Perfect Timing

Sisters

Sisters

A few months after our wedding, Frank and I decided it was the perfect time to add a puppy to our family. We had talked about wanting to be a dog family before getting married and, since we wanted our puppy trained before tax season began in January, we decided September would be a good time to start looking. Right after our conversation, Frank noticed a sign in the coffee shop by his office. A backyard breeder on the north end of town had puppies that would be ready for a home in a couple weeks.

We made an appointment and drove up to look at the puppies. They were beautiful! Some sort of shepherd mix, we fell in love with a quiet female. She was old enough to go home right away, so we brought her with us and spent the weekend getting to know our newest family member. Frank’s office is in a Victorian house on a double lot with a large fence around the grassy area. We decided that we would train our dog to go into work with him. She would be a mostly outdoor dog, but we thought being with Frank and outside all day was better than having her stay inside.

Frank brought her to work that first Monday – before we had taken her to the vet or even gotten tags for her collar. After an unproductive morning of playing with her in the yard, Frank went in to meet with a client. He heard her whimpering and barking outside, but was told by a dog-owning friend to ignore her cries – paying attention to them would create a spoiled dog.

After his meeting, Frank went down to check on our pup, only to find that she had disappeared. There was no sign of how she could have gotten out of the fenced yard. We searched the neighborhood, made signs, and spent weeks visiting shelters after work. Our only thought is that someone heard her cries and came into the unlocked yard to take her.

It was our first tragedy as a young family and I wondered if we would ever get another dog or if we would be competent parents with our own human children. After lots of processing and finally accepting the reality that we had lost our puppy, we decided to start thinking about a new dog. The more pragmatic side of me wondered if we had missed our window of opportunity to train a dog before tax season. Frank, who is far more optimistic, said we would figure out the timing – we wanted a dog, and we should look for a dog.

Daisy's first day home

Daisy’s first day home

This time around, we went to Lifeline Puppy Rescue, where I fell in love with a bear cub-like, energetic, jumping puppy. Frank wasn’t as sure, but little Daisy and I bonded as she snuggled into my lap. We took her home with us that day and before we made it to our house, had stopped at Petsmart for ID tags.

Daisy Deux never went to the office. We kennel trained her to stay at home and she happily became a one-family dog. We did a puppy training class that ended a week before the craziness of tax season began, and now, five years later, I can’t imagine better timing for our first “child.”

The past few weeks have been a lesson in timing for me. I am reminded that any time I have made plans for the perfect timing of something, life happens and things usually don’t go the way I planned. From professional opportunities, marriage and family, to kids and pregnancy, opportunities and interactions come along that are completely out of my control. And, in hindsight, the imperfect timing of it all is actually more perfect than I could have planned.

I’m not sure I’ll ever stop planning my life – it’s part of who I am. But, I can learn to adjust as I go. I’m slowly learning to hold my plans loosely and to go with the flow when twists and turns occur. And as much as I love planning, I love looking back on the imperfections of my plans to realize how amazingly everything has fallen into place.

Are you a planner? How do you go with the flow?

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Poets Anonymous: Life

Welcome to our monthly Poets Anonymous!

On the 15th of each month, I’ll post a poem. If you have a blog, post a poem on yours and share your link in the comments. If you don’t have a blog, feel free to share part of a poem in the comments. Or, I encourage you to simply read a poem today.

Some things that fly there be, -
Birds, hours, the bumble-bee:
Of these no elegy.

Some things that stay there be, -
Grief, hills, eternity:
Nor this behooveth me.

There are, that resting, rise.
Can I expound the skies?
How still the riddle lies!

Emily Dickinson

Share a favorite poem (or segment of one) in the comments!

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Ready

We woke up to the heat going on today. The high is going to be something in the mid-50’s, which seems too cold for September 12. This is just a snap – next week will be pleasant again. I love autumn and the coziness of winter, but am not quite ready to put away the water table and sandals.

Too cold!

Too cold!

Last night I wrapped our tomato plants with sheets, preparing for the worst forecast of snow, though we woke up to drizzle. It made me think about other areas of my life right now. I may not be ready to make certain decisions, to let go of ideas or hopes, to move on just yet, but it’s important to be ready, to prepare myself for the inevitable.

Wrapped tomatoes

Wrapped tomatoes

On the flipside, I am very ready for some things to start happening, to move to the next stage of a journey, to start new routines. I need to prepare for those, too. Now, it’s by waiting and resting in the moment. Sometimes it’s a more active waiting, but often it feels too passive. I’m trying to embrace the stage of waiting so that, when the times comes to get going, I’m ready.

