H is for Honoring a Hero

HThe definition of a hero is a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements or noble qualities, and I have recently learned about a hero who is all those things…except the person part.

Earlier this week, Lucca, a bomb sniffing Marine canine was honored as a war hero when she received the PDSA Dickin Medal, an honor bestowed on animals who exhibit gallantry and bravery. The Dickin Medal is the animal equivalent of the British Victoria Cross, which is on par with the United States’ Medal of Honor.

During her 400 patrols searching for explosives and IEDs in Afghanistan and Iraq, Lucca was so successful that not one soldier from the U.S. or the UK was injured, except when Lucca herself lost a leg to an explosive device while on patrol in 2012. Her handlers credit her with saving the lives of hundreds of soldiers over her six years of service.

Heroes don’t have to be human; they just have to be brave.

Lucca is now retired and living happily in California with her first handler and trainer. Watch Lucca’s story here…

F is for Feeding My Furry Friend

FMy furry friend, Furry, was six months old when we found him in a shelter and gave him a forever home.

He was terrified to eat that first night, but when he finally gave in to the hunger, he didn’t stop. He chewed and ate everything…Milk Bones were his favorite, but he was never picky. He’d eat anything…rawhide bones, furniture, blankets, school projects, hot dogs left unattended, a dish of jelly beans, a bowl of green beans right off the Thanksgiving table, a bag of protein bars, a cupcake wrapper, a plate of Christmas cookies.

Furry eventually developed a weight problem.

He is a Manchester Terrier whose ideal weight is 20-25 pounds. When he weighed in at 47 pounds, the vet suggested we try low cal dog food. Coincidentally, that’s when he started stealing food off the table. Dieting is “ruff”.

Then Furry got sick with an autoimmune disease. His weight plummeted and ballooned depending on which medication he was taking. But last year, it started to drop again…and drop…and drop.

Today, he is 15 years old and weighs 17 pounds. I can see his ribs, and I lie awake at night worrying about him.

After one particularly long sleepless night, I scheduled an appointment with the vet. I was terrified of two things: 1) She would have me arrested on the spot based on his appearance alone. 2) She would tell me it was time to schedule euthanasia.

She did neither of those things. She just patted him on the back like she couldn’t feel his spine and told him he was handsome. I swear he stood up taller. He definitely wagged his tail.

She took him off to run some tests and brought him back a few minutes later, still going on about how good-looking he was. “Without doing any invasive testing,” she said, “I think he is fine. His teeth could be better, and he has cataracts, but overall, his biggest problem is he’s old.”

Old. My puppy–who loved long walks and who would run to the door so fast at the ring of the doorbell that he would skid across the hardwood floor–was old.

“At this point, Momma,” the vet said, “it’s all about quality of life. Let him do what he wants to do, and let him eat what he wants to eat. I wouldn’t recommend feeding him “people food”, but you could still cook for him if you want. Just keep it bland.”

Cook for Furry? Hmmm…

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“Mmm. Gimme a pumpkin peanut butter cookie.”

We started with scrambled eggs, which he ate in 10 seconds flat and looked for more. Encouraged, I browned some ground beef. He stood at my feet the entire time, watching through his cloudy eyes, then pranced (yes, pranced) to his bowl when his dinner was ready.

While he chowed down, I entered “dog food recipes” into the Pinterest search field and got lost in its magic for the next hour. I learned I could make my own dog food in a slow cooker, and that dogs can eat bananas, blueberries, pumpkin, rice and oatmeal. Turkey, chicken and beef are good. Pork is bad.

Since then, I’ve made Furry beef stew, chicken casserole, muttloaf (aka meatloaf), peanut butter banana oatmeal cookies and pupsicles.

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A comfy pup is a happy pup.

He’s loved every one of my new recipes…at least for a while. He enjoys each one for a few days, then eventually he sniffs it and refuses to eat again. My heart breaks a little bit, and I try a new recipe.

