Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Girl Meets Driller

*Note: Sorry, dear readers, I don’t have any pics up just yet. My hubby took off for the mountains with the hard drive in his bag, so you will have to use your imagination in the meantime ;)

One of my very first posts on this blog was about a dear friend and one of my all time favorite people the world, my old driller Jimmy. He seemed to be a cake-reader favorite, so today I thought I would tell you the story of how it all began, five years ago this month.

Our first meeting would prove to set the tone of our relationship, and took place in Tuscaloosa, Alabama on one of those scorching hot southern summer days, the likes of which surely prompted the invention of iced tea. My boss had set up the details for that particular job, and I was merely to show up and oversee. This was my first time in the field without supervision, and I was nervous and anxious about the job. My boss had given me but few instructions: We were to hand auger in the right-of-way as deep as we could go, then install two wells. Oh, and don’t hit a gas main and blow the place up.

Gee, was that all?

Now, here I am, still a newbie in the field, a nervous twenty-something year old girl clutching a clipboard and a pen, wearing OSHA approved safety glasses and a bright orange vest. My crisp new polo shirt was tucked into my squeaky clean cargo pants, and my fresh-out-of-the-box steel-toed boots hadn’t a scuff on them.

It wasn’t long before a dark blue Chevy work truck pulls up, and out comes Jimmy. He was in his mid fifties, about my height, and fairly fit. He was decked out in a pair of old jeans and tee shirt, with a thoroughly stained Alabama Crimson Tide hat perched on his head (which I later discovered would be an absolute staple).

“Good Morning,” I said with a polite smile pasted on my lips. “Are you Jimmy?”

“You bet I am,” he replied with a nod of his head. “Where ‘re we drillin?” He looked around at my neat cones and the wax pen “x” I had carefully draw on the pavement. “Bout there?”

He had a way of talking that was fast but with a pronounced southern accent, like he was in a hurry but couldn’t help but linger over his favorite syllables, so he made up time by dropping either the beginning or end of a word.

“Yes sir, that’s one and the other is around the building.”

Before another word was spoken, a huge, noisy, diesel fuel belching dinosaur of a drill rig roared into the parking lot.

“Bunch o’ idiots, what took em’ so long,” he muttered, shaking his head. He started gesturing to the men in the rig in a manner that seemed to say where the hell have you been, get your lazy butts over here boy without saying a word.

“Uh,” I stammered, “What’s that for?” I look down at my notes, and there in my own handwriting are the words “hand auger” underlined and followed by three exclamation points. I look up again at the enormous rig and the three men spilling out of it.

“Your boss says you need a hole, so we gonna drill you a hole.” He smiled winningly at me while I stared back dumbly. He started directing his workers this way and that to get things in place.

I looked on helplessly as the men scurried about, ancient hardhats pressed on their heads and cigarettes dangling from their lips. My stomach lurched as I mentally tallied the costs of four men and a drill rig as opposed to one man and a hand auger.

My boss was going to kill me.

No, this wasn’t my fault. I was where I was supposed to be, decked out in all of the appropriate safety gear. I had business cards with my name scrawled on them and even an official clipboard, for heaven’s sake. Everyone knows you have to listen to he guy (or girl) with the clipboard. I straightened my shoulders and said, “Um, these holes need to be hand augured.”

“What?! Boss-man didn’t say nothin’ ‘bout that. Listen, you need some holes drilled, and we can punch ‘em in right quick with this here rig. Now stand back.” He turned on the rig and started maneuvering it over the marking. One of the workers, who I would later learn is his youngest son, shook his head in the background with a role of his eyes.

Jimmy pushed and pulled the little levers, authoritatively hollering at his men to get the first rod ready. I looked down at the sidewalk, and the spider web of spray painted markings indicating the various priceless utilities beneath our feet. The mental cash register cha- chinged over and over in my head, adding several zeros to the end of the amount for when the drill rig nicked the water main, or the aforementioned gas line.

