Monday, March 30, 2009


When Steven and I started dating, he had already had Shelby for a year. So when I met this wonderful, handsome man and then found out he had this beautiful female black lab and saw how much he loved her and how much fun he had with her, what girl isn't a softy for that??? And so he introduced me to Shelby Wayne McDowell. Oh whoops, I'm sorry I thought you said she was a girl! Oh, she is a girl?

Yes, Steven wanted to pass along his middle name to his first born regardless of gender, hence Shelby Wayne. And if you know Shelby, I'm sure that her masculine middle name explains so much about her personality! Sometimes she forgets whether she's a boy or a girl. Again, if you know her, you know EXACTLY what I'm talking about, no need for further explanation :)

First, I had to post the picture below. It is one of my favorites ever!! Man and his dog. And if you really want to know about Shelby, you should ask Steven. He can't help but light up when he talks about his girl. Of course they both welcome all of us new additions, but the year of Shelby and Steven will always be special to them :)

Shelby is as first born as they come. She invented the term Alpha female. She typically sets the mood, the energy, and the level of obedience that she and the other girls will follow. Shelby is by far the most vocal dog I have ever seen! When she greets you or needs something she makes noises that I have yet to hear recreated by anyone or anything. (I should try to post an audio clip sometime, it is hilarious!)

At the slightest stir of movement in the mornings, Shelby will make sure to wake everyone up and beg to be let out and once we all respond and I get up and let them out, Callie and Toccoa sleepily make their way outside to go potty and begin their morning routines while Shelby stops at the door and looks at you like you're crazy if you think she's going outside this early, and then tilts her head to the side as if to say, "Thanks, I just wanted to make sure you heard me" And then she turns around satisfied that SHE decided when the day would start and goes back to curl up on her bed and go back to sleep. And this is every morning!

Another difference, is while Callie and Toccoa will soak up any attention they can possibly get, Shelby prefers to control it. She will find her spot to lay in, usually out of the way and likes to be undisturbed. Well when she decides she needs some love she will come and stand over you until you start to scratch her chest and if you stop before she's tells you she's done, she will take her bear claw of a paw and poke your arm, chest, head, or the closest available body part until you continue! (and if you've never been prodded by a bear claw, it's very persuasive!!)

There are countless stories I could tell of Shelby's quirks and attitude. She definitely has the ability to communicate more then any other four legged creature. Her facial expressions, her noises and her body language leave no room for self interpretation of what she wants, she is clear as the day is long!!

But all in all, Shelby is the quint essential dog. She always sleeps between us and the door. On walks she moves herself between Steven, Callie, Toccoa and I upon any approaching visitors. She can boss and rough house with the other girls, but when they were both new puppies, she transformed into a gentle patient mother and taught them everything. She is lab through and through and will play and have fun for as long as you let her, but she also isn't scared of anything and is a true, loyal protector. Even Steven says that she wasn't near as protective before the girls and I came along but she knows now there is more to protect, and I fully trust and believe she will do the same when we choose to extend our family. It is clear that she knows and takes very serious her job to protect and warn her family, and I am so thankful for that. And yes, classic first born, she will always have a unique place in my heart and set the standard for any that will follow after her.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Let Me Introduce You...

I've realized that I have not introduced you to three very important pieces of my life, Shelby, Callie, and Toccoa. Steven and mine's first dose of parenthood! I'm sure those of you with children are rolling your eyes and mumbling, not even close!! But in our lives right now, children are exactly what they are.

They bring us so much joy and laughter, yet just as much irritation and frustration. They completely rely on us for everything necessary for life. All plans made have to first take in consideration their needs. They add on an extra 30 + minutes to packing and trying to get out the door, whether it's for a day trip or for a week. They immediately know what kind of mood you're in and do all that's in their power to make you feel better or celebrate your joy along with you. No matter how mature and trained they are, there are always times when you seem to be constantly cleaning up food, pee, poop and puke. They are always so happy to see you and you get the same reaction if you've been gone for 10 minutes or all day. The only thing they long for is to spend time with you and be loved by you. And at the end of the day my love for them is so strong I can't imagine the hole that would be left if they weren't here.

Sounds kind of like children, right?!?