I know he probably doesn’t have much time left with us, but I’m doing everything I can to make sure he enjoys every last bit of it. These days his favorite activity is napping on the Young One’s beanbag wrapped in a blanket Santa brought him for Christmas. I carry him up and down the stairs, so he can be with us when we watch the latest “Walking Dead” episode, and I make sure he gets the sunny spot on the couch during the day.

I cook for Furry not because the vet said I should, but because he is one of my children and because I love him.

Puppy Tough Love Replay

Yesterday, I let the Fluffy One take over my blog with a guest post, and now the Furry One is jealous. He thinks I’m playing favorites, and he’s threatening retaliation.

The last thing I want is for him to start peeing on the new rugs, so I gently reminded him that he was the star of the blog a few years ago when I interviewed him about his reaction to Fluffy joining our family. He is denying any knowledge of the interview. (He’s almost 98 in dog years, so he is allowed a little senility.)

So to make sure the trash cans don’t get dumped while I sleep tonight, I’m pulling the interview out of the archives for everyone’s enjoyment.

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Puppy Tough Love

It is a sunny October afternoon, and sun filters through the picture windows that make up the north facing wall of the great room.

Furry One

I find the Furry One in his usual spot on the plush sofa. He lounges on his side, his head and a paw dangling off the edge. His eyes are closed, but when he senses my approach, they pop open, and he is alert.

We both turn our heads toward the foyer when we hear the approaching sounds of scampering feet and joyful yips, followed by a fruitless chorus of no-no’s.

Furry pushes his slightly overweight body to a sitting position, leans back into the couch and heaves a weary sigh, “Puppies,” he declares with a droop of his shiny black fur covered head.

I have come today to interview Furry about the turmoil that entered his life last month when his family returned home with a tiny white Maltese that he has come to know as The Fluffy One. He shakes his head again, and we begin.

Stiletto Momma: Tell me how it’s been.

Furry One: I haven’t had a decent nap in a month. I used to wake up, go outside, mark my territory, come back in, do a little treat-begging performance, nap for a few hours, then do it all over again. I was up to about eight solid naps a day.

Momma: Wow! That’s some professional-caliber napping. What happened?

Furry: Fluffy is what happened. *sigh*

Just then a fluffy ball with four legs zips into the room, and stops at the floor below Furry’s seat. Between frantic flips of a long flowing tail, I can just make out Fluffy’s big brown eyes and pink tongue.

Fluffy One

Fluffy: Furry! Furry! I’m back from my walk. I’m back from my walk. Did you miss me? Did ya? Did ya? Furry?

Furry: See what I mean?

Momma: Yes. She certainly is…um…energetic.

Furry: She’s crazy!

Fluffy: What’s “crazy” mean, Furry? Furry? Furry?

Fluffy high jumps from the floor to the couch directly to Furry’s left.

Furry: Seriously, how am I supposed to take a nap with this noise going on all day. It doesn’t stop!

He stands and gingerly lowers himself to the floor.

Furry: I’m ten years old. These are my golden years. My job was to protect my boy when he was younger, but now that he’s grown up and moved to that obedience school at West Point, I’m retired. I should be able to sleep when I want to without being interrupted.

Momma: I can understand that. It’s a big change. Let’s talk about how Fluffy came to be here. She’s a shelter dog, isn’t she?

Furry: Yeah, that’s about the only good thing that’s come from this. She was a stray. Someone just dropped her off on the side of the road one day, as if that five pounds of fluff could really fend for herself. Now, THAT makes me mad. Can you imagine how scared she must have been, and all because someone didn’t realize a puppy is a lot of work or some breeder thought she was too small. I’d like to take her previous owners out to the middle of nowhere with no food and no water, and tell them, “You were cute once, but I don’t want you anymore. Good luck getting out of here alive. Bye.”

Momma: You were a shelter dog too, right?