I stared in disbelief at the man, who had just completely disregarded what I was trying to say. A cold sweat broke out on my forehead and I swear I could hear the local news playing from the future. Tonight at eleven, reckless and negligent Environmental Specialist blatantly ignores boss’s instruction, knocking out cable to over 7 million customers. Said customers vow revenge by strapping the culprit to a pole and doling out lashes with a wet noodle.

“No!” I exclaimed, swearing off pasta for the near future. “These holes have to be hand augured." He raised one eyebrow at me, but I forged on. "We are in the right-of-way with all kinds of utilities, and the deal was, the holes have to be drilled by hand. We are paying you to do the job, so either do it my way or get out of my way so that I can do it myself.”

Jimmy stared at me for a moment, and I inwardly cringed at my outburst. Slowly, though, he cracked a smile and turned off the drill. “Alright, girl, lets do it your way.” He winked at me and turned back to order his men to get the dag-gummed thing the hell out of the way. Didn’t they know we was hand augering?

From the very first, I learned that Jimmy could be one hell of a bully if you let him. He’s been in the business for more than four decades and liked to do things his way, which for the most part means that his way usually is the best way. Through the years Jimmy became an invaluable professional resource to me, as well as an unlikely friend who I would (indeed who I have) trust with my life. When he reverted to his bull-headed self on occasion, I smiled at the memory of that first encounter, and how I whipped my very first good ol’ boy into shape. And whenever my sass wasn’t enough, he could always be bought with cookies :)

Speaking of which, today I’m offering up one of the single best cookie recipes in the history of mankind. Seriously, try them and I defy you not to agree with me!

Now, I want to hear about someone you actually stood up to, and was better for it. A character like Jimmy? A bully-turned-friend from school? Perhaps even your parents? And let me know if you want more Jimmy—I've got a pile of anecdotes just waiting to be told ;)

ANNNDDDDD..... Since it has been too hot for shipping cupcakes, I am offering a package of these cookies PLUS (or one or the other if you don't want both) your choice of one of the below pictured brand new books to one lucky commenter! Just chime in to be automatically entered. Winner will be announced on next Tuesday's blog. Good Luck!

Double Chocolate Toffee Cookies

Modified from a recipe given to me by my friend Wendy :)

1/2 cup butter - softened

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

2 eggs

2 and 1/4 cup flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 bag Heath Toffee Bits

1 cup Nestle Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chunks

1 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together butter and both sugars until fluffy (a few minutes) Add vanilla and eggs, mix until just blended.

Mix together flour, baking soda and salt, and slowly mix into batter. Add the toffee and both chocolates, mixing well.

Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto cookie sheet, bake 9-12 minutes, or until done.


Monday, August 23, 2010

You Can Do Eet!

(And yes, that title is a shout-out to The Waterboy (cajun for 'you can do it, lol).)

I am a fairly goal motivated person. There is something about a challenge that I find utterly irresistible. It is one of the reasons I finished my first manuscript to begin with: I wanted to finish my first book by the age of … what, did you think I was going to tell you? *scoff* Nice try. Let’s just say by my last birthday, and I did! My new goal is to have a contract before my next birthday, and I am working hard towards that goal.

Several years ago, the private lake community where we live (it is much more redneck than it sounds, I assure you) decided to hold a triathlon. It was all very exciting, and many of the people who live here decided to become involved, either by volunteering or actually participating in the race. Our next door neighbors, husband and wife, were just two of the crazy people that showed up bright and early that October morning to plunge into the murky depths of the lake for a 500m swim, hop dripping wet onto bikes for the 15 mile ride, and schlep it on the hills for a 5k run. My neighbors had a long history of competing in triathlons, and lo and behold, he walked away in 1st place out of about a hundred participants from all over the US. His wife also kicked some serious tushie, all while Kirk and I cheered wildly from the sidelines. Eating donuts.

So not kidding.

Afterward, I laughed and congratulated them on their impossible feat, shaking my head at the level dedication and physical punishment that kind of accomplishment required. Interestingly enough, as we went back to our lives and fall turned to winter, it stuck in my head that it was something I secretly wished I could do.