But I think I'll introduce them one at a time, and today I will start with Callie Marie…

I'm starting with Callie because she is our middle child, and being a middle child myself, I relate to her lot in life. We do not have the prestige and seniority of being the first born and our brief stint of enjoying the attention of being the new addition is cut short by the even newer, younger, cuter addition. Which means you have to work on fine tuning your special and unique qualities, which Callie definitely has! Steven actually laughs because he really does see similarities in Callie and me. Which I see as well in him and Shelby, but that's for another post.

Callie is the least vocal of the three, but very loyal. She doesn't really crave attention, but she by far needs the most affection!! She is also very sensitive at the slightest raised voice, it does not take much effort to convey to Callie that we are not happy with her behavior. Our disapproval of anything she does devastates her! And then she looks so pitiful and you have to just love on her and make it up to her for the rest of the evening! (Usually it's Steven that hurts her feelings, lol!) But because of that, she minds very well. And then she's also our free spirit and a true athlete. When we take the girls hiking or out to a field or pond she comes alive! She'll run 10 miles and back before we notice she was even gone! But she always checks in. She's very observant and will notice any new wild animal friends and try to go "greet" them, long before the other two catch on. Back home, she very easily clears our 4 foot fence, which is a daily routine of hers. Yet, it's just to stretch her legs and maybe greet the neighbors but never to run off. She just simply lets herself back in and waits for us to get home.

Another unique part of Callie's story, is that we kind of rescued her. She was a farm puppy who from what we were told was picked on by her brothers. They would lay on top of any food put out for them and not let her eat anything. So when we got Callie, she was this scared, skinny, 6 month old pup (we had to guess her age). It was so heartbreaking at first because we had to completely isolate her when she ate because she would go after any speck of food with such speed and force like it would be the last meal she would get. She was scared of Shelby, the sound of Steven's voice, a leash, you name it! It took us quite a few months for her to build that trust with us and believe that we will feed her every morning and every evening and she was home to stay and that we will love and protect her. Because of all that, Callie now has an attitude of gratefulness and thankfulness. And I believe she knows she was rescued. So if you come meet Callie, you'll be introduced to what a 70 pound lap dog full of love looks like :)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Weekend of Love!

Last weekend, Steven headed up to the cabin with his fellas for a bachelor weekend shindig. Included in his weekend was my father and brother-in-law...

So, I headed home for a good ole' fashion girl's weekend! Mama, Leah, Maeve and I stayed in our PJ's practically all weekend and ate, drank wine and launched into the do-it-yourself phase of wedding projects. So it was a thank-you writing, bow tying, calligraphy addressing, envelope licking, flower paper tearing, invitation stuffing weekend! Okay, so maybe there was more wine drinking and hanging out going on :) All in all, it's what I would call a very productive weekend.

My favorite part? 3 days of uninterrupted Maeve time! I mean to tell you, that little one is so precious, so perfect, and SO unbelievably loved! The joy she brings to everyone around is such a blessing. Sorry Steven, but I think you've got some competition for the "love of my life" title :)

Well, Saturday night we had a little photo shoot, and no surprise, but the camera loves her! Below are some captured memories that I will always cherish...

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Peace of Wild Things

I know it's been awhile, I'll get better.

I just wanted to share one of my favorite poems, by Wendell Berry. If you've never read anything by him I would highly suggest it! He's written several fictional books, poems and essays. Berry is a passionate writer about such things as conservation, rural economics, complacency in religion, reverence towards nature and warns about the industrialization of life, greed, ignorance, and violence towards others and against all things natural. I find his work to be so sincere and genuine because he only writes about what he truly believes and he lives his life based on those beliefs. A quality I hope people can say I posses.

Well, I have long believed in the power of nature to heal and calm and have always found comfort in nature. Having worked in wilderness therapy, my beliefs were confirmed when I saw first hand the transformation and healing of troubled human spirits once they were removed from the chaos of their lives and sent into the woods. When you look around at His creation I don't know how anyone could question the existence of God! It's the most humbling experience to strip away the man made luxuries and distractions and place yourself in the middle of pristine wilderness and realize how truly small you are, but how glorious that you get to be at the mercy of something so grand!

So here is Wendell Berry's poem The Peace of Wild Things. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

The Peace of Wild Things
When despair grows in me
And I wake in the middle of the night
at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my
Children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water,
and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence
of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world,
and am free.

Below are some of my pictures of places that I have been and experienced that have changed my life and perspective for the good.

Blue Ridge