Paw Prints on My Heart

I’ve never known romantic love. I’ve never felt that deep connection or pull propelling me towards a man.. yet. I’m not a mom and have never experienced what it might be like to mother a child.. yet. One feeling I do know, quite fondly for that matter, is the love between a dog and it’s owner. Since days before turning 14-years-old, I’ve been able to proudly identify myself as a dog owner, or “dog Mom,” more appropriately. I’ve known what it is like to care for another being so profoundly. To be sitting at school or work, wondering what he’s doing, thinking or feeling and if it’s he’s okay. I’ve known what it is like to worry for countless hours as he was rushed into emergency exploratory surgery after a grave, life-threatening surgical error on part of a veterinarian. I’ve known what it is like for my entire family to gather together during this moments as we anxious and nervously awaited word from the veterinarians regarding his status.

Oliver in his shirt.png                       Oliver smiling 2

Throughout my entire adolescence and adult life, Oliver, my 15-year-old Bichon Frise has taught me more than most people probably could. He’s taught and shown me the meaning of resilience and strength, even when he’s in pain. He’s stayed by me because he knew I needed him and still do. He’s been my one constant in my life – my only consistent co-worker, sitting beside me through the pain, the happiness, the turmoil, the challenging moments, only separated for brief periods of time throughout the course of his life.

Paw Prints

He fills the house with energy and light, even when he’s fast asleep in his bed, I can still feel his presence, clearly coloring my life and being my constant companion. When I reflect on his life and all the moments we’ve shared together, I only smile, as I remember him as a puppy, laying on the grass with me as a young teen, as we helped put together a swinging outdoor chair in our former house. He’s been through more than many dogs probably have their lifetime and yet, he epitomizes strength and courage. He looks to me with his eyes filled with emotion, almost telling me he is holding on, still filled with much life inside of him. How I hope he knows each and everyday, I’ll always fight for him, always stand up for him, because he’s always done so for me, looking to me for guidance and direction. Him and I have never given up on each other, holding on through love and courage.

Animal Eyes

I’ve come to know through Oliver that often times, the best cure and treatment for most anything is love and companionship – two remedies that are never too costly for anyone, because they are priceless. The greatest gift I’ve ever been given is Oliver, it is because of him, I know I’m capable of loving another.

Dogs Feel

 

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Believing in Better Tomorrows

Wherever you might be today, I hope your day is going well and if it’s not, I hope you see the hope and promise of tomorrow, as I try to do on particularly challenging days. As you might know if you’ve read my blog previously, I’m constantly searching for inspiration, even in the most unlikely places. Though, most often, I tend to find inspiring quotes and food for thought on mediums such as Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and in magazines/books. Relatively often, I noticed fellow “friends” on Facebook and Twitter posting or sharing the quotes and thoughts of SimpleReminders.com. Perhaps you’re already familiar with them and are aware of their consistent posts throughout each day, but if you’re not, they are one site I’ve taken quite a liking to. About two days ago, I took the time to scroll through their Twitter feed, easily becoming enthralled with all they shared.

With that being said, I felt compelled to share it with others, such as fellow readers who might not have seen their posts, and it is my hope that someone might feel as inspired as me after reading some of them (NOTE: Not all are from SimpleReminders.com, but many are):

“The cost of not following your heart, is spending the rest of your life wishing you had.”

“Life is a mural that you create. Every action you take is another brush stroke. Make yours beautiful.”

“True friends are those rare people who come to find you in dark places and lead you back into the light.”

“Be the girl/guy who decided to go for it.”

“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”

“Flowers grow back, even after they are stepped on. So will I. Resilience.”

“Not everything faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

“Use your eyes to see the needs, and use your talents to meet them.”

“Love is not what you say. Love is what you do.”

Garden Quote

 

Body by the Letter: A “TODAY” Anchor’s Words of Wisdom

For a number of years, I’ve been a dedicated fan of the NBC daily morning news program, The TODAY Show. In fact, as a middle-schooler, I can recall spending many mornings with my mom and sister seated at the kitchen table with Matt Lauer and Katie Couric‘s faces greeting us with their pleasant and often, witty banter. As the years passed, I wouldn’t watch the show as often as previously and for a brief period of time, switched to their competitor program on ABC. However, years later as an adult, I again switched, this time exclusively, to watching The TODAY Show. Throughout the past few years, I’ve come to truly love the anchors and the overall program. The messages and stories discussed on air are often inspiring, engaging and reach parts of me I often failed to recognize or acknowledge.