After three months of resonating in the back of my mind, it became my New Year's resolution to compete. Kirk was more than a little surprised at my decision—after all, we had been together since high school, and he had never seen me do any sport of any kind—but quickly got on board, and we began by running in January. I had not run one step since childhood, and even then I never liked it. I used to have a long-standing joke, that if you saw me running, you’d best turn around and run too, because there is either a rabid dog or a serial killer hot on my heels.

After a run in the cold rain

That first, cold, dark January night I tried to run to the top of my street. It was only a few hundred feet, and I was winded and panting by the time I reached the stop sign. The cold air stung my lungs, and my leg muscles wanted to know what the heck I thought I was doing. But I was invigorated and starting making baby step goals: to the stop sign and back without stopping, to the playground and back, to the end of the next road. 

None of it came easily to me, not in the least, but I was determined.

Like I said, it didn’t come easy for me: Asphault 1, Erin 0

Come spring, Kirk hopped on Craigslist, and he found a pretty little yellow and black road bike (almost) just my size. When we brought it home, I was absolutely thrilled that I made it three miles before stopping – 3 miles! That was like 3 million in Erin-speak. My last bike was a pink and purple ten-speed, and here I was cruising through my neighborhood like Lance Armstrong. (Alright, probably closer to Neil Armstrong, but still, I was doing it). It was months before I made it the 10 miles (big hills!) around the lake without stopping, but when I finally did it, it was one of the most incredible, exhilarating feelings of my whole life.

Swimming was the last leg to overcome, as I had never learned 'proper form' or technique. As you know by now, I have always been a bit of a fish, but only for fun and certainly never for distance. Kirk and I nearly drowned the first big swim we took. We were sputtering and exhausted and collapsed on the dock when we returned, breathing great gusts of air as our muscles quivered.

Luckily, swimming did come easier for me (surprise!), and I will never forget the sense of accomplishment that summer when I got back to the dock from a 1/2 mile swim only to look up and see that Kirk was a couple of hundred feet behind me! I laughed gaily when he finally made it to the dock, shook his head and said, "You go girl." 

A month before the triathlon was scheduled, we ran our first 5k. It was sweltering by 8 am and I was sweating before the race even started. At the sound of the start everyone was off, and I was already being passed by grandmothers and kids before the first half mile. After what seemed like 2 hours, I crossed the finish line with Kirk cheering me on. Kirk had finished in record time, and our friends were blown away that he had only started running a few months earlier. I was so proud of Kirk I could hardly stand it.

As for me, I was totally thrilled to have beaten my goal of 10-minute miles - by seconds! Though I was slow as a turtle compared to the other people there, I had done what even three months earlier I had thought impossible. 

The week before the big triathlon, Kirk and I decided to do a dry run of the course. I was ecstatic that my time on the bike had gone from 1hr 35min two months earlier to 1hr 8min for the 15 mile stretch. Kirk was leaps and bounds faster than me, but we cheered each other and blew air kisses when we passed each other at the turn around. We took it easy on the run course since it was our first time on that particular course. At the end of it, we were thrilled to know that, although we wouldn't win any metals (or so we thought) we had finished and were not laying on the pavement panting.

Later that weekend, we actually wake-boarded and surfed and did yard work. We were rock stars!

On Monday morning, I woke up to an awful pain at my right hip. It was excruciating. I couldn't lift my leg even a few inches. I was surprised that I had felt so well on Saturday and Sunday only to have so much pain then. Feeling nervous and upset, I decided to ice it and rest it, and hope for the best.

By Wednesday, the pain had not lessened, and I was starting to really worry. My mom and brother (my dad was stuck in training in Arizona) were supposed to fly in on Friday for the race, and I still could hardly even walk.

That night I sat with Kirk, and wept for one of the very few times in my life. Nine months of hard work, pushing myself as I had never imagined, all the buildup to the impossible-now-possible goal and I wasn't going to be able to even compete. I was completely heartbroken.

