Sunday, July 24, 2016

Forever Changed

Photo Credit: JennyPennyAho

As many of you know Seth and I went through a traumatic event nearly two years ago.  We lived in a Fisher House for 11-months and we literally lived each day as it came.  We couldn't plan ahead because we truly had no idea what the future held for us.  

A couple weeks ago, I saw someone I hadn't seen in over two years and I was nearly brought to tears when they gave me a huge hug and stated how much they are inspired by us as a couple and how happy they are for us after all we went through. 

The truth is, I wouldn't be where I am today without my wonderfully, optimistic husband.  For the first three months after the accident, I was depressed and every single day, I asked various versions of "Why us?".  I couldn't understand what we did to deserve such a horrible, life altering experience.  One evening, I was crying at Seth's bedside while he rested after a long day of physical therapy.  I was blatantly honest with Seth and told him how I was feeling.  Among those feelings were being mad, sad, and confused.  The many questions I asked were: "Why did this happen?....Is this why we miscarried a few months ago?...Why us?...What did we do to deserve this?"  Seth's answer in summary:  "What's done is done and we can't change it.  I have to live with it and there is no reason to be mad at anyone else, but myself."   From that day forward, my outlook was different.  It was as though a light switch turned on. I didn't cry myself to sleep anymore and wasn't depressed about what life had dealt us.  I was proud of Seth for being positive despite the life changing events that had happened and ready to tackle the challenges yet to come.  I simply couldn't continue to ask "Why?"   

Instead, my train of thought changed to thanking God for Seth's life and being blessed with caring friends and family, nurses, doctors and therapists.  We thanked Him for putting a roof over our head and for the military supporting us through the entire process.  With Seth's positive attitude, I realized we couldn't change the past and I began to put my faith in God.  I became more patient (a virtue I had little of prior to the accident) and realized I must put everything in God's hands because He has control and I do not.  This was very difficult because I am a type A person.  Several days a week, I searched the internet for scripture that described my thoughts and feelings.  I found comfort in the scriptures and my friends and family saw a change in me. 

Early in his rehab process, we made a promise to start going to church together.   After 11 months of being away, we got settled back into our home, found a church that suited us and starting going every Sunday.  We went for about two months and I decided I didn't want anything for Christmas, but instead, wanted to renew our wedding vows.  We chose White Sands National Monument and nearly froze our butts off while our photographer snapped gorgeous photos of us.  Our pastor informed us he never cries for ceremonies, but found himself getting teared up when we said our vows.  He generously invited us to join a small group to support other people and learn and grow closer to God.  We agreed and started going in January.  These past seven months have been a blessing and we have learned about God, ourselves, other believers and we have strengthened our marriage with one another.  

I don't tear up every week at church while singing the songs*, but today was different.  Today, I found myself tearing up for all of the songs we sang.  It inspired me to write this post.  Every song had special meaning and made me think of what we have been through.  Every song made me remember God has a plan and we must put our faith in Him.  I am so thankful to be where I am today.  I am forever changed. 

*Songs:  "It Is Well" and "10,000 Reasons"

Friday, July 8, 2016

Makers Gonna Make

Since late May, Seth and I have traveled quite a bit.  We explored Seattle and La Jolla and in the next couple months we will be traveling to Las Vegas, Albuquerque and in the fall I'll be heading to Kauai for a friends' wedding! 

One of the items I always have in my luggage are shoe bags.  My mom made some for me a few years ago.  Over the years, I've used them and even given some away leaving me with only one bag.  I have small feet (size 5.5, sometimes 6) and I use one bag for 2 pairs of sandals or 1 bag for a pair of heels. I finally decided with all the traveling that I will make a couple more, so I don't have to use the ones that came with my Cole Haan heels.

A "fat quarter" is a quilting term, which is a piece of fabric cut to: 22"L x 18"W . When making the shoe bag, you will fold it lengthwise to maximize the fabric.  My mom informed me it costs about $1 in a retail fabric store.  I went in search of some and I paid $3/each. I didn't mind paying more since: 1) it supports a local small business and 2) so I didn't have to drive over an hour to the next closest fabric store.

Note: I recommend measuring your shoes and determine if a fat quarter is appropriate for your shoes.  The length shouldn't be an issue as it is appropriate length for my husbands shoes (sz 10.5), but you could go up to 21"W.  In that case, a fat quarter would not be appropriate and you would just have to choose a fabric and get it cut at the store.

