Warm & Fuzzy – And Not Just The Stuffed Animal
I've always loved stuffed animals. And the softer and plusher, the better. They're like family. Only, in some ways, better, but I won't go down that road. Not today, anyway. Some children outgrow their love for stuffed animals (or do they just stopping admitting it?), but not me. And although I've stopped adding to my collection over the years (ok, make that decades), there are always those favorite ones that are loved just a little bit more, squeezed a little tighter, hugged a little longer.
Well, for someone who has a theater arts degree and more than a passing knowledge of Tudor history, I'd say that one of the most useful things I've learned is … the repair of stuffed animals. Over the years, I've patched up more than my share of stuffed animals, my own and my daughters. I've even gone so far as to do what could only be called a "full fluff transplant" – turning a very large (over four feet tall), but very "stiff", frog won at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo into the cutest, squishiest frog EVER.
But I digress. Well, maybe just a little because I promise this is going somewhere. (I can hear Black saying, "Then get there already.") Recently Black emailed me a video with a note that it made her want to buy a Vermont Teddy Bear. Knowing she's definitely not warm and fuzzy, let alone a stuffed animal person, I couldn't imagine what the video could be about to make her say that. I should've guessed there'd be a Make-A-Wish connection (remember Bernie's Inauguration Day mittens?), and I couldn't help but smile when I heard that the Vermont Teddy Bear Company was renting office space to Make-A-Wish Vermont for $1/year.
I immediately picked up the phone to tell her how I've always been impressed by the company, but before I could say how the video didn't surprise me, she starts telling me about their "Limb Loss and Difference Limb Bear" that not only offer love and comfort but supports the Amputee Coalition. Finally, I'm able to tell her that The Vermont Teddy Bear Company has always been great, especially in unexpected ways,
Decades ago, when I visited Vermont on a regular basis, I was traveling with one of my beloved stuffed animals – a soft, cuddly sheep that I had gotten in England many years prior. She had what I'd call "old-fashioned" eyes (the type they probably don't make anymore because they'd be considered a health hazard), and over the years, one of the eyes got looser and looser. And while I did everything I could, I knew that it was only a matter of time before the eye would fall off.
I was at the Vermont Teddy Bear Store and mentioned the "condition" to the in-house doctor (seriously, they have one). The next thing I knew, I was leaving my "baby" overnight at their "hospital" (which is usually reserved for their bears) to return the following morning to pick up the patient, who now had a beautifully repaired eye that to this day is perfect.
If you asked Black about National Pet Month, she’d probably quote you statistics about the number of people who have pets and the health benefits, conveniently “forgetting” what she told Red about unconditional love. But Red would tell you that she celebrates Moo (read the original post from 2021 below to learn about the other “unusual names” of her four-legged family members) every day, letting her know with a hug and a cuddle how much she’s loved.
|Well, this month marks 18 years since you changed my life, so I wanted to thank you. Again. For bringing such happiness into the lives of the girls and me, although some heartbreaking sadness, too. But there's nothing like unconditional love.|
|OK, but can you tell me what you are talking about?|
|Do you remember when I moved to Houston after living overseas, and we started going to the Hyatt Hill Country in San Antonio for Memorial Day weekend? You were married to Larry, and his girls were young, and Natasha and Sawyer were even younger. Well, in 2003 you asked me if it was OK if you got us a puppy.|
|You had always talked about getting a dog but wanted to have children first. The timing seemed right, but given your allergies, the options were limited. Until I learned about a new breed, well technically a mixed breed, originally developed in Australia to be hypoallergenic guide dogs.|
|I'll never forget you showing me photos of the most incredibly adorable dogs I'd ever seen. The fact Labradoodles were half standard poodle, which was what I had initially thought we'd get, and half Labrador Retriever was amazing. But only you could find the perfect dog from an article in a business magazine.|
|Fortune magazine. It was written by Andy Serwer back when he was Managing Editor (he now is Editor-in-Chief of Yahoo! Finance), and you never knew the topic – or angle – of his next piece. Sometimes serious, sometimes amusing, but always astute and worth reading. And, I actually saved that article.|
|Of course, you did. All I know is that starting with that day in the hotel, I was in love, first with the idea of the Labradoodle, then with the puppy pictures they sent us, and then with her. In fact, from literally the moment you and I picked her up at the airport and then came home and gently placed her next to an unsuspecting Natasha who was asleep on the sofa, she became the most loved member of the family.|
|If only people were as good at unconditional love as pets. Anyway, not only are pets a source of love and companionship, but studies – and science – have shown there are proven health benefits .|
|Well, I don't need a study to tell me how much, over the last 18 years, having Woof, and then Oink and Moo, has meant to the girls and me. And although I still find it upsetting to think of Woof's early passing in 2007, and Oink having left us this past summer still breaks my heart, I'm so grateful for all the memories and love that's still there.|
|I do not think we ever forget them. I still remember Mom's family dog, Buttons, a beautiful Irish Setter that Grandma Betty and Poppy Louie would sometimes bring to the house so she could run free in the backyard. She was almost as tall as me, but was very gentle, and always affectionate.|
|That's funny because our childhood dog, Yenta, was anything but affectionate. I know poodles have a reputation of being proud, and although I loved her, she wasn't the most lovable dog around. I just wanted her to be cuddly, but she wouldn't have any part of it. Instead, if a dog could put their nose up in the air and walk off with a royal air about them, that was her.|
|I prefer to think of it as being stubborn. And, independent. Both traits of poodles. And, may explain why she and I got along so well.|
|No comment. Except to remind pet owners that this is National Pet Month. So, what better time to show your pet how much you love them than to celebrate with them?|
Another year, another Masters golf tournament! Now, it’s been decades since I was glued to the TV watching golf every weekend. But this year, even though I barely recognize the names of the top Masters contenders, I can’t wait to watch the first foursome tee off. That might not seem to make sense, but the Masters always features an honorary starter, and this year it’s my favorite golfer, Tom Watson. And while my favorite Masters memory is of meeting Arnold Palmer (see below), my favorite golf memory is when my dad and I watched the 1977 British Open at Turnberry and Tom Watson beat Jack Nicklaus (by one stroke).
