Archives for the month of: January, 2013

Like most new couples, during our courtship phase, my husband Micheal and I would spend many hours talking about our hopes, dreams and plans for the future.  One night I asked him a question that had once been posed to me by a holistic doctor – “if you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you want to have with you?”  Micheal immediately answered, “food, water, shelter”.  My jaw dropped and I must have had a stunned look on my face because Micheal said “What’s wrong?  Why do you look so shocked?”  I responded that I’d never thought of those things before!  He was dumbfounded and asked what three things I would consider to be most important … my response was “my fur kids, art supplies and music”.  Now it was Micheal’s turn to be flabbergasted – and thus began the union of Form and Function.

Over the years Micheal and I have had a subtle on-going battle over which is more ‘important’, form or function.  I contend that they are both essential and that one complements the other.  He, on the other hand, insists that function plays a greater role because one can’t survive without the bare necessities (food/water/shelter).  Micheal does have a point, however, I choose to believe that to truly ‘live’, form plays an equally important role.  Quite simply, I can’t imagine a life without beauty, passion or purpose.  I believe that in order to thrive, we must do more than merely survive.

As we’ve renovated several old buildings together, Micheal and I have stuck to our form and function roles.  It serves us well and curtails any major arguments often faced by couples undertaking renovation projects.  Our rule is, if it has to do with how it ‘works’, Micheal gets the deciding vote (ie, electrical and plumbing design, structural issues, etc.) and if it has to do with how it ‘looks’, that’s my domain and I have the final say.

At this point in the renovation, function has been dominant - and the objective of providing shelter has been met.

At this point in the renovation, function has been dominant – and the objective of providing shelter has been met.

Form joins Function - now it's more than just shelter, it's a home!

Form joins Function – now it’s more than just shelter, it’s a home!

Although this works well in respect to our renovation projects, in other aspects of our lives – and the lives of many others, I’m sure – the quintessential question still remains:  is function more important than form?  Traditionally, men earned the money, provided the food/ water/shelter and women took care of the house and children, providing all the ‘extras’ – a warm inviting home, clean laundry, delicious meals to name a few – that, in my opinion, make life worth living.  As our world has evolved and more women have joined the work force, either by choice or necessity, the lines of form and function have blurred.

When Micheal and I first got married, we were equal partners in all aspects, including financially.  I had a successful decorative painting business and we split everything equally including the household bills and chores.  As the economy began to nose dive, so did my business.  I also began to get more involved in rescue and eventually started Daisy’s Place Retriever Rescue, which consumes a lot of my time and resources.  Thankfully, I was able to transition into jewelry design, but it’s been a slow financial recovery period and when I’m not in my studio, I’m spending the majority of my time saving grey muzzles.  The bulk of the financial burden has fallen on Micheal and although he tries to be supportive as I follow my bliss, this shift has been the source of friction in our marriage.

He gets frustrated with the amount of time I spend on rescue when I ‘should’ (in his opinion) be focusing on building my business. I, in turn, get upset that he doesn’t see the value of what I bring to the table – the beautiful home that I’ve created for us, the delicious dinners I prepare, and the many intangibles that I believe create a beautiful life.  In his mind, function has become even more important because he’s now providing the food/water/shelter.  Now, I must add, I realize that he carries a heavy load right now – money is not flowing as it used to and with my limited financial contribution it falls on him to make sure we have a roof over our head so that I can continue to enjoy my studio, yoga room – and pursuing my passions, most importantly, saving the Daisy Dogs.  And yet, I still believe that what I’m contributing to our life together has as much value as the almighty dollar.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to be earning what I used to – I’m independent by nature and it’s not easy for me to rely on someone (even my own husband) to provide for my basic necessities.  However, I cling to the notion that ‘form’ is essential to our existence.  I could go back to the corporate world (prior to decorative painting, I made my living as a PR professional), but the very idea sends shivers of anxiety ricocheting up and down my spine.  Without passion and purpose, I’m quite sure I could no longer thrive.  I might be able to exist, but my inner spark would surely flicker and die.

What was once a perfect union of form and function has become a power struggle.  Much like the chicken and the egg, it all depends on your point of view.  I’m curious to hear feedback from any of you reading this – is function more important than form, or are both equal parts of the whole?

