I am someone who never stops but when I watch Shelly, I do slow down to enjoy him with his little body shuffling as he moves slowly but deliberately through the grass. It is relaxing and I am sure that it is good for my blood pressure which tends to elevate to higher readings. Perhaps watching this gentle little creature of the animal kingdom slowly leading his simple, uncluttered life is a form of meditation for me....and a reminder to slow down myself.
Last night my little Tinker passed over the "Rainbow Bridge" in my arms. I have had a flood or emotions and memories since then and it is hard for me to post this blog as his personality is still very fresh in my mind. Small dogs usually live longer than bigger dogs and, even with Tinker's rough beginning, he probably lived 14 - 15 years. He was with me for 13 of those years ...so he was really a senior citizen in dog years.
When I adopted him at the shelter, he had been found after a car accident and he only had one eye as the other had to be removed. He since lost the eyesight almost completely in his remaining eye due to a cataract. The shelter asked me if I would consider adopting a dog with just one, at that time, good eye. I picked him up and when he crossed his paws around my arm I was hooked. I said yes ... and we have been together since then. We have been through a lot and have seen two other little buddies pass on; but through it all, he has still been my baby. We have moved and we have traveled. We have watched grandchildren grow up all around him. They have pulled him and hugged him and taken him for walks and he has seemed to love it all. I even had Tinker blog on this site about all pets, but particularly dogs, and the importance of taking care of them.
What do I say about Tinker? He was a goofy little dog who made me laugh, sitting in my flower pots and climbing on his doghouse. He was far from perfect but he was sweet, totally non-agressive and very playful (particularly when he was younger). And he was devoted. He was just happy to be included.
In my children's book My New Puppy there is a section about our bond with pets. It is incredibly strong. An animal's devotion and companionship is good for your emotional and physical health and there is documented proof that a pet's love can relieve stress, lower blood pressure and help the body heal. We, in turn; owe them the best to take care of them and give them our love in return.
Tinker leaves behind a companion named Nunzi and, although he will never replace Tinker, he is wonderful too. I will consciously try to spend more time with him now. He knows that Tinker is gone (he is a little quiet and subdued and he doesn't want to go to places where he and Tinker used to stay), even though he doesn't know what happened to his buddy.
There are several prose works about The Rainbow Bridge, where our pets wait for us after death. We will meet at the Rainbow Bridge to pass over into Paradise. As my daughter said when I told her that I was sad about Tinker's passing "He's a happy, young dog again and is your Guardian Angel Dog now." I will keep that thought in mind and love his memory and enjoy the remaining little man that I still have.
Below: Tinker at home, Tinker hiking in Sedona, AZ; Tinker climbing in the flower pot; Tinker walking with my granddaughter
Recently, I enjoyed reading two of my books and making projects from some of the activities in the backs of the books with a classroom of first grade children. We made hummingbird feeders out of recycled coffee cups, always a hit with the kids, one day and then cooked Colombian pancakes (arepas) on another day (I have already posted about both of these activities in other blogs so I won't do it here).
What I want to comment on in this blog is the sweet thoughtfulness of the children that I read to and worked with as they each wrote a thank you letter and sent them to me in a little scrapbook. I loved the way the children expressed their thoughts and have chosen three of the letters as darling examples. The children were very polite and seemed very interested as they made comments and asked questions during the stories and then enthusiastically got into the projects. One little boy told me that he ate ten arepas pancakes - I think that he enjoyed them!
I really appreciated the children for taking time in their class to write these thank you notes and I thank their teacher for encouraging them to do it. Their expressions of thank you really meant a lot to me.
It seems that today we are losing a little bit of our civility and kindness toward one another. Saying "Please" and "thank you" was something that my parents told me was very important and saying it with a smile made it even more meaningful. It seems to be lost today in many parts of our society.
I have traveled the world and nothing means more in any culture than a welcome smile and an attempt to say "please" and "thank you" in the home country language. We must teach our children the importance of "please" and "thank you". It shows respect and makes both the giver and the receiver feel good. It leads to other gestures of kindness and it is so important and much needed in our world today.
