Sunday, February 3, 2013

Thanks for joining us winter, Love, Chicago...

It's February 3rd and yesterday was the first time we had a measurable snowfall in the Chicago area.  I don't like when it's below 20 outside but I LOVE SNOW, I always have.  Who doesn't like playing with kids and dogs in the snow?  I grew up in Chicago so there weren't that many places to find a big hill, we're pretty flat.  I've never skied in my life, had never even seen a mountain until this summer.  But making snow angels, having snowball fights, skitching on the back bumpers of cars, building igloos and snowmen were some of my favorite activities.

But my FAVORITE winter activity is SLEDDING!
I get it from my mom.  She loved sledding.  She kept my old sled in the trunk of her car for whenever the urge hit her.  She was 72 in January, 2010 when she was driving past the big sledding hill at Pasfield Golf Course in Springfield, IL and saw kids on the hill.  She pulled over and climbed up the hill, to the surprised looks of all who saw her, and went sledding.  She proudly told me all about it.  She died suddenly 3 days later.  She was young at heart to the end.  I hope to be the same way.

Yesterday it felt like Christmas morning when I looked outside before dawn and saw all the snow.  I had butterflies in my stomach. I could hardly wait to go sledding.  My kids are 19 & 20 now and refused to go with me.  I was sad thinking I couldn't go alone, and then I remembered my mom, and decided I didn't need anyone, but I should probably wait for the sun to come up.

So I played in the yard with the dogs. We have a new 11 month old puppy we adopted from Oklahoma who had never seen snow.  I let them in the yard to play right at daybreak.  This is Scout seeing snow for the first time yesterday morning:


Then I drove to the sledding hill with my daughters camera.  I have my old sled that my mom used right to the end.  It's gotta be about 40 years old.  My maiden name is written on it from my days of winter camping with the girl scouts.  

It was still pretty early and so there was only one kid there with her dad and grandpa.  I raced her down the hill.  It was instantly a competition to me, and I won!  I was really proud of myself for winning, even though it was against a small child, I didn't care, even raising my hands in the air in victory at the bottom of the hill.  Sledding will do that to you...or maybe just to me.  I did, eventually, feel bad, and so I told her I only won because of the extra weight in my backside so she wouldn't feel bad that I smoked her on that hill, tehehehe.  I probably shouldn't feel to proud, gravity took over and I kept ending up backwards with my ass leading the way down the hill each time.   


Here is the video I took of my 47 year old self with my left hand, while holding the sled with my right hand, sledding down the hill yesterday morning:
video

I had a blast.  The hardest part was climbing, clawing and crawling on my knees, up that hill.  I only went down about 5 times.  It took too long to catch my breath at the top of the hill after each time.  

This year has started off pretty bad for us.  But sledding down the hill it's easy to forget all of your troubles, if only for a minute.  At the bottom of the hill I was laughing a secret kind of laugh.  Snickering under my breath, embarrassed.  I was thinking people my age shouldn't be out here doing this, I have no business being this happy with all of our problems.  Yet I couldn't help laughing like a kid at the bottom of the hill. I was back there this morning, before any kids, sledding again.

The year I was born Frank Sinatra sang: "Don't you know that it's worth, every treasure on earth, if you're young at heart?  For as rich as you are, it's much better by far, to be young at heart."

Sledding down that hill, 
with butterflies in my stomach, 
I know, 
I still remain, 
YOUNG AT HEART.



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas spirit, alive & well in Wisconsin...

My heart is filled with love, joy and the Christmas spirit because of what our friends, the Bullis family of Wisconsin, did last week.  I wish the world had more great people in it like them.  I'd like to tell you the story of a dog that is alive today because of them.

After my dog Princess died in February, I met many great people whose lives have been touched by our plight to remove pet treats made in China off of the store shelves in the U.S.  One of the ladies I talk to on Facebook, Debbie Davidson, lives in New York and posts pictures of dogs that are about to be put to sleep and need someone to adopt them.  I then cross share the pictures to honor the memory of Princess, hoping I can help another dog because I was unable to help her.

You just never know who may see a dog and feel compelled to save him.  That's exactly what happened last week with Bullis the PitBull from New York.  Below was his story attached to his picture that I shared on my Facebook wall after Debbie had shared it, after Montana Antler Chews & Dog Supplies shared it, and so on and so on.  You share it and ask everyone you know to share it hoping someone will adopt them.  This was his story:

I know it is late, but we have a CODE RED URGENT in New York!!! Please read all of Bullis' info below and SHARE, SHARE, SHARE!!!

Bullis
Male (Intact) 
Pit Bull
Brown with white spot on chest and feet.
Estimated to be 3 years old.
Bullis was found as a stray two weeks ago. His stray hold is up and he needs a place to go ASAP. Since he was a stray he will need vetting and to be neutered.
Bullis is a very sweet guy, but is very reserved. Best guess is that he was a kennel dog or tied outside in the past, so he is not used to lots of commotion or everyday human interaction. He has been tested with other dogs...he did great, no issues seen at all. He actually seems more confident around them. Despite being scared and nervous, he has shown ZERO aggression. Overall great boy, just needs time to be able to get comfortable and come out of his shell. He does have scars on his face, chin, around his his, in his ears, and a few on his body. Not exactly sure where they are from, but like said above his IS DOG FRIENDLY!
Bullis's time has RUN OUT. He was supposed to be PTS last Friday (11/30/2012), but he has captured our hearts so we are TRYING to buy him some more time in hopes that someone can step up to help/take him.
Bullis is located in Marilla, NY. Email @ dogsit101@aol.com, for more information. Please put "Bullis" or "Pitbull needing rescue" in the subject line, to be sure the email gets read.

