Whose Dog was That?

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If you’ve ever owned a pet or have watched a dog run out into a heavily trafficked street, you’re familiar with the feeling of a racing heart, a tightened chest and a knotted stomach – even if it’s not your pet.

I was standing on the sidewalk outside of the bike shop in Park Rapids waiting for my friend to finish up his phone call when a small brown puppy raced out of the park and turned the corner onto the sidewalk adjacent to highway 34, the main drag between Park Rapids and Dorset Minnesota. Her bright red leash bounced off the pavement as she raced past me.

Soon after the dog ran by me, a woman emerged out of the same clearing and then out of nowhere a lanky teenage boy wearing a bike helmet joined her in the chase to capture the runaway pup. I’m not really sure how I thought I could help, but  without thinking at all, I followed their lead and took off down the sidewalk as a part of the rescue mission.

We all alternated between running and walking, it’s really impossible for a human (even a teenage boy) to keep up with a dog who doesn’t want to be caught and has no clue about things like the dangers of cars and really fast traffic. I jogged behind the puppy, trying to catch up while I was mentally willing her to stay on the sidewalk but fearing that she’d run into the highway.

Puppies are like toddlers, they’re oblivious to things like oncoming cars – you guessed it, after a block or two she darted off the sidewalk and onto the highway. My heart stopped, and so did all the cars. I’ve never seen anything like it. Not only did the cars behind her stop – the traffic on the opposite side of the highway slowed to a near stop; I believe that against all odds, she could have run across all four lanes and still been safe.

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After a few blocks of running she headed back toward the park and I watched the teenage boy try and cajole her into coming to him. I figured it must be his dog and the adventure was over, so I slowed down to a walk and thought about turning around.

From behind me I heard a woman saying, “That’s not my dog, but thank you, thank you for your help!”

She jogged past me trying to catch up with the teenager and the puppy on the boulevard.

Before I could turn around, a horn beeped twice and a red minivan pulled up along side me, “Tell her the dog’s name is Bess and I found the owner,” the driver said.

“The dog’s name is Bess?”

“Yes, and I found the owner through Facebook!”

Feeling I now had a purpose I ran as fast as I could to relay the news.

“Her name is Bess and the guy in the red van knows who her owner is,” I shouted as I ran past the woman who had thanked me.

Bess had thankfully run back onto the grassy area next to the highway, but she had no intention of being scooped up by some lanky teenage boy.

“Is that your dog?” I asked.

“No, is it your’s?” he replied.

“No, but I think her name is Bess.”

Just then she scampered off behind a fence and onto a back porch.

As though we had met each other before, the lanky teen and I signaled each other silently. I took guard duty at one side of the porch and he rounded the corner to take his post on the other side. We each waited for Bess to come scurrying out so we could take her to safety.

Neither of us caught her, but we successfully set a trap that led to her safety. Bess didn’t know it, but when she figured out how to run past the two of us she ended up running right into the arms of the woman who had started the rescue chase. Thanks to Facebook and the help from some strangers, Bess and her owners were reunited.

So, all this while, my friend has finished his phone call and is trying to figure out where I disappeared to.

I waved when I saw him walking toward me.

“Were you chasing a dog?”

It took a while to explain. :)

A Case of Mistaken Identity

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A few years ago I splurged and bought myself a new suitcase. At the time I bought it, I thought it was the most brilliant purchase I’d ever made. It’s purple, one of my favorite colors, and also a color I figured would stand out from the typical dark green and black bags we all see swirling around the baggage claim carrier.

In the store I loved the fact that it has four wheels and is as tall as my kitchen table. I thought to myself, “This is going to be awesome! Finally a suitcase that will hold everything I need and will be easy to roll through the airport.” I’m not exactly famous for packing light. :)

giant purple suitcase

I continued to think it was brilliant right up until I packed it for it’s maiden voyage and had to figure out a way to get the darn thing down the stairs without killing myself. I managed to slide it down without too much trouble, problem solved and the suitcase’s “brilliant” status had only been slightly tarnished.

Each leg of the trip it became more and more obvious that the purchase was not brilliant at all. I couldn’t get the bag into the trunk by myself, the shuttle bus driver could barely hoist it onto the bus, and it weighed in at just under 50 pounds. If that wasn’t enough, the raised eyebrows and out-loud-laughter from friends and family confirmed that I had actually purchased one of the most ridiculous suitcases on the planet.

