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My “Furrever” Friend

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Dearest Sir Dylan,

Today we say goodbye. You’ll be joining your sister soon. I know you’ve been missing her. We all have.

You were our first dog together and we had so much to learn about dog-parenting. Thanks for being patient with us, but gently letting us know when we needed to do certain things… like that day I went to bed to nap off a migraine and you let us know you were essential on our bed, especially if I didn’t feel well. You were right. No dogs on the bed was a silly rule.

We adopted you into our lives because Robert wanted a dog. Honestly, I wasn’t really sure at first, but you let me know early on that you were also an essential protector as well as healer. How in the world had I been answering the front door before you had come into our lives? Certainly it was only a matter of time before someone with a package, wearing a uniform or a hat (or a uniform with a hat), or a kid selling magazine subscriptions was going to murder me if you hadn’t been there standing between us, immovable. Once you knew you could herd Girl Scouts they were ok. By the way, it was a nice touch when you raised up on your hind legs like a bear and put up your Wookie arms in the long window next to the front door. One time a delivery person actually just threw my package towards the door from the walkway and ran off.

You’ve been extra lovable since we had to say goodbye to MJ. I just wish you had been comfortable enough, physically, to put that love into cuddles more often. But that’s the problem: you haven’t been able to get comfortable for some time now, and pacing is the only thing that seems to help. But those back legs just aren’t moving like they’re supposed to anymore.

Knowing when it was time to let your sister go was hard, but now with you, it’s been nearly impossible. You’ve lived a long, happy life with us. We were worried about how you would do without MJ. It hasn’t been the same since. You’ve been more lonely and depressed. So have we. Thank you for sticking around for almost a full year after her passing to make sure we would be ok.  We will…eventually. You’ll both always be part of us, but we’ll keep missing you both forever. Eventually we’ll have more dogs, and we’ll love them. But you’ll always have been our first and most alpha of our dogs. Just as you walked into a pet store or dog park and ruled the place without having to do anything but be there, you ruled our hearts immediately. Thank you for giving us thirteen of your fourteen years and for being part of our family. You have given us so many cherished memories and all of your love.

You really haven’t been able to hear me sing to you for a while now, but here’s our song, one last time.

 

The Morning After

20181207_200612As a kid, I remember making construction paper ring chains to count down the days until Christmas. It was such an exciting time of year. My sisters and I would skulk around the Christmas tree and shake the gifts with our names on them. My mom made  amazing sweets, and in great quantity. I remember the decorations and how warm the house felt.

We opened our gifts on Christmas Eve evening and got our stockings Christmas morning. My grandmother was usually staying with us for most of the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas and on Christmas we usually went to one of my aunts’ houses or a few would come to ours for a day of feasting, games, and more presents. I was by far the youngest in the house, so was not always included in game playing, but I still enjoyed just being there in the chaos. The day after Christmas seemed so quiet and subdued after all the excitement that had lead up to and culminated on Christmas day. I had all my new stuff to play with (and if I was lucky enough to have been gifted a book I could read for hours), but somehow there was a sadness that the experience was over.

As I’ve gotten older, my Christmases have gotten smaller and we don’t generally have many gifts under our tree, but the warmth, the decorations, and the love are still precious to me.  And sometimes the day after Christmas still seems sad. Now that looks a little different to me, because I have realized the warm feeling at Christmastime wasn’t as much of a physical warmth as the feeling of love. People are generally kinder to one another, including strangers, during the holiday season. Somehow it is easier to put aside differences and see each other as fellow human beings. Charitable donations and acts of kindness are on the rise. The idea of “peace on earth” seems almost possible.

And then Christmas is over. Slowly, the kindness and warm feelings fade and we all go back to our normal lives and our routines, and many forget until somewhere around the end of the next November.

The thing is, Jesus was the greatest gift ever given, and a gift that is everlasting. Those feelings of love and joy are intended to be kept all year. We are commanded to love one another, and I doubt that was meant to be a part-time job. Love takes work sometimes, and we get frustrated and tired, and life happens, distracting us. But let’s try to show love and kindness, even if only in some small way, each day. Be on the lookout for those opportunities. When we bless others, we in turn are also blessed, and then it is easier to keep it going all year long.

Hitting the Glass Ceiling While Wearing Glass Slippers

I was coloring with my favorite little girl one afternoon when she suddenly started asking me the origin stories of some of the better known superheroes. Personally, I love Batman and told her about Bruce Wayne’s tragic loss of his parents and his way cool butler.

