Onward



My dog knew something was about to happen. And when I say my dog, I mean Bella, and dog spelled backwards.

I had just begun to rise out of a long season of burnout. I’m not going to list the reasons, I’ll just put out a sentence most or all of you will relate to: I’m a grown up.

On the way to one of my daughter’s cross country meets last fall, I had shed enough stress to let some creativity back in; through the hairpin curves and mountain climbing in my rattly Xterra I got an idea so exciting I started tailgating the blue-hair driving in front of me. I felt guilty as she eventually pulled over to let me pass—tailgating is rude, I know—but I was thrilled to be settled onto the wings of my muse again. I needed to fly.

Come November, I was coming along on this new book, polishing the rusty fingers and creative flow, when my dog began to act strange.

My ultra-sensitive boxador has this code for earthquake. She can sense them from a state away. Bella gets fidgety, impossibly restless. If I’m not fixing it, she’ll go outside to our back patio and focus her bark-growl straight through the house to whatever threat she imagines is lurking in front of our house.

There were a few earthquakes, you know, across the world, so her radar was either ramped up to impossible or she was bothered by something else.

Bella moved out of our daughter’s room where she usually slept and started sleeping in the center of the house.

By January, she was mostly back to normal as she always gets once a storm or natural disaster gets underway. The only difference is that she insisted on keeping watch from the living room, where she can keep an eye everything.

Now that we’re in quarantine, Bella is exceedingly happy. Not only has lizard season begun, but her family is home a lot more. More play, more snuggles, more people to go on walks with.

It took me a while to gather my thoughts after the COVID-19 crisis arrived. From re-calibrating at my day job, to my own health issue right before quarantine to becoming a homeschool mom while trying to balance my novel-writing and…..you know. Being a grown up.

It the beginning, there were the haters spreading their angry at a 9.9 magnitude. It was ugly and so was social media.

But then, from across the world, Italy started singing from their balconies. Locked inside their worst crisis, they reached inside and gave forth their best.

As the hoarders cleared shelf after shelf here in America I started watching Bella more closely since I couldn’t go anywhere except when necessary. She has the gift of being exceedingly happy with so very little. Lizards, a nice breeze, her family, walks. Forwards and backwards, her kind is the very definition of love. I don’t believe this is coincidence. Now is the time for all of us to think about these things.

DoG spelled backwards is giving us a rest, my friends. He’s allowing this to happen for reasons I won’t pretend to know, but one thing I know He’s doing is reaching inside those of us sensing the change within the change, and pulling out our best.

He knew this was coming, and will remain present with every one of us throughout this whole storm. Right where he can see all of us.

It’s onward with the book for me, although I have to think about the new world it will be published in. How will things change? Will my characters still shake hands, or touch their faces? Will medical facilities wear masks all the time, forevermore?

Will I ever see my sweet Doctor’s face again?

Like Bella, I’m going to have to foresee the change so my book will be relevant when I release it.

I could say we’ve been given the opportunity to thoroughly, quietly (as much as mom’s lives with kids can be), intuitively consider how we’ll forever go about our lives. But doG spelled backwards hasn’t given us the choice this time.

I’ll promise to release the beautiful if you do.

Things I Learn From My Dog

My dog can sense earthquakes in our neighboring state of California. Tail in-between legs, bark at the ready, she shifts into high alert as if every flap of wing or roar of an engine electrifies her. She’s protective, and determines to catch every single unsettling current until the threat is gone.
She runs laps. Not one or two, but intermittent laps around the yard in between dinner, TV time & bedtime stories. She’ll do this for one day, or several days, working until the earthquake passes. On nights like these, I can hear her dog door flapping throughout the night as she makes her rounds.
Finally, she’ll collapse and rest.
It reminds me of the days when my mind spins like a broken record, catching on all those ideas that jump track.
On into the night, a mish-mash of unfinished files to sort out.


So, the next morning, I don’t nap—I do like Bella does and I run. I go to the gym and hit the treadmill, then I pop on the elliptical. Finally, I take on the weight machines until I’m exhausted.
s-t-r-e-t-c-h
Now I can get to work. I pull the good ideas from my mind and sort them out on paper, or the computer screen. I work until I feel the tide shift. I don’t always see it, but I feel it. That’s the spot where faith thrives, in the unseen realm where I’m beyond my limits.
Then I can rest.
It’s not real rest until you’ve worked with everything you’ve got. Until you’ve unwrapped your God-given gifts and covered your space of the world with them. The outcome is not up to us, it’s up to God. Our job is to just do our thing.

Back Porch Sitting

I’ve got a compression bandage taped to my face, and I’m trusting this old plastic chair to hold me up because the Dr. said to be careful of the stitches in my back—“I only put in two,” she said.
I’ve been ordered to go home and sit still for a day after a slightly complicated morning of skin biopsies. “Watch the stupid TV,” she says with a smile. I love stupid TV. I also love sitting on the patio with my dog, which is what I’m doing now, wondering if this is why dogs are so happy—they relax. A lot.


It’s a bit unsettling for me to be still for a whole day, though, because I’m (as usual) behind on about 10 million projects, which makes it hard to find peace in the sitting, but as I stare at my happy dog and look at her beloved, dirty tennis ball laying a few yards ahead to where she points her nose, I realize that contentedness is in the hopes of what lies ahead, and in the ability to wait for it.

Ode to Dogs

When my dog catches a spook in her step, from a state-away earthquake or
an approaching storm, I wonder at her ability to sense
things I cannot. Dogs are extraordinary in so many ways—our most loyal friends, playmates for our children and guardians of our households.
Our Bella is certainly no saint when she tries to make a meal from a rat-sized
chihuahua. But if she’s sensitive enough to react to the tiniest fluctuation in the atmosphere,dog-moon
and her hackles raise when she detects a malevolent influence lurking inside an innocent looking human,
Perhaps it’s because she and other dogs can detect the realm beyond us where good and
evil fight for our loyalty.
Maybe that’s why God gifted us with dogs…they stand by our sides, watching for the
hidden things we cannot see.