I really didn't think any of my Chicago friends would be able to help but I posted his story anyway.  I also shared it with our good friends from Wisconsin, the Bullis Family.  I thought it was funny how this dog had their last name.  Elaine Bullis loves animals of all kinds.  More than anyone I've ever met.  They have many different kinds in their home and I always say their home is like Wild Kingdom.

Unbeknownst to me, THIS is what had been going on in the Bullis home the week before I sent them the picture of Bullis the PitBull from New York: 
  1. They had decided the week before that they were going to adopt a dog.    
  2. And not just any dog, they had decided they would adopt a rescued Pit Bull.  They would just have to save up the money for it first. 
  3. Mike Bullis' vacation at work was moved up a week, and so, unbelievably, here he was at home,  on vacation for a week, with what seemed like no plans.  
  4. They had saved up $500 for Christmas presents.  They realized with the Christmas money, they COULD rent a car and drive to New York to save him.  
All obstacles had been removed one by one making it all fall into place.  And, he literally had their name on him.  

Elaine Bullis read how this pit bull was a "Code Red", meaning his time had run out and he was about to be put to sleep.  She saw at the bottom it read, "if you're interested in helping, write Bullis, or Pit Bull needing rescue in the subject line."  So the story ended with words like "Bullis Pitbull needing rescue."  Elaine said she stared at his picture and story for 20 minutes.  Was this suppose to be their dog?

They asked their daughter Shayla, because all of their Christmas money would need to go to this trip to save this dog.  They'd have a new dog but not much else under the tree.  They all agreed it's what they wanted to do with their Christmas money.

So about a week ago, Mike Bullis rented a car and drove from Wisconsin to near Buffalo, New York and rescued Bullis the Pit Bull.  He is the sweetest most docile dog.  He loves all of them and their other dog Buddy already.  Here he is with Mike/his new dad his first day in Wisconsin.

The difference love makes is apparent in the pictures.  The before picture of him is below on the left, sad, about to be put to sleep in New York.  His after picture,below on the right, taken just a few days later, he is literally smiling for the camera at his new home in Wisconsin.  He has many cuts, bites and scrapes still healing on him.  It's obvious he was in at least one dog fight.  But he shows absolutely no aggression and just wants to be loved.

The story from NY said a few white spots on his chest.  
But when I saw this first picture (below) of him in Wisconsin,
I noticed that those white "spots" 
looked more like a Cross or Angels wings to me.
He WAS a perfect Christmas present!

I got to go meet "Bullis Bullis" the other day.  I cried knowing he would be dead by now if it wasn't for them.  But my tears turned to tears of joy because here he was, right in front of me, safe and loved in Wisconsin.

Buddy, me and Bullis Bullis at his new home in Wisconsin

The Bullis' family sacrifice to save the life of an animal has really touched me this Christmas.  They thanked me many times, said it's because of me.  They're wrong.  All I did was share a picture and a story of a dog in need of saving.  They did everything else.  They gave up material gifts for each other and gave the gift of life to this dog.

Everyone thinks they're nuts for doing this, for driving a thousand miles a week before Christmas, taking all their Christmas money to save a dog.  Not us. Their sacrifice showed true Christmas spirit.  They opened their home, their hearts, and their wallets to do this remarkable thing.  Now they have a beautiful new dog, with a home and hearts filled with love, as it should be at this time of year.

I'm proud to call Mike & Elaine Bullis & their daughter Shayla 
(and their dogs Buddy & Bullis), our friends. 
MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!




Monday, November 19, 2012

At least I woke up laughing....


I woke up at 5am to use the washroom and I saw myself in the mirror and started laughing.  I had forgotten about my mishap yesterday, and it caught me off guard.  Because I thought it was a good idea to buy hair color at the dollar store, on clearance.  I thought, what could go wrong?  Now,  I'm a red head.  My first day as a red head I proved I'm still a blonde somewhere inside.

I was born a blonde but my 40's have changed my hair to dishwater blonde and grey.  I thought, if I bought a  golden brown, instead of golden blonde, I wouldn't have roots from trying to go too light in color.  The box said light golden brown.  The box lied.  My hair is red, chestnut, auburn, orange, or something like that:

So that was good, to wake up laughing, I suppose.  Because I look ridiculous as a red head.  I'll be annoyed at myself every time I see it for the next month or so until it fades out but at least it brought me some laughter this morning.

I told Mike I'd give him a ride to school.  I left my P.J's on, grabbed my 2nd cup of coffee to curb my appetite until I could get home in 1/2 hour, threw on my Crock slippers and took the puppy with me.

I dropped Mike off at school, turned back onto the street and the car died.  I got it started again and pulled back into the parking lot with the car put-putting and turned the car off.  I figured I'll just let it rest, hang out here for Mike's 1 hour class, no big deal.  If it won't make it home at least Mike is with me and can help out.  Then Scout whined.  Oh yeah, I forgot, I had the dog with me.  

And I still had to wait 1 hour until Mike got out of school.  I had a small rope in my car I used as a leash and took her for a walk on the school grounds, in my slippers, with no bag. I was hoping no one would see me.  As my luck would have it though, it was grounds keeper day at the school.  Here I am, walking around with a puppy with nothing to clean up after her, in my PJ's, as about 100 workers are cleaning up the grounds, planting trees, getting ready for the holidays, giving me dirty looks.  There are obviously no dogs allowed on campus by the looks I was getting.  Or, maybe those dirty looks were because I was in my PJ's circling in the lawn, in a sea of nicely dressed college kids.  Maybe they were thinking I had just escaped from a state run facility somewhere, I'm not sure which.