The only thing that’s turned out to be good about the bag is that I never have any trouble identifying my suitcase in baggage claim, until recently that is.

The night before my annual trip to Big Sand Lake, I first packed the essentials: walking shoes, ink pens, a drawing tablet, and my hair dryer and then I threw in my clothes. (you can see why I first thought this bag was brilliant, right?)

packing for the lakeAfter 7 hours of travel, including the trip to the airport at 4 a.m., I was more than thrilled when I saw my giant purple bag was the second suitcase off the plane and onto the carousel. I retrieved it and rolled it outside to wait for my parents to pick me up. (I have to admit that the one thing I do still love about the bag is how easy it is to roll around the airport.)

We spent the afternoon in Fargo, and after a leisurely lunch with my aunt and uncle and a short visit with my cousin and his beautiful wife and cute, cute babies we started our 1 hour drive to the lake. About 15 miles into the drive my phone rang. It was a number I didn’t recognize so of course I didn’t answer it, they left a voicemail.

“Hi Beth, this is the supervisor here from United Airlines calling. We have a big purple bag here at the Fargo airport with your name on it so it looks like you picked up the wrong bag from the baggage claim area this morning when you landed. There’s a passenger here who is missing a bag that matches the same description, so we think you have hers.”

Yikes!

Thirty minutes later I confirmed that there was indeed at least one other person in the world who must have initially thought this suitcase was awesome – they were identical.

We made the swap and I learned that the bag I mistook for mine belonged to a group that was originally traveling through Chicago, but had been re-routed through Minneapolis due to a cancelled flight. Unfortunately for both of us, their giant purple suitcase caught the first flight out of Chicago which put it on the same flight as me. What are the odds of that?

All’s well that ends well. I just hope they’re laughing about it as much as we are.

My House, is a Very Very Fine House

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Five years ago is a summer I will never forget and am glad that I can now look back on it with laughter instead of tears. In July of 2010 my life as a single mom and sole provider for my youngest son began. The first and most important priority at that time was to find a house to rent.

Finding a house to rent sounds like it should be pretty easy, but as it turns out it wasn’t.

I signed up to receive email notifications for rental properties that were within my budget, in our school district and accepted pets. Days and days passed with nothing showing up in my inbox. I was beginning to think something was wrong when, ding, ding ding – I had mail!

There was a house that met all of the criteria, so my realtor scrambled to make an appointment the very same day. Christian and I wandered through the house. The carpet was worn, there was a very damp smell to the basement, and the yard was seriously in need of some attention. Sizing things up, we kept repeating to each other, “it’s not great, but it’s better than the apartment.”

We convinced each other that it was going to be great and we could make it work, so I filled out the paperwork, dropped it off, and held my breath. One day passed, another day passed, and on the third day our application was rejected – or rather we learned that the house had been leased to another family.

In between sobs I explained to my parents how horrible it was that we wouldn’t be moving into a house we didn’t love, in a neighborhood that wasn’t great. Wow, now it even sounds ridiculous to me. :)

It seemed like forever until I finally received another promising email, so long in fact that I had ordered and received new shower curtains, towels, and comforters for the apartment. I’d also hung new pictures and put flowers in the window of the apartment to try and lift our spirits and soften the memories.

As with the first opportunity, I was on top of the situation. Within hours of receiving the email I’d arranged a visit with the home owner. The references in the lease to specific types of nails and cleaning supplies should have been a clue that it wasn’t going to be a great fit, but it wasn’t….

I sent the homeowner pictures of my kids and of my home in Omaha as a way to convince her that I’d take good care of her property. After the she called and grilled my close friends (character references) about my ability to take care of a home, she extended the offer to rent to the house to me. Not only that, she agreed to let me paint the walls and I agreed to use the cleaning supplies listed in the lease.

Although the agreement was only verbal, I turned in my notice at the apartment complex with a smile.

The morning I was scheduled to meet the painter an email arrived,

Good Morning Beth,
 
Thank you for sharing the photos of your family and your home with me. You have beautiful children and a lovely home.
 
At this point, it is with sadness that I must tell you that I cannot enter into a rental agreement with you. After serious soul searching, tossing and turning through the night, I have decided that it is time for me to move forward in my life.
 
