Sunday, November 22, 2015

100 Peace For Paris Buttons

Peace For Paris original art by Jean Jullien
When I saw Jean Jullien's eloquent, artistic response to what happened in Paris on November 13, I immediately wanted to share the image with everyone I knew. I put it on Facebook and Instagram, but that wasn't enough of a reach for me. Then I remembered the old button maker I had stashed in storage.

As I've pared away possessions that I have little use or space for, I've considered getting rid of it countless times. It's silly. It's a toy. I rarely use it for anything. It's never made me a dime. And frankly, it's a little embarrassing to own such a thing. On the other hand, it doesn't take up much space, every so often it's really quite useful, and honestly, at this point, embarrassment is not something I shy away from.

I ordered a box of button parts and waited a few days for them to arrive. My master plan was/is to make 100 buttons with this beautiful bit of art, and give them away. That's it. I've seen them online already, being sold by various opportunistic sellers, and that makes me sad. This is not my art, so it's wrong to sell it, especially without permission, as I'm sure the folks on CafePress and Zazzle are doing. And besides, there's something so much more hopeful, joyful, and humanly connecting about just plain giving them away to anyone who wants one.

To be clear, I am not a Rich Lady who can afford to do this endlessly. I have no income at the moment. I'm between gigs, so to speak, with no real clue as to what the next one will be. I thought if people asked to pay for the buttons, I'd accept $1 a piece, to cover the cost of the parts so I could order more. So far, only 2 people have offered to pay, so clearly this has to be a mission of Love on my part. And so it is.

I don't mail them. I don't sell them. I don't even offer them to anyone who doesn't first make a comment on the one I'm wearing. And then, the real pleasure and perfection of this project is to pass this simple gesture of peace from my hand to that of another human being. It makes me feel incredibly, unreasonably happy.

I was at the Portland Art Museum the other night, and a pretty young woman looked at my button, and quietly said, "Thank you for that," in her lovely French accent. As I pulled a button out of my pocket and handed it to her, I had no words. I only smiled, and turned away with tears in my eyes as she pinned it on her own coat, over her heart.

Another day, on an impromptu excursion to the little town of Hood River, Rick and I wandered in to a little pop-up art and craft sale. One of the artists greeted us, and immediately asked where I'd gotten my button. This one had glitter and little gold stars in it, so I took it off and gave it to her. In return, I got a big warm hug.

And the Peace goes on.

I've made almost half of the hundred now, and really don't know how many Rick and I have given away between us. I love making them. It's a simple, repetitive, meditative process that goes quickly and takes minimal effort. My hand hurts from leaning down on the lever of the press, so I've started padding it with a pot holder. I make a dozen or so, and then I go out in the world and wait to see who they want to go to. If I go through this first hundred too quickly, I'll probably buy more. How long will people want these? I can't know that. How will I pay for them? Oh... somehow.

I guess I'll know, one way or another, when it's time to stop. For now though, if you see me on the street, and you notice the simple Peace For Paris button on my coat, please ask me for one. I really would love to give it to you.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Where Women Really Create

I was wandering through one of the Very Large Corporate Bookstores the other day, because I needed something to do for an hour, and because they happen to have a really wonderful magazine section. I hardly ever get to the actual books when I go there. There are too many. I get confused. I went in for a new notebook (I bought four), and I spent some time with the fancy magazines too. I like to flip through the expensive $15 "collectible" Somerset publications from Stampington and Company, like Artful Blogger, Willow and Sage, and Where Women Cook. They're more like books than magazines, and I usually find them beautiful and inspiring, and worth a visit to that particular store.

Are you sensing a But here? Yes. But, when I picked up a copy of Where Women Create, instead of feeling inspired and happy, I felt... really pissed off. Page after glowing page showed happy, prolifically creative women, with perfect hair and makeup, in their perfectly chaotic sanctuaries of art, as if they are separate and different and somehow more valid than the most-of-us who create all manner of things in regular, everyday, mundane spaces. I'm still annoyed.


Get this. Every single one of us is creative by nature. (Not just women. Men too, of course, but I'm focused on the women today.) We don't all make "art" of some kind, but simply living requires huge amounts of creativity, and living happily takes even more.

Don't believe me? Make a list of all the creative things you do. Most of the mundane little things we do, from getting dressed, choosing the right shoes and jewelry, and making breakfast, to plotting a course to work, school, shopping, whatever, and just generally getting through another day as an inhabitant of this planet, is a creative effort. We have to keep figuring things out, over and over again. That's creativity. There doesn't have to be a shiny handcrafted bauble at the end of the day. There only has to be you.

