Yeah, he was just a dog, but…



Zeus  in the  snow February 2013


The first night, I couldn’t sleep. I rolled over and back, my stomach churning, picturing the kids’ faces when we’d have to tell them in the morning. I would finally drift off from exhaustion and then jerk awake with a stab in my gut when I’d remember. I asked God “Why?” over and over. He was only 5.

The second night, Andy got out of bed, tears running down his face as he joined me on the couch to cuddle. “I can’t sleep, Mom.” I asked him if he wanted to talk about it and he nodded. “Sometimes, when I needed to talk, he just listened to me. He was always there for me and now he’s not.” He sobbed and I hugged him until he calmed down enough to go back to bed.



Zeus on the 4th of July, 2013


A week later, I had some popcorn for a snack and dropped a few on the floor. I cried when I realized he wasn’t there to gobble them up. How many times had I eaten the last few kernels of popcorn and not given him one? I’d have given the whole bag to have him back right then.

In the Winter when we had taken him outside, we hadn’t let him roam too far from us. It was too cold to stand out there forever while he ran around, so we’d call him back in right away. I kept thinking that we’d make it up to him when Spring came – we were going to spend hours just hanging around outside enjoying the weather while he ran around. He didn’t get to do that – and when the warmer weather came, my heart ached over it.



Zeus, July 4, 2013


It was weeks before I stopped looking to see if he’d accidentally closed himself in the loft when the house seemed too quiet. I still look up at the window  when I drive in or out of the garage to see if he’s there looking down at me.

So, yeah he was just a dog, but he left a huge hole in our home and in our hearts when he left us. The kids felt guilty when we got new puppies. We explained that we could never replace Zeus, but that our house was too empty without a dog in it. In the 26 years Tim and I have been together, we’ve never had a dog-less house.



Reagan told me it made her feel guilty to be enjoying playing with the puppies and I had to explain to her that Zeus wouldn’t want her not to love a new dog. That he was watching her play with the puppies and that it made him happy. I told her that her heart would always grow to have more room to love and that loving another dog doesn’t remove Zeus from it.



And so – Ash- our little silver lab and Simon our mixed terrier/pointer have joined our family. And yeah, they’re just dogs, but our hearts are a little lighter and our house a little less empty now that we have them in it.


The Sheep Lady

Small herd of bighorn rams in Morgan Creek area

In August of 1988, I packed everything I could fit into my Chevy Citation, and I headed across the country to the Rocky Mountains. I’d been accepted into a Master’s program at the University of Idaho to study bighorn sheep. I got teased a little (“What are you going to study? Potatoes?”) but unless you’ve traveled to Idaho, you wouldn’t realize that “Potato Country” is only a very small portion of southern Idaho. Most of the state is very mountainous, containing in fact, the largest contiguous wilderness area in the United States, except for Alaska. The Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area was where my sheep spent their summers, and my study area was on the edge of that wilderness area in Challis, Idaho.

High up in Morgan Creek area, overlooking Challis, Idaho.

Bighorn sheep populations tend to be cyclic, with high population densities preceding a population crash, bringing the population down to very low levels. If the herd survives with enough healthy breeding sheep and the annual weather cycle cooperates with enough precipitation in summer to provide green forage, but not too much snow in winter so they can paw into the snow to uncover forage, it can slowly repopulate itself. Numbers will slowly climb back up until they reach high densities again and the cycle tends to repeat itself.

In the past, some sheep would travel from one herd to another, to spread genetic diversity and to augment smaller populations. But nowadays, with human activity, most herds tend to be somewhat isolated spatially from other herds and traveling between herds is less likely. The most isolated herds may die out when a population cycle reaches its low, if the animals are unable to breed quickly enough to repopulate before other catastrophic events wipe the herd out completely.

