First line in my Gratitude Journal on May 23rd was "thank you for Tank and Jag because they make us smile every day". The boys turned three this week and they are the ones that first made me appreciate the meaning of Mary Oliver's Instructions for a Life (refer back to day one). They demand my attention so they've taught me to be attentive. Whether Jag's happily jumping in the air for the 100th time to catch the Frisbee or Tank's gently laying his head on my shoulder while we watch TV, they amaze me.

To celebrate their birthday, we took a good size watermelon out by the pond. We sliced it like cake and scooped it like ice cream. We had as much fun watching them as they did eating it.  It was even worth getting up to go out with them four times during the night! My youngest daughter (who just turned 21) said it was only fitting - that in dog years,  it was their 21st birthday and it was tradition to drink too much.....
I learned yesterday that Carl Moser, Sr. of Hickory NC is preparing his family before taking God's hand. You may know him as the  talented photographer whose works have been featured in The Kodak Collection, The Smithsonian, National Geographic, The Mint Museum and The Hickory Museum of Art. I know him simply as Uncle Carl - my mother's oldest brother and the heart of his family. 

He did not start out this life with a camera in hand. It started as a hobby and grew into a passion. He told my mom  that he discovered that he liked the honesty he got through the lens. It was once written about him that, "He took photographs to get to know people and have fellowship over the camera." I love that wording because it really captures who I think of when I think of my Uncle Carl.

He is a handsome man and a family man. He loves God and country with enthusiasm. He is gentle but direct.  He is someone I truly respect.  I've paid more attention to just who he is in recent years. This quiet, gentle man (unless of course you talk politics) has nurtured a relationship between the two of us and let me get to know him.  He doesn't say much but he gets his message across. He's told me twice that he loves me and although I already knew it, the truth in his voice has made invaluable memories.

He loves his family. He considers his ability to take a photo and have us see a  masterpiece a gift from God. He thinks that loyalty is a given in friendship and in love. He finds nature and people fascinating.
Now don't get me wrong.  Uncle Carl may read this and consider it "sap" if I don't tell you that he has not always been the most eloquent or disciplined with his words. Politics and religion are dangerous territory in the Moser family and there's not one of us that hasn't lost or given up on a discussion with him! They say we mellow with age and from the stories I've heard and some of what I  remember,  I would have to say this is the case with Carl Moser, Sr.  

What has remained constant is the pride he has in his family and the unconditional love he had for my Aunt Helen. Theirs was a true love story. He has always been bright and talented and drawn people to him. But, for me, the respect and admiration he showed for her was the true measure of a man. 

My prayers are with our family and all that have been touched by him. May your journey be brilliant, Uncle Carl.  Your time here certainly has been.
“Happiness is not the absence of problems,
it's the ability to deal with them.”

Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being

A good friend is a person you can laugh through the tears with
and come out feeling blessed.  I had a conversation today with a woman that I am fortunate enough to call a good friend. She’s one of my favorite people. She loves fiercely, has fun with anyone who will join in (and even with those that resist), and she’ll fight for her loved ones - and her loved ones' loved ones - like a donkey protecting the herd! 

I loved her the moment I met her – and I have always admired her strength.  I just never really knew where it came from.  She has a huge, beautiful, self-proclaimed redneck family full of strong personalities and even stronger opinions….but, as I see it, she is the backbone. They defer to her on everything from  recipes to calf-pulling.  You’ll find her make-up free, dressed in a tee-shirt and jeans on any given day, but dolled up, she looks just like a movie star (you know who you are). 

What I learned today is that life dealt her some enormous challenges early on and she had a choice – crumble and lose OR spit in the face of everything in her way and have something to celebrate. She chose the latter and has never looked back.  We talked for over 2 hours while she  shared her story at my request. We both cried buckets AND laughed till our faces hurt.  

