Cherishing the Love of a Dog

Puppies

She’s been born. She, who is yet to been named, is a cream colored golden retriever puppy, just a month old. In a few weeks, all of us eager owners will select a puppy to join each of our families. Soon, I’ll be driving to Illinois to meet her for the first time and to bring her home. A home where she will be trained and treasured. A home with Olive, her big sister, and Bubba, the cat king of the household.

As I was googling the latest in puppy training techniques last week, I found a video of Oprah Winfrey talking about her dog Sophie. It struck a chord. Oprah equated having the love of a dog to the unconditional love of God. I believe it. I’ve been the lucky recipient of this kind of furry love for all of my adult life.

This new little (soon to be big) dog will be traveling to a place where she belongs and is a valued part of the family. She will contribute more than I can ever return to her. She will be happy to see me whenever I come home, hike with me, make me laugh and be there with me when I’m sad. I will cherish every moment and am so grateful to be loved by my dogs.

There is simply nothing like it, here on Earth anyway.

Love Locks – Frankfurt

Love Locks Bridge Frankfurt

There are thousands of locks in all shapes and sizes, each of them representing the love between two people. It’s a growing collaborative sculpture that expresses the beauty of love and relationships. 

The Eiserner Steg Bridge in Frankfurt, Germany, was originally built in 1868-1869 and updated in 1911.  I’m not sure when the padlocks began appearing, but I’m glad that they are allowed to remain on this historic bridge.

I met a nice couple from Malaysia who were in Frankfurt on vacation with their children. We took pictures for each other and had a wonderful time sharing stories on the overcast day. 

Then I pulled the lock out of my bag. It had traveled with me all the way from the U.S.  The special love of my life is my son. So our love lock is now attached to the bridge. 

Love locks in Frankfurt Germany

As I headed back to the train station so I could return to the airport before my flight, I wondered about the people who had put their own locks on the bridge. Are they still together? I sure hope so. The locks are a way to freeze a moment in time when love and hope are strong.

If you ever head to Frankfurt, Germany, I highly recommend visiting the Eiserner Steg Bridge. It was the highlight of my brief time in Frankfurt.

I love you, Travis!!

 

Dear Me – A Message to My Younger Self

Business woman reading letter
If I could go back in time, I’d tell my much younger self, as I began my journey through single parenthood, that it’s going to be okay.

Dear Me,

I know you are frightened about all the the responsibilities laid on your shoulders. It’s okay. You’ll be fine. You care about getting every detail right, including the small ones that really don’t matter so much. Take a breath and know that you are good enough, strong enough and committed enough to make it through the tough times.

Show your love to the people that matter most and be willing to accept love. Make sure your son knows how much you love him. And, ask for help. People are willing to share the load. You don’t have to do everything yourself. It’s not a sign of weakness, but one of strength, allowing you to focus on the most important things.

Take care of yourself. Keep exercising. Your fitness will help you stay strong and confident. 

You are a good person and all of your efforts will pay off. So, relax and enjoy the ride. It’s going to be exciting, challenging and lots of fun.

Love,

Your Future Self

Knowing what you know now, it there any message you’d love to send to your younger self?

Quilt of Love

quilting
One of my hidden talents is designing and sewing lap sized quilts. They will never win awards or appear on the front page of a magazine. Instead, they keep my family members warm.

Intrigued by beautiful quilts I’d seen in magazines and online, I decided years ago to give it a try. I took a few classes and made some simple quilts. For those of you who aren’t quilters, making seams match and points pointy is important in many quilt designs. Since that’s a real challenge for me, I decided to create my own designs.

The most important quilt I even designed was for my brother-in-law, John, after he was diagnosed with Stage 4 brain cancer. He asked me to make him a quilt and it needed to be a large one since he was 6’9″ tall. John was very patriotic so I decided on a stars and stripes design in red, white and blue.

I purchased many fabrics in all shades of red, white and blue and roughly pieced it on a freezer paper pattern. There were a lot of curves and hundreds of pieces. Time was of the essence so I worked on it every available moment. It wasn’t perfectly even. None of the sides measured the same, but it was beautiful and he loved it. It was on his lap as he attended his son’s wedding in the backyard of his house; it kept him warm as he lay in the hospital bed in the living room; it followed him to hospice and warmed him as he took his last breath; and finally, it was buried with him.

God was in the details. I tried to make a similar quilt several times over the years and I can never get it to work. I believe God helped me through a process I’d never tried before to make a quilt that would show my love for John and would comfort him and my sister throughout the progression of his illness. I’ll never make a more beautiful quilt and I’m okay with that.

There’s something comforting about working with beautiful fabrics and weaving them together in amazing designs. While I haven’t quilted much over the last few years, the stacks of fabric and my sewing machine are waiting when I’m ready to return.

2/22/14 EDIT: I finally found a picture of John’s quilt. It was about 5′ x 7′, the biggest quilt I’ve ever made. 