Normally I would have brought several bags on a walk.  I felt so bad.  Then I felt something squishy in my shoe.  Turns out it was Canadian Goose poop on my foot and in the back of my slipper.  I see some of the workers smiling as I'm trying to wash it off in the cold grass, cursing under my breath, college kids staring at this scene too.  I said "Fine Karma, ya bitch, I guess I deserved this one" because I couldn't pick up after my dog.  
So I took Scout to the apartment complex across the street to finish doing her business.  I thought that was a good idea too.  Turns out, there's a no dog policy and about 100 condos full of old people who had been waiting their whole lives for this moment.  Seriously, they must have been waiting by their windows for this day in their dreams.  Because within 5 minutes, literally, 3 people came out, 2 with canes, 1 with a walker, flagging me down, walking towards me with such purpose and vigor I wanted to say, "Well look at you!  Aren't you the little speed walkers!  Good for you!"  But it was to tell me, there is a no dog policy.  The 2 ladies from the first building were nice about it.

The old man from the other building on the way out looked like he wanted revenge against us.  I knew what he was going to say so I kept walking.  As I was leaving and he was following us out, Scout took her number 2 right then and there, of course.  He started coming towards us faster.  So I started to jog out with my dog crouched like she wanted to go again and an old man running towards me.  I was running away saying, "Sorry, I'm so sorry."  

But he didn't want my sorry, he wanted me to take her deposit with me.  I had no bags and he had a look in his eyes like he didn't care, the poop was going with me.  
So I had to keep running....
from an old man....
in my PJ's......
with traces of goose crap still in my slippers 
and on my foot....
on a Monday morning.  

I know I'm suppose to "be not afraid" anymore, but he had a cane damn it, what's a girl to do?  Lucky for me I'm still faster than a 90 year old.  I told Scout she and I should have both went to the bathroom before we left.
I looked up "Angry old man with cane" on Google images 
for this story.  The options were endless, so many pictures of 
angry old men with canes in the world to choose from, who knew....

We went back to the car and waited another 1/2 hour for Mike.  I was looking over my shoulder for the old patrol like a wanted fugitive, ducking down when the groundskeepers from the college got near my car too.

My coffee was cold by this time and I was hungry.  I smelled something bad and thought my dog still had gas because she wasn't done going when we got chased out of the apartment complex.  I was afraid she was sniffing the floor of the car because she was going to go in the car.  


And then she started licking my foot...  
Oh yeah, I had almost forgotten about the goose crap. 
I realized, that's not the puppy that smells, 
it's my damn foot, and I can't wash it off! 
Happy Monday!

Once Mike got there, I tried the car and it started right up, of course, drove fine.  I told Lorens what happened and he said I should have just kept driving, probably just had some water or bad gas in the line and it just needed to backfire a few times and it would have been fine (it's 22 years old). So then I told Lorens I had a better idea.  He takes the 22 year old car to work from now on and I'll keep the better car here with me and the kids.

I am considering leaving Scout at home once in awhile.  I'm also seriously considering getting dressed before leaving the house now that it's November in Chicago.  Because next time, when I think to myself, what could possibly go wrong, I need to say EVERYTHING.  This is you Bev.  Pack for a disaster.  Remember your girl scout training, maybe bring a survival bag with me for trips over a mile, and some soap.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

"Scout" Benyamin

So, I've been walking around these last two months, still wondering about all the possibilities of what hearing "Be not afraid" means, but knowing I'm definitely more relaxed about everything since I heard it.  Then, on October 27, 2012, my husband & daughter went to buy dog food for our yellow Labrador, Angel.  They called me from the parking lot of the pet store.  They said Tails Humane Society of DeKalb, IL was there.  Tails Humane Society had caravaned to Oklahoma and rescued over 100 unwanted dogs from a kill shelter.  Now they were here in the parking lot of the local Petco for a mega weekend adoption event.
My husband said the kids wanted to pitch in and buy me one for my birthday.  It's been 8 months since my black lab. Princess died on February 19, 2012 after eating tainted jerky treats from China.  It was so painful when she died.  I've been so sad but never thought I'd get another dog.  I was afraid of loving and then losing another one.  But now these dogs needed me more than I needed them.  I decided to do the right thing.  I decided to not be afraid to love again, and go look at these dogs.  I told them to come pick me up.



I found a sweet, smart, beautiful, 8 month old golden German Shepard mix.  When I looked at her in her cage she pointed with her nose to the 2 latches that needed to be unlocked for her to get out.  Like, "right here lady, just unlatch it right here."  So I asked to see her on a leash and walked her around.  She put her body against Lorens so he could pet her and she licked my hand.  So gentle and loving with big brown eyes. She wrapped her two front paws around my arm when I was petting her, licking me, like please don't put me back lady. There was no way she was ever going back into that cage.  

Not until we were signing the papers to adopt her did I see her birthday, February 20, 2012.  She was born the day after Princess died on February 19, 2012, needing someone to love her.  It just took us both 8 months to find each other.

They were calling her Lacey at the shelter.  My kids re-named her "SCOUT" because she explores everything.  An adventurer!  I tell her, "You're a good girl, Scout."  My mom was a Girl Scout Leader for 20 years and my sister and I were immersed in everything scouting.  I think my mom the adventurer Girl Scout leader would be happy I'll be saying "good girl Scout" for the next 10-15 years.

These are a few pics from the day we adopted her, October 27, 2012.  You could see 5 of her ribs this day.

 Scout 10/27/2012, the day we adopted her...




I'm so glad I wasn't afraid to open my heart again.  She needed me.  She's been neglected so she can't get close enough to me, wants to literally sit in my lap, sleeps next to me.  I take her with me everywhere.  Car rides, trips to the store, it doesn't matter, I'm taking her with me.  Lorens has reminded me I'm not Paris Hilton, and Scout doesn't fit in my purse.  I need to stop that before she gets any bigger.  But I love her.  She's helping to fill a void in our hearts, and in the heart of Angel, who misses Princess too.

