Monday, November 15, 2010

Beautiful Saturday

Bady and I trained on Saturday and it was a beautiful day! You don't expect 60 degree temperatures in mid-November! Luckily I was getting over my cold, so I was able to bring him out on the field and show off all the hard work we had done at home.

He is heeling straighter, outing better and does a great, fast, straight recall. We need to start working on our sits and downs in motion and about-turns. He does them for me at home, but it is more challenging on the field with other dogs and people around. Our goal is to complete our BH in the spring and see where we are for Schutzhund 1 next fall. We shall see! Right now I am concentrating on one step at a time. I continue to be thankful for a Training Club that is patient with a 'newbie' like me!

When I reflect upon the confidence and peace I have found since working with Bady, I know there are other women who could benefit from similar canine-partnerships. After I was assaulted, just having Bady in my life allowed me to reclaim a safe space. Bady was a gift from God. The training we have done has challenged me and helped me see myself as a strong person again. I hope I can someday help other women struggling with PTSD reclaim that same sense of peace and safety.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Sticking to a Schedule

I am pretty schedule-oriented. I like sticking to a routine. (You may notice that I generally blog on Mondays.) In my perfect world everything would fit easily into my schedule and nothing would disrupt it! Yet, this is not a perfect world. And church work is certainly not conducive to a rigid schedule. One call for a pastoral emergency or funeral can throw the schedule off for the rest of the week. I've learned to hold my schedule lightly. I celebrate when things fall into place, but I also recognize the importance of the interruptions and live into them as best I can.

In dog training, keeping a schedule is also a tricky thing. It is important to keep a training schedule to ensure that the work is getting done. Three or four short training and exercise sessions are best each day, rather than one long one. However, if you stick too strictly to the same schedule the dog can get bored. He begins to anticipate what happens when and loses his sharpness. Even within the training sessions, it is important to mix things up. If you usually take the ball out of your left pocket, take it out of your right pocket occasionally. Practice heeling before practicing recall, and then switch it up. If you never vary from the routine, the dog will end up 'phoning it in.' The point of training is to keep the dog engaged, not to put him to sleep!

In some ways the same lessons hold true for life. Schedules and routines help us accomplish what needs to be done. Yet, if we stick too closely to our routines, we lose the spontaneity that can keep life interesting.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Hard Work

Bady and I continue to work hard at our training. Our training club is fabulous and very patient with me as the 'newbie.' I can't speak for Bady, but I know I look forward to our time on the field every week. I suspect he feels the same way.

Lately I've been doing some reading about PTSD and Animal Assisted Therapy. It is a well known fact that animals reduce blood pressure and increase health in people that have them. Animals also create a sense of camaraderie with their human owners. The animal depends on you. If you have an animal, you have to get out of bed to feed and exercise them.

The main reason I got Bady was to increase my sense of safety. I know, without a doubt, that Bady has my back. Because of him I have been able to do things I never thought possible. I can stay alone at my house at night. I can work in the church office after everyone else has left. I can answer the door without knowing who is on the other side. These are things I never thought I would do after the attack.

I can (and do) credit Bady with these changes in my life. However, the changes are not just because of Bady. With or without Bady, I generally feel more safe in the world. Having Bady has allowed me to heal on the inside in ways I never could have imagined. I feel more confident in myself, more willing to try new things and more hopeful about the future.

One caution therapists have for those involved in Animal Assisted Therapy is that the survivors not attribute their progress solely to their dog. The dog is one part of the process, but the primary work still lies with the survivor. In some cases, the dog allows the survivor to do the hard work she must do to heal. That has been the case with me and Bady.... Thanks be to God!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Redesign

Lately the blog has been feeling a little stale. It started ~ way back when ~ as an opportunity for me to reflect on family life and ministry. The ministry part of this blog has largely moved over to the Faith UMC Pastor's Blog. Facebook has taken over much of the family pictures and activities I used to share here. The past few months I've shared random musings about once a week. I've still found it to be a useful space. However, the name of the blog (Adventures of Min Lib) no longer resonates. So today we have a new design and a new name!

