Why blog?

It's therapeutic... specially for dorks like me who communicate better when they have the chance to process their thoughts, select their words, and write precisely what they want to say. As much as I'm a "talker", I stumble, stutter, and don't always say things right. English as a second language might have something to do with that (unfortunately, I don't think I could blog in Spanish... I lost my grammar in that language). I like to pour out my thoughts and leave it out there in the cosmos (or the world wide web) for other people to mull over...

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Pro-Life at all angles...

I was reading my Bible and praying and I was hit with an unexpected epiphany: God cares about our environment, and about the animals, as much as I do!

I've always been a little confused theologically speaking when it comes to a God-view of creation.  Many Christians are forcefully pro-life when it comes to an unborn child, but very lackadaisical when it comes to animal cruelty.  And we get hot-headed when we argue for creationism (as opposed to evolution), but we lack concern for the creation itself in our thoughts on renewable energy, deforestation, recycling... etc...

I think it comes from the thought that God "made man a little lower than the angels" but "having dominion to fill the earth and subdue it" - it must've gotten to our heads a bit more than God intended!  We think of mankind so highly that we assume everything else that was created was unimportant or for our abuse.  We claim that everything created was for us so we can have everything we want and need - to a certain degree this is true, I suppose... But I cannot find an argument in Scripture that is in favor of us being so darn self-centered!

I am all 100% pro-life, I believe LIFE begins at conception.  I want to always use my voice to fight for the rights the unborn deserve.  But under that same token, animals are also a LIFE - and while I understand fully the value of a human soul, I appreciate and respect God's creation in every creature He has placed on this earth too.  Because LIFE is beautiful.  God made this world full of hundreds of thousands of species besides mankind because He is beautiful and LIFE-giving.  Why would He bother handing us down such an intricate and fascinating biologically diverse planet if it wasn't important or worth fighting for?

I suppose I should start at the beginning.  I've always loved the Creation story, before I ever was a Christian. I was fascinated by the images of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, in all of creation. I believe Adam had the coolest job ever!  He got to see all of God's creation pass by and name them.  Ask any theologian and they will say that the Garden of Eden was the epitome of perfection; it's what earth was SUPPOSED to be like before sin entered the world.  It's what earth will be like once the kingdom of heaven comes down and it's all made new.  And so if you are not a Christian and you are reading this blog about loving our abused and misused planet, one key point you need to understand is this: In Genesis (the beginning, creation, before mankind screwed things up) AND in Revelation (the end-times, the hope that when all things on earth as we know it passes away and God makes things right the way they were supposed to be in the beginning, the conclusion of mankind's story on this planet) we are in complete harmony with each other as well as with all the other species in creation.  God describes mankind in the beginning, eating fruit right off the tree in the garden, observing all the other animals on the planet.  Biology is how Adam noticed that he didn't have a helpmate suitable for him, and this is when God created Eve for him; Adam observed the animal kingdom and felt a lack of companionship, and this is precisely when God fashions his soul mate.  And the planet just produced food for Adam and Eve, and it was sufficient.  As they walked in communion with Jesus, they ate straight from the produce of the ground, they did not have to work for it or farm it, and they did not grow hungry.  And the only thing Adam and Eve had to do was get to know God better, get to know each other, and get to know the rest of creation.

Then sin enters the world, God Himself performs the first sacrifice as He provides skins for Adam and Eve to wear to cover their nakedness, a Messianic foreshadowing what Jesus Himself would do for us... But that goes into Christianese, and that's not what I'm getting into right now.  Fast-forward to Noah and the ark.  God has Noah build a boat that is, in essence, about the size of a football field... for 8 people?  8 people and the rest of creation, in reproductive pairs... This biological diversity was important to God then too!  He didn't care too much for people (in fact, WE were the reason He was sending the flood in the first place), but God cared about every species of every creature He created and gave Noah the veterinary technician job of all history; provide animal husbandry to every living species on the planet, in a boat, over the next year or so of his life.  God decided to save Noah and his family, because they had a relationship with Him, and then use them to save creation.  In a time of such wickedness in the hearts of men, the animal kingdom was the only thing left on this earth that mattered to Him.