Places where the sheep used to travel are now criss-crossed with roads and towns, making it more difficult for these reclusive animals to pass through in their natural migration patterns to other areas. In addition, large areas are fenced off as grazing land for domestic cattle and sheep. These domestic herds can carry diseases that affect bighorn sheep, such as pneumonia (usually caused by Pasteurella haemolytica which has been renamed Mannheimia haemolytica since the years in which I studied it).

Bighorn sheep also suffer from lungworm infections (Protostrongylus spp) which can be spread easily when the herd are concentrated into smaller areas such as in winter when snow depths preclude them from moving far. During this time they tend to congregate on open slopes where they can reach forage more easily. The lungworm larvae are excreted from the body in feces and, similar to deer and elk, bighorn sheep feces come in the form of pellet droppings. As the animals are feeding they can incidentally ingest these larvae which lie in the pellets dropped all over the feeding area and this infects them with lungworm.

High lungworm loads in a sheep

Aptly named, the lungworm adults grow in the lungs of its host and at higher levels of infection (called the lungworm load), can make the sheep susceptible to respiratory issues and certainly more apt to have serious outcomes when they come in contact with the pneumonia-causing bacteria, Pasteurella or other diseases. While there are other factors at play in disease outbreaks for bighorn sheep (Brucellosis, which can cause spontaneous abortion of fetuses; Leptospirosis, which is a bacterial disease that can also affect the lungs, and many others), and we did test my sheep population for all of these, our biggest concern at the time was the evidence of high lungworm loads in that entire region of Idaho. During population surveys (done by flying helicopters in transects and physically counting the animals seen), we saw evidence of sheep having coughing fits, a symptom of lungworm infestation.

In 1963, the Morgan Creek herd was at a high of about 300 sheep. By 1970 the population had crashed to around 100 animals and the herd was in very poor health. In 1988, the herd had recovered to 278 sheep and concerns that a population crash was again imminent led the Idaho Fish and Game Department to fund a research project looking at habitat and physiological factors that may help predict an upcoming decline and allow biologists to mitigate the causal factors and help stabilize the herd. This became my thesis research project: Habitat relationships and physiological condition of mountain sheep in Morgan Creek, east-central Idaho Gina L. B. (Gina Lyn Ballard) Karasek 1991

We started by radio-collaring sheep that we captured during a transplant project. The Idaho Fish & Game Department began capturing sheep in the Morgan Creek herd by shooting a net over them with a Cap-Chur gun. The biologist then blindfolded the sheep to keep it as calm as possible, bound its feet and then strapped it into a sling that was attached to the helicopter, which then flew it carefully down to the waiting ground crew.

The wildlife veterinarian took blood and fecal samples, nasal swabs, and took other measurements such as its body temperature, weight, breathing rate and heart rate. Although the blood levels of things like protein and various minerals (calcium, phosphorous and magnesium) were within normal limits, the fecal protein levels were extremely low, leading us to believe that the animals were actually starving and catabolizing muscle. Their poor body condition supported this idea.

Most of the captured sheep were being transplanted to a nearby isolated population that was currently at an all-time low in hopes that we could augment that population, providing new genetic diversity into the herd and provide additional breeding animals to help the population recover. At the same time, this could help the Morgan Creek herd by removing some animals – lessening the pressure on the limited forage in the winter range. We had hopes that it would decrease the chance that the population would crash.

Some of the captured sheep were radio-collared and released on site back into the Morgan Creek herd. These were my study animals. I spent the following two years tracking these sheep throughout their winter range, breeding season, and their forays into their summer range in the wilderness area where many of them (mostly the rams) spent the summer.

Since this post has gotten so long, I’ll share more about my wildlife research in another post.










F*ck you, cancer!

OvarianCancer_TealFClogoYes, I did it. I used the f-word, the mother of all cuss-words on my blog (Moms who swear WARNING -this link and others in this blog post contain obscene language).

I thought about the title – should I use the word “you” in it, or leave it out? And I realized that I definitely meant it personally – I’m not just exclaiming about cancer, I am exclaiming to cancer itself – F* you, cancer!

