Balance

For all of us, there are those sayings that when we hear them in ‘real life’ (meaning, the reality of what we imagined adult life would be like…) we instantly think of the person who commonly spoke them. In those moments, they offer a unique perspective on not only life, but on living, as they tie together the innocent perspective and cherished memories of our past, with the sometimes harsh realities of our present. My mother-in-law is well known for reminding all of her (many!) little ducklings to ‘trust in providence.’ My father would always say cheesy things like, ‘the family that dines together, shines together,’ when we were busy teenagers, and ‘anybody can kill a bug, but only God can make a bug,‘ as he would carry the offending intruders outside to safety. But the one morsel of wisdom that sticks most in my mind comes from my own mother, who incessantly preached that ‘life is a balance.’ I don’t think I learned the truth to that until much later in life. And if I’m being honest, I’m still learning what it means to balance the hectic Mondays and the Saturdays on the porch, the winning smiles and the lonely tears, the ice cream sundaes and the kale salads. But my favorite quote, for many years, has remained:

“To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake, it is necessary to stand out in the cold.”

 

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that I’ve been so quiet over here in my little corner of the web for the past few weeks. Thanks for being patient and understanding and allowing me to be quiet. Life has gotten really busy and confusing for me, and I’m still trying to work it all out. Rest assured, all is well with all members of the AFM5 family! But the reality is that in life, you are often influenced and surrounded and pulled and pushed by more than just those whom you care about most, and by more than just those who care about you! The hard part for me, is finding a balance between compliments and criticism, between working for more and being satisfied with what you have, and between being content with who you are and wanting to improve yourself. Life is hard! But it is a good hard when I am surrounded and supported by my pups and my family and my friends (virtual and literal!) and my amazing husband.

I know this is all a bit ambiguous and open-ended, and in some ways that is a deliberate, purposeful choice. Maybe by being vague, you will be more able to apply my struggles to your own life? Nevertheless, one thing I have learned, is that I am not myself without this special space. When I write, as much as the words jumble in my head, the rest of the environment gets kind of quiet. There is no pressure to communicate quickly, no set amount of time in which I have to express myself clearly, and no guidelines that limit my authenticity. I am able to slowly and conscientiously select the unique combination of words that puts genuine color and movement and music and texture to the thoughts and feelings and experiences that jumble inside my head and heart. And if I’m really lucky, it may spark something inside of someone else.

So while the frequency of my posts may diminish for a little while, I’m making a conscious decision to share as I work through this challenge and change. It’s a daily struggle and a daily choice. The format and content of this space may change somewhat, but it will still be here. Stick with me, and I promise that I will be back to your regularly scheduled programming. Quality over quantity, and all of that. It’s so easy to continually push until tomorrow, but I don’t want to look back and see what I’ve missed. I want to enjoy the now… snowflakes and sunshine both included.

With all of that being said, I want some input from my friends and readers. How do you bring balance to your life? Are you able to juggle it all, and if so, please share your secret! If not, how do you decide which balls to drop, and at what point do you remind yourself to restructure and prioritize? Thanks in advance for sharing your wisdom and honesty.

xoxo

S

How is it that my dogs never seem to have an issue with balance in their lives? If only they could share their secrets!

How is it that my dogs never seem to have an issue with balance in their lives? If only they could share their secrets!

Blazing New Trails with Animal Farm Foundation

I first became aware of the Animal Farm Foundation internship program through my blogging idols at Love and a 6-Foot Leash, and Peace, Love, & Fostering. Each of the bloggers participated in one of AFF’s informative and life-changing week-long internships, and I was so moved by the experiences that they graciously shared. Prior to that, I of course had heard about all of the great things AFF is doing to advocate for ‘pit bull-type dogs’. I just knew that if I got involved, it would forever change my perspective on all things dog… from training, to rescue, to adoption, and more.

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Photo from Peace, Love, & Fostering

I don’t want to give too much away up front, but I will say this… I am attending the AFF Language and Advocacy session next week. You can read more about what I can expect, here. I am so excited! I am also nervous. And, I am a little bit bummed that my experience will only be the 3-day version, as opposed to the week-long. However, I anticipate that this will be a great way for me to get my feet wet, and maybe even have the opportunity for a longer experience next year.

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I will be attending as a representative of LCPO, the rescue group where I volunteer. They are also the ones that pulled Georgia and eventually placed her with us as a foster. I hope to soak up as much knowledge as possible, in order to bring everything back to our hard-working team of leaders and volunteers. I am sure that there will be so many others in attendance that possess infinitely more knowledge and experience than I. I can only hope that some of theirs will rub off on me!

Surround yourself with the dreamers the doers the belivers the thinkers

 

Remember that I started this week discussing adventure, and my goal was to put myself in environments and with people that made me reach for more… I would say that this endeavor is going to be just that! I can’t wait to share it with all of you on here.