For golfers, spring means another Masters golf tournament. Last year, everyone talked about the 35th anniversary of Jack Nicklaus’s amazing come-from-behind victory to claim his 18th major championship. What made it even more amazing was that, at 46, no one thought he would ever win another major. This year, the talk’s all about Tiger Woods (now 46) competing on the 25th anniversary of his first Masters win. It’s a comeback story straight out of Hollywood as a serious car accident 14 months ago initially left people wondering if he would survive, let alone ever play golf again. (Which is reminiscent of when Ben Hogan, one of golf’s all-time greats, came back after a horrific car accident in 1949 to win The U.S. Open in 1950.)
For most golf fans and lovers of great sports comebacks stories, those are inspirational examples of never giving up. And although I was in the crowd around the 18th hole in 1986 when Jack Nicklaus raised his putter in triumph, that was my second favorite Masters memory. And my greatest memory at the Masters didn’t actually take place at the Masters. Well, not at the golf course, anyway.
But first, I want to explain how I was able to go to the final round of the Masters that Sunday. It was due to the generosity and kindness of a total stranger that lived down the block from Augusta National Golf Club, home to the Masters. I met him that Saturday when I asked if I could possibly park in his driveway, as I was hoping to walk around and somehow find a ticket for sale. Later in the day, when I told him that I had no success, he said I could have his for Sunday. (To this day, I still shake my head in disbelief, but it does qualify as my third best Masters memory.)
So, what was my favorite memory? It’s when Jesse Haddock, the legendary golf coach at Wake Forest University (where I had graduated with a theater degree in 1984), replied to my letter saying that while he couldn’t help me get a ticket to the Masters, I was invited to Wake Forest’s annual golf alumni reception they always held during Masters week. I decided that alone was worth the plane ticket and a few nights at a motel, so off I went, thinking that perhaps I’d meet PGA players (and Wake Forest alums) Jay Haas or Curtis Strange or even Lanny Wadkins. Never dreaming that my expectations were, well, set a bit low,
Shortly after Jesse introduces himself and gives me a hug, he takes me by the elbow and tells me there’s someone he’d love for me to meet. An instant later, all I can think of is how much I can’t wait to call my dad later that night. (This was in the days before cell phones.) However, first I have to smile and pose for a photo, as I’m now standing between one of the greatest college golf coaches of all time and certainly the greatest Wake Forest alumni golfer, not to mention one of the world’s greatest golfers, ever, Arnold Palmer.
Repeat After Me ... Every Day Is Groundhog Day.
It’s Groundhog Day. Again! A day that reminds me of a great movie with a great message (see my thoughts below). Again. And this year, it reminds me that I have great friends. Now, you may wonder, what does that have to do with Groundhog Day? Well, a few years ago, I visited one of my dearest friends when she was living in Woodstock, IL, where the movie, “Groundhog Day” was filmed. Standing in the town square on a snowy night with one of my best friends is a day (well, technically a night) I’d be happy to repeat. Again and again.
Yes, I know that Groundhog Day was last week. But truth be told, on the actual day, I almost forgot that it was Groundhog Day. Until Black, on our morning phone call (we talk almost every morning – sometimes specific Red & Black items, sometimes current events, sometimes just "life") wishes me, "Happy Groundhog Day." Well, these days, every day feels like Groundhog Day, so I thought she was just being sarcastic, which wouldn't be unusual. When I started to reply with something like "yeah, same ole, same ole", I paused, because I realized, it really was Groundhog Day.
But even if Black hadn't brought it to my attention, there was still no escaping Groundhog Day, as beside it being mentioned on the morning shows, I noticed that one of the movie channels had the movie "Groundhog Day" on all day. Literally all day, as in on a loop (which seemed appropriate). It was ok with me, as it's one of my all-time favorite movies.
For me, the movie has everything. A great cast (Bill Murray was true perfection and I hope they never, ever do a remake because no one can top him), a great script that somehow made a very simple storyline come alive, and subtle messaging. Yes, each day is the same. Sounds boring. But no, because even with the same day every day there are nuances of humor, of sadness, of happiness, of goodness, of badness. And decisions to be made, or not made. Do you do the right thing, the easy thing, the unexpected thing? Do you think about yourself or others?
Yes, I know, my theater degree is showing. (Something Black claims I rarely use, except when I'm being, well, theatrical.) But it's an accurate analysis, and when I watched "Groundhog Day" for the umpteenth time this Groundhog Day, it was through the lens of the last year and the coronavirus. When I thought every day was the same. But watching the movie, again, made me realize it really isn't. Because each day gives us new opportunities to make decisions, both big and small. Each day, in its own way, is a gift. And although almost every day this last year has felt like we're living our own personal "Groundhog Day", at the same time it has taught us so much.
And this time, even though I've seen the ending countless times, it really made me stop and think …
That if we're lucky, maybe, like Bill Murray's character, who ultimately found patience and then happiness in appreciating what was there, not tomorrow, but today … that we find happiness today but also see that our "Groundhog Days" will one day be over. And that all our "todays" are making opportunities for tomorrow's new beginnings.