For those who do create actual "things," like art or writing or cooking or sewing or whatever, most of us know that having the perfect creative space is not a requirement, and often not even an option. If you think it is, and not having that space is stopping you from Making Stuff, drop that silly notion right this minute and get yourself to the art supply store of your choice.

My first beadmaking "studio" was a small round table in the corner of my kitchen. The next one was a cold, damp laundry room attached to the carport. I eventually upgraded to another cold/damp, or hot/sweaty, depending on the season, space that connected to the back door of our house in Taos, and was basically a passthrough for my family when they needed tools from the half of the room I wasn't using, or had a clean load of laundry to take out to the clothesline, or a dirty load of firewood to squeeze past me in a wobbly wheelbarrow and dump on the floor behind me.

Sure, we all referred to it as "my" studio, but it was far from being any kind of sanctuary. I used to long for a space that was really my own, that was orderly and colorful and as beautiful as the ones in the magazine. It never happened, and I made stuff anyway. I still do.

These days, here in Portland, the studio apartment I share with Rick is also my "studio." More specifically, a counter-height table we bought at Ikea, that we use for cooking, eating, and game nights, is also my humble, and perfectly functional, studio. I can leave it in my kitchen area, or slide it over a few feet to the window when I want better/different light.

In this studio, I write, draw, create blogs and websites, make jewelry, teach jewelry making, photograph, knit, crochet, create coloring books, and sometimes, I even cook. And the best part is, I no longer wish for a bigger or "better" space.

Much as some people will tell you that every space is sacred space, all land is holy land, and all water is holy water, I'm telling you that all space, any space you can utilize, even temporarily, can be creative space. If you want to make something, and you've been waiting for the perfect little studio to inspire your dreams and spark your creativity into a bonfire, forget about it. That perfect space might never happen.

I once worked with glass and fire in a tent. Yep. Outside, in winter, with snow and wind blowing all around the flaps, and in summer when it was so hot I could barely breathe. I made it work, because it was what I had.


Do it now. Make it now, wherever you are, with whatever you've got. As creative beings, we can also create the time and space to make the things that want to be made. And stop buying magazines that only make you feel inadequate and underprivileged. Where do women really create? First in our hearts and heads, and then in any old place we please.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

I Finally Wrote a Book

I've been saying it for years - I'm going to write a book. I've started and stalled many times, but I always knew I'd get one done eventually. Now I've done it! OK, technically I sort of drew a book rather than wrote a book. But there are words in it too. Two full pages! And the back cover! And a couple of well thought out paragraphs. Yes indeed, I wrote a book. With pictures. And here it is!


That's right - it's a coloring book! And it's beautiful! And it gets even more beautiful when you color it! Inside are 19 of my hand drawn mandalas, a page of bookmarks, and even a draw-your-own-mandala in the back. I had it printed single-side, so the pages can be removed from the book and framed once you've added your coloring magic to them.

Coloring is hot right now, especially for adults. It takes zero art skill, it's portable, fun, relaxing, even meditative, and all you need is a handful of colored pencils or markers. You can order the Mostly Mandalas coloring book online at CreateSpace now, and soon it will also be available on Amazon. Then, in a few weeks, it will be ready for expanded distribution to stores. How grand! They print and ship on demand, which keeps the cost down, and also means I don't have to do any mailing. I love how this is going. In fact, I love it so much, I'm already working on volume two!

You can find me these days over at MostlyMandalas.com, (which is also KimMiles.com). I offer new coloring pages every week, which you can order and download instantly. And who knows - there might be a whole shelf full of books coming up soon. Once I get going, it's hard to stop me!

Friday, May 22, 2015

One Year in Portland

It's official. We've been here in Portland for a year already. Our "date" with PDX (as the cool people refer to it) sees us walked safely back to our doorstep, and... signing another 13 month lease. It's still to be determined whether or not we marry Portland, but we do like her an awful lot. Living downtown suits us right now, and we haven't found another part of town we'd rather live in. We don't love the idea of our rent going up, up, up every year, which we hadn't really thought about when we started this. So if we stay, I suppose at some point we might want to buy again. But we like apartment life. It's so easy compared to all the maintenance we used to do on our adobe acre in Taos. We don't miss it. Not one bit. And aside from a few friends we'd love to see, there's nothing in New Mexico to lure us back. A year here seems to have made that pretty clear.