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Another great photo from Peace, Love, & Fostering’s AFF Internship experience

OH! And Happy 4th 🙂 I hope you all enjoy it (safely!) with your pups!

Photo source: Pinterest.com

Photo source: Pinterest.com

 

Adventure.

The older I become, the less I can consider myself to be much of an adventurer. This is a hard thing for me to admit. I like to think of myself as young, fearless, and carefree. But if I’m being honest, I will recognize that I most often choose to stay in the safe zone of life. The threat of failure and disappointment are always lingering in the back of my mind like the monster beneath the bed. Unfortunately, this vice exposes itself in most areas of my life… even as I approach photography, I worry that by attempting to shoot in manual mode, I will miss the perfect shot, and end up with a grainy or distorted image. I often forget that by taking on the challenge of manual mode, I also run the risk of capturing a shot that is exponentially more moving than anything I could while in Auto. A euphemism for life, is it not?

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There are only about two areas in my life where this fear of failure does not readily apply. One of those is when I’m riding. I wouldn’t say that it applies with horses in general… such an expensive, competitive hobby can be endlessly daunting in the pursuit of success. However, when I am on the back of my horse, not much else matters. I bravely approach a four-foot fence, trusting in my horse to help us find our way safely to the other side. I happily mount a young two-year-old, relying on my body, in both its natural and learned abilities, to feel and react to the potential tornado underneath my seat.

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The other place where my fearless nature shines is in the great outdoors with our pups. I feel most myself when surrounded by the four beings I love most in this world. And when I am truly myself, fear and worry seem to drift quietly out of my mind. Our pack winds through wooded trails, not knowing what is around the bend, as the sunlight streams spottily between the trees. The dogs run boldly ahead, coming back to us from time to time to check that we are following obediently behind. J. wraps his hand around my waist, pulling me snuggly to his side, and plants a kiss on my forehead. This is my happy place, my safe place, the place where I am ME, free from judgement or misunderstanding. And in this moment, when the stress of the outside world is not threatening, I AM fearless, carefree, and brave.

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If you follow our blog, you see evidence of our many adventures together. We love to take the dogs hiking, boating, swimming, and camping. Rain or shine, hot or cold, we spend lots of time in the outdoors. Basically, whenever our busy schedule allows! Sure, it can be a challenge to load up the pups and our supplies, often at the mercy of the fickle Pennsylvania weather. Sometimes we encounter unfriendly dogs or humans, and even snakes! But the positives always outweigh the negatives. We come home exhausted and dirty, but always somehow rejuvenated. It may drain our reserves of energy and patience, but it always recharges the batteries of happiness and passion.

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I am a big believer in the fact that we are all multi-faceted. We can be both fearful and brave, powerful and weak, confident and insecure. But it is our job to put ourselves in situations, and surround ourselves with the individuals, who bring out the best in us. That is what our dogs do for me. What do yours do for you?

This week, the blog is going to be devoted to adventure. Please be sure to check back throughout the week, and get involved in the comments and contributions… there will be something awesome in it for some of our lucky readers!

Wordless Wednesday: Organization & Inspiration!

Foster Dad is just TBE… The Best Ever!

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Eeek! So much more room for (blogging) activities!

Georgia: "I think you missed a piece..."

Georgia: “I think you missed a piece…”

Inspirational quotes and photos

Inspirational quotes and photos

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Where it all started <3

Where it all started ❤

Tonk's & Geege's puppy collars!

Tonk’s & Geege’s puppy collars!

Just what I needed… below is from Foster Dad:

Desk: $225

Chair and cover: $60 + $40

Labor: 3 hours

Happy Writer/Wifer: Priceless!

I feel like I am about to be so much more productive! 🙂 Stay tuned…

Happy May everyone!

 

Cherish Me

I won’t always cry out at night,

When you leave me all alone,

Or chew on your brand new shoes,

Instead of my brand new bone.

 

My puppy breath won’t always linger,

from big yawns and dozing naps.

I won’t always be small and cozy,

Enough to cuddle on your lap.

 

Soon I will begin to grow,

Into my super-sized puppy paws.

I will start to want my freedom,

And our cuddles will take pause.

 

I will not always trip and tumble

When you call me down the hall.

Cherish every snuggle, snore and slumber,

For I won’t always be this small.