Our 11 year old yellow lab Angel wasn't too happy at first.  But now that she realizes she's in charge, this is just a puppy she needs to teach everything to, she's happy.  She barks at Scout when she gets too wild or too rough.  If I'm petting Angel and Scout tries to wedge in between us, Angel lets her know she's not going to put up with that.  She shows her how to walk on a leash without pulling my arm out.  And she even lets Scout snuggle with her.
Scout & Angel, November 15, 2012


Scout looking pretty chubby on the steps one month after we adopted her,
November, 2012.  No more ribs showing, yay!
Our friends dog and Scout, 11/18/2012...

Scout thinks she's a lap dog with my daughter Jen....



See what can happen when you learn to "be not afraid?"  
You can help someone else, and maybe, 
while you're helping others, 
happiness might sneak back into your own heart.
It worked for me.

PLEASE HELP.  
VOLUNTEER, DONATE, ADOPT.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

"BE NOT AFRAID." Princess's story...

It's been a crazy week around here.  But at least it ended well.  I think my anxiety attack days are finally over.  I think after hearing "be not afraid" on Thursday 9/13/2012, I can finally start to heal after the senseless death of my dog, Princess, in February, 2012.  I've never been able to write about losing Princess, it's been too painful, until now.  I haven't written much of ANYTHING since she's died.  It was truly like losing a member of my family.

Tuesday, 9/11/2012
On 9/11 we had to call 911.  Because on a bright and sunny day, out of nowhere, our neighbors giant tree fell into our yard, driveway, and garage roof downing live power lines.  Everyone wanted to run outside and survey the damage and I was inside having another panic attack.  Those are firemen in my yard on 9/11 with our landlord.


Wednesday, 9/12/2012
Another bright and sunny day and we had to call 911 again. The landlord had a tree removal company at our house removing the tree.  One of the workers was putting branches into the chipper and collapsed hitting his head on the concrete.  He was unconscious, bleeding from the mouth, having some sort of seizure.  I pray he's O.K..  Please say a prayer for him too.  This was the scene outside my house on 9/12/2012.  I was inside having another anxiety attack.



Stuff like this has been happening all around me for months.  It has seemed like a black cloud of negative energy has been following me.  I felt surrounded by it.  So, after the ambulance left, I poured salt around my entire house, driveway and yard like I had seen them do on some T.V. show called Paranormal Activity or Ghost Hunters or something like that.  I realized how irrational I was being when I saw all the neighbors peeking out their blinds at me but I figured it couldn't hurt.  I repeated, "this is a house of light and love" like I had seen them do on the show as I sprinkled it.

PRINCESS
As I was pouring the salt, I thought to myself, when did all of this start?  When did I start having panic/anxiety attacks all the time?  I know I felt this way this summer in Colorado too, but I told myself I had good reasons for that.  There were mountainous roads and bears in Colorado.  I'm from Chicago, I'm use to flat roads and Chicago Bears, that's it.

I finally admitted to myself I've been a wreck since February.  Since the senseless death of Princess.  Princess was my 7 year old black Labrador who died February 19, 2012 after eating tainted dog treats from China.

Princess was mama's baby.  She never left my side, literally, and slept in my bed at my feet.  She was a canine Lucy Ricardo, always getting into trouble.  I was forever trying to cover for her.  I've written 2 stories in my blog about her "I don't have time to blog about Princess, my bad dog" (http://bev-benyamin.blogspot.com/2011/05/i-dont-have-time-to-blog-about-my-bad.html) and "What can Bev/Lucy Ricardo and Princess damage in 1 hour" (http://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=748625758690001150#editor/target=post;postID=5613576845160284227;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=36;src=postname)

In January, 2012, Princess started acting as if she had been poisoned   She was throwing up several times a day and her eating and bathroom habits were 1/4 of what they use to be.  We took her to our vet.  Our yellow lab Angel was fine.  We went over the differences in their eating habits.  THERE WAS ONLY 1 DIFFERENCE.  The Waggin Train Chicken Jerky Treats that Angel wouldn't touch.  Angel is part Beagle and a VERY finicky eater.  She smelled them and turned her nose up at them, she wouldn't touch them.  So Princess happily ate both packs the week before.  I told the vet, "maybe she had too many jerky treats."  She was so swollen in her mid-section.  Maybe the rawhide had made a big ball in her stomach or something.  He said he didn't think so.  The vet took an x-ray and blood tests. There weren't any tumors.  She was getting laxatives, I.V.'s of antibiotics, pain meds and fluids from Jan. 24-27th.    He said her blood work came back and her kidney and liver levels were extremely elevated.  Her organs were shutting down and he recommended we put her to sleep. He said there was nothing more he could do for her. We took her home instead.

Our yellow lab Angel was so happy to see her.  Princess was extremely bloated but was still loving, was still eating and still going to the bathroom in small amounts and was still happy to go on very short walks.  I couldn't put her down seeing her still happy, even though she was obviously still very ill.  Then she took a turn for the worse and we had to put her to sleep on February 19, 2012.  R.I.P. Princess.

Princess and Angel

Months after Princess died, I saw a T.V. news story about a local suburban Chicago man who was heartbroken over the poisoning of his dog from Waggin Train Chicken Jerky treats from China.  They went on to say that over 2,000 pets have been sicken and/or died from tainted treats from China.  They said the FDA won't remove them from the shelves because they're no threat to humans.

I SAT THERE WITH MY MOUTH HANGING OPEN.  I had no idea.

My vet never mentioned those exact treats I told him Princess had eaten too many of were under investigation, or that I wasn't the only one who's dog died after eating them.

When I saw this news story I KNEW that was what had happened to Princess as well.  Because it has always stuck in my mind as the only difference in my 2 dogs diets and to never buy Waggin Train treats again.  These poisoned treats are still on the shelf today and I had to watch a good dog suffer and die because of them.