I have held on to that house for many years because I have a hard time letting go of things I love. I am starting a new job in a couple of weeks and it is time for me to lessen the load and stress I have been carrying for too long.
 
My days of being a Landlord are behind me. As I told you, I really want to sell the house. I’m sure you and your son are wonderful people and we would have had a great relationship. Nonetheless, the season in my life has changed.
 
I spoke to my Agent about this. She told me she just listed a beautiful house for rent which is available for immediate occupancy in the same school district which might be perfect for you. She will be happy to show it to you without delay. I believe these unfolding events will work out for the long term best for each of us. I pray your initial disappointment will become joyful just as quickly.
 
Sincerely and with very best wishes,
The woman who said she’d rent  to you

The house she recommended was so far out of my reach it wasn’t even funny. I honestly didn’t think the tears would ever stop after receiving this email. Thank goodness the management at the apartment complex accepted my un-notice and we still had a place to live.

I’d all but given up hope.

Then, serendipity made her presence known in my life.

My realtor texted me and, the next day I found “my house.”

The front walk was uneven and I made a mental note to be careful if I ever decided to wear heels again.  One misstep and I’d be sure to leave the whole shoe behind. My new landlord (lady) greeted with a warm smile and a hug after a single ding announced my arrival; I’d already begun to think of her as a friend.

“Let’s start the tour here in the kitchen, I’ll go over the appliances in here and Tim will be ‘round directly to show you how to use the fireplace and furnace. They can be a bit tricky, but you’ll be fine.  The neighbors are great and we’re only a phone call away,” she said.  

I took notes about everything from how low I could let the oil tank go, to which key went with which door, and how to prevent a moat from forming when it rains too hard.  I squeezed as many questions as possible in between her excited explanations.

The final stop on the tour was my bedroom.  “Now about your room, I’ve already decided this color is all wrong for you, its way too dull. But I want to wait a bit to paint so I can think of just the right color to fill it with sunshine for you.”

My room is now the color of sunshine.

I don’t have two cats in the yard and sometimes life is still hard, but I am grateful every day for my very, very fine house.

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A Beautiful Lesson in the Art of Giving and Receiving

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Today I went for a walk, little did I know that I would be taught a most valuable lesson about giving and receiving, from a 4 year old girl.

About 1/2 way through my walk I crossed paths with two women and 5 little girls who were enjoying the sights along the canal. I couldn’t help but notice the little blonde girl walking toward me and how proudly she held four goose feathers in her hands.

She looked up at me and stretched out her hands, “would you like one of my beautiful feathers?”

“Of course I would, thank you so much for such a wonderful gift.”

Her entire body, not just her face, lit up with the pleasure she felt in giving me this very precious gift.

As I walked away, goose feather in hand, I wasn’t sure quite what to do. It was clear that to her, this was not a dirty goose feather, it was magical and beautiful. Tossing it aside wasn’t an option. I couldn’t bear the thought of seeing her face if we crossed paths again and I had tossed aside her gift.

The perfect solution came to me and I tucked the feather into my pony tail.

I thought about the nature of giving and receiving. It’s become clear to me that being a good receiver is equally important as being a generous giver. This tiny girl’s face lit up the world with joy when I accepted her gift, I can’t help but think that her light would have dimmed if her gift had been rejected or ignored.

On the final stretch of my walk I encountered the group again. Tiny brown eyes looked up at me asking, “do you still have the feather I gave you?”

I pointed to my pony tail and turned around on the path, “what do you think?”

“I think it’s beautiful,” she said.

“I do too.”

She held out the three remaining feathers, “would you like one more?”

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Oh yes, you need two.”

“Shall I put this one in my pony tail also?”

Tiny hands clapped and she said “yes.”

I tucked the second goose feather into my hair and turned so she could see it.

“Oh my, you look like you have two beautiful birds on your head.”

Words can’t describe the warmth that filled my heart or the smile that spread over my face and hers.

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Artist’s note: The feature image represents my interpretation of the day. Out of context I doubt it has much meaning, but I like to think that my little friend would find it beautiful.

feathers

Rain Doesn’t Make a Day Awful, it Just Makes it Wet

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Saturday was a plan C sort of day. A few weeks ago my friend Dan invited me to join him and his parents to check out the Tall Ships Festival on the riverfront in Philadelphia. A trip into Philly to spend an afternoon with friends is always fun and the festival was a unique opportunity to learn a little about naval history.

