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Monday, December 24, 2012

Why Traditions are Important instead of Repetitive

You never quite realize how important traditions are, how much they define pieces of you, until they end. It's the little fresh baked cookies when you get home on your first day of school or lighting marshmallows over the first fire of the year or reading the Christmas story from the Bible on Christmas Eve. Traditions provide a special stamp. An indelible mark that defines an important time. Something that unites years, decades even. That pulls you into that pocket of the familiar.

Ever since I can remember, I've heard my Dad read the Christmas story from the book of Luke on Christmas Eve. I can hear his voice, "And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not. For behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord."

Tonight, the torch passed. My Dad couldn't be with us to read the Christmas story. And in this season of lights and gifts and family and food, I felt compelled to continue his tradition...his legacy of pulling out the Bible and reading the Christmas story from the book of Luke. Initially, it saddened me that it was my own voice instead of my Dad's reading the verses aloud. But my amazing husband reminded me that traditions are fluid and passed on. He told me that just as my father had read the Christmas story for the four decades of my life, it was now my turn to do so for my children. To continue the tradition by making it my own.

These words of wisdom by my sweet husband are both profound and accurate. Traditions aren't stagnant. They don't exist in the bubble of one generation. That is the antithesis of the meaning of the word "tradition." Such defining, important principals expressed through rituals shared every year or season are designed to be continued. Adopted by the next generation. Whether it's baking cookies, hanging wreaths on every window, watching "The Sound of Music," or singing along to "The Wizard of Oz," just enjoy your family and their traditions. For one day soon, you'll be the one passing on the baton. And the importance of that is immeasurable.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

I Miss You, Tay

Two-and-a-half weeks ago, my sweet puppy, Taylor, died in her sleep. Almost 15 years old, she'd battled heart failure for two years. But when I say "battled," I don't mean she was in pain or discomfort or not herself. She was Taylor until the very end. That's how she lived her entire life...on her terms.

We rescued her when she was 7 months old. I was working as an attorney in Miami and had recently gotten a Jack Russell, Paisley. Not wanting him to be alone, I'd let it be known that I wanted a friend for him. One of the runners in our office came to me and said, "There's one on South Beach! Go see her." That very day, I walked into this so-called pet store and was led to the back of the room. My beautiful little girl was in a crate she couldn't even stand in. There was only room for the nasty blanket she slept on and a water bowl. When I walked up to the crate and she stood, she had to stoop because her head hit the top of it.

Anger is not a big enough word to describe how I felt. But I knew these "people" weren't going to let her go unless I bought her. I turned to the woman, swallowed my outrage, and said, "I'll take her. Can I take her home now?" I wanted to get this sweet thing out of there as fast as I could. Taylor wouldn't even look at me she was so scared. The woman declared, "You'll have to come back tomorrow. I need to get the papers in order." So I drove home in tears and didn't sleep.

The next day after work (the "store" didn't open until 6), I walked in and demanded to take her home. When they handed her to me, I cradled her in my arms. From the moment I walked out of that place with her through the entire hour commute home, she burrowed her head under my elbow. Afraid to be in an open space. She'd lived her entire life in that tiny box and was petrified without its boundaries.

When I got home, Paisley sniffed her. Nuzzled her. But she was still afraid. She would bury herself under the couch pillows or under the bed. She simply didn't feel safe exposed to freedom. It took time and patience, and lots of nudging from Paisley, but within just a few months, they became best friends. They would snuggle on the couch and wrestle and play fight.

After all of that in just a few short months, I got married. A couple of years later, we had kids. We moved up the East Coast from Florida to Pennsylvania. And she was there every step of the way. When we brought Peyton home from the hospital, she sat at the end of the bed and pouted for days, but then got over it and became maternally protective of her little "sister." When I had not one, but two miscarriages, she laid by my side in bed and nuzzled me. When we lost Abby and I couldn't sleep, she would sit out on the patio with me at 3 in the morning standing guard. I sobbed and hugged my robe while she sat next to me, facing away from me, to protect me from anything else that might cause me pain.

For almost 15 years, she greeted me everytime I walked through the door as though she thought I was never coming back. She loved me as ferociously as I loved her. And she lived her life on her terms. When she was diagnosed with heart failure, she beat the survival odds by 11 months. And she was still herself. Alert. Loving. Protective. She died on her own terms, just like she lived her life. She fell asleep next to her daddy, on the couch, and didn't wake up.

I've sobbed over losing her. I've cried to Jamie, "she's just a dog. Why does this hurt so much?" He wisely reminded me: "She's not just a dog. She's Mama Yay (a nickname that evolved over a decade)." She was my girl and I miss her terribly.