Sentimental Journey

Don't be afraid of storms_edited-1Recently I took a long, long journey – a sentimental journey of a thousand miles and many years. I drove from Florida to New Jersey with my dog, Liberty, to meet my new grandson and daughter-in-law.

My grandson was 6 weeks old that weekend and, when I held him in my arms and looked down at his sweet little face, I had the physical sensation of time pulling me backwards. Could it really be 40 years since I first held his father? Time was playing that old trick on me, the one where it feels like you’re remembering some other lifetime but it could also have been just yesterday.

As I gazed down at my grandson, I was overcome with waves of emotion – certainly great joy, but also sadness because I already felt an ache for all the times in his life that I won’t be there. Matthew and Nanna 9-8-17I don’t want to live where my son and his wife live and they don’t want to live where I live so this gaping distance will always exist between us and I will have to accept that. My daughter-in-law’s parents, who live in the same town, will be the ones who babysit and who will be a regular presence in my grandson’s life. They will be frequent visitors to his house and he to theirs. He will celebrate Christmas and all the other holidays and special occasions with his mother’s family and I will be the disembodied, slightly unreal Nanna he talks to through the computer, the one he only sees a few times a year. It will take him a long time to understand that I’m a real person and not a character on TV! I know there are many people who have grown up far away from their grandparents. My parents immigrated to this country from England when I was five so I only knew my father’s mother through letters and photographs. I have friends who live far from their grandchildren. At least these days we have computers and smart phones and, yes, I’ll utilize them to stay in touch but, I haven’t quite adjusted yet to the fact that I won’t be able to be a “hands on” grandmother. I guess I’ll get used to it but, right now, it’s still hard to accept.

For now, I’m just trying to focus on how happy I am for my son that he has finally settled down and has a family and home of his own. It is obvious that he is happy – happier than I’ve seen him in a long time – and I enjoyed seeing him in his new roles of husband and father. I was pleased to see how loving and protective he is of his wife and child. He fully participates in all aspects of caring for his son but, more than that, I can see that he genuinely takes great pleasure in him. I always knew those qualities were deep inside him but it’s so gratifying to see them come to fruition. I felt so proud of my son; I even allowed myself a moment to take some credit for the man he has become. It was a long, rough road for both of us!

I can’t write about this journey without mentioning my wonderful little travel companion, Liberty. She not only spent many hours in the car without complaint but, she also adapted beautifully to all the changes involved in staying at a hotel and two rentals – not to mention visiting my son’s house and his in-laws. She was very interested in the baby – the little noises and movements he makes all attracted her attention and, of course, he smells like milk! I could see that she was distressed when he cried and I think, given a bit more time, she could become quite protective of him. When my son, the germaphobe, was out of the room I let her lick the baby’s toes – no harm done!

Liberty & Matthew 9-10-17

Liberty guarding HER baby!

See more of my artwork and books at Lynda Linke Productions  

Advertisements

Another nice daytrip

Simplicity copyI like to take Mom and Liberty out for the day every once in awhile. As I stated in a previous post, I think of day trips as mini vacations – a break from the usual routine that is good for the mind and spirit. I had seen the sign for Historic Downtown Sanford on I-4 so many times when driving to Orlando and I had recently commented to a friend that it’s strange how we always visit historic sites when we’re on vacation but we forget to explore the ones that are close to home so I decided it was time for a daytrip.

Mom and I are big fans of  “Main Street USA” and “Preserve America” downtowns; they have received federal or state grant funds to renovate and revitalize their downtown areas. I have even planned vacations around “Main Street USA” destinations – Hendersonville, NC and Thomasville, GA are two examples. We like to park the car and walk the main street, free to pop into the shops and eat lunch at an outdoor cafe where we can people watch (and, of course, Liberty can join us!). Maybe because we live in a town where the oldest house was built in the 1970’s and most of the stores are in shopping malls, we enjoy older buildings and the look of an old-fashioned main street. Although neither of us are “shoppers” anymore – we both feel that we have enough stuff – but we like to window shop and see unusual things that the “Big Box” chain stores don’t carry. In Sanford I went in a used book store called Maya Books & Music. Jam packed shelves, piles of books on the floor and tables, and just that perfect combination of organization and chaos that I can’t resist in a book store. I could have spent hours in there but controlled myself and only bought a particular book I had been wanting to read 🙂

Being able to be near water – whether it be ocean, river, or lake – is always a big attraction for me and downtown Sanford is right on Lake Monroe; a huge lake that feeds into the St. Johns River. There is a really nice pathway called River Walk along the lake and the weather was sunny, windy and cool – perfect for a walk. Liberty met two nice dogs – a little terrier/poodle mix named Charlotte who was decked out in a pink rhinestone-adorned halter and leash, and a friendly old chocolate Lab named Bob.