Wendell Berry's poem "There is a Day" speaks to me in two ways. First, it speaks to my faith that there is something beyond what we can see and understand in this world. Second, it speaks to my hope that there will be a day of peace and joy for all of us, no matter our personal situations.

My passion these days ~ along with my ministry and family life ~ is finding opportunities to educate people about PTSD and tell my story. My journey of recovery from trauma has been a long one. Most recently, it has involved my dog Bady and the work we have done in the sport of Schutzhund and Personal Protection training. Working with Bady provides me with a sense of security that had long been missing in my life. It also provides me opportunities to build my own self-confidence, In many ways I feel as if I've come into a new day. Maybe, by sharing my story, another person can experience that joy. Perhaps this blog can be an avenue for that.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

There is a day

There is a day
when the road neither
comes nor goes, and the way
is not a way, but a place.

~ Wendell Berry, A Timbered Choir

Monday, September 27, 2010

Clicking

Last week everything just clicked. I worked efficiently. I managed my time well. I went to the gym. I got all my errands done. I even worked out using the Wii Fit, trained with Bady on a daily basis and read two books.

This week is not clicking at all, and it is only Monday! It didn't help that I woke up with a sore throat yesterday. It's back today and I very much hope it doesn't progress into a full blown cold. I don't want the aggravation and I don't want it to interfere with my visit with Dad at the end of the week.

In addition to (or maybe because of) the cold, little things just seem to be going wrong. I set out to do three errands before my Barnes & Noble "Open Hours" and only got one done. I was also 15 minutes late and arrived to find an older parishioner waiting for me. Thankfully she was forgiving! Now I have to try to fit the other two errands into an already full schedule for the rest of the week.

None of this is earth shattering or life threatening, so I have no real reason to complain. It is just interesting how one week can go so well and the next so not! Life sure feels good when everything is clicking. Yet I try to remain grateful. God is with us in the clicks and in the not!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Wedding Bells

Last weekend I officiated at my step-sister, Krissy's, wedding. Krissy and Eric have been together for three years and make a fantastic couple. Eric is a wonderful guy and I am so happy for them both. I pray that God blesses their journey.

However, I was surprised by how nerve wracking it is to be the wedding officiant for family. I figure I have celebrated about 20 weddings in my career. The vast majority of those, however, were for couples I did not know before and have not seen since. It is not that I didn't care about those, but I guess my care was on a different level. I wanted this ceremony to be flawless since I wanted only the best for Krissy and Eric on their special day. It was an emotional experience.

Emotional and exhausting! Usually my wedding responsibilities involve the rehearsal and the ceremony. After that, I can go home and put my feet up. This time, though, there was the rehearsal dinner, spa time before the wedding, pictures, and the reception following the service. Gary was also responsible for transporting my Dad, including loading and unloading him on the wheelchair lift into and out of the van. It was a challenge just keeping track of where we needed to be minute to minute! I'm glad I wasn't the bride :>)

And I certainly would not have done it any other way. The day was full of blessings, big and small. And it was a joy to be the first one to say, "Now I introduce to you Mr. & Mrs. Eric and Kristina Wilson!"

Monday, September 13, 2010

Busy Busy!

I honestly can't remember the last time I was this busy. It seems like every weekend from August to November includes a major event, trip or activity. We've been visiting people. People have been visiting us. We have a wedding coming up and a Schutzhund Trial. Both Gary and I have weekend business trips ~ Gary to Houston and me to Massachusetts. The Walk to Defeat ALS actually falls on a relatively quiet weekend. As an introvert home-body type, I am surprised I am not more stressed about everything going on. My goal is to just take one day at a time and do what I can do for that day. What is it Jesus says about worry? "Do not worry about your life..." Easier said than done. But I think it is more possible when I am focusing on the present rather than worrying or fretting about what did or what might happen.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Things I Love about Fall

Everything except the temperature (90+ degrees!) is pointing to the fall. The UVM students have moved back in and started classes. The sun sets earlier. The public schools start this week. Even some leaves have started to turn.

