In loving memory . . .

IMG_1639 On June 10, 2015 Bear “Puppy Chow” Haley passed away peacefully, surrounded by people she loved. She was twelve-years-old in human years, but around ninety in dog years.

Bear was born on July 1, 2002 in Flora Vista, New Mexico to a Blue Heeler and a Beagle. Her parents were unable to take care of a litter of five puppies, so Bear and her siblings were put up for adoption when they were two months old.

Though her first three siblings quickly found homes, the days came and went, and Bear still waited. That’s when Jason and Laura Haley came into her life, welcoming her into the family she would be part of for the remainder of her nearly thirteen years on this earth.

Bear developed an early taste for fashion, with a particular affinity for Laura’s shoes. She also loved the written word, once attempting to devour a hardback copy of HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE in a single day.

Though she never graduated from obedience school (despite her parents’ regular threats to send her there), Bear knew every trick in the book. Except stay. And heel. Oh, and she wasn’t very good at drop it. And she only came when wanted to. Other than that, she quickly learned shake, roll over, play dead, and speak. She could also count to ten. She loved food, walks, food, playing fetch, food, her people and mostly food. She hated fireworks and swimming. And cats.

As she got older, Bear settled into a routine with her family. She loved to hike and camp, and her family always slept better knowing Bear was on guard. She enjoyed the company of other dogs, as long as they went home when she was done playing.

Bear eventually welcomed several siblings into her home: two human children named Vince and Shelby who she loved dearly. She was less welcoming of her canine sibling Kona, and her feline sibling, Sprocket. In fact, she probably would have eaten them given the opportunity.

For most of her life, Bear held down several careers, including, but not limited to guard dog, river dog, obnoxious dog panting and whining in the back seat because she hated car rides, cat and rabbit chaser, lizard de-tailer, and eater of all things, even broccoli, but especially New York strip steaks that were left on the floor by unexpecting grandparents.

During her last few years, after a leg injury received while bravely defending her backyard from the yappy dog on the other side of the privacy fence, she slowed down, taking up residence mostly as a doormat, and an obstacle to trip over in the kitchen. She remained an eater of all things until her final days.

After a brief illness, compounded with severe arthritis, Bear’s family made the painful decision to let her go. Her last few days of life were full of laughter, love and plenty of tears. In fitting style, Bear’s final meal consisted of ice cream and waffles.

Bear is survived by her human parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and siblings, as well as Kona and Sprocket. She was preceded in death by dozens of squeaky toys, countless plastic bottles, several pairs of shoes, and a couch that she swore had a squeaker buried somewhere deep within its stuffing.

Bear will be greatly missed by all who knew her. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to your local animal shelter. Or better yet, go take a dog for a walk.

We love you Bear. And you will never be far from our thoughts.

Eyes on the Prize

When I first started mountain biking, a friend of mine went out with me to help me learn the basics. The most important piece of advice he gave me was simple: “Look where you want to go, not where you don’t want to go.” Easy enough, right? With every swoop and turn, I felt a little more confident. I rode over ledges (a whopping four inches tall) that I wouldn’t have thought I could ride. I was feeling pretty damn good. (We’ll ignore the fact that the trail we were on was equivalent to a two-lane highway as far as mountain bikes are concerned.) We were almost to the end of the trail, and I was really getting in the groove. We came to a spot in the trail that dropped down into a creek bed before climbing up the other side. My friend went first, telling me he’d wait at the top.

I dropped into the wash. And then I saw it. A big rock on the side of the trail. It shouldn’t have been a problem. It was well out of the middle of the trail. But I couldn’t stop staring at it. “That’s a big rock,” I thought. “I don’t want to hit that.” Next thing I knew . . . BAM! I’d hit the rock and crashed in the bottom of the ravine. Luckily the crash was relatively minor, and I had to laugh. If I had kept my eyes on the trail, I probably would have been fine.

While riding my bike today, I realized that this advice applies to more than just mountain biking. Last month, I submitted my work into a pitch contest. The results came out last night, and suffice to say, I didn’t make the cut. Am I disappointed? Definitely. The people involved in the contest all seem awesome, and I would have loved a chance to work with them more closely. But at the same time, I can’t keep staring at the rejection like I stared at that rock.

