The Inseparables

Dogs have a way of lifting you up when you feel down.

It was at my husband’s lowest when we adopted Bella. It was at Pepper’s lowest when we adopted her.

Bella was not our first choice. Yes, she had short hair and was about the right size, but she wasn’t Rascal, our beloved Australian Shepherd mix of eight years. He loved us both, but he was definitely my husband’s dog. Sadly, we had to lay him to rest.

I didn’t want another dog. I was over it. Period. My heart can’t take kissing another pet goodbye. It hurts. It really, really hurts.

However, Buck didn’t share my feelings. Not at all. He cried and moped around making our house feel like a morgue. Day, after day. Night, after night till I couldn’t take it anymore.

Okay! Okay! We’ll get another dog!

But it wasn’t as easy as it was with Rascal that suddenly showed up at our neighbor’s house one day. Well, it didn’t happen exactly like that. Their little girl found a whole litter of abandoned pups and brought the most handsome one home with her. Soon, the novelty of owning a puppy wore off, and the little guy kept wandering over to our house.

With a little help, from us, that is, and four-year-old Jacob, our youngest grandchild. We all fell in love with Rascal, and to my surprise, he began sleeping on the front porch.

I felt sorry for him sleeping in the cold, so we bought him a bed and blanket. We didn’t want him to starve to death, so we bought him a food and water bowl, too. And of course, we didn’t want him to get bored, so we bought him some doggie toys.

Long story short, we asked the neighbors if we could keep him. We didn’t even have to beg and plead.

He’s family now and family members don’t live outside. We’re people. All of us. Two-legged, four-legged, fur or no fur; we all live together like one big happy family in the house.

For eight, short years, we loved him, and he loved us. Then, one heart-breaking day, he said goodbye.

Now, several weeks later, we’re looking in a cold, dingy cage, at a strange-looking dog, with long, skinny legs, shivering on top of a flimsy, raggedy blanket.

Nope! Not that one!

We keep on looking.

The noise and the smell of all those animals were overwhelming. But, we took our time looking in one cage after another, till we came right back to the first cage. The one with the strange little dog with long, skinny legs.

Hound mix, the sign said.

I don’t want a hound.

So, we made another trip around the dog pound. And another. We were about to leave but decided to take one more look at that strange-looking dog.

Taking a closer look at her slender body and long legs, it dawned on me. She’s a Greyhound mix!

We signed the adoption papers, had her spayed, and within a few days, she was living in our house.

Pepper was dying of starvation. She had been abandoned with fifteen other dogs. I didn’t want two dogs. Never had two dogs at one time and never wanted two dogs at one time.

But, when she put her tiny paws on my leg and jumped on my lap. Well, The rest is history.

Using Paint ShopPro ultimate 2019, I took the following pictures and turned them into art. Our dogs hate having their pictures taken, so we have to sneak up on them. Funny, funny girls.

This Too Shall Pass

When life gets tough, the tough get tougher, and tougher, and tougher . . .

My mother had this saying; she had lots of sayings. But this one always stuck: You can get used to hanging if you hang long enough.

Maybe it’s true, I never tried it.

What does it mean anyway? Because there are just certain things in life I can’t get used to, no matter how long I hang. No matter how long I beat and bang against it. If it hurts, I want it gone. NOW!

My husband is battling PTSD. He still cries for his shipmates that died in the fire aboard the USS Forestall fifty-five years ago. He still hears the screams and sees the charred bodies that he put in body bags. And he still feels guilty because he survived while so many others died. Survival’s guilt they call it. But they never tell you how to erase it from your mind.

The fresh-out-of-college psychologist Buck saw week after week thought she had it all figured out. Her theory was that if he kept going back through the flames and reliving that God-awful day over and over again that he would eventually get used to it. That, poof, the nightmares and anger, rage, and depression would all disappear. But, her hanging theory didn’t work. The noose only tightened tighter around his neck.

Today, five years later, his PTSD has gotten progressively worse. Some days, I don’t even recognize my husband of fifty-seven years. He’s a stranger. Mean and argumentative. And I don’t like him; that monster he suddenly turns into.

War breaks out in our house often. A vicious war that neither of us can win. Between my emotional madness and his angry episodes, we attack each other as if fighting a ferocious enemy. It’s like the real us stands outside our bodies, watching and wondering who the heck those two crazy people are!

Maybe this is the part where if we hang long enough we’ll get used to it.

Never! This is the part where we pick ourselves up by the bootstraps and work on fixing it. We’re tired of fighting. We’re tired of hurting each other and crying and begging for each other’s forgiveness. We’re tired of broken promises, of trying so hard and failing over and over again.