The funeral is next week. She was… a warrior – in every sense of the word. Not only a warrior, but a positive, spirited, happy one. She spread joy to so many others and supported those of us she knew who were battling cancer also. She joked about the “rocks in her shoes” (peripheral neuropathy from chemo) and told me even though it hadn’t gone away for her after all the years, that maybe it would for me. She was a positive influence to me at a time when I was having difficulty seeing the future ahead of me.

Anyone who has survived cancer gets a sickening heaviness in their gut and their soul when they hear that cancer has returned to target one of our fellow survivors. It takes away a little of our hope and our joy in the life that we have found again after finally being told we are in remission. And our belief that this is something we can put behind us someday crumbles some as well.

She made the best of her second chance at life after she battled cancer the first time. She worked at getting 701e68dc84baea3329bd3ca375bfafbaas fit as she could and she spent her time with her family and friends – spreading her joy of life. But the question is “why?” Why did she have to have a second chance at life in the first place? She never should have had to deal with this. It’s not like she’d made bad choices, or had done anything to deserve facing death in the first place. So, why her?!

It’s the randomness that scares us. It hits me, but not you. It came back for her, but not me. And there’s always that feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop – when I say I am cancer-free, there’s always a “so far” on the tip of my tongue. I want to believe it’s over for me, but then when another of my fellow survivors loses their battle, it plunges me back into the bad times, the dark hours of lying in bed and thinking it could be me. What would happen to my family? Would I be filled with hate at the end? I’m not the most positive person in the world, and certainly don’t have the biggest heart. How would I face something like this?

Loss Quote

So, f*ck you, cancer! F*ck you for causing so much pain and fear in her life. F*ck you for causing her family and friends to suffer along with her. F*ck you for taking her away from her family at such a young age so that she will never get to see her children get married or have children of their own. F*ck you for taking away her chance at the joy of someday holding beautiful grandchildren in her arms and pampering them as they grow. F*ck you for leaving a hole in the hearts of her daughters and her son and her husband that they will never be able to fill. F*ck you for taking her indomitable spirit out of this world, leaving just the memories behind.

Layout 1

I try to be a positive voice here on my blog. I try to spread hope and information about what having cancer is like. But today, all I can think about is the millions of people who have suffered. All the holes in all the families from losing someone to this f*cking disease. All the research that has been done all these years – while creating better treatments and enhancing quality of life for some of those afflicted with it – yet still has found no cure.

Today, I just can’t do it. I just can’t pretend that I have hope that everyone with cancer will be okay someday. That all of us will get to look at cancer from the backside and say I beat it. Because even if our cancer never returns, we’ve lost so much of our life in treatments and coping with after-effects and praying and hoping that it never comes back, sleepless nights worrying about every ache and pain. I’d like to spread positivity. I’d like to give you all hope. Maybe I can another day. But today, all I have to say is – F*ck you, cancer!


Love is a choice

20180130_223041028_iOS (2)

Today my husband and I are celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. It’s hard to imagine so many years have flown by and yet I try to remember when we weren’t together and that time seems impossibly long ago as well. We’ve been best friends all this time, with some bouts of what everyone else experiences along the way – disagreements and misunderstandings, tears, fears, changes in jobs, moving to a new house, loved ones lost, serious illnesses. But what I think about the most is the laughter. We laugh – a lot. Like to the point that people might think we’re idiots sometimes rather than two well-educated people. And that joy in life, and in each other has carried us through the years.

1992-002But the biggest thing that has helped us over the years to remain close and to be so happily married is our attitude about marriage in general. Marriage is a journey, not a destination. Every day we travel together, some routes are familiar (Someone jumping out of bed at 9:00 pm to whisper, “Daddy, I’m supposed to bring a snack tomorrow to school!”), some are scary and unknown (getting home from karate one night to discover a very large breast lump), but always – we travel these roads together.

