Saturday, June 25, 2011

Saturday Snapshots

Imagine you are Barbie, and you looked up and saw this...

Yikes! ;)

Thomas O'Malley loves playing with my youngest daughter's toys...we have laughed and laughed at him flitting around inside the dollhouse and my middle daughter finally caught him with her camera phone the other day.

He's such a little imp ;)

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce @ At Home with Books

Thursday, June 23, 2011

HT Be Your Dog's Best Friend - Book Review

How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend/The Monks of New Skete
Little Brown/2002/2nd edition
Hardback bought from Amazon
Why?  my new puppy Layla
What Now? glass cabinet where my favorites live

Golden Lines

Your dog can provide you with a unique access to the natural world, helping you to expand your capacity for aesthetic appreciation, warmth, and enjoyment, thus rooting you in deeper realities.  In a world grown increasingly artificial and plastic, we are dangerously out of touch with the natural environment that sustains us, and the effect of this detachment has been to create a wasteland of spiritual aridity and alienation.  

The throngs of unwanted animals, with no possibilities of homes or owners, represent an abominable waste of life.  They are a shocking indication of our lack of reverence for life.


The Monks of New Skete have been raising dogs for over 30 years.  Their interests began with one German Shepherd, a pet of of one of the monks.  When the dog disappeared as they were moving to a new monestary, the monks realized just how much the dog had meant to their lives and their existence as spiritual human beings.  They decided to get two more German Shepherds, a male and female, and began their own breeding and training of German Shepherds as well as other dogs in the community who needed help learning the basics of obedience.  Through their work with all of the dogs, the monks have seen first hand how a dog can change a person's life.  With the right training in the beginning a dog can even make a person a better person.

What I Liked
The focus on dogs as they are...learning about their instincts, their backgrounds, the family as a pack.

 This book is not just a "training" book, with tips and tricks for making your dog do everything you ask it to...the book covers the history of dogs, psychology, pack dynamics (whether in the wild or in your home), and overall the owner's relationship with his/her dog. 

The spiritual aspect of the book...the monks don't preach but they do talk about honoring the life of other living creatures making us better creatures ourselves.  When we give so much of ourselves to another living being (which is vital when training a dog), we become better humans, more atune to the natural world around us, and those feelings/actions even sometime spill over into our other human relationships.  The word "obedience" literally means to "listen," something we all need more practice in doing. 

What I Didn't Like

The section on "correction."  While the monks stress that the least amount of force necessary prevails always, there are a couple of examples I don't think should be used except by the most experienced handlers.  One of these is called the shakedown.  I actually took my pen and X'd out this whole section. 
The section on puppies is later on in the the first chapters actually cover some material on training that is not appropriate until a dog is 6 months old.  I wasn't clear on all of this until I finally got to the puppy section.  Basic obedience training begins from birth, but the more focused, even job related training begins after 6 months and also after the basics (come, sit, heel, stay, down) have been mastered.

My Personal Response
I've had personal experience with a "bad dog"...who wasn't really a bad dog at all.  Instead, I was a bad owner (actually, it wasn't me personally).  I was 6 months pregnant with our youngest when my husband brought home a Rottweiler puppy.  She was so cute!!!! We babied her, played tug of war with her, teased her, let her sleep in our bed when she cried...all the good things owners do when they love their puppies, right? Wrong.  Our cute little Rottweiler puppy grew to be a 150lb chunk of a dog who could knock a grown man to the ground just playing.  She minded no one but my husband and that was only when she felt like it.  The girls and I quickly became afraid of her and she was sentenced to the fenced in backyard on a chain.  Even as I type this I'm ashamed.  She tore our backyard up, running the fence and digging.  She owned the backyard...none of the rest of us would go back there except my husband on the riding lawn mower.  She chewed on everything and loved my youngest's rubber boots.  One afternoon the Rottweiler decided she wanted my youngest's rubber boots...problem was my youngest was still IN the boots.  I've never been so scared in my life.  I grabbed the dog with everything in me...adrenaline pumping, of course and held on for dear life.  While the dog turned her focus on me, my youngest ran for her life into the house.  Now, let me be clear here.  The dog was just playing when she grabbed my youngest's boots.  She did not intentionally throw my youngest to the ground.  If the Rottweiler had wanted to rip my youngest's throat out, she could have done it and there would have been nothing I could have done to prevent it.  The dog was not playing, however, when I grabbed her from behind with all my this day I have no idea how in the world that episode ended without me being harmed.  When my youngest was safe in the house, I let go of the dog; she grabbed the rubber boots and ran off.  She was not a bad dog.  We were bad owners.  We failed her and we had to find her a new home where someone could spend loads of time training her to break the bad behavior we had created.  I will never let that happen again.   I love and honor animal life too much for that.