I love the fall. I love wearing a light jacket and feeling the crisp air on my face. I love the beauty of the foliage in New England. I love the sense of starting fresh that returns every fall, despite the fact that is has been 10 years since I've been in school. Every fall I feel like I should be buying new pens and pencils and notebooks!

One things I am particularly looking forward to this fall is going lunar kayaking with Gary through our town Rec Department. I hope we will also be able to take a couple days to ramble around Vermont, hike and check out the scenery. Every season has it's blessings. Right now I am particularly thankful to God for fall!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Gardening Adventure

To bring you up to date on our gardening adventure, we have harvested a total of:

3 cucumbers
4 string beans
Several grape tomatoes
2 regular tomatoes
A whole bunch of basil
A bit of oregano
Enough Lettuce to make two salads
(A small stalk of broccoli is still growing)

There are a few tomatoes still on the vine and ripening but, other than that, our garden adventure is pretty much over. We shared our most recently harvested cucumber and grape tomatoes with Dad and Debbie during their visit last weekend. We took two cups of the basil and made pesto! The rest of the basil and the oregano ended up in the freezer to be used to season future meals.

Our gardening adventure was certainly fun. I wouldn't say that we have green thumbs, but we are getting there. Now that we've gotten our hands dirty and some experience under our fingernails, I plan to study gardening techniques over the winter so we can have even more fun next year!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Interruptions

Today my morning devotions were interrupted by Gary and Ben coming downstairs for breakfast. This afternoon my Barnes & Noble Open Hours were interrupted by a visit from said husband and son. Both of these things are unusual occurrences for a Monday! Mondays are usually lonely days and the start of my solo workweek. Gary leaves early for work and doesn't return until Thursday evening.

Interruptions are often considered annoyances, but today they were more than welcome. It was a joy to share a few minutes at breakfast with those I love the most. Next Monday morning I will likely be able to finish my devotions uninterrupted. Gary will be on his way to Massachusetts for the week and Ben will be back in Michigan. I suppose it's true that life is lived in the interruptions,

Monday, August 09, 2010

Luminaries

This year was the third anniversary of the luminary display ~ a 'new' tradition at Empire Grove. The luminaries are purchased by individuals and the money goes to a worthy cause. This year's cause was ALS. I don't know how many luminaries circled the Grove, but over $800 was raised for the ALS Foundation. It was a very impressive display. At dusk the street lights were turned off and we walked around the circle by the light of the luminaries. Dad lead the way in his wheelchair. It was a beautiful display for a very good cause.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Anniversaries

The past couple of weeks have been filled with anniversaries.

July 1st was my 10th anniversary of appointed ministry. It was July 1, 2000 that I arrived (young and naive) at my first appointment as pastor of Holbrook United Methodist Church. It's hard to believe that I've been a pastor for 10 years! The anniversary actually slipped by without notice until my mother realized and pointed it out. She and Larry also sent me a gorgeous pair of earrings to celebrate. Thanks :>)

July 1st was also the first anniversary of my appointment to Faith United Methodist Church. It has been a wonderful year and I look forward to many more anniversaries with these wonderful folks.

July 9th marked Gary's parents' 50th Wedding Anniversary. We surprised them by showing up to meet them for dinner in Augusta, ME. They thought they were going with Gary's sister and brother (and families) and were surprised when they saw us sitting there when they walked in. During dinner Gary's mom brought out an expense book from their Honeymoon 50 years ago. It was fun to see that hotel rooms cost $5.00 and breakfast was $1.60! After dinner we went back to their house and visited. It was a wonderful celebration of a great life together that produced three terrific children and four fantastic grandchildren!

July 9th also was my Dad and Debbie's 5th wedding anniversary. I know it was a special day for them, especially under the circumstances of my Dad's illness.

I believe the anniversaries are over for a while. Now we are embarking on Birthday season! My Mom's birthday is tomorrow! (Happy Birthday Mom!) Ben's birthday will be celebrated this weekend when he arrives. Then we have Aunt Diana and Larry's birthdays. So many reasons to celebrate!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Harvest Time

Can you spot the humongous cucumber in this picture?? That was the fruit of our very first harvest and it was delicious, if I do say so myself. We enjoyed a home-grown lettuce and cucumber salad along with grass-fed beef burgers and asparagus from the Farmer's Market. We felt almost like locavores! Now we just continue to wait patiently to see how our beans, peppers, squash, zucchini and tomatoes do.......