Furry: That’s right.  I was just a pup like Fluffy. That was a scary time–not knowing when I’d get another meal or a warm bed. I survived, but you have to have some street smarts to keep it together in a shelter. It’s no place for a dog like Fluffy. I mean, just look at her….

He points with his nose to the spot beside him where Fluffy is spinning in quick frantic circles.

Fluffy: Furry, look! A big hairy monster is chasing me! But don’t worry. I’m gonna get it! I’m gonna get it! I’m gonna get it this time!

Furry: That’s your tail, Fluffy. Stop it! You’re embarrassing yourself!

Momma: Have you been showing her the ropes since she got here?

Furry: *sigh* I do what I can.  Oh! There she goes again! It’s the Fluffy 500. You might want to move out of the way.

I jump to a vacant recliner as Furry bounds back to the couch, then we watch as the Fluffy One sprints around the room, weaving between the furniture as fast as her little legs will carry her.

Furry: Puppies…

Momma: There has to be something good about Fluffy coming to your family.

Furry: Well, maybe.

He’s quiet while he thinks and watches Fluffy throw a knotted and holey sock in the air.

Furry: I do kinda like that I don’t have to be alone anymore. I don’t like it when my people leave me by myself. It’s a big house, and sometimes when it’s just me here, I think about being left alone before I had this family. At least now I have someone to lay down with when they’re away. I had a brother once, and that’s how it was back then. He was the dog who was with my family when they adopted me. I miss him since he went to the Rainbow Bridge. He used to yell at me too…a lot!

He smiles at the memory.

Momma: Why did he yell at you?

Furry: Oh, lots of reasons. Mostly it was because I was a puppy and wanted to play. I used to take that sock…

He points to Fluffy’s current plaything.

Furry: …and throw it in his face. Ha! Ha! He’d get so mad at me. First, he’d growl. Then he’d throw it right back at me, and we’d each take an end and pull and shake! That was the best time!

Momma: How long has he been gone?

Furry: Five years. That’s a long time in dog years. I remember when…What the…!

Furry has been interrupted by a flying sock flung from Fluffy’s playful antics. It lands a paw’s length away from Furry’s nose. Fluffy stops and stares tentatively at Furry.

Fluffy: Uh-oh…

Furry: Fluffy!

Furry stands.

Furry: That’s not how you do it. You don’t throw it by the end. You have to get in the middle. Then you throw it. Like this.

He lets the old blue sock fly. It meets its mark on Fluffy’s back. She turns several circles before pulling it back to the floor, then tosses it back to Furry just as he taught her. She plops her bottom to the floor and wags her tail, waiting for his reaction.

Furry: You know, you might not be so bad after all, Fluffy…That was pretty good, but I bet I can beat you in tug of war….

Yips and playful growls echo down the hall as today’s lesson in puppy tough love continues.

The Fluffy One Speaks

Around this point in NaBloPoMo (National Blog Post Month) many bloggers hit a wall. The ideas dry up and the words stop flowing. The concept of posting a blog each day for 30 days sounds simple enough, but by day 18, the pressure to string together original musings each day is daunting.

I actually planned for this to happen, and on Oct. 30, I plotted out a very detailed calendar of what I would post each day. I was very impressed with my organization, until the whole thing blew up earlier this week. I had planned to re-post a blog I had written a few years ago (yes, that is acceptable during NaBloPoMo). It was the perfect time to pull it out again, but when I went to do the whole copy/paste thing, I realized I had already done that last year!

I moved the post intended for today to Monday, leaving me with a big hole in my editorial calendar. Since I am out of creative ways to fill the gap, I’m reaching into the Bag ‘O Blogger Tricks and am enlisting a guest blogger to fill the hole and give you a fresh idea. She is a beautiful girl I have known for about three years, and I know you will enjoy her perspective as much as I do.

So, in her blogging debut, I give you…the Fluffy One!

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My name used to be Audrey, and I was a scruffy thing when I met Momma.