We live about 2 blocks beyond the tallest white building in the picture. It's a 10 minute walk down to the marina. Not bad!
So what do we love about Portland? It's a long and growing list. Our proximity to so many things is right at the top. We've discovered that we can walk to all the places we used to take the streetcar to. In bad weather it's nice to have a ride, but more often than not, we just hoof it. It makes for more fun and in-depth explorations, and we find new things out there all the time.

So where do we walk? Well... The park behind our building, Lovejoy Fountain, Keller Fountain, Keller Auditorium, and the riverfront are all regular dog-walks. Laughing Planet restaurant is in our building, along with a terrific little market that carries our favorite snacks and has the best prices on wine and beer, and a nail shop I have yet to go to. I plan to! Pizza Schmizza is right across the street, and a couple of blocks up is Hot Lips Pizza, which we like best for it's vegan cheese offering and smoke-free outdoor seating. Our bank is also just steps away, as is the UPS Store, several other restaurants and bars, and a nice little pod of food carts.

We're basically on the Portland State University campus, and love going to the bookstore there. The streetcar stop and MAX stop are right there too. The Park Blocks run for a long way north, a lush strip of urban green, with beautiful lawns, big old trees, sculptures, fountains, and benches. Little cafes and restaurants line the Park Blocks, and the Farmers Market magically appears there every Saturday and Wednesday. Then we have the Portland Art Museum (which offers free admission every Friday after 5PM) and the Historical Museum, which is free to Multnomah County residents. A little further out is City Target, the designer label Goodwill Store, and the main library.

For provisions we walk to Safeway - a 10 minute walk - or Whole Foods - about 20 minutes away, with Powell's Books as an optional detour. In between, of course, we find a seemingly endless number of little shops we've never seen before, favorite cupcake and coffee places, and restaurants to add to our long to-try list. The downtown mall, Apple Store, and Pioneer Courthouse Square (which is known as "the Living Room of Portland") are just a quick few blocks up the street from us.

One day, on a really ambitious Fitbit spree, I walked all the way up to 23rd Ave from our place on 4th. It took me about 40 minutes to get to Trader Joe's on 21st, and the only reason I took a Car2Go home was I bought too much food and couldn't carry it! From there, if one is really feeling peppy, it's completely possible to walk the next hill up to the Rose Garden, and a little farther up to the Japanese Garden. We like it so much there that we just bought a membership, which will get us and two guests per visit in for a year. So come see us. We'll take you along!

I'm leaving out a lot, but you get the picture. And this is all on "our" side of the river. The whole east side is another world of Portland, that we discover little by little, when we feel like taking the car out. Another year here seems like a pretty good idea. Forever? Here or anywhere? Well, I really can't say. We've never lived at the beach, and we'd both really like to try that before we're too old to move anymore. For now though, our date with Portland continues. We're playing hard to get, and Portland is being a very attentive suitor.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Ready, Set, Color!

Is it wrong to use my own blog for shameless self promotion? Well, gee... I don't think so. What I do and make and present to the world is part of what makes my life my life. Separate business from not-business? Impossible in my world. And that's a good thing, because it means I'm making a life by doing things I love to do. I wish that for everyone I know, although most people don't even know it's possible.

With the help of SendOwl, I've sorted out how to put my drawings in PDF format, post them on my website, and have them instantly delivered to buyers all over the world, who then print them and color them. The technology is wonderful.


The first five Mandalas to color are listed on my website now. The plan is to leave them there for a week, then bump them down the page next week and add a few more. The following week, the first five will go away and make room for the next batch. Essentially, all of them will be up for a limited time of about two weeks. This was Rick's idea, and I think it's genius. The web page will be fresh and full of new work all the time, and won't have so much older stuff that it's a chore to wade through it all. Then I can take the archives and put them into a coloring book somewhere down the road. It all makes sense to me, and it all seems.... right.


Personally, I love the idea of single coloring pages. You can choose the ones you like the best and give special attention to one project at a time. And for those who might want to sneak in some coloring time at work (I would do that if I had a real job and a desk and all that), it's much easier to slip a single sheet of paper under a pile on your desk than it is to hide a whole coloring book.


Are you with me? Get your colored pencils, crayons, paints,  and pastels out, and have some fun coloring. And feel free to help spread the word. I so appreciate a little help from my friends!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Making Mandalas

I've been somewhat obsessively drawing mandalas lately. Thinking of myself as someone who doesn't draw, it surprises me to suddenly have a growing stash of fancy sketch books and pens. I take them along with me everywhere I go, and in any free moment, with Rick or a cappuccino or a glass of wine for company, I pull out my book and pen and start drawing in circles.


