Good Girl, Sophie

Our hearts are heavy tonight as the Grand Dame of our house, Sophie, is in the doggy hospital seriously ill with liver cancer. She has been a part of our life for 13 years. Our protector, confidant and friend.

I remember the cold, snowy February night we traveled to Comstock in response to an ad in the paper for $25.00 puppies. Her mom, a full blood German Shepard, paced the living room as we went to look at her puppies. If I remember right there were around 6 furry guys. Some black, some brown, all vying for our attention. One in particular caught my attention, because she had the most beautiful fur and seemed a little shy. To this day she has the most beautiful coat and softest fur. People want to pet her all the time. Anyway, Sam let me pick the one I wanted and I chose Sophie. Climbing in our blue Chevy pickup truck, the three of us headed back home to begin our life together.

Sophie and I had a love-hate relationship. I loved her and you know how she felt about me. She immediately bonded with Sam. She was his puppy. They would go for rides in the pickup and she would bounce from the front seat through the open sliding window into the bed of the truck. What an agile dog she was and she loved it.

Most feared her, as she was fear-aggressive, and very protective of the house. She scared the crap out of anyone who came to the door. My beloved guard dog, as I told her yesterday when we went to visit her. I was never afraid to be alone in the house or anywhere, if she was nearby. But she loved kids, knowing instinctively they were not a threat. Our Grandson Max would chase her around and around the pool table downstairs and they had such fun.

She eventually tolerated me, as we spent a lot of time together the last 3 years, when Sam was traveling so much. She would go into a depression when she saw Sam leave with his travel bag and do the dance of joy when he returned. If Sam went to bed before I did she would position herself between us, to keep an eye on both of us. She guarded the house, the car and her people.

Last night as we sat in the family room, one member of our family was missing. The house is emptier and quieter without Sophie around. Waylon misses his playmate, Sam misses his best friend, and I miss my protector. Regardless of the outcome which will be very sad, we must celebrate her life and the joy she brought to us. We are truly a family having spent the last five years in a strange state with only each other to count on. If only there were a way to slow down the aging process, but the girl’s body is nearly 100 years old and I am sure she is tired.

I know all dogs go to heaven, she has a loving spirit, and she will have playmates there. Hopefully one day we will all be together again on the other side.

It may not sound like it, but we are still hopeful that the Geriatric Vestibular Disease will run it’s course, she will get her equilibrium back so she can walk, and come home to us for however long she has.

Thank you Sophie, for a job well done.

In Search Of A Church

This past Sunday we visited our second Catholic Church, St. Theresa Church in Palatine, IL. It is only 5 miles from us and Palatine seems to be a nice city. It has a population of approximately 65,000. We are getting used to looking like tourists while trying to find the front door of the church. Needless to say, our comfort zone is long gone, our cheese has been moved.

We found our way in, it felt friendly and welcoming. Lots of light in the entry, skylights in the sanctuary, padded pews, the whole nine yards. A floor to ceiling kelly green velvet curtain served as the back drop to the large Crucifix behind the marble altar. There were missalettes in the pews which were used for the liturgy and hymnals. There was time for peacful prayer.

I searched out the choir and was happy to find a group wearing robes and sounding very nice. It appeared to be about the size of the choir at St. Ambrose Church in Parchment, MI. The songs were familiar, the liturgy was familiar, it felt right. Even though it felt intimate, it is still a Parish of 4,000 families. I thought St. Joseph’s in Vancouver was huge, it had 2,200 families.

There are so many Catholic Churches to choose from in the area (as my Brother Phil likes to say, “You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting one”) we are thinking of trying one more in Barrington. We both felt good about St. Theresa’s, but need to know what else is out there.

The Mass Is Ended Go In Peace, And Roll Credits

Okay, so today is the day we decided to attend Mass at Holy Family Catholic Community. We awoke bright and early, for a Sunday, and left at 8:45. It is about a 3 minute drive, but the car moved slowly, as it cut through the frigid air. “We probably could have walked”, Sam said while he brushed dog hair off his dress coat, “but I think we should wait until it warms up a little”. I agreed with him, big time.

I noticed as we got out of the car that everyone was greeting one another. People seemed very friendly, all smiling and saying hello. This being the last Sunday of the Christmas season, the sanctuary was decorated and it was beautiful. There was an immersion Baptismal pool in the center aisle in front of the altar. It was surrounded by velvet ropes to avert disaster.

Sam wanted to sit near the back so we chose our pew and had a seat. There were two LARGE video screens on either side of the altar where upcoming events were being displayed. I was interested in the music liturgy, so I wanted to scope out the choir. For a parish of this size, it did not seem too big… and no one was wearing a choir robe. Hmmm, perhaps this is the contemporary service. You know, the not so traditional mass. Wrong. It seems that this particular Catholic Church is truly “New Age” of which I did not think there was any such thing.

