Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Our first family dog was a Cocker Spaniel named Sandy. She was the sweetest dog, except the poor garbage collector didn’t think so. She may have taken a tiny bite out of his leg one day. After that Sandy had new owners and they moved to the beach. They said she loved her new home because she could swim in the ocean every day.

Another one of our dogs was a miniature black poodle that we named Misty. She was the sister of my grandparent’s dog, Pepe. She was a little bit temperamental, but we put up with her moodiness because she was a great protector for my younger sister, Terri.

Misty didn’t mind the garbage collector, but she hated thunder. In rainy, stormy southern West Virginia, that was a problem. When the thunder started she would high-tail-it under the bed and refuse to come out until she had to go outside. Then she would run out and back in the house as fast as she could. Except for one night . . .

The storm started just as her paw stepped off of the front sidewalk onto the grass with a big clap of thunder that rattled the house. Mom and I ran outside, but Misty was nowhere to be seen. We rode around in the car with the window down, in the driving rain, calling out her name. We had no luck and returned home without her. Needless to say, none of us got much sleep that night.

The next morning, I called Granddad and tearfully told him what happened. He said that he would drive to our neighborhood and look for her. A few hours later he pulled up in front of the house in his Maytag truck. I just knew Misty would come bouncing toward us. But she didn’t. We all cried. Our precious Misty was gone. We offered a reward, put up signs around the neighborhood, ran an ad in the newspaper and told our neighbors to watch out for her.

Every day for the next week Granddad would come to our neighborhood looking for Misty. Sometimes he would bring Pepe with him hoping that their sibling connection would draw her out of hiding. We feared the worst. It had been too long and she couldn’t survive on her own. We had a few people who thought they saw her, but each time it wasn’t her.

Granddad was a hunter with a really good sense of direction. He started thinking about the wooded areas surrounding our house. He remembered that a couple of miles through the woods was another neighborhood. It wasn’t one of the safest neighborhoods in town, but Granddad knew some people who lived there.

When he began asking questions and showing them a picture of Misty, someone said they had seen a new dog in the neighborhood, but wasn’t sure who had it. After further exploration he happened upon a house and heard a familiar bark. He called Misty’s name and she came running out to greet him.

Granddad never told us, if he knew, how she got there or why they hadn’t tried to find her owner. We were ecstatic that after almost two weeks, we had Misty back home safe and sound. She lived for almost 15 years and never got lost again.

Today’s gift was to return, Lucy, a wandering Cocker Spaniel to her home. Her owner was out for a run and they had gotten separated. I’m sure her family is glad that instead of dog-gone, it was dog-found.

In Giving,



Monday, December 30, 2013

Recently Retired

This is the diary of someone who probably recently retired from their job so they could live in paradise. Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy the story.

December 8 - 6:00 PM It started to snow.
The first snow of the season and the wife and I took our cocktails and sat for hours by the window watching the huge soft flakes drift down from heaven.
It looked like a Grandma Moses Print.
So romantic we felt like newlyweds again.
I love snow!

December 9
We woke to a beautiful blanket of crystal white snow covering every inch of the landscape. What a fantastic sight!
Can there be a lovelier place in the whole world?
Moving here was the best idea I've ever had!
Shoveled for the first time in years and felt like a boy again.
I did both our driveway and the sidewalks.
This afternoon the snowplow came along and covered up the sidewalks and closed in the driveway, so I got to shovel again.
What a perfect life!

December 12
The sun has melted all our lovely snow. Such a disappointment!
My neighbor tells me not to worry—we'll definitely have a white Christmas.
No snow on Christmas would be awful!
Bob says we'll have so much snow by the end of winter, that I'll never want to see snow again.
I don't think that's possible.
Bob is such a nice man, I'm glad he's our neighbor.

December 14
Snow, lovely snow! 8 inches last night.
The temperature dropped to -20.
The cold makes everything sparkle so.
The wind took my breath away, but I warmed up by shoveling the driveway and sidewalks.
This is the life!
The snowplow came back this afternoon and buried everything again.
I didn't realize I would have to do quite this much shoveling, but I'll certainly get back in shape this way.
I wish l didn't huff and puff so.