We prayed for last minute healing, and I went to see the doctor on Thursday. 

I was terrified that he would shake his head and say "better luck next year." He poked and prodded, moved me this way and that, and finally looked me in the eye. He said that I had strained one of my quad muscles, but he didn't think that I had actually torn it. "You really want to do this?" he finally asked, when I had regaled him with the whole story, and that the triathlon was in 2 days and my family was flying in just to cheer us on. I nodded my head earnestly.

So, he shook his head and described some stretches that I could do, and told me to down Aleves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. "You're not going to set any land speed records, but you should be able to complete it if you are careful." I laughed and restrained myself from hugging him as I hobbled out of his office.

The morning of the triathlon dawned chilly, and quiet, and foggy. Kirk and I were nervous and excited, if a bit tired and cold as we crept to our neighbor’s pontoon at 6:15am. We chatted nervously and huddled together for warmth as we sliced through the glassy early morning water. When we arrived, we set up our gear in the assigned area, and anxiously rearranged it a few times while other competitors trickled in. Kirk checked my bike, and I checked his gear, and we stopped a few times to cling to each other with an exhilarating mixture of giddiness, pride, worry, and excitement.

Cold but excited an hour before the race

Minutes before the race – still cold and excited, but now scared too :)

Before we knew it, we were called to the start line, and then we were off. 
The doctor was right, no land speed records were set that day. But as I finished each leg, I was in awe of having completed each. In my head I was thanking God, and thanking the spectators who were cheering us on, and the Aleve that I had taken moments before jumping in the water. Each time I arrived at the transition area, I would search the crowd for my mom and brother, and of course would find them right away. Up front, laughing and waving and shouting "Swim, Erin, swim! Bike, Erin, bike! Run, Erin run!" (that mantra came courtesy of some long-distance encouragement from my sister and her now husband). I would beam at them, and tried to ignore my screaming muscles and my pounding heart.

And they're off!

Only 500m to swim, I would say. Only 15 miles to bike and you're done with it! It's only 5k, and then you can be finished! I passed Kirk on his way back to the transition area on the bike, and we shouted to each other. Shortly after I started the run, Kirk was almost done, and we grasped hands as we passed. I wish I could have watched him cross the finish line!

I had to walk up the hills during the run, and the brakes on my bike screwed up and rubbed my tire the whole time, and I got kicked more than once on the swim. I was passed by kids, a man with one leg, and even a blind man and his guide, and I cheered them all on with gusto. I didn’t use my legs during the swim in an effort to conserve my strained muscle for bike and run. The pain transitioning from the bike to the run was absolutely unreal. But guess what? We finished!!

No matter how much it all hurt (and lord have mercy did it hurt), the pride in myself felt better, and the entire time I smiled with joy. Kirk's time was awesome, and I was just so amazingly proud of him - bursting with it. He even won a medal for placing in his age group. I finished a little over 2 minutes past my amended goal of 2 hours, but indeed I finished!! 

Several months earlier, my uncle asked me why on earth we wanted to do the triathlon. I thought about it a minute, and answered, "Because I never thought that I could." What can we do when we put our minds, our spirits, and our wills to something? Now, I can honestly say...Anything!

What goals have you achieved that you never thought that you could? Is there something in your heart that you want to try, but have never followed through on? I want to hear about it! And then, a few months from now, I want to hear from you again, telling me all about how you accomplished your goal :)

So, after all your hard work at striving for your goals, it's important to take some time to be princess for a day. The recipe for the day is...

White Chocolate Tiaras!

I originally saw this idea here. Okay, so it's not rocket science, but it is a little tricky, so be sure to practice, and expect a few (highly delicious) mess-ups along the way :)

Melt white chocolate in a bowl in the microwave according to directions on the box. When cooled slightly, spoon into icing bag, and use a size 2 or 3 tip. If you don't have tips, simply snip a tiny hole on one end.

