RELEASE DAY!

It is finally here: Release Day! What Oliver Taught Me is now available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle. It will be available soon via Barnes & Noble and some other places as well. All royalties earned will be going to the MidAtlantic Bulldog Rescue.

This has been an emotional journey and I am so thankful I had the support of so many people. A lot of people think this book is about Oliver, and it is; it is also much more than that. Oliver gave the gift of love to every person he met. He gave me more than that. His gifts to me were the lessons in this book. I hope you will read it and laugh at the funny stuff, and also see if the lessons I am still learning mean anything to you.

And the best part of all of this is we all help bulldogs in need with this book. Find it here on Amazon: http://a.co/6TWYZ7I

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Cover Reveal!

For those who missed it on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, I was finally able to reveal the cover of the book! I also received the very first copy of the book. Granted, that was a proof copy, but to see my words in the shape of an actual book was kind of awesome.

The book will be available VERY soon, and as most already know, I am donating 100% of the royalties to the MidAtlantic Bulldog Rescue. Writing this book and being able to help bulldogs in need in Oliver’s memory is quite special. I am not an author; I simply had a story to tell.

Watch social media and this spot for the official announcement for the book release! And thank you for all of your support!

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Excerpt

Time is flying and I have lots of exciting things coming up surrounding the book! First, you will find an excerpt below. If you haven’t signed up for the newsletter yet, you should! I will be announcing giveaways and some other fun stuff. Second, the cover reveal is coming soon! I absolutely love the cover and I know you will, too. The book is currently being formatted and VERY soon, I will be announcing the release date.

I hope you enjoy this excerpt. When I first posted it on Facebook and sent it out via the newsletter, I was filled with anxiety. I kept asking myself, “What if there isn’t anyone who likes this book?” I had to remind myself that I asked the universe for a purpose, and this book is it. I am NOT an author; I had a story to tell. I was supposed to write this book and I did. The simple fact that 100% of any proceeds earned will be donated to the MidAtlantic Bulldog Rescue is a bonus. (WordPress has messed with the formatting a little, sorry!)

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Where It Began

 

“Holy shit, I think I’m dying!”
For anyone who has ever experienced the severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis, you know the above exclamation is an appropriate one. As I sat at a red light on one of the busiest highways in my town with what I knew to be the beginning of anaphylaxis, “Holy shit, I think I’m dying” was not my first (or even tenth) thought. With my eyes glazed over, tears streaming down my face, rivers of snot running out of my nose, and people in cars behind me impatiently honking their horns because traffic was moving but my car wasn’t, I didn’t think about dying at all. Which is weird, especially for someone who has experienced anaphylaxis before, right? I know how scary that shit is. Hell, I didn’t even see my life pass before my eyes the way near-death experiences are typically described. Instead of calling 9-1-1 or thinking about the afterlife, I had one singular thought:
“Who is going to take care of Oliver?”
Before you award me with a Parent of the Year trophy, you need to know that Oliver was not my lovable, mischievous son (because if I had had children, I always pictured my son to be mischievous and most likely, semi-lovable). Oliver wasn’t even a ninety-eight-year-old uncle whose adult diapers I had to change and whose sole existence depended on me spooning pureed carrots into his toothless mouth. No, Oliver wasn’t either of those. Oliver wasn’t even a human being.
Oliver was my not-so-healthy, five-and-a-half-year-old English bulldog.
Go ahead and read that again. I’ll give you a second. Done? So, now you know you read that correctly. I wasn’t concerned that I was almost in the full throes of anaphylaxis. I wasn’t worried that if I called 9-1-1, an ambulance might not make it to me before I gasped my last breath. I wasn’t worried that I could die in my car in the middle of traffic in front of a fucking Wawa convenience store. I was worried that my dog might have to hold in his shit a little longer than he’s used to holding it. That would probably devastate him, and the fact that he would feel remotely slighted made me a bad “Mom.” That’s what I was thinking about. My dog’s fucking feelings.

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It’s All Happening!

Ollie Puppy ButtFriends, I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted. That’s because I have been busy getting this book ready for you! Things are happening, covers are being designed, and I might be freaking out just a little bit. I walk this thin line of paranoia, worrying how this book will be received. I’m not an author. At all. But, I had a story to tell. I felt it in my entire being this story needed to be written and I remind myself, even if it isn’t the most well-written book, the purpose it is serving in honoring Oliver and the people he brought into our lives, as well as helping support the MidAtlantic Bulldog Rescue, is what it is all about.

And so, I hope if you read this you will sign up for the newsletter and follow along on social media. Announcements will be made, excerpts will be shared, contests will be had, and I don’t want any of you to miss out! Thank you for all of your support! xoxo

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Understanding the Why.

My loveOliver brought so many people into our lives. Anywhere we took him, we were stopped by people who could instantly see how friendly (and funny) he was. He was a magnet that drew people of all ages. Through Oliver, our network of friends grew–whether it was meeting people at fundraisers for the MidAtlantic Bulldog Rescue or just playing in the park, so many people have come into our lives because of Oliver.