Tim likes to say that “Marriage is a highway that has no exit ramps”. He says as long as both people in a marriage believe that, then there is never any doubt that your journey together will bring you only closer – good times and bad, like the marriage vows state. That’s what we’ve both always adhered to. No matter how bad things get – bald head from chemo or the aches and pains of age making us no longer the fresh, young, super fit couple we were in our wedding photo, we only see the beauty in each other and the things that have gotten better as each year passes (In my head I can hear my husband joking, “Speak for yourself, old woman!”  🤣 )1996-1A while back at church, the homily was about how love is a choice. Okay, now that doesn’t sound very romantic, does it? Everyone thinks of love as this grand thing that sweeps over you and whisks you away, something that you can’t control or understand. Sure, that’s romantic, I guess, but that’s not real love. That’s sexual attraction. Sometimes that excited, trembling, over the top feeling you get when you’re around someone may be the beginning of love (it was for Tim and I), but it’s not love itself. See, love is a choice.

Over time, you get to know a person really and truly. Think about the little things day after day after day… like where she leaves her shoes, or whether or not he puts the cap back on the toothpaste tube tightly enough, or if he stacks dirty dishes in the sink until they’re falling out, or how she gets up on the weekend and wears ratty old sweats with mussed up hair until noon, or he gains a few pounds around the middle while losing all that gorgeous hair that you loved running your fingers through, or whether childbirth has added weight that she can’t find the time or the energy to get rid of.


See, now you’ve fast-forwarded 25 years and while there is still that excitement and trembling and over the top feeling when you look at the person you love, those “in-love” feelings are backed up by the years and years of time you’ve spent together, forging a life, raising a family, refusing to give up on each other even when you seem so angry at each other over something that you swear you can’t take another minute. Love is a choice – you choose to continue to love because you know that there are also those moments where you’re laughing together like idiots over something ridiculous, or holding hands while you watch over your sick child who’s finally sleeping peacefully, or those terribly scary moments when your world falls away from underneath you and your husband takes you in his arms and says “No matter what happens, we’ll be okay.”  and you believe him and feel like his arms are the only safe place in the world.

We make choices every day, some big, some little, but the most important choice we make is to love someone, for better or worse, richer or poorer, toothpaste cap on or not. Love is a choice.


When I grow up I want to be an old woman

What do you want to be when you grow up?

It’s a question that kids always seem to be asked and most kids’ answers change over time. After seeing a fire engine in the parade – I want to be a fireman! A few months later they watch their dad or mom working on the car – I want to be a mechanic! The veterinarian visits – I want to be a vet! (one of my daughters). How we respond to children’s answers can make a difference in their lives, can’t it? I mean no one wants to dream of something and have hopes only to be met with scorn – you’ll never be able to do that. I think kids should be allowed to dream that they can be anything they want and be encouraged to follow that dream.

(I have, however, over the years tried to guide my children a little as they’ve dreamed. One of my other daughters told me, “Mommy I want to either be a princess or a garbageman.” My response was, “Well the pay’s not necessarily great as a princess unless you marry well, so you might want to look into that garbageman thing.” 😉 )

When I was a little girl, I had very specific ideas about what I wanted to be when I grew up. And those ideas definitely did not involve being girly. Mom had tried for years – putting barrettes in my hair, putting me in dresses and lacy shirts. As soon as I was out of her sight, I would pull the barrettes out and “lose” them. And before I ran out to the school bus at the last minute, I would change my shirt into something tomboyish. My older sister tried to convince me to change my ways by telling me I’d never have a boyfriend. My standard answer: “Good! I don’t want one!”  My parents finally resigned themselves to the fact that I was never going to be a normal girly girl.

I am the littlest one sitting on Mom’s lap. Note the barrette in my hair and the girly shirt and shoes.