Fast forward to the time of Moses.  PETA would have a fit with the animal sacrifices that the Israelites performed once they left Egypt. It doesn't seem like a God who loves creation would command such a thing.  But in basic Judeo-Christian theology, God doesn't command animal sacrifices because it pleases Him; He instructed it because it was a substitutionary atonement for mankind, who was in sin, and separated from God.  Mankind had a broken relationship with God, and for it's restoration it required that blood be shed. We deserved the punishment of it being OUR blood, God allowed for a lamb to take our place.  It wasn't a sufficient sacrifice to fix our condition, that's why Jesus Himself came down and became the LAMB of GOD, took that sacrifice upon HIMSELF ONCE and FOR ALL TIME, so that for the rest of eternity His sacrifice met the requirement.  Once again, more Christianese. But I should also point out that in all the hundreds of commandments and instructions that Moses gave God's people on how to live, he also instructed them on how to take care of their animals.  Instructed them on what to eat and not eat. How to take care of their oxen and their donkeys.  And through out the rest of the Old Testament there is plenty of evidence that God was still in love with His creation, animals and humans alike.  They compared our (mankind's) feats with the qualities that animals displayed.  "As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after You..." "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up on wings as eagles..." "The young lions roar for their pray and seek their food from God..."  Solomon's Temple, one of the greatest architectural achievements of mankind, was decorated with golden embossed lions, oxen, and angels.  Mankind may not have had the same relationship with the animal kingdom that it did in Creation, but it certainly witnessed the rest of God's creation with respect and awe of their abilities and their power, and much of this awe inspired worship to God and made it's way into the Holy Scriptures.

Fast-Forward to Jesus here on earth.  Revelation describes him, in the same sentence, as the Lamb of God and the Lion of Judah.  Jesus dies for our sins and raises back to life, now starting the beginning of the end.  His time on earth set the timer on God's full and complete restoration of the entire world.  Up until Christ, mankind was hopelessly lost and hell-bound, now after Christ, mankind is making it's way back to Him (painfully, and slowly, but that's the direction we're supposed to be heading).  And He tells us not to worry, because we are to look at the SPARROWS.  Who don't farm or work for food, but look to God and receive every meal.  And even though we, in His image, are worth much more to God than the sparrows, yet not one sparrow falls to the ground in death without Him knowing it.   There was a woman who was asking Jesus to heal her daughter, begging and harassing Him and the disciples.  I suppose that culturally she wasn't even worthy to speak to Jesus and didn't deserve to be there, because Jesus (for reasons I do not yet understand) tells her, "Woman, it is not right for me to take the food of the children and feed it to the dogs." (ouch!).  The woman replies, "Yes, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall off the master's table!" And Jesus basically tells her that because of her faith she will receive what she asks for.  I cannot help but chuckle, and look at Aspen and Sherlock, because a conversation about dogs as house pets made such a theological difference in that woman's life!  Then some religious dudes are mad at Jesus because He healed someone on a Sabbath, the most holy of days of the week for the Jews.  He responds with, "which one of you, if your ox falls into a well on the Sabbath, would not that very moment get him out?"  I suppose a dead ox is pretty worthless, because apparently to these religious folk it would've been worth breaking a commandment of rest to save one of their farm animals (and then I have to giggle at the fact that God has to command us to rest in the first place, but that's another blog).