John's Quilt

Valentine’s Day Victims

Broken Heart Valentine's Day
I’m not one of those people who can think of the perfect thing to say at exactly the right moment. I wish I were. Instead, I have to chew on things for awhile. So, I’m either a bit too late or way too early for this party.

Regardless, let’s get back to yesterday. I’m happily single, so Valentine’s Day is not an emotional roller coaster for me. After reading articles, tweets, posts and a number of other writings over the last week, I decided to make a day after Valentine’s Day suggestion.

There were many singles who were distraught about not having a significant other on the BIG day. I get it. I was there at one time, hoping for just the right guy to mesh into my life. But ladies and gents, I’m sorry to say we were still single every other day this year. So why was yesterday the pinnacle of singlehood disaster? 

There were some married people who were expecting BIG things from their sweeties. In many cases, the BIG things were what the guys were supposed to do. Did anyone forget that love works two ways? I remember the blog post by Seth Adam Smith that went viral, Marriage Isn’t for You. Ladies, did you do something special for your Valentine or was it all up to him? 

What if we reframe the day? What if we make it about other people instead of us? Who in your life needed a Valentine yesterday and did you step up to give it to them? When I say “Valentine” I don’t mean a card, I mean each of us as a person. Did I become the “Valentine” or the gift to give to someone who needed a loving friend or family member?

I know I’m a day late, but just think, now we have a year to plan ahead. Maybe, instead of expecting gifts that are supposed to prove we are loved, we can be the gift that shows someone else they are.

So, are you a Valentine’s Day victim or were you the awe-inspiring Valentine? Let’s take a different approach to Valentine’s Day next year or maybe, check out all the roses and candy on the sales rack today…

Touched Beyond Belief

New York Graffiti

A funny thing happened last November on my way to find the perfect Christmas gift for a family member. I visited Amazon to look for a book and discovered a young man who is changing the world, one connection at a time. He wrote a book called the Humans of New York.

When it arrived in the mail, I opened it and was mesmerized. Brandon takes pictures of people in New York and in a sentence or two, shares their incredible stories of life and love. I found inspiration and appreciation for the wisdom hidden behind the faces of people that pass by unnoticed. It’s true that everyone has a story and Brandon is capturing them. The book has become a permanent part of my collection.

Just in case you haven’t been touched by the magic yet, I encourage you to visit Humans of New York to see if there isn’t a message there for you, too.

We Need to Find You a Man

Detective

“Excuse me?”

I wasn’t sure I heard right. One of my very dear male friends was suggesting he could help me find a man. Joe (not his real name) has been happily married for years to an incredible woman. The suggestion came out of love, hoping I could find the same happiness.

“I’m not interested in looking for a man.”

“Why wouldn’t you be interested? Just think, you could get married and have someone to share your life with…”

It has been many twenty years since I last dated. After a divorce, dating and a really difficult breakup, I decided to focus my attention on raising my son, being successful at work and living a very full life.

“Just give me a list of what you’re looking for so I have something to work with.”

“Okay…if you really want to know.”

“I do.”

“Do you have a piece of paper ready?”

“Go ahead.”

“He has to be a pilot or have international flight benefits so I can travel all over the world.”

“Okay…”

“Love photography, be a Canon guy with all the lenses I want so we can share…”

Raised eyebrows…

“He would not require any space in my master bedroom closet, pay for the cleaning service, love to cook, only come home every other weekend…”

Now I was on a roll, gesturing madly and pacing around the room. Taking a breath, I turned around to see if I was talking too fast and I found myself alone. Joe had decided to take care of more serious business.

What Joe didn’t know is that God and I have an agreement. Since I suck at picking men, I’ve left it up to Him. Our understanding is, that if it’s supposed to happen, He’ll drop the guy into my lap and put out a flashing neon sign that says, “THIS IS HIM! THIS IS HIM!” I don’t want to overlook my perfect guy by mistake. No signs and no guy in my lap. I’m okay with that.

Still, I love that Joe cares enough about me to make the attempt. It’s always good to have friends.

What Heather Knew

Heather knew she couldn’t change the world, but she knew that she could change herself. So, the next day, she hugged fifteen people and wrote notes of encouragement to three others she knew were going through struggles in their lives. She even smiled and said, “Hello”, to strangers she passed on the street.

By the end of the first week, Heather’s world had been noticeably changed. People where she worked were much more pleasant and not afraid to encourage others. Heather was thankful she’d been given the courage to risk a bit of herself in order to make a difference.

What Heather didn’t know was that out of the fifteen people she hugged the first day, twelve of them hugged ten people each the first week. And so on, and so on…

What Heather didn’t know was that three people she send notes to, wrote letters of encouragement to three more. And so on, and so on…

What Heather didn’t know was that the strangers she smiled at felt the love in her heart and passed it on to other strangers. And so on, and so on…

Within the next two years, the ripple of love spread throughout the world.

All Heather knew was that her area of the world was much improved and although she still felt she couldn’t change the world, at least she could change her part of it.

That’s all Heather knew.

©Jennifer Steck 1995