You know it’s partly Dad’s fault. I mean I was five years old when he bought me my first gun (a Daisy b.b. gun) and my first “motorcycle” (a Honda 50 trail bike).


I spent most of my childhood in the woods behind our house, climbing trees, building forts, riding my motorcycle, walking with Dad while he explained to me the difference between a white oak leaf and a red oak one, or a sugar maple leaf vs. a red maple.

The acorns belonged to the oaks, the spiky nuts that fell into our pool and poked our feet dropped from the big beech tree that stood nearby. The little squirrels were red squirrels that chattered and barked, the bad boys who chased away the bigger, prettier gray and fox squirrels that we liked so much.

There were bats that flew over our pool at night when we had the lights on. They dove and swooped to catch the insects, while we screeched excitedly, convinced that they would tangle themselves in our hair. The constant high-pitched peeping of the tree frogs, interspersed with the bonging buzz croaks of the bullfrogs floated in through my bedroom window calling me to come outside.

All these fascinating things drew me to a life in the out of doors. The things I could learn, see, research, write about… there were no limits to my dreams.


keep-america-beautifulI was, after all,  a product of the 70’s, with t.v. shows like Grizzly Adams and songs by John Denver never failing to make my heart ache with the dream of living in the mountains someday in the middle of nowhere studying wild things.

During vacations back then, we drove through the Rocky Mountains out West, camping in just about every National Park that existed out there. I fell in love with the mountains and wild places and decided I’d be a “park ranger” someday (that was the closest thing on the school’s Careers List to what I wanted to do).

In high school I had at one point seriously considered becoming a veterinarian instead. But during the time I spent in my senior year working at a vet clinic, I spent an inordinate amount of time looking out the window at the woods that surrounded the clinic – a clue that maybe veterinary medicine was not truly where my heart lie. When I started at MSU, I found out they had a fisheries and wildlife program, and I couldn’t imagine a better major for me.


With my Martin Bobcat bow

Over the years, my Dad teased me about being such a tomboy. He made comments to people like “You can see the type of girl that I raised” while pointing at the hunting knife I always carried or what I was wearing. But I knew deep down he accepted me for who I was. When I came home from my first semester at MSU, Dad’s Christmas presents to me included a compound bow (a really gorgeous wooden Martin Bobcat), a tent, a sleeping bag, and a Coleman lantern. After he passed away, many people told me about how proud Dad was of the life I’d chosen and how he’d shown them photos of our log house and bragged about me. 😌

A red-tailed hawk on MSU campus.

I spent four years at MSU earning my Bachelor’s degree. During that time I worked in the wildlife nutrition lab and helped grad students with their research. The research work was the best part of my experience. One semester I helped a graduate student who was studying metabolic rates of red-tailed hawks and great horned owls. The birds had been injured in the real world, missing a wing or a leg, and there was a room of cages in our building where they were housed. My job was to remove each bird from the cage and place them in a body wrap with a hood for keeping them restrained and calm while the grad student weighed them and cleaned their cages.


My fieldwork partner, Ed Olexa, holding a Peromyscus maniculatus we’d captured.

Another project was capturing and ear tagging small mammals throughout some red pine forests and aspen clearcut regrowth stands up north.

 I also helped track radio-collared elk as well as did a variety of habitat studies throughout northern Michigan.

20180130_224022617_iOS (2)

Two summers I worked at a nature center, where I taught summer camps, gave guided tours, and other work and of course during all this time I was also taking full-time classes.

There are many stories within the pages of my four years at MSU, but my bigger adventure began after that when I was accepted into a Master’s Program at the University of Idaho to study bighorn sheep, which I’ll share in my next post.

[One last note to end this post – since having cancer my dream of what I want to be when I grow up has become as simple as “I want to be an old woman”.]

The Next Step

My daughter flew to Kansas yesterday for Veterinary School interviews. She flew alone into Manhattan and is there now visiting the campus. Her interview is tomorrow. See, she has dreamed of becoming a vet since she was 7 years old.

