Opposites in Everything, Where’s the Attraction?

Looking for that perfect partner?  Dating services use lengthy questionnaires to try and match people with similar values and interests, but then there’s the old saying “opposites attract.”  What works best?  Probably a bit of both.

How would you rate the chances for this couple:

He just scraped by in school, with mediocre grades but wonderful athletic ability.  She’d been teacher’s pet from first grade, always getting top grades in school.  He traveled the world because of his father’s military career, learning to fit in wherever he went.  She lived her whole life in the same city, and never had an opportunity to travel farther than just a few states for a brief vacation.  He partied hard in high school with his buddies, drinking and smoking, and dating every female around.  Since he looked older than his years, he even dated adult women while he was in school.  She was a bookworm, didn’t even drink coffee, much less a beer, and never tried even a normal cigarette.  She had a circle of close friends, but did very little dating.  His focus was on having a good time, but without specific future goals.  She was determined to finish college and achieve her dream of being a veterinarian.

Stan in High School          Sharon's graduation

Nothing in common?  Not a thing, but when they met in July at 19 and 17 years of age the attraction was instant.  They were engaged in September, and married the following March.  Too young, nothing in common, a recipe for disaster?

Stan & Sharon, newlyweds

Logic says yes, but after 49 years, they’re — okay, we, my husband and I — are still together, and still in love.  Still opposites, he likes it cold in the house and I like it warm, he always hogs the remote control, he’s a steak and potatoes man while I’m a vegan, now he’s the stay at home guy while I’m always with people.  The list of our differences is long, but the glue that holds us together is still there.

Stan & Sharon

Opposites do attract, but opposition adds spice to a relationship, and keeps you from getting stale.  Being opposites can also be frustrating.  How can a relationship of opposites thrive and last?  For us it’s an easy formula.  Long lasting love comes from years of shared memories, from respecting one another, from being best friends and staunchest supporters.  We took our vows seriously, and followed my personal advice for all newlyweds, “Divorce never, murder maybe!”

PS, if you like my writing style and would like to read more about our shared experiences, you’ll enjoy my memoir, “From Hindsight to Insight, A Traditional to Metaphysical Memoir

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AN IRRESISTIBLE FACE, BEGGING FOR YOUR HELP

Gracie was a rescue puppy, so tiny when she was adopted that she had to be fed from a bottle for the first weeks.  The family was told that she was a chihuahua mix, and would be a very small dog, exactly what they were looking for.  Gracie thrived in her new, loving environment, and reached about 50 pounds at 11 months old.  So much for the chihuahua heritage!  Her size was a surprise, but her personality was everything they’d hoped for and more.

Like little kids, puppies explore their world by chewing.  Unfortunately, Gracie ate a hand-towel, and became very ill.  Her family pulled all their savings and credit card cash, nearly $4000, to pay for surgery to save the dog they all adored.  Gracie came through the surgery and seemed to be doing pretty well, but then her abdomen began to fill with fluid.  Luckily the vet that treated Gracie participates in a monthly volunteer cat spay and neuter clinic.  Dr. C knew how much the family loved Gracie, and wanted an opportunity to give her another chance. Dr. C also knew the other vet, Dr. McR, would provide another pair of experienced hands to try and save the puppy.

Gracie headGracie body

 

I took one look at this sweet face and fell in love, as did all the other volunteers.  Gracie was a very, very sick little girl, but we all wanted so much for her to pull through.  She was the last patient of the day, and everyone was sending up silent prayers as the two wonderful vets worked on her.  Gracie’s family was incredibly grateful for all the extra effort, but not surprised that their puppy had touched all our hearts.  The family’s two little girls didn’t really understand, but did their best to help their best friend recuperate when she came home.

kids loving Gracie

 

Unfortunately, Gracie began to fail once again.  My best friend was haunted by Gracie’s struggles, and made arrangements for one last try to save her.  She made arrangements with an amazing veterinarian surgeon to try to save Gracie.  The family agreed, and the cost was put on my friend’s personal charge account.  In spite of all the prayers and efforts, Gracie’s heart stopped on the operating table and they couldn’t bring her back.