Buck’s seeing a psychiatrist, now, and I’m in cognitive therapy to get a grip and a better understanding of this ugly thing inside me called Borderline Personality Disorder.

We will get through this because we love each other. And we talk things out. We bare our souls; those raw, shameful parts of ourselves that we only share with each other.

Yes, it hurts, and we’ve been going through this for too long. And what makes it worse for Buck is that for years he blocked out the pain in his work and family and church and fishing and playing ball. He was young and strong and healthy. And now, he’s not. Now, he’s retired with mental and health issues that require lots of weekly visits to the VA.

Our world as we knew it has been turned upside down. Maybe this is all part of getting old. Maybe my expectations were set too high, and I was foolish for even thinking there is such a thing as the golden years. I don’t know. I just know that we’re going through a rough season right now, and we will have to ride it out. Because, as my mother used to say: This too shall pass.

Continue reading “This Too Shall Pass”

Pepper, Our Little Manipulator

She wants what she wants and knows how to get it!

So, the other day I was sitting on the porch petting Bella. And as usual, Pepper kept trying to squeeze between us. When that didn’t work, she clamped down on Bella’s leg and tried pulling her away. That didn’t work, either. So, she got Bella’s favorite bone and dropped it in front of her. That worked like a charm. When Bella left her spot, Pepper scooted right in for me to love on her.

Dogs are more human sometimes than humans are!

Walk With Confidence

PROVERBS 22:6
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Facebook post by Nicci Staton, my granddaughter-in-law

This morning at school drop off I gave Gideon his daily affirmation:

“Gideon, you are a man of God, you are strong, you are brave, you are mighty. You are loving and kind, generous, and a truth seeker. You are a mighty man of valor. You are holy, and you are a giver of God’s love.”

Gideon: “yup! I concur with that.”

If only we could all walk in the confidence of an eight-year-old!

@niccistaton  · Blogger

It’s a Baby’s Life

You have made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13

Because of many complications and surgeries after my tiny, premature baby boy was born, I could never get pregnant again. But, that’s okay. My son provided me with four grandkids, and two of those four have provided me with eight great-grandkids. AWESOME!

Leighton James is great grandbaby #8

Voice of a Strong-willed Child

Many parents are dealing with difficult children. I was one of those children. Maybe this post will give you a tiny glimpse into the mind of a strong-willed child. If it’s painful for you, it is painful for your child as well.

Straight from the Heart

I was born this way. I don’t come with instructions. So, listen very carefully.

I will fight you. I will run from you. I will scream and yell at you. I will make the neighbors think you’re killing me. I will drive you utterly insane.

Love me anyway.

Don’t try to change me, break me, tame me; I will not be ridden. I am wild. I am strong. I am a free spirit. I will do things my way, in my time no matter how hard you push and tug and pull me.

Love me anyway.

I know I’m difficult. I know I don’t fit in. I know I will never be that prized child you hoped for. But don’t compare me. Don’t judge and criticize me. Don’t shut me out. That only enrages the beast within.

I will say and do things; mean things, that neither of us understands…

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Days of Uncertainty

Silently, I stood, looking down at my husband strapped on the stretcher, choking back tears as I remembered us working in the yard together last fall. Cutting down trees and hauling them off is no fun for people in their seventies, but we made it fun, anyway. We’d work a little, sit a lot, and enjoyed us being together on that beautiful, sunny day. We’d talk about stuff that didn’t matter to anyone but us, crack jokes and laugh at our own silly antics. As the sun went down, we’d call it a day, pack up the tools and give each other a thumbs up for a job well done.

Now, I’m scared for his life.

He’d been sick for three weeks; sicker than I’ve ever seen him in our fifty-one years together. Prostate and colon cancer didn’t take it out of him like this invisible monster has.

He was in no condition to drive to the VA for a doctor’s appointment, but I don’t have a driver’s license, so he dragged himself behind the wheel and backed down the long, narrow driveway. Suddenly, he got the dry heaves and pulled off the side of the road. He said he was dizzy and nauseous and felt like he was going to pass out. Looking like death warmed over and barely able to hold his head up, he slowly got back in the car. Concerned that he wouldn’t be able to stay on the road, I asked if he wanted me to drive. He said no, so Jesus took the wheel.

Forty, long minutes later, we arrived at the VA to discover he didn’t have an appointment for that day.

That was a God-thing.

So, I wheeled him to the clinic across the hall, where he checked in then we waited in the sitting room; the minutes crawling by like a sloth in slow motion.