Before the readings, Father asked if there were any new people in the congregation. We looked around, dreading what was coming next, and sure enough, he asked the newbies to stand. I shot a glance at Sam and he said go ahead, so I did, and guess what? You got it, only me. I nervously smiled at everyone and gave a half-wave and quickly sat down. There may have been applause, don’t know, don’t care. So much for no one looking at me…Father welcomed me and hoped I felt at home there. That’s right, Sam did not stand. Oh well, what the hell……

As Mass continued, we felt as if we were at some sort of performance. There was applause for the homily (first time experience for us), but I must admit it was worthy of it. There was a lady doing sign language for the whole service, including the songs. ( Her arms must be killing her.)

The music was very joyful, but very contemporary. I thought perhaps we were in a Christian Contemporary music infomercial. I waited for Michael W. Smith to make an appearance. Now don’t get me wrong, I love a lot of those songs, but not at Mass. You know how I always save a place for Dad at Mass? Well let me just say, I don’t think he will come to my mind here.

On our way out, we stopped at the “welcome desk” to ask if all the masses were this contemporary and they responded that yes they pretty much were. So we are off to find a place where we will be a little more comfortable to worship. There is definitely a need for this type of liturgy in the church, as it is losing membership to mega-churches such as Willow Creek Community Church just around the corner in South Barrington. I am glad we all have choices.

Sing praise to the Lord for He is good.

It Takes A Little Time

This is the third Sunday in a row that I have not attended Mass. In my warped little mind, I rationalize it with “I’m easing into my new environment.” When in reality, I am scared. Why should I be scared? It is the Catholic Church for heavens sake. I have been a member ever since I was six weeks old. The service is virtually the same everywhere you attend.

Change is not easy for me, even though I do it all the time. I am a very self conscious person, feeling awkward and conspicuous , whenever I go somewhere new. My husband puts it another way, that I am very conceited thinking that everything is always about me. I beg to differ with him. It is actually a feeling of inferiority.

When I enter a new world I feel that I don’t belong, that everyone knows I don’t belong and they are somehow passing judgment on me. Weird, huh!? Obviously, I need to work on this problem. No amount of anti-depressant has helped so far. Looking at it here on this page helps a little. When I talk about it I realize how perfectly absurd it is, but there is something within me that keeps me from getting out. But I digress.

I have turned the salvation of my soul into a social occasion, putting the focus on myself rather than our Lord. Like my Dad, I do love a party. But in order to be comfortable, and enjoy the party, I need to feel accepted. It took me three and a half years to ease into high school for crying out loud. I finally felt accepted and started having fun my senior year. All I need to do is take the first step to get the ball rolling, but the older I get, the harder it becomes.

Here in northwest Chicago land there are so many people and so many churches. Call it fate, but right around the corner from our townhouse is a HUGE Catholic church. Holy Family Catholic Community. Sounds nice doesn’t it? A community, not a church. Interesting. They have two Masses on Saturday night, six Masses on Sunday (two Polish Masses). It is nearly impossible to come up with a viable reason for missing church. ( And it’s in my back yard for Pete’s sake.) So I have decided, no more excuses, we will be attending Mass on Sunday( or Saturday night) checking out the choir situation because I still love to sing and it is a good way to make friends.

If you are reading this Mom, I am not in danger of falling away from the church or becoming an Easter Bunny or Santa Claus (those who only attend on Christmas and Easter). I love my faith and hope God understands all my eccentricities and foibles. He knows what is in my heart and I will renew my commitment to serve the Lord in any way I am able.

2010 – A Year Of New Beginnings

Our move to the Chicago land area comes at a very appropriate time. Out with the old and in with the new, as some people like to say about the New Year.

During the waning days of 2009, we shed ourselves of burdens old and embarked on yet a new adventure with a little lighter debt load. It had been a hard three years, culminating with the sale of our home in Vancouver, WA and starting over in a new city in a home we are renting. It is like going back in time, circa 1970’s except we have a lot more stuff than back then. Two weeks after moving in, there are still boxes in almost every room that have not been unpacked. My heart sank when, while trying to get the desk in the upstairs office, Sam whipped out the circular saw and cut off 2 inches of the desk feet so it would fit through the door. The movers were stunned and I lost my last piece of nice furniture.

There is no more just letting the dogs out the door when they need to go out, they must wait until we put our coats on, put their leashes on and grab the poop bag. I have to live with the landlord’s choices for curtains and blinds, the small shower stall where if I want water on my back, I am kissing the tile on the wall. (Imagine how Sam feels.) It’s a lot like a phone booth.
But really we are quite fortunate to have found a spacious place that will take the dogs and is not a horrible commute for Sam. All this in the name of becoming debt-free.

We are fortunate in many ways, as Sam is employed, we are both relatively healthy, and we are much closer to family and friends. Things are more familiar here, but more expensive. There is a 10% sales tax, car licenses are double what they were in Washington State, you must pay to travel the roadways, and here, unlike Washington, there is a State Income tax.

The very fact that we can drive to Kalamazoo in three hours, makes it all worth it to me. Being able to watch my grand kids as they develop into young adults is priceless.

Starting over at this stage in our life is not what I had envisioned, but with it comes the opportunity to right some of our financial wrongs, spend more time with friends and family, and reduce the amount of yard work and snow removal, as it is done for us.

Happy New Year everyone. Here’s to a year that brings jobs, and some new found prosperity to us all.