As a natural planner, this small season has been a good challenge for me: The tension of being prepared, being ready, and letting things happen naturally in their own time.

Are you a planner? How do you prepare?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.

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Camping with a Toddler

We finally went camping over Labor Day weekend. Even though we had thought out exactly how we were going to Introduce Bea to Camping, we threw our carefully scaffolded ideas out the window, tossed more gear than we needed into the car, and headed up to Wyoming for three days of rainy camping.

Even though it was chilly, rainy, and we only saw one bison in all of Yellowstone, Bea had an amazing time, so I count it as a success. She loved our campsite, she loved sleeping in the tent, and she loved the caldera of Yellowstone. (An obsession of the moment is volcanoes, so Bea was thrilled to spot the geothermal activity in bubbling mudpots and steaming geysers.)

Checking out Dragon's Mouth mudpot

Checking out Dragon’s Mouth mudpot

We stayed at Flagg Ranch, which is located between Yellowstone and the Tetons. It was the perfect spot to visit both parks easily. After a day in Yellowstone, we went down to Jenny Lake in the Tetons, took the ferry across the lake and did a half mile hike up to Hidden Falls. Bea was able to do most of the hike herself, and loved being on a boat for the first time.

Even though we are nowhere near experts in the field of camping with kids, here are a few things we learned:

1. Bring Squeezes
Before becoming a parent, I hated fruit and veggie squeezes. Now, I appreciate their ease on park trips and playdates. On a long road trip, they are a necessity! We often drove through lunch, eating peanut butter and jelly or even stopping at a fast food restaurant. Giving Bea a veggie squeeze, while not an ideal replacement for actual fruits and veggies, made me feel a bit better about our lax diet.

2. Audiobooks
We wanted to limit screentime anyway on this trip and poor reception in the Tetons and Yellowstone made this goal easy. We turned off our phones and relied on imaginations and spotting animals for entertainment. During the long stretches across the fields of Wyoming, a selection of audiobooks from the library came in handy. (Our favorite was Bad Kitty.) I know in the future, we may change our goals on road trip screentime, but for now, I’m glad we set the precedent of audiobooks and conversation.

Bad Kitty during a long drive

Bad Kitty during a long drive

3. Ice Cream Stops
Bea comes from a long line of ice cream connoisseurs. We try to limit our dessert intake at home, but finding a daily ice cream stop became a fun event and a special camping treat. National Parks are filled with lodges carrying special ice creams and having a huckleberry ice cream fix made hiking and constant activity more fun.

4. Pack n Play
For Christmas, we bought a gigantic tent that has a room divider and space to set up Bea’s pack n play. This helped immensely in keeping bedtime routines at the campsite! Though bedtime was pushed back to sunset, having a familiar space helped Bea go down and get a good rest. Even though she ended up with us every morning, she started out on her own and stayed in her bed for a good portion of the night. Bea won’t use her pack n play next summer, but I’m glad for a tent with two “rooms,” as it makes it easier for us to come in later without disturbing her.

5. Finding Adventures
As soon as camp was set up, we went in search of the amphitheater near our site. For some reason, we couldn’t follow directions and between a walk with me, with Frank, and with our friend who joined us for the weekend, we didn’t find the actual amphitheater until the last day. I think this turned out to be a good thing because it gave us an adventure and a goal each day during a key time – dinner prep, packing up, or other times when it was easier to have Bea away from camp.

Finding the amphitheater

Finding the amphitheater

We are definitely still novice campers! What advice or tricks make road trips and camping easier for your family?

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Whisper

This has been an exhausting week for our family. We’ve gone through a lot of emotions from a variety of reasons. From amazing news to a fun and refreshing road trip to worrisome feelings and then hope. From an intense conversation as we are in the midst of a friendship falling away to heartbreaking news…. It’s all been packed into the last week and I feel so tired.

I curled up with Bea last night and whispered into her sleeping hair. Snuggling with her reminded me that in the midst of the roller coaster, God is doing the same with me. I need to stop, to breathe, to listen to the whispers of hope and redemption in this stressful time. To rest in peace that passes understanding. To stop trying to understand at all and to just listen to the whispers of hope.

