On “Marley and Me” by John Grogan


I know, I’m late to the party…this wonderful book was a #1 New York Times bestseller last year. But I never read it because at first glance, 1) it was a little too close to home–been there, done that, and 2) I knew our sweet Summer was in the twilight of her years and I was in too sensitive a place to deal with a very emotional dog book. Then we lost our dear girl last August–hard to believe its been 7 months already–and we are in puppyhood now with our boy Shadow, and this book came back up as inspiration for a scrapbook project about a dog in your life. I knew I had to read it. My critique? To borrow a line from VeggieTales, “I laughed, I cried–it moved me, Bob.” What a great writer John Grogan is! I laughed out loud more times than I could count. I think I want his job, by the way…I actually considered journalism as a career, quite seriously at one point. The book, Marley and Me; Life and Love with the Word’s Worst Dog totally mirrors our experience with our first golden retriever, Ashley. Newlyweds, bringing home the first “baby” to raise together. Part of the book is even set in Lehigh Valley, PA, near where we used to live when we were first married.  We brought Ashley home about 6 weeks into our married life. She and our angel dog Summer are in the picture above. Ashley’s the darker dog on the left, about 8 years old in the picture, and Summer is on the right…she’s about 8 months old in this picture, I am guessing. We never threw a tennis ball that Ashley didn’t retrieve–seriously. See the one in front of her? She is probably sitting there in the photo waiting for the ball to be thrown, and Summer, bless her puppy heart, only wanted to chase and nab Ashley when we threw the ball. After being clobbered by Summer, Ashley would then pause indignantly in mid-pursuit as if to say, “I simply can’t work under these conditions.” She took retrieving so seriously, and Summer just wanted to play. Ashley was our Marley, always into things. Some of her worst “transgressions”:

  • “Gutting” the carefully-sculpted veggie turkey I made for our first Thanksgiving together with all of Jeff’s family there
  • Eating a dozen or so crayons I brought home after I took my class on a field trip to the Binney & Smith Crayola factory in Easton, PA–the morning after wasn’t pretty–let’s just say I’ve had an aversion to any sort of colorful candy-infused ice cream ever since
  • Major thunderstorm phobia like Marley–I could SO relate to all the patching and sanding!
  • Destroying a package Jeff’s sister Lisa sent for his birthday because only SHE could smell that it was filled with Andes mints…we found a few scraps of the green foil that tipped us off. Silly us to leave it in her reach while we went to work, thinking we’d save it for Jeff’s actual birthday!
  • Shaking a neighbor’s Yorkie so that she had to have emergency vet treatment–twice. At that time we were renting a small cabin on 20 acres of land on Percy Priest Lake. Our wonderful (and very tolerant) landlords were in the historic 1839 log “big house” and we had the 700 sq. ft. “slave kitchen”. It was a perfect place for dogs. Ashley’s take on life at that time was pretty much “The world is my oyster,” as she would trot around the acreage…got too close to the landlord’s porch and their two Yorkies descended upon Ashley in a blitzkrieg of yapping and heel-nipping, and so Ashley decided to pick one of them up and shake it. Major oops. Guess the Yorkie’s take on life was “Get the $%&*# off my oyster!

And the list went on and on for 13 years until Ashley went to wait for us at the Rainbow Bridge. And now Summer’s there, too. When I came to the inevitable emotional ending of Marley and Me I found myself sobbing, my mind flooded with memories of my girls pictured above. (Emma was worried…”Why are you crying, Mommy?) I was also grateful for the fact that sweet Abby’s only 4, and Shadow was at my feet, his downy puppy fur gently rising and falling slowly as he lay there sleeping, a whole lifetime together ahead of us. They are here right now, even as I type this. Love it. Loved Marley–read it, if you haven’t already.

Published in: on March 29, 2008 at 7:28 pm  Comments (4)  

Happy Easter!

Didn’t get many pictures, unfortunately…spending too much time keeping Emma from eating her whole Easter stash at one sitting.  At one point, Abby the dog (I’m sorry, Abs, but you are, in fact, a DOG) had Emma’s whole fist in her mouth, and in Emma’s tightly-clenched fist was what was left of a Dove chocolate Easter bunny.  I don’t think it was enough to make Abby sick but hey, she’s on that Iams Restricted Calorie food now so she’s really getting desperate.  And Shadow’s getting really clingy these days as you will see below…I get the stress-eating thing, Abby.  Hope y’all had a Happy Easter.