L’Hermione, L’Hermione, “A French replica of the 145’ long Concorde class frigate of the French Navy.” Image credit: Tall Ships® Philadelphia Camden

As luck would have it, the forecast for Saturday was 100% chance of rain in the afternoon, not exactly the best kind of weather for an outside activity like touring massive ships with very tall masts and impressive sails.

Dan called to let me know that our group had expanded from 4 to 6 people and because of the rain he was organizing plan B, a visit to the Barnes Foundation Museum and dinner in Center City. Exploring one of the finest collections of Post-Impressionist and early Modern paintings sounded like a perfect way to spend a rainy afternoon.

Between Thursday and Friday afternoon, the size of our group dwindled from 6 to 4 to 2. Dan’s condo is in the middle of a kitchen remodel and since the Barnes Foundation is something that can be visited at any time, it made more sense for his parents to visit another time. It also made sense to move to Plan C, a trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

A new exhibit, Discovering the Impressionists: Paul Durand-Ruel and the New Painting, had just opened at the Museum of Art and we wanted to see the collection before it moved on to another city. We reviewed the train schedule and he ordered our tickets for the exhibit to allow for plenty of time between the trains arrival and the admission time.

I love taking the train into Philly it’s fun to be able to relax and read or people watch instead of being stressed out by heavy traffic, potholes, and parking in the city. The train station is always lively and it’s not uncommon to hear the beat of drums or a beautiful harmony created by two violins played in unison.music performers in the train station

The clapping hands and tapping feet within the audience energized the drumming, dancing, and singing. I couldn’t resist putting a dollar in each of the buckets on the “stage” that hosted these 5 enthusiastic performers.

Dan and I met up on the other side of the station and ventured out into the drizzle to hail a cab. We started our adventure at a local pub and sampled a couple of beers while catching up and waiting for our assigned time for entering the exhibit to arrive. It was a short distance between the pub and the museum and although we used our umbrellas they barely got wet.

The museum supplied an audio recording to add background and insights about various paintings and artists featured in the exhibit. It was a great idea except I couldn’t get them to work properly for the life of me. Sooo, after trying and fumbling with two different devices I gave up and just enjoyed the masterpieces through my own eyes and interpretations.

At the end of the tour Dan surprised me with a gift of 6 tiny color pencils from the museum gift shop – I think it’s one of the best presents I’ve ever received. :) They’re almost too cute to use.

color pencils from the museum

Our walk from the museum to the restaurant was an entirely different story from the walk earlier in the afternoon. I held my umbrella as close to my head as possible and followed Dan’s feet through the wet sidewalks and puddle filled streets.

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By the time we got to the restaurant our clothes were dripping and we could do nothing but laugh about our state of severe sogginess. I think it’s a good thing that I didn’t look in a mirror, I can only imagine that my hair must have resembled something that belonged on the head of a clown and not anything like it did when I started the day.

The restaurant is located in a renovated firehouse and has some of the best beef brisket I’ve ever eaten. (In case you’re wondering, the person in the picture is a random stranger who was sitting at the bar)

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It’s across the street from the Eastern State Penitentiary Museum – which is now on my list of “must do adventures.”

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After dinner we managed to hail a cab to the train station, but not quite soon enough to avoid getting drenched again – proving once again that neither of us were going to melt in the rain.

In reality, it would have been tempting to stay home and plan our adventure for a sunny or at least dry day, but we would have missed out on an awesome day and time spent with a good friend.

Cardboard Boxes, Bottle Caps, and Cats

Sometimes it feels like life is a series of retracted “I’ll never…” statements, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Almost two years ago ago I held Annie and Romeo on my lap for the last time and said a tearful, difficult, but humane farewell to each of them.

the puppers

Their parting wasn’t unexpected although as anyone who has ever had pets can attest to, it still wasn’t easy.

For a variety of reasons I swore up and down that I would never have another pet.

Then one day Christian showed me a few pictures of his girlfriend’s cats while telling me stories about their adorable antics and how low maintenance they are compared to dogs. Knowing my feelings about getting another pet, he was careful not to interject too many obvious references to his desire to have a cat become part of our home.

Coincidentally, I’d also been reading about the benefits of owning a pet as it relates to emotional health and feelings of well-being. There’s something about caring for a living being that helps to reduce feelings of loneliness and depression.

