Blending Two Separate Families – there’s an App for That!

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There's no Business like Show Business

Wedding rehearsal begins with “There’s no Business like Show Business” my kid’s favorite song from childhood.

Just kidding! There isn’t an app.; but my son, a science teacher, used a chemical experiment to show the children that it is possible.

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Blending Family “practice run”

Chris was lucky enough to have his older sister Pam, a “Celebrant” officiate at his wedding. The input from the couple and the expertise of Pam made for a lovely ceremony. I have photos of the rehearsal on Friday, and the official wedding on Saturday, June 25.

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Pam Torres Officiater

The weather cooperated and we had clear skies both days. The backyard was in full bloom and the sunshine bathed us in glorious light. After the rehearsal, we binged on ham, macaroni and cheese, bread and green beans. Later we had croissant sandwiches and yummy desserts.

To avoid the heat, the wedding took place at 10 a.m. the next morning. Attendees each took a rose and placed it in a circle around the couple, symbolizing the love of family that surrounded them. Music was also performed by the groom’s younger sister, Holly; a duet with her daughter Amelia. Holly’s husband Mark played the trumpet after the couple were pronounced man and wife.

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Encircled in love and roses.

Friends and relatives congratulated the two families and then went inside for coffee, wedding cake, and conversation. Funny stories and experiences were shared and remembered. The photos speak for themselves.

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Holly & Amelia sing duet; Griffin wearing hat, and Pam on the right.

Hope and faith made the experience joyful. The future is unknown to all of us. We usually walk confidently into our lives knowing that much of what happens is in the hands of fate. For believers, trusting in God to walk with us gives us an additional edge over those who are skeptics.

Below, Tamara’s mom discovers she has cake on her shoe from cutting the wedding cake.

I hope time and shared experience will blossom in the lives of my son and his new family.

I now pronounce you man & wife

I now pronounce you man & wife

The State of the Nation is only as Good as the Hearts of its People

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“Cafe’ Costa Rica” acrylic on 20 x 20 canvas (SOLD), prints available (close-up of coffee beans)

When I was raising my family, multi-tasking was encouraged for everyone who wanted to succeed. Instead of lighting the home fires, women were encouraged to engage in career acceleration, pushing many out of the home and into the marketplace. That’s when the songs “I am Woman” and “Nine to Five” were the beat we marched to in our efforts to accomplish more in less time and to be more productive.

I once bragged to a friend that I could bathe my two youngest while cleaning my bathroom fixtures and scrubbing the floor all at the same time. I made my own cake mixes, yogurt, granola and bread to save money, and I could whip up a meal and have it on the table within 30 minutes without the benefit of microwaves or crockpots.

"Queen of Diamonds" 20 x 20 acrylic mixed media on canvas

“Queen of Diamonds” 20 x 20 acrylic mixed media on canvas

A generation later, the results were a nation of hyperactive insomniacs who didn’t know how to “chill.” Multi-tasking became the cause celebre´ for depression and nervous breakdowns; the culprit for lack of focus, and the fragmenting of a person’s time and energy.

We were accused, by the so-called experts, of short-changing our spouse and our children. Some women came back home and recommitted themselves to family life, while others were too entrenched in the upward climb to turn back. They had come close to the “glass ceiling;” and by golly, they were going to crash it if it killed them. The casualties were enormous. The ones who made it never looked back.

Once abortion was legalized, women were set free to crash the barriers that had held them back previously. The toll has only recently been felt as the Social Security Fund dries up because there are not enough workers to replace those who either have been aborted or who are on welfare. America has painted herself into a proverbial corner.

The women whose children grew up and moved on in their absence feel cheated of the experience of motherhood. They rushed here and there, watched their kid’s games and celebrated their achievements, but do they really know them? How many times have they actually had a loving conversation without telling their kids to “hurry up, we’ve got to get going?” or criticized their obnoxious antics and behavior.

