Piggy’s Story – Part 1

Okay y’all. I’m not gonna lie. The past few days have been rough. My sweet girl Lucy passed away this past Sunday. I had this amazing dog for 15 years. FIFTEEN years. To put that into perspective, I have 16 and 18 year old kids. I have had this dog about as long as my children. I will be writing a tribute piece to my Lucy Goosey, but I am not quite ready for that. I still suddenly start crying out of nowhere – and not just tear up, graceful tears, but UGLY crying sobs out of nowhere. I need a bit more time before I write that. So, in the meantime, lemme tell you about PIGGY PIE.

Piggy Pie

Piggy Pie

 

It was a humid, steamy summer evening on August 2, 2014. The sun was far from setting and still easily 90 degrees out, but the sun was low enough in the sky that I could bear the heat. I’ve always loved to run in the heat, but not the sun. Evening runs had become delicious to me again after I decided to challenge myself to run as many days in July as I could. It worked. I now craved an evening run as much as I craved a good glass of wine at the end of a busy day. Success!

It also helped that I had found a park near my house that I had never known about before. It had lots of long loops and was perfect for running.

It really is a lovely park. It inspires one to want to run.

It really is a lovely park. It inspires one to want to run.

But it had not been a busy day. It was a leisurely Saturday. My husband was on his drill weekend two hours away in Augusta and my daughter had her best friend sleeping over for the third day in a row – one teenage girl helping another get through a break-up with lots of Netflix, ice cream and Ramen noodles.

I told them I was going for a run and left them on the couch with Teen Wolf. Or Supernatural. Or maybe even Sponge Bob – who can tell with teens these days.

I got to the park and planned on a long run. Maybe 4 miles if all felt right. As I simultaneously walked towards the path, set up Bon Jovi to play, put in my ear buds and got my running app open, I glanced up. Two men were walking towards me laughing, talking and holding frisbees. A medium sized and very happy black and white dog was trotting beside them just smiling away. The dog made me smile right back. We all exchanged cheery hellos as I walked to the running path and they to the parking lot.

I had a good run. A great run actually. The kind of run that makes you appreciate being alive. The lungs were working right, the legs felt light and I was able to just think and be in the moment. I ran for 4 miles with endorphins in high gear when I stopped. By the end of my run, the sun was almost setting and I was sweaty and satisfied. I took out my ear buds and began walking to my car.

That’s when I saw him. The same happy black and white dog I’d passed at the start of my run. He ran right up to me and gently jumped up, his paws against me. I looked around for the two men I had seen as I patted the very friendly dog’s head. I was confused – where had his owners gone?  It only took me a minute to replay the scene of them walking towards me to recall the dog had not been on a leash. And it was 45 minutes later. He was not their dog.  I looked around. At almost 7pm, there were no other cars in the parking lot except a police car at the far end. (I figured at some point he would get out and tell me what he knew. He never did.)

The dog had a collar, but no tags. I figured I should wait for an owner who would surely be calling his dog any minute now. I was hot and sweaty – and boy did that dog look hot too. I asked him if he wanted some water. He cocked his head and smiled and I swear he knew exactly what I was saying. As I opened my car door to get my water bottle, he jumped in. Not kind of jumped in, not sort of jumped in. That dog sprang into my car like he owned the darn thing – like he BELONGED. He sat panting and smiling with a look that said, “Okay! Let’s go!”

I went door to door opening each one to coax the dog out. The left door, the right door, the hatch back. With each open door he gracefully jumped from seat to seat clearly letting me know he was NOT getting out of the car.

I looked over at the police car knowing he had seen this musical dog-chair routine. But the officer was not getting out of his car. I looked around for anyone that might be looking for this dog. After about 15 minutes of waiting, this dog was not starting to snooze in my car. I gave up. I knew I was taking him home. Or at least to Pet Smart.

Here he is in my car after my run, while I waited for my daughter to bring me my purse so I could take him to Pet Smart to be scanned for a microchip.

Here he is in my car after my run, while I waited for my daughter to bring me my purse so I could take him to Pet Smart to be scanned for a microchip.