In the book of Romans (8:18-21), it says: "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed.  For the creation was subjected to futility—not willingly, but because of Him who subjected itin the hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of God’s childrenFor we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now."  I am keenly aware of how this verse is making a clear distinction between creation and God's children - feeling deeply convinced that creation refers to all God created and not just specifically humans.  The world is waiting for God's children to step into the light; the orphans in Sudan, the homeless in India, the dolphins off the coast of Japan, the dogs in puppy mills across the US - all of us, together, hoping to be set free from the bondage of corruption.  Creation itself wants to join in with the freedom that God's children get to receive through Christ.  Christ died to save mankind, and creation hopes that a redeemed mankind will in turn restore creation back to it's God-given glory.  Salvation is an uniquely and exclusively human experience, but it has the power to transform humans to such an extent that it has global consequences.

An undeniable point of what heaven is like is that, when we are in God's presence for eternity, mankind will once again be alongside creation in peace.  Scriptures describe heaven (which is, like, the end of the human story, or the conclusion of all things) as being a place where the lion and the lamb lay down together in peace, and where babies can reach their hands into a cobra's nest without fear or bite or poison.  Revelation says that this earth will pass away and heaven will come down and be established on earth as the new world order, so to speak.  At this point it gets too theologically deep for me and I'm no eschatologist, but if heaven is the "right way" things are supposed to be, it says a lot about how we should relate to the rest of God's creatures.  Understanding that in this fallen world the heavenly relationship with animals is broken too, it never stops being something we were meant to lose appreciation or respect for.  And if somewhere along the lines Christians have gotten to a point where we think that an animal doesn't really matter, I dare say we need to re-evaluate our theology.  Compassion, righteousness, justice, and kindness ALWAYS matter to God - it's a heart condition!  In our higher calling we are to live out these attributes at all times... and I honestly don't think there's a difference as to who or what we direct these attributes to as long as our hearts are right.
Even though they may not fully be aware of this, animal rescuers are some of the most God-like people I know.  It takes a very self-less heart to love on and care for a creature who will not say thank you, pay you back, or help you (at least, not in a quantifiable manner).  I believe we are closer to a heart like Christ when we learn to be kind "just because".  We have a very hard time being God-like to each other as it is.
I want my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren (if the Lord tarries) to learn about God from creation the way I do.  Want to know how to obey the Lord as your master? Get a dog.  Having a relationship with my dogs have taught me more about my relationship with my God than tons of sermons I've heard.  I have seen myself caught in the same fears and processes that keep me from obeying the Lord fully the very same way my dogs sometimes have a hard time trusting and obeying me.  I want to show my kids that God does indeed have a sense of humor and point to the platypus.  I want to teach them to parent their children the way lionesses parent their cubs.  I want to point out to all the diversity, all the cool things they can do, all the cool ways they were built - and show my children how great is our God! How thoughtful down the last detail! How beautiful!  No disrespect to sermons or the pastors that preach them but it just doesn't quite do God justice like looking at creation from a mountain top or a beach and saying, "Look! The Lord made this, and it is good!"  I believe God uses the Bible to give us the right kind of head knowledge, and uses creation to give us the right kind of heart knowledge.  Living in creation is how we experience the Creator in the Bible, and the fullness of the experience He intends for us is just incomplete if one is without the other.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Walk for Hope

I haven't done a fundraiser in a long time, at least since 2011. And I normally go around and ask people for money and raise about $200 or so and feel pretty darn good. But this time, it's different.

What I'm about to ask you to partner with me is literally life or death.

Step 1:

Meet the Alaska Dream Center. "The Alaska Dream Center is an extensive one year live-in substance abuse program and residential facility offered at no cost to those struggling with life controlling issues." It has a 75% success rate, and it takes in men not only from all parts of Alaska, but from anywhere in the US - as many as are willing to come and get healthy. The leaders of this center are being blessed and honored by God, expanding in vision and also in territory. They also do job training during the year that they are there.

Whether you are a Christian or not, it's a worthy program to donate to. Specially as an Alaskan. Do the research on live-in substance abuse programs and you'll find that most of them are only for 30 days. Most of them are in the lower 48. Most of them charge the client/patient - sometimes up to $6000/month. Most of them have less than a 25% success rate. This ONE YEAR PROGRAM is FREE to the applicants that are admitted who want to restore their lives and kick the substance abuse. That is HUGE. That is GOD-FUNDED. That is SPIRIT-BREATHED.

