Dear Atticus

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Dear Atticus,

We have to say goodbye to you and that goodbye is going to be painfully real in about 24 hours. 16 months ago you were diagnosed with diabetes and we, along with your veterinarian, have done everything we can to regulate your blood sugar and keep you healthy. You almost died last summer when your glucose went too low. In the fall, you went to high and Dr. Earley brought you back from that as well. He said you are the most difficult case of diabetes in a pet he has seen. At this point, you are insulin resistant and we can’t stabilize you anymore. You are very sick. Our happy pug left us months ago and we’ve been hanging on with you, hoping things would improve. We are past that point and together with your veterinarian we made an appointment to euthanize you and that appointment is tomorrow.

My eyes well up typing those words. Euthanize is an awful word but I refuse to say that we are putting you to sleep. You aren’t going to sleep. You already sleep 23 hours a day at this point. We are releasing you from a body that failed you long ago. We are going to take on the pain of watching you snort your last pug breath so that the pain will leave your body. No more tests, no more pricks on your paws, no more shots, no more all day vet visits. That stuff isn’t for you at this point. It would only help us feel better but it isn’t about us anymore. You don’t understand why you feel crappy and are tired all the time. You’ve aged at an incredible rate and your eyes are clouded over with cataracts. The state you are in isn’t fair to you anymore.

Tonight when I go to sleep, I will fall asleep to the sounds of your pug snores for the last time. The thought of that makes me nauseous and my eyes burn. You’re my furry white noise machine and the room will be eerily quiet without you. Tomorrow your dad will take you on your last morning walk, something he has done almost everyday for the last nine and a half years. I’m not sure what he’s going to do. It will probably take awhile for him to quit walking to the door to grab your leash.

The details of life after you are gone are stressing me out more than they should. What do we do with your bed, your bowls? How many times will we vacuum before your fur is no longer with us? I’m pretty sure your dad’s black jacket will never be fur free and I am completely sure he is ok with that. You will be gone but you are woven into our home and our family just as your fur is woven into that jacket.

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Elliott is young enough that he might not remember you when he is older but for now, he doesn’t want you to go. He said you can’t go to Heaven because you are part of the family. We’ve been reading books about pets dying and talking about the fact that you are going to Heaven and you can never come back. You are teaching him about life and death and I promise you that we are not taking this lesson lightly. We won’t lie and tell him you went to live somewhere else or that you’re sleeping. We will tell him you died. We will tell him your body quit working and the veterinarian couldn’t fix you. Doctors can’t always fix us and we all die. We couldn’t fix you. It was your time to die.

I don’t regret the months of vet visits, the thousands of dollars spent, the insulin shots, the prescription dog food or even the heartbreak that is now taking my breath away. You have taught us about caring for the sick and the weak. You have walked us down the path of illness that doesn’t always end well. We will have to walk this path again someday as everyone we know and love will die eventually. Your death won’t make losing a parent, friend or sibling any easier but we will have the experience from you to equip us as we begin that painful journey.

Thank you for being a part of our family for nine and a half beautiful years. You went through law school with us. You were part of your dad’s marriage proposal to me. I will never forget that ring tied around your fat pug neck with a white ribbon. You were both so sweet standing there in front of me in that moment. You studied for 2 bar exams with us. You moved with us from Florida to North Carolina. From North Carolina to Northern Virginia. From Northern Virginia to Alabama. Everywhere you lived, you were beloved by all who met you. You made so many friends, I can’t even name them all. You welcomed Elliott home when he came into our lives. You were his first dog and he was your kid. Before Elliott could even talk, if you asked him what a doggy says, he would pant loudly just like you. That’s what his doggy said! He meowed like Dean and panted like you before he talked at all. Atticus, you loved us in your own crazy pug way and your absence will leave a little pug shaped hole in our hearts.

