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Posts Tagged ‘joy’



By Elizabeth Statmore


Sunday morning, my second without Fromage. All I’ve wanted to do all week was look at profiles of rescue dogs. During standardized testing I searched Petfinder and Craigslist, reading about different available dogs and looking into their eyes. There are so many dogs who need homes, and the hole in my heart feels so huge.

But we need to get a hypoallergenic dog this time. It was a lucky miracle that David was not allergic to Fromage. So I started searching breed rescues, looking for Goldendoodles and Labradoodles who needed rescuing.

There aren’t that many breed rescue groups for doodles, in spite of the fact that they are one of the most popular breeds around these days. That means so many dogs who get given up for being too big, too active, etc. People give dogs up for the weirdest reasons. They get bored with the dog or they’re moving, so they say they have to give up the dog. They wouldn’t give up their children if they were moving, I think, but I can’t be sure.

So I started looking up Labradoodle breeders to inquire after adult dogs who might need re-homing or rescue. And I came upon Golden Gate Labradoodles just south of here, so I e-mailed Kristin the owner/breeder, to ask about rescues.

And she told me the most wonderful news I have heard all week.

They rarely get returns, since they breed first and foremost for temperament and they screen adopters carefully. But they do have a Guardian Program for their breeding dogs, and there’s one adult male they’ve recently added to their program whom they adore but who really deserves to have his own guardian family and home.

His name is Topper.

Topper was also the name of my very first pet — a dime store turtle from Kresge’s. I loved that turtle. I cared for him endlessly, fed him and petted him and made adventures for him in his little dime store turtle bowl with the red diving board and the green plastic palm tree on the central island oasis. I remember all of this vividly because he was the most interactive pet I had until we got our Schnauzer Cappy.

My eyes bugged out when I read that. I did a double-take.


Kristin forwarded me the information on their guardian program as well as some information about Topper as a family dog. It’s basically a foster-to-own program, in which the dog lives with you in your home as your pet, and a few times a year he has a breeding “gig,” for which you drive him either to the breeder or to the specialized repro vet. For male dogs, this is a pretty minor affair, dog sex being what it is — which is to say, quick and dirty (or in the case of the repro vet, very sanitary). When the dog’s breeding career comes to an end in a few years (probably four or five), ownership gets transferred, he gets neutered, and he lives with you as your forever dog.

They have come to love him dearly but their home pack consists of a number of already-estabished dogs in their program, and Kristin feels like it’s not fair to Topper, who deserves to be the center of attention in a family — the most-loved dog in his pack. So she’s been looking for the right family of owner-guardians to match him with.

She forwarded a link to his profile on their web site and my heart bloomed open. He could not be more different from Fromage — fluffy, non-shedding, mellow, confident, laid back. He’s the color of cafe au lait — referred to in Australian Labradoodle parlance as “cafe,” a diluted coffee color, almost taupe, with a non-shedding coat but the same eager, loving chocolate eyes I am looking for.

Kristin said the best way to ask more questions about Topper and/or the guardian program would be to call her. She gave me her cell phone number and said she hoped to talk to me soon.

I called her yesterday afternoon.

We talked for two hours.

In my original inquiry message, I explained that we had recently lost our beloved 15 ½ year old dog, Fromage. I included David’s collage of photos and told her my story of how I’d rescued him and how we had loved him.

She received this message on May 18th, 2012 — Topper’s second birthday.


On the phone we talked about everything — training and dog-loving philosophy, Topper’s and Fromage’s personalities, and our home set-up.

She and I bonded deeply. We love our dogs in very similar and compatible ways.

I told her it was clear to me that Fromage had held on as long as he could to take care of us, but that he just couldn’t do it any more. But I told her that I knew in my bones — and in my feet — that he wants us to adopt another dog who can take care of us. He needs a new dog to take over the work of rescuing us. It took him thirteen and a half years to raise us, and he doesn’t want all that good work to go to waste.

All of this clearly resonated with her. She wants to move toward the next step as much as I do.

I told David about it and he is open to it. Since I’m the primary caregiver, he is looking to me to lead. And since I am the crazy one, he is looking for me to set the pace.