Many blessings,

Melissa

My heart has been very sad for a friend who recently had to make the most difficult decision to say goodbye to her beloved fur friend.  This was an especially hard decision given the fact that her dog was not physically ill, but rather he had become increasingly psychologically unstable and aggressive.  Now, before you rush to judgment, please understand that this decision was not made in haste – far from it, this was a decision made only after a very long and committed attempt to work with him on his aggressive behavior.  Trainers were brought in, vets were consulted, a reiki master was hired – in short, my friend went to the ends of the earth and back trying to understand and rehabilitate her dog.  Her other dog sustained multiple unprovoked attacks as did my friend and her husband, and it escalated to the point where they could no longer have guests in their home comfortably given their dog’s unpredictable behavior.  This is a dog who, although he had always been somewhat timid, went from enjoying romps on the beach to being fearful and extremely aggressive (towards people and other dogs) over time.  I know my friend agonized over the decision and tried everything within her power to help her beloved fur friend.  When I learned the news that she had finally had to say goodbye, I was filled with such a deep sadness – I know she loved this dog dearly and knowing her, I was sure she was blaming herself.  I didn’t know what to say to ease her pain, how can anyone make sense out of a situation like this?  The words, “I’m sorry”, just seem so inadequate.

There is an unspoken truth in rescue, that most of us don’t discuss beyond our ‘inner circle’ and that is the fact that almost all of us at one time or another have had to make the gut wrenching decision to euthanize a dog because of aggressive behavior.  It is the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make and one I don’t wish on my worst enemy.  I have sat at our vet’s office, saying goodbye to a dog I had vowed to save because he attacked and bit a visitor at his foster’s house.  He was not a ‘bad’ dog, but something had happened in his life that caused him to be fearful and thus, dangerous and unpredictable.  Like my friend, I consulted with trainers and vets and agonized over the decision and even after it was made, I kept second guessing myself.   Unfortunately, contrary to popular belief there is no magic farm where emotionally unbalanced dogs go to live out their lives being loved and cared for – yes there are a few sanctuaries, but the need far outweighs their capacity.  And so, more often than not, a decision has to be made to gently and lovingly say goodbye to these lost souls.

Having gone through this emotional turmoil with a foster dog, I could not even begin to imagine the anguish my friend was experiencing having to make this decision for her own dog that she had loved and cherished for many years.  I just haven’t been able to stop thinking about her and wondering why she had to go through this.  I tend to believe that there is always a reason for the painful experiences in our life – a silver lining or a lesson to be learned.   When I lost my beloved Daisy just 7 months after adopting her, I knew that she was sent to teach me the joy of opening my heart to an older dog – even if it meant she was only in my life for a short time.  As many reading this blog know, Daisy was the catalyst for me to create Daisy’s Place Retriever Rescue, dedicated to saving and finding loving homes for abandoned Retrievers (Labs, Goldens and mixes) age six and older.  But what, I kept wondering, could possibly be the reason for my friend’s painful experience?  There couldn’t possibly be a silver lining in any of this.  What was her dog trying to teach her?  Another belief I hold dearly is that these amazing creatures come into our lives with important lessons to teach us.  Sometimes it’s as seemingly simple as unconditional love – often times I truly believe they come into our lives to teach us so much more.  I often say we must listen with our hearts to truly learn what these gifts from God have to teach us.  And again, I pondered, what was my friend’s dog trying to say to her?

As I meditated today after yoga, a thought popped into my brain – it was so random and almost fleeting and I had to struggle to hold onto it before it was gone.  It was almost more of an image than an articulated thought.  I saw in my mind’s eye, my friend – a strong, courageous, compassionate and determined woman – someone who didn’t back down from a challenge, and someone who much like myself, truly believes that if she works hard enough, puts in enough effort, cares deeply enough and wills it TO BE, she can make order out of chaos and make everything RIGHT.  I’m struggling a bit with the words here, so bear with me please.  What came to me in a moment of silence was the fact that sometimes we can’t fix everything, no matter how ‘perfect’ we try to be, no matter how ‘good’ we are, no matter how much love we extend to another, sometimes we just have to let go and have faith that we’ve done all we can do.  We have to forgive ourselves for our ‘failings’ and more importantly, we have to love ourselves the most when we feel we have fallen the hardest.  I think perhaps this is what my friend’s dog was trying to tell her – despite all the love, the dedication and commitment she had given him, he could not be ‘fixed’.  There was something broken deep inside him and it was time for him to leave this earth, to run free at the rainbow bridge.   I’m convinced that he would want her to know that he doesn’t blame her and more importantly he would want her to be kind to herself, to allow herself the same compassion and forgiveness she had given him for so long, despite his behavior.