Today, we look around us and see not a nation of happy and well-adjusted people, but a country full of drug addicts who participate in road rage, riots in the streets, and mayhem. Our leaders are immoral and dishonest. The people in whom we put our trust are untrustworthy. Tyrants rule in our board rooms and on our streets. We have made a mockery of that which once was sacred and blasphemed the God who gave us life.

"Blending In" 11 x 14 acrylic on canvas (How often do we "Blend in, rather than Standing Up?"

“Blending In” 11 x 14 acrylic on canvas (How often do we “Blend in, rather than Standing Up?”

Collectively, we desecrate the holy, the weak, and elevate the swindler and the swine. We worship pleasure and wealth and turn our backs on the lowly and common. Children in many cases dishonor parents and parents turn their backs on the children who need them. There is a lack of common decency and respect. “It’s all about me” rings from the rafters of homes, automobiles and businesses. “I want what I want, and I want it now.”

Never in the history of the world has there been more need of a Savior to bring us back to our Heavenly roots. Jesus said: 7 “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love, does not know God because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only son into the world that we might live through Him. 10 This is God: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for sin.”
(I John 4:7-10 NIV)

“If this is true,” you say, “then why isn’t there peace on earth? Why is there so much violence?”

First off, God is not the author of confusion, nor violence, nor evil. Mankind does that very well without him. Before Christ was crucified, he did clarify this point for us: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth give I unto you.” (In other words, His peace is within) “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

Our world could use a little more peace, especially in the hearts of its people.

"Lady in Waiting" oil on canvas (prints available)

“Lady in Waiting” oil on canvas (prints available)

Interludes of Happiness are the Underpinnings that Strengthen the Soul

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“Americana” acrylic on canvas

Just when you think your life is on an even keel, something or someone wipes the gloat off your face and you’re down. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life it’s this: Change is inevitable. Unpredictability is the norm.

The in between times when love seems never ending, when peace pervades your universe and you think nothing can go wrong that’s just when it does. Those prime times are short and fleeting. They come and go like breathing in and out. They arrive just before or shortly after a crisis.

Make the most of these tender moments because they never last. They are what memories are made of when we have nothing else to live for. These heavenly highs help relationships weather the uneven tides of emotion and anger. They give life zest and nourish a heavy heart.

"Kindred Spirits" 30 x 24 mixed media on canvas

“Kindred Spirits” 30 x 24 mixed media on canvas

Think of these pleasant pauses, these cherished nanoseconds as seeds. They can’t be saved or stored except in memory; but they can reside within us and provide a web of interconnecting fiber that can give our life structure and continuity. These interludes of happiness “relieve the darkness of the past and the gloom of the present.” (C.H. Spurgeon)

Like a flickering light in the gloom of darkness, these seeds of joy gives us hope, sustain us, and keep our feet planted on solid ground even when all of life is crumbling around us. This kind of strength is what makes heroes out of common men. When a tragedy happens, they respond. They just do it, never thinking about the risks to their own mind or body nor their inhibitions and weaknesses.

Human capacity is never fully tested on this earth. Knowing that somewhere within us is the action needed to meet our convictions is reassuring. Manufacturers and engineers know all about tensile strength when it comes to machinery and materials. Tensile strength is all about the ability to be stretched or pulled out of shape before breaking. Even though human beings are not machines, they are still resilient and capable of super human fetes when necessary.

"With These Hands -- Wonder" oil on canvas

“With These Hands — Wonder” oil on canvas

These seeds of hope, faith, happiness and joy that grow to fruition within us make us stronger, more teachable, and more bendable. This ethereal structure helps us to endure sorrow, pain, anger, hatred, envy or the loss of a loved one, the failure of business or marriage. This foundation is what helps you get up when you fall, and why you take one step after another even though you don’t feel like walking or going anywhere.

Savor the good times. Remember them in the bad times. Make more of these moments every chance you get. This is the web or safety net that will give you courage when you need it the most and the resiliency to hold on a little longer when your heart is breaking.

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“Sea Swirls” 24×18 acrylic on canvas

Change comes to all of us. Nothing stays the same. Ride the waves, my friend. Your life’s journey will sometimes lift you up and at other times slap you down in the grit of despair. Don’t give up in the heat of the moment. Coast and surf until you gain some traction. You will survive.