I mean my hair was a complete mess, and I was in no condition to accept visitors, especially someone as important as her. My tail was one big tangle, and my ears..! I don’t think they had ever had a proper trim, not like the expensive cuts I get now anyway. My color was all off too. My hair had a yellow tint to it, but it’s supposed to be snow white.

You have no idea how nervous I was when Momma walked into my room at that hotel.  She was so glamorous in those spikey shoes. How could someone like that want to have anything to do with someone so disheveled?

But I think she saw my potential.  She sat with me on a rocking chair and brushed the hair out of my eyes. I took the opportunity to show her how big and brown they were.  I opened them really wide and looked up at an angle like I’d seen some of the other dogs do when they got visitors. 

I didn’t know a whole lot about people back then, not nice ones anyway. So, I was afraid to make any noise. I just sat and listened to her heartbeat while she talked to the lady in charge–the one who took me from that last hotel. 

“Audrey just came to us last week,” she said. “She was wandering by herself in eastern KY. She was probably turned out by a breeder because she is so small. We said we’d take her because we’re a no-kill shelter.”

No-Kill Shelter…I always thought that was an odd name for a hotel.

Anyway, I rocked with Momma, and I listened, and I tried not to think about the scary time on my own in the woods and the time before that when I was with someone who didn’t love me enough to care what happened when four pounds of fluff is left to fend for herself.

“She’s been a little quiet, but we think she’s going to be a diva,” the lady said. “That’s why we named her Audrey, after Audrey Hepburn.”

“Really,” Momma laughed, and turned me around, so she could look into my eyes. “Audrey Hepburn is one of my idols, and if you’re a diva, you’ll fit right in!”

fluffyWe rocked some more, and then Momma gave me back to the lady. I got scared again, but she said she’d be back in a few days. For obvious reasons, I wasn’t very big on promises. But she did come back, and she brought a big guy and a little girl too. 

When they left, they gave me a fancy necklace and said I could go with them! They were going to a place called “home”. I had never been there before, and since I’ve always wanted to travel abroad, I agreed to go.  

Everything’s changed since the scary time. I have my own bed now and a pink leash and a box of toys that squeak! I even have a brother, Furry, who showed me the ropes and taught me how to be a best friend.

Life with FAMILY is pretty special, and I’m happy to be a diva with my Momma.

The Feast

This quite possibly is my favorite part about seeing Big Hero 6 with the Young One this afternoon.

Disney’s 3D short film Feast, the opening act before the main feature, tells the story of little Winston, a homeless pup who is rescued while dumpster diving. He and his new human bond over junk food, and in true puppy love fashion Winston eventually rescues his human right back.

I won’t give away to perfect ending to this little flick, but I I highly recommend splurging on the 3D version of Big Hero 6…even if you only hang around to enjoy the Feast.

 

Do They Notice?

I wonder if they notice when I’m not there.

NoticeAfter I leave the house for the day, do they miss me? Do they walk the rooms looking for me? Do they stare in confusion at my empty chair? Do they wonder why the television is silent and why the dings coming from the iPad on the counter go unanswered? Do they ponder the lack of clicking keystrokes from the computer?

Sometimes as I make the return commute, I wonder if they will notice I am home.

Will they lift their heads at the sound of the garage door opening? Will they come to see who has walked through the door? Will they greet me with enthusiasm or apathy?

I turn the door knob and face the unknown.

Greeting

Now, that’s a happy pup who notices his momma is home!

Suddenly I am attacked from the front! Paws pound against my thighs and a frantic swishing of tails stirs the air around me. I go down on my knees, and my face takes the next onslaught as pink tongues dash out in welcome. The silence breaks with the joyous yips of reunion.

Yes! They missed me! My puppies missed me while I was gone for the day. They noticed my absence, and they are happy to have me home!

**Today’s post is brought to you by Five Minute Friday and the word “Notice”. Check out other musings on the prompt or post one of your own at Kate Motaung’s site.