Every day the majority of us strive to make the ‘right’ decisions, we consciously choose to do our best under any given situation.  And the reality is that no matter how hard we try, there are going to be times that we encounter difficult and often painful experiences.  Sometimes we will triumph and sometimes we have to let go and accept that there are things beyond our control – and we have to learn to be at peace with the fact that we’ve done our best.  Most importantly, we must learn to give ourselves the same love and compassion that we would a treasured friend – whether 2 legged or 4 pawed.

I realize there are no words that can heal my friend’s pain right now, but I pray in time she will find peace and her heart will heal knowing she did the very best she could do given the most difficult set of circumstances.  Perhaps we all need to remember – do unto OURSELVES as we would do unto others.

Many Blessings,

Melissa

As 2012 came to an end I had been thinking a lot of about hidden blessings.  The year was an emotional roller coaster complete with many ups and downs, tears and joy and often joy filled tears!  As I continued to work on choosing balance, I often slid down the slippery slope of placing all the things that brought me joy on the back burner.  Often ‘too busy’ to stop and quiet my mind with an hour of yoga or a relaxing walk with my precious fur kids, I kept charging along for the better part of the year, intent on crossing off everything on my ‘to do’ list before allowing myself the luxury of balance.

In September, everything came to a screeching halt when my beloved grey muzzle, Magnolia, was diagnosed with malignant melanoma.  We always think there is tomorrow to spend with loved ones and do the things that are really important, but Magnolia’s diagnosis was a wake-up call for me.  At first I agonized over all the hours I had spent taking care of so many other grey muzzles.  As the director and founder of Daisy’s Place Retriever Rescue, there are never enough hours in the day to run a rescue, focus on my business as a jewelry designer and juggle ‘life’.  I spent many sleepless nights thinking about all the times I had raced out the door to take a foster dog to the vet, while Magnolia stood patiently wagging her tail and I promised we would go to the beach ‘tomorrow’.  Magnolia’s illness somehow gave me permission to focus on what was really important in my life, to take a step back and realize that I didn’t have to do it all.  As I began prioritizing, I realized that I am blessed to have so many amazing people in my life – friends, family, rescue supporters – all who wanted to help, they were just waiting for me to ask!

The day that Magnolia was due to have her stitches out after having the mass in her mouth and part of her cheek removed, my husband, Micheal, and I noticed that our sweet Poppy was having issues with one of her eyes.  It seemed swollen and red, so after taking Magnolia to see her surgeon I ran Poppy over to our vet.  After examining her, he immediately referred us to the canine ophthalmologist and several days later we learned that our precious girl has an inoperable bone tumor.  I was devastated to say the least and just couldn’t comprehend that this could be happening – not two of my babies at once!

As the holidays approached, we prayed that Poppy would be with us for one last Christmas.  Magnolia had been going through treatment and was doing well, but we knew that we were on borrowed time with Poppy.  Each day was a gift to be treasured and as I began to really live in the moment I found that there were more hidden blessings than I could even count.  As a jewelry designer, the holidays are my busiest time of year and often the most stressful.  Add to that, the fact that so many dogs are dumped in kill shelters during the holidays, and it’s little wonder that over the past few years I’ve barely had time to enjoy what used to be my favorite time of the year.  I vowed that Christmas 2012 would be different – there would be more joy and less stress!

On Christmas morning as I sat watching ALL of our beloved fur kids enjoying their stuffed toys, bones and various treats, I experienced the wonder of the season that I used to feel as a child.  There are no words to express my gratitude for all the hidden blessings in my life.  To try and list them all would take many pages and be far too long for anyone to wade through.  But I do hope to convey that by slowing down and focusing on what is really important to me, I have finally found that elusive balance I have been searching for over the past several years!  Amazingly, I had my most successful selling season, we saved a record number of grey muzzles the week before Christmas AND I had the luxury of spending quality time with friends, family and my fur kids.