Sometimes you just need a little Pineapple Sunshine to start your day. Instead of Mickey Mouse Pancakes, which my grandchildren love and love to make, I have also introduced them to little "Miss Pineapple Sunshine", a fruity and healthy alternative to syrupy pancakes. She is fun and simple to make and starts the morning out on a cheerful note...and she's good for them when the children consume her.
I use all organic fruit because strawberries particularly are one of the most contaminated fruits if not grown organically. I can see how that would be with the pitted skin to catch every contaminant and pesticide that is sprayed on them. But organic is easy to find here in Southern California.
To make little Miss Pineapple Sunshine start with fresh, not canned or frozen, pineapple and cut it in rounds of about 3/4 inch thick (less or more if you prefer). Cut enough of the strawberries in half to make the rays for the pineapple sun. Then you can add a blueberry or another small berry for the nose and kiwi fruit for the smiling eyes. A final little slice of strawberry gives her a happy mouth.
I cut the fruit and then I let the children decorate. Little "Miss Pineapple Sunshine" makes a pretty, fun and healthy beginning to any day.
The hummingbird is a symbol of peace and love, a symbol of accomplishing that which seems impossible through tireless energy and quick action. Birds are also the bellwether of climate health. They are a symbol for mankind..."working hard to hopefully repair some of our past misdeeds and save our world".
It seems that everywhere one looks today the news is not good...but that is not true! There are some wonderful things happening all over and this week I want to concentrate on some of those things. I am an optimist and I believe that we should, can and will take care of our home, this earth. Here are some of the good things going on around our world. I don't have enough room to go into great depth here but any subject can be further researched on the Internet.
1. Do you know what a Mangrove swamp is? A mangrove is a shrub or small tree that lives and flourishes in coastal brackish water . The term is also used for tropical coastal swamps. A Mangrove teems with life and is extremely important to the earth's ecosystem. A new worldwide partnership is protecting and restoring mangroves around the world. Worldwide cooperative efforts are ongoing in areas as diverse as Malaysia, Pakistan, Mexico, Colombia, Indonesia and Madagascar among others.
2. The Ozone is repairing itself. After scientists identified the atmosphere obliterating effect of aerosols containing chlororfourocarbons (CFCs) we banned them in 1987, we have made a big impact: the hole over the Antarctic shrank 1.7 million square miles from 2000 to 2015.
3. The country of Chile set aside 11 million acres of land for national parks in Patagonia. It was the largest-ever land donation from a private entity to a country.
4. A provence in Pakistan announced it has planted one billion trees in two years, in an effort to control terrible flooding.
5. Trees, of course give off the oxygen that humans need and countries are stepping up to a healthier ecosystem. The Cameroon committed to restoring over 12 million hectares of forest in the Congo Basin and Brazil started a project to plant 73 million trees, the largest tropical reforestation project in history. The U.S. has seen overall growth in forests to the point that today we have 820 million trees in our natural world.
I have a teddy bear collection. I have given my teddies away several times to young children or charities ... but the collection keeps rebuilding so I researched....am I the only adult woman who has a "warm fuzzie" collection? It turns out that I am not the only one by any means. Both men and women keep their plush animals (particularly teddy bears) well into adulthood. Why is this?
Psychologists call warm fuzzies "transitional objects" for children and they can be a little teddy bear or stuffed animal, a "blankie" or a pillow. Whatever it is, it gives the child a security object. I remember, when my grandson visited me and he left his "blankie". He missed it so much that I had to send it home to him the next day; he couldn't sleep without it. I also remember when I was a child and my brother left his teddy bear at camp. My father had to turn around and go back and get my brother's "best friend" before we returned home.
What do these warm fuzzies provide for children? Psychologists say that children need the companionship of a non threatening, special friend to help them deal with their fears and anxieties and they may use them to calm themselves down in stressful situations (like leaving Mommy to go to preschool). It is not unusual to find a preschool child reading to his or her special fuzzy companion or talking to one on a toy telephone. They are real and they are comforting. The warm fuzzy encourages emotional well-being and may, or may not, be abandoned at a later age. The attachments that we develop early, particularly to our stuffed animals, often last for many years.