Riverwalk Sanford 3-3-17

Mom on the River Walk at Lake Monroe

After our walk we had delicious fish n’chips (although NOT authentic English style!) at the Breezeway Restaurant where Liberty was greeted by many admirers, as usual, and also met a nice dog who was passing by with his owner. We continued our leisurely walk around the small downtown area and stopped at Matties’s Delectable Desserts and bought a couple of yummy cookies to munch as we strolled.

Didn’t cost much, didn’t take a lot of time or effort. Just another nice daytrip 🙂

Sanford 3-3-17

Just hangin’ out lookin’ cute 🙂

See more of my artwork and books at Lynda Linke Productions

 

Gently down the stream

Cozy homeIt took me a week or so to realize it but, for the first time, I have no aspirations or goals for the new year! I didn’t even think about it on New Year’s Eve, which is the time when I traditionally ponder what I accomplished during the previous year and then sketch out the things I’d like to accomplish in the new year to come. This is so unusual for me that I actually can’t remember EVER (as an adult) starting a new year without them. For many years I called them resolutions, then I changed to aspirations because I thought resolutions sounded too harsh and rigid but, whatever I called it, the bottom line was that I always had a list of goals for the new year. When I was still working the list was a combination of career and personal goals and then, after I retired, the list naturally became focused on personal goals – but I always had them!

Last year my main goal was to finish Liberty’s AKC training classes and have her tested to become registered with Alliance of Therapy Dogs, Inc. and we accomplished that. We have been volunteering for PAWS to Read at two elementary schools and, although that doesn’t require therapy dog registration, we’re all set for any opportunities that do require it. In other years I’ve had such goals as finishing a book and getting it published (done!) and passing the 100 design threshold on my greeting card website www.greetingcarduniverse.com/LyndaLinke (done!). I had wanted to visit Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello for a long time and I made it a goal for 2015 (done!)

Maybe it’s because I’m older and I’m just experiencing time in a different way than I ever have before. Maybe my perspective has changed because I’ve been learning so much about history and the bible over the past few years. At times, I feel like I’m floating on a stream and everything just flows in and around me and that feels good after so many years of feeling restless and discontented – and possibly too goal-oriented. I finally feel that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, doing exactly what I’m supposed to do.

I have some vague ideas about losing 10 lbs, writing a new book, adding more card designs to my website, seeking new volunteer opportunities for Liberty and me, and doing some small home improvement jobs, but those ideas don’t carry the same weight as “goals”. All I really want is to stay healthy and be grateful everyday for my blessings – I even have a new sign hanging in my dining room so I can see it every time I sit down to eat “Blessings … count them one by one”. I  actually don’t care if I accomplish anything this year or not … and there is an unexpected feeling of freedom in that.

PS/Ann – thanks for the card. So glad to know you’re still reading and enjoying my blog. Blessings to you and Ira 🙂

I think in terms of the day’s resolutions, not the year’s.”  ~Henry Moore

liberty-and-new-toys-12-25-16

What is this New Year of which you speak? My goals are always the same … food, love, walks, rides in the car, and TOYS!  

See more of my artwork and books at Lynda Linke Productions

Thanksgiving in Apalachicola

mom-in-front-of-apalach-guest-house-11-16

Mom & Liberty in front of our guest cottage

As regular readers of this blog know, I take my Mom away for Thanksgiving week and another week in late spring. I started doing this the year after my Dad passed in 2006 and these trips have become special times for us. This year Mom, Liberty and I spent the week of Thanksgiving (and my birthday!) in Apalachicola, FL. I had never heard of Apalachicola – called Apalach by the locals – but a few months ago I heard someone talking about it on TV and thought it sounded like my kind of town so I read about it on the Internet. I found a comfortable dog-friendly house right in the heart of town that was perfect for us – The Apalach Guest House, which I rented through local realtor and property manager, Kathy Robinson (www.robinsonrealestate.com)