I took measurements of my "fat quarters" when I arrived home and found they weren't the same size.  Since my feet are small, I decided it would work just fine especially after placing them on the fabric. 
22.25" L X 18"W (teal fabric)
(Both are folded in half lengthwise)

Fits a pair of high heels with extra room to spare.

22" L X 19.25" W (green/blue fabric)

Fits 2 pairs of sandals. 
Since I don't have a serger to finish the edges quickly and easily, I started by folding the edges under and then once more to create a rolled hem.  It helps to press it with an iron, but I didn't feel the need to do this, so I just folded as I went.  I decided it was best to use a rolled edge hem to prevent loose threads from getting tangled inside the bag.   

Rolled hem (fold once and then once more to create this hem). 

Once I sewed the decorative stitch on three sides, I folded it lengthwise with the fabric design on the outside.   Then I sewed a straight stitch just below the decorative stitch on the long side and one short side of the bag, leaving the top open.  

Teal bag with decorative stitch and straight stitch.
Green/Blue bag with zig-zag stitch and straight stitch.
Here are the finished products!   The teal bag looks slightly smaller because the fat quarter was a tad bit smaller than the blue/green fabric.  The blue/green bag has my 2 pairs of sandals in it and the teal bag has the black high heels in it (as seen in previous pictures).

Lastly, I put my hand on the bag to show you how much room is left in the bag.  So if you have bigger feet than me (which most people do), the fat quarter should be big enough to fit your shoes. FYI:  Since my shoes are small, I typically fold the extra fabric under the shoe bags when placing in my luggage.  

Sandals in shoe bag with plenty of room to fold the bag when placing in luggage. 
Happy Friday!


Saturday, July 2, 2016

Rules of Engagement

This post is for those who want to take their dog to the dog park, but aren't sure of the "unwritten rules."   

As many of you know we have a dog named Hugo.  He got when he was 3.5 months old.  Now, he is just over 3 years old.  He is a crazy, lovable, adorable, soft and fluffy dog who loves chasing me in the back yard, chewing on kong toys and bones, going for walks/runs and going to the dog park to sniff and play with other dogs.  Many people say "what kind of dog is he? He looks like a fox!"  He indeed looks like a fox and we love him to pieces.  

When he was a puppy we introduced him to the dog park, so he  could expend his puppy energy and also to socialize him with other dogs.  We have learned what to do and not to do at the dog park from our trainer and also from experience.   

It is best to get to know your puppy and work with an experienced trainer to get obedience training completed as soon as possible.  We took Hugo as soon as he was up-to-date on his vaccines.  His obedience training was once per week (1.5-2 hours) for six weeks.  I only have experience with Hugo and do not have any experience with rescue dogs, but working with a trainer is never a bad idea.  The trainer may be able to help you with some behaviors your dog is exhibiting that you thought you just had to "live with" (i.e. destroying toys, dog beds, growling when a toy is taken away, just to name a few).  

Hugo doesn't necessarily need to go to the dog park to expend energy anymore, but once a day he will come to us and bark and let us know "com'on it's time to go to the dog park!"  We enjoy taking him 3-4 times a week.  After all, it keeps makes him happy, tires him out and we get to socialize a bit with other dogs and people. 

Hugo at 3.5 months old.
Photo Credit: JennyPennyAho

Photo Credit: JennyPennyAho

Rules of Engagement {at the Dog Park}:
-do not take your dog to the dog park until ALL of their vaccines are completed. We waited another week or so before taking him just to be sure he was protected.
-scope out the park BEFORE you bring your dog for the first time.  Look for shaded areas, water fountain, small gated area at entrance/exit, dog bags for clean-up, trash cans.  Typically the dog park hours are posted at the gate. 
-never bring treats -- period! Training and/or rewarding dogs with treats should be done at home, not in a dog park. Leave the treats at home or in your car.  If you forget to leave at home, don't get mad if other dogs follow, bark and sniff you -- they have good noses and they will smell it whether it's in a bag or not.
-always bring poo-bags (if not provided at the park)
-always clean up after your dog immediately (goes without saying)
-don't play or talk on your phone. This is extremely annoying! Watch your dog.  Especially when they end up "taking care of business" and you don't see it happen or where it happened. Last evening, I saw a perfect example of someone glued to their phone and not paying attention to when his dog took care of business. We have one lady who typically speaks up and says: "your dog is pooping!"  It gets everyone's attention, that's for sure! 
-do not keep your dog on a leash while entering or while in the dog park.  There is a reason there is a small gated area at the entrance/exit. The small gated area allows you to enter, close the gate and gives you time to remove the leash and introduce your dog to the other dogs through the fence.  The dogs can sniff through the fence. This will allow you time to determine if you dog should even enter the park.  When exiting, the small gated area will allow you time to put on the leash. Typically, everyone prefers to be in the gated area with their dog only.  If you see someone in the gated area, wait 10-12 feet away from it, to allow the owner to leash or unleash their dog and enter or exit the area. 
Gated area at entrance/exit.
Photo Credit: JennyPennyAho

