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.

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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.

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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