Apalach is a charming old small town with the Apalachicola river on one side and the bay of the same name on the other. It is a fishing village well-known for oysters and back in the days before trains it was a busy shipping port for all kinds of goods. There is a 17 block historic district with beautiful homes, with some built as far back as the 1840’s. We enjoyed being able to walk just a short block or two from the guest house to the main “downtown” area and we found friendly people everywhere we went, both working in the restaurants and shops and just walking along the streets. Also, lots of dogs everywhere! Early every morning Liberty and I walked along the riverfront and through the deserted downtown.

sunrise-at-the-apalachicola-river-11-16

Sunrise at the riverfront

One afternoon we toured the historic district and the town on an 8 person golf cart. Since we were the only two passengers (three if you count Liberty), we had our very knowledgeable tour guide, Judi, all to ourselves. Judi is quite an interesting character herself having retired from a 36 year career with the federal government and returning to Apalach, where she has 5 part-time jobs (including being part owner of the tour business and a connected shop) and serves on the library board of directors! If you go to Apalach, I highly recommend a tour with Judi (http://www.enjoyapalachicola.com/vacation-services1/historic-tours). That was Liberty’s first ride in a golf cart and, although a bit apprehensive of the open air experience at first, she quickly acclimated to it and seemed to enjoy herself. I think she realized it was even better than sticking her head out of the car window!

pretty-house-in-apalach-historic-district-11-16

One of Judi’s favorite homes in the historic district

As vegetarians, it is often challenging for us to find restaurants that serve dishes we can eat but, for such a small town, we did surprisingly well. We enjoyed very good wood-fired oven pizza at Slice of Apalachicola, one of the best veggie quiche I’ve ever had at Cafe Con Leche, and for my birthday Mom treated me to dinner at Up the Stairs (http://www.upthestairs.me/) where we enjoyed a delicious pasta dish and the decadent “Nonnie’s chocolate cake” (made with a recipe from Chef Richard’s grandmother). Funny side note: when we arrived for dinner, there was Judi at the door – it turned out that one of her part-time jobs is as a hostess at Up the Stairs, which is owned by her step-daughter! Small town life!

One afternoon we walked to the Ormon House Historic State Park, adding another one of Florida’s great state parks to the list we have visited. For a paltry $2 we were able to tour the beautifully restored house, which was built in 1838 and overlooks the Apalachicola River, stroll the grounds and enjoy the Chapman Botanical Garden. Also on the grounds is the Three Soldiers Detail, a bronze replica of the Vietnam memorial statue in Washington, DC.

I like Thanksgiving because it is such a uniquely American holiday and I hope all of you, like us, took a few moments to be thankful for all the blessings we Americans have. In fact, it’s good to take time to be thankful everyday!

If you want to turn your life around, try thankfulness. It will change your life mightily. ~ Gerald Good

 

chapman-botanical-garden-11-16

Good spot for a rest!

Visit Lynda Linke Productions to see my artwork and books and please leave comments on the blog – I love to get your feedback!

More Travels With Liberty

outside the Gulfport rental 6-16

Arriving at our Gulfport rental

My pup, Liberty, and I recently enjoyed a few days in Gulfport (FL). Liberty is a good traveler – she likes to go in the car, no matter how short or long the trip, and usually adapts to a new place within 24 hours. In the two years since I adopted her she has been to Gulfport twice, Sarasota, Thomasville, GA, St. Simons Island, and VA – plus numerous day trips. This time she didn’t adapt as easily because there were a couple of sounds she didn’t like – nail guns and the sound of lumber being dropped at the house behind us, and the thump of the wall air conditioner as it ended a cycle. I had purchased a Thunder Shirt for her after a particularly severe thunder storm left her shaken but, had not used it yet. Fortunately, I remembered to pack it “just in case”. I used it two times during our vacation and was amazed (and happy) to see that it actually helped to calm her!

Tests that were conducted using the Thunder Shirt showed that it helped in 80% of cases so, it’s definitely worth a try if you have an anxious pup (they make them for kitties, too).

Thunder Shirt 6-18-16

Yikes. Did you hear that?