Published in: on March 24, 2008 at 7:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

Is my blog honest?

A thought to ponder. Because as I look at this blog filled with sweet commentary on all the good and funny things in my life, one could get the impression that I have this blissful, wonderful, problem-free life. And in the big scheme of things, my “big picture”, I know that is so completely true. I am blessed beyond measure. However, this life is not without its challenges…no life is. I have found this to be true for me: I blog when I am happy, for the most part. Therefore, it’s a happy place in cyberspace. Kind of like my scrapbooks…same thing for the most part. Scrapbooking and blogging have become a place for me to celebrate all that is good in my life, to observe more closely this experience that is “my life”, and comment on it. As my profoundly wise little 3 year old niece Kate asked her mommy (when she’d been put in time out and Lisa didn’t want to take a picture), “Mommy, do we only take pictures of happy things?” Wow. I will have to say I have many journals filled with the good, the bad, and the ugly, but the good is pretty much what I like to blog and scrapbook about. Hmmm…we’ll see how that might change. Another thing that falls into that category is singing. I remember times when I would put a much younger Sophie to bed, and we had our routine of Jeff or I telling her a story, and then singing a song. I remember times when, for whatever reason, the story segment did not go well. I could not bring myself to sing after that…it seemed so dishonest. I would be ticked off about the friction we’d experienced during what was supposed to be a warm-fuzzy time, and I just did not feel like singing, period. Or when I got pulled over for speeding recently by a very smarty pants cop–just was not feeling the urge to burst into song then, either. Or ask if I could pose with him beside the squad car for a picture for my scrapbook (especially because the REASON I was speeding was due to a, shall we say, restroom emergency…he was not sympathetic and I’m sure he’d heard that one before). This same question is sort of why I struggle with writing a yearly Christmas letter, even though I love getting them from other people. Nobody wants to get a letter that is filled with life’s miseries, and yet to only address the happy stuff seems somehow to be lying by omission. Somebody told me a long time ago, “You think too much.” Maybe they’re right…

Published in: on March 23, 2008 at 4:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

With apologies to Rapunzel

At last, I can braid your hair, Em.   You were so excited to have me do it, too.  You reached back and felt the braids curiously as I worked on them.  You were all for it until you looked in the mirror—and were clearly disappointed.  “But MOM, I wanted it long like RAPUNZEL!”  That’s your current favorite movie…not sure how to explain to you that it’s going to be a long time before your braid reaches the floor (but baby doll, we’d be a bit closer if you hadn’t had that, uh-hem, episode about a year ago with the scissors…)



Published in: on March 22, 2008 at 7:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sorry, Kate

She leads with the left…knee, that is. I think just about every pair of jeans from this season is in the same condition. It’s been so cool to trade clothes back and forth and back again between the cousins—Emma, then Kate, and then back again for Mia some day. Sweet, bargain-shopping Auntie Lisa even buys new stuff at a steal and gives it to Emma first sometimes, knowing it will make its way back to Kate eventually. But I’m afraid this season’s jeans are going to make me feel bad to even donate to Good Will. Every time she enters the “playing field” at school, home, anywhere—she slides in, leading with the left knee, as evidenced by her jeans. And, she also likes to pretend she’s a puppy, crawling around on all fours and barking with Abby and Shadow. I noticed this wardrobe problem mid-December when her darling Little Einsteins “June” pants started getting a hole after only having them a month or so; I half-heartedly attempted a few times to get her to stop, but Jeff felt (and he’s probably right) that this is a kid being a kid—let it be. OK, and some of us think it’s even cute and hip to have holes in the knees, but that’s another story. So sorry, sweet Kate, no jeans from Emma for you this season. She’s got a wicked left.


Published in: on March 20, 2008 at 8:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

They keep us in stitches…

So last weekend, it’s D-Day for a project that Sophie has to finish for school…researching her family tree.  She wakes up, and it’s snowed outside…biggest snow of the season.  She’s out early, playing in the snow, frolicking care free…I really hated to remind her.  But by midday it was necessary–she was bounding down the stairs and as she paused on the landing, I said, “Sophie, I have two words for you.  ‘Family-tree.'”  She completely deflated, then gave me her two-word response…”Dang-it.”  (She did get it done, though.)

Then this week, I had been jotting down a grocery list on the counter…came back and this was drawn at the bottom by Emma:rapunzel.jpg

So I ask her about her picture…is it me?  Is it Sophie?  Is it a self-portrait?  No, silly me…it’s RAPUNZEL!  Check out the hair!

