Unclaimed. Unloved. Unwavering

final-book-picRecently, I overheard my oldest granddaughter, Evi, share our dog Louie’s story with her younger sister, Mea. Though you may have heard this “tail” a time or two before, I thought you would enjoy this rendition:

“A long time ago, there was a little dog who was all alone in the woods. He was scared and afraid and felt very, very alone. It was nighttime and then daylight and then nighttime, again and again. Once, he saw another little animal and thought, ‘Oh, that looks like someone who could be my friend.’ But the animal was a mean cat. It hissed and clawed at the poor little dog, scratching his ear till it started to bleed. ‘My,’ said the pup. ‘I guess it doesn’t want to be my friend.’ The little dog still has a mark on his ear.

“The poor little dog was sad, but he kept on going because he knew somewhere, someone would love him. He was so tired that he couldn’t keep his head up. He came to a road and a woman who was driving by saw him and picked him up. She took him to a place filled with lots of people and other dogs. The people called and called and called all sorts of places to find out if anyone owned the dog. They put up signs and waited and waited, but no one came to see the little dog. He still felt all alone.

“One morning, the people put the little dog in a van and drove him far, far away. They took him to an adopt-a-pet store. There, he saw a nice lady who took him home. He was scared at first, but then the lady opened the door to her home, and two little girls were waiting for him. They hugged him and kissed his head and called him their brother. Louie finally found a place he called home and two sisters who loved him very much.”

Mea’s mouth dropped open as she squealed, “Lou-weeeeee?”

“Yep, that’s Louie’s story,” Evi proudly announced.

I smiled as I heard the tale so poignantly shared. Once again, Louie’s story tugged at my heart as I thought about our little dog wandering the streets and wooded areas, not knowing where he lou-and-the-girls-9-16was or where he should go. It is even sadder to think that despite the shelter’s efforts to find his family, no one came to take him home. Louie was unclaimed and unloved—a very sad state, indeed.

Since he first came to live in my home, there has been no question that he is loved. I’ve gladly claimed him as my little pal, and he truly is a brother to Evi and Mea. He knows where home is. Every time we take a walk, he’ll look up at me with those big, brown eyes, and I’ll ask, “Do you want to go home, Lou?” With a spring in his step and dogged determination, he’ll prance all the way home with little guidance from me. I have been unwavering in working through life’s tough spots to build a relationship of trust, and it has paid off in huge dividends of joy for Louie and me as well as for Evi, Mea, and many other people whom Louie has come to know and love.

Being unclaimed and unloved is not limited to adopted pups. Many people in our lives have suffered through this emotional pain. Many times, these people are close friends, teammates, bosses, or fellow board members. We never know who they are because, in today’s shallow society, we don’t take the time to learn about people’s lives. We often wonder what is wrong with individuals who act out, but in many cases, these people may be unclaimed and unloved and are looking for others they can trust. Don’t be like the cat in Louie’s tale and lash out at them.

Before passing judgment on others, take the time to learn their stories. People are fascinating, and everyone has a unique history. Once you learn about someone and take the time to get to know them, you’ll see them blossom and grow. Learning about others is imperative to help our team build trust and learn to walk in their strengths. Be the leader who is unwavering in working through tough spots to build a relationship of trust. This effort will pay off in huge dividends of joy and—believe it or not—productivity.

If you are reading this blog, I want you to know you are not unclaimed or unloved, no matter what has happened to you in your past. God is unwavering in his love for us. It is up to us to joyfully accept and receive such love.

As for Louie—he has taught me so much about love and determination. I am never without a lesson from this little chap. He has also opened my eyes to that fact that my sweet Evi is carrying on the Nonna tradition of being the “best story maker” ever. Together, she and I gave you a tiny glimpse into what is to come for Louie’s Leadership Lessons. Stay tuned for more news on Louie’s future in our upcoming blogs.

