Friday, January 17, 2014

52 Weeks of Gratitude, Week Three

(By the way, these are in no particular order! Don't feel like you've been skipped; I have 49 weeks left!)

For Week 3 I pick this guy. This is Taco Bob.

I didn't want a dog. I've never been a dog person, and, if you ask my friends with dogs, they have had to go out of their way to make special arrangements to put their dogs up when I go to their houses because I'm scared of them. When a person on the street is walking their dog, my first inclination isn't to talk about how cute it is, or reach down and pet it. I always felt that no matter how cute the dog might be, I would be the person it would bite.

We had a cat. She wasn't particularly fun, but we didn't need another animal. We were NOT getting a dog.

When our daughter Emily Rose was approaching her 8th birthday, she asked for a gerbil. I gagged just thinking about the potential smells that a gerbil would bring to our small home, and gagged again thinking about what might happen if our old cat 007 got a hold of it.

My husband Tim always felt that kids need dogs -- that it teaches them responsibility, and that it's a great bonding experience for kids. I worried about what a dog would chew on, and dreaded the thought of being the person at happy hour who had to leave early to let the dog out. Why would we want that responsibility when we already had three kids?

Emily Rose talked to Tim about the gerbil. In the conversation, she said, "I'd like to get a gerbil because it would show you that I'm responsible enough to take care of a dog."

This yanked on my heart strings so intensely that I immediately began searching our local animal shelters and adoption services and found Austin Pets Alive, an amazing no-kill non profit run almost entirely by volunteers. Browsing their site, I stumbled onto a picture of a dog named "Patch."

Emily Rose and I went to meet Patch. The foster owner took us to her back patio where Patch waddled around with his siblings. As soon as I picked him up, it was over. The same week, we brought him home. Emily Rose named him Taco Bob.

Austin Pets Alive told us that Patch was a rat terrier/beagle mix. His little body grew into a tell-tale Dachshund hot dog shape. He has weird legs. He licks the couch continuously when he can't find a person to kiss. He goes nuts when Tim puts bacon grease on his dog food. He loves Cheeto cheese puffs, but I'm probably not supposed to admit that I give them to him. He rocks a bow tie like no other dog I've ever seen. And even though he's tiny, he barks when people approach the sidewalk. He's our little protector.

Taco Bob made me a dog person (or at least a lot closer to a dog person than I've ever been). When I travel, I miss him. I love how he greets us like we've been gone a month when we've only been gone an hour. I'm truly grateful that Taco came into our lives, and even more grateful that we never got a gerbil.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

52 Weeks of Gratitude: Week 2

Week 2 of  52 Weeks of Gratitude.

I'm grateful for my stepmother Pam. When she married my father, she didn't have children of her own. Instantly, she had two young girls to care for part time. She did it with pure love from the start. In the over 30 years I've known her, I can only remember one time when I saw her angry. She fed us, listened to us with sincere interest in our often long and rambling stories, and gave us her whole heart. She understood that we were extremely close to our mother, and she handled the often awkward position of being a step-parent with grace. She was and is a fantastic stepmother.

Today, my sister and I will drive to East Texas to attend Pam's father's funeral. It's an opportunity for us to return some of the comfort she's provided to us through the years. I'm grateful to be able to be with her today, and grateful for her presence in our lives.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

And Now, 52 Weeks of Gratitude

My beloved gal pal Candace just introduced me to the concept of the "365 Grateful Project," a project that began in 2008 by Hailey Bartholomew, a photographer who was battling depression and overcame it by focusing on gratitude. She began a project in which she took one Polaroid a day of something she felt grateful for, and by doing this for 365 days, she was able to transform relationships and experience significant personal growth. Ultimately, this project made her happy.

Happiness is the topic du jour at our house currently. Today, my husband and 10-year old daughter and I watched the documentary, "Happy." It was one of those films that sat on my "to watch" list, but because it fell in the documentary column, never got enough family votes to beat out mainstream comedies and family-friendly movies. However, it was worth the wait. Even my 10-year old, who rolled her eyes at the thought of watching a documentary, put down her gadget and paid attention. Afterwards, we discussed our thoughts on the film together. It definitely had an impact on us.

One of the themes "Happy" discusses is how we human types are motivated by extrinsic and intrinsic goals. Extrinsic goals have to do with money, image and status. Intrinsic goals are about personal growth, relationships and helping others. For those that focus heavily on extrinsic goals, they feel caught on what's referred to as a "hedonic treadmill," while those who focus on intrinsic goals are happier.

So, back to the "365 Grateful Project."  My gal pal Candace is going to do it, and asked if others would join her. She's a motivated individual who takes on such projects and completes them. I, on the other hand, start projects like this and flake out quickly. Therefore, I've decided to do my own take on the project, and begin a "52 Weeks of Gratitude" project in which I include a photo, but I also include a bit of writing, since this year I intend to write more.

Without further ado, here is Week #1 of Gratitude for 2014:

Tim and Emily Rose. 12/24/13, Dallas.

I'm grateful for my husband Tim. He's an amazing father to our kids. I can't count how many photos like this I've snapped of him through the years, where one of our three kids is cuddled up next to him. He provides them with a sense of warmth and safety. He's their rock. He's patient, fair, unwavering in his support for his children, and their biggest advocate. He's the perfect example of someone who lives their life focused on intrinsic goals, because the thing that makes him happiest is helping someone else.

When his two older kids were little, we would laugh because they could pull on his ears or yank on his hair or tug on his collar until it stretched, and Tim didn't care. When our youngest daughter grew old enough to pull on his ears and yank his hair and tug on his collar, she did it, too, and Tim would laugh his huge laugh and flash his amazing smile, filling the room with happiness.

This photo was taken this past Christmas Eve. We'd stopped by Tim's mother's house for an afternoon visit. I love how the sun is pouring in on our youngest daughter's arm, and how she managed to snuggle up in Tim's space even though there was ample seating in the room. They are listening to Tim's mother tell stories from her childhood. It fills my heart with love.