Welcome Gracie!

Gus has a new cousin!

This is Gracie.  She joined my sister Ellen’s family last week, and we are all thrilled!  She is a lovely, mellow girl with a coat like grey velvet and soulful eyes that can melt your heart.  She has already settled in and is taking up residence in everyone’s hearts.

We can’t wait for all the fun times ahead.  That’s what family is all about, right?

Happy Birthday Gus!!

Today is Gus’s 4th birthday!

In our house we believe in celebrating everything that there is to celebrate. This morning we woke up to birthday hugs and kisses, and it has been all about Gus all day.  He had a great time outside, flying across the field and doing what he loves most – running after his ball.  He even got together with a few friends for a romp.

This afternoon, Grandma came over (as she does for all her grandchildren’s birthdays).  We had a little party, complete with presents, decorations and birthday cake.

Hey, life is short and there’s enough of the other stuff, isn’t there?  When you have something to celebrate, I believe that you should absolutely go for it!

If you’d like to post a birthday comment below for Gus, that would be great. I’ll be sure to read them all to him.

Cheers!

P.S.  I’d like to also send a  special Happy Birthday wish today to my wonderful cousins, Lesley and Michelle!  (I wrote about them in an early post, Sometimes you Just Have to Choose ).  Happy Birthday and thanks for the inspiration!

Listen to your heart

“You’re insane!”  The voice of my dearest and most trusted friend rang across the telephone line.  “You’re 45 years old!  Your kids are old enough that you are finally getting some freedom, and you can walk out the door whenever you want to.  You guys are already working so hard, trying to do everything for your family, and you never have time for yourself as it is. IF YOU GET A DOG NOW, YOU’RE CRAZY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There we were, four years ago this month, on the brink of the decision to get a dog.  You already know how the story ended. However, this week I find myself thinking back to that time, and remembering the process we went through in making that life altering decision.  I suppose it was the first lesson that Gus taught me, before he even arrived.

At the wise old age of almost 49, I know for sure that the one constant in life is change.  Just when you think you have settled into your groove, and you have it all figured out, something new will come along and rattle your world.  Perhaps you are deciding to give in to that urge to bring a dog or a child into your family.  Maybe you want to go back to school, to change your life’s direction.  Sometimes a challenging new opportunity presents itself at work.  It’s all part of this fabulous journey called life.

So what do you do?  As humans, our natural instinct is to be thrown off balance by the prospect of change to the status quo.  Even if we have chosen that change ourselves, we are comfortable with things the way they are. Even if it is exciting, the future can look awfully scary.  In weighing all the pros and cons, we tend to focus heavily on all the negatives associated with the change, and how it will impact our lives.

I remember methodically detailing all the ways in which getting a dog would strain our resources:  time, freedom, order and money were all going to be affected as we fit this new creature into our already bustling lives.  We would have to alter our daily routine and schedule to accommodate his needs.  We had to adjust our monthly budget to account for his food, pet insurance, vet bills, and supplies. We had to come to terms with the fact that we would have a whole lot of poop to pick up over the course of his life!

As responsible adults, we tried to create a spreadsheet; weighing both sides of this monumental decision.  We also listed all the positives associated with getting a dog.  From our research, we knew that dog ownership brings more exercise, stress relief, and a chance for the kids to experience the love and responsibility that go along with caring for a living being.  This sounded great, but was it enough to outweigh all the negatives??  As the Mom of the family, the final say in the decision was mine.  After all, it was acknowledged that it was my life that would be affected the most by this change.

What followed, and what I have since distilled as the original Lesson from Gus, was a process that I realize I have gone back to time and time again through my life.  I did my homework, and I thoroughly researched everything I could that would help me with my decision.   I tried to gather as much information as I could to enable me to project what life would be like with a dog in the family.  I visited friends with dogs and asked them about their day-to-day life.  I compared notes about costs and benefits; love and headaches, and I asked everyone I knew what they thought I should do.

I was completely rational and practical as I weighed all this information. I went in circles, and drove everyone around me crazy as I analyzed it all to death, and tried to put it all together.  What if I resented being tied to the house more?  What if we got hit with  a huge vet bill?  What if he chewed up everything in sight?  Would we be able to fit his walks into our daily schedule?  How hard would it be to train him?  It would be good for us all to get outside more.  We would love having a sweet puppy in the house…

In the end, after so much analyzing that my head hurt, I stopped and took a step back from the issue.  I realized what I had to do to make my decision.

I finally understood that the research was critical, and the analysis essential, but that those parts of the process weren’t going to give me everything I needed to reach my conclusion.  I learned that, in making life decisions, there are some elements that you miss if you only look at the data and the balance sheet.  There’s another part of the process that’s just as important.  It hit me then what I had to do.

So, I closed my eyes, and I took a deep breath . . .  and I listened to my heart.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Eat, play, love

I don’t think that Gus has any idea at all that the calendar has just turned over, but for us humans, it’s hard to escape.  There is something about the approach of December 31 that makes us reflect on what has passed, and on what lies ahead.  It can all get a bit overwhelming.

As a result, I’m sure you noticed that I retreated from blogging for much of December.  My apologies, but for some reason I found myself needing to take a break from “putting it out there.”   I have had a wonderful few weeks of non-routine with Gus, my family, and so many special friends.  I’ve also found myself turning inwards.  I’ve  looked back over the events of 2009, and I’ve reflected a lot on what lies ahead for me in 2010.

This past year will always stand out for me as one of great extremes.  I experienced loss, sadness and grief, but also the incredible gifts of love, support, and inspiration from so many incredible souls around me.  I suppose those two sides of the coin often come to us together.

I have also had the incredible experience of acting on something I am passionate about, and I have been overwhelmed by the positive results and far-reaching ripple effects that have come back to me as a result.  I have felt excited, terrified, overwhelmed and incredibly fulfilled, all at the same time.

As I try to sum it all up and step bravely forward, out into the -20 degree January morning, I find that, as usual, I am drawing another lesson from Gus.  In his world, right now is what truly matters.  Introspection and reflection are great, but he just gets on with it and deals with what’s right in front of him; right here and right now.  And he keeps it pretty simple.

As the title above suggests, life for Gus revolves around three basic things.  In fact, I realized that the last few weeks have been all about those same three pillars for me as well.  I have eaten so much wonderful food (and I have the tight waistband to show for it!).  I have kicked back and enjoyed down time and fun with those who are dear to me.  And, I have been truly blessed with an abundance of love in my life.  Maybe that’s why I’m feeling so good now, as I head into this new year.

I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions.  To me, they only set us up for disappointment and frustration, as we try to measure up against unrealistic and unattainable goals.  This year, I’m going to try to keep it simple, the way Gus does.  I’m going to do my best to focus on the here and now, just as it unfolds before me.

My plan for 2010 is to eat well, play often, and love with all my heart.  I think that if I manage to do that, the rest will take care of itself.

Happy New Year!

Love, Janet