I will probably go over and meet Topper after school one day this week. They don’t live far from my school. We talked about my timing, with graduation and summer coming, and having that be the best time for me to integrate a new dog into our household.

We would give a deposit that would be refunded gradually over time as certain milestones get met. Then once his breeding career is finished, in maybe five or so years, the last portion of that deposit would go towards his neutering fee and he’d be transferred over to us for forever.

This feels like a miracle.


Topper & Elizabeth, Home At Last, San Francisco, California, June 2012, photo © 2012 by David Bassin. All rights reserved.


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About Elizabeth: Elizabeth Statmore is a San Francisco-based writer and teacher of writing and mathematics. She is a long-time practitioner and teacher of Writing Practice, which she learned from Natalie Goldberg. A frequent contributor to KQED-FM, Elizabeth’s last posts for red Ravine include Seed Starting, a piece about writers as gardeners, and Writing The “Remembering Grace Paley” Piece — a step-by-step tutorial on how she turned a raw piece of writing into a finished radio commentary. Elizabeth was also one of our first guest writers, contributing the post Abandoned Is… Fromage was her dog and spirit guide of almost fourteen years.

Healing is Part III in a series of three Writing Practices about the love and loss of Fromage. Parts I and II are Long and The Gifts Of Trash Night.

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By Teri Blair



Lawrence Welk’s Boyhood Home, Strasburg, North Dakota, July 2011, all photos © 2011 by Teri Blair. All rights reserved.


The Lawrence Welk Show was a Saturday night staple when I was growing up. My favorite acts were Cissy and Bobby, tap-dancing Arthur Duncan, and the guy on clarinet with big glasses. I didn’t pay much attention to the show’s host, though I wondered about his accent. I had a vague sense he came from the state just west of mine, but he mainly seemed tan and Hollywood and Californian. Not like the people I knew.

I’d seen his birthplace marked on my North Dakota map for years, and then one day, just like that, my mom and I decided to go. We checked out library copies of Wunnerful, Wunnerful: The Autobiography of Lawrence Welk. Mom read it first and told me she couldn’t put it down. I figured that was because she still watched his reruns on public television. Then I started reading it, and I couldn’t put it down either. That’s when I found out Lawrence Welk wasn’t just a tan and smiling Hollywood face. Far from it.

We took two-lane roads to get to Strasburg, ones where you can tell where you’re heading. Mom reread the first chapter out loud to us, the one about Lawrence’s childhood in North Dakota and his passion to play music and get off the farm. We wanted everything fresh in our minds.

Lawrence was born in North Dakota in 1903, one of eight children of immigrant parents. The ten of them lived in a tiny sod house, milked cows, and spoke German. Lawrence had four years of schooling before he begged his parents to let him quit. Since he knew how to read and write, they let him. A farmer wouldn’t need more than that, they figured. But Lawrence’s father had carried an accordion all the way from Europe, and that one musical box lit a fire under the third Welk son. He had an affinity for music, an insatiable appetite for chords and melodies and rhythm. He tinkered with homemade instruments, and learned everything his father would teach him about music.

Though his family assumed his future as a North Dakota farmer, Lawrence knew he had to live a different life. He didn’t know how he could, only that he must. Then when he was 11 his appendix burst. By the time his parents found someone with a car and he was driven to the hospital in Bismarck, he was almost dead. He lived on the edge of life and death while his poisoned blood was treated. Though only a child, he determined if he survived he would make his living as a musician. No matter what.

He spent the rest of his childhood hiring himself out to play accordion at every event he could find around Strasburg. Every nickel he made went to pay off the $400 accordion he bought through a mail-order catalog. A deep satisfaction stirred in him to watch the joy his playing brought to people, an intrinsic reward that would fuel him for decades.

The View From Lawrence Welk’s Bedroom, Strasburg, North Dakota,
July 2011, all photos © 2011 by Teri Blair. All rights reserved.