With minutes to spare before they closed, I had him scanned for a microchip. I found out he had no microchip, but luckily for me he had a terrible case of fleas. Awesome.

I took him home and set up a crate in the basement. I had three dogs upstairs and besides not knowing how they would all get along, I didn’t want my own personal flea infestation.

Very quickly it became clear that this was a good dog. I mean a GOOD dog. You could see it by the way he listened to me, you could see it by how he watched me, you could see it by the look in his eyes. I just knew. Dogs like this don’t come around every day. He was special. But with three of my own, there was NO WAY I was keeping him. Just not going to happen.

I knew this dog was scared and I couldn’t leave him in my basement overnight. Which meant a terrible thing for me. You see, my basement is scary. It is unfinished and is home to lots of creepy crawlies. I do not like creepy crawlies. I did not want to sleep with creepy crawlies. Especially creepy crawlies that might crawl into my ear while I sleep. (Insert silent scream here.)

SCARY basement with many, many creepy crawlies. (Okay, I only saw two centipedes, but still: CREEPY and CRAWLY.)

SCARY basement with many, many creepy crawlies. (Okay, I only saw two centipedes, but still: CREEPY and CRAWLY.)

But. This dog needed me.

I blew up an air mattress, brought down blankets and pillows and laid next to the crate. Within minutes, the dog was snoring. And i mean SNORING. And grunting. Like a pig. He really, really sounded like a pig. I jokingly began calling him Piggy. After all, I’d only have a him another day until I found his owner, who cared what I called him?

This dog grunts and snores like a PIG. For reals.

This dog grunts and snores like a PIG. For reals.

I didn’t have to worry about falling asleep and creepy crawlies though. The air mattress had a slow leak, so every hour and a half I found myself laying very uncomfortably on cement again. So I was pretty much awake the whole time. I could flick the creepy crawlies away. Yes. I just wrote that. It was kind of awful. Good thing I loved dogs.

The next day I took this dog to be properly vetted. He got flea treatments, shots and tests. Except for not being fixed, he was in great health and estimated to be about a year and a half or two years old. (Seriously PEOPLE! Fix your pets!!)

I began calling him Piggy. What a ridiculous name, right?

I tried very hard to find this dog’s owner. I posted flyers online. I posted flyers in the park. I registered him on a national data base of lost and found dogs.

Doing my due diligence, people!

Doing my due diligence, people! (and yeah, I found him Saturday, not Friday. I got got the date wrong.)

When that didn’t work, I tried to find someone who wanted what I know realized was quite possibly the WORLD’S MOST AWESOME DOG. When that didn’t work, I found him a foster home for a week while I went out of town.

On our way to his foster family in South Carolina while I went to South Dakota for work.

On our way to his foster family in South Carolina while I went to South Dakota for work.

I have to admit something here. While I was out of town, I missed that darn dog. I secretly hoped that his foster family would not want him (which was the plan in the beginning). When I emailed to find out how Piggy was doing while I was on my trip, I was secretly elated that they asked when would be a good time to get him back to me.

In an effort to help this dog find a home I drove over 12 hours on various trips with the dog. Who LOVES being in the car.

After I got back from my trip and picked up Piggy from his awesome foster family.

I kept the information that I really wanted to keep this dog a secret from my husband who had been enthusiastically promised that I would FIND PIGGY A HOME.  Because HECK, NO were we keeping a fourth dog! That would be CRAZY. Duh. I KNOW THAT.

And my husband told me over and over again, DO NOT FALL FOR THAT DOG, MICHELLE. We both know we cannot keep him.

I promised him I wouldn’t. That would be CRAZY.

Me NOT falling in love with this dog. Clearly.

Me NOT falling in love with this dog. Clearly.

Check back for Part 2. :)

 

Storytime LIVE on August 20, 2014

Y’all, click the photo below to watch the archived version. Piggy was in it. Otto was in it. But Lucy was the STAR! Watch this to see what my life is pretty much like every day. lol!