The Re-Resolution of Stiletto Momma

2014…Day Two. The Christmas decorations are wrapped and boxed again. The bushes lining the house are dark as their formerly twinkly lights are extinguished for another season.

People are returning to their pre-Christmas carol, pre-gift giving lives of work, school and business as usual. “Merry Christmas!” has been replaced with “Happy New Year!” followed shortly thereafter with, “What’s your New Year’s resolution?”

Resolution? Hmmmm…

I am rarely able to come up with a resolution much sooner than 11:59 p.m. on December 31st. I’m too exhausted from all the party planning, menu making and present wrapping to think beyond the current holiday much less think about how I want to change my life starting at the stroke of midnight.

Then I’m faced with the inevitable failure of actually keeping the resolution. The minute I resolve to get back in the gym, I want a nap. If I resolve to eat a healthy diet, I will immediately start craving Reese cups.

I have never experienced the thrill of successfully achieving a resolution…until January 1, 2012 when I wrote and published the inaugural post of a little blog named after my alter ego, Stiletto Momma. In that post I resolved to simply “Do Something New.”

Yes, it is very open ended and non-commital, but at the time I also threw out a few possibilities like learning photography and Photoshop. I did buy a good camera that year…in September. I haven’t learned to use it beyond what I read in the first half of the instruction manual, and about the only thing I can do in Photoshop is look at my pictures. I suppose that counts, but just barely.

I mentioned one other possibility in that New Year’s post two years ago.  “I’ll start a blog,” I wrote, and because I typed those words and clicked the “Publish” button, I was a successful resolutioner in the very first hours of the new year! Counting this post, I have gone on to write and publish 64 posts as Stiletto Momma–warrior of all things maternal, corporate and pointy-toed!

When 2013 rolled around, I knew exactly what my resolution would be.

Do Something New!

However, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, 2013 was a witch of a year and a wicked one at that.  I couldn’t get around to deciding what “new” was going to be, so I stayed with what was working, and I blogged some more. Pretty soon I was blogging about what was really on my mind–my ongoing battle against Crohn’s Disease.

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My prize pack from TheGreatBowelMovement.org gave me everything I needed to raise IBD awareness in 2013.

In my quest for answers and information, I ran across what has turned into one of my favorite websites, www.thegreatbowelmovement.org, which has been making Crohn’s and Colits (the two forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease) cool since 2010. The founders of this non-profit encourage patients and caregivers to talk about their diseases in an effort to raise awareness. They even sent me a cool prize pack complete with intestine socks and an “Ask Me About My Crohn’s Disease” hoodie.

My 2013 “new” turned out to be writing about something that has been a part of me for almost 25 years. I may have lost some readers who weren’t interested in learning about the woes of a sick person, but embracing a new mission of raising awareness for something I know quite a lot about encouraged and empowered me in a time when I needed to feel strong.

With two successful resolutions under my belt, I’m ready to declare the 2014 version. Any guesses on what it might be?

DO SOMETHING NEW!

That’s right. I’ve decided on a new “new”, and if you’ve been following along for the past few months you could very well have an idea of what it might be.

I am a writer. There, I said it. I am a writer and this year, I intend to write with more dedication and purpose than I have in a long time.

I have a master’s degree in journalism, but outside of internships during college, I have never worked in the field. Maybe I was just waiting around for the blogosphere and digital publishing to be born. Whatever the reason, I graduated from Penn State with a journalism degree and immediately took a job in marketing.

The next one was in fundraising (another form of marketing). When I tried technical writing next, I found my skills were wasted writing about boring things like databases, and moved back to marketing. I had found myself a niche, and that’s where I’ve stayed for over 20 years. I was a marketer with writing skills.

keyboard

The Hubs gave me this cute little keyboard for my iPad–perfect for a blogging resolution.