This was my sixth visit to Gulfport in the past 7 years. I took my Mom on the other five visits but I like to get away by myself once in a while and this is a place where I feel relaxed and comfortable and it’s only a little more than three hours away in case I needed to get back home quickly. I usually don’t stray far from town but if I want more activity, St. Petersburg is only a 10 minute drive, Tampa another 15. Gulfport is a small, quiet, dog-friendly, walkable town on the Boca Ciega Bay – I think it’s only about 4 square miles. It has an “Old Florida” vibe with most of the homes built between the 1920’s and 1960’s and many of the shady streets paved with red brick in the 1920’s. There is a small beach and park on the bay and the other main thoroughfare in town runs alongside it and offers a very pleasant walk. There is a broad main “commercial” street, shaded by huge old trees, where most of the shops and restaurants are located. Several of the restaurants have outdoor seating where your canine companion is welcome. Liberty is an old hand at going to outdoor restaurants so she sits or lays quietly near my chair – except when the server comes to the table, of course. She knows who has the food and gets very excited when she sees them coming! She knows she’ll get some special treats – small pieces of melon, or home fries or pizza crust – but she doesn’t beg or drool. She has better manners than some people I’ve eaten with!

Every morning we had breakfast at Stella’s – special to me because it shares a name with my dearly departed pup, who also went there many times with me.

Mangia Cafe Gulfport 6-15

Lunch at Mangia Gourmet

We had lunch at Mangia Gourmet and dinner at Siri’s and  Pia’s Trattoria – I guess we ate our way through Gulfport!

One day I took Liberty to Ft. DeSoto Park, which is on a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico. My main reason for going there was the off-leash dog beach but I also visited the old fort and took advantage of the walkway that was built along the top of it – spectacular views of Tampa Bay and the Gulf. Liberty had fun on the dog beach – it wasn’t crowded but she got a chance to meet several dogs and run in and out of the gentle waves of the Gulf. She isn’t a swimmer, in fact, prefers not to go in the water past her thighs, but she enjoys splashing about and she seemed to like the freedom of being off her leash. Thankfully, she stayed within 10′-20′ of me and came back every time I called her.After the beach I threw the ball for a while in the dog park and gave her a shower at the doggie cooling station – it was a very hot day! Kudos to Pinellas county – this is a beautiful, clean park! It’s more than 1,300 acres offers miles of people-only beaches, camping and picnic facilities, hiking trails, and kayak, canoe and bike rentals.

What a view! Ft. DeSoto State Park 6-15-16

Walkway on top of Ft. DeSoto – what a view!

As always, it was fun to have a change of scenery and routine but, good to get back to my comfy little home. Now I’m researching where I’ll take Mom for our November vacation!

In life, it’s not where you go – it’s who you travel with.

 

Ft. DeSoto dog beach 6-16

making a new friend at the dog beach

Ft. DeSoto dog beach 6-15-16

Feelin’ free!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To see my artwork and books visit Lynda Linke Productions and like me on Facebook and Twitter!

 

 

 

 

 

 

When dogs meet

img011Have you ever noticed when dogs meet they seem to know within a few seconds whether they like each other or not? When Liberty spots a dog, which is usually when it is about 1/4 mile away, she starts getting excited. As we get closer, she begins to pull on her leash and I have to rein her in until I can determine if the approaching dog is friendly and also if the owner wants our dogs to meet. Once that is established we each loosen up on the leashes and allow our dogs to meet. They sniff each others faces and butts. Sometimes that only takes a couple of seconds and sometimes several lingering re-sniffs are necessary in order to make a complete assessment. I have never seen Liberty growl at or act aggressively toward another dog but I have seen her do what I call the “sniff and dismiss” move – she’s just not interested. She’s ready to move on but, she’ll stand politely if I’m chatting with the owner. Strangely, the other dog usually has the same type of reaction to her. Most of the time the dogs seem to send a cue to each other and it’s either “Let’s play!” or “You’re not my type”.  If it’s “Let’s play!” the dogs, oblivious to everything except their own happiness, leap at and try to chase each other. They sometimes even roll around on the grass together. The owners laugh as leashes get tangled and wrapped around their legs. If this goes on long enough, the dogs will usually get tired and flop down near each other in the grass, tongues lolling with big “smiles” on their faces. If it’s “You’re not my type”, they look away, sniff the grass and wait politely to walk on.