She really wanted to know about Wonder Woman.  I only knew a little, but we happened to be going to a friend’s for dinner that night who is a big Wonder Woman fan, so I told her to ask that evening.

That night, she learned about Wonder Woman and watched the pilot episode of the Linda Carter show from the 70’s. By the end of the night she was wearing a replica tiara, bullet proof bracelets, and holding a golden lasso while spinning.

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And she hasn’t stopped since. My little girl IS Wonder Woman, and I’ve become a big fan too. A beautiful, smart, strong, courageous princess who fights for truth, justice, and love. What’s not to love? Or encourage? I could not ask for a better role model in a world saturated with everything I never want my princess to become.

She is a little girl who always favors the female characters, but in her eyes, even Leia couldn’t compete with her curious love of Darth Vader (though Leia has always been a hero to me), and she was still looking for the perfect hero.

But of course, she doesn’t just want to be strong; she wants to be pretty…and a princess. Naturally, she also still loves the Disney Princesses.  We very recently watched the 2015 live-action version of Cinderella, who happens to be one of her beloved princesses.

Now, I know there are arguments out there that these old fairy tale princesses teach young women to be weak and to depend on being saved by their “prince charming,” but I think that just shows a lack of responsibility in teaching our young girls the values and virtues of each of those princesses.  Is Cinderella weak because she has to be whisked away to the castle by her prince? I don’t think so. She was good, kind, and beautiful, and was in the end rewarded for it.

The historic context is the key to making excellent lessons out of these “helpless” princesses.  Our young ladies today need to understand what life was like for women once upon a time, that they were seen as unintelligent property good only for cleaning and having babies. But in these situations, these princesses were strong in the ways they were able to be strong. They were dignified in spite of it, and though women have not quite broken through that glass ceilings around the world, and not even always in the Land of the Free, they gave little girls hope. We cannot discount that today as weak. We should be proud of how far we’ve come. (and let’s not forget the B.A. Mulan, who is based off a Chinese legend)

Princess Diana lived in a land without men, and beyond learning to be strong and to defend herself and what is right physically, her virtues are the same as many of those fairy tale princesses. Many of those values of her femininity are what makes her such an amazing character.

Our little one is not quite old enough that we feel she should see the new Wonder Woman movie yet, but she will one day, and I wonder if she will get goosebumps and tear-filled eyes when Diana climbs up a ladder and rushes through No Man’s Land the way I did. Will she also get goosebumps and tear-filled eyes when Belle (Emma Watson) dances with the Beast in the grand ballroom brought to life…the way I did? I really hope she does.

Heroes don’t have to only be physically strong. A real hero is also emotionally strong, unafraid to show a tender side, and does right, even when it is hard. Mostly, heroes need to stand for something and reflect something we want in ourselves.

 

My Christmas Prayer 2016

My house is quiet this morning. The dogs followed me out of the bedroom but collapsed while I made my coffee. My husband softly snores yet with the cat. There are no excited children to open gifts. It is just me and thoughts.

Whether today is the true date of Jesus’ birth or not,  I am thankful that he agreed to come here and be born as a little baby who would suffer the trials of mankind, growing in communion and fellowship with so many imperfect people. These were the people who were looking for him, yet refused to see him.

Even as a baby he was born to die. He was a sacrifice. Imagine growing up knowing that. Then imagine him surrounded by the hatred and cruelty of mankind (not so different than it is today), and deciding to die for us anyway, Jew and gentile alike. In fact, he died for anyone and everyone who would choose him.

This Christmas, I am thankful for the greatest gift ever, God’s son. So many are lost, hurting, and confused. If I read the news, it brings me to tears more often than not. How can we believe in good when we are surrounded by so much evil? But I pray for this to be a day that gives hope. I pray everyone would have a small moment in their busy days to look past the commercialism and truly appreciate what Christmas represents. There is hope, if we only look. I pray we may all focus on the good and what we do have. I pray for hurting people to find peace. And I pray my little girl would always continue to love God and believe with her childlike faith.

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Merry Christmas!

The Truth About Love

Love cannot be forced, but it is a force. It makes you do what is best for someone and makes them happiest, even if it hurts you or your pride, because love has no pride; true love is selfless.

Love makes you listen, even when you do not understand, so that you can understand.

True love makes you put yourself aside, knowing you would put your life aside for the one you love if needed.

True love feels the pain of the one you love, just as if it were your own.

And there is no other feeling in the world as exhilarating as knowing your love is returned and mutual…

And no pain more unbearable than having to lose each other.