Having a pet forces one to get up in the morning rather than bury themselves under the covers and worry about everything under the sun. It’s also almost impossible not to smile and maybe even laugh out loud when you see a cat hanging out in a cardboard box

mia in a cardboard box

or a tiny basket.

Mia in a basket

There’s practically nothing better than laughter to lighten a mood, and I have to admit that cats are funny. :)

The more I read, the more appealing the idea of having a cat became. Although I don’t think there’s really such a thing as a hypoallergenic cat, I wanted to find a breed that is as allergy friendly as possible. Surprisingly there are 10 breeds that are considered to be good options for pet owners who have friends and family members with allergies.

After two clicks I fell in love with a picture of a Russian Blue, not only do they produce less of the stuff that people are allergic to, they are one of the prettiest breeds I’ve ever seen.

One thing led to another and a single Google search led me to Cats Bridge to Rescue, a local non-profit animal shelter for cats and kittens. Lo and behold the third cat on the adoption page was a perfect match. A 1 year old female Russian Blue named Mia.

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I sent Christian a text:

“What would you think about a cat named Mia?”

Four days later we became the proud and happy owners of a new cat. She quickly made herself at home and began exploring the whole house within just a few hours after arriving home.

She’s been home for 4 months and true to her description on the shelter’s website Mia is very friendly and quite social. She’s not cuddly, but does seem to prefer to be in the same room as Christian or I are hanging out in. During the day we spend a lot of time in the den,

Mia looking out the window
and now that it’s nice outside, we like to hang out on the porch.

Mia sitting on the porch window sill

In the evening she’s my art buddy.

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Her favorite toys are plastic bottle caps – one cap can keep both of us occupied for a long time. It’s hysterical to watch her pounce, capture, and bat the bottle cap around with her paws -> watch here.

I never thought I’d have another pet, let alone a cat, but I’m really enjoying having Mia in my life. Proof positive that the old saying “never say never” is one worth heeding.

Mia

Start with the bigger picture and worry about the details later

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Recently I’ve been learning about composition in creating two dimensional art. It’s not just about how the objects relate to each other, it’s also about how the artist relates to the objects.

The first step is to decide which components of a setting are interesting and intriguing enough to be a part of the composition, then you have to think about how much space you have and how to go about making the most of it.

We’re given an entire canvas to fill so there’s no sense in leaving uninteresting blank spaces around the subject matter.

Once we know what we want to include and maybe more importantly why we want to include them it’s time to start putting things into position  – loosely defining the shapes, locations, and relationships between the objects within the composition.

It’s tempting (for me anyway) to concentrate on one part of a drawing in an attempt to perfect it’s shape and dimension without regard to the larger picture and how it relates to it’s neighbors.

The interesting thing about art is that even the spaces and shapes between the objects are a part of the story and give clues to the artist about the relationships between the objects.

One of my biggest obstacles and sticking points when it comes to drawing is overcoming the desire to draw what I think I should see vs what is really in front of me.

Today’s art class started on time and as usual the small group of students surrounded the subject matter with easels, paints, and pencils. My seat was at an angle which presented a challenge for me.

When I look at something that I know is circular in shape from a head-on perspective that’s how I want to draw it. It’s hard for me to draw the perfect circle as a squished hoop even though that’s how it really looks from my vantage point.

But after some guidance I figured out how to do it. And I began to grasp an understanding of why it’s important to start with the larger shapes and relationships and refine them without immediately jumping into the detail.

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Composing art is actually a lot like life. We often-times get bogged down in the details and worry too much about making one particular aspect of our life “perfect” before moving on.

When we take a step back and consider the entire picture and all that life has to offer, it becomes easier to envision the shape we want things to take and how the different aspects of our life fit together.

My drawing isn’t finished, but there’s a sense of direction and a feeling of progress.

The details are the finishing touches not the starting point.

GMO Awareness Survey – College Research Project

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Are GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) good or bad?

Supporters believe GMO foods are the next best hope for feeding the planet while critics believe that genetically modified foods are unsafe and are an underlying cause of many of the health and environmental issues in the U.S.

My youngest son is a student at Drexel University and is curious to learn more about how well people feel they are informed about GMOs and whether or not they are concerned about them.

Please help him with a research project by answering a few questions about GMOs.