Finally, the nurse called his name, giving me a short-lived, sigh of relief.

His oxygen level was 80. His blood pressure was 63 over 30. I didn’t want to know what his creatine level was, but she told me, anyway: 3.9; a mile away from the 0.9 it’s supposed to be. On top of all that, he’s diabetic, has COPD and asthma.

He was a dead man walking.

Immediately, she called an ambulance. About ten minutes later, the paramedics arrived, strapped him to the bed and, both of us were transported to the Kernersville Hospital directly across the road where a bed was waiting for him.

Another God-thing.

When we arrived, his room was a flood of nurses, asking him questions, administering oxygen, and checking his pulse and blood pressure. They hooked him up to an IV and a heart monitor and worked up a nervous sweat trying to locate a cooperative vein to draw blood.

Then, little by little, everyone went their separate ways, leaving us both to wait forever and a day for all the test results. Buck dozed off and on while I sat in a chair about as comfortable as a rock, getting colder by the minute and wishing we were at a warm, fancy resort on a private island.

Nearly bored to tears, I looked down at the floor, and the queen of clean in me wanted to jump out and grab a mop, and broom. The bathroom was sad, too. Heck, I’d clean the entire hospital rather than sit here with nothing to do but think and worry.

The unknown was scary as the hours dragged on and on with still no word. Looking across the room at my husband, I knew he was uncomfortable in that narrow bed, too short for his long body.

Suddenly, My heart began crying for the man I have gradually lost over the years. The man who played softball for thirty years, worked hard every day, and loved me as no one ever has before. Now, between sickness and old age, I realize he will never be the strong man he was, but his love for me has grown stronger through the passing years.

Our marriage hasn’t always been sunshine and roses, but they’ve always been faithful and true, through sickness and health till death do us part. We still say, “I love you,” and neither of us can go to sleep until we kiss and make up after an argument. He is my best friend. My soul mate. And my heart will shrivel up and die without him.

Finally, the nurses are in and out again, checking this and that, taking more blood, and answering my questions. The fluids trickling through the tiny tube into his shriveled, dehydrated body are slowly bringing him back to life. And his blood pressure and oxygen levels are creeping higher. Things are looking so good that one nurse said he may go home later today.

But that was before another nurse came in and whispered in my ear, “It’s Covid”.

I figured it all along, but he had so many other symptoms as well, that I ruled it out. But the possibility was never too far from my mind.

It’s been a long, tiring day. Our son picked me up and, later that evening, Buck was moved to a room with a real bed and a little TV. It even had a couch, he told me while talking on the phone.

Today is Valentine’s Day and after a two-day stay in the hospital, my husband is home, and slowly on the mend. I fixed him a Valentine’s breakfast fit for a king, but will be happy as a pig in mud when he takes back his kitchen again!

Does God hear and answer prayer? Yes, He does. Maybe not the way we want Him to, but always in the way He knows is best for us. Sometimes He just wants us to sit still and learn from Him. But sitting still is not something I do well at all.

Seeing first-hand what this deadly virus can do, and how close it came to snatching my husband from my life, was a big wake-up call for both of us. Although I still don’t know how effective wearing a mask is, I won’t rebel against it anymore. And we are definitely taking the shot. I’m not 100% sold on it, but, at our age, I feel it couldn’t hurt us as much as COVID already has.

To anyone reading this post, I want to say how sorry I am if you are sick with COVID or have lost family members due to COVID. No one knows how horrible it is until they or someone close to them have faced it head-on.

We are living in a different world, today. A world full of change and uncertainty, and it affects both young and old alike. We can’t control it. We can’t change it. We can’t win the fight against it. Trying to do so only makes us angry and resentful, and not much fun to be around. Only God can help and strengthen us through these dark times if we let Him. Personally, I can’t make it without Him, and I don’t want to die trying.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. (Psalm 23:4)

My Two Dogs

The Big and the Little

A few weeks after our beloved Rascal passed, Buck and I visited our local animal shelter. I really didn’t want another dog, but Buck did. And I was willing to do just about anything to ease the pain of losing our beautiful Australian Shepard. Buck and Rascal were inseparable, and he couldn’t get over losing him. So, since it was his birthday . . . Well, there you go.

There were so many dogs to choose from, but none of them appealed to either of us except the little brown dog in a big gloomy cage, laying on a skimpy, raggedy blanket. But I couldn’t wrap my heart around the idea of adopting a hound mix. It’s true, I didn’t want another long-haired dog, but a hound? However, when I discovered she was a greyhound mix, I liked the idea a little better. So, I stood glued to her cage while Buck went to the front desk and filled out the adoption papers.