Now, I want to be a writer who knows how to market herself. You can expect to see more of Stiletto Momma in 2014. I will soon be launching a Facebook page, and I might even start Tweeting. If you’re lucky, you could get a glimpse into this impressive shoe collection I’ve been hinting at. We could even do a contest or two!

I’m starting this blog re-energizing effort with the WordPress Zero to Hero program where my favorite blogging platform will give me a daily task for blog improvement during the month of January. Today’s task is to introduce myself to my readers. If I’ve done my job, you should have been able to pick up a few nuggets of me from the above ramblings, but in addition to being a chronically ill writer who markets (or a marketer who writes) and makes unoriginal New Year’s resolutions, I am:

  • a momma to two amazing children–a six-year-old tomboy and a 20-year-old all-American boy.
  • an adoptive momma to that six-year-old who was born in Russia and became a US citizen five years ago.
  • an Army momma since the 20-year-old is a cadet at the US Military Academy at West Point. (Go Army!)
  • a football momma because that cadet also plays on the offensive line for the Army Black Knights and has been working toward that goal since he was five years old. (GoArmy!)
  • a football wife because the Hubs played football at Penn State once upon a time, coached our son for most of his football career and will accomplish seemingly impossible tasks to avoid ever missing a Penn State Nittany Lion game or a Pittsburgh Steeler game.
  • a doggy momma to the Furry One and the Fluffy One who, like the rest of the family, have clever pseudonyms in this blog because it is my choice to blog about them, not theirs, and they deserve a little bit of anonymity.
  • a fairly decent home cook whose specialty is anything her son requests and anything her picky daughter will eat.
  • a lover of shoes and all things fashion.

I am Stiletto Momma, and I resolve to make 2014 blogtastic for everyone!

What’s your resolution…or un-resolution…or re-resolution?

Top 10 Momma-Can’t-Stop-Smiling Moments of 2012

Sometimes I don’t even realize it’s there until I notice my cheeks are sore. It starts with a glimpse of something–a person, a picture, words on a page, a text message.

It starts with an upturning of lips, then a thump of the heart as the grin widens to a full-on smile–the kind that puts a twinkle in the eye and makes the heart feel larger in the chest.

That’s a Momma-can’t-stop-smiling moment, and as I reflect on the year that is nearing its end, I’d like to share those moments that have made my top ten.

1. The Older One Realizes His Dream. Watching your child’s dream come true is a humbling experience. Years ago, I treated the Older One to dinner at the local Chinese restaurant. I watched his face light up when he cracked his fortune cookie open at the end of the meal. I wanted to know what could cause such joy in a 14-year-old, so I asked what his fortune was. “‘Your greatest dream will come true,'” he read.

“What’s your greatest dream?” I asked.

“To play Division I football.”

I wasn’t surprised. Since he won his first city championship at age six, football had been his passion, and in October, his dream came true when he took to the field and played his first downs for the Army Black Knights.

I cheered from the stands and smiled through the whole five minutes of game-play. My cheeks still hurt 30 minutes later.

football

Check out #55…His dream is coming true.

2. The Young One Finds Her Sport. After the Hubs and I started the paperwork to adopt a girl from Russia, I began planning her after-school activities. She wasn’t even born yet, but I knew she would be an athlete–at least that’s what I hoped for her.

Playing a sport is a source of self-confidence, and above all else, I want my daughter to believe in herself, to feel strong and capable, and to be confident. She found all those things this year on the soccer field.

She out-ran the boys with an effortless stride. She stole the ball from the opposing team with a relentless desire to win, and she beamed like an angle with each goal.

I captured sheer joy on my camera, and I now know we have many more soccer games in our future.

Happy

That’s a confident, happy little girl!

3. Twenty Years and Counting. In September, the Hubs and I celebrated twenty years of marriage. I’ve been able to spend half my life with my best friend by my side. We’ve watched our son grow into a remarkable young man, and we’ve survived the painful reality of infertility when we found our daughter on the other side of the world. We’ve grown, and we’ve changed. But we have done it together. I can’t help but smile about that.