This puppy touched so many lives, and her story still does.  We are now asking everyone to please donate anything you can towards my friend’s account at the vet office, so that her kindness doesn’t have to absorb all the cost of Gracie’s surgery.  We were unable to set up a bank account or PayPal account for the Gracie fund donations, since it’s a single animal rather than a certified charity.  You can send PayPal funds from your account to the  sharon@sharonsdarrow.com PayPal account, and indicate it’s for the Gracie fund.  The funds will then go to the vet hospital that performed the surgery, and I will be happy to provide documentation of all the funds received and forwarded to the vet hospital.  I’ve never done anything like this before, but would love to see many people share in this effort, rather than my friend having to handle it all herself.

Thank you so very much.  This is a wonderful family, and their memories of Gracie will be even more special if they can see a multitude of people taking part in this effort for Gracie’s memory.

Gracie, full face

Dear Mom, From Your Puppy

This is the letter my daughter, Sheryl Wilson, received recently from her puppy, Yogi.  He’s a 3- month-old australian shepherd, with quite a personality.  Sheryl’s other dog, mentioned in the letter, is Shante, a 7-year-old American Eskimo.  Just had to share:

Hey mom;

I wanted to write you a note to let you know I’m a little disapointed in your behavior this morning. You’re looking a little rough and acting like you did all the work yesterday. So I think you need a little reminding:
I was the one who went on their first walk yesterday. Let me tell you, it’s no easy feat to run circles around you and Shante and make sure that you two get tangled up and not me, all the while holding her leash in my mouth so I can lead her around.

Then I go home, expecting a little down time, but no, we were under attack. An assault came in the form of a huge stick. I went into puppy ninja mode and had to take it down. I growled, I bit, and I tore apart those bristles. No broom is gonna come into my house and threaten my family.

After this home invasion, I tried to lay down again, but what is that I hear? I can’t believe it, yep that damn vacuum has the nerve to show its face again. After last times beat down I was sure I’d seen the last of it. However, this time it came out with a vengeance. I attacked it over and over, but it wasn’t going down without a fight. I then saw the open closet and knew my best bet was to herd it in there. It was dicey for awhile, but I finally got the job done. I don’t think we’re going to see that damn thing for awhile.  Whew puppy saved the day again.

I guess you didn’t realize I was saving all of our lives because you brought out the mop and decided to clean. I knew you weren’t strong enough to push, so being the gallant puppy I am, I had to jump on top and push the mop for you. Next time, please ask me before you start a project you can’t do yourself!

Finally, after a long day it was time for bed. Don’t get me wrong, I love sleeping in your bed, but if you could keep your legs on your side I would really appreciate it.  I’d worked hard and needed my sleep.  Unfortunately, I’m not sure if it was my life- threatening altercations with the broom or the vacuum that gave me nightmares.  I just found myself crying and kicking out in my sleep.  Luckily, you heard the cries of your warrior and pulled me up next to you.  I felt myself calm down, go limp in slumber, and start to drift off….when wait!  What was that cool air ruffling my hair coming from? Oh, you have a fan, pointed directly at you so you can be cool and comfy.  I guess no consideration is given for your true life hero that saves you on a daily basis!  Well, in your slumber you forgot about my stealth ninja moves. It took a little maneuvering and, yes, a few swift kicks to the side of your face, but I was victorious in shoving you off the pillow and enjoying the benefits of my labor.

I had a wonderful night of sleep and woke up ready to defend your honor. But no! All you said was “it’s 5 am, go away!” The gall…..well, you enjoy your pitiful sleep and you better hope that ninja puppy takes pity on you and will save you again. Try to remember to honor and pamper those that save you every day.

Sincerely,

your puppy (Yogi)

IMG_1532

Room For a New Buddy? Or Two?

Serving as a kitten-mom can be an incredible joy, even though it’s hard work and completely takes over the household. I don’t do it anymore myself, but still serve as an unofficial “godmother” every year to orphan kittens lucky enough to be raised by caring people. Many of the kittens steal the hearts of their rescue families, and never have to leave. Others, like these two very special little guys, need to find an adoptive home as special as the one where they are being raised.