Published in: on March 14, 2008 at 12:35 pm  Comments (2)  

Strep is the pits…but God rocks.

I did just say in the last post that life is good…even when it’s hard, it’s good. Yep, so I’d have to read that again in a couple of days when every bone in my body’s aching and my throat looks like nothing so much as raw hamburger, and I’m mourning the now negative balance of sick days for this year and worried if I can bring it back out of the hole by the end of the school year. Ugh. I’m at least over the fever part and feeling less achy. Just had to take a minute to recommend an incredible book by William P. Young, called The Shack. I was able to finish this book today…wow. Just read it. God can use strep to reveal Himself in a way I may be too busy to experience otherwise. Sit back and soak it in (kinda like Shadow is doing below:)


Published in: on March 6, 2008 at 6:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

Ferris Beuller once said…

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.” Here are a few scenes from the last week:

Sophie demonstrates just how big our baby boy has grown:


…and she can’t resist babying him…he doesn’t seem to mind:


Jeff, the pancake artist, does it again…branching out into pancake dogs too:



Emma and Shadow hang out in the back yard for a few minutes after church:



…and I love on my boy who won’t be little much longer…life is good. Even when it’s hard, it’s still good.



Published in: on March 2, 2008 at 7:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

Character underwear…when and why did we stop?

Anyone who might happen upon this blog might think that with all this woman has on her plate, she’s maybe a little too into her dogs. But if anyone reading has ever raised a golden retriever puppy, um, you sort of are BUSY for a while. It’s a big commitment of time, energy, love, paper towels, carpet cleaner, and a few pairs of socks and underwear. A babysitter we had a while back was chatting with me about her dogs, and I asked if they’d get another puppy…her response? “No ma’am, my parents are through with puppies.” Hee hee! I do get that sentiment. Now that we’ve brought home our Shadow boy, I’m just glad I haven’t replaced any of our blinds that Abby lovingly chewed, equality clearly in mind because instead of destroying one whole set, she just chewed the end off of one slat in each set. So back to socks ‘n undies. Shadow really likes to raid the laundry and Sophie’s room, a veritable gold mine for the boy. I bought the girls each a new package of underwear in part because a few had some holes in them. Emma’s finding each and every opportunity to change into a new pair of princess panties, like maybe four times the first day. Jasmine, Belle, Cinderella, Ariel…who’s on YOUR panties? So my sweet angel baby who has always been very verbal with us, but until very recently would retreat into silent mode when people would try to engage her in conversation…she marches up to a person she doesn’t know and says, “I have my new princess panties on today!” and pats her bottom. Wow–maybe I need some panties like that! When exactly did we all outgrow Underoos? I mean, isn’t it possible that a man in a business meeting might feel a little less stress when making a presentation if he could just think, hey, I’m wearing NASCAR today. Life’s not all work and no play. Or hey, I am not going to be stressed out in front of all these folks in my classroom at Parent Night, because after all, I’m sporting my Cinderella duds under here. After all, every girl can be a princess! You could branch out into things like favorite authors, NASDAQ reports that would make you happy, and there must be some way to do a scrapbooking high-legged brief of some kind. You know, just a little reminder of your hobbies and interests to get you through the day. See, check out the joy on my sweetie’s face. It’s working for her! I’m thinking that’s an Ariel smile.


Published in: on March 1, 2008 at 8:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

A case of mistaken identities

So my Abby girl is way too furry for me to handle giving her a bath/trim…I take her in to Petsmart.  Emma’s none too happy to leave her there, wants to take her Abby back home.  When it’s finally time to go get the girl, we go in and I see a golden way off at the end of the grooming salon, up on a table, getting finished up, and it’s shaved down completely.  WHaaahh????  Then I get a better look, realize it’s not my Abby on the table (not to mention the fact that it’s obviously a BOY.  Hey, they look so different when they’ve had a good grooming!)  So I get my bill, notice it’s a bit less than I’d expected but I don’t ask any questions, just go to the checkout and pay.  I come back, and they’re ready to hand me the leash.  Only problem is, at the end of the leash is a BOXER, not a golden retriever.  Hey, now that was some serious grooming!  Turns out there are two Abby’s at PetSmart, and mine’s considerably furrier (and therefore pricier).  Finally we get the right girl.  Whew!dsc02169.jpg 

Published in: on March 1, 2008 at 8:09 pm  Leave a Comment