(This blog was delayed by the unforeseen, but it also gave me my subject matter.)

There are Times when Nothing Else Will Do But a Good and True Friend

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“Beach Buddies” mixed media on canvas

As long as men are stronger than women, there will never be true equality between the sexes. Strength and muscle alone dictate that it cannot be so. Since time began, power has always gone to the “leader of the pack with his prowess as hunter and conqueror” while women bore the children and handled domestic chores at home. Of course, you can also find the opposite within different ethnic and tribal groups; but they are the exception rather than the rule.

Even today there are cultures and religions in the world who subjugate the weakest members in favor of the loud, the strong, and the violent. Ruling by fear and brute force, they overpower rather than lead. They dominate rather than seduce. They withhold affection and communication in their efforts to control. This can be done by both men and women; but in the majority of instances, it is done by the male of the species.

"Broken" mixed media on canvas; SOLD, but prints available.

“Broken” mixed media on canvas; SOLD, but prints available.

You may argue that times have changed. Today women can rise above the so-called “glass ceiling;” and with divorce as an option, they can always leave threatening circumstances. True, but not without many, many hurdles children being only one of them.

When it comes to “division of property” and closing bank accounts, it is easier said than done. Did you know that a man may close a “joint” checking account, but a woman must have her husband’s consent and signature, even though she may have been the only contributor? If there is wealth involved, a costly battle may ensue.

My first husband thought I should receive a pittance since I was a stay at home wife. He told my attorney that I had not contributed to the purchase of the house nor its maintenance nor to family expenses. My attorney pointed out that I’d given him six children, took care of them, cleaned the house, shopped for groceries and school clothes, and prepared all of their meals for 30 years. Was it not reasonable to be paid for my efforts?

I walked away from that marriage feeling worthless, empty, unloved and abandoned; even though it was I who had filed for divorce. Sadly, three words were all it would have taken for me to come back: “I love you.” Words I had heard only a few times during our lifetime together.

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If you doubt what I’m saying, gather together a few women who have experienced physical abuse, emotional and verbal abuse, financial deprivation or divorce, and they will drown you out with their truth: equality is something they never knew, only fear; but I’ll save that for another time.

Now that I have your attention, this article is not about male versus female. It is about the importance of having friends to share your frustrations and your dreams (women friends for women, and male friends for men, or a mix of both). True friends can give your life meaning. They can provide the hugs, the support and the encouragement that somehow went missing in your marriage.

Friends can bring laughter into your life and a safe place to just be yourself. Even when you’ve lost the very notion of who you are, friends can provide a safe haven to “let your hair down.” Friends may give you an outlet to express how you really feel. Fear and feelings of failure can oppress you to the point of suicide if it is not allowed to surface.

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“Kindred Spirits” Lge. acrylic on canvas

Friends can hold you together when you feel that you’re falling apart from the inside out. They provide tangible evidence that you really exist and that you have value. It is difficult to get in touch with a “higher power” or to have any spiritual connection when you’re battling in the trenches for survival.

I remember a time in my life when I thought: “God is a man (or so the Bible says).” If I can’t put my trust in my husband, who is a man, how will I ever be able to trust God? If a woman has also been abused by her father or a spiritual leader, this makes it even more impossible that she will ever trust in God.

Think about that men? How you treat your young daughters, and their mothers — your wives, is in direct relationship to the way they will eventually feel about God; not only today, but forever. That is a great burden on you to treat them as God would, with love and patience.

Lead instead of pushing from behind. Let your good example do the teaching. If that doesn’t seem to work, pray together. Tell your children and your spouse that you love them. This advice can be reversed if the woman is the nagger and abuser.

Life is too short to beat on or threaten the people you hold dear. Cherish them. Tell them often that you love them. Live your life with hope for the future not with regrets.

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Sibling Rivalry – the Bratty Brawls between Brothers and Sisters

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My husband’s son and his family.

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My sister’s son and his family.