Mitzy and Fritz were found when they were just days old as tiny, helpless little mites.
Mitzy 1 Fritz 1

Kittens, like babies are incredibly entertaining. Watching them grow and explore their worlds is great fun, but makes it nearly impossible to not fall in love. Both of these babies has been cuddled and loved since day one, and have grown into loving, cuddly, independent individuals.

Mitzy’s favorite place to sleep is on her person’s lap or chest when they’re in bed trying to sleep.

Mitzy 2Mitzy 3

Fritz is a total love bug, enjoying nothing better than being cuddled, petted, and riding around on a pair of shoulders. He isn’t quite as adventuresome as his sister, but would love to be somebody’s snuggle baby.

Fritz 2 Fritz 3

Both kittens are in excellent health, litter trained, good eaters, gentle at play, and great with anyone. They were raised with dachshunds, but were utterly unimpressed when introduced to my Great Dane. They have started their shots, and will be fixed before going to an adoptive home. Do you have a place in your home for a very special little buddy? Or two? They’d love to go together, but should do just fine if they have to be separated. If you can open your home and heart to them, please contact me for further information.

kittens with Brutus

Validation, Powerful Motivation!

It’s been a long time since I’ve taken time to post to this blog, but not because I wasn’t thinking about great topics. Whole articles would compose themselves in my mind, but never made their way to my fingers on the keyboard. The demands of running a company, writing against self-imposed publishing deadlines, family and just plain life seem to intrude every time I want to sit down and write a new post.

Some truths are so self-evident that we take them for granted and don’t think about how much they impact our lives. Praise, for example, is something we all know we should give to our kids to help boost their self-image. Teaching children and our pets through positive reinforcement is supposed to be the best way. Getting the most productivity out of employees is best achieved through praise, rather than negative tactics. These ideas are well known and accepted, but probably not thought about very much when it comes to our own motivation. I know I didn’t realize how powerful it can be until a recent experience.

Front CoverI wrote a book in 2006 called “Bottlekatz, A Complete Care Guide for Orphan Kittens,” then updated it with a new edition in 2013. This book was created for a very narrow niche, those people who rescued kittens that needed to be bottle-fed. I wrote it because, after raising 511 bottle-babies myself, I knew how difficult it was to keep the kittens alive and wanted other people to be able to benefit from my experiences. The purpose was not fame or profit, but to help more kittens survive through educating the people who rescued them. The book has done well, and is now used as a training manual for rescue groups all over the country.

I’ve achieved a level of authority in the world of cat rescue thanks to the book, but never thought of it much as a noteworthy book because of its narrow appeal. In spite of that, I submitted the book to a panel of judges for a local publishing and author group’s annual awards contest. The group, the Northern California Publishers and Authors, known as NCPA, has many extremely talented and experienced authors and publishers, so I was honored to just be part of the event. In fact, I was a little fearful about having the panel of judges read such a limited scope book and compare it to the other submissions.

The awards dinner was wonderful, with lots of opportunities to talk with some pretty exciting people. I was very proud to see my little book exhibited among the entries, and stunned when it won Honorable Mention in the General Non-Fiction category. I was shocked and thrilled to receive a plaque and stickers marked with the magic words “Book Award Winner.” The judges assured me later that my book was not only well written, but was clearly the authoritative work in its field, meeting all their criteria for an award winner in its category.

IMG_1096I was excited and proud, determined to do just as well next year when I will have two new books to submit. Since the awards dinner I’ve thought about my reaction and realized what a powerful thing that award was. It was not the top award, but it was validation of my identity and worth as a writer. I already knew the value of the information in the book, but this was completely different. This award felt like I’d earned my place among other authors, and affirmed the value of my vision as a writer.

I have a newly published book called “From Hindsight to Insight: A Traditional to Metaphysical Memoir, and am releasing another one within the month called “Faces of Rescue.’ I’m also writing a new one that will be called “Laura’s Dash, The Story of One Woman’s Amazing, Ordinary Life,” which should be completed next summer. That one little award has revitalized my creativity and my motivation.