She had just gotten a horse back then (she paid for him with her own money that she’d saved from Christmas and birthdays) and when the vet came to give vaccinations, she was worried about her horse. Why does Ti need to see a doctor? Is he sick? Will he die? When we explained to her that vets not only help sick animals but also help keep your animal healthy through preventative medicine, she was hooked.


After that, every time Dr. Russ came to check on one of our horses or the cattle, she followed him around like a puppy dog. She asked a million questions, he let her “help” him with some of his work, and eventually, by high school, she did a job shadow with this same vet. Over the next few years, she shadowed every vet in that clinic, asking them as many questions as she could, helping vaccinate piglets, do pregnancy checks on cows, castrating horses, eventually being offered a summer paid position in their clinic. She came home bloody, dirty, covered in pus and poop, and she loved every minute of it.

She’s meant to spend her life as a veterinarian, no question about it. Now she just has to get accepted into vet school and start her next stage of working towards her dream.

Since she left yesterday, I’ve been thinking of her constantly – Where is she now? Did she remember to keep her luggage close with her to keep them safe? Did she make it to her connecting flight in time? Has she calmed her nerves yet? Is she enjoying herself? Will she get admitted?  (Vet school is notoriously difficult to get into- I’ve read it is actually harder to get accepted into than medical school because there are fewer available vet schools. Many students apply year after year before finally getting accepted).

Then I remind myself, she’s 22 years old. She’ll be fine. And whatever happens with this interview, she’ll figure it out. If she gets in, she’ll then have 4 years of working her butt off to get through the program. If she doesn’t get accepted, then she’ll need to keep waiting, maybe take more classes, get more experience and try again next time (they only accept students for Fall semester). Either way, I know her well enough to know that she is not going to give up on this dream; no matter what work it takes, or however many tries it takes, she will eventually be in vet school.

It’s hard as a parent to sit back and not try to help. I want to see her succeed so badly – for her way forward in life to be easy. But then, that’s not really what’s best for her, is it? I mean half of the good things I’ve gained over the years have been due to scary hard work, mistakes, and bad situations that I’ve had to figure out how to get through on my own. If I eliminate all those things for her (as strongly as the heart of a mother feels the need to make the world easy for their children) it would not be the best thing for her. She needs to figure things out for herself, she needs to work hard for things, she even needs to go through some suffering. This is what will make her into the awesome veterinarian (and person!) that she will someday be.

When I was her age, I packed everything I could fit into my Chevy Citation and headed to Idaho. My dream was to be a wildlife biologist and I went out there to get my Master’s degree studying bighorn sheep. I think now about my parents watching me leave, driving across the country to start my life. Wow. No cell phones then, no way for me to contact them until I stopped somewhere that had a pay phone (kids – look it up. It’s how people used to stay in contact back in the Stone Ages 🙂 ). I can’t imagine how they must have felt when I drove out of the driveway and all that long day into the night when I finally called them at my first overnight stop.

When I first got to Idaho, I remembered being awed, then overwhelmed, then my anxiety kicked in and I wondered what I’d gotten myself into. I mean, I wanted this more than anything in the world ever since I was a little girl but suddenly I realized I was all alone, 2,000 miles from home. I didn’t know a soul and had very little money. That first day, I called my Dad’s house, but it was my step-mom who answered. I told her I was scared and that I’d found out I wasn’t going to make enough money doing my grad research to pay all my bills ($500 per month was the going rate then, barely enough to pay tuition and rent, how was I going to be able to get groceries or buy books?). I told her I was thinking that maybe I should just come home.

I’ll never forget what she did for me then. She told me that I would be fine, that she and Dad would send me extra money each month to get me through, and that I needed to stay there and live out my dream. It was probably a very hard thing for my parents to support me that way, when I know they would have preferred to have me closer to home. But they knew enough to toss me into the deep end so I could learn to swim.