And, oddly enough, even more people came into our lives after Oliver’s passing. If I am to believe (and I do) that everything happens the way it is supposed to happen, I can’t be sad that this new group of friends never had the opportunity to meet Oliver. It’s very interesting to me that this particular group of friends have all suffered losses of their bulldogs right after we lost Oliver, after we began to get to know each other. There is something tugging, some deep knowing inside of me, that it was supposed to happen this way. I know, I know. It sounds kooky and weird.

There were moments when I could (hopefully) offer some comfort to them simply by repeating words of condolence that had been offered to me because Oliver was the first to leave us, but I feel it goes deeper than that. Losing a fur-kid is difficult. It’s strange that in this new, small group of friends we have had three losses back-to-back. I believe we were meant to be friends, meant to support each other through our losses, and meant to know each other. It is as though when Oliver died, he brought me closer to one friend immediately before she lost her Dixie. And, as we were getting to know another couple, they lost their Becky. None of us were close prior to losing these beautiful bulldogs; it all came to BE after losing Oliver. Maybe we each understand grief differently and can offer different levels of comfort to each other and the Universe knew that we would need each other in that way.

I believe things happen as they are supposed to–both the good and the bad. And I believe we were meant to be friends and a support system for each other. The timing of these growing friendships might always be a mystery and I won’t understand the “when” of it all. But I do understand the “why.”

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Announcement: It’s Finished!

Freak!I am so happy to announce that What Oliver Taught Me is now finished. Well, finished in the sense that I have a start, a middle and an end. While I’ve never written a book before, I do know this doesn’t mean I am 100% done. I am so determined to have this book published and I will not stop until I have done so.

After a much needed vacation that can’t come soon enough, the next phase begins: sending query letters to literary agents and opening their eyes to how funny, sad, touching and eye-opening this gem of a book is.

If you haven’t already, please follow on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram! And please share, retweet and repost the shit out of this book. I am looking forward to the day I can share this book with the world–oh, and help some bulldogs in-need in the process by donating a portion of royalties to the MidAtlantic Bulldog Rescue. I can’t think of a greater way to honor Olliegator’s life.

Oliver’s time here on Earth was way too short but his impact on my life (and the lives of many others) was huge. I am so thankful to have had some time with him.

 

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Lesson: Fears

 

Fear, stress, and anxiety are emotions that are quite tortuous to our minds, bodies, and souls. When I fear something, it manifests in the form of panic attacks. It doesn’t happen often but there are times when I will avoid situations just to avoid the panic and anxiety I feel. And what is so interesting is that often the stress and fear leading up to something is far worse than the actual situation itself.

Oliver was afraid of many things and a lot of those fears were strange. Still, they were legitimate fears for him. Whether it was a dish towel hanging slightly askew in the kitchen, the reflection he saw in our hardwood floors (#oliverthemoonwalkingbulldog), or perhaps a giant pile of dirt–they were all straight up fears. He had to learn to trust me when I told him “it’s okay” and while it may have taken a few minutes, he would always (ultimately) trust me.

As humans, we often refuse to trust when we experience fear. Fight or flight reactions may kick in. Watching this video of Oliver is a perfect representation of him learning to trust me. Had he not, he would not have spent an hour enjoying himself in the park. We need to learn to be more trusting and not let fear dictate our reactions.

What are you most afraid of? How do you combat that fear, or do you avoid situations that will provoke a reaction that doesn’t make you comfortable?

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Lesson: Gifts

Oliver brought so many gifts into my life, one of the biggest being all of the new people I have met because of him. While I met so many people during Oliver’s life by attending fundraisers and taking him to play in the park, there is a special group of friends that I have come to know only recently. It is not lost on me that this lovely group of friends came into my life after Oliver passed away. They are funny and sweet and are all crazy bulldog moms. It was as though Oliver was saying to me, “I’m gone now and I know you need support. Here are people who understand the love you have for me and the grief you are working through.”

Yesterday was Oliver’s “Gotcha Day,” meaning we brought him home to live with us on January 16, 2011. It’s a sad day now that he is gone. And interestingly enough, a “girls day” was randomly organized for the same day with this group of friends. We had discussed getting together for a while now, outside of the bulldog fundraisers we attend and it took some time to come to fruition. It was synchronicity that it occurred on Oliver’s “Gotcha Day”–a day when I would have spent time at home, feeling sad he is gone. Instead, I was surrounded by these beautiful chicks with their sweet, lovely, and kind personalities. All of whom understand my love for Oliver and my grief. We laughed and talked and I felt so good inside… on a day that I could have easily spent at home, crying in this grief that is never-ending.

Life is full of these moments and I haven’t any doubt the Universe was giving me what I needed yesterday: some time with some people who understand me. It couldn’t be simpler and it couldn’t have come on a more perfect day.