Cut parchment paper into little 1 in by 3 in rectangles. Draw the desired tiara design flat on the parchment paper, being sure not to make any part too thin, and allow to dry.

When firm, carefully place the parchment-backed chocolate over the side of a cylindrical glass (I used our drinking glasses). Take a hairdryer, and on the lowest setting, aim little puffs of air at the chocolate, warming it just enough to wilt the chocolate around the glass. If you get it too hot, the design will be ruined. Then placed the glass in the fridge or freezer to firm up the chocolate again.

Remove the tiara from the glass, peel off the parchment, and place over iced cupcakes.

I'll warn you now this is a pain to do, but they are so cute and fun, it is so worth it!

Monday, August 16, 2010

For the Love of Water

Tonight, as the weekenders returned to their lives in town and the families are tucked in their houses, Kirk and I floated with perfect contentment on the glassy calm waters near the damn on the lake where we live. No other boats, no motors or jetskis or screaming kids on tubes, just me, my hubby, and the quiet lapping of the water kissing the boat and caressing our skin.
Those of you who know me in person can attest to the fact that I love water. Yes, I love living on the lake, and playing water sports like wake-surfing and wakeboarding, and I can happily stay on a boat from dawn to dusk. But that is just the surface of the love affair which started as an infant when my father unceremoniously dropped me into a pool and let my instincts figure out the rest.
Wake surfing in the dead of winter
I have spoken before of my Nana and Papa’s house, nestled in the endless suburban grid of Northern Indiana, not far from Chicago. What I didn’t mention was that my mother’s cousin, my godmother, lived only a few blocks away. My Aunt Penny is a blonde beauty, charming and vivacious and endlessly generous. I appreciate all of these things now, but as a young child, the number one thing to love about Aunt Penny was the glorious pool in their backyard.
It rose like a great, blue monument from their tiny, fenced-in, tree-lined backyard, beckoning me with all the allure of the sirens in Homer’s magical odyssey. I yearned for the summer visits to my grandparents, where I would suit up and walk the short distance with my siblings, melting orange sherbet push-pops in one hand, inflated plastic floats in the other.
My brother and me in Aunt Penny’s backyard
Once in, it took nearly an act of congress to get me out. As soon as my mother started to ask me to get out, I would immediately submerge, coming up only long enough to gasp for air before plunging into the four-foot depths once more. Inevitably, my sister or father had to fish me out, and at last I would be deposited on the deck like a waterlogged sack of potatoes, roundly scolded by my mother, and unceremoniously dragged back to Nana and Papa’s. Exhausted, sunburned, and happy, I would sleep like tuckered-out puppy, dreaming of the next time I could doggie paddle the day away.
Closer to home, I remember early morning trips to the Olympic-sized pool at Tom Sawyer State Park for my swim lessons, when the water was still frigid and the sun too low to scale the fence and warm us. Shivering in my rainbow colored swimsuit, clutching my arms to my chest while I waited with breathless anticipation for the instructor to tweet her whistle as our signal to dive in. Breaking the surface of the water, I would come up quickly, panting, heart pounding wildly in my ears but still not loud enough to override the sound of my chattering teeth. My limbs flailed gracelessly through the water, trying to stay afloat but also trying to warm my tiny, scantily clad 8-year-old body.
By the end of the hour, I would be giggling and slipping through the chlorine saturated water, wishing I could dive deeper but heeding the painful warning of my eardrums to stay afloat.
Family trips to Butler State Park when I was a little older found the five of us sitting on the shore eating watermelon, contemplating the paddleboats before finally wading into the murky brown lake. Dad floated on his back like a polar bear, like he was born to live his days drifting on his back through the waters of time. Before long, I would pester him to play with us, and he would loop my arms around his neck and warn me to hold on before taking a great deep breath and launching us into the chocolate milk water. He would swim in long, powerful strokes, propelling us forward; a polar bear with his cub.