We all need validation of our worth, whether we are children just learning who we are, or if we are jaded adults who need to be reminded of the value we bring to the world. Just as we all need it, we can all give that vital validation to those around us. A smile, a heartfelt thank you, a bit of praise for a job well done, even just a hug can make a huge difference in someone’s life. That small gesture will make you feel better inside, and the validation it provides can be just what someone needs to propel them forward.

Beautiful, fluffy white nightmare

Babe, Frosty 2

Holly, my lovely adult niece, saw a beautiful, fluffy white cat the other day, the type of cat that melts hearts and makes everyone who sees it automatically reach out to pet it.  Well, almost everyone.  She stepped back, heart rate speeding up, and ended up with awful nightmares of being chased and attacked by a gorgeous white cat named Frosty.

Frosty is indelibly imprinted on the memories of everyone who knew her.  She was born in the 15th litter to “the Happy Hooker”, as her mom was known.  Thirty-five years ago not many people kept their cats inside, only a small number got them fixed, and very few vets would spay a cat that was pregnant.  “The Happy Hooker” was a genius at getting out as soon as her kittens were a few weeks old and getting impregnated again.  Frosty never had kittens and was inside all her life, but she definitely inherited her mom’s iron will and determination.  From the day we adopted her, Frosty set all the cat rules of the household, and terrorized all the children who came over.  She wasn’t a vicious cat, but you never knew what she would do.  My niece still remembers being at our house and needing to go down the hallway to the bathroom, but seeing Frosty sitting quietly in the way.  Holly would wait until she couldn’t wait any longer and then run as fast as she could past the cat.  Most times Frosty just sat there, probably laughing inside at the panic she created.  Other times she would stretch out her paw and, with perfect timing, slice furrows into the passing child’s ankles.

Although Frosty ruled the household with an iron paw, we loved her anyway.  Most of the time Frosty was sweet, but she never failed to let us know when we displeased her or crossed her invisible lines.  I’ll never forget Frosty’s trip home after she was spayed.  The vet had kept her over the week-end when the surgery had been delayed because of unexpected emergencies.  When I arrived on Monday to pick her up, the vet’s staff let me know that she had been rough on everyone.  Back then we didn’t worry about seatbelts for people or carriers for cats, so I put Frosty on a soft bed in the passenger seat of our car for the trip home.  I had driven only about a mile or so when she stood up and moved from her bed to my lap.  I thought “oh, how sweet, she missed me and wants to sit in my lap.”  Wrong!  She did want my lap, but only for a litter box.  When Frosty finished leaving a smelly, warm pile on my jeans, she daintily stepped back to the soft bed in the other seat and just stared at me.  I was in shock trying to get to the side of the road and clean up my legs, but she was quite contented, purring away, having made her point.

Not too long after Frosty was spayed, my husband brought a new kitten home.  Pepsi was a cute little tabby and Stan knew our daughters would love him.  The dogs liked him too, so it looked like the newcomer would fit right in.  We felt pretty smug, until heading for bed that night.  Right in the middle of Stan’s pillow was a pile from Frosty.  She knew who was responsible for bringing in the kitten, and clearly wanted her opinion known.

Our daughters loved Frosty too, even though she could be hard to live with.  Sheryl, our youngest daughter, was delighted to have Frosty sleep on her bed each night.  Eventually Sheryl got tired of having to sleep with her legs curled up just because the cat was taking up most of the room at the foot of the bed.  Sheryl decided it was her bed, so she should be able to stretch out, and shoved her legs out straight.  Almost immediately her legs were raked by claws right through the blanket.  Sheryl reluctantly curled her legs back up, but kept waking up all night because her legs were hurting.  In the morning Sheryl found blood on the sheets and long scratches down her legs.  Frosty met her match with Sheryl though, because that little girl was just as determined as the cat was.  Sheryl still wanted the cat on her bed, so adjusted to her, but when they had a battle of wills over a doll buggy, Frosty was the loser.  Sheryl put the cat into a pink doll buggy and wheeled her all around the house.  It was so cute, right up until Sheryl wanted the the cat to get out of the buggy.  When Sheryl tried to remove her, Frosty clawed at her hands.  Sheryl then put her hands under the buggy and tried to just shove the cat up and out.  Didn’t work, the cat just clawed through the bottom of the buggy.  Sheryl thought about it a little, then shoved the doll buggy hard into a wall, tipping the buggy over and dumping the cat out.