The Monks of Skete were right up my alley so to speak with the commitment to training and training early as well as honoring dogs for what they are...dogs.

My overall recommendation:

If your idea of having a dog is to purchase it and tie it up in your backyard, this isn't the book for you.  Actually, you probably don't need a dog to begin with if that's your idea of pet ownership :/ Just sayin'

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wordless (Almost) Wednesday

We were a tad late getting our garden started this year...hence the swimming suit on my youngest...can you tell she's a little sassy??

Wordless Wednesday is hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Reasons I Enjoy Being a BookBlogger/Bookish Person

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the ladies at The Broke and the Bookish.
   To celebrate their one year blogoversity, this week's theme is the top ten reasons why I enjoy being a book blogger/bookish person.

1.  My sanity

When I looked back to my very first post ever, I said up front and honestly that I needed this blog for myself.  I'm a giver and I deeply care about those I care about.  Unfortunately, the person who gets left out most is me.  My blog is mine...nobody else's and it is something that I do for ME.

2.  A record of daily life

I saw of a review the other day about a woman who found 30 years worth of her grandmother's daily journals in a box in the attic that no one knew existed.  How cool would that be if my daily life activities and thoughts fell into the hands of someone generations from now...

3.  Friendship

Friendship is something I honestly didn't expect...hard to expect friendship when you begin blogging for the self-centered reasons I did.  But, I've have been so blessed to make friends with other ladies across the country and a few outside the U.S...ladies I wouldn't have possibly met otherwise...and certainly not ladies I would have been able to get to know. 

4. Gardening, Cooking, Reading

I never realized how some of my other favorite things in life overlapped with reading...until I began blogging...I'm not sure I would have ever taken the plunge last summer canning tomatoes if it hadn't been for all the support and instructions I received from other blogging buddies...we're branching out this year with salsa and pickles :)

5. Intellectual stimulation

I have one of those brains that's better off busy.  If my brain is not busy, it will find something to worry.  One of the things I've leaned in therapy with my daughters is to know your own personal signals...know the early signs and distract the mind...sometimes all it takes is a little distraction to trick the brain to think about something more productive rather than irrational fears...keeping panic attacks at bay.  :)

6.  Books, books, and more books

Holy Smokes!! Reading other book bloggers' blog postings about books they've read and recommend has made my Amazon Wishlist big enough to be a contender in the Guinness Book of World Records...but I love it!! Sometimes I love to just read my Wishlist ;)

7.  Expanding my Repertoire

As many good books as there are out there, I know there are some I've missed because of my preconceived notions or biases.  For example, I thought the premise of Water for Elephants was silly...I read the synopsis many times trying to make myself want to read it.  After reading review after review from different perspectives with different opinions and a variety of details, I finally read it.  I can't believe I almost missed it.

8.  Broadening My Book Experiences

As a teacher I always try to do whatever possible to turn my students onto reading...I have found, however, that shoving it down their throats does not work...My recommendations go over much better when they are thrown in at a prime moment when a student is "ripe" for a specific book.  By reading so many book reviews of other bloggers, I've become more familiar with books I might not normally pick up for myself or genres outside my comfort zone. 