December 15
20 inches forecast.
Sold my van and bought a 4x4 Blazer.
Bought snow tires for the wife's car and 2 extra shovels.
Stocked the freezer.
The wife wants a wood stove in case the electricity goes out.
I think that's silly.
We aren't in Alaska, after all.

December 16
Ice storm this morning.
Fell on my butt on the ice in the driveway putting down salt.
Hurt like heck.
The wife laughed for an hour, which I think was very cruel.

December 17
Still way below freezing.
Roads are too icy to go anywhere.
Electricity was off for 5 hours.
I had to pile the blankets on to stay warm.
Nothing to do but stare at the wife and try not to irritate her. Guess I should've bought a wood stove, but won't admit it to her. I hate it when she's right.
I can't believe I'm freezing to death in my own living room.

December 20
Electricity's back on, but had another 14 inches of the darn stuff last night.
More shoveling!
Took all day.
The darn snowplow came by twice.
Tried to find a neighbor kid to shovel, but they said they're too busy playing hockey.
I think they're lying.
Called the only hardware store around to see about buying a snow blower and they're out.
Might have another shipment in March.
I think they're lying.
Bob says I have to shovel or the city will have it done and bill me.
I think he's lying.

December 22
Bob was right about a white Christmas because 13 more inches of the white stuff fell today, and it's so cold. It probably won't melt till August.
Took me 45 minutes to get all dressed up to go out to shovel and then I had to go to the bathroom.
By the time I got undressed, went to the bathroom and dressed again, I was too tired to shovel.
Tried to hire Bob who has a plow on his truck for the rest of the winter, but he says he's too busy.  I think the he is lying.

December 23
Only 2 inches of snow today 
And it warmed up to 0.
The wife wanted me to decorate the front of the house this morning.
What is she, nuts?!!
Why didn't she tell me to do that a month ago?
She says she did, but I think she's lying.

December 24
6 inches - Snow packed so hard by snowplow, l broke the shovel.
Thought I was having a heart attack.
If I ever catch the son of a &%!* who drives that snow plow, I'll drag him through the snow and beat him to death with my broken shovel.
I know he hides around the corner and waits for me to finish shoveling and then he comes down the street at 100 miles an hour and throws snow all over where I've just been!
Tonight the wife wanted me to sing Christmas carols with her and open our presents, but I was too busy watching for the snowplow.

December 25
Merry freaking Christmas!
20 more inches of the darn slop tonight -Snowed in.
The idea of shoveling makes my blood boil.
 I hate the snow!
Then the snowplow driver came by asking for a donation and I hit him over the head with my shovel.
The wife says I have a bad attitude.
I think she's an idiot.
If I have to watch "It's A Wonderful Life" one more time, I'm going to stuff her into the microwave.

December 26
Still snowed in.
Why did I ever move here?
It was all HER idea.
She's really getting on my nerves.

December 27
Temperature dropped to -30 and the pipes froze; plumber came after 14 hours of waiting for him, he only charged me $1,400 to replace all my pipes.

December 28
Warmed up to above -20.
Still snowed in.
She is driving me crazy!!!

December 29
10 more inches.
Bob says I have to shovel the roof or it could cave in.
That's the silliest thing I ever heard.   How dumb does he think I am?

December 30
Roof caved in.
I beat up the snow plow driver, and now he is suing me for a million dollars, not only the beating I gave him, but also for trying to shove the broken snow shovel up his butt.
The wife went home to her mother.
Nine more inches predicted.

December 31
I set fire to what's left of the house.
No more shoveling.

January 8
Feel so good.
I just love those little white pills they keep giving me.
Why am I tied to the bed?  

Today’s gift was to attend a friend’s retirement party. I gave her a CD of Jana Stanfield’s song, If I Were Brave, because stories like the one above are probably fairly common for people who want to live their dream. It takes a brave person to retire from their job in their mid 50’s. If she doubts her decision, I hope she listens to the music and gains courage for the next phase of her life.