Oddly enough, Frosty was great with our dogs and with the tiny rescue kittens that filled our house for years.  I think she thought the Great Danes were just big, soft pillows and curled up to them whenever she wanted to sleep.  And when we had kittens in the house Frosty was like a grumpy aunt.  She would just move away when they tried to climb on her, or gently swat one away that was too persistent.  Not once did she show any aggression towards the babies, even when they would get around her food, bed, or litter boxes.

Frosty lived with us for over fifteen years, and in left a huge hold in our house and hearts when she passed.  We still think of her and miss her, and all the children she disciplined still shiver a little when they remember her.

Kids, Life Lessons, and a snake!

I love kids, and one of my favorite things to do with them is to take walks.  Nieces, nephews, my kids and grandkids, all have been with me for extended walks throughout the neighborhoods and nearby paths.  Their ages haven’t mattered, whether they were in strollers or nearly as tall as I am, we still can find all kinds of things to see and talk about.  Kids see the world with fresh eyes, and minds full of wonder.  I always tried to enjoy and encourage that sense of wonder, while fostering a love and appreciation of living things.  Sometimes I think I took the lessons just a little too far!

Many years ago my husband and his brother used to teach windsurfing at a nearby lake.  Every single weekend during the summers we would take our kids and spend the day.  The guys spent their time renting out boards and teaching the students, while my sister-in-law and I spent the days with the kids.  Of course, when the boards were not in use by customers, we seized the opportunities to get out on the water ourselves.  One day all the boards were in use, so I was in the shade under a tree reading a book, one of my absolute favorite pastimes in life.

I was completely engrossed in the story, but the sound of a small boy running and shouting intruded, “Aunt Sharon, Aunt Sharon, you’ve got to see what I found!”

It was Christopher, my nephew, who was about seven years old at the time.  All parents know the art of multi-tasking, so I kept reading, but yelled out a response,  “Okay Chris, come show me.”

In seconds he reached me, with a huge smile on his face and his hands behind his back.  “Wait till you see what I found.  Put your hands out.”

Reluctantly, I put my book down, and extended both hands toward Chris.  Obviously I was still thinking about the book, because putting out your hands to a child with their hands behind their back is a dumb move!  Chris proudly draped a long, slender, bright green snake across my hands!

My first impulse was to throw my hands up and scream, but somehow I resisted and held steady.  After all, if I did that it would negate all that I’d been trying to teach him about the beauty of all living things.  If I truly meant that we should revere all living things and treat them with respect, I couldn’t throw the snake into the air and run.  So, a little shaky, I looked more closely at the creature in my hands, who appeared about as happy with the situation as I was.  “Wow, Chris, the scales look like jewels.  It really is a beautiful color.  Thanks so much for bringing it to me.”

He just beamed with pride.  His expression was well worth holding the harmless little snake.  “I don’t think it likes being held though, so you need to find a safe place to put it.  Unfortunately, most people are afraid of snakes and will try to hurt or kill it if they see it, so you need to find a very special place.  Try to find a spot with shade, and with bushes or tall plants so it can hide out of sight.”

Very gently, Chris took the snake out of my hands and ran off to find just the right place.  My heart was still pounding when I sat back down with my book.  It wasn’t long before he came running back, looking very satisfied with himself.  “Aunt Sharon, I found the perfect place for the snake.”

“Great, where did you put it?”

“Right under a bush next to the door of the girl’s bathroom!”

Luckily there were no screams during the day from the girl’s bathroom, so the snake and the people were all safe.  I still take walks with kids, still try to teach them respect and reverence for all living things, but have added a little about not picking them up!