Baby Tonk

Baby Tonk

~~~

I won’t always love to run and romp,

After toys and tennis balls.

I won’t always want to tug and fetch,

or (almost) always come when you call.

 

When I was small you taught me well,

‘best friend’ is what you call me now.

Wherever you are, I’m by your side,

Loyalty is my solemn vow.

 

No matter the roads you take in life

I am your companion, willing and able

But I won’t always ride shotgun in your car

Or keep watch beneath the dinner table.

 

I won’t always be up for a new adventure

My body athletic and strong

Cherish every shake, sit, and stay,

For I will grow old before too long

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~~~

My puppy transgressions a thing of the past,

Obedience is now my middle name.

Wisdom collected as your lifelong companion,

‘Good dog’ is my claim to fame.

 

Achy joints and stumbling movements,

My body betrays me as age creeps in.

Our adventures decrease, yet I am brave,

Because of the memories I hold within.

 

I won’t always struggle to catch up.

Still so many roads left unexplored.

Yet I yearn to please you, however I may,

Your love is my favorite reward.

 

Though I grow weak, gray and tired,

Unable to lift my body from the ground,

Cherish every snore, stare and struggle,

For I won’t always be around.

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~~~

You have to face your life without me now

You see what a void there is to fill.

No one to play and fetch and run with you,

Or to cuddle quietly when you’re ill.

 

You used to grow frustrated

with all of the little things.

And now you wish to have them back

With all the joy they bring.

 

You miss the jingle of my tags,

The weight of my paw in your hand.

You’d even embrace my fur and drool,

Just to have me at home again.

 

Though the tears will fall like rain

Don’t let the grief tear you apart.

Cherish every story, sign, and snapshot

For I will always be in your heart.

 

Soul Mates

Call me crazy, but I believe, in my heart of hearts, that we meet people for a reason. Some may just be shooting stars; a fleeting glimpse of ideals, meant to remind you of the things you needed to remember. Occasionally, these people may stay for a lifetime, a constant source of inspiration or drive. Rarer still, are the people that are our soul mates. It’s not often that I find people that remind me of myself, while still inspiring me to reach for more. In fact, up until this point, there was like one, one other person in the entire world that reminds me of myself. (She knows who she is!)

Anyways, as crazy as it might seem, I kind of have come to the conclusion that our three dogs are soul mates. We have three pups, whose backgrounds are all a little bit different, and yet they get along perfectly. There’s Tonka, the happy-go-lucky people-pleaser (and they say dogs are like their owners… psh.) Anyways, he was a dog park-dog, one that could make friends with even the most impolite of pups. Then, he was attacked by a male labrador three times in one summer, and he started to be tense and defensive around all dogs. It took us a while to get him to be calm and relaxed around other dogs again. While I know he will never be as carefree as before, I can trust him to be the mediator in dog groups, and know that he loves nothing more than a good romp in the yard with other well-mannered dogs.

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Then came Gaige, who probably had little to no socialization before I found her. She has great manners within the hierarchy of our dogs, but can be a wild-child (read: annoying) when it comes to playing with new dogs. She gets way too wound-up and excitable, and loves to play rough. For those reasons, she typically only gets to play with our dogs, or other dogs that I’ve slowly introduced her to, and that have complimentary play styles. She and Tonka grew into great friends, who were never far from one another.

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Finally there is Georgia. Most of you know her story, but after a troubled past, she was not fond of other dogs. She would wag her tail from afar, seemingly wanting to join in on the fun, but if they came close, she would sometimes snap or growl. Even given perfect opportunities, Georgia never actually tried to bite other dogs, but she was careful to remind them to keep their distance. Everyone told me that she would be best in a home without other dogs, but I just knew that if we could show her that our dogs would not harm her, she might just gain confidence from a relationship with them. After months of slowly reinforcing her positive associations with our dogs, we finally began to see sparks of companionship between the three of them.

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For the longest time, we were most concerned about the females getting along, but it has come about that the two girls are pretty much inseparable. They sleep curled against one another, share toys, and are a speedy team on adventures through the woods in search of moles sticks. I’ve never had a sister, but I am so enjoying watching the bond these two share. For as many times as we have grown frustrated with Gaige, while playing rough or being demanding or getting into everything, she has been a wonderful playmate for Georgia… slowly pulling her out of her shell, all the while reading her body language and responding accordingly. More importantly, even when Georgia occasionally ‘shot her down’ with a growl or snap in the early days, Gaige would respectfully give her some space, only to return a few hours later to delicately try again. I think I have something to learn from her indomitable spirit…

"There is nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it is sent away." - Sarah Kay

“There is nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it is sent away.” – Sarah Kay

What is one of the most lasting lessons your dog(s) has taught you? Another giveaway is in the works for your response 🙂 Jennifer Jacobs Scarry, please email me at sel1490@gmail.com to claim your prize from the last giveaway! It might look something like this…

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Many thanks to Two Hounds Designs for their generous contributions!

To be Wealthy

