Lessons

Introducing Beck

Beck's first day at his new home.

Life has a way of organizing itself. As I drove home Thursday afternoon in the beautiful spring-like weather, something caught my eye. I looked again to see a dog’s head poking out from the passenger’s window of a car. The sweet breeze blew back the floppy ears of a boxer. I knew that was my sign, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Ruby loved to go for a ride. While she usually rode in the back of the station wagon, sometimes I let her ride next to me with the window cracked open so she could smell the wind. Her death just after last Christmas left a gaping void in our family. With Rob out of town the past two weeks, James and I felt lonelier than ever.

When James came into my office the next morning, we decided to search online for boxer breeders to see if there were any puppies available this Spring. We found a breeder nearby that had a litter of four boxer puppies – another sign. It wasn’t even 6 am, so James and I had to wait until a respectable 8:30 am to call. One puppy was left, and the breeder was thinking about keeping him because he had such a sweet temperament. After talking with the breeder for twenty minutes, I booked an appointment that afternoon to meet him and his dogs. Minutes after Rob arrived from his red-eye flight, and despite my warnings of “we’re just looking, not buying,” James announced that we were getting a puppy.

It turned out that James was right. We took a look at the calm, three month old boxer puppy and fell in love. He was brindle – a dark, tiger-striped coloring- with floppy ears, a white chest and a square jaw. He followed James around, curious and interested. James rolled his ball and held his rope tug. We all laughed when the puppy instinctually used its front paws to play with his toys, just like a boxer. Rob and I looked at each other and knew he was going to join our family.

The breeder said to me “everything happens for a reason.” He was almost resigned to keeping the pup until I called. It helped him to know that our family had owned boxers, but what made it easy for him to let go of the pup was James. It was important for him to place his puppy with children. Boxers have been described as exuberant, energetic, playful, silly and affectionate. They are all that, and then some. But the greatest thing I love about the breed is that they are wonderful with kids – gentle, patient, loving and protective.

Now, James has a little buddy to take care of and play with. In return, I’m sure Beck will teach James a lesson or two about life, love and happiness. Life does have a way of organizing itself for the best.

P.S. We chose Beck as the abridged name of one of our favorite soccer players David Beckham. Coincidentally, James and Rob wore their Beckham jerseys the day we got Beck.

What leotards taught me about happiness

There’s a picture of me as a young girl on Facebook surrounded by family. I think we were celebrating Easter at my aunt’s house. There I sat on the floor of the family room in a very unladylike position, wearing a yellow dress and white, saggy leotards. While the rest of the family around me smiled, I looked sullen.

My brother-a rabid Facebook user-commented on it. He wrote, “my sister does not look happy, maybe the leotards were on the creep.”

I hate to admit it, but my evil little brother may have a point. If creep is the slow, gradual downward movement of a leotard in response to prolonged stress, then I definitely had it. No wonder I looked like I would rather be somewhere else. No child should be made to wear white, creepy leotards, but I digress…

It’s tough being a kid.

Growing up, all I wanted was to be loved, feel safe and have fun. However, as a kid your definition of fun doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing as your parents’ definition. Often, you have no choice. You are told what to do, whether it’s to get up, clean your room, eat your carrots, or stop reading the last chapter of a book to sit still for a family picture that is definitely not as much fun as discovering what happens next to your heroine.

Like leotards, being a grown up can get the creep, too.

Being a grown up can be overwhelming, from shoveling three feet of snow on the sidewalk, to paying taxes, to sitting in unproductive meetings, to attending a function you don’t want to be at, to dealing with temper tantrums. The creep moves in, wears you down, and makes you anxious, frustrated and angry. Before you know it your leotards are a sagging bag of misery.

It’s the creep that gets in the way of happiness.

You can learn a lot about happiness from watching a kid. James is happy kicking a soccer ball, winning a thumb wrestling contest, drawing pictures of animals, eating a cookie, singing, playing in the bathtub, petting a dog, or reading aloud while curled up next to me on the big chair in our family room. According to James, “Happy feels good.”

Occasionally, however, the creep gets in the way and meltdowns occur. For James, the creep might appear 20 minutes after he has consumed three Kit Kats, or when he can’t get his drawing perfect, or there’s nobody to play with, or I make him come to Wegmans with me.

The creep rears its sloth-like head and clings to its little host however long it likes. When I help James to understand why he’s unhappy and have him focus on something else, I get positive results.

What if we act the way we want to feel?

When we understand our strengths and virtues, maybe we can trump the creep and get happy. Channeling positive emotions such as confidence hope and trust along with good qualities of courage, truth, and loyalty serves us best in times of trouble. Having a clear understanding of who you are can go a long way in the pursuit of happiness.

Repeat after me: Today, I’m happy.

Now and then, I forget that the simplest things in life can make me happy. Changing my mantra seems to help. Today, I’m happy. I’m happy because it’s Friday and I’m writing before 6 a.m. I’m happy because my family is safe. I’m happy because the sun is shining. I’m happy because it’s a fresh, new day full of possibilities.

I’m happy because never again do I have to wear white, saggy leotards that creep.

What do you think?