Poppy and Magnolia - My Sweet Christmas Angels!

Poppy and Magnolia – My Sweet Christmas Angels!

I was reminded again of hidden blessings on the last weekend of the year.  Normally the week after Christmas is my time to relax and regroup.  This year, however, I had a trunk show scheduled at Charleston Place Hotel.  Honestly, I wasn’t looking forward to it – all I really wanted to do was curl up on the couch with my fur kids and enjoy a few more days gazing at the tree lights.  I awoke early the day after Christmas and headed down to my studio to survey what inventory I had left after a busy holiday season and tried to summon what little energy I had to make a few pieces for my upcoming trunk show.  Once at my work table, my creativity began to soar and I worked non-stop for two days getting ready.  On Friday morning, the 28th, I loaded up my car and headed off to the hotel.  As I often do before a trunk show, I began my mantra, “all I need to do is be joyful, that is my only purpose” – I’ve found that this helps me to live in the moment and stop focusing on selling but rather to align my energy and open myself to the experience.  The hotel was fairly quiet but the valet told me that 300 guests were checking into the hotel for the big Renaissance Weekend.  Once I began setting up, I was reminded again of how much I enjoyed being at the hotel, the opportunity to meet new people is one of my favorite things about doing these trunk shows.

Just as I had finished setting up, a gentleman walked over to my tables and started perusing my jewelry.  His wife joined him and he began pointing out pieces that he thought she would like.  The moment I saw them together I was immediately struck by the intimacy they shared – they literally radiated love and affection for each other.  Art started handing me pieces and said, “make sure she buys these” and I joked that he should hold a workshop for husbands as never before has my own uttered those words!  We chatted for a few moments and his wife, Barbara, selected the pieces she wanted.  After they had gone I realized that I was indeed feeling joyful.  Yes, I had started my morning with a nice sale, but more importantly, meeting Art and Barbara had lifted my spirits – just being in their presence had left me with a warm glow.  As the day progressed, the hotel began to buzz as guests checked in and time flew by.  I saw Art and Barbara walk by several times and we waived a quick hello.

Saturday flew by in a blur and I got up early on Sunday for day three.  Upon arriving at the hotel, I was greeted again by Art and Barbara.  As Barbara tried on a few more pieces, Art and I chatted and he began to tell me their story.  The two of them began dating in 1960 while in high school.

Image

Art and Barbara – November 24, 1965

After five years of dating they parted as friends and each went their separate ways (I’m condensing this as much as possible) – after 50 years Art decided to reconnect with Barbara.  He had been divorced for 10 years and as he began his internet search for his long lost high school sweetheart he couldn’t find her as she’d kept her married name.  Barbara had been living in La Jolla, CA for quite some time (Art lived in the Washington, DC area) and had been enjoying a fulfilling life with her children, grand children and good friends as well as being a successful real estate agent.  Art happened upon a cancer survivor’s chat room and discovered several classmates who told him that Barbara was also a cancer survivor and gave him her contact information.  Long story short – Art and Barbara got married in 2011 – after a 50 year separation!  If Barbara had not had cancer, Art may never have found her.

Image

Art and Barbara – November 5, 2011. Shortly after their wedding!

Please understand that I’m not implying that having a life threatening disease is a blessing, but Art and Barbara’s story touched me deeply and I will always be grateful for meeting these two amazing people.  Seeing the love that they shared was such an inspiration, especially after learning that they had so recently rediscovered each other!  Note to self, do not take Micheal for granted.  I probably should have mentioned earlier, but one of the biggest hidden blessings in the past few months has been my husband’s love and support!

It’s my hope that everyone reading this will take a moment to look for the hidden blessings in their life.  All too often we get so wrapped up in the drama, whether it be a health or financial crisis, we forget to give thanks for all the good in our lives.  By taking the time to count your blessings, life will have a way of working out better than you could ever have imagined!

Wishing you all a Joyful 2013,

Melissa