-if you have a small dog or puppy and it's getting surrounded by big dogs, stay calm and do NOT pick up the dog.  The other dogs are just curious and want to sniff, it's how they say hello.  If you pick up the dog, it informs your dog you are scared and then your dog will sense your behavior and will get scared.  Dogs can sense your emotions.  Stay calm! Freaking out and picking up your dog will cause the other dogs to get even more curious and begin jumping up on you (whether well-trained or not).  If your puppy is small, it would be best to introduce when the dog park isn't busy (don't go at dinnertime or when you see it's crowded).  Scope it out and go when it's not busy, so your puppy can be introduced to a couple dogs and then gradually progress to being around more dogs.  It worked for Hugo and before we knew it he was enjoying the big dog park more than the small dog park because he could stand his own ground. 
-don't bring a toy unless you are alright with these simple facts: another dog may steal it, dogs may play tug-o-war with it and/or destroy it some way or another.
-spay or neuter. If you choose not to, please don't bring your dog or if you do bring them, be responsible and watch them closely. 
-don't feel bad you only remember the other dogs' name and not their owners' name 
-accept that fact that there are cliques.  Some people take the dog park very seriously and will ask you to leave if you bring treats, don't pick up after you dog, don't control/take responsibility of your dog.
-do not wear nice clothes or shoes.  You will most likely end up getting dirt and slobber on you, or sometimes worse!
-if you choose to bring your children. Remember the dog park is not a playground.  Screaming, shrieking noises and running around are not actions that should be done around dogs you do not know. You never know how other dogs will react to your children.  To keep your children safe, go when it's not busy and inform your children to ask before petting another dog.    
-Pay attention to your dog and looks for signs that your dog needs to go home. You will learn your dogs cues. When we first arrive, Hugo typically runs around sniffing, taking care of business, running and playing. When he comes over to us and sticks around or lays down near us, we know he is ready to go home.  He knows what "go home" means and will walk to the gate if he's ready.  Typically 45-60 minutes does the trick for expending energy. 
-Look for signs that your dog needs water.  Hugo's tongue gets bigger and more pronounced when he is overheated. Most dog parks provide water fountains, but not all.  Scope out the dog park prior to taking your dog, so you know whether or not you need to bring water with you.

Photo Credit: JennyPennyAho

Photo Credit: JennyPennyAho

Photo Credit: JennyPennyAho

Photo Credit: JennyPennyAho

Last evening, I was at the dog park and Hugo had a blast as usual.  We were about to leave and some woman had obviously never been to the dog park.  She started walking towards the fence, where I was currently putting on Hugo's leash.  Her dog was obviously excited.  He was barking and pulling on the leash (literally yanking her arm in all directions).  I noticed she was walking straight towards the gated area and I had to stop her and ask her to wait until we exited.  She didn't say a word to me, but she obliged and just stood on the other side of the gate only 2 feet from the exit.  Her dog's tail was wagging (good sign), but as soon as Hugo and I exited, the dog immediately started growling and tried to snap at Hugo.  I kept walking towards the car and she entered through the gate. Almost immediately all of the dogs in the dog park ran over to greet her dog and all of them were jumping and barking.  This immediately got the attention of the owners and they all were walking over to their dogs to move them away from the gate. The only good move she made was that she realized was she was losing control of the situation and her dog was too aggressive to enter the dog park.  So, she exited back out of the gated area and went to her car to leave.
My recommendation to her would be:  She should have scoped out the area and brought her dog when it wasn't busy.  There were literally 20 dogs there and she obviously isn't the alpha in the relationship.  After this instance, I knew I had to post this even though it may offend people.  The truth is, you need to take responsibility for your dog and determine what is best for you and for them.