On Walking Dogs and the Neighbors that Avoid You.

Last week, I went to a neighbor’s house for an essential oil party. I really didn’t have time to go, and I know others who sell the product, but I went anyway. I’ve only met a few of our neighbors and a writer doesn’t have much to write about unless they step from behind their keyboard and live.

I was a little hesitant to attend because my dog tends to offend many of the local dog-walkers, even to the point where one lady turns around and goes the opposite direction when she sees us coming. Bella is a great family dog, but isn’t well socialized. Basically, she thinks other dogs are steak. The neighbors might not want to socialize with the owner of a steak-slaying dog.

You also never know about people—a few of locals are so reclusive, some only The-Burbs-tom-hanks-13565958-720-480come outside when getting their mail. In their cars. (Oh my gosh, we’re living in The ‘Burbs!)

Guess who was at the party? Lady who turns her small steak around at the speed of light when she sees us coming.

Surprisingly, we had a good time and I was able to apologize and tell her a bit about our rescue dog who doesn’t have any dog friends. I’ve noticed the words rescue dog tend to soften the hearts of otherwise dog elitists.

We all inhaled peppermint oil and amazingly my sinuses cleared for the first time in years, but that wasn’t the best part. We got to chat, find out the “quiet” neighbors aren’t hiding bodies in their basements (I don’t think, anyway), but they just like living quietly, that’s all.

While walking on opposite sides of the road a few days ago, the dog-walker greeted me kindly, and politely ignored Bella as I pinned her to the sidewalk. She even asked about my kids through the barks and growls. Her small steak is amazingly unfazed by Bella. And we’re friendly, now. Turns out she lives only a few houses down from us, and delighted in filling our kids Trick or Treat buckets this Halloween.

It’s good to be social—especially in person. Social media is great, but you can’t see the humanity in someone, or learn what’s beyond the firewall unless you know them up close—small steaks and all.

Perspective

Despite the whir of deadlines blowing in with fall, my dog still gets her morning walk. She naps until I return from taking the kids to school. Black licorice fur nestled into the couch with her floppy lips squished half-way to her nose, tail thump-thump-thumping a slap-happy rhythm. Walk now! Walk now! Walk now!

I remind her to get a drink of water because she’s a hyper puppy and will occasionally play until the froth of dehydration lines her mouth. It’s all about living in the moment.

She licks a few from her bowl then I strap my phone to my arm and off we go, walking along the weedless lawns of unoriginal-house-ville.

Usually, I take a big breath of fresh air and thank God for the town I live in because the mornings are always lovely, there are still a few patches of undeveloped land—and it amuses me that no matter how much sprucing of lawns20150928_084636 people do, dogs will pick the most beautifully manicured bush to pee on. All of them. It’s no wonder the more elite greenery is discolored.

Don’t get me wrong—I love seeing the neighbors caring for their lawn. I can literally see affection spilling from some of them—arms to watering cans, life to flowers—beautiful touches to otherwise drab rows of brown and brownish and somewhat-brown southwestern homes. And then there are those in industrial strength masks, and gloves that would make a welder proud, attacking their yards as if a single weed might engulf their pristine home.

But dogs don’t care. They just want to enjoy every moment. The moment, not the results.

Peeing on the most attractive bushes.

Dogs are so happy. They don’t care if the bush grew roots in the Finest Garden Center or if it was pilfered from the sticks. I’m convinced they’re put on this earth to remind us all to relax.

*lick*

We like walking along the trail around the community too. There are weeds everywhere, but when the light hits them right, it looks like we’re surrounded in a sea of gold.

That’s what dogs see—gold around every corner. And that’s why Bella’s time comes before I sit down to work—so I remember the results are meaningless if I can’t laugh over the messes it took to get there, and the joy it is to just be.

Seeing through boxador colored glasses

We found our Bella at a local shelter. A delightful Boxador, she lavishes joy every moment she’s awake. Maybe it’s a gift unique to dogs, maybe we just don’t spend enough time practicing it, but lavishing joy is certainly a lost art.

All it takes for her day to turn from great to out-of-this-world-awesome is a lizard, or the morning, people walking in the door, or just being alive. Bella finds reason to celebrate from every angle.

Lizards, awesome! *Lick*20150620_142518
A dirt pile, awesome! *Bounce*
Morning breath. *Slobber kiss*

Frankly, she’s a breath of fresh air after living inside a human’s skin all my life. When I wake up in the morning, bed head and pillow creases across my face aren’t something I brag about, but to Bella? It’s the best thing ever!

Dogs can wake up with half their face smooshed an inch higher, and people think they’re adorable. They have no hidden agenda, political differences, nor do they fume over something that someone said they said that might be offensive that grows to something several people are saying thatmayormaynotbetrue.

Dogs just love us anyway.

Yesterday, my daughter said, “the house looks so different with Bella in it.” And she’s right—it does! Her delightful nature continuously points us to the good things—some of them we didn’t think were so good until she came along.

I believe God sent us dogs as illustrations to help us understand this:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Philippians 4:8
Even if they have bedhead and smell, because being able to wake each day to your families faces is lovely indeed.

 

P.S. It’s been a busy summer…I’m close to finishing my newest YA novel and would love a few more beta readers. Did you enjoy Faith Seekers? Do you like Christian YA fiction with that pushes the boundaries? If you’re interested in becoming a beta reader, contact me at srossbook@gmail.com. Have a great Monday!