Monday, June 21, 2010

More Monday Musings

1. Annual Conference has come and gone. It was good to be together with my friends from New England. It was also good to be part of the Vermont contingent as they were welcomed into the new New England Conference. I had a unique view from both perspectives ~ Vermonters and New Englanders. It will be interesting to see how Vermonters and New Englanders shape and influence each other in the years to come to create a truly 'new' thing.

2. We've produced our first harvest-able vegetable! While watering the 'babies' last night Gary noticed a nice big, healthy cucumber hanging on the vine. I'm so proud I almost don't want to pick it! I've decided to take a picture before enjoying it on my salad.

3. Bady and I continue to train with our club and on our own. It is really amazing how much we have learned. He is the fast learner on our team, but I'm holding my own. I can't beleive how far we've come. If we've done this well in just a few months, Schutzhund USA better watch out! Seriously, it would be fun to participate in a trial at some point ~ and we probably will ~ but the true benefit is how we've grown together as a team and the fruit that can be seen from it in our daily life.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Four on the Fourteenth

Here are four random reflections on this Monday afternoon:

1. Yesterday we hosted an Open House at our parsonage for church friends and neighbors. I'm not a 'natural' hostess, but with much planning (and a little stressing out) it turned out to be great fun! We had lots of people, plenty of food and a great, sunny day. The boys were even good. They kept quiet down in the basement while we 'partied' upstairs.

2. I went on my first bike ride on my new bike! I found that biking uses muscles that I apparently hadn't used in quite a while. Phew!

3. Last weekend I visited my Dad. He is doing well, although my definition of 'well' keeps changing. I am so proud of him. He continues to find ways to do the things he enjoys and he's quite adept at using his new electric wheelchair. And perhaps we all have a better sense of what is truly important. Life now involves several assistive devices and lots of rest, but he continues to show determination. I'm glad for the summer weather that seems to have lifted his spirits. Even so, ALS sucks.

4. Annual Conference is this week. I am ready to make my yearly pilgrimage to Wenham, MA for the gathering of New England United Methodist clergy and laity. It will be great to see old friends and, hopefully, make some new ones. Vermont will officially be joining the New England Conference, so we are a changing, transforming Conference!

Monday, June 07, 2010

Garden Party


The whole family got involved in planting our very first vegetable garden. We planted tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, broccoli, beans, lettuce, peppers and a few herbs. Since we don't have a real good place for a bed, we planted in containers.

This is something I have always wanted to do, but never felt like I had the time or the skill. This year I decided to make the time and concluded that I would never have the skill if I didn't try. I figure this is one way I can honor God's creation by participating in the cycle of life and growth. Instead of taking from the environment I can, in some small way, give back. I can't wait until harvest time!

Monday, May 17, 2010

How to Sunburn your Feet

Do you want to know how to get a really good sunburn on your feet? First, bring your "New England" feet (that haven't seen the sun in six months) to the beach in Florida. Next, rent a beach umbrella. Then, forget to apply sunscreen to the tops of your feet and toes. Finally, fail to adjust your beach chair when the sun begins to creep into your shade!

The tops of my feet got pretty scorched. (The above picture is pre-sunburn.) But that's okay. They only really hurt when I had to wear shoes and, since we were on a beach vacation, that wasn't too often! Even with my burnt feet, we had a great time. We had a much needed tropical paradise get-away. And the sun even followed us back to Vermont. However, my feet remain safely protected in shoes and socks!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Staying Focused

One of the things Bady and I are working on now is focused heeling. He has the heeling down pretty well, but sometimes he gets distracted by things in the environment (cars, other dogs, people, blowing leaves). When this happens we get out of sync and next thing we know I'm turning right and he is getting a leash correction. This will be a problem when we start working off leash!!