Savannah and Matt

Many of the anchors are filled with inspiring thoughts and pertinent knowledge, though as I laid in bed last night, unable to quickly fall asleep, I perused through my Facebook newsfeed and capturing my eye was one of the best messages I quite frankly have read in awhile. With that being said, I couldn’t let a day pass without sharing it with whomever may be reading at this moment. Perhaps you’ve already seen or heard about it, but if not, please take a moment, if you can, to read it, because the underlying message and premise of it is one that deeply resonates with me and could quite possibly resonate with you, as well.

The following (copied from the official TODAY Show website) is a letter drafted by current TODAY Show anchor, Savannah Guthrie, who is the mother of two children – almost 3-year-old Vale and an infant son, Charlie. The letter is to Vale, with Savannah sharing her words of wisdom in line with Love Your Body week, a series of segments regarding body love on The TODAY Show:

Savannah and Vale           Savannah and Family

My dearest Vale,

I’m writing this letter to you because we are doing a series called, “Love Your Body” week. I will confess just to you: That is something I have never been very good at doing. But I’m hoping I can teach you to be different. I hope that as you grow up, I can teach you to love and embrace the miraculous physical vessel that is carrying your magnificent heart and soul.

You don’t know this yet, but our society is pretty obsessed with body image. Before too long (it’s inevitable) you’ll be bombarded with images of perfection almost nobody can attain. If you’re like me, and so many women, you’ll be tempted to judge yourself, to compare yourself, to berate yourself, to doubt yourself. I hope somehow I can equip you to withstand this assault on your confidence.

I want you to love your body, not because of how thin or tall or pretty you may grow up to be, but because it is truly a miracle. God made you; you are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” as the famous old scripture says.

It is only natural to care about our physical appearance, and I’m not idealistic enough to think I could prevent that. But when you think about your body, let’s think not about how it looks, but about all the things it can do. Let’s think about your strength and your endurance. Let’s be unendingly grateful for your good health and never take it for granted. Be kind to your body, respect it and treat it well — this is the only one you’ll be getting.

And just so you know — you are, in fact, quite beautiful. I love your crazy golden curls, your gigantic blue eyes, your sweet cheeks and that super-wattage smile that lights up the world. But what is most lovely about you radiates from your inside out: your joy, your brightness, your warmth and your irrepressible spirit. That is why I’m so very proud of you.

Love,

Mom

Savannah and Family 2

As I read this letter, countless sentiments and emotions were summoned inside of me. How desperately I wished I could have read this letter years ago, as a vulnerable teen trapped in a word of self-pity, judgment and failure to feel as though I was “enough.” So often, it is true that we focus on what our bodies look like instead of what they can do, or what they are capable of doing. Sometimes, when I find myself in the midst of judging my appearance, I try to think of all the ways my body is able to support and carry me. My arms allow me to lift Oliver, my elderly dog up the stairs from outside; they allow me to lift my niece out of her high-chair, or onto my lap. My legs carry me from place to place and allow me to help open doors for others who cannot. In so many ways, my body has helped me and though I often take it for granted, or tend to focus on the way it appears on the outside, how important a message to be reminded, by Savannah, in this letter to her daughter. Everyday, I wish for others who may be younger than me, the same age, or even older or unborn, for peace with their bodies; for the ability to see their body for all its strengths and capabilities rather than fixating on the outward appearance and the supposed “flaws or imperfections.”

Reading Savannah’s letter, I wished nothing more than to keep it beside me, for easy reference, during those difficult moments in time when I feel “less than enough,” or harshly critical of myself. “Everything can be beautiful when you stop looking for flaws.”

Love Yourself quote

Quotable Lessons

What a whirlwind it’s been these past couple weeks! With my 29th birthday arriving earlier this month (on the 3rd), it caused me to reflect quite a bit on my life and in particular, the past decade. To say it’s been tumultuous would be an understatement. Much of it was difficult, painful and at times, excruciating to endure. Other parts of it were dramatic, but positive, in some respects. With that being said, I ushered in the last year of my 20’s feeling loved and cared for. In the evening, my family and I gathered together and shared a couple hours exchanging laughs and enjoying each others’ companies. So often, I find myself in moments drifting away, worrying and fretting about the next day, hour, moment, and beyond. Though, this time, I centered my focus on that present moment, knowing that if I didn’t, I would regret it hours later. Consciously I knew, hours later, I would lay in my bed, reflecting upon the day wishing I had simply enjoyed the moment, relishing in the time with my family. Looking back, that evening was a defining moment in my 20’s, as I felt more loved and appreciated than I could have envisioned.

Flowers Blooming 2              Flowers Blooming

Pictured: Flowers spotted while on a walk the day of my birthday.