When he left the farm on his 21st birthday, his father predicted his ruin as a musician. He told Lawrence he’d be back in six weeks looking for a meal. What followed were years of small gains and huge setbacks—trying to find work as a musician during The Depression wasn’t easy. Lawrence often went hungry. One time his band quit on him, embarrassed by his broken English and the way he tapped his toe to find the beat. He was naïve and trusting, taken advantage of more than once. He had to start over again and again with nothing but his accordion. But his internal compass was undeniable. His wife said years later that he was like a cork. When one plan failed, he’d be momentarily submerged before he’d pop up in a different place with a new strategy. By the time he landed the television program, he had paid his dues and then some. He had already spent 30 years on the road playing ballrooms.

After our tour of the homestead, I slow-walked around Lawrence’s childhood farm. I stood in the places he talked about in the book: the spot by the barn where he asked his dad for the $400 loan, the upstairs loft where his appendix burst, the tiny living room where he listened to polka music. I went to Mass on Sunday at the German Catholic church and sat where he had. I looked at the stained glass windows, the same ones Lawrence had looked at when he was a little German boy. He didn’t know how his story would end, but sitting there, I did.

Lawrence knew who he was, who he wasn’t, and he stuck with himself. And from that, I take great inspiration. By the time of his death in 1992, he had had the longest-running television program in history, and had helped launch the careers of dozens of musicians.

What is possible when we don’t deny our true selves?




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About Teri: Teri Blair is a writer living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her first piece for red Ravine, Continue Under All Circumstances, was written on the road during a 2007 trip to Holcomb, Kansas. She journeyed back to Holcomb in 2010 and published a sequel, Back To Holcomb, One Last Time. Since then, she has written Desire And A Library Card — The Only Tools Necessary To Start A Poetry Group, Discovering The Big Read, a piece about the largest reading program in American history, and Does Poetry Matter?, an essay about the Great American Think-Off.

Earlier this year, Teri was a writing resident at Vermont Studio Center in the heart of the Green Mountains. She finds inspiration on the road. Her writing pilgrimage to the Amherst, Massachusetts home of poet Emily Dickinson inspired the essay, Emily’s Freedom. At the end of September, Teri will be flying into Atlanta, Georgia to embark on her latest writing adventure — a two-week road trip in a compact Cruise America rolling along the Southern Literary Trail.


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Joy is the giant snowflakes that fell last Thursday night after a solid day of rain. The temperature dipped below freezing and the water turned to slush then white fluffy flakes. Dee ran outside and took photos with her iPhone, she later showed me the flakes, which looked to be about the size of big white apple blossom clusters.

Joy is the bed Jim made for us on the patio the night of the lunar eclispe. I’d fallen asleep on the living room couch, the girls in their beds, and he roused us all from sleep. Come on out, he said, I have a cozy spot for you to lay down. We piled into the sleeping bags that he’d placed on a mattress, then he covered us with a Pendleton blanket and another blanket, we were warm and for about a half hour, up to midnight, we could see shadow creep across the lower right hand corner of the moon.

Joy is the woman who I saw standing in front of Walmart with her Salvation Army bell and kettle, she was thin, wore a red sweater and red Santa hat, but other than that she had no costume, and I admired her courage to stand in front of the automatic doors as shoppers walked all around her, in and out, in and out, paying her little mind. She shook that bell, smiled at everyone and said Merry Christmas. What drives a woman my age to be on that side of the shopping experience?, I wondered and wished we could trade places so that I could ring and remember that this was the true meaning of Christmas.

Joy is the Christmas lights last night, a pale blue, the kind you know have been around for decades, each year more of the blue paint on the bulbs chips away or fades until what remains is a ghost of the color covering the white light, an uneven string of blue, blue-white, white, all around the roofline of the house. Those are my favorite lights although I love any place that’s lit up, this is, after all, the season of light.

Joy is our Christmas tree, it’s a live one, or rather, cut, and we don’t usually go in for buying cut trees but we got one this year, I like the way it’s not perfect or symmetrical, how big vacant spots open up between boughs and even after I hang three or four ornaments in them I still see plenty of empty space.

Joy is sitting in a cafe with friends, drinking too much coffee, not thinking about what you still have to do or not do, just being present to the moment, Joy is Taos in December, sit walk write, just being, just sitting, just writing.

Joy is the few minutes I have left in this write, the sound of the space heater, the taste of coffee with soy milk, the Christmas cards I got even though I once again didn’t get mine out on time, Joy is the misshappen tamales I made with Mom and Bobbi and the girls, they will be the laughing stock of Christmas Eve, and see?, that’s Joy.