9. Processing

I've always been a book lover...and I've always been a writer, list maker, just never occurred to me to put it all together.  After reading, since becoming a book blogger I now think about the book, its themes, the ideas, etc. begin writing a review, and think about it some more.  By the time I post my review, list, story, etc. I've really processed it...more probably than I ever did in college...and I have an English degree. : D

10. Travel

I love to travel...but I also love to stay home.  The reality of a teacher's life as well is that there isn't usually extra money to travel as extensively as I would like.  Through blogging I've been able to share about life in Mississippi as well as learn about life in New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, England, New Zealand, etc. Through pictures and blog postings I'm able to become more familiar with other areas of the world besides my home state and region...without ever leaving my backyard.
Cool :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Manic Monday...or I'm gonna try this schedule thing again...

 I'm not a freaky schedule person...but I do appreciate a schedule...when it works out, that is.  I don't always stick to the plans I make, and that's ok...but I've really been flopping around here lately.  That's the nature of the end of school and all...and I've given myself time to just languish.  But, my brain is needing a little more structure so that it doesn't turn into a jelly doughnut before August :/  I've also been missing out on some photography and cooking memes that I love bc I forget about them until it's too late.  Hopefully that won't happen this week.

Reading/Reviewing Progress

 Last week I spent my time devouring dog books...I finished The Monks of New Skete How To Be Your Dog's Best Friend and am almost finished with How to Raise the Perfect Dog by Cesar Millan.  The Monks also published a book just on puppies and Cesar Millan has one on being the leader of the pack that I have up next.  While I'm waiting for those to arrive from Amazon, however, I'm going to give myself permission to visit with Anita Blake and Jean Claude in Laurell K. Hamilton's Hit List.  Stephanie Plum #17 will also be here later this reading!!
I've also peeked into Sworn into Silence on my Nook and was hooked from the first page.  All those should be fast reads.

I've got several reviews on backlog is creating a little anxiety for me so I really need to get some of those posted. I'm scheduling two reviews for this week...although I really don't know which ones they'll be...I'm guessing for Thursday and Friday.  I don't sit and write a review all at once; I jump around, write a while, go write on something else, read other bloggers and then go back and write again.  So, right now I've got almost 10 reviews, somewhere between just begun to almost finished. 

Posting Schedule for this Week

Tuesday: Top Ten Reasons I Enjoy Being a Book Blogger/Bookish Person 
Wednesday: Wordless Wednesday
Thursday: Review - HT Be Your Dog's Best Friend
Friday: Review - The United States of Arugula
Saturday: Saturday Snapshot
Sunday: Weekend Cooking
Monday: Manic Monday

 I'm going to get a menu back up by next Monday as well.  I love to cook but I absolutely detest deciding what's for dinner every night...I have no explanation for this weirdness...but if it helps to put together a menu for the week to cut down on any worrying, so be it.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day!

I've been a Daddy's girl for as long as I can remember.  We don't get to see each other as often as either of us would like, but I know he is there.  I am the person I am because of my dad.  His quiet strength and willingness to let both my brother and I forge ahead and experience life, even when our know it all decisions weren't exactly the best ones, has made me a more thoughtful person...especially as I approach the time in my life with my own daughters leaving the nest.  Even though it's been hard for me to begin the letting go process, I know it's what has to be.  I know also that my life will go on and that a whole other wonderful stage of life awaits me.  This is a time for celebration, not sadness.

I decided for Father's Day that it's been far too long since I've told my dad how much he means to me...he has helped me grow into the person that I am today and I want him to know it.
The following life lessons are just a few of the ones I've absorbed from being my father's daughter.

I've learned resilience and persistence from my dad.  Honestly I'm not sure if I would have finished my PhD if it wasn't for him in the background...not pushing...but just the back of my mind patiently standing out of sight.  It never even entered his mind that I might fail.  Even during the lowest times of the process, quitting was never an option for me...don't get me wrong; he didn't pressure; he just had so much confidence that it was impossible for me to ever imagine failing either.

I've learned to truly be be the person I am and stand for what I think...even if that's not what everybody else thinks. 

