together, rolling around on the floor, chasing each other, sharing their toys in a tug of war, and terrorizing the cat; they were fast friends. They have brought me so much joy and endless amusement, the very best medicine.

I feel a strong connection to our pets; I'm certain Blue knew I was sick well before we did. He is on the job 24 hours a day, even when I make the slightest noise in the still of the night, he is up on the bed investigating. There was even a time, I recall him waking my husband, in the middle of the night when I attempted to get up on my own, as if to say "Hold on, you're not going anywhere alone.", my protector.

Pets are God's little bundles of healing energy, and I sure hope there are puppies in heaven...