Soon my lungs would start to burn, and I would squirm with the need to let go, but still I held on as we glided, fast and straight, nowhere and everywhere, like astronauts in the endless expanse of explorable universe. Sometimes I made it until he rocketed us to the surface, sometimes I had to let go. Sucking in air, my need to laugh with joy and wonder warred with my need to breathe. My dad would turn and splash me with great walls of water, and I would beg him to take me under again.
When I was eleven, my parents packed me off on a Delta plane, back when they could wave teary-eyed from the terminal as I skipped down the jetway to adventure. I was off to stay with my Aunt Dee and Uncle Kevin for a month in California, two wonderful but foreign relatives whom I could only recalling meeting once before.
My aunt and uncle introduced me to yachts, and swordfish fillets, and the Pacific Ocean. Uncle Kevin and my cousin Scott also introduced me to boogie boarding, and I remember the thrill of that first wave picking me up and hurtling me towards shore, its power overwhelming yet somehow controlled. We played for hours, sometimes catching the perfect wave, sometimes being passed by as if that particular swell had better things to do than giving a pre-adolescent a piggy-back ride. At one point, we decided to paddle out farther, where the waves were fewer but more impressive when they made an appearance. Waiting patiently, my feet dangling in the water as I rocked gently in the undulating water, I will never forget the sight of a grey fin breaking the surface nearby.
My heart skidded to a halt; I hadn’t seen Jaws at this point, but I didn’t need to for my mind to conjure the worst possible fate. I flailed my limbs, trying to propel myself toward the impossibly distant shoreline when another fin slipped above the surface even closer, this time accompanied by the spurt of air from a small blowhole before the creature disappeared once more. Soon another splash drew my attention, and I was wide-eyed with wonder when a dolphin jumped through the air before diving eagerly beneath the ocean once more.
The fear drained from me like bathwater from a tub, swirling and twirling as it left. I laughed and swam, marveling in these magical beings I had only seen on the glowing, two-dimensional screen of our ancient television. Here they danced and glided through the water, more skilled than ballerinas, more beautiful than a thousand sunsets. From this moment, I wrote an essay that won me a scholarship into the Marine Science program at my chosen university years later.
When people used to roll there eyes and quip that I wanted to swim with dolphins when I told them my major, I would haughtily shake my head and inform them that I was in marine science with a focus on chemistry and physics, but the little girl within me smiled and knew that it was because I swam with dolphins that I was in the program at all.
There are so many other stories, like when my parents gave me Scuba lessons for my 16th birthday, or when I spent my summers as a lifeguard, or even when I fell in love with my husband at Rough River when I was 17. But it all blends together, like tributaries rushing toward the mighty river; it all contributes to the completeness, the utter contentment when I glide through the glassy waters of the lake on a late summer day, enveloped by the warm, silken waters heated by the waning sun of a lazy August day. Just me, and the setting sun, and the wide open lake, inviting me to swim, to explore, to twirl weightlessly through its depths or float effortlessly on its surface. All those memories wrap around me like a welcoming cocoon, bringing me peace, and joy, and simple pleasure.
Yesterday, my husband and I were cruising home on the ski boat after a day spent playing on the water. I sat beside him, draped across colorful towels and squinting into the setting, pink sun. Kirk leaned over and smiled at me, and I smiled back. “I love when you swim,” he said, running a hand over my outstretched arm.
I looked at him in confusion; what a strange thing to say. “Why?”
He leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. “Because it makes you happy.”
I grin back, trailing a finger over his stubbly cheek. Such a sweet husband, and so very, very perceptive.

Do you have a special place that makes you happy, calm, or wonderfully content?

For a recipe this week, I want you to go out and do what I did this weekend:
Buy a watermelon. Slice it into thick wedges. Sit in the sun and enjoy :) Sometimes, it really is the simple things in life that can really make us appreciate the beauty—or flavors—around us.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Puppy Love

So, a week and a half ago, I was crazy busy at Nationals, running from workshops to pitches and back again—all in my fabulous purple heels—when I received a voicemail from my husband. Well, isn’t that nice? He was thinking of me.