The connection between dog and handler is essential in Schutzhund. The only way you can have complete control is to have an unbreakable connection with your dog. It seems to me there is a lesson to learn here in our relationship with God as well. How connected am I to the guidance of God's Spirit? What distracts me? Am I ready to go off leash :>)

So now we are practicing staying focused. He is actually doing pretty well. See the ways he's looking at me as we're walking along? What a good boy!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Christ is Risen Indeed!


The warmest Sunrise I've ever attended! Faith UMC April 4, 2010 6:15am overlooking Mt. Mansfield. Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen Indeed!

Monday, March 29, 2010

New Adventures

Gary and I don't watch many sitcoms, but we do like "New Adventures of Old Christine." I fell in love with Julia Louis Dreyfus during her days on "Seinfeld." Christine is no Elaine, but she certainly is funny and Julia is a great physical actress. It is a good escape from real life and it is fun to tune in to see what new adventures she will encounter this week.

When I started this blog back in 2006 I wasn't quite sure where it would go. I have to say that I am pleased to have kept up with it for almost four years! There have been times when it has been more active and times when it has been less active. But I don't think it has ever been inactive. I've enjoyed recording the varied adventures of Gary and I ~ a minister and a librarian making a life together along with our two dogs and cat.

This blog has been pretty much a 'catch-all.' At different times I've reflected on ministry, family life, friendship, books, pet ownership, step-parenthood, Schutzhund training, and living with PTSD. I've shared the joy of welcoming Bady into my life as my Support Dog and the bumps we've had along the way in developing our working partnership. I've shared pieces of my journey with God as a follower of Christ. And I am proud to be able to say that I think I have been pretty honest here.

I suppose today's reflection comes about because recently I've been thinking about changing this blog or even ending it and starting something new. But I don't think I will. I like that this blog reflects my various interests and activities as well as my struggles and my joys. I also like that it is a testimony to how I have grown and changed over the years. I don't think that my readership has grown all that much since the beginning, but that is fine with me. In fact I've written this blog mostly for myself. If there are others who find joy in reading it, that is an additional blessing.

The truth is, this blog is not perfect and neither am I! Perhaps that's what I like best about it. So let the adventures continue! I'll do my best to share them here :>)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

And Speaking of Birthdays.....

Look who showed up to help me celebrate!!

Monday, March 22, 2010

35 and Loving It

Last Monday I turned 35. Considering all the angst that accompanied turning 30, I eased in to 35 with barely a thought. In fact, 35 feels good. I feel hopeful and excited about the future. Life, in fact, seems full of possibilities...... possibilities that have been missing from my life for quite a while.

My counselor explained to me that people with PTSD are often unable to look to the future with any real hope. For the past several years the future was there for me, but not something I could look forward to in any real sense.... It is difficult to explain. It seemed like the years stretching ahead of me simply needed to be survived. Life had already been decided for me and all I could do was live it.

Now, though, I am able to dream and vision and make plans. There is so much life ahead of me and I can't wait to embrace it. Who knows where I will end up or what I might do with the rest of my life. I feel alive and blessed with opportunities innumerable. My counselor celebrates the breakthrough this points to for me. The prison of PTSD is falling down around me and I feel free. And I am 35. And I love it.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Vermont Spring

No, that is not an oxymoron! Spring seems to have come, at least temporarily, to Vermont. The sun is out, the snow is melting and the birds have even started singing. I'm beginning to think about yard work and the container garden I want to plant this year. I'm also thinking more about training with Bady. Pretty soon we'll be getting back outside to the yard and the field instead of in the garage or basement!

Spring also means that it's been almost a year since our first foray into Vermont. Gary and I (and Bady) traveled to Vermont last March for our snow shoeing vacation. That was followed by our interview / introduction weekend in April. Vermont ~ a place I had previously thought very little about ~ has been very much on my mind for a whole year. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, and now Spring again..... Thank God for Spring!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Cone of Shame


Yes, that's duct tape you see on his cone. He's already broken it in three places ~ in less than 24 hours. As you can probably tell, he came through the surgery just fine!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Surgery

Perhaps Bady looks forlorn because he knows that he is having surgery tomorrow! Actually, Bady doesn't seem to realize that anything is happening. I, on the other hand, feel a bit nervous about the upcoming operation! It's not so much the surgery I'm worried about (it's a routine neutering), but the recovery. How do we get a sore GSD outside to go to the bathroom? And, after he is feeling better, how do we keep our crazy boy quiet for 7 to 10 days?