Lucy_storytime_live

Goodness

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The Whatif Monster Military Challenge

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When people tell me thank you because I wrote a book that has in some way helped, impacted, inspired, or in any way positively affected them or their child, I automatically whisper a praise of gratitude to the heavens that I was lucky enough to be given the words, smart enough to write them down and brave enough to show them to people.

When Kayla Bradley wrote me a letter and told how much my book impacted her beautiful family and then told me me her big, giant dream? I was touched beyond words, and flattered beyond measure.

Ever since she said that dream out loud it has been growing and growing. Hundreds of Usborne Books and More sales consultants wanted to help. I wanted to help. We ALL wanted to help Kayla to accomplish her dream.

Please check out Kayla’s website to learn more about this completely INSPIRING woman and join us in The Whatif Monster Military Challenge if it so moves you. We’d love to have you along for what is turning into an incredible ride!

PLEASE share this link so that we can all help Kayla achieve her BIG, GIANT DREAM!

http://whatifmilitarychallenge.com/

The Voices in My Head

I hear voices. Really I do. At first, I hear them as distant muffles. After a while, if I quiet my mind and pay attention, I can tell they are talking to me. If I am very, very quiet and REALLY pay attention, sometimes I can hear what they are trying to say to me. But not always – they might wait a long, long time before getting close enough for me to hear. Sometimes, I get the exact words. Or, I just get a feeling and understand who they are and what they’re like. Maybe, it’s a message they want me to pass along. These characters show up in doodles, drawings and stories. Sometimes, they end up in my books.

For instance, Bob from my picture book Bob is a Unicorn, was just a voice at first. A pleading, insistent voice begging me to tell his story. I didn’t even know who Bob actually was or what he looked like until I had worked out the whole concept of the book completely in my head.

I might see them in my head before I know their story or even their message. Their story might be years away. It can be enough that I know who they are and I understood their message for me. I might years before they allow me to understand their full message. Once I know what they look like though? I create them – usually I am compelled to create them. I make them into figurines. I didn’t even realize I had this ability until I was in my late 20’s – to see something in my head and let me fingers create it in clay. There are times I don’t even look at the clay while I am forming whomever it is I need to create. It is like my fingers just KNOW what to do. I love when that happens.

Yesterday some new characters showed up and NEEDED to be created. When this happens? I have no choice. My day has been decided. That’s just the way it is. Here are who needed to come into this world yesterday:

SealofApprovalMy Seal of Approval. She showed up one day and wanted to be a message, I think. She just goes around being quite happy with people in general, and seems only to notice the things we do right and the awesomeness we add to a day. She is quite a friendly gal to have around. I don’t think she has a book in her. Ever since creating her, she seems very content to just hang out with the others and find the positives in life.

BoobiesNext are my Blue Footed Boobies. I saw my first Booby about a year ago when my friend Maggie texted me a photo of one of them. I could hardly contain my delight in knowing such creatures actually existed. And that they’re named BOOBIES?!?! Oh my goodness, my joy was limitless! I don’t for a minute thing this dancing duo is finished telling me their story. They make me smile. I don’t know their names yet, but I believe one is a boy and one is a girl. I can’t be certain yet, but eventually they will tell me more. Yesterday on Facebook they brought a smile to many, many people’s faces. And we all got to say BOOBIES and giggle like the 12 year old child that is inside all of us.

MustachioedOtterAnd here we have my Mustachioed Otter. He showed up the other day to tell everyone how awesome they are. He thinks he is quite awesome too. Today during the photoshoot, I realized he has quite an ego. HUGE, actually. Last night I was starting to hear what his name is. Today I am certain. This is Maurice the Mustachioed Otter. He does happen to think you are very awesome. But don’t forget to tell him how awesome HE is too. Really. Don’t forget. I have a feeling it would be bad if you don’t return his compliment.

 

There are three examples of exactly what goes on in my head. It’s a little crazy in there, but I have learned that if I trust these voices, they tell me truths I need and want to share. And when I am brave enough to share them without worry? I find they resonate with so many of us. It’s a scary thing to share what REALLY goes on in our heads. We may find out that people think we’re odd or strange or crazy. What I have found though, overwhelmingly, is that we’re ALL odd and strange and crazy and so when someone shows us their crazy? We breathe a giant sigh of relief and think, “Thank GOODNESS, me too! I can tell them about MY crazy, too!” And we usually find a new friend.

