My Husband’s Mother

Six boys in under seven years. The fact that she still has her sanity is proof she has been sneaking bliss.

Everywhere I look, I see evidence of naysayers being cast aside.
Little expressions of what brings her joy are on display in this corner or that.
Mementos from family trips.
Her family wall of portraits, young and old.
A shelf full of children’s books.
Her garden is a masterpiece transformed to greatness by her culinary prowess. Yes, she is that good.
Perhaps the greatest evidence of bliss is a beautiful trillium painting, her painting, hanging in the den.

The most recent picture of us. She graciously tagged along while I was shooting research pictures at San Francisco Zoo. Tim snapped a few shots with his phone.

I treasure her presence in my life. Not only because she is the mother of the man who holds my heart, but the woman to woman wisdom she brings to our relationship is immeasurable. I have benefited greatly from her experience.

It is only fitting that every so often her birthday occurs on Thanksgiving.

Happy Birthday Mom,

“Trillium” by Norma Livingston

Happy Birthday Bliss – Gracie

Gracie is visiting our place for a while. Today is her birthday. Time for some birthday pictures. Of course Sailor had to join in.

You’re a good girl, Gracie. Happy Birthday!

Saving Sailor

A year ago, while talking with my friend, Jill, at Saturday Night Golden Retrievers, I found out she was placing a male dog named Sailor.

Sailor was 17 months old and had a bit of a rough history. His first home was not prepared for his level of energy and their life circumstances prevented Sailor from receiving the most basic of training. When the breeder found out that Sailor’s home was not turning out as planned, she worked diligently to have the dog returned.

Sailor's early days with his littermates at Saturday Night Goldens. Images courtesy Jill Flament.

Sailor’s early days with his littermates at Saturday Night Goldens. Images courtesy Jill Flament.

In his first home, when he had typical naughty puppy behavior, he was isolated in a crate. He wasn’t taught. He was just locked up. Sailor spent a lot of his time with everyone mad at him. They didn’t know what to do with him. When Sailor returned to the breeder at 10 months old, he didn’t know his name, didn’t know how to walk on a leash, wasn’t connecting to people and was a bit of a mess.

After his return, the breeders, Jill and Doug, took time to evaluate him and begin repairing and rebuilding his life as a dog. He received a new name, learned to walk on a leash and began gaining social skills with their pack of dogs.

Sailor was always a gentle soul. He never struck out with a growl or nip; rather, when it all was too much to handle, he ran away. This aversion to stress made it difficult for Sailor to learn the skills he needed as a family dog, much less a working retriever. Jill and Doug had their work cut out for them.

When winter came to Montana, Sailor was spending a lot of time in the kennel. That’s the way it is when it’s really cold out. The indoor facility was safe and warm, outside it was -29° F. Needless to say, outdoor time was very limited. Jill noticed that Sailor’s disconnect from people was growing, save for the time he spent with Doug during the limited training opportunities in winter. Sailor was already at risk due to the isolation he experienced in his first home.

Even though he was not completely up to their standard for rehoming, she knew it was in his best interest to complete his training in a different living situation. Finding the right home at the right time was crucial for Sailor. Jill knew Tim and I had done rehabilitation work with hunting retrievers. She was very honest with us about his skill level and his history. She provided us a link to his pedigree on K9Data.

When she first made us aware of Sailor’s availability, we were still reeling over our own news that our Blitz was dying. The next week when I talked to Jill, Sailor came up again. Tim and I decided that night we would buy Sailor.

Our first meeting.

Our first meeting.

The next day after work on Feb. 14, we headed for Montana. Doug kindly met us in Dillon on the 15th saving us six hours on our total drive. We turned right around and headed for home, hoping to beat the incoming winter snowstorm. That night we stayed in a motel in Twin Falls, ID.

Sailor’s first move in the hotel room was to jump on the bed, grab a pillow, and play catch with himself. Okay, playful boy!

I awoke at 4:30 a.m. needing a bathroom break. Not wanting to wake everyone at such an early hour, I quietly placed the lid down and didn’t flush. As I washed my hands, I heard a spray of water…
not water.

Sailor surprises us with his skill to "go"

Sailor surprises us with his skill to “go”

Sailor was peeing between the toilet seat and lowered lid. Yelling ensued. So much for not waking anyone.

With that start to our day, we headed home in the snowstorm that had arrived early.

As we got well into Nevada the snow let up, and it was smooth sailing the rest of the way home. Once here, Sailor began to familiarize himself with the house. He surprised us again by peeing in the toilet, this time with remarkable aim.