Step 2:
Be aware of the PROBLEM.  It's not a co-ed facility.  So far they have been able to change the lives of men in abundance, but unfortunately have had to turn women away.  Think about this: how many men use drugs that are married or have families? How many of the women who are with these men use drugs themselves? How productive is it for the family unit to only rehabilitate the men and not the women?

But God is moving in this area too.  Through a dinner date we had with Cherise Hyslip, we have seen the Lord start to open doors so they can build a women's facility and some duplexes for family housing.  But they need help - and it's not up to just the church or Alaskans, I'm praying it stirs the hearts of people from any background, any religion, because it would seriously bless the state of Alaska to turn around these lives!

So what are they doing? Introducing the Walk of Hope.

The Men of the Alaska Dream Center will be walking the entire 140 miles. They are starting on May 1st from the Alaska Dream Center location in Palmer, AK and walking over the next ten days to the Sea Side Hope Campgrounds in Hope, Alaska. The men who are going through the program themselves are extending their arms and their prayers to bring women into the rehabilitation program by asking sponsors to support them only $1 a mile.

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I'm going to join them in support. I can't walk 10 days/140 miles, but I will be walking the Anchorage Stretch - 2 days, 9 miles, on Saturday May 4th and Sunday May 5th.  I will be doing roughly about this much:

View Larger Map

And I am begging you to sponsor me for a full 140 miles.  $1 a mile. I know that $140 may be a stretch for you alone, but can I stir your heart as much as this has stirred mine, to find 14 other people (family, friends, co-workers, classmates, church people) who can pitch in $10 each?

And can I ask you, if it doesn't offend you, to pray for us and for the Dream Center?

This is huge. It can change Alaska.  I find it important enough to offer my support.  Can I please count on yours?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


I just had to share...

I have been feeling a tad bit tight, a little discouraged... And I was driving this morning on the way to work, going as fast as I can.  I was praying while I was driving, and I honestly don't remember at all what I was saying.

I know I asked for Paul to get a good job soon, and for things to look up.  I'm sure I mentioned how anxious I've been and how I'm having such a hard time trusting in Him.  I know I'm having a difficult time just believing and accepting that God would have good things in store for me; it often feels like He has plans to prosper everyone else BUT me.  And I've fallen into this habit of NOT praying and NOT asking for anything so that I'm not disappointed if things don't work out for me.

I am distracted from this out-pouring of ... discouragement, in honesty... by a red light that I almost ran.  Right in front of me drives a pick up truck w/ a Green Bay Packers flag.  And I heard God ask me the question, "Maria, why were you rooting for the Green Bay Packers when they played against the Pittsburg Steelers that one Superbowl a few years ago?"

Uh... heck if I know.  Rewind to 2011, I think... maybe 2010... and we watched the game at our old church, w/ a pot luck.  The Pastor and his family went for the Steelers.  Carla and I seemed to be the only ones going for the Packers.  The Who played during half-time.

"Maria, why did you like the Packers?"

I don't know anything about football.  I can only tell which team is winning.  What did I know about the Packers?  What was it about that team that subconsciously attracted me to it?

Then I remember, in Oklahoma, being on a book-reading club so to speak, with a couple of friends in OKC and in Dallas, reading the autobiography of Vincent Lombardi.

I don't know anything about football, but I remember in my heart the testimony of Vince Lombardi; the struggles he went through, the odds he overcame.  Some of his quotes.  That's what tugged at my heart this most recent Super Bowl. That's the reason why I was rooting for them.

"Maria, why do you still want to watch the movie 'Invincible'?  You are not even really into football.  Why did you love facing the giants? or Remember the Titans?"

I ... don't know.  I prefer a sports genre movie over a chick flick any day...