Princess had, in a sense, been murdered.  
Yep, that's when these anxiety/panic attacks started.





Back to Wednesday night, 9/12/2012
Later that night, after the tree was removed and I had poured salt around my entire house (probably scaring my neighbors) my 18 year old son wanted to go out.  I was sure he'd be jumped, hit by a car, train, something.  My husband said I was being irrational again, panicking over nothing again.  I was even crying, trying to get Michael to feel guilty and stay home. Lorens said I needed to calm down, Michael was 18 after all.  It didn't matter to me.  I was always afraid, worried about something bad happening to someone I loved all the time, ever since Princess died.

I didn't know how to get rid of this anxiety.  It told him I hate it too.  I can't seem to relax anymore, ever.  I'm from Chicago, I'm not use to being afraid of anything and now I'm afraid of everything.  He hugged me (and he motioned to Michael behind my back to quickly leave while he's calming mom down) and told me it would be O.K.  He told me he's not going to let anything bad happen to any of us.  I felt like a big baby but couldn't help it.  That night I didn't sleep well. I tossed and turned.  I hated feeling helpless and afraid.

"BE NOT AFRAID".......Thursday, 9/13/2012
When I woke up, I knew I had many dreams and tried to remember them.  They were so intense.  I knew many were about Princess although I couldn't remember them exactly, they seemed hidden somewhere in my mind's fog. 

Then I forgot all about it and started my day.  Lorens went out to get some coffee.  When he came back inside he said, "Did you know there's a black lab in our driveway?"   I ran outside.  There, at the edge of my driveway, near some salt, pacing back and forth was a scared, lost, female black lab.  I got on my knees and called to her.  She ran right up into my arms, kissing me as if she knew I would help her.  I was holding her collar, thanking God she had tags.  Lorens ran inside to get a leash.  I saw that her name was Molly.  I said "Well hello Molly, it's O.K., you're a good girl." Lorens put the leash on her and called the phone number on her collar and left a message.

I was still on the ground, she was leaning against me, looking up at me and then licking my face, nuzzling my neck just like Princess.  I was smiling and laughing with her like I had done with Princess everyday, she was tickling me like Princess used to do.  I had forgotten the joy that comes from a dog that showers you with love.  Angel is old, thinks she is human and wants to be left alone unless it's time for a walk or to eat.  She was never a lap dog like Princess. 

I felt so comforted holding Molly in my lap.  Suddenly, the words "BE NOT AFRAID" ran through my mind, loudly, as if someone spoke the words to me, startling me for a second and I froze and I held my breath.  But Molly continued licking me, nuzzling me, hugging me and I felt calm and comforted all over again.  

A police car happened to drive by at that exact moment and Lorens flagged him down (3 days in a row now the police are at my house.  I'm sure the nosy neighbors are all locking their doors twice by now.)  He helped Molly into the back of his patrol car.  He said he was taking her to the local vet to check for a microchip.  

The whole thing was all over in a matter of 5 minutes.  We went back inside our house.  I was smiling, more relaxed than I had felt in months.  Then I remembered hearing "be not afraid".  I was thinking, that was freaky!  I wasn't afraid of Molly, just the opposite, she was so sweet.  But I heard the words, "be not afraid".  I had no idea why I heard those words. So I told my husband, "The weirdest thing just happened outside.  I know you're going to laugh, but when I was hugging Molly, trying to keep her calm, the words "be not afraid" ran through my mind, loudly, as if someone were saying it to me."  My husband said, "Wow Bev.  See, you were just saying last night how you're afraid of something at all times since Princess died and you don't know how to get it to stop.  Someones trying to tell you it's all going to be O.K., stop, relax."

I had forgotten saying that to myself yesterday as I sprinkled the salt.  I had forgotten all about that conversation/me crying with him last night when our son wanted to go out.  I had forgotten all about my dreams of Princess just hours earlier.  Until that moment, I had forgotten all of that. I hadn't even had my morning coffee yet.

Now, in that moment, it all made sense to me.

Because here it was, the day after I finally admitted the loss of Princess has rocked me to the core and I'm constantly afraid something bad will happen to those I love.  And 12 hours later there's a black lab in my arms, licking my face and I heard the words "be not afraid"?  I don't think it was a coincidence.  I think Molly was sent here to comfort me.

Molly did have a microchip.  Her owner called me to tell me thank you.  They had our number because Lorens had left that message.  She couldn't stop thanking me.  She has no idea how Molly had gotten out, that never happens.  I told her, "No, thank you, don't be mad at Molly, your dog was a gift sent to me."  And then I told her about Princess.  She said she has those same treats in her house and would never feed them to her dog again, she had no idea.  I told her Princess would have been 8 years old at the end of the month.  She said Molly will also be 8 at the end of this month.  She lives in the same town as me and said I could visit Molly anytime.

So weird that I heard those words spoken like that.  I was thinking, who talks like that?  Is that some famous saying?  So I Googled "be not afraid" and what came up were several references in the bible.  Something I don't read.  It gave me chills.   I don't even consider myself religious, more spiritual.  But I heard those words spoken to me, I really did.  I don't know who, maybe one of my loved ones spirits, but someone was trying to let me know, "be not afraid."  Someone needed me to know that I'm NOT surrounded by negative energy, I'm STILL surrounded by light & love, and to BE NOT AFRAID.  And for the first time in months, I am not afraid. 



UPDATE: About a month after I wrote this story, on October 27th 2012, I opened my heart and home to a shelter puppy we named Scout.  She was rescued from a kill shelter in Oklahoma and needed me.  I wasn't afraid to put my heart out there again.  That wouldn't have happened had I not finally stopped being afraid to love another dog again.  I think that was the meaning of hearing "BE NOT AFRAID".  When I was signing her adoption papers I saw she was born on 2/20/2012, the day after Princess died.  Read about her in my next story "Scout" Benyamin.