The details are not important.  What is important is that sometimes we are so intent on wallowing in the difficulties that we fail to see the blessings these problems bring. She and I have spent countless hours together discussing everything from horse poo to hormone creme. She never once wallowed in the hardships that helped make her who she is today. She finds happiness hiding under any challenge or problem and “just deals”. Because of this, she manages to have a true smile on her face most all the time. It translates boldy in how she interacts with everyone in her world.

Today, while listening to my friend laugh at the devil that has screwed with her life so often, I learned from her that we should all buck up to whatever challenge comes our way - meet it head-on - or back right into it  like a donkey and just let happiness sneak on in.  
Our dog Jag saved my life at least a dozen times yesterday. I had no idea our home was such a dangerous place!  I’m not referring to the usual threats like the canine destroyer vacuum or the broom some witch is coming RIGHT back to claim out of the closet.  He was quick to point those out as always, but yesterday he was seeing danger EVERYWHERE.  Did you know that the orange wash cloth – NOT the white one - might eat your face? …..that the compost bucket is a hiding place for veggie monsters? …..or  that the laundry detergent is a flesh burning poison? By the end of the day, I was coming to the conclusion that living this long without his help was surely a miracle.

We were hours into this behavior before I realized that Jag’s real goal wasn’t to protect me at all – it was to wear me down. He was doing all his little Corgi brain could think of to drive me crazy. Unfortunately, Corgis are very smart dogs so the list of tortures was long. (My daughters would be quick to tell you that they are #11 on the canine intelligence scale.  I, on the other hand, am annoyed that they didn’t make the top ten.)

I figured out his plan when I picked up my camera and he FLEW off his sofa perch to the back door.  Like when my husband puts on his “ranchin’ shoes” (what kind of rancher wears a pair of worn out tennis shoes?!), throwing my camera strap over my head signals a trip outside.  Once we were out the door, that little 2 ½ ft x 1 ½ ft monster turned into a sweet butterfly chasing puppy with an actual smile on his face!  While I was looking through the lens, he occupied himself by swimming after a floating stick, rolling in the remnants of a skunk (ah, the joys of farm land), herding Libby back to the other horses, jumping over the fence rail to visit Beau and racing Tank to the cat’s water bowl.  It was like watching the Energizer Bunny on steroids.

Why am I telling you this?  Because my first post on this site was a message about “paying attention”.  After missing ALL of Jag’s signals yesterday, I guess we can clearly assume that I was not following my own advice. However, I AM trainable.  I am proud to say that we started out our day today by walking the pasture, mucking the stalls (the Corgi boys are a BIG help in this area), fetching the ball a few dozen times and rescuing sticks from drowning in the pond.  The end result – Jag is quietly watching me battle the dangers in this house from his perch on the sofa.  I am astonished!

How many simple "fixes" do I miss every day because I'm not paying attention?
Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.
― Mary Oliver

Do you pay attention?  Are you astonished?  If so, do you tell anyone about it? 

I'm pretty sure the fresh air here has the same properties as a bottle of red wine because I have finally found the courage to tell about the things that catch my attention. It takes little these days to astonish me. And that's not always a GOOD thing! For example, I'm as astonished (and entertained) by my husband's ability to piddle away HOURS on futile projects  -  like a vegetable garden in the middle of the horses' grazing pasture -  as I am with the beauty of the fog rising on our property every morning. 

I'm striving now to pay attention to everything and everyone around me. I've spent a lot of years with my head down trying to check things off of my "to do" lists. (and YES, I confess that I still love to cross through things on a list). But it's not the errands and chores on those lists that give me memories.  It's the times I look up and pay attention to what or who is around me.   

I'll put it all out on the barn floor for you. I hope I can inspire you to adopt Mary Oliver's Instructions for a Life -  Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.

    My name is Jamie.

    I left the culdesac for the country. My life is run by two Welsh Corgis. I discuss the biggest obstacles life throws at me with a horse named Belle. My family has suggested that I consider having my camera surgically attached. I pride myself on the fact that my armchair psychology has only caused a few disasters. And I love to write. I am not certain if I'm finding my sanity or losing it. That's where you come in - YOU decide! 

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