"It's because of the story.  It's the same story - and you are a sucker for it.  You like the theme of the heroes overcoming incredibly difficult challenges, of beating the odds.  Of the underdogs coming up on top.  You love it when it is said that 'they'll never make it' - and then they succeed!  Whether in 'The Hunger Games', or the Green Bay Packers, you love that story.

Because it's your story.   You are genetically wired to endure difficult challenges, and to go through them with a smile on your face and kindness in your heart.  And these trials aren't all you are built for; your very core was designed for success. For victory.  And you will get there! Because you will continue to push through until you do. And that is your testimony, your story - that you are invincible, and your life will inspire others the way these kinds of things inspire you."

So when I felt down later in the evening, having forgotten all about my drive into work, over-all low on energy and just trying to put dinner together... When I was wondering why I even bother, and I said, "I give up. I'm done." I heard the faint whisper in my heart that said, "You are not. You're invincible."

Friday, December 14, 2012

Under the Weather

I've just had a real icky month.  I'm between nausea and a cold and fever blisters, runny noses, and 0 energy whatsoever.  We've been down to -16 degrees F, and up to 36 F in the past month as well, through freezing temperatures, snow blizzards, and even rain.

I'm struggling to stay awake, to stay alive even.  I drag myself to work, keep myself busy so I don't pass out at work, then I have to muster everything I have to be conscious when I'm home alone w/ the kiddos, so the kiddos don't kill each other... by the time they go to sleep at 8pm, I follow shortly after - which means I don't see Paul get home from work, or talk to him for yet another day (I leave for work the following morning around 6am, and he's asleep then).

I don't have the energy to do the things I have to do, let alone anything special or meaningful with the children, or the dogs... or the husband.  Date night for us is few and far between, usually in a moment of desperation because I haven't seen Paul all week and it's either go out and get away from the kids or send each other texts of complaints.  But it's the sacrifice we are willing to pay to get the kids a Christmas tree, and presents from us (first Christmas that they will get a present from Mommy and Daddy!!), and still have a roof over our heads.

My prayers are short and simple... something along the lines of "Jesus help me!".  Not very verbose at all.  I am hanging on to whatever moment I can read the Bible just to keep my sanity and my hope.

I'm also trying to study for the classes I'm taking on-line.  Yeah that doesn't happen very often.

There are days that are very special; when the kiddos do something really sweet, or really funny. And I'm enjoying spending evenings with them, I just wish I could give them more - more than a bowl of cereal for dinner because I've been vomiting most of the afternoon.  Or more than going to bed briefly at 8pm and no bed time stories because I'm vomiting again.  This week particularly has been rough.  I'm discouraged.

But the awesome thing is that through it all, God has not failed to remind me - even show me - that He knows, that He cares, and that He's working on it.  He's like a secret Santa; leaving tidbits of His signature to give us hope.  He has protected us on the roads and provided for us, and sent people to encourage Paul, and opened doors for us.  It will all fall into place; I know it will!  I just have to keep looking up!

The Bible and the devotionals on my phone have been a steady rock I've anchored to; they keep my thoughts from spiraling into negativity, help me to re-focus on the things worth thinking about - worth hoping for.  I could still use a better attitude at times (ok, so most times!).  And a lot of times, it feels like Paul and I are hanging on to love - and to each other - desperately and with both hands, to keep from having our marriage fall apart.

We try in the little things, in the simple things, to help each other and show each other love and support.  And I try to wake up once I hear he's home to visit with him, hear him tell me all the details of his day, and spend some time - even if very brief - in conversation.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Mind Over Matter

It has not been an easy month.

I find myself exhausted all the time.  I feel like I'm dragging from bed time to bed time.  Not a whole lot gets me excited.

I think that it's something physical; I'm achy, my back and my abdomen hurt almost all the time, and my head hurts a lot too.

I also wonder if a good chunk of it is mental; I'm tired of the routine, slightly bored at my job... and I have to be there most of my day and then some.  The kids spend so much of their time and energy trying to get into stuff they are not supposed to and by the time I deal with them I'm too tired to keep up.  And I'm frustrated with the day in and day out routine.