In Giving,


Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Helpful Elf

My friends tell me their secret to keeping their kids under control during the Christmas season is The Elf on the Shelf. Several years ago a children’s book popularized the story of an elf doll that sits on a shelf and “watches” the kids during the day. In the evening he reports to Santa about whether the kids have been naughty or nice. Then the next day the elf watches from another location in the house and reports back to Santa that evening.

It reminded me of several years ago when I wanted jewelry for Christmas. Tim was glad to have one of his most challenging gifts figured out, or so he thought. If he just accompanied me to the jewelry store, his shopping would be done.

This jewelry store wasn’t a typical storefront. It was located at the end of a long hallway and looked much like an office. Instead of display cases, it had locked cabinets lining the four sides of the room. The jewelry, each one in a beautiful box, was pulled out a piece at a time. After I tried it on, it was returned to the box, placed in the drawer and locked inside the cabinet before the next piece was brought out.

My favorite was a simple, elegant, gold necklace called an Omega. I had wanted one with a diamond pendent for a long time.  When I noticed the price tag, I knew it was much more than what Tim had planned on spending.

I told the jeweler that Tim and I needed to talk about it over lunch. Tim said to me, “Let's just go ahead and buy the necklace and a diamond pendant.”  I asked him how much he thought the necklace cost.  He whispered, “Probably, $200 or $300.”  I told him the price was actually $1,500 and that was just for the necklace! We both knew it was a bit too spendy, however, that didn’t stop me from dreaming about having an Omega necklace with a diamond pendant.

The following month we were in Vail skiing. One morning, before we hit the slopes, we walked to the grocery store from our rented condominium.  I almost stepped on something on the sidewalk.  Tim reached down and picked it up.  It was a necklace covered in mud and snow.

When we got back to the condo, I cleaned the necklace and saw just how beautiful it was. I imagined how distraught the woman who lost this gold necklace must be.  I reported it to the condo front desk and gave them my cell phone number.  I also ran an advertisement in the local paper. No one ever claimed it.

I feel like an elf placed the Omega necklace with a diamond pendant in the snow for me to find. Sometimes an unexpected surprise causes me the greatest joy. Today, I had the chance to do that for someone else, albeit on a smaller scale.

I was in the church library when a woman hurriedly came in with several empty, white grocery bags. She said that she was asked to remove the decorations and wasn’t sure she’d have time to get it all done before the next church service began. She surveyed the decorations and then quickly glanced at the clock. I immediately took the Santa Claus off of the shelf and placed it on the table. I continued by removing the garland from around the edges of the room.

Today’s gift was to help her remove the Christmas decorations. She said it was so nice to have an “Elf” who was there at the right time to help her.

I felt like a good elf and not the elf on the shelf that reports bad things to Santa. Maybe the kids would be better behaved if they knew there was a good elf watching out for them. Instead of the Elf on a Shelf, maybe it could be an Encouraging Elf to lift up those who need it.

In Giving,


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Look Up in the Sky. It’s a Bird. It’s a Plane. It’s Superman!

Tim and I were walking through the parking lot of Wal-Mart this morning. We saw a woman, pictured in this photo, standing beside her car looking up in the sky. We continued walking. Then a shadow briefly blocked out the sun. We stopped, tilted our heads back, looked towards the sky and shielded the sun from our eyes with our hands.

Directly above us were three huge birds riding the thermal, soaring higher and higher. They were flying in a circle with two of the birds flying counterclockwise and one flying clockwise. It looked like they were going to crash into each other.

The woman walked over to us and said, “I have lived here eight years and have never seen a bald eagle. My friends can’t believe I haven’t seen one.”

Today’s gift was to say to the woman, “Now you can say you’ve seen not just one bald eagle, but three bald eagles—two adults and one juvenile.”

She said, “I can’t believe that’s what it is. Thank you so much for showing it to me!”

As we drove away she was mesmerized and still staring toward the sky. She knew now that it wasn’t a plane or Superman and not just any bird—she had finally seen a majestic bald eagle.

In Giving,