My oldest sister who passed from this earth over a year ago was my inspiration; but only in later years when, with maturity and age, we became friends.

As children, we shared a double bed in a tiny room with one dormer window. We had no closet, but hung our clothes on the back of the bedroom door and on the door of the hallway that led to our room. Also in the hall was a chest. We each had a drawer; the other three contained towels for the small bathroom a step away.

The bathroom had one small window which you could only see out of when you sat on the throne. If you stood up in the tub, you would likely hit your head on the sloping ceilings. This awkward bathroom served our family of four, and then eventually five until my parents were able to afford a bigger place.

My sister had strict rules on how we shared our space. She was almost five years older than me; and, of course, taller, so I listened out of fear. She once drew an imaginary line down the middle of the bed and threatened to tickle me if I crossed it.

Tickles from God

“Tickles from God” acrylic on canvas.

Her tickling torments lasted an eternity, or so it felt. She sat astride me and tickled my stomach, my neck and pits until I couldn’t breathe. I thought I was going to die! If the sessions hadn’t been stopped by an angry relative, I may have.

She and my older cousins ganged up on the younger ones by chasing us with angleworms and eventually throwing them at us. I had angleworm nightmares for nights afterward. They told us ghost stories that haunted our dreams and sent us running in fright to our parents. We were gullible and they used this knowledge to keep us in line.

Granted, my sister had reason to be peeved. I was her little shadow and followed her everywhere. Sometimes she was required to babysit me and take me with her wherever she went. I was a constant drag on her social life.

Once she convinced me that she had picked a miniature cherry that held magical powers because it was eaten by fairies. The tiny red ball sat atop her finger and I wanted the prize. I stood on tiptoe and begged her to let me taste it. With regal authority she allowed me to lick her fingertip. I tasted nothing. When she began to laugh, I knew she had tricked me.

“You ate my blood,” she boasted. “You licked my finger and ate my blood!” She was doubled over with laughter. She told everyone we knew.

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“Broken Hearted” 11×14 pastel, matted and ready to frame.

I was crestfallen. She had pricked her finger and then made a fool out of me. I felt small and stupid. She had also broken the bond of trust between us. I would never be fooled again.

I got even later when I was a teen and she worked a part time job and had more clothes than I did. After she left in the morning, I’d help myself to one of her outfits and go off to school. By the time she returned, I was already home and changed. My mother didn’t approve, but she never intervened. This was a battle between me and my sister.

My daring behavior lasted for weeks until an unfortunate accident revealed my secret. The explosion was more than I’d expected. As I saw it, she had many clothes, and I had few. Plus most of my clothes were her hand-me-downs, anyway. It wasn’t fair!

After her discovery, we became bitter enemies. I was jealous of her and she resented me. We barely spoke until she married and had her first child. Then childish rivalry faded away and we developed a solid relationship based on respect and family ties.

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My oldest son and third daughter sharing some fun.

My own children squabbled over minor things and fought for the attention of their parents. When you share a mom and dad between three brothers and three sisters there is bound to be jealousy and envy. When my oldest was finally old enough to watch her younger brothers and sisters, I was elated.

Pam was always more mature than her young years and I trusted her judgment. When I returned to the sounds of wails and anger, my high hopes plummeted. She and her brother, only 14 months younger, came wailing to the door with their sad tales.

“She’s not the boss of me,” Chris complained.

“He wouldn’t do what I told him,” Pam responded. “He broke my Barbie doll,” she cried as she showed me the headless beauty.

“She hit me over the head,” Chris bawled. “She broke my guitar,” his volume increased as he showed me the broken strings and the chipped wood. The guitar had been a gift; a cheap handmade guitar that had served its purpose many years ago.

After that incident, I made a decision to put Chris in charge half of the time because of the closeness in their ages. This seemed to work out well, and they were able to respect the one who had the ruling hand at least for an hour or two.

Brothers often roll on the floor and beat each other to a pulp to resolve their differences. Sisters usually cry, scream and destroy the property of their rival. By the time we all grow up, the anger fades and the memories become the threads that bind our common history together. Sibling rivalry is inevitable, but the rewards far outweigh the struggle and help to prepare us for the brutal world beyond the comforts of home.