BEST UPDATE EVER:  JANUARY 9, 2013:   WHOO HOO!!!   PURINA & MILO'S KITCHEN HAVE RECALLED JERKY TREATS.  11 MONTHS AND COUNTLESS OTHER DOGS THAT HAVE SUFFERED SINCE PRINCESS DIED, BUT AT LEAST NO MORE WILL:

PURINA ANNOUNCEMENT TODAY: We are voluntarily withdrawing all Waggin’ Train dog treats sold in the US until further notice. While the products are safe to feed as directed, we’re taking action after learning this week that the NY State Department of Agriculture and Markets found trace amounts of antibiotic residue in samples of our products. While there is no health or pet safety risk and these findings aren’t linked to the FDA’s ongoing investigation of pet jerky products, we’re voluntarily withdrawing our products nationally. No other Purina treats or pet foods are affected. For more information, call us at 800-982-0704 or go to www.waggintrainbrand.com.

http://waggintrainbrand.com/faq.html

PURINA FINALLY WITHDRAWS WAGGIN TRAIN, 1/9/2013

MILO'S KITCHEN WITHDRAWS TREATS, 1/9/2013






Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Colorado, minus the heights, I loved it!

Our vacation was fantastic!  No fires near us.  We actually had a camera and these are my pictures for once, not from Google images.  The only problem is that I'm afraid of heights.  I never realized I might have a problem going to Colorado for vacation.  I had never even seen a real mountain and I didn't realize it would feel like a non-stop roller coaster in my stomach driving up and down those INSANE roads.

I actually missed the flat roads of Illinois for once.  How they drive these roads in the winter is crazy to me.  My nephew said we have to come back in the winter for skiing and snowboarding.  Yeah......right.  Only if I could be transported to the resort on the mountain top and left there until it was time to be transported off.  Basically I would need to be air lifted in and out or unconscious.

There was such a steep grade up and down those roads, between Denver and Keystone, that on the way to our resort going down, the brakes were smoking and we had to pull off and pour water on them.
I went into the gas station to look around and calm down.  Everything that said Colorado had bears on it.
I was thinking.... Bears? 
But, but, but..... 
Lions, Tigers, Bears and Sharks eat people.  

I've seen National Geographic and Wild Kingdom T.V. shows...and was scared.  I've always calmed those fears by telling myself, I live in Chicago.  I'll just never go where they live and I'll be fine.  Now I'm beginning to realize there are bears in Colorado.  Oh....my....God.

We got back on the road, I looked up into the clouds, trying not to look at the road and what do I see?  Maybe it's just me, but I see what looks like a friggin bear.  I made Jen snap this picture.  Does a bear poop in the clouds?  Obviously in Colorado they do.....


RIVER RUN RESORT, KEYSTONE COLORADO
Once we got to our condos at about 9,300 feet, I just wanted to stay there.  It was beautiful, picturesque.  Condos had full kitchens and grills to save on food expenses, fire places, lots of room, great amenities.  Lodges with pool tables, saunas, a pool, two hot tubs, a little village with shops, bars and restaurants.  A gondola and a ski lift to the very top (12,400 feet) for lunch, hiking and snow tubing in the summer.



The bar/restaurant below on the left (The Kickapoo), is home of the Kickapoo Screw (2 kinds of flavored vodka, rum, orange juice, mango juice and a splash of cranberry juice).  Tip of the day: Altitude+those=you're screwed.  I'll leave those for the younger crowd next time.  The bar/restaurant on the right (The Spoon) had Mimosas, Reggae music, Hummus and fresh cut veges, much more my speed.


My sister was there with her 2 children, many of her friends were there for a camping/hiking trip as well.   We had adventures scheduled for each day we were there.  But I didn't want to drive anywhere and began to realize I'm not the adventurer I obviously thought I was.  Could this be a sign of old age?  I decided to try and face my fears.

WHITE WATER RAFTING/MY NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCE:
Our first scheduled adventure was White Water Rafting on the Colorado River on July 3rd.  Below are pictures Jen snapped when I made Lorens stop the car 1/2 way down the mountain on our way there.  We had to drive 14 miles down a gravel road with thousands of feet drop offs and no guard rails at times.  I felt like I was on a 45 minute roller coaster ride again, falling, falling, falling.  I was shaking and crying and I told them they could leave me there and come back for me after rafting, in 5 hours.

Lorens stopped at this wildlife viewing spot 1/2 way down the mountain and reminded me we were at a "wildlife viewing spot" in the middle of nowhere and there were probably wild animals everywhere.  Possibly even bears.  That worked.  I got back in the car and we continued down.


When we finally got down to the rivers edge, I asked our guide, "So, there's no chance of seeing any bears in this part of the country, right?"  I was sure my family was just messing with me.  I was sure all those pictures of bears on the Colorado souveneirs was just so it looked wild here.  He said, "Oh yeah, there was a bear cub on the rivers edge yesterday during this rafting trip.  I was happy I was on the river and we were able to paddle away.  I knew the mother was probably nearby."

 So after he told me that, 
I knew I'd be staying in the middle of the river
no matter what
possibly forever.

We were paired with another family from Texas.  But my adventurous husband and kids opted for 2 kayaks for a bigger, faster, thrill ride.  I said I'll be in the raft with the family from Texas and the professional river guide.  The family from Texas were so nice and took all these pictures below for us and then e-mailed them to me.

It was sunny and HOT, about 90 degrees.  I assumed, because there was no rain in Colorado lately, the river would be low and slow.  Our guide told us the river water is melted snow from the mountain, it has nothing to do with the low rainfall so far this year.  He said it was very cold and it was at it's highest level today that it had been all season.  He said we WILL be going through some rapids.