Paul got a part-time job which involves a lot of evenings out of the house.  And I admit I was spoiled; counting on his help every time I handle the kids.  Now we just swap baby-sitting duties.  So we each do the cleaning, the kid-keeping, and the cooking by ourselves.  It's not fun.  Although I will pull some great stories about things the kids did from times like these.  When I can look back on them and laugh about it instead of cry because I have to clean up - again - and again, and again...

And I know it's not all that bad.  At all.  The kids are wonderful! And with God's help I've been able to do things to help me grow; school, dog shows, karate, etc.  I'm finding the discipline to exercise, and I'm weaning off my dependency on soda and caffeine to function.  So it really is all a mind over matter game; changing the way I think, which changes the way I perceive things, which changes the way I react.

I'm choosing to focus on being thankful (and the month of November helps with that!).  I'm also reading his word, reading devotions, at morning and at night.  The challenge is all the time in-between when I actually have to deal with difficult people or situations, but that's where prayer comes in.  I pray that God will help me to remember what I read and to live by it.

His Word is so encouraging to me.  It reminds me that He is not manipulative, or difficult to please.  I don't have to play mind games with God, trying to earn His favor, wondering what He thinks of me. I can trust Him, trust His love for me, and know that He's not flaky.  It's a sense of relief (physically and mentally), when I can just be myself, unwind, and know that it will all be ok.

He's encouraged me to stop trying to reconcile what I think I should be God's will to what is actually happening, because in my mind I'll never figure it out.  I can't understand why things have led up to this point or where they are going.  And though there is a sense of personal responsibility and accountability, I know that ultimately I'm just not that much in control.  I don't have the power to do/undo what God has planned.  So it's easier to trust Him.  Break it down into bite-sized pieces, one day at a time... one moment at a time. Do my best today and then leave the outcome to the Lord.  He is good. It will be ok.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Praising in the Storm

Literally praising in the storm... Except I'm indoors.  It's been a few testing months, but I find myself with more faith than last month.  Not much has changed while we wait for Paul to find a full-time job, but every interview gives us a little bit of hope when we get discouraged.  And God has provided! So much! I can't help but be encouraged.  He has given us so much, and has blessed us with very generous friends.  We haven't been in need of anything, and things are getting paid.

Not to mention that God's blessings are intangible too.  Encouragement.  Hope.  Friendship.  Comfort.  Laughs.  I feel blessed even when the waiting feels long.  I am reminded that we'll be ok when I start to despair.

The kiddos are growing like weeds and blessing us more and more (albeit, sometimes with patience as they exercise us beyond limit).  Enjoying the joys of parenthood, although I also have to figure out how to potty train Caleb, and help Anakin with all of his activities (Karate, school, church...)  while not letting our middle child (Brielle) feel neglected or bored.

I am hungry for personal growth in every area of my life but I haven't been able to do much.  It seems that after work, feeding the kids, and then I'm mentally/emotionally/physically spent.  Weeks come and go and I can't get past the routine.  It's frustrating, but I know it won't always be this way.  I will have time to go back to school.  I will have energy to exercise.  I will have the focus to do other things (such as blogging!).  I just have to try it every day, and if I don't get to it, try it again the next day.

So that's where I'm at. No deep spiritual truth to reveal.  No exciting experience to share.  Just the hope that I'm alive and we're ok...  God is good and faithful to us.  And there are good things coming - this is the part I get tired of waiting for, but it's true - there are better things on the way.  It's going to get better; it's going to be great!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The "Patty Payne" Effect

I'm always particularly blessed in that I've met some amazing, inspiring women.  There are quite a few that I'm always proud to know, that never cease to amaze me.  I'd like to share a bit about one such woman and the ripple effect of her life.
You can read Patty's obituary by clicking here.  I know her as Dr. Patricia Payne, or "Dr. Payne", although my co-workers called her "Patty" or "Momma Payne".  I went to her memorial picnic today, and stood in a room full of people who were in awe of how amazing she was, just like I was.