Being ourselves, being vulnerable, letting others see who we truly are is how we connect. How we realize we are not alone. Our uniqueness is what makes us who we are, and by sharing that? It brings us together. It’s okay to be different, okay to think differently. It’s scary to be different, I know. But when we share it, not only do we find the people who seem to be almost magically just like us, we also find the people that are different from us. Maybe as different as the sun is from the moon, but who appreciate us. I kinda think that’s what the whole point of us being here happens to be. Loving the ones like us and loving the ones nothing like us – finding the common ground.

(And of course there are those that will never, ever get us. And that’s okay too. We don’t have to all understand each other, but if we could just respect each other – though that is another post for another day.)

I better go now. There is someone telling me a story and I need to write it down. I have no idea who it is either. Wouldn’t it be awesome if it was one of the characters above? Yeah. It would be. But it is never, EVER that easy. I wish. The voices make me work so hard to figure out who they are.

Otterly Awesome

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Will it all be worth it?

lighthouse_marthas_vineyardTen years ago, if you had a window into my life, you would have seen me in a cubicle for 8 hours a day doing graphic design work, doing freelance graphic design projects some evenings for extra money, while also painting pet portraits most evenings for even more extra money. In between all of those things, I researched and studied the children’s book publishing industry. I began writing down ideas for my books.  All this while taking care of two young children. I slept little. Oh yeah, I was also in the middle of a nasty divorce. Good times.

I lived life at a constant speed of 100mph to fit it all in, get it all done. It was a life filled with pure adrenaline and desperation not just to pay bills, but to get to the life I wanted to be living – to authentically be ME. I had no time to think. I trusted in my vision and did everything in my power to move towards it – I never doubted what it was I wanted. I didn’t have the time to doubt.

Right now, as I type this, I’m sitting on my back deck, drinking coffee and thinking. Trying to organize all the thoughts in my head, figuring out what to do next, what to create next. Thinking and taking the time to process my thoughts is part of my job and I have the time to do it now. Let me say that again, I have time to think now. Wow.

There are moments I feel guilt that I’m not having to go a million miles per hour anymore. Sometimes I feel like I’m cheating when I can sleep, think, take time to enjoy and play in my life. But then I realize it’s because the hard work has paid off. The years of paying my dues, doing the things I didn’t want to, but had to, in order to pay my bills while still pursuing my dreams? THEY WORKED. 
My book sales now pay my bills, will send my oldest child college next month. They paid for me to go to a writer’s retreats last week to learn more about my craft. Most importantly, those sales allow me to help others – often. They allow me to volunteer to do projects for free because they touch my heart. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not swimming in money, but with saving and budgeting, and continually working and creating, I have an income that I created that I can count on. And on top of all that? There is more. Amazingly, there is MORE. Almost daily, I get emails, texts and messages telling me how something I created has helped them, even changed them or their children for the better. Stories that were born in years of desperation and a fair share of tears, have touched other people’s hearts. And that? Overwhelms me with such gratitude I can hardly contain it all.

I wish I could go back ten years and talk to my 31 year old self – the 31 year old who hardly slept, who often wondered if it would ever be her turn, wondered if she would ever be able to take a moment and breathe without wondering if that moment of doing nothing would mean she couldn’t pay the electric bill later…I wish I could whisper to her, “Don’t stop. The life you’re picturing, the exact one you want, is waiting there for you. It’s even better than you are imagining. Every sleepless night, every tear, every job, project and painting is so very worth it, it is making you who you are, who you will become. Keep going.” If you have a dream? Don’t stop, keeping going. Be willing to do whatever it takes. It will be WORTH IT. I promise.

The photo above was taken one morning at about 6:30am on Martha’s Vineyard where I was attending a writer’s retreat for the week. As I took that photo, all the thoughts in this post were swirling in my mind. I just kept saying, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” out loud. It was a moment I will carry with me forever.

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