-Related to post WRITING TOPIC – JOY

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Joy Is, Joy Is Not, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis,
Minnesota, December 2010, photo © 2010 by
QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


The days are dark, the nights long. Five days until Winter Solstice. Holidays draw us to friends and family, gift giving, service work. I want to go inside. Reflective heat, ambient light. Darkroom blues. I have spent hours under red safelights in black and white darkrooms. What color is Joy?

At times when there is the least light, we need to find ways to tap more joy. I look to the small things. Sunrise, Tuesday morning. Snowstorm, Friday night. Digging out. Digging deep. An old recipe. A new flame. Joy takes many forms. Clay dangling from red string. One new liver. Two hibernating black bears. Three things I am grateful for.

Some are afraid to feel the full strength of Joy. The intensity makes them fearful. What if Joy leaves in the middle of the night. How will I fill the hole.

What brings you joy?

Joy is a giant taproot of swirling lava at the center of the Earth. Joy is a burning ember in the middle of an indigo night. Behind every Black Dog, Joy sits like the mountain.

Write I feel joy at the top of your Writing Practice notebook. Or sink into the underbelly — I don’t feel joy

Joy is, Joy is not. Ten minutes, Go!


-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

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Ode To Joy & Christmas Eve, snapshot of my art studio desk, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




savor the small things
the joy of writing haiku
in the dead of night;
the silence of snow falling,
calms the chatter in my mind


circumspect darkness
relative humidity
what matters to me?
seeing clearly with the heart
things invisible to the eye


Holiday blizzard
thank you for braving the storm
following footprints
of those who walked before us —
Joy hides in the strangest places




It’s the dead of night. I’m staring out the window at snow falling on cedars, oaks, and ash. A Holiday blizzard. I’ve always liked Christmas Eve almost better than Christmas. When I was growing up, I’d stay up way past the time when my five younger siblings were in bed, rocking in the leather recliner, bathed in the glow of firelight and candles. Some years the living room would be blue from head to toe, my mother’s favorite color, with a tree dressed in angel hair and the front door wrapped like a package with pine cones and ribbon. Do they still have contests for best door decorations?

I can smell Amelia’s fruit cake and rocks, ladles of egg nog, cloves spiking the Christmas ham. It’s the time of year when I count my blessings. I’m grateful for family, friends, and lovers, for blog partners and red Ravine readers, for puffy orange coats and wet mittens. Thank you for walking with us through murky and uncertain waters. Thank you for running through rain. And pausing in the darkness of Winter. There is so much joy in the silence.


Happy Holidays from red Ravine, December 24th, 2009

-related to posts: haiku 2 (one-a-day), Poem For The Trees (Keepers Of The Light), A Few Of My Favorite Things, On Eating December Snowflakes, Tamales — A Christmas Tradition, Merry Merry, Happy Happy, A Partridge In A Pear Tree, A Christmas Gift From Dad, On Collecting Pigs Against Your Will

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What Have You Lost, Rainpainting Series, outside the Fitzgerald Theater, downtown, St. Paul, Minnesota, night of Ann Patchett, October 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


If you want to know someone, truly know someone, ask them about the things they have lost. No matter how long it’s been. It doesn’t matter. The things we have lost stay with us.

These are the words of Ann Patchett, author of The Magician’s Assistant, Bel Canto, Run, and Truth & Beauty: A Friendship. She wrote the memoir Truth & Beauty to grieve the loss of her friend, Lucy Grealy. The book was her grieving process.

What are the things you have lost? Have you ever lost face, your faith, time. When did you lose your virginity? What about your innocence. Did you lose your childhood, your dreams, someone close to your heart? Did you lose your keys the day you hiked the ocean cliffs of an Oregon beach and were left stranded in the dark.

Make a list of the things you have lost. Choose 1 or 2 items off of your list and do a 15 minute writing practice on each. Let yourself grieve. Take the time. What do you have to lose?


Grief is a debt you owe. After you pay, you can get to the joy.

-Ann Patchett on Talking Volumes at the Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007

-posted on red Ravine Sunday, October 28th, 2007

-related to post, The Parking Is Free

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