I have dozens of them already, and told myself at first to wait to see what they want to do until I have at least thirty of them. As I passed that number, and just kept going, the idea came to me to offer them as coloring pages, so that's what I'm about to do.

Have you noticed that coloring books for grown-ups are hot these days? I have no interest in a project like putting together a book. I'm more into draw, share, draw, share. That's enough. Besides, I'm kind of late to the adult coloring book party. There's a growing number of them out there, and what I like about that is that it confirms that people love to color. It makes us feel good, and that makes the world a better place.

I'll soon be offering individual pages in PDF format for sale on my website, for a very small price, so happy colorers can do as many as they want to. I have to work out the tech part of it, but for starters I have some to offer for free. I did these little mandala cards to give as a gift to those who sign up for my mailing list. Yes, we all know there's some give and take in this. I give you access to something really pretty and fun that you can use in your own happy life, and you give me permission to send you an email once a week or so, letting you know that there's new fun stuff to peruse on my website. I think it's a great exchange for all concerned.


So, my fellow colorers, I hope you'll pop over and subscribe to my mailing list. It only takes a second, and you'll be directed to instant access to the mandala cards. I hope you'll enjoy them, and stay tuned for more.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Ditching The Dye

I've been coloring my hair for years. Everyone does, right? It's what we've been taught we're supposed to do as soon as the first rogue grays become too many to pluck without creating a bald patch. My mother bleached her dark brown hair from the time I was a little girl. Her mother was my "crazy red-haired granny" until she died in her 80's. And my father's mother, who had unfortunate, wispy locks and lost a lot of hair as she aged, opted for a terrible brown wig that didn't suit her at all. Hair color seemed natural to me. Just something we do when we grow up.

I actually started dabbling in recreational color as a teenager. I went glowingly henna-red off and on, but I think henna is kind of a gateway hair color, that often leads to the harder stuff. The mess of plastering smelly green mud on one's head can become more trouble than it's worth. It did for me, and I eventually graduated to semi-permanent color from a box, to "brighten" my natural color. Later it was permanent dyes because I wanted bigger changes in my real color, and I wanted to really cover those pesky grays. I think there were about six of them at the time. Vanity is a funny thing.

One time I opted for what looked like a lovely dark auburn on the box, but ended up in a total panic over what turned out to be black hair with purple highlights. I called Miss Clairol herself, pleading for some kind of help, which led me to stripping the color out of my hair, and re-coloring it a nice normal shade of my original brown - which ended up actually being a flaming I-Love-Lucy-red. At this point I was afraid of frying my hair and having it all fall out, so I tried to live with the red, which was actually orange, and required me to race to Mervyn's to buy new clothes that didn't clash with my hair. Sigh... A few days later I succumbed to the dye bottle again, and finally got back to more or less the basic brunette shade I'd started with. My hair was not at all pleased with me.

I vowed never to color my hair again, but of course that didn't stick. A few years later the grays started showing up in earnest, and it was back to the bottle for me. It was fun for a while. I liked the home "spa time," and the fresh look I got with each touchup. And for years I never questioned my hair coloring habit. In fact, like my red-haired granny, I fully intended to color my hair until I dropped. But somewhere along the way, I just got tired of doing it. More than the actual doing, I grew tired of having to do it in order to look good. I eventually began to feel like a slave to the dye bottle, and began wondering if or how I'd ever get away from it.

I had my opening a few years ago when I had my hair cut super short, just for a change. I liked it for a while, but unruly curls like mine take more upkeep short than long, and after a few months I decided to grow it back out. While I was at it, I decided to stop coloring too, and see what color my hair really was at that point. Growing hair from short back to longish is never easy, but at least growing out the color was part of the deal, and pretty painless. I embraced it, and even liked it for a while, and then for some reason, in an "ugly" moment, I caved in and went back to coloring it. What a mistake!

While some people feel they look younger with dyed hair, I began to realize that I wasn't fooling anyone. My fake hair color didn't make me look younger. It merely made me look like I colored my hair. I even started to feel like the contrast between my "young" hair and my not-so-young 50-something face was something I was no longer comfortable with.

The word "authenticity" is used a lot in the going-gray movement (and it is a movement - just look around the internet). And yes, I do want to be as authentically me as I can be. But more than that, I'm just tired of the upkeep and the minimally effective results I get from home-coloring my hair. While professional color can be gorgeous, I can't afford to drop $100 every three weeks to keep up with my fast-growing roots. And when something that makes us feel pretty actually looks quite crappy every three weeks, it's time to reassess. So that's what I'm doing.