Her name was Claire, but we changed it to Bella Rae; it suits her quirky personality better. And quirky is an understatement.

Bella does everything on her terms and is extremely persistent at getting what she wants. She’ll shake her head and snort, and bark and howl and will not stop until she gets what she wants, or we tell her to go lay down.

And there is nothing graceful or lady-like about Bella. Nope! She’s a brute. She stomps on our feet. She jumps all over our guests. She knocks down children and nearly licks the skin off their faces. When I put her in her crate, they let her back out again. Drives me nuts! And when she wants to lay down, she pitches a hissy fit until she’s covered from head to tail.

Bella and I butt heads. She thinks she’s the queen of the castle, but that day will never come. And since I’m the one sitting on the throne, she loves Buck the best and even sleeps with him, hogging more than half the bed.

Bella has a built-in alarm system, prompting her to awaken Buck when he stops breathing or has one of his recurring nightmares due to sleep apnea and PTSD. Although she is not service dog trained, she senses when something is out of wack and tries to fix it.

One day, during a family gathering at our house, Bella barked and kept pushing our granddaughter away from the baby carrier. At first, we were all alarmed because we’d never seen this side of Bella before. Then, we realized she was protecting our great-grand baby from her own mother!

When we first brought Bella home from the shelter, she was so skinny that she actually looked like a greyhound. Now that she’s lost her girlish figure, we can’t figure out what mix-breed she is. One thing for sure, she is definitely a hound mix, just like the label on her cage read at the animal shelter.

Then there’s Pepper. What a sight she was when we first saw her. She was abandoned with fifteen other dogs and starving to death. Nearly every bone was protruding beneath her delicate skin. My heart screamed, take her home! But I didn’t want two dogs. Never had two dogs at one time, and didn’t want two dogs at one time. Bella was more than enough dog for me.

So, we drove home without her. She had her mom and her two brothers, a few cats, and a bunch of other dogs to hang with. She’ll be fine, I reassured my heart. Besides, the neighbors are kinda, sorta looking after them.

The next day, I called animal control to find out that they were already working on it. I told the man I was talking to about the little black female and how I didn’t think she would survive the week. He assured me that she was fine and if I wanted her, to go get her.

She was so happy to see me again that I wished I had rescued her the day before. I could have saved her from one more night of misery. Buck was all for it, so I have no one to blame but myself. But, we’re here now, and she’ll never go hungry again or spend another night out in the freezing cold.

It was love at first sight when the two dogs met; just like I thought it would be. Bella acted as if Pepper was a live toy for her to play with, pawing and chasing her around the house. But, Pepper had the upper hand, or should I say upper paw, on Bella because she was tiny and used to having to defend herself against bigger dogs. So, when she had enough of Bella’s rough-necking, she’d run under the sofa in the living room, stick out her leg, and swat at Bella when she ran by.

Weighing in at only eight pounds, and other than a slight case of mange on both ears, the vet gave her a clean bill of health. However, she continued eating bugs in the yard for months after we captured her. It’s a shame what careless, irresponsible people put their animals through.

Pepper is the sweetest dog ever. Her long, slender body and floppy ears suggested to the vet that she is a Dachshund Labrador mix. Where Bella is highly excitable, Pepper is calm and patient. However, she is full of energy and jumps sky-high when she gets excited, and still, after three years, she’s a chewer. The other day, I was looking for my other shoe and there it was in the middle of Buck’s bed, soaking wet. I found it before she chewed it to death.

Thank goodness, Pepper doesn’t jump on the kitchen counters and table anymore. But, she and Bella will drag a loaf of bread off the counter and devour it in a matter of minutes before I go in the kitchen and discover the empty, shredded bag on the floor.

Bella and Pepper are our fur babies. They fill each day with love and slobbery kisses. They make us laugh. They make us happy. They fill the void and sadness we felt when we lost Rascal. I’m thankful for our two dogs.

Bella and Pepper; especially Bella, doesn’t like having their picture taken. Bella has such a beautiful face with big, soulful eyes that are difficult to capture. But, here’s a few that we had to sneak and snap quickly.

Once a Dog Lover Always a Dog Lover

Straight from the Heart

All puppies are born cute and adorable. But Rascal, an Australian shepherd mix, was down right handsome. It was obvious why the neighbor’s little girl picked him out of the litter of abandoned pups. Those floppy ears and tiger stripes would have melted any child’s heart, not to mention that fluffy, snow-white chest to rake their fingers through.