To that end, I found myself looking for even more quotes than usual, as I embarked on my 29th year. So often, I stumble upon the most intriguing and expressive thoughts through Twitter, of all places. With that being said, I thought I’d share a few of these quotes or statements, because perhaps they might impact someone who may be reading this:

“Life is the most difficult exam. Many people fail because they try to copy others, not realizing that everyone has a different question paper.”

“When writing the story of your life, don’t let anyone else hold the pen.”

“Strong people stand up for themselves, but stronger people stand up for others.”

“You will always be too much of something for someone: too big, too loud, too soft, too edgy. If you round out your edges, you lose your edge. Apologize for mistakes. Apologize for unintentionally hurting someone – profusely. But don’t apologize for being who you are.”

“Spend your life with who makes you happy, not who you have to impress.”

“If you don’t see the book you want on the shelf, write it.”

“Love when you’re ready, not when you’re lonely.”

“In this life, we cannot always do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”

“Work hard in silence; let success make the noise.”

“Every scar has a story, don’t be afraid to tell it.”

“Be kinder to yourself. And then let your kindness flood the world.”

“Those extra 5-10 pounds, that place where your body naturally wants to be – that’s your life. That’s your late night pizza with your loved ones, that Sunday morning bottomless brunch, your favorite cupcake in the whole entire world because you wanted to treat yourself. Those 5-10 pounds are your favorite memories, your unforgettable trips, your celebrations of life. Those extra 5-10 pounds are your spontaneity, your freedom, your life.”

Inspiration by the Minute

It’s a beautiful day, weather-wise here in the suburbs of Philadelphia and has been for the past several days, much to my delight. There is a difference in the air, demeanor of my fellow neighbors and beyond, when the weather is warm, sunny and pleasant in comparison to cold, blustery and dreary. With that being said, each day and nearly each minute, I find something, no matter how minuscule to be inspired by or at least provoke a consideration or stream of thoughts within my mind. This past weekend, on a trip to Hallmark to purchase some holiday cards as I browsed through the store, several bits of merchandise caught my eye and had me enraptured for several moments. Unfortunately without being able to purchase all of them, I took advantage of the next best thing and snapped some quick photos from my iPhone, hoping to recall and remember them the next time I’m in need of inspiration or food for thought.

Taking in this aforementioned merchandise, I thought, why not share this find with others? So with that, I give you, the photos I took this weekend of the Hallmark merchandise I spotted in-store:

Hallmark photo                    Hallmark photo 2

Hallmark photo 3

Hallmark photo 4

Also, several months ago, I spotted a company on Facebook whose merchandise and overall initiative caught my eye: Mantraband (mantraband.com). If you’re not familiar with them, they are a company producing inspirational jewelry (bracelets and necklaces). Hailing from California, these bracelets and necklaces are available in countless different inspirational “mantras” or quotes, arranged on their website according to category (i.e. happiness, love peace, strength and journey) They are also available for purchase in Hallmark stores (I spotted them by the checkout counter!). Necklaces are the newest addition to their lineup and are as beautiful as the bracelets. They are extremely active on social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram and are always hosting giveaways. Speaking of giveaways, back in January, I was announced the winner of one of their Facebook contests where they asked followers to submit their favorite mantras, or quotes. My prize was the opportunity to choose any Mantraband bracelet I’d like. Here is my choice:

Mantraband

The “Brave” mantra in particular resonated with me and actually, I took the cardboard portion and posted it on my refrigerator for easy reference and inspiration. Each mantra is imprinted on the outside of the small cuff bracelet, so it is easy to see and refer to at any given time.

One of my other favorite means of inspiration are books and the small, but poignant quotes or phrases I seem to come across every so often. Most recently, I spotted one in one of the novels I read and the quote, from Nora Ephron, the late director and writer, stood out to me and has stuck in my mind ever since. It is a quote with much personal meaning to me and I often remind myself of it when I feel overwhelmed by personal faults or worries and snapped a photo for easy reference:

Book Quote

Anyhow, that’s all the inspiration I have for you today, but I do hope it was able to provide you at least with a fresh perspective, insight and even the momentum you might need on this mid-week day.

Words that Heal

Perhaps you’ve had days like me, where words someone says or doesn’t say can dramatically impact your thoughts, feelings and overall demeanor. They can repeat and circle endlessly within the mind, never ceasing, not if for a brief moment. Sometimes, they even stretch beyond what they initially were, eating away at us, suffocating our willingness to take chances, limiting our confidence and ultimately, can silence us. With that being said, there is also the ability for someone’s words to have a dramatically opposite effect – one that lifts us, one that inspires us, or simply makes us feel noticed, acknowledged and recognized. These words can come in the simplest of ways – an acknowledgement of our style, a talent, a facial feature, anything, really. Though, no matter how “small,” these words or acknowledgements may seem on the surface, what they can do for us inward, is a whole other impact, one that just might change someone’s life.