Thus began our lives with Sailor, one year ago today.

In his time here we have built on what Jill and Doug started. Sailor has learned to trust and learned to train. He has learned he can make mistakes and he won’t be locked up. He doesn’t run away when the going gets tough. He even returns when retrieving, something much harder to teach an older dog compared to a puppy. He has learned hand signals for running blinds, and does multiple retrieves.

He’s had success bird hunting and will run some AKC Hunting Tests this year.

His biggest milestone by far… he pees outside.

Happy anniversary, Sailor, we are blessed to have you in our home.  To see highlights of Sailor’s first year, see gallery below.

NOTE:  When the breeders I know place a puppy in a home, they do so based on the information and references provided by the puppy buyer. Sometimes information isn’t communicated well, other times life circumstances change; in either case the pup winds up in a home that’s not a match.
The breeders I know (myself included) have a provision in their puppy contract that the pup is to return to the breeder and not be placed in a shelter should life circumstances require the pup be re-homed.
In these cases, after the breeder has spent time to evaluate the adult dog, they will place the dog in a new home.
We are happy to be Sailor’s forever home.

Click to enlarge and enjoy Sailor’s first year with us in his forever home.

Whimsday Bliss – Pet Pig

A childhood friend has a birthday this week. It got me thinking about my favorite birthday as a kid. On my eighth birthday, my best friend, Cynthia, gave me a runt piglet. He required bottle-feeding much to my delight. Whenever I got the chance, I snuck him into bed and cuddled him all night. The only photo I have of him is from the back, so here’s a work in progress of Porky and me.

I know I’m a few days early, but Happy Birthday, Cynthia…I’ll never forget the precious gift you gave me all those years ago. Happily remembering pet bliss.Flash Catalyst

my pet pig

I couldn’t help it. Porky was so little, he really needed a nighttime snuggle.


Whimsday Bliss – Color My Family

The 2014 installment for family coloring pages for my grandchildren, Color My Family,™ includes the family pets. Fun, fun, fun, bliss.

The 2014 installment for family coloring pages for my grandchildren, Color My Family,™ includes the family pets. Fun, fun, fun, bliss.

Birthday Bliss


An awesome start to the day - pure bliss!

An awesome start to the day – pure bliss! – Thanks to my wonderful family for these treasured birthday wishes!

Just One More Thing

In 1997, the pastor of our parish asked if I would assist a fellow parishioner named Walt to purchase a computer and learn how to use it.

When I greeted Walt, I recognized him immediately. The previous summer I took a portrait of him with his wife, Ruth. Ruth had Alzheimer’s and wasn’t too keen on me positioning her for the photo. Walt began speaking to her softly, “Now, Ruthy, it’s okay, she is going to take our picture.” She caught his eyes and was immediately calmed. Her eyes danced in the photo. It was obvious to me, there was something special about this man.

With this we began our journey.

Walt had a dairy ranch, much of his computer lessons involved teaching him to enter data on his heard, run reports, etc. Walt is bright and eager to learn new things, so he caught on quickly.

A 30 minute session took 4 hours.

The tech stuff was accomplished in the first and last 15 minutes. The rest, well Walt told stories and if he noticed me looking at the clock, he said, “Just one more thing.”

And so our routine was born. I started planning for the longer visits. In time, he needed no assistance with his computer, but we went through the motions anyway.

We all need story tellers and Walt is a master.

Little by little I learned of his youth. I learned of his days in WWII. Which roses in the yard he liked the most and about stray voltage in the barn.

Sgt. MatthewsPhoto from the Walter Matthews collection

Sgt. Matthews
Photo from the Walter Matthews collection

I laughed and cried when he shared stories of his daughter, Pat. She was the light of his life and brought much joy to Walt and Ruth. Pat died at 37 from primary biliary cirrhosis.

Not long after that Ruth was stricken with Alzheimer’s. For many years, Walt cared for her every need. The kind of care not born of obligation, but born of love.

A few years after Ruth passed, Walt was blessed with another chance for a love in his life and Bee came into his heart and ours.

Bee and Walt, just after Valentine's Day 2008.

Bee and Walt, just after Valentine’s Day 2008.                               Photo by MaryALivingston

Every once in a while, we still sneak a morning together and a cup of tea. We make no pretenses of caring for the computer, the time is ours to enjoy the stories and share a little bliss.

If you ever have the occasion, ask Walt to brew a cup of tea and tell you a story.

Your life will be richer for it.

I love you Walt,

Happy Birthday

The two of us. Photo by Bernice Bennett (Bee)

The two of us. Photo by Bernice Bennett (Bee)