I've learned that to be the best partner for someone, I must first be the best individual I can be.  I have to be able to take care of myself and not expect anyone else to take care of me.  A strong relationship is one where both people take care of each other, rather than one person pulling all the weight. 

My dad has taught me that God's love is unconditional, agape love...there's nothing I'm ever going to do to change it.  My dad's love is that way for me as well...and that same love is handed down from me to my children.

I learned gardening from my dad used to have the biggest garden each spring and summer and he worked it day and night...I remember trying to find other places to go so I wouldn't have to work in the garden :/  I remember sitting in the garage surrounded by baskets/buckets of corn, shucking, cleaning cob after cob after cob.  Delicious, juicy, unbelievable corn that we'd eat all Winter.  I was a little like the Little Red Hen in those days...didn't want to do any of the work, but was at the table for every meal.

I learned to enjoy outside, to keep my eyes open and my mouth shut so I won't miss anything
to investigate my surroundings and see the clues the animals leave...the beaver gnawings on trees, their dams in streams, the marks on the trees where the bucks have marked their territory, the varieties of trees and plants of our state as well as its wildlife...and one particular lesson that I probably take to heart more than any is conservation of our natural resources.

I learned to enjoy reading and the library from my dad...I actually designed the bookshelves in my own home using my dad's as an example. My dad took me hunting once but brought me a book because he knew I would have trouble being quiet...The book he selected to keep me from getting bored was something by James Fenimore Cooper (The Deer Hunter, The Last of the Mohicans), one of his favorite authors.  Funny, Dad. I think I was 12.
My dad chose a much better selection another time when he read aloud to me The Incredible Journey by Sheila chapter each night until the chapter that ends with the cat being swept down the river.  I was so distraught about the fate of the cat that my dad read an extra chapter that night just so I would know that cat was ok.I spent a lot of time in the library with my dad as he was working on his PhD...he would leave me in the Reading Room and go off to do his research (you could actually do that then with no worries).  The library to this day is a place of comfort, quiet, and peace for me...and it's actually a place where I prefer to be alone.

I've learned to "Keep on keepin' on." Period.  From him I've learned that life is constantly changing and that's the way it's supposed to be.  To expect anything different is to set yourself up for disappointment.  From my dad I've learned to embrace each stage in our lives and move need to look back.  The mistakes we make are ours; we own up to those mistakes, make restitution if necessary and move forward.  But, don't wallow in it.  Get over it and go on.

As tough as my dad can be, he has a very sensitive side as well.
My dad's father died when I was a freshman in college...I remember my dad pulling up to the sidewalk to pick me up to see my Pop for the last time.  As distraught as I was when my Pop passed away that day, I was stunned at my own father's tears as we drove home later that night.  
My dad and my Pop had not always had a friendly relationship.  It was no secret; even I was aware of it growing up.  As he pulled over on the side of the highway, my daddy shared with me his last final moments with his daddy that night:
Daddy and the rest of his family knew the end was near...they each had stayed beside him and took turns saying good-bye, telling him how much they loved him, how much they would miss him, how much he meant to them.
As my Pop struggled to breathe those last few hours my daddy was with his daddy alone.  My daddy took his daddy's hand and said, "It's ok, Daddy...I'm ok...we're more pain, no more anger, no more sadness."  
Listening to my daddy, for the first time in hours my Pop relaxed his chest and quit struggling.  He didn't pass away right then, but when he did finally leave us, he did so peacefully.

I learned that night that even my tough, seemingly invincible daddy felt sadness sometimes.  I knew I never wanted to cause that sadness and I wanted to be able to prevent him from ever feeling it again if I could.  I learned from my dad that night that we choose who we want as part of our lives.   When we choose those people, we love them.  Period.  We don't try to make them something other than what we are and we don't try to play games.  We won't always get along and we may even need some time apart...but we can always lay down the hatchet and we can always come home.  There's no shame in that.

I know how blessed I am to have my father in my life, and I thank God for my father's love every single day.  

I love you, Daddy.

Happy Father's Day!