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Lesson: Connections

This half-face picture on the left is Nico. I met Nico and his owner, Gerri, one day in early 2011. I had taken Oliver to the park and none of his friends were there…and then came Gerri and Nico. We introduced ourselves and began talking about our dogs, who really didn’t even acknowledge each other. (Oliver was in a bit of an anti-social phase at the time) Nico had survived Hurricane Katrina and, along with many dogs that were rescued, was brought to NJ for adoption.

We connected and for some reason, our conversation flowed as if we had known each other for years. Gerri told me that she had recently battled breast cancer and after several surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation, she was trying to move forward again. Her openness and easy nature made the time fly by and before we knew it, it was time to go home.

Gerri began coming to the park more frequently with Nico and we became friends while Oliver and Nico continued to ignore each other. Gerri was still dealing with a lot physically and some days were better than others. We had many conversations, sometimes about nothing and other times, about more in-depth things. As Gerri navigated her medical issues, she still continued to bring Nico to the park, whether it was the heat of summer or when there was snow on the ground.

There came a point when one of Gerri’s PET scans came back with not such great news. Her cancer had returned and this time, it was in several areas and more aggressive. There were days when Gerri couldn’t lift her arms to throw Nico’s ball, so our little group at the park took turns occupying Nico, being Gerri’s arms for her when she couldn’t do it. Gerri and I had exchanged phone numbers and on days when she didn’t come to the park, I would call her to check in with her. There were days when she showed up at the park when she probably should have been home in bed. I really believe Gerri needed that park time just as much as Nico did.

In February 2012, Gerri stood up and collapsed, paralyzed from the chest down due to a tumor pressing on her spine. She was admitted into the hospital while more tests were run. She was transported more than once to other hospitals while her family tried to begin setting up 24-hour-a-day care for her once she returned home. Gerri and I spoke several times while she was in the hospital and she couldn’t wait to come back home. Even though her life was drastically changed, “home” represented some normalcy for her. She wanted to be in her own house with Nico, who she referred to as “the man” in her life.

Gerri became extremely illĀ  in May of 2012 and was hospitalized. I called her cellphone while she was in the hospital and I could hear the difficulty she was having breathing. I didn’t have any words to say to her but I did my best to simply say what I could say. The next day, I received the news that Gerri had passed away. While we weren’t the closest of friends, I valued our time as friends and the talks we had. So much so that I wished I had known her for years and years before we had met. Our time as friends was so short and I felt there was so much more I wanted to know about her.

After Gerri passed away, Nico was sent to live with Gerri’s best friend. I saw Nico one time after Gerri died and it made me want to cry. As time went by, I would often think about Nico and wonder how Gerri’s death affected him. Did he understand why she was gone? Do our pets know more than we give them credit for? Did he miss her? Was he adjusting to his new home?

I often visit Gerri’s Facebook page and look at her pictures or leave a little comment. Silly to some, but I need to do it. I think about her and wish she didn’t have to endure all she did. It’s a comfort to open up Facebook and see her smiling face.

Yesterday (Thursday, January 12, 2017) I went for my daily walk and walked my usual route that takes me right by the park. As I approached, I looked to see what dogs might be there as I do every day, sometimes stopping to say hello to our friends but usually, no one is there any more. When I looked yesterday, there was Nico, standing in the park with Gerri’s best friend, his owner since Gerri’s passing. I couldn’t contain myself and as I made my way into the park, Nico ran to me like he wanted to knock me down and kiss me all over.

I had such a rush of emotion. Nico rarely showed affection in that way. He was single-minded at the park and only wanted his ball. He RAN to me, halfway across the field. He recognized me and he remembered me. He stood next to me while I spoke to his owner and literally leaned his entire body weight against me while I kept telling him I missed him so much. He kept looking up at me, meeting my eyes with his and just staring at me.

There isn’t any doubt in my mind seeing Nico after almost 5 years was a sign from Gerri. And to see him run across the field and look me in my eyes with his beautiful eyes, I knew it was a small hug from the other side. When people leave us, when our pets leave us– we are still connected in more ways than what we believe. It was in that moment that I truly believed while I was hugging Nico in the middle of a field, Gerri was in Heaven doing the same with my Oliver.

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Lesson: Me Time

Oliver had a very large group of dog friends and we would meet them almost daily at our local park. While some dogs played with balls and toys, other dogs chased each other and played roughly. Oliver would often go off on his own at some point and spend a large portion of time by himself. While I would wonder if he was defective because he was so antisocial, Oliver would get into his favorite position–butt up in the air, chest to the grouns–and he would simply chew on his ball. He was quite content to be alone and have his “me time” while the dogs soaked up the energy of playing with each other. He simply wanted some personal space to destroy his (and his friends’) balls and toys.

Why do we, as humans, often feel guilty when we do something special for ourselves or when we take some time to do something alone that we enjoy? Maybe you like to get a massage or get your nails done or go to the gym or go out for lunch by yourself. But sometimes there is guilt attached to doing something for ourselves. We treat these things are something special and almost decadent, as if we don’t necessarily deserve to set aside time for ourselves.

Do you make time for yourself? What is something special you do to rejuvenate your mind, body and/or spirit?

 

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