Life Long Friends

IMG_3098I’ve written about Louie’s new gal pals moving into the neighborhood, Louie’s getting to know rambunctious puppies, and his tolerance (or occasional intolerance) of guests in our home. You’ve been introduced to his chest-bumping pal, Mick, his walking buddy Sully and his steady girls Eve and Ellie. But we’ve not talked about Sampson much. That’s because there’s not much to talk about. Sampson (or Sammy) is just a steady as you go, no drama kind of pup. And Louie loves that because Louie needs steady and stable.

Louie and Sammy met a few years ago. Sampson is an adorable pug who is occasionally stubborn while walking with his mom. But Louie rarely sees that side of Sammy. The pups happily acknowledge each other and then just walk side by side. Sammy waddles, Louie prances, and the pace seems to work for them both.

Lou can be who he is when he’s with Sampson. He can just simply be. It’s almost as though he lets out a long sigh and says, “Hey buddy.” And then they just walk together. They don’t romp around or chase each other. They just stroll.

While I have many friends and family members who love me just as I am, my lifetime friend Gina has known me since the day I was born. Our parents were friends long before we came along and despite their moving to L.A. when Gina and I were three, our parents remained friends and my friendship with Gina deepened over the years. To this day, Gina and I talk regularly and visit as often as possible.

The best thing about Gina is that I can be my authentic self with her. I don’t have to perform or jump through hoops or pretend or walk on egg shells. I learned about the power of vulnerability decades ago because my friendship with Gina helped me see the areas in my life that kept me from being real. It wasn’t a book or a training session or a counselor, although those are great tools. It was the power of relationship that brought me to where I am today.

Much like Louie and Sampson, Gina and I don’t have to be talking to feel close and can simply bask in the golden silence of true friendship. We have shared life’s sorrows including death of loved ones, divorce, remarriage and we’ve shared life’s joys such as the birth of each other’s children. We can call at 3 a.m. and one of us will answer the phone with, “What’s wrong?” We’ve been through sickness, job promotions, sixty birthdays and many Kauai sunsets. Through thick and thin, we will always be best friends.

I know Gina loves me enough to address a character flaw she may see in me long before others do. I trust her to be honest and caring, so I welcome her feedback. Some leaders think they are above feedback but without it, they can end up with negative consequences that affect their relationships as well as their job performance. We all need friends in our lives who act as a stopgap to our bad behavioral choices. And we must be willing to listen.

Every leader needs a Gina! And every leader needs to hear when their Gina says, “I’m not sure about that.” Just as every Louie needs a Sampson, a steady as you go, let’s walk side by side pal who cares more about you than they do themselves. These kinds of friends truly enrich our lives and make us better people, leaders…or pets!

Me and Gina (left), 1956 (And my sister Donna 🙂

Me and Gina

Me and Gina–still crazy after all these years!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sharing A Special Memory From Louie

IMG_2717I love this time of year for many reasons. It is a wonderful time to celebrate life, enjoy relationships, and look forward to a new year, which could mean a new “do over” if we felt the past year was tough. I especially enjoy taking time to reflect on what I would change and how I will strive to be a better person next year.

Added in the mix this year is my love for my crazy dog, Louie! We’ve been together for three years now. I look at him and wonder what our lives would have been like had we not met. We still have a lot of work to do together, but I believe he is so much better off today than he was this time three years. I’m growing too, thanks to Louie.

I am also reminded of the relationships I no longer have. Louie would not be with me if I still had my sweet little Bichon, Cece. And what would life be like if my mom and dad were still alive to see MY grandchildren? Both my parents have been gone 20+ years, yet I still miss them and remember clearly the Christmases we shared.

Our little Cape Cod home nestled in a suburban cul-de-sac brimmed with energy for weeks, beginning with Christmas Eve. We would have a large celebratory meal and all eight of us would pile into the Edsel to go midnight mass. Afterwards, family and friends would come to our home while we kids were hustled off to bed so we wouldn’t “delay” Santa.

We would awake predawn and run down the stairs. We realize now that our parents stayed up all night putting toys and bikes together to surprise us. With six children and a father who was an officer for Cincinnati Police Department, that was a magical feat in itself. But surprise us, they did. And there was always a really “big” gift that would take our breath away at the end of our wrapping paper frenzy. Even our faithful dog, Smokie, would join in on the fun discovering the dog treats my mom wrapped for him to uncover.

More family and friends would come over for a brunch that would last for hours. Once again, we’d pile in the car and head to our grandparents’ home for another large meal and fun times. We sometimes stopped at an uncle’s home and once we kids called it a night, there were even more people who would come and visit with mom and dad.

I can’t imagine how they did it all, but my mom and dad enjoyed life to the fullest, and I will always appreciate that about them. I honor their memories by celebrating Christmas with the same vigor, love, laughter and life.

Sadly, life includes necessary endings. Saying goodbye to my parents, experiencing other tragic losses too painful to mention, and bidding farewell to one too many furbabies I’ve carried in my arms means I have closed the chapter on a part of my life but am opening a door on another. Louie represents one more chapter in my life, and he brings me incredible joy. And each chapter just keeps getting better, as I’ve shared with my daughter Marisa. I’ve enjoyed every stage of her life, but I believe this stage is the best so far!

As we close out this year, I am thankful for the life with which God has blessed me. I am reminded of the life God breathed into our world through Jesus Christ and the necessary ending he allowed so that we may have eternal life and have it abundantly. I stand amazed at the humble beginnings of a King and the necessary ending of a humble servant just so you and I can live life to the fullest. Don’t let searching for things that can’t last cause you to miss that remarkable miracle.

Buon Natale!

 

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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