What makes you feel like a million bucks? I am so interested in the way people answer this question. It is important to note that ‘a million bucks,’ is not the same thing as ‘beautiful’.

I believe that it is a moment we all search for. A moment when we are the rulers of our world, and in total control. It is a moment that inspires us, carries us, and reminds us of what we are living for. In this moment, we see everything that we can be in this life, and suddenly, we can’t imagine being anything less.

"Dreams are always crushing when they don't come true. But it's the simple dreams that are often the most painful because they seem so personal, so reasonable, so attainable. You're always close enough to touch, but never quite close enough to hold and it's enough to break your heart."

“Dreams are always crushing when they don’t come true. But it’s the simple dreams that are often the most painful because they seem so personal, so reasonable, so attainable. You’re always close enough to touch, but never quite close enough to hold and it’s enough to break your heart.”

Every great love starts with a great story. One of my greatest loves in life, was my horse Frosty. He came into my life at a pivotal time, and our adventures cover the highest of peaks and the lowest of valleys. His registered name, the name we competed under, was ‘A Dynamic Minute,’ which so perfectly sums up our memories together: a fleeting yet divine moment in time.

Losing Frosty was one of the most painful moments in my life. Painful is probably an understatement, and conversely, one that very few will ever comprehend. Even in every happy moment or good day, something would spark that undercurrent of pain, and the crack in my heart would spread all over again. In time (only recently, 7 years later), the hurt began to lessen, and it was easier to just let go.

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Or at least, I thought it was easier. But in every ride I took over the years, I found myself searching for him. I’d seek the lifting float of his trot, or the rocking gait of his canter. I looked for his clownish personality in the barn, mirrored by his stone cold focus in the show ring. I craved the pride from our successes in the spotlight, and the quiet loyalty of our private moments behind the scenes. I missed him so. I missed hearing his name called along with mine, that sweet sound of success that made all of the sacrifices worthwhile. Even the times when our names weren’t called first… yes, I missed those too. Because, at the end of the day, I knew that I still had his giant heart to depend on. Mostly, I just missed my friend, my partner, my champion. I was looking for him everywhere, and when the feelings got too strong, I’d take a step back from the world that reminded me endlessly of him. I couldn’t continue to drive towards my dreams, for fear of what I needed to face, and what I might ultimately find. I didn’t want to recognize my own inadequacies without him. I wanted to remember us like we were those fleeting years, those exquisite summers. Independent of the world, yet fiercely dependant upon one another. Strong and brave, focused and calm. Grey horse and slight girl, gallant steed and timid princess: a fairytale, a living poem. Undeniable champions, and yet we were eventually torn apart by the very thing that drew us to great heights… ambition, though ultimately not our own.

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Our last moments together…

What I am only now realizing, as I write this, is that Frosty, in himself, was my dream. That’s it. Aside from the glory and success and points. All of that would have meant nothing without him. Every little girl’s fantasy of the beautiful horse with the rocking canter, who galloped into their dreams to carry them away from reality. That’s the gift he gave me. The glaring absence of the light that he once brought into my life, sometimes makes every other beautiful thing so much dimmer by comparison. In his dappled gray glory, Frosty was the silver lining to the clouds in my life, and so sometimes it’s hard to see much more than stormy weather. I don’t know how to conclude this to do justice to this magnificent creature. All I can say is that, in all of his glory and imperfections, Frosty was the best thing that has ever happened to me. And, he truly is ‘A Dynamic Minute’ that will last a lifetime in my heart.

"Wherever I go in life, I take a piece of you with me everywhere."

“Wherever I go in life, I take a piece of you with me everywhere.”

While I have finally come to terms with the fact that he will never again be mine, I still work to uncover the reasons why the pain of our separation was so deep and sharp. Perhaps the reason it hurts so much to have lost him is because our souls are connected. Maybe they always have been and always will be. That gets me through.

It hurts that my dreams seem to be so intertwined with him. To face the ascent to my greatest aspirations, I must also face my life without him. I still want the dream I have put down on paper so many times. The dream that has existed in my heart for years. I preach to others that not a single one of us should feel that our dream, our freedom, or our choice is elusive. It should be ours to attain. And yet, my fear of loss, of failure, of betrayal, cripples me. A paralyzing fear that is only self-fulfilling… my fear of not achieving my dreams, prevents me from actively seeking them, which in turn renders them unachievable.

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For me, riding has always been about passion. What does that mean, you might ask? I believe it is a primal, instinctively vibrant part of ourselves that doesn’t come from social status, a fancy car, or a corner office. Expressing this part of yourself radiates a confidence and glow unattainable through beauty treatments and material possessions. Passion comes from our core; from the deepest part of who we are…that place we pull our last bit of strength from, where our deepest love lives.

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Find your passion. Seize it, and make it your life’s work. You will come alive. Most importantly, no matter how much it sometimes hurts, never give up.

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“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours.”

– Ayn Rand (Russian-born American author)