This picture below was right as we were getting ready to go through the first set of rapids.  Then she put her camera away until we were through them so she didn't lose it.  So sorry, there's no action shots.  That's me and Marty, the river guide.  Notice the terrified look on my face (probably because I was terrified) and the wind from the approaching rapids blowing my hair back.

The river looked so calm after we went through the rapids (what I assumed were the only rapids we were going to go through) and I thought, look at me, ya big baby.  I'm missing having an adventure, a family moment, because I'm scared.  So I said to our guide, I wish I would have went with Mike in his kayak.  He said, sure, no problem.  He had Mike paddle over and I got into Mike's kayak.  It was beautiful scenery.  We saw a 6 foot round, bald eagles nest high in a tree on the rivers edge, and no bears.  We were all having a great day.




About 2 minutes after I got into Mike's kayak, we turned a bend and BAM.  Freakin rapids again.  And I was thinking, another GREAT idea getting into a kayak Lucy.  Kayaks move much faster than rafts in the rapids.  We were pushed far ahead of our guide.  


Mine and Mikes kayak was immediately caught on some rocks, sideways.  We managed to get off but then we hit a huge wave sideways.  We were both flipped out of the kayak into the rapids.  

The kayak was upside down on top of my head.  Mike pulled it off and said "Mom, I have to flip it over so we can climb back in."  I was swallowing 50 degree water and couldn't catch my breath.  The cold water was taking my breath away and I was also frozen in fear.  I forgot everything our guide told us to do if you fall in like DON'T drag your feet, DON'T face the rapids, climb back into your kayak quickly.   So what did I do?  I let go of the kayak and faced the rapids, scared of the rocks and undertow in the middle that were quickly approaching again.  Mike was busy flipping the kayak over and climbing back into it, like I should have been doing.  

I was bopping up and down, swallowing water, choking, racing down the rapids like a rag doll.  I lost our oars, they were already 50 feet ahead of me, near Lorens & Jen's kayak.  I was dragging my feet, swallowing water.  Everything our guide warned us NOT to do if we fall in.  

My eyes met Lorens'.  He knew I was in trouble.  He pointed to the shoreline.....WHERE THE BEARS LIVE.   So I stayed right in the middle of the rapids.  Lorens, thinking I didn't see the shoreline, literally jumped into the rapids, swam towards me and held out my oar to me, which he had pulled out of the river.  I grabbed on and he pulled me towards him into the slower moving water where Jen had positioned their kayak.  Jen pulled him into the kayak by his life jacket and then he pulled me 1/2 way in by my life jacket.  Mike got his kayak over there and then they did a hand off with me like a football by my life jacket.  They all seemed to have super human strength.

Our guide caught up with us and told us those were great "self rescues."  He told Lorens he was only a minute away from catching up to us and throwing me a rescue rope.  So my husband was a minute ahead of the professional.  A very important minute.  He said Lorens shouldn't have jumped in on purpose, it's against the rules.  Lorens said, "Dude, that's my wife, there are no rules."
  
My husband, 
MY HERO.

Then we stopped at a natural hot spring along the river to warm up in after being in the 50 degree water.

About 20 minutes later, as I was still trying to catch my breath, Jen, Lorens and our guide each jumped off of an almost 40 foot cliff into the Colorado River.  THAT'S LORENS BELOW JUMPING OFF THE CLIFF, not me, I'm not to that point yet.  I was down there, looking up at him in awe.  Thinking, that's MY MAN and I'm a very lucky woman.  He saved my life and then jumped off of a cliff.  Yep, I married Superman.  Superman married Lucy Ricardo.  
My beautiful family:  Jen, Lorens & Mike. 

I'm so glad I faced my fear of heights that day and went down that mountain.  I thought that was the big fear I had to face that day, ha ha.  I'm so glad that in a life or death situation in the rapids we were there for each other, as family should be.   It was a great family bonding experience and the adventure was well worth everything.

The next day was Independence Day/July 4th.  I asked Lorens to make me a cup of coffee.  The first words out of his mouth were, "I pulled you out of the Colorado River and you want me to make you a cup of coffee?"  So I got up and made the coffee.  Great Lucy, you'll never live this one down.  But that's alright, he earned it in my book.


SNOW TUBING ON THE 4TH OF JULY:
There was a nationwide heat wave except up on the mountain where we were.  There was even snow at the very top and we decided to go snow tubing, it was the last week it was open.  We got to the gondola (that I talked myself into going on, so that I could go tubing with my family).


They said "SORRY, the gondola isn't running today.
You'll have to take the SKI LIFT up. "
The open air, 
your feet are dangling,
 non-enclosed, SKI LIFT.
I froze.  
I told them to just go ahead without me.
They had reservations and no time to argue with me.

I went back to the condos where my sister and niece reminded me about how glad I was I went down the mountain for the white water rafting adventure.  I said you're right, I'll do it, I don't want to miss out on anything.  So about an hour later (after 2 mimosa's), I rode up on the ski lift with one of the nice workers, Nicole.  Nicole talked to me about her life back in Virginia Beach as I kept my eyes closed tight for the 15 minute ride to the top.

I missed seeing them tubing but got up there in time for lunch with them at a nice outdoor restaurant on the mountain top.  I had grilled salmon on a bed of greens topped with chutney sauce.  It was delicious.  They opted for the gourmet burgers with fresh fruit on the side.  My sister, my niece and their friend Alice joined us at the top for lunch as well.  I heard that the ride up and down was beautiful, I wouldn't know, my eyes were closed.  But it was postcard perfect up there.