With my heart swelled with joy and a goofy grin on my face, I hit the play button.

“Hey Love. Just calling to see how you are doing. I hope your workshops and meetings are going well. So, what would you think if you came home to a third dog? Okay, have a great day, bye.”


Oh crap.

It all started with an innocent trip to Staples. All I needed was one little pack of printable business card paper before my trip to Nationals. Kirk was set to leave for a weeklong business trip on Sunday, so we both headed into the big city on Saturday to pick up some snacks at the grocery store and said cards from Staples. We were in and out in under five minutes, and as we tromped back to the car, my husband noticed a sign next door at PetSmart. “Franklin County Animal Shelter Adoption Event.”

Oh, how innocent it seemed at the time.

Kirk cajoled and I acquiesced, and in we headed in to ogle the puppies. In three seconds flat we saw her. A little black and white border collie mix puppy, staring at us through the slats of her prison.

Kirk eagerly held his arms out and collected the little jailbird, and we headed to the back of the store to play with her in peace. She was a little older than a true puppy, a week over 4 months old. She had just gotten spayed, and her stitches were still in and she wanted nothing so much as to curl on my lap and cuddle.

Alright, she was cute. Really, really cute. We stayed with her for almost half an hour before handing her back. Since we would both be out of town for the week, there was no way we could take her then (thank goodness), so I gave the foster mom my card, and said we would think about it.

From that point in time, my and Kirk’s excitement levels took decidedly different paths:

Excitement for Getting Another Dog

It was all fun and games in PetSmart, where we could easily hand the puppy off and go about our merry ways. Once I left her behind, however, I started thinking of how much hassle a new dog would be.

Let me explain: We have two dogs. Two. Indoor dogs. Big Dogs. One for each hand to grab their collars, or his and hers when we take them for a walk. Two huge beds that take up half the living room, two more beds that fill the bedroom, two bowls, two types of foods (opposite allergies – isn’t that convenient), and two special pewter leash hooks on the wall (thanks mom!) to go with our two overzealous, self-entitled waterdogs. Oh, and not to mention one ancient, ill-tempered, plans-on-living-forever cat.

By Wednesday, the thought of adding a third dog to the mix made me woozy. Why had I ever even considered it? Things were perfect. Our girls were (mostly) trained, I rarely had to deal with accidents, or running away, or destroyed furniture.

I fretted about transportation (the two only just fit in the back seat), staying at other people’s houses, the cost of food, the time involved in raising a puppy, the accidents, the destroyed furniture. We dearly love Maggie (dog #2), but as a puppy, she actually ATE our old house. She ripped up carpet, chewed the banister to pieces, destroyed a coffee table, and managed to reek havoc in one catastrophe coffee-grind-eating event that resulted in having to tear up the carpet to replace with hardwoods AND paint the ruined walls (word to the wise, keep coffee grinds out of reach of any dog. Trust me.).

On top of everything else, since I would be the one in the house most of the time, I would be responsible for training. The more I thought about it, the more I thought we should wait. I told Kirk that we could get a new dog when Sadie, our oldest, turned 10 in a year and a half.

And then I got the voicemail.

While I had been dredging up all kinds of logical and valid reasons on why not to get another dog, Kirk had single-mindedly decided he wanted her, and upon returning from his trip, had promptly headed out to see her again. Thus, the phone call.

As panic sluiced through me like wildfire, I fumbled to call him back before he handed over a check and walked that dog right out of the store and into our home. I caught him in time, thank heavens, and told him I didn’t want him to introduce a new dog to our girls without me there. Thankfully, it worked, and he went home empty-handed.

By the time I returned on Sunday, his mind was set: He wanted the dog. I hemmed and hawed and basically made my reservations known. Finally, I asked him if he would be okay if we didn’t get the dog. He looked at me with an outstanding impression of a wounded puppy and said, “I’ll forgive you … eventually.”

And of course I knew it. We were going to get the dog.