I collect my teddies in many ways; some are from my travels, some have been given to me and some I just thought were cute and I bought them. I have a pair of little baby sloths that I bought in Costa Rica and a pair of dressed up teddies that I bought in Switzerland. One of my favorites is my koala bear that is, in reality, a golf club cover for my clubs. However it seems to have wound up on my bed and I use it as a hand puppet for playing with children.
Do men collect warm fuzzies too? Well, yes they do and some keep them on their desks or travel with them. We have an Eeyore who sits on a Harley Davidson motorcycle in our bedroom that belongs to my partner and a teddy bear that his daughter gave him from her alma mater. Although he and I are adults and have been professionals for many years, we still seem to hold on to these sweet objects. I don't disclaim my collection. My teddies are soft and friendly faces in a sometimes challenging world and I enjoy them. It seems that fuzzies are our security objects all through life.
Children love to cook! Nothing is more fun than getting in the kitchen with Momma (or Daddy - Daddies like to cook too) to make something neat to eat. In my book "Cooking Fun" Lae Lae learns to cook in a fun but safe way with her momma. She also learns the importance of organization and cleanliness as she prepares her special treat and cleans up afterwards (so important!).
Experiencing the food specialties of other countries is a way to understand and appreciate the people and culture of the country. Amalia, one of Lae Lae's friends in the book, is from Colombia. In the activity section of "Cooking Fun", where I include simple little recipes that children can make, I have recipes from Colombia among the recipes from the United States. The Colombian Arepa is one of the oldest and most well known foods of Colombia (and Venezuela as well). It is a simple little cheese and corn "pancake" and it can be eaten many different ways. They are eaten almost daily in Colombia. Many times when I read my books with children we will do one of the activities included in the book that we are reading. As we were reading "Cooking Fun"
and Amalia was from Colombia, we decided to make arepas.
We divided the class of 25 boys and girls (first graders) into smaller groups and we had them "clean up" to cook. After they had washed their hands, we then let them measure all the ingredients (1 cup corn meal, 1 cup water and 1/2 cup grated Monterrey Jack cheese) for the arepas into a big bowl. They stirred it well as the corn meal tends to settle to the bottom and the cheese tends to clump. We had to remember to do this several times during the pouring.
The two adults poured the batter onto the griddle and made the little "pancakes". Then the children got to do their part again, selecting the toppings from the toppings bar....organic strawberry spread (with no aded sugar), organic honey, powdered sugar or parmesan cheese for the finishing touch to their arepas snack. It was so much fun and the children made a very easy little treat of areas finished out with their own tasty variations.
A pair of wrens made a nest in my daughter's tree and began the cycle of motherhood (and fatherhood - daddy wrens take a very active role) in the bird kingdom. I was curious about the patterns of this little bird with its cheery twirping and so I looked it up. The male wren builds the nest where the female will sit on her eggs until they hatch. He may make several nests and she will choose which one suits her best. After all she is going to have a long time sitting there - the nest should be one that she likes! After she has chosen one she will finish it out and make a small depression to line with grass and pine needles for the egg laying. After she's happy with her home she will lay one egg each day until she has laid about 5 to 7 eggs. Then she will patiently sit on them for 12 - 15 days until they hatch. Her mate will bring her food and she will sometimes leave herself for short flights to get food. After the eggs hatch, both the momma and the dad will feed the babies. They are very devoted parents. The diet of the wren is almost totally insects so they can be very good for your spring garden.
Wrens are not bothered by passing humans but they can get very bossy if you get too close and many a pet has experienced an angry dive bomb from a wren. While good for the garden they can drive other birds away and can be very territorial and aggressive for their size.
After the eggs hatch, the babies stay in the nest for another 16-17 days until they are ready to try their wings. After these babies have left, the parent wrens may have a second nesting later in the summer as their breeding season runs from March to July. When fall comes these tiny birds will head south to spend the winter.
Every spring I love the songs of birds, the sights of the nesting mommas and, if I'm lucky, the experience of seeing the fledgling baby birds as they leave the nest. Most of the time, they seem to do it when I'm not around; just one day they are gone. It is cheery and it reassures me that the life of the natural species will go on year after year and our world will be blessed by it.