That's them at the bottom.
Mike & Jen

Me, Mike, Lorens & Jen


Alice, Dawn & Aimee
Cousins Jen, Aimee & Mike
Me and my sister Dawn.

Below is the nice worker Nicole, on the left, who rode it up with me 
and my niece Aimee who rode it down with me in the cold rain.  
The rain was a welcome sight in Colorado with all the fires at that time.  
My teasing big sister Dawn was in the chair behind us saying things like, 
"Was that lightening?  Is that a bear?"
 I was saying, "Shut up Dawn.  Shut up Dawn, brat!"  


HORSEBACK RIDING:
Later that afternoon we all went horseback riding through the mountains about 15 minutes away in Breckenridge, Colorado. The only part about the "trail ride through the mountains" I didn't like was, again, the mountains.  Don't get me wrong, mountains are beautiful.  I had never seen such natural beauty.  It just felt like a roller coaster ride all over again.

They gave me a good, gentle horse named Dakota.  They had green apples you could buy for your horse so we all did.  Before we got on our horses, we petted their noses as they ate their apples.  Dakota loved it and rubbed his face against me when he was done eating it.  I wanted to take him back to Chicago with me like a puppy.  I don't think my landlord would have approved.

Once we really started climbing up, up, up, the horses were sometimes slipping on loose rocks.  I was freaking out and wanted to jump off my horse and walk back down.  But we were 20 minutes up and into the mountain of our hour and a half ride and now I knew there actually were bears in Colorado.  I looked around.  There were small kids in our group.  I've seen the wildlife shows.  They always go for the little ones they can easily pick off.  The bears would surely eat them first.  Much safer than walking back by myself.  Yes, I would finish the ride with my family and the bear bait, I mean the small children from other families.


The guides were telling us all about the mountains around Breckenridge Colorado where we were.  I started listening and looking around me at the beauty of it all.  There were mountain streams we had to cross, trails through the trees, beautiful flowers and birds and the sun starting to set behind the mountains.  I had never seen such beautiful scenery firsthand.





There was an all you could eat dinner afterwards, set up western style with live music we all sang along too.  Again I was happy I pushed myself through my fear of heights and had another great adventure with my family.  I did cut my hand open, deep on a dead tree, but other than that, it was great.
My favorite picture

Our niece Aimee, Jen, Mike and my sister Dawn, 
who made this vacation possible.


RELAXING AT THE RESORT:
Our nephew Tommy joined us at their condo too.  He went with some of my sisters friends on a camping trip/hike up a 14,000 foot mountain so we didn't get to spend enough time with him.  But when he was there there were billiard games at the lodge, long talks with his cousins and bonding time for all of them as well.  We usually only see each other at Christmas so this was a great family vacation.  We hope to save up for a  family vacation with them every summer.
Tommy & Michael  listening to Bill sing and play guitar
one evening in the condos.


Dinner Poolside.  
Lorens grilled beef kabobs, steaks and salmon.
Alice made a salad of cherry tomatoes, mozzarella and basil
in a tangy dressing.  I made Basmati rice.
(Clockwise: Mike, Jen, me, Lorens, Tommy, Dawn, Bill & Alice)
 Bill, Alice & Mike

Mike, Terri & Jen

HIKING/PADDLE BOATING
One day, Mike, Terri and I hiked about 1-2 miles from our resort.  That was another great adventure, walking through the woods, along streams, requiring no drive down the mountain.  I loved it.  But I was thinking bears would love it here too.  So I asked Terri, "There's no chance of us seeing any bears is there?"  She thought I meant I was hoping to find a place for some cold "beers" and said "yeah, I'm sure there's some up ahead somewhere."  I was stammering, frozen, trying to remember how to form words and walk forward (which my legs refused to do after she said there's probably SOME bears up ahead, as in multiple bears).  Then she realized what I meant and said no "bears" up ahead, only "beers".  We were all laughing hysterically (mine was a hysterical laughter of relief).  


Terri trying to be taller than me.

We walked to a little lake that's an ice rink in the winter that you can paddle boat on in the summers.  We rented a paddle boat and bought bags of duck/fish food.  Every duck and goose on that lake followed us around.  A few even tried to jump on our boat.  The giant fish were jumping out of the water too trying to eat every bite.  There were little shops surrounding the lake that we went and explored afterwards too.  


Michael snapped this picture of a rainbow over our resort when we were on a hike after a sun shower.  It stretched from one mountain to the other with our resort in the middle.  You could see both sides of the rainbow.  This picture doesn't do it justice.  It was gorgeous. 
Minus the insane, steep roads, almost drowning, 
the bad cut on my hand and the possibility of bears,
I LOVED COLORADO!  
I just have to be unconscious for the driving parts next time.
Wake me up on the mountain top, 
it's beautiful up there!


UPDATE:  So, when I got back to Chicago, I was uploading our family pictures to the Keystone Resorts Facebook page (3 of which were added into the resorts photos) and I see pictures of a bear out in front of the resort.  The date stamp says 2011 but the resort commented that they need to change the date stamp on their camera, this actually happened June 7, 2012 (3 weeks before we arrived there).  I told you there were friggin bears, I knew it.  I can't believe I was hiking in the woods and streams around the mountain where they live.  Next time I'm bringing a taser gun.  
The entrance to our resort
I walked down this sidewalk.  Never again.
 Then he ran around to the back of the resort.
I would never think a bear would be in a tree above my head.
See, this is why I love Chicago, only squirrels in our trees.
We keep our Bears confined to Soldier Field.

 They said he was tranquilized and moved
to a less populated part of the mountain.
Wait.....what? Another part of the same mountain the resort is on?
He wasn't relocated to, like, Alaska?
Did I mention?  Oh helllllll no.  
N.E.V.E.R.  A.G.A.I.N
(but it was a great vacation)