5-4-16 Terri Klaes Harper

Seasons of Friendship

The most telling test of a true friend is what they do when your life hits its lowest point, like mine did this year. I was hit with one thing after another, each compounded by complications of those circumstances. That’s vague, but that’s all you need. If you’ve been through a time when all you waned to do was stay in bed and hide from life, but you knew you couldn’t, so you robotically went through the motions, then you know what I mean. Basically, the only way I could have felt worse would have been by the death of a loved one, which thankfully never happened.

In this time, I desperately needed friends. The thing is, people are busy with their lives, and the formalities of one text to check in on me one time may have come, but only a few continued to check on me, knowing my introvert self was unlikely to reach out on my own, but that I still needed to know people cared. I am so grateful to those people, even if all they did was repeatedly send me texts to check on me, and for the ones who got me out of the house and just let me talk it out. I was surprised when certain people I had always thought would be the first at my side seemed to shrug their shoulders at my pain, seeming never to give it a second thought, while others who I really didn’t know all that well yet reached out and helped me through.

I didn’t even realize that I’ve been dealing with anger and rejection until recently. What happened to the friendships I had valued so much before? They disappeared in my darkest time and sometimes even seeing these people in passing actually made me feel sick and angry, smiling and hugging, and going about their business, or should I say busyness.

I hope when my friends need me that I am not too blind and busy to see. I would hate to ever make anyone feel that pain.

Then I heard the song “Seasons of Love” from the play Rent, and I started thinking about how our lives go through seasons, and our friendships fall into that as well. Admittedly, I do not easily open up and truly connect with people, so when I do, I obviously hope such a friendship will last forever, but life doesn’t work that way most of the time. Some of our friendships are just for a season, and when that season passes, new people enter our lives. Even in my hurting, God knew what I needed, and He brought me comfort and love, even if it wasn’t where I would have thought to look. But that’s why He’s God and I’m not.

My Take on Mother’s Day

It has been months now since I took the time to write a heartfelt post. Partly, I have been overwhelmed with life, and partly, the last time I did so, someone took what I wrote out of context and tried to use it against me. It’s hard to bare your soul when people are looking to turn it on you as an emotional weapon, but this person only did so because of her own emotional instability.

Today, Mother’s Day, pulled stirrings in my heart to the surface, and it felt like the right day to make a comeback.

I have always celebrated my own caring, giving, and loving mother on this special day, and my husband sometimes joked about how I am a mommy to our fur children. However, this year, Mother’s Day has taken on a whole new meaning for me. On this day last year, I was traveling home from an out of town job, not having much reason why I would need to be at home. I arrived home, called my mother, and probably spent the remainder of the day watching movies with my husband and our dogs. What would happen just two months later was nowhere on my radar.

One day in June, after going out to watch one of the final USA games in the World Cup, my husband and I arrived at home, and because we could, we took a mid-afternoon nap. When I awoke, my mother had called and wanted me to call her back. It was urgent. Groggy, I dialed her. The long story short version is that my husband and I were called upon to take on a huge responsibility that would most certainly change our lives completely. After fourteen years of blissfully childless marriage, we had been asked to take in a four-year old girl.

How do you even consider saying no to that? When I hung up the phone and approached my husband, his reaction was much the same as mine: shocked, but not doubting we needed to do the right thing. Our preparation for parenthood was nine days, whereas most parents get nine months. Wow!

You can scan back through some of my previous posts to learn more about the adventure as it unfolded, but today the reflection is on the meaning of motherhood.

I was confused for some time as to what my role was to be in this little girl’s life. After all, she technically still has a mother. I’m just the aunt she is living with, right?

But motherhood is so much more than giving life to a little one; it is sustaining that life and growing it with the nourishment of love. As it turns out, a mommy is the one who tucks you in and prays with you at night and gives you much needed hugs and kisses every day. A mommy is the one you cry for when you skin your knee (I have Star Wars Band-aids). A mommy is the one who helps you discover who you are and teaches you life lessons every time an opportunity presents itself. A mommy tosses and turns at night, hoping she is doing a good job, and prays God will give her the wisdom to always do what is right for her little one. She caresses you when you’ve had a bad dream and listens helplessly all night to your coughs when you are sick, wanting to take them away. A mommy is there for you; she doesn’t leave. These are the qualities of a mommy, and so, I have finally discovered, that I am now a mommy.

It is the hardest, yet most rewarding role I’ve ever taken in life.

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Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful mommies out there. Love them unconditionally. Love them forever. Don’t let them go.