Tag Archives: Dog

The Best Laid Plans

I believe it was Oprah or some other famous person who tells us what to think who proclaimed, “Love is in the details.”  It has become my mantra over the years and has been a driving force behind my work, my gift-giving, and most importantly, my party-throwing.  To make things perfect, I just need a good theme to latch onto.  A theme, I tell you!  A theme will always make things better.

Many years ago, my friend Colleen and I went to The American Club in Kohler for an overnight spa excursion.  While we were there, she shared the news with me that she was going to be having a baby.  I remember how excited we were, and we sat in that hotel room in our post-massage glow and talked and talked and talked and talked.  In fact, if memory serves, we were so invested in our talking that we may have economized our time by taking a bubble bath together in the huge jacuzzi tub.  Which sounds kind of weird when you write it in a blog posted on the world wide web, but it seemed perfectly normal to us at the time.

Having worked at two different jobs together, Colleen and I had a lot of history and knew a lot of the same people.  I knew I wanted to throw her a baby shower, but it would have to be a different kind of party to include both men and women.  I picked a Friday night in September, and invited a whole bunch of people – many of whom Colleen hadn’t seen in years and she had no idea I was inviting.  I still remember the little ditty I put in the invitation, too.  It went something like this:

The days are dwindling
The time has drawn near
Soon we’ll be looking 
At a new baby Dier.

Your attendance is needed
A baby gift is not
But if it makes you feel better
Bring a book for the tot!

As the day of the party approached, I attended to every possible detail to make the party perfect.  I purchased a lovely little bookshelf so everyone could place their favorite children’s book in it for Baby Dier. I purchased my own favorite book of all time, Free to Be You and Me.  I hired Colleen’s brother-in-law Tony to do the catering and picked a fantastic array of delectable treats for the evening.  To make it a little extra special, I ordered a specialty cake from Hartter’s Bakery – a delicious, double chocolate cake with a layer of raspberry filling.  This was going to be one special night.

The day of the party arrived, and I took the day off of work to attend to every last detail.  The house was immaculately cleaned and the backyard was prepped for a bonfire, because my house was really too small to comfortably fit the 25 people who had said they were coming.  Feeling confident, I looked around and surveyed the situation.  Final assessment? I was perfectly pleased with myself.

About 30 minutes prior to arrival of the first guests, there was a clap of thunder so loud it frightened the dog and then the skies opened up. Although Wisconsin is not known for having a monsoon season, we had one that night.  It didn’t just rain, it rained sideways.  It rained so hard you could not see five feet in front of you. I quickly sprang into action to bring tables and chairs inside and put them in places they didn’t really belong and didn’t really fit.  It was going to be a cozy evening.

Colleen and her husband arrived, and soon after guests braved the unrelenting storm to come, too.  Surprise after surprise was unveiled. Your brother-in-law is catering!  Your co-workers from the homeless shelter you worked at ten years ago are here!  Your baby is getting books, all kinds of them!  Yaaay!

I took a break from the festivities to go to the kitchen and get things rolling.  I wanted people to eat and I had to get that started.  As I turned the corner and entered the kitchen, I could not believe the horror before my eyes.  My 105-pound dog Jethro – a dog I liked to say was of the “big dumb yellow variety” – had seized the opportunity to lick the frosting off two full edges of my beautiful, expensive, decadent perfect Hartter’s cake. Dumbfounded, I stood and stared at it and for a moment I froze. Shortly after that, I panicked.  Then I think I might have screamed.  I quickly narrowed my choices in that moment down to only two:  I could laugh, or I could cry. Truthfully, I probably did a little of both.

As tends to be true in life, everything about that night turned out to be perfectly imperfect.  People who had not been together for years laughed and told stories and gave warm hugs to one another. Although we were short on seating space in that tiny house, we were not short on love. While Jethro was in some serious trouble that night, his shenanigans helped make a memory that would last.  And in case anyone is wondering: yes, we still ate the cake.



I met my first soulmate when I was four.
The preceding 18 months had taken a toll on my family. My dad had been diagnosed with kidney failure, and in a matter of days my mom had packed up our life and moved us to Iowa. It was a chaotic time, a time of uncertainty and fear and disbelief. It’s hard to self-actualize and find your inner peace when everything that matters is at stake. Suffice it to say, we didn’t.
And so, after Dad’s health stabilized thanks to the wonders of modern medicine, my parents decided it was time our life got stabilized too. When we lived in New Mexico, my dad had two horses and this has evoked a passion in him he didn’t previously know existed. With their dreams of more horses in tow, they searched for some land in the country and decided on a 20 acre lot just outside of Lowden, Iowa. (For those of you who don’t know, Lowden is a thriving metropolis of about 700 people, with zero stoplights and a cop that is shared with the next town over. Kid you not.)
Shortly after we moved, my parents realized that young Jenny was going to need a playmate or she may well drive them nuts. I am told – and I can hardly believe this to be true – that I was quite a talker in my early days. My dad always told the story that one day, out of sheer exhaustion from the sound of my voice, he suggested I go outside and talk to the bush in the front yard. I did.
So one day, my mom woke me up and told me that this day was going to be a very special day. I couldn’t imagine what was in store, but in no time we headed up the road a ways to the home of our neighbor Annabelle. Something was a little off about Annabelle. She was dirty and disheveled and had really bad teeth. Rumor had it when her son came to visit, he had to sleep in the bathtub. So I can assure you, this day that we went to visit Annabelle would be our first and last visit to her home.
Rumors aside, what happened that day at Annabelle’s rickety old house changed my life. Annabelle was a talker (well, so I was I – but talking to a bush had more appeal than talking to Annabelle) and so it took seemingly forever to realize why we were there. We eventually went out back to the barn, and situated there was a momma dog and 6 furry little puppies – German Shepherd/Collie mixes. My mom told me I could pick which ever one I wanted. I looked at her in disblief, then surveyed the landscape. They were all cute in their own way, but there was one who was so fat and roly-poly she could hardly stand up. She was a fluffy fluffball of pure fluffy goodness. I picked her, or maybe she picked me, and in no time I had selected her name: Peanuts.
Peanuts was my first soulmate. On that farm, she was my best friend and my most reliable source of companionship and entertainment. She was an “outside” dog, because that’s what people on farms have. So every morning in the summer, as soon as I would get up I would bound outside, screen door slamming behind me, to find my pal who was always patiently awaiting my arrival. We would roam the acreage and get into all kinds of mischief together. In the fall, when I had to return to school, Peanuts would come running to the end of the lane to greet me when she heard the school bus pull up to drop me off at the end of the day. In the winter, I hated her “outside” status and would go make beds of hay and blankets to keep her warm. And in the spring, the best season of all on that farm, Peanuts and I would make the rounds together to check on all the new baby animals that had arrived on the scene.
I say that Peanuts was my first soulmate because she was all the things you would want from one. She was loyal beyond belief and fiercely protective. (For some reasons she really hated one of our neighbors and would snarl and growl at him and only him. I still wonder what she saw in that man that I never did.) She loved me in a way that I had never been loved: unconditionally. Ever present, she was there when I needed her most, relishing the good times and comforting me during the bad. She was sweet and gentle and affectionate, but not overbearingly so. But most of all, she shared my joy. There was literally no one else on the face of the earth that she would rather see than me. You could see it in her innocent brown eyes, and her tail, and I swear to you she could smile. She was the best.
Here is what I know for sure: soulmates are far and few between, but they come in a lot of forms. You never know when one will just pop up in your life. And rest assured, you don’t need to be on the lookout for a soulmate, you just need to be ready for them when they arrive.