4. Fifty Years and Counting. In 1962, a blizzard roared through western Pennsylvania on the eve of my parents’ wedding. Although my grandmother had to put chains on her tires before she could take my mom to the church, and my dad had to shovel more than a foot of snow from the church’s sidewalk, they still said “I do”.

50th anniversary

I do…again.

Two weeks ago, they said those words for the second time as they renewed their vows on their fiftieth wedding anniversary. I smiled through my tears as my dad recited a poem about growing old together, and I understood that my 20 years of togetherness is nothing compared to the love these two amazing people share.

5. Adopting a Fluffy One. When I first saw the Fluffy One at the shelter, I knew she was meant to be a part of our family. After quizzing me on the type of canine we were looking for, the shelter attendant took me into the room reserved for small dogs and puppies. “I have the perfect dog for you,” she declared. “She just came in last week. I’ll warn you though…she’s a diva.”

I wanted to tell her another diva would fit right in at my house, but I refrained.

“We named her Audrey after Audrey Hepburn.” Seriously? You named her after one of my fashion icons!

“Oh, no,” she said as she opened the crate door. “Her papers need changed. Here,” she said, thrusting the ball of fluff into my hands, “Hold her while I clean this up.”

That’s all it took. I filled out the application before I left, then called the Hubs from the car to tell him I’d found our doggie.

Fluffy One

She’s not Audrey anymore, but she’s still a diva!

6. Furry Plays Again. The dog toy box had remained untouched for almost two years before we brought the Fluffy One home. The Furry One had stopped playing when he was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.

All that changed when Fluffy joined the family. Little by little we saw Furry change. He went from setting his boundaries with a gruff growl to watching with cautionary interest as Fluffy threw what used to be his toys in the air.

Almost three months later, he finally gave in. He pulled himself from the sofa and rolled on the floor with his new sister. His growls are playful. His tail is wagging, and Momma is happy to have two puppies in the house again.

Furry One

The Furry One doesn’t hang out in his bed quite as much any more!

7. Stiletto Momma Wears Out a Pair of Gym Shoes. Normally, the pumps give out before the trainers, but this year, I decided to not let my daily Crohn’s Disease symptoms keep me down. I got back in the gym. Three cardio sessions and at least two weightlifting classes each week since mid-January, and I have bi’s, tri’s and traps again!

8. Baking for Soldiers. I have sent 13 packages to Afghanistan and Iraq. Thirteen soldiers who are strangers to me have tasted my snickerdoodles. They have shared my care packages with their battle buddies and read my words of appreciation when I thanked them for their service. West Point Moms Bake is the organization that provides me the names of the men and women protecting our freedom, and participating in this effort has been the most fulfilling experience of my life.

Boxes

Two of my 13 care packages that have hopefully made a few soldiers smile.

9. Capturing Life Through a Lens. For our anniversary this year (the big two-oh mentioned above), the Hubs and I scrapped our plans for a weekend getaway, and opted instead to splurge on a digital SLR camera. Many of my can’t-stop-smiling moments have come from reviewing the hundreds of pictures I’ve snapped since September.

10. A Blogger is Born. I’ve been a writer since the sixth grade when I started to pen my first novel. I didn’t get much further than the first chapter, but it was the first of many attempts to record my imaginings. I’ve written short stories, essays, and a few poems. I’ve held internships that afforded me my first official byline and a portfolio of published pieces.

Life, however, sometimes gets in the way of dreams, and I put my journalism degree in a drawer when marketing jobs were easier to come by. This year, however, I returned to my own passion when Stiletto Momma was born.

I have recaptured the joy of writing…that amazing feeling of losing myself for a few hours and the immense feeling of accomplishment that comes from seeing my words in print.

I smile with each click of the “Publish” button, and I smile with each “like”, each follow notification and each comment from a reader.

Thank you, dear reader, for encouraging me on this journey and for making me smile on a regular basis.