My instincts when I meet a new person are certainly not as accurate and finely tuned as Liberty’s. I usually know pretty quickly if I like or don’t like them, but sometimes I’m wrong about how they feel about me. I really envy Liberty’s instincts – it would be so nice to meet someone and each of you are able to know within a few seconds if you want to get to know each other better or not. No, I don’t want to sniff anyone’s face or butt and I don’t want to roll around in the grass with them – at least not right away – but I would like to have some way to know the essence of another person. Maybe children have it because I can remember saying to someone, as a child, “Do you want to be my friend?” and others saying that to me. No filter, just following instinct. We adult humans have layers of social behaviors to deal with, in addition to our individual inhibitions. We’re concerned about making a good impression, we’re afraid of rejection or looking foolish. We’re afraid of getting hurt. I tend to be socially awkward and not interested in small talk, which is why I don’t usually enjoy parties and I’m always uncomfortable on a first date. I enjoy real conversations during which I can get to know someone at a deeper level but, relationships between humans usually develop at glacier speed – or so it seems to an impatient person like me. We’re afraid to be too honest or trust each other too soon and the complexities of human nature and the society in which we live have forced us to be that way. Still, isn’t it sweet when you get that rare feeling that you have met a person with whom you really connect – someone who just might become a friend – and it turns out your instincts were right?

I dreamed that I was walking with Liberty and she saw a dog she wanted to meet, who was walking with his owner. I don’t remember what the man looked like but I remember that his dog was a big, friendly yellow Lab/Golden Retriever mix. The two dogs touched noses and sniffed and it was obvious they liked each other. At the same time, I felt a very nice connection with the man. That was the whole dream – just a nice, warm feeling. Maybe Liberty’s instincts will lead me to the man of my dreams. Woof!

What a beautiful world it would be if people had hearts like dogs.  ~Anonymous

 

Stick with me ... you never know what might happen

Stick with me … you never know what might happen

See more of my artwork and books at Lynda Linke Productions

MY Therapy Dog

How are things on your end

Liberty encourages me to stay engaged!

It’s been two years since Liberty came to live with me and one of the things about her that won my heart when I first met her was her sweet, friendly personality. I have often wondered how anyone could have surrendered her to a shelter – especially one that only keeps animals for 30 days! – but, I’m glad they did because she has been a great joy and blessing in my life. Early on I realized she would be a great therapy dog because her affectionate nature is such a comfort to ME.

I used to take my sweet Stella to PAWS to Read at the library and to visit an adult day care center and Liberty and I volunteer with Haven Hospice and PAWS to Read but I recently followed up on something I’ve wanted to do for quite a while – I took Liberty for the test to be registered with Alliance of Therapy Dogs, Inc. She has been through three levels of AKC training classes but she is still excitable at times and pulls on her leash a bit too much so I wasn’t sure if she would do well on the test. The test was done in three parts – one “handling” test that was done in a large feed and tractor supply store and two “observation” tests in a nursing home. The store offered lots of noise and distractions but, despite that and the excitement of meeting two new dogs and lots of new people, she followed all her commands beautifully. Her previous experience visiting nursing homes and assisted living facilities helped her a lot with the observation tests but I think her sweet gentle way with the patients played a big part in passing those tests. I have worked to help her be a well-behaved dog but I can’t take any credit for her sweet nature. Now we’re all set for any volunteer opportunities that require registration with a therapy dog organization and we’re also covered by liability insurance. I’m hoping we’ll be able to do more work with children. Of course, Liberty couldn’t care less – it’s all just fun to her!

I often say that Liberty is MY therapy dog because she is such a wonderful companion and brings me so much happiness. Research shows that having a pet is good for your health – emotionally and physically – and I can testify to that. I know I would be very lonely without her. She makes me smile when I’m down and  I can actually feel my heart expand when we visit a facility and she greets everyone with licks and tail wags. It’s so nice to see someone’s face light up when they see her.

I take her with me almost everywhere I go, even on vacations – it’s good for her socialization and, honestly, I just love her company. Last weekend we went to see our Alliance of Therapy Dogs tester, Angela, present two of her American Staffordshire Terriers in a show – there were hundreds of dogs (lots of barking!) and people there but, after getting over her initial nervousness, Liberty behaved perfectly. She sat or laid quietly by my side and watched all the dogs and people walking by and she seemed to pay special attention when her buddy, Carly, was in the rink going through her paces. It didn’t bother her one bit that she was the only “mutt” in the whole arena!

Angela & Carly at dog show 4-9-16

Angela & Carly at the dog show

 

Dogs are not our whole life but, they make our lives whole.  ~Roger Caras

4-12-16 another tough day at work

Another tough day on the job 🙂

See more of my artwork and books at Lynda Linke Productions