More than authenticity, what I want out of this is freedom. I want to travel without worrying about my roots showing and finding someone in a foreign country to keep me pretty. I'm not all gray, so this really won't be as shocking as it might be for some. And well, I just feel ready. I know it's going to be rough at times. I know there will be people who disapprove. I know I'm going to hate it from time to time. And maybe I'll go back to the red-haired-granny way of thinking - dye till you die - but honestly, I hope I don't. I hope there's more to me than that, and I hope I can give myself this gift of personal authenticity combined with freedom.

I plan to talk about it here as I go along. When I made my big announcement on Facebook this morning, there was an immediate flurry of conversation on the subject, from friends on both sides of the hair color fence. I mentioned there that if you get a group of women together for more than thirty minutes, the conversation will almost always turn to hair at some point. Our hair means a lot to us, whether we want it to or not, so we might as well just go ahead and talk about it. My list of blog post sub-subjects is growing faster than my roots, so I'm going to go ahead and document my Big Growout. It seems to be something a lot of us think about, and a lot of us want to do, but don't always feel that we can, for various reasons. Hair... wow... who cares? Well, most of us, in my experience.

So here goes. The start of a big, uncomfortable, life-changing project. Let's get growing.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Why I Love (And Hate) My Fitbit


I got a Fitbit in January. Not because it was January and I was making all kinds of crazy resolutions, but because my kids were telling me how much they liked theirs. (What is a Fitbit? Basically it's a fancy, high-tech pedometer. Google it. I had to.) At first I thought, nah, I'm fine thanks. I walk all over Portland and I'm sure what I do is more than enough. Then I remembered that I've been gaining a bit of weight over the last few months, and well, maybe a little extra incentive to move my bones would be a good thing.

What convinced me to take the plunge was the social aspect of Fitbit. Friends can tag friends in chummy challenges, either to simply make your own personal step goal, or to compete for top stepper. I don't like gritty competition, but I do find that I'm more likely to make my own personal goal if someone else is paying attention. That part is working for me.

I've had my Fitbit for just over 2 weeks, and it really is getting me to move more than I was before. A lot more. I enjoy the challenges with the kids and a couple of friends. I keep my inner circle small and supportive. I joined a Facebook group called Fitbit Women Warriors Over 50. And after a week, I even bumped my daily step goal from 10,000 to 11,000. I want to be slightly above "just barely good enough to stay alive," which is what 10,000 steps a day is supposed to be. Sheesh! A normal person never comes even close to that, no matter how active we think we are. This is where the Fitbit reality check is very eye-opening.

A funny side note - the second day I had my Fitbit, my son challenged me to a "10K." I thought that was kind of ambitions for what was a work day for him, but OK, I jumped in and set out to walk those 10 kilometers, or 6.2 miles. About halfway through the day it dawned on me that 10K in Fitbit speak means 10,000 steps! Yeah, I felt kind of dumb...

So here I am, two and a half weeks in, doing my best every single day to make my 11K steps, and I like it. Mostly. In fact, what I like about Fitbit is exactly the same thing I don't like about it. It keeps me moving. Until I've reached my goal for the day, which usually takes most of the day, I'm not content to sit and relax. I even hate sitting here to write a blog post. I should be walking! How does anyone get any work done with this thing strapped fashionably to their arm?

And by the way, if you're considering getting a Fitbit, I do recommend getting the one that goes on your wrist rather than the one that goes in your pocket or clips to your clothes. Out of sight, out of mind, you know? Wear it with style, and never apologize for doing something good for your own sweet self.

I decided it might be good to start using the gym in our building to speed things up and free up some time for other things. I went down there Sunday morning and got on the elliptical, for the first time ever, and I pretty much hated everything about it - intensely intent (younger) people who had not so much as a nod of encouragement to offer, a broken TV on my machine, and relentless, boring repetitive exercise that felt exactly like exercise, in a crowded little room overlooking the traffic of the church across the street. I lasted twenty minutes and barely made 2,000 steps. It just wasn't worth it.

Sure, it's probably good for me to change up my "workouts." So are Brussel's sprouts, which I know are at least as wildly popular as sweaty gyms, but guess what - I don't like them. I see no reason why I have to eat them when I eat all other vegetables. and by the same line of reasoning, if I walk all the time, almost everywhere I go, and enjoy a form of exercise that feels real and natural and happy to me, do I really need to submit to torture machines to get the job done? I think not.