This is what has made me smile in 2012, and I’m looking forward to sharing many more with you in 2013. What’s your favorite can’t-stop-smiling moment of the year?

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Stiletto Momma

* This post was written for the WordPress Daily Post Weekly Challenge which tasked bloggers with writing a post to wrap up the year.

Five Minute Friday: Looking for a Safe Crossing

I am a card-carrying member of the Doggie Lover’s Society. Alright, I mean if such an organization existed, I’d be a member and carry their card.

But I do love dogs, and I’m sad when I see them in distress. So, this morning when I glanced to my left to move into the passing lane on I71 North, I cut off my husband mid-sentence. “Look!” I cried. “Did you see that?”

“What?” His mind was on tomorrow’s Army/Eastern Michigan game and visiting with our son tonight before puts on his game face.

So He didn’t see the dog standing in the median of the Interstate. In my quick glance, I saw what looked like a beagle. He was white and spotted with walnut brown patches. He was no more than three feet from certain death…looking for a safe crossing among the cars whizzing past at speeds over 70 miles an hour.

Why was he there?

Who was he looking for?

Did he manage to get safely to the other side?

I’ll never know, but I’ll be looking for him on my trip home.

***This post was written for the flash mob that is Five Minute Friday. Our prompt to day is “Look”.

Five Minute Friday: A Welcomed Welcoming Committee

Each morning is something to be celebrated. No matter what time the sun rises or the alarm blares, mornings are a welcomed and happy occurrence…especially when you are greeted like I am with a welcoming committee of hugs, smiles and furry devotion.

This morning’s welcoming committee was a lineup of the usual team…

First up–the Hubs. Because my hair is longer and significantly higher maintenance than the Hubs’ close cut fade, I am the first to rise, but his is the first welcome I receive in the morning. He is always ready with the hug and peck on the cheek that starts my day on the right note.

Who wouldn’t want to welcome the day with these two?

As I make my way to the coffee maker, the Furry One (the 10-year-old terrier) drags himself from his spot on the floor to follow me to the kitchen. As the first cup brews, we both head to the treat cabinet, and he proves to me that even in his old age, he can still catch a Canine Carryout on the fly. His happy tail wag is a welcomed site because we almost lost him to autoimmune disease two years ago, and I so happy and grateful that he is still with us.

The Furry One

Happy you’re still here, Furry One!

Next comes the Young One, all sparkly in her glitter shoes and matching headband. A twirling inspection proves to us both that we were spot-on in our pre-K outfit selection the night before–a very welcomed relief because nothing starts the day off poorly than your leggings not going quite right with your bedazzled denim skirt!

There’s nothing quite like glitter on your shirt to get you going in the morning!

The Fluffy One (our newly adopted Maltese puppy) races between our feet for a welcome of her own. “Welcome back from night-night,” she declares as only a puppy can with barks, frantic tail wagging and high-flying jumps. Her enthusiasm for a reunion, no matter how long the separation, brings bright smiles and giggles all around.

The Fluffy One

Five pounds of fluffy fun!

Finally, I make my way to windows, eager to open the blinds and welcome the new day, hoping to catch a glimpse of deer or bunnies starting their day too.

What I find this morning, however, is definitely and unwelcome member of the welcoming committee.

Creepy Crawly One

Eeeeek!!!!!

Thanks for the effort, Creepy Crawly One. I’m sure you worked hard all night on the intricate web you strung for me. I appreciate the industriousness. Really. But I prefer to limit my welcoming committee to those who have no more than four legs. Nothing personal, but please take your hairy body and your extra appendages, and remove yourself from my view.

I refuse to let this shocking member of the morning welcoming committee wipe out the stellar job done by the previous four, so…

Welcome, Friday! I’ve missed you, let’s make this a great day!

Stiletto Momma

*Today’s Five Minute Friday is all about “Welcome”. Check it out, and take five minutes of your own to flex your writing muscles!