On Tuesday, I went to pick her up. I had to admit, she was pretty stinking adorable. She was reserved but sweet, and before long, we were on our way to the vet for her ‘welcome to the family’ checkup. A bag of medications and hefty bill later, we were good to go.

First moments home with me

When we introduced her to the dogs, it actually went very well. Surprisingly, it was kind of a non-event for our first two dogs. The biggest problem we had was with the lack of puppy-proofing in the house. She brought me socks, dust bunnies, candles, a rug (yes, an entire throw rug) and extension cords. Every time I looked away, she’d magically procure some unknown object to chew on (I had no idea we had tracked so much mulch into the house.)

Tuesday through Friday, she was pretty much my responsibility, and I was worn out. I was starting to worry that we had bitten off more than we could chew. I hadn’t got but five words down on a page since her arrival since I was constantly jumping up to see where she was and what she was doing.

Oh, and because she was adorable. It is almost a physical impossibility to work when these eyes are staring up at you:

Using her cuteness for evil

So I played with her, and we trained, and we worked on proper eating and treat etiquette. Very quickly, it became apparent that the dog was smart. Really, really smart. The kind of smart that makes me nervous. So far, however, she was using her powers for good. Within the first three days, and with the help of her sisters, she had already learned sit, upstairs, downstairs, outside, inside, no, and good girl.

Learning “sit” with her sisters (Maggie went straight to “settle,” but at least I got them all looking at the camera!)

More importantly, she had learned her new name: Darcy.

Yes, as in Mr. Darcy :)

She also got her very first bath, and looked adorably rumbled (like another Darcy I know *cough* Colin Firth *cough*). See all the crinkly hair and those endearing eyes?

Saturday morning, after a long first week of the puppy and me training each other, I made Kirk get up with the roosters when Darcy awoke. For an hour or two he kept her occupied while I slept. When I came up the stairs, the first words out of his mouth were, “I had no idea how much work she is! How do you get anything done?”

*Grins* Sometimes its nice for all of your work to be recognized. But you know what? Along the way, I stopped worrying about the food, the medicine, and the ride to the vet with all three girls in the back. I set aside the possible scenarios and visions of ruined furniture that had been stressing me out. And…

And I fell in love.

In only a few days, she totally, irreversibly captured my heart. That wonderful, magical, delicious lick of puppy love that warms every recess of the soul and makes the world seem a little rosier. The unexpected pang of the heart growing several sizes larger so to accommodate one more when you didn’t think it possible.

I look at her, and I don’t care that I had to get up no fewer than 13 times while writing this blog to pull something out of her mouth and make sure she wasn’t getting into trouble. I don’t care that she is an early riser and demands much more of my time than I have to give. I don’t even mind when I try to take pictures of her and she ends up gnawing on the lens cap.

Funny how a sweet little puppy can bring so much joy into my life, even when I thought I didn’t want her. Silly me :) Oh, and of course we are giving our first two girls plenty of extra love.

So here goes our little (big) family, headed down the long, winding road of our lives. Looking forward, leash in hand and a smile in our hearts :)

Have you had something change in your life that turned out for the better? Have you ever struggled with adding '1 more' to the family, be it dogs, cats, bunnies, or even kids?

PS – Just to illustrate what I mean by ‘scary smart,’ Darcy went through the doggie door for the first time just now. I followed her into the garage and out the next doggie door. She went outside, slipped through the fence, pottied, then went around to the front door for me to let her in. Did she just potty-train herself?!?

Of course, I wanted to do a baked good that would honor the occasion:

Peanut Butter and Pumpkin Dog Treats

This is a modified version of the recipe found here

2 ½ cups whole wheat flour

2 eggs, whisked

1 cup canned pumpkin

3 Tbsp peanut butter (I buy only natural PB with 2 ingredients: peanuts and salt)

½ tsp cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2. Mix together the flour, eggs, pumpkin, peanut butter, and cinnamon in a bowl until well combined. Roll the dough into a 1/2-inch-thick roll. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces.

3. Bake until hard, about 40 minutes, or less if cut into smaller pieces