I met Dr. Payne when I started working at Alaska Veterinary Clinic.  My husband and kiddos met her too; we were the last ones to leave.  Paul would come pick me up, and the kids would ask to use the restroom, and they always said "Hi!"  It was at the end of very long, stressful days, that the few of us remaining would talk about our plans for the evening, or the weekend... Not knowing all the details of her life, I was always in shock because of all the things she did.  She made quilts, and did a lot of sewing.  She played the fiddle and toured with a band.  She went to the gym.  She did photography.  She painted.  And then she always thought of something else she wanted to do in the future.  
She also took care of my pets, specially my Pepper, who was my little buddy.  She understood and handled Pepper when no one else was willing to.

Early this year she received the diagnosis that put everyone in shock.  I was even more shock to find out it wasn't the first time.  We were devastated, but optimistic.  If anyone could face it - it was her!

The week before she left for treatment the first time I asked her about Pepper's neurotic behavior, because she was having more symptoms than usual.  She had me bring Pepper for an exam and saw her come unglued... and she knew that it didn't look too good for Pepper.  She very frankly talked to me about Pepper; she was having severe neurological issues...  We can attempt medications but much like with human mood-altering medications, if they don't work the results could be at the very least painful if not lethal.  I'd never be able to trust Pepper with the kids and Dr. Payne was concerned for my family's safety.  She said that if I asked her to, she would euthanize Pepper for me, although we attempted some bloodwork to see if we could find any clues to her behavior.  I told Dr. Payne I would take care of Pepper but could not ask her to do it.  That week, and that weekend, was so hard for me.

I took a lot of heat for having Pepper euthanized.  I had people say some really hurtful things to me.  What I could not disclose at that time is that this was Dr. Payne's recommendation.  She was facing a terrible diagnosis herself; it wasn't something she said casually or took lightly!  How could I, without breaking her confidence, explain why her opinion was that important to me?  Had it been anyone else I would've never done it.  We knew Dr. Payne, and her heart for animals, and for the people that belonged to them.  I knew she cared about my family and even though it would be difficult for me to accept, she saw the big picture of my home and told me the truth.
Between rounds of chemo she would stop by the clinic and we would always be happy to see her. We tried to help as much as we could.  Then we waited... and were disappointed... and waited some more.  Always hopeful that a miracle would come along.

The process was difficult but the effect is inspiring.  Because Patty was the kind of person that was constantly working on her "bucket list", before she got ill.  It taught us to somehow do the same.  The result is people taking pottery classes, joining a band, going back to school, trying something new... There's no way to better honor a woman like her than by taking a lesson from the way she lived.  She believed you could do anything you wanted to do.  She didn't believe in excuses for waiting.  She saw life and nature as art and she could capture it and portray it.  She was thankful for every day and she did not waste it.  I was pleasantly surprised to learn today that she was also a fan of mythical stories like "Lord of the Rings".  It made me think, "I want to be Dr. Payne when I grow up!"  I think I remember telling her that too, sometime last year.
So, my bucket list?  Here it goes:
- I want to learn how to show dogs and participate in dog sports.
- I want to learn how to play the guitar once and for all! (and I need a guitar)
- I want to get back into acting... maybe go back to college for a financially useless degree like Theatre or Performing Arts.
- I want to be a foster parent. (and I need a whole lot of prayer and a double dose of patience)
- I want to blog more... and do photography.  Not for income per say, but to capture in pictures what I'm blogging about. (and I need a camera!)
- I want people to know what I believe.  They don't have to like it.  They don't have to agree with me.  But if I ever pass away I want people to know without a shadow of a doubt that I believed in Jesus Christ, and His love for them, and that I love them too.
- I want to be blissfully, even insanely, optimistic and confident.
- I want to live my life in such a way that, at the end of my days, people are as inspired by my life as we are by hers.