Pray for Bady... and for us!

Monday, February 01, 2010

Celebrations

This weekend my Dad turns 60 years old. That makes me almost 35, since Dad was 25 when I was born. It is hard to believe we are so old! Time certainly flies. Yet, as I posted earlier, my Dad's seventh decade is marked by a diagnosis of ALS. This 60th birthday celebration carries with it a note of sadness. When celebrating 60 years one marks a milestone, but also ~ usually ~ looks ahead to carefree years of retirement and the pursuit of unrealized dreams. My Dad was never one to fully 'retire', but he certainly should be looking forward years of working around the campground, building things in his barn, and growing his penny collection. Instead we are looking into motorized wheelchairs, handicapped shower stalls and breathing machines.

I look forward, though, to this weekend of celebration. It will be a celebration since we will be together. A celebration of love, life and what it means to be father and daughter. While I never would have asked for this diagnosis, I do give thanks for the perspective it brings. Something so shocking tends to take one off auto-pilot for a while in order to be truly present. 60 years is amazing!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Nothing in Life is Free

Another principle of dog training is that nothing in life is free. In order to play, to get a treat, to get a pat, or to eat the dog must do something positive. In essence, the playing, the treat, the pat and the food are the reward. The dog should never be given anything 'enjoyable' without doing something to earn it.

The theologian in me has trouble with this principle. It is fundamental to my belief system that God's grace and love are free gifts that I cannot ~ in any way ~ earn. I understand the reasoning behind this principle. If the dog gets his food, his pleasure, his love without having to earn it he will lose his motivation to be good and to do good for his master.

Yet, I wonder, without a sense of unconditional love, doesn't life become a simple transaction? I think dogs are more complicated than that. My love for Bady goes beyond whether he can down, sit and shake before he gets his food and I'm pretty sure he knows that. But I go through the motions any way to keep Bady sharp and focused.. I admit, though, that he does occasionally get a pat on the head or a 'scritch' between the ears.... just because.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Principles of Dog Training

In the course of our training, I've picked up a few helpful hints to guide Bady and I along the way. They seem like common sense, for the most part, but it is important to be reminded. It is easy to forget when caught up in the heat of the moment!

~ Don't get frustrated.
~ Be consistent.
~ Don't reward bad behavior.
~ In the face of bad behavior, say no in a consistent, firm tone.
~ The higher the distraction, the less learning takes place
~ Live in the moment.

I wonder if these principles could be applied to other areas of life?? Church life, maybe? :>)

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Hibernating

Like much of the rest of the country, we've been hit by winter in a big way! Last weekend's storm dropped nearly 3 feet of the white stuff on us. The funny thing was that the heaviest snow was localized over our town (or perhaps our house!). Parishioners of ours in outlying towns only got 5-15 inches!

I have been getting out to church and shop and meetings... but when I'm home there is a sense of hibernating ~ snuggling in, resting for spring ~ amid all this snow! It also makes me reflective on the year past and the year ahead.

2009 was a busy one for the Atwoods.... moving, of course, being the main focus. 2010 will take on a different tone as we get our bearings and settle into our life in calling here in Vermont. (And hopefully find a local job for Gary!) The New Year will also be shaped by my father's recent diagnosis of ALS. This will be a year of learning to live with joy within the limitations of this degenerative disease.

Gary and I also have a new vision we are just beginning to explore, which we hope to grow in some small way 2010. We have both lived with my PTSD and seen the blessings and healing Bady has brought to my (and our) life over the past year and a half. Now we are beginning to wonder how we can bring education and resources to other women trauma survivors who would benefit from a working dog. We are not sure how this might happen, but we are open to researching and brainstorming this idea however the Spirit may move us.

I pray that 2010 may be a year of blessing.... And now it's time to get out of the house to see what this snowy, cold day may bring!