I am sorry that we couldn’t heal you. You were never going to live forever but we feel a little cheated with only nine and a half years of you. We’ve been reading a book called “The Heaven of Animals” by Nancy Tillman and this beautiful sentiment at the end of the book is a hope that I will hold on to. “You’ll grow older; I will, too. That’s what people always do. But when you meet your friends again, they’ll see you as they saw you then. And you’ll find they always knew how much they were loved and how much they loved you.”

So let me soak in your sweet and stinky smell a little longer. I will sleep to the sounds of your snores one more time. Walk a little slower with your dad in the morning so he can remember every step. Long after you are gone, I’ll find you in my dreams. I will find you the way I want to remember you. Full of energy, tail curled up like a cinnamon bun, panting and snorting loudly. I will see you cock your head to the side when I ask you a question and giggle at the way you balance yourself on the arm of the couch. Your belly will soak up the sun as you stretch and roll in the green grass and my heart will be happy.

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to be two

My sweet Elliott is 3!  My capacity to love just gets bigger as he continues to grow up before my eyes.

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Two was not terrible.  Two was more fun than I have ever had.  Attention parents of older kids who want to warn me about how awful having a 3 year old will be: keep that crap to yourself!  I am too busy pretending to be a fire fighter, a construction worker, a member of the Paw Patrol, a patient of Doc McStuffins or a rock star to be negative.

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This year I watched a tiny toddler who barely put two words together start talking like an adult!  I cringe when I think of all the times people said “you will spend all this time wanting him to talk and then he will start talking and he won’t shut up.” The daily conversations we have are my most favorite thing ever!  My sincere prayer is that he never stop talking to me.  He sings songs – Church songs, songs about trucks, classic rock and Darth Vader’s theme song.  We like to mix it up around here.

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His imagination is endless.  He sets up a scenario and we act it out until he randomly jumps into another world or worlds collide.  For example, he will have his toy horses talking to each other about what they like to eat then the next thing you know, the horses are complimenting Darth Vader on his cape.

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I am smitten with the sweet way he shows his love.  “Thank you for making this yummy dinner, Mama” is about the lovliest thing I’ve ever heard.  He’s my snuggle bear, my little hand to hold, and my shadow.  There is nothing like a big kiss and a hug from a 2 year old!

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He loves to learn and as a 2 year old began to focus on things for more than ten seconds.  Some days we would sit and read stacks of books for almost an hour.  The preschool program at Community Bible Study was a highlight for him every week and he fell in love with the librarian during the “Time with Twos” storytime.  He learned to count and sing his abc’s and he can name any truck on the road.  I know because he screams out the name whenever he sees one.

He enjoys his friends and likes to chat with the people he knows.  He also likes his space and learned to tell me or anyone else when he needed a break or some quiet time.  He inherited my tendency to feed off the emotions of others.  Parenting him through this intense empathy can be challenging but only because I struggle with it myself.  As with most toddlers, other kids grabbing his favorite things made his head spin but we are working through that as well.  Seeing the social tendencies of another human develop really makes you reevaluate your own behaviors.

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The thing about having a 2 year old, the great thing, not the terrible thing, is that the toddler’s craziness isn’t so different from your craziness.  When Elliott talked to me in a not so nice tone, I heard my own tone and we had to work on that together.  When Elliott freaked out because dinner wasn’t ready yet, I had flashbacks to all the times I have been “hangry” and wanted to kill someone.  Elliott and I are learning to navigate the challenges of handling emotions, things that make us uncomfortable and being told what to do and this growth started during his year as a 2 year old.

 

I am sure I’ve screwed up plenty of times this year.  Being a parent is really hard but being Elliott’s mama is an honor.  Standing witness to this year was beautiful, overwhelming, emotional and pure magic.  I am feeling so much joy as I enter life with a 3 year old.  So if you are a mama with a baby under 2, let me encourage you.  2 is amazing.  2 is a gift.