Thankful for nature

Thankful for nature

I need to remember in the midst of disappointment and tears that this week had its amazing moments, as well. Moments of showing Bea our favorite places and spending time as a family. Moments of laughter and hugs and processing. On our road trip, I remembered the refreshment of nature, of the wild beauty of where we live, and of my awe at all the gifts I have.

Linked up with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.

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Parallel Play

While at the park the other day, Bea tried playing with a couple of older girls. At first, they seemed to be having fun digging in the sand and chatting. It worked for a bit, but the older girls had an imaginative game going and Bea just wanted to dig. The girls ended up relocating under a different slide and Bea found a new activity, happily climbing alone.

Content to play alone

Content to play alone

With other two-year-olds, this rule works well: We like being together but are cool doing our own thing. Bea and her small friends will play for hours, sometimes with the same toys, but most often in the same proximity while doing different things. Occasionally, we’ll have an It’s mine! argument, but for the most part, the toddlers are happy on their own.

Mixing developmental levels works for a while, but it seems the older ones get bored and want to play their own games. (Unless they’re much older and then the role of babysitter comes into play.)

Observing the older girls at the park interact was interesting, too. After a while, someone’s feelings got hurt. The others follow, they talk it out, one may say she needs a bit of alone time, and then they continue playing – until the cycle repeats itself.

Watching, I wondered how I could get the attitude of parallel play back in my life. As much as I am grateful for my thoughtful, intentional interactions – both in my community and as I absorb information – I sometimes wish adults could practice the skill of being together without actively interacting.

How can I be content doing my own thing, knowing I’m enjoying myself, without worrying about what others are doing? It reminded me that there will always be a group of people who seem to be having more fun, more meaningful conversations, more adventures than me. In reality, I am happy, connected, and discovering small adventures daily. Why compare?

How can we be content being in proximity, but letting our peers do their own thing. Can we simply be in the moment, without worrying about following the script, being too intentional, or deepening a relationship all the time?

There’s something beautifully simple about digging in the sand next to a new friend, getting up to go down the slide without worrying if they come too, sharing a snack, and repeating the process.

Do you find yourself content in your daily experiences? How can we bring the idea of playing alongside but without comparisons into our interactions?

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Review: Let’s All Be Brave by Annie F. Downs

Sometimes it seems that making big, life-changing decisions feels easier and more natural than deciding what to make for dinner. When I decided to attend college in Paris, it seemed the only place I could consider – who wouldn’t want to study art history in the center of Paris? It never occurred to me to be nervous or afraid in the decision-making process. Only until after I moved and settled in did I realize the courage it takes to live abroad at 18 years old. Similarly, when I decided to spend three months teaching in Kathmandu, it seemed the be a very natural transition. I had never been to Asia; I missed the mountains; I wanted to see if I enjoyed teaching – where else would I try it out but in Nepal? Looking back, these decisions were brave. At the time, they seemed the next logical step in my journey.

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In her book, Let’s All Be Brave, Annie F. Downs explores the idea that bravery is born in small moments and decisions. She opens the book by saying how she is not a naturally brave person. She grew up on the same piece of land her grandparents had owned for 50 years; she went to college where all her church friends went; she traveled and did missions trips, but never for more than a couple weeks. She was content living her life in familiar comfort.

In her mid-twenties, Downs felt she should move to Nashville. Even though it’s only three hours from her home, this move starts a series of brave moments. From quitting her steady job to pursue writing to taking a job in Scotland for a season, she learns to say “yes” to those small moments that turn into brave decisions.

Following the trend of telling short stories, Downs uses this format in a cohesive manner. She gives depth in a short space and her stories fit her theme. I also appreciated her vulnerability in talking about loneliness, being single, and the importance of community. The writing style is very informal and it feels as though I’m chatting with Downs rather than reading about her journey. She is able to write conversationally without making me lose the depth of her message.

I’d recommend this book especially to women in college and early twenties. Even though Downs is my age, I didn’t feel a sense that she was writing for my peer group. As I read this book, I kept thinking of twenty-something women I know who I wanted to share this with. I know it’s meant for a larger audience, but Downs’ style and subject seems best suited for young women starting out in life.

What are some brave moments in your life that seemed small or even normal at the time?

Normally I’d put this book up for a giveaway, but as mentioned above, I kept thinking of women I know who would enjoy it. So, I’ll be sending this to one of them. If you know a young woman who could use encouragement to be brave, I’d recommend buying Let’s All Be Brave for her!

I review for BookLook Bloggers
I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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