And, once I got my bearings, I did swim and ended  up loving my life there. Some other time I’ll write about being in the Idaho wilderness with my bighorn sheep. In the meantime, I’m praying for my daughter to get the chance to live out her dream as well.

Today’s gonna be a great day

Some people say knowing when you’re going to die is a gift. It’s a reminder to focus on what’s important in life. You can plan what you want to spend the last of your time doing. Work on your bucket list. I think that’s mostly bullshit and I’ll let you in on a little secret – we are all going to die. Some know it will be sooner than they had expected, others have no idea when or how, but it will happen to every one of us. Because life includes death – it’s part of the whole. Knowing that your death is imminent must put a certain poignancy in everything you do. This might be the last time you’re able to do this thing, making every moment an important memory. Is that a gift? Maybe. Sometimes we let our life just pass by us and barely notice the important moments that are occurring – your son has outgrown his pants again, your daughter is home from college for an overnight visit, your dad called to say hi.

Since being diagnosed with cancer two and a half years ago, I’ve struggled mentally with the rate at which time has been passing me by. I was glad at first when my chemo treatments were over. Then the surgery and the radiation treatments. And it seemed like each day began to fly by faster and faster as if someone was flipping the pages of a book. I lost a year, then another. Many days, I have to remind myself what season we are currently in. Didn’t we just have Christmas? I ask myself. How can it be snowing again already? My kids are growing so fast (I know all parents say this) but honestly my life is such a blur to me right now that I feel sadness and loss just because I can’t seem to slow it down, even for a day, to enjoy things.

When I was little girl my grandma caught me saying something like “I wish it was summer.” She quickly said, “Don’t wish your life away! It goes by fast enough.” At the time I was around nine years old, Grandma was in her late 50’s then (very old to me of course as you tend to think when you’re young that anyone over 40 is really old) and I thought “yeah, yeah, whatever.” But you know, it’s funny – deep down it must have registered that what she said was important because her exact words have stuck with me all these years. She lived another thirty-something years after that and died at the wonderfully old age of 93 years, having seen all her grandchildren become adults and most have children of their own. We visited her in the days before she passed on. She’d been having issues with fluid in her lungs and we knew it was near the end. She talked about how her mother had lived to be 93 and she told us she was ready, that she’d had a good life and that she loved us all. When I got the phone call a day or so later, I felt peace knowing that Grandma had loved her life and had been blessed with a long, mostly happy one.

This morning before church I was inwardly griping about how the weekend was half over, how I had so little time to enjoy myself. After church, I’d need to go home and do laundry, which takes most of the day, and other chores would take up the rest of my free time. Then it would be Monday morning again, where my life is a rushed commute into work, meetings interspersed with time at my desk trying to complete a variety of tasks, all high priority, then running around like crazy in the evening to pick up and drop off kids, fix dinner, clean up, and fall asleep from exhaustion in a chair while trying to enjoy myself by reading or writing or watching tv before bed. How do other people do this, I wonder? How do other people find time to take care of themselves and have free time to have fun, while still accomplishing the multitude of tasks that are required of them?

One of the prayers of the faithful in Mass today was that people not worry about what needed to be done tomorrow, nor be bound by what had happened yesterday, but to instead appreciate the gift of today. This is something I need to learn how to do. Stop having anxiety about all the things I’ll need to get done, to not complain or feel cheated by all that has happened to me in the past. Live today. Love today. Appreciate the gift of today.

A dear friend of mine has a terminal illness. As the symptoms continue to worsen, his body slowly freezing up on him, refusing to do what he asks it to do, he has continued to smile and joke through it all. From the beginning he has faced his diagnosis with such grace and thoughtfulness and humility and acceptance. He already knows about the gift of today. The other morning as he began his day he told his wife, “Today’s gonna be a great day!” She said, “It is? Why?” His answer was “Why not?”

Be grateful for today. Enjoy the gift.