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Sunrise, Sunset

Puppy Louie

What Louie probably looked like as a baby!

Louie is all boy and still very much a puppy, and sometimes that’s exasperating! I try to burn off some of his energy by taking long walks, visiting dog parks, and having him run around the backyard with his buddy, Mick. But even in the middle of a nap, if Evi and Mea show up at the door, he exudes tons of energy and delivers overly excited sloppy kisses.

Recently while on a walk, Lou stopped to burrow his nose in the ground, hoping to find the mole he knew was near by. I waited, watched and finally gave him a tug to resume walking but he stubbornly refused and kept digging. Finally he jumped up, waged his tail and ran off to find another molehill, pulling me along. I rolled my eyes and muttered under my breath, “When is this dog going to grow up and get out of this puppy stage?”

I immediately gasped. There it was! The tendency to hurry up life. Or more specifically, my tendency to want to hurry Louie’s maturity. Yet I know Lou is quickly approaching adolescence and though it may seem like years away, he will be a senior dog before I know it. We kept walking, Louie by my side with his usual upbeat prance, bright eyes and tongue hanging out the side of his mouth, oblivious to my thoughts of him passing through life so quickly.

Why do we try to speed up our lives? I remember cradling Marisa for her early morning feedings when she was a baby. I would look out my bedroom window as the neighborhood children waited for the school bus. Weary from sleeplessness, I thought to myself, “She will never get to that age. I will always be rocking this baby, feeding her, changing her diapers.” And now I stare into the eyes of her children and wonder where time went. Many times while talking to my six-year-old granddaughter, if I just blink, I swear I am talking to my six-year-old daughter.

Though my father has been gone for 30 years, I have fond memories of him singing. He was a fabulous singer, although he kept his day job of being a Cincinnati Police Officer. He used to sing a song from Fiddler on the Roof titled Sunrise, Sunset. A few of the words were:

Is this the little girl I carried? Is this the little boy at play?

I don’t remember growing older, when did they?

When did she get to be a beauty? When did he grow to be so tall?

Wasn’t it yesterday when they were small?

Sunrise, sunset,

Swiftly flow the days.

Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers,

Blossoming even as we gaze.

Sunrise, sunset,

Swiftly fly the years,

One season following another,

Laden with happiness and tears.

As my career became increasingly more demanding, I struggled to keep my focus centered on raising Marisa. Life was at a frantic pace then and my mom would always say, “Danise, you need to stop and smell the roses.” I could never understand why anyone would ever want to stop anything much less stop to smell roses. But she was right. Life was flying by and not just mine but my child’s, my family’s and my friend’s.

I did eventually listen to my mom and was very intentional about not rushing through life. I’ve learned to stop, breath, and enjoy the moments with my daughter, family, friends, and now of course, Louie. While each stage may be but a wisp, I also believe each stage gets better because of lessons learned and deepening relationships. With each sunrise and sunset, the years swiftly fly by. One season following another, laden with happiness and tears. I enjoyed every bit of Marisa’s life from the minute she was born. But the stage I am in right now with her is the best stage yet.

This is the season when parents watch their children graduate, get married or prepare for a life transition. It is also the time we reflect on where the time went. As for Louie, I cherish each crazy moment of life with him from digging through molehills, to getting excited to see his alpha pups to whining as we walk down the street because his friends, or anyone else for that matter, are out to see him. I know it will be all too soon that I will be carrying him up and down the steps as I did Cece, Bree and Buffy. I know before long I will be watching my grandchildren walk the aisle to receive their diplomas. I know soon I will be saying final farewells to friends at a quicker rate than when I was younger.

For this reason, I pray you will always enjoy life to the fullest, even as you wonder where time has gone. For me, I am grateful for life and have no doubt that the best is yet to come!

Stop and smell the flowers, Lou!

Stop and smell the flowers, Lou!

To all the graduates this season-we wish you well

on your exciting journey!

“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life?

You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” James 4:14