We had a dog years ago. A sweet little chihuahua we named Peanut. He lived a short, seventeen years. When he died, I didn’t want another dog. It hurts too much when they die.

Then there was Rascal.The puppy next door the little girl took home and hugged and played with for a day or two, then tossed him aside like a broken toy.

Eventually, he ended up in our yard. Then camping out on the front porch. Then playing with us and the grandkids in the house.

Maybe he’d have gone…

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Broken Spirit

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18).

I overheard mom telling my dad that the doctor they were taking me to said my spirit is broken. I was seven. He also said I had too much religion. The doctor was a shrink.

A shrink! My parents actually believed that their seven-year-old needed to see a shrink!

Why?

It’s true, I was overly sensitive and emotional with a so-called learning disability and social disorder. And yes, I pitched a conniption fit every time mom washed my hair and combed out the tangles every morning. And compared to my calmer, less spirited siblings, I was like a wild Mustang.

But a broken spirit? What did that even mean?

As a kid, it meant nothing to me. I was just a kid doing what kids do: being a kid.

However, when I got older and more aware of the dysfunctional world in which I lived, I realized that yes, I was broken.

A broken spirit is fearful and discouraged and depressed and blames all the world’s ales on themselves. A broken spirit second-guesses every choice they make and feels guilty for being true to themselves. A broken spirit is a dead soul walking down a treacherous, dark and, lonely path.

A broken spirit sends you crying to the altar Sunday after Sunday, praying for forgiveness from the wretchedness you feel inside. I was seventeen that Sunday morning when my mother stood up apologizing for me, saying she didn’t know what was wrong with me, and reassuring the congregation that I was a good girl.

That Sunday, the altar of prayer and hope, and forgiveness became a place of judgment, shame, and condemnation. Where were the loving arms, the tender voice, the words of understanding and encouragement? Where was God?

Although I never went back to the altar, I never stopped searching for the truth about who I am and why I feel the way I do.

And in my endless search, I discovered that I am a free spirit, that I see things in black and white, and that living the truth is better than living a lie. And when I pulled against the reigns, the people in my world didn’t like it, especially my mother. And more than anything, I wanted to please my mother.

To make a very long and painful story short, my mother manipulated and controlled my entire life; even after I got married. She played me like a game of cards and cheated to win at any cost. And it cost me, my soul. My friends saw it long before I did and even warned me of the damage my mother was causing. But, she was my mother and would never do anything to hurt me.

But she did. Again and again, using every dirty, emotional trick up her sleeve to keep me feeling guilty and confused and angry until that anger became an uncontrollable rage. Finally, when I saw the destruction it was causing my marriage and my child, I said enough! I walked away and slammed the door shut on my mother for six long years. I went into counseling for two years, read Christian Living books, and began healing and living my life for myself.

Only when I felt emotionally strong enough did I pursue a relationship with my mother, who never understood me, never saw what she did to me, only what I did to her, and continued trying to manipulate and control me. But, I was stronger and wiser, and more determined than ever to take back my life.

No one has the right to live and control someone else’s life. Isn’t it hard enough to live and control their own? It angers me when I see moms and dad’s pushing their dreams and aspirations on their kids. Let them live their own lives, dream their own dreams. You raised them right, now give them the right to make the right choices and be there for them if they screw up. No, you won’t always like the choices they make, but you can always be there no matter what. The biggest part of loving your kids is letting them go. Let them spread their wings and fly, and keep loving them from the sidelines. If you don’t, you won’t be in their lives the way you want to be. You may not be in their lives at all.

I have one child, a son, and a pastor of twenty years. His dad and I have seen his highs and his lows. We’ve listened to his heart cries. We’ve watched him make choices that didn’t make sense to us. When he decided to travel halfway around the globe to fulfill his passion, his dangerous mission to save the world, we never stood in his way. His wife and kids never stood in his way. We watch him from the sidelines hoping and praying he comes back home safely. We love him. We trust him. We encourage him. We never try to live his life for him. He is a free spirit. His wings are big and strong, and he will continue to fly as high as he can until he can’t fly anymore.

And my heart couldn’t be more proud and happier for the man he has become.

Our kid’s hearts are in our hands. Love them. Teach them. Encourage them. Never, ever crush them, for if you do, they will flounder through life with broken wings that may never learn to fly.

Digital Photo Painting

Using Paint Shop Pro 2019, I turn ordinary photos into works of art. I also create picture tubes, bookmarks, Facebook Covers, cards, tags, and more. I don't sell my art, therefore, all my creations are free for your own personal use.

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He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. ~ Psalm 147:3

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