View More: http://stillframes.pass.us/elliott

 

Honoring A Father’s Heart

We all learn different things from our Dads.  Some good and some bad.  We find ourselves shaped by these things more than we realize, for better or for worse.  While I recognize that not everyone has something to celebrate on Father’s Day, I am blessed to say that I have an incredible Dad to celebrate.  I am surely a different and better person because of my Dad.

My Dad has always worked hard for our family and while I did learn so much from his admirable work ethic, he taught me more about how to value time spent not working.  What’s the point of all that hard work if you don’t enjoy the life you are providing for?  Keep your playful, childlike spirit.  Get off your butt and go enjoy yourself.  My Dad loves sports and through his hard work, he is able to go to all types of sporting events and sit right up front.  Bring your glove to the baseball games so you can catch a fly ball.  He is generous with his time off, taking friends and family along for the good times.  I have memories from over a dozen trips to NASCAR races, where we hung out on pit road that I will treasure for the rest of my life.  If you’re going to work hard, make sure to play hard too.

Become a meaningful part of your community through service.  Our world works better when we work together.  Real community service is a lifestyle, not a random activity you participate in when you feel like.  My Dad has been a faithful, active member of the Lions Club for most of my life, serving in leadership roles and doing everything he can to keep that organization and the good it does going.  Community service isn’t just writing a check, it is getting your hands dirty and giving an actual part of your life, expecting nothing in return.  Many an evening of his is now spent supporting community events like school sports and the 4H club.  You don’t have to just show up to these things begrudingly.  You can enjoy yourself as you see how your help and encouragement builds up others.  My Dad chooses to sponsor clubs, feed football teams and supply the schools with needs unmet because he knows we are all better off when we all do our best to be generous with our time and our resources.

It is easy to give up on people, particularly when people are being incredibly difficult or unlovable.  Our culture encourages self sufficiency and fails to show grace to people who just can’t seem to get it together.  Our culture shows love to the popular, powerful and lovable when really the lonely, weak and hard to love people in this world can be changed with a little (or a lot) of support.  I continue to watch my Dad stand steadfast in grace and in forgiveness.  He is a faithful supporter of others.  He doesn’t give up on anyone.  I’ve seen him be graceful and supportive to the point of self sacrifice, over and over again.  He gives the angry, the sad, the addicted, the broken, the poor, the dishonest and the homeless another chance, especially when they don’t deserve it.  I have seen all those people given chances and support by him become stronger and free from whatever was keeping them imprisoned.

So on this Father’s Day, I am reminding myself of these lessons and I am renewing my desire to let these traits display themselves in my life more.  We get to choose where our heart will lie everyday and I want my heart to lie in a place that honors the life my Dad lives by working hard to enjoy the sweet stuff, serving others and offering grace and support to those who need it.  I want to believe in the possibilities we all have inside of us and help others reach those possibilities.

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Happy Father’s Day to my Dad and Elliott’s Grandaddy!

Happy Birthday to Atticus

A very happy birthday to my pug, Atticus.  Atticus is 9 years old today.  He is a great brother to Elliott and Dean the cat.  His hobbies include sleeping, sniffing, sleeping and trying to get food he can’t eat because he has diabetes.  We have all learned a lot from our smushed face, curly tailed buddy and we hope for many more happy years of walks and snuggles with him.

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How To Love a Jellyfish

A jellyfish has no heart and a jellyfish will sting the crap out of you and ruin your day at the beach.  When I was young, so young that I don’t remember, my mom says I would try to save the jellyfish at the beach.  Other beach goers would dump the little guys on the sand to leave them to dry out and die.  I would take my bucket and try to put them back in the ocean.  I loved the jellyfish, not because they could do anything for me or because they loved me back.  I just loved.  I want to get my heart back to that place of unconditional love.  As a mama of a little one, I want to exhibit that kind of pure empathy again.  I want to believe that no one is unlovable, even those that hurt you.  I want to stand up for love, even when it stings.  I want to figure out how to love a jellyfish.