Living in the Present and Letting Go of the Past

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Sea Swirls

“Sea Swirls” acrylic on 24×18 canvas

Today is all you have. If you’re future focused, you may miss out on the blessings right under your nose. If you dwell on the past, you may end up with a heart full of regrets and sadness. No matter how much you would like to go back, the past is out of your control. You can’t change it. Ever!

Tomorrow is not yours, either. Predictions are foolish. Wishes are senseless, unless they’re backed up with action. Concentrate on today’s duties and obligations. There may be pain. There is often unhappiness; but if you’re honest, there are also priceless moments of joy: sunlight coming through the window and landing on a sparkling glass; the smell of peanut butter; birdsong in the quiet of afternoon; drawing a warm bath; a church bell in the distance, slipping tired feet into fuzzy slippers. You just have to watch for these mini-miracles. Savor the few and let the rest go.

Sea Breeze

“Sea Breeze” acrylic on 30×24 canvas

My mother used to say “If you want to retain your sense of humor – read the funny papers!” She was right. Even online jokes and funny stories can change your day. I received one that gave me a huge belly laugh when I finished reading it. What if I’d skipped that email, thinking I was too busy and had no time to waste? I’d have stayed down in the dumps and perhaps been impossible to live with for the remainder of the day. Don’t miss out on a chance to laugh!

Turn up the music and dance. Never wait until you’re in the mood. Do it now! It’s good exercise. If you stop feeling sorry for yourself, you may end up casting those bad feelings aside in a whirl or a jiggle. It’s hard to keep frowning when you’re jiving to the rhythm or swaying with a child in your arms. Go on – gyrate! Get those feet tapping to the music.

Connect with someone. Loneliness hurts! Pick up the phone. If nothing else, turn on the T.V. and listen to other people’s complaints. Hold your pet. Hug someone! Get out of the house and do something. The more you nurse your aloneness, the more alone you’ll feel. Stay connected until you feel better. People need people. You may still feel alone unless you share your grief with someone else. Sharing makes others feel better, too.

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“Sea Nymph” acrylic on 24×18 canvas

Go for a walk. Yes, I know, you don’t feel like it; but do it anyway!  I walked ten miles one day and still didn’t feel any better than when I started, but I managed to sleep well that night. If that’s all you get out of your walk, at least you may feel better in the morning. Walking gets your blood moving. Sometimes depression may be as simple as lack of adequate blood flow to the brain. A sedentary person ages faster because the muscles and bones are starving for the life blood that stimulates and feeds them. On your walk, count the number of people you pass. Try to remember their faces. The next time you see them, greet them with a smile and a friendly hello.

If you earnestly try to do the above and you still feel like you’re stuck in a deep dark pit, get help! After my divorce, I was confused, lost and completely alone. My former friends had disappeared. My neighbors turned their heads when I passed. New friends were mostly users who took advantage of my vulnerability. I sought out help. A psychologist prescribed Prozac and I began to feel like a new person. I could think clearly, gauge my surroundings more realistically, and I regained my usual optimistic personality. Never try to go it alone. Give yourself every opportunity to get well!

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“Broken Hearted” pastel on 11×14 Bristol; matted and ready to frame

Concentrate on your own needs for a change. You’re having trouble helping yourself. This isn’t the time to change the world. Focus on you. Don’t worry about the past. Quit fretting about the future. Take one day at a time, one step at a time. Get help from a professional, and by all means, follow your doctor’s advice. If he or she says “Don’t drink” that’s what they mean (alcohol and medications don’t mix). If they say you should stay away from negative friends who pull you downward, follow their advice.

Whether you sink or swim, the job of wellness is yours. If you continue to thumb your nose at those who offer help and disregard sound advice, you will be playing the “poor me” game for the rest of your life.