If you get on a mountain bike, you’re bound to crash. If you decide to put your work out there, rejection is bound to happen. And like crashes, rejection can hurt. But you can’t concentrate on the obstacle, because you’ll never make it where you’re going if you do. Keep your eye on your end goal, whether it be in school, in writing, or just life in general. And whatever you do, keep an eye out for that rock!!!

Black and White

I have a new short story for everyone today. Check it out. Let me know what you think.

 

Black and White

The dress. It was the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes. The dress that my sister and mom had picked out for me. The one they’d spent hours squabbling over. I didn’t care. I would have shown up to the church in rags if they’d let me, but they wouldn’t have that. So that overpriced dress had been hanging in my bedroom for the last two days waiting for its turn.

There was nothing wrong with the dress in theory. It was beautiful. Maybe even elegant. But I had a feeling that once I put it on, I would never truly take it off. It would graft itself to my skin. My life. It would become part of who I was, and who I always would be. And I wasn’t sure I was ready for that.

When the shriek of the alarm filled my quiet bedroom, I rolled over and willed it into silence with the press of a button. I hadn’t been sleeping. Wasn’t sure I’d slept at all. How could I? My stomach was a writhing mass of nerves. A live electric wire.

I crawled out of bed and headed into the kitchen. My mom and sister were already there. The smell of coffee permeated the house. But it wasn’t Brian’s. Mom had brought her own. She smiled at me, her eyes shining. She tried to convince me to eat, but I just shook my head. Not now. Maybe later. She furrowed her brow, but didn’t argue.

My mom and sister insisted on doing my hair and makeup. They wanted to pamper me. I wanted to escape. But I let them. While they tried to tease my matted rats nest into something beautiful, I closed my eyes and started checking items off the list. Flowers: check. Music: check. Priest: check.

I tried to picture Brian in the suit I’d picked out for him. I’d chosen black. He looked amazing in black. With a royal blue tie that he loved because it brought out his eyes. I wondered if he was already wearing it.

Then it was time. I headed back to my bedroom where my mom and sister helped me pull down the dress and climb into it. Their incessant chatter was giving me a headache. I could have done this alone, but they’d flown a thousand miles to be there with me. So I kept my mouth shut and let myself disappear into the deep folds of fabric.

We headed out front to wait for the car to pick us up. It pulled up to the driveway, and my dad opened the door. I couldn’t do this. I wasn’t ready. I knew everyone expected me to be there, but it was too much. That damn dress was making it hard to breathe. I bent over, trying to catch my breath, the electric wire in my stomach shocking everything it touched.

My parents crouched beside me whispering encouragement, but I couldn’t move. What if I just didn’t go? What if I tore the dress off and ran away? Never looked back? People would understand, wouldn’t they? 

But Brian deserved better than that.

“We’re going to be late,” Mom whispered, her voice urgent. She didn’t want to push. Didn’t want to scare me away. But we couldn’t be late.

I finally stood up, carefully wiping tears from my eyes, and Dad helped me climb into the back of the long, black car.

The church was already full when we arrived. Brian was at the front. Waiting. But the tie was wrong. Where was the one I had picked? Where was the royal blue tie? I took a deep shuddering breath. It didn’t matter what tie he had on. The blue one wasn’t going to make this any easier.

Dad took one of my arms; his touch soft and comforting. He offered a small smile, that flitted across his lips so quickly I wondered if I’d imagined it. Unrecognized tears sparkled in his eyes. I’d never seen my father cry.

He opened his mouth to say something, and my breath caught. It hung open for a moment, the words hiding inside a cavernous abyss. Then he snapped it shut and patted my hand. Sometimes silence was better than words.

He walked me through the door into the church. Everyone fell silent, twisting in their pews to get a glimpse of me. Women were already dabbing their eyes with handkerchiefs. The familiar strains of a string quartet followed my halting steps to the spot where Brian was waiting.

The priest smiled gently at me, but Brian’s face was fixed. As still as stone. I placed the single rose I’d brought beside him in the casket. “Til death do us part,” I whispered, a tear tracing its way down my cheek.