To better explain what I mean by this, I was simply scrolling through Facebook this afternoon, when I stumbled across a quote my friend shared. It was a quote/series of thoughts that deeply resonated with me, so profoundly so that it inspired this very blog post, prompting me to share it with those of you who might be reading. This is what I mean:

compliment-poem

After I read this, I contemplated all it meant to me for awhile. It led me back to my first job out of college, where I worked at a nonprofit organization facilitating various programs and doing a bit of grant writing. During my time there, I was fortunate enough to meet countless amounts of people who are filled with greatness, intelligence and talent. One woman in particular, a member of the community coalition affiliated with the organization I worked for, stood out to me, but not only to me, my fellow coworkers, as well. We agreed she embodied strength and an undeniable aura of kindness and reassurance. From merely chatting with her for moments, I could sense the compassion and depth within her. When she spoke to others, she connected in such a way that had the ability to make nearly anyone she spoke to feel heard and recognized. Though I didn’t know her well, certain words and conversations she and I shared still cross my mind, today. Every Thanksgiving, I think of when she told me of the tradition she and her friend share: visiting the hotel directly located within the path of Philadephia’s annual Thanksgiving Day Parade and sharing tea together, with a view facing the parade. From my understanding, they lived a distance from each other, but would always visit in that hotel restaurant each Thanksgiving, delighting in each others’ company and sharing in the Thanksgiving Day parade festivities.

Meeting her brought a newfound confidence to me, in talking and complimenting others. Sure, I’d issued compliments to others such as great shoes or hairstyle, or outfit, but at that time, it was hard for me to recall ever really complimenting someone other than my family, about their personality and ability to connect with others. With this particular woman, it was different. In one of our few conversations, I wished her well, as she made her way out of the office to continue to her day, but before she did, I complimented her on her optimism and compassion, her willingness to help and to hear others, to give them a voice,  to allow them to share and to truly recognize all they were saying. Having the ability to make someone not only feel listened to, but HEARD, is a rare quality in itself and I felt it was necessary for me to take the chance to compliment her on this.

admire-beauty

So today, I urge you, if you haven’t already, to issue someone a compliment, no matter how small it may seem to you, to them, it could brighten their day – it could very well be the only positive thing they hear today, or almost any day. Even when we don’t feel our best, we can always do something to make others feel good, because I know for myself, when feeling down, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone else.

compliment-quote

Reach for Hand, Lend a Paw

Today is National Love Your Pet Day and I find it particularly fitting in that in a mere two weeks, I’ll be celebrating 15 years of pet ownership, or more specifically, when Oliver, my bichon frise, joined my family. Ever since the early years of my childhood, I’ve been a fan of dogs, enthralled with their pleasant, spunky nature, their ability to comfort, inspire a smile and simply maintain a calming and joyful presence.

oliver-after-eating            dog-quote

Several weeks prior to my 14th birthday, my mom announced she found an ad in the newspaper for bichon frise puppies, just having been born. Once the phone call was made, my mom, sister and I ventured to the short distance to the woman’s home whose dog had recently birthed several bichon puppies. The puppies fit in the palms of our hands, their white fur just starting to take on their signature curl. Too small to leave their mother, we waited several weeks until we ventured back to choose our new family member.

oliver-alone

From the moment I spotted him, I knew he was the one. The smallest of the bunch, he was a bit timid, but inquisitive, and I knew, there was something special about him. At first, my family questioned why I was so set on him when his other siblings happily frolicked about. For me, though, perhaps there was something about Oliver that resonated so deeply within me. From that moment on, I knew it was him; my co-pilot, my friend, my companion, the one constant in my life, who would be there through it all, always waiting for me at the end of the day.

oliver-busy-bone

So today, a day when we commemorate the love our pets, I’d like to share a montage of photos I’ve accumulated through the years, showcasing Oliver in his happiest moments, adding joy and light to my life and my family, showering us with love and care. He is truly loved and that love has persisted through his 15 years and will always continue. Here’s to you, Oliver, thank you for being you, thank you for your love, your presence and your guidance. Thank you for teaching me the meaning of resilience and strength and that sometimes, love is the best medicine we could ever give.

oliver-busy-treats              Oliver in his shirt.png     oliver-tongue