Yes, you can do it! You were made for joy and happiness. Quit comparing yourself to others and start noticing your own progress. Rejoice in simple achievements. Don’t allow others to take you back to that dark place. If that means leaving certain people behind, do it! You are on a journey of health and wellness. You have a right to be happy. You are “divinely and beautifully made.” Reach for what your own heart cries out and yearns for. Don’t look back!

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“First Daffodil” mixed media on canvas

Dogs I have Known and Loved

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"Winston" 9 x 12 oil on canvas

“Winston” 9 x 12 oil on canvas

As a child, my family lived in an upstairs apartment over my grandmother and grandfather Larsen’s big corner home. Black walnut trees hovered like giants over my head, and two tall pine trees spread their prickly branches killing any vegetation beneath. It was a great place to hide once I found entrance.

I was not allowed to have a pet except gold fish, but I didn’t let that stop me from dragging home every stray cat in my neighborhood, but I’ll save that for another article.

My first experience with a real pet was as a young mother when a chiwawa named, Penny, spent six winter months with us. My two toddlers were delighted. Penny was my Uncle Wilford’s best “bitch.” He was a breeder, and called me one day saying that Penny was in need of a rest and would I mind watching her for a few months.

I knew Penny from my visits at my aunt and uncle’s house Southwest of town. This was more than a hobby for them, it was a second job that both devoted time and love into. I agreed reluctantly as our tiny rental home was already crowded, and the cement floors in winter were moist and cold.

Penny turned out to be a delight and never any trouble whatsoever. She slept on our enclosed back porch which was freezing cold, but she snuggled in a box full of blankets and seemed to sleep warmly, even though we could see her breath and ours before she came back inside.

Skipper came next, a free rescue dog we obtained in Phoenix that was part Schnauzer and part unknown which became apparent later when he turned into the ugliest, scraggly haired dog I’d ever laid eyes on. By this time we had four kids who loved every bone in his scrawny body. Unfortunately, a new job in New Jersey and a long move across country demanded that we give him to another loving pet owner.

Lady and Buttons joined our family several years later in Kansas City. My husband found two strays running along the highway and fearing for their safety brought them home. It was love at first sight for the children. Lady was a white and black spaniel and Buttons was a mix of terrier and mutt. They never had accidents in the house, but spent much of their time in the backyard.

One day while picking beans in our small garden, I noticed that the pods were covered in dog hairs. The dogs had been chasing squirrels and black birds out of the garden while I praised them, but in the process had ruined the produce in the process. Have you ever tried to wash dog hair from a fuzzy green bean? It’s almost impossible and requires each bean be washed separately.

My husband wasn’t pleased. He was also disappointed in the children who were supposed to learn responsibility by taking care of the dogs. He never gave them a warning or a second chance, just stuffed the dogs into the car and took them to the pound, leaving me behind to explain their fate, mop up my children’s tears and comfort their hearts. 

A cruel and thoughtless move I felt. Those of you who know and love dogs will understand. I’m surprised the children were given another chance to experience animal companionship. But after another move brought us to Minnesota, the door was opened for yet another waggley tailed pup that wound itself around our hearts.

My son, Chris, won a Soap Box Derby at a Cub Scout event, and the prize was a little black puppy; part of a litter from a Lhasa that belonged to a friend. My youngest son, Quinn, who cried the hardest when Lady and Buttons were sent away, adopted the pup immediately. They were like two peas in a pod.

He called the dog Buttons after the one he had lost. Buttons was smart as a whip. He’d jump up in the air to catch popcorn and seemed to understand many human words. He was lovable, loyal, and playful.  He followed Quinn everywhere.

One day, Quinn was playing outside. Buttons knew he was out there and whined and whined to be let out. By chance, Quinn’s dad was working in the garage and accidently left the kitchen door ajar as he went back to work. The main garage door was open. Buttons slipped through the door and ran to where the sound of his beloved master played. A car going down the street at just that moment tried to brake, but it was too late. Buttons was injured beyond repair and died instantly.

We all mourned that beloved pet. We tried a replacement with Pooky, a tiny Shih Tzu, but Quinn refused to bond and continued to mourn Buttons for a long, long time.