So now, as I wrap this up, I check the app on my phone and see that I've put in 4,376 steps today. So far. That includes my twenty minutes of elliptical insanity. At this point, I'm taking a deep breath and a drink of water, and heading out the door to walk to Whole Foods, add some real-life steps to my real live life, and buy something to fix up for dinner. (Anything but Brussels sprouts, of course.)

Yes, I'm inspired, and sometimes even self-goaded into perpetual motion. But maybe the world won't come to an end (and my butt won't fall to me knees) if I stop for a cup of coffee somewhere along the way. Balance, I say to my grasshopper self. It's all about the balance.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Softening

I was talking to my daughter, Lauren, the other day about clothes, and mentioned that I hate (and almost never wear) pants. What I really meant was I see no reason to wear clothes that hurt me. I didn't even remember at the time that when she was little, Miss Lauren absolutely refused to wear pants of any kind, no matter what the weather. She was all about dresses, soft, comfy dresses that moved with her, felt cool in the summer, and worked just fine with the addition of tights in the winter. That's exactly how I dress now, while the jeans lie folded in the closet.

It's about making my world softer, and I'm noticing that I'm doing it more and more, in other areas of my life too. Our home is filled with comfortable, soft furniture, tossed with pillows and draped with cuddly blankets. Cloth napkins often replace paper ones. A simple bowl of good food, held in my hand, is my favorite way to eat. A cup of tea is a near-constant companion. And classical music drifts from Pandora stations most of the day.

I once read that Doris Day was always filmed through a slightly blurry lens because she had tons of freckles. Watch one of her movies, and you'll notice that every shot of her is a little bit softer and dreamier than those of the other actors. I call it the Doris Day Effect when I edit photos of myself. Where clarity and sharp focus used to be so important to me, in photos and in life, I'm beginning to see that hazy lines are not a bad thing at all.

It's easy to be hard on ourselves, and on others - demanding, judgmental, even mean. What would it be like if we became softer and softer, let the edges blur, let go of sharp focus, and just started to see the world through a somewhat more gentle filter.

This is kind of a new way of thinking for me. I'm prone to pokey edges at times. I'm going to play with the idea of a general "softness of being" and see what happens. Maybe it's just because it's winter in the Northwest, or because I'm getting... gulp... older. Does the reason matter? I kind of think not. I also think it might be time to donate those abandoned jeans to someone who wants them, and to replenish my supply of fleece-lined leggings. They are absolutely the softest, most lovely thing in my wardrobe. I'll remind Lauren to get some too.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Tribute to a Terrible Dog

Our dear old Lucy has died at the age of almost 13. Some of you have read and consoled and advised over the years as I bemoaned the difficulties of sharing life with a dog who loved us always, but was for the most part, socially unacceptable. Lucy was, by most standards, a terrible dog.

She didn't like most people. Especially little kids. And men. And most women. She liked us, Rick and me, and our big kids, and a few select insiders who somehow managed to connect with her in a way the rest who tried, and many did, could never find the key to. She was exasperating or affectionate, snarky or snuggly, wild or companionable, depending on her mood and who she was with. 

My relationship with Lucy was one of the most challenging of my life. But I learned a lot from her. Some would say you never know what you're getting with a shelter dog, but there are no guarantees no matter where our pets find us. I know of plenty of pure bred dogs who have been even more difficult that Lucy was. I completely believe in adopting shelter dogs, and in making a lifetime commitment to them. They deserve our devotion every bit as much as they're willing give theirs to us. 

I'm sad to admit that I tried many times to find someone else to take Lucy, when it seemed that life with her was just too stressful. Understandably, and fortunately, nobody wanted her, and we were forced to step up, honor our commitment to her, and make the best of things. Some people would return a dog like Lucy to the shelter. That was never an option in my mind, and I'm grateful now that the Powers That Be kept Lucy with us. We were able to form our own connected and trusting bond with her, and we were able to observe how even a weird old dog can become gentler and more trusting as she goes along.

I see the lesson flowing over to my experience with humans too. More and more I think that if we don't give up on them, a lot of people we think are intolerable can truly surprise us. I hope that's true.

I've said too many times that I did not like Lucy. Truth is, I loved her. It took me almost 13 years to appreciate who she was as a unique dog-person-ality. And I'm going to miss her big stubborn sweetness for a long time. Fare well, Lucy, Big Girl, Lucy Goose, Rucy Roo, Smooch... I love you.