12 & 11/12

She was only four months old when she picked my husband and stole his heart.

Sealing the deal, she left two parting gifts on the church’s gym floor.

“It’s what puppies do,” I said to her embarrassed tween caregiver.

All her littermates claimed a high price to go home with their new families. She was the runt with an umbilical hernia requiring surgery, and if she couldn’t be given away, her next stop; the local dog shelter.

Although adopting Belle-whom I called Bella Chocolat for long (from the french for Beautiful Chocolate)-wasn’t in our family’s five-year plan or budget when a furry friend does the choosing, Providence often makes a way.

Our family, like our nation, was still reeling and healing from the unthinkable attacks and horror from the year before.

Belle proved to be a welcome distraction from the residual social and emotional effects of the traumatic events of 9/11/2001.

In a dogvacay.com blog post, I learned:

10 Surprising Reasons Your Dog is Good for Your Health

  1. Boost Your Mood
  2. Better Than Medicine
  3. Help You Stay Active
  4. Help You Be More Social
  5. Help Relieve Stress
  6. Can Help Kids Grow Stronger
  7. Help Us Understand Cancer
  8. Can Help Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis
  9. Are Therapeutic For Kids With ADHD
  10. Can Make You A Better Person

From the day we brought her home, Belle would hysterically compete with me for the Alpha Female spot in our family with three males. If I was hugging my husband or two sons, she was right there, squeezing between us.

Even so, she earned my respect just two weeks from the time she became a Zylinski. On a family camping trip, when a stray wolfdog three times her size trotted near our site, she lunged at him, straining against her collar and leash to bark him away.

Like any dog, she brought equal parts of cheer and chagrin. She delighted us with her love for swimming and was soon dubbed, Belle of the River. She was known to swim with geese, play tag with beavers, and fetch a tennis ball for hours.

But a confining bathtub? Let the battle begin!

And like most Labrador Retrievers she stayed a puppy well into her fifth year. Digging holes in the lawn, chewing on chair legs and stairs and cedar siding of our house. Or inhaling a whole tub of Brummel and Brown/margarine snatched from a corner of the dining table.

One year, several neighbors gathered with me to make festive fall cookie wreaths. I had laid mine on a card table in our home to dry before hanging it on our front door.

The next morning all that was left was wire and pieces of cardboard on the floor! Belle wasn’t the only one with digestive problems…

My husband and I laughed often as she played eye tag with either of us to get our attention, or growled at her reflection in our large picture window scaring herself so as to launch herself on the closest lap; or whipped up a strong wind with her helicopter tail.

For some reason, I’ve measured life in increments. Holding on too long, or letting go too soon.

Belle taught me about living in the moment. And being content.

For years she played the escape artist rushing headlong out a door left ajar, if only for a second, by an unsuspecting bystander. Or lifting the latch on the fence gate to run away. Often in our searches for her, we didn’t know if we’d see her again.

It took much time and patience to train her to stay close to home and to the ones who loved her most.

Like it took God much time and patience to help me do the same. Although the next adventure and something “out there” seemed just the thing to fulfill a deeper longing, it never did.

At nearly thirteen hip dysplasia and a loss of appetite meant we had to say a hard goodbye.

Our vet sent us a pet sympathy card. A first for me. I’d never been taught that grieving the loss of an animal was okay.

Our Bella Chocolat has been gone 1 & 11/12 years now.

The only thing I have left of her I’m getting rid of today. Her sweet nose print on my writing room window.

It’s way past time.

A goodbye for good.

Bonhoeffer said it well, “There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so; one must simply endure it.”

But her memory will ever linger; her robust bark or standing on her hind legs hugs. The joy and delight she added to our family.

All 12 & 7/12 years.







Can a Legend Make History?

What better day than St. Patrick’s Day to talk about folklore versus facts?

A receipt checker at Costco noticed the box of Godiva assorted Belgian chocolates in my cart and asked me what I knew about the fabled female adorning the cover.

“All I know about Lady Godiva is that she was infamous for riding through the streets on a dapple-grey steed in nothing but her long hair.”

She smiled.

“That’s all I’d heard, too. Google her. You’ll be surprised.”

I did. And I was.

Funny how I’d never taken the time to search out the matter further, relying only on hearsay and bits and pieces of conversations about her over the years.

History describes the study of past events.

Legend means a traditional story sometimes popularly regarded as historical but unauthenticated.

Lady G. falls neatly into neither category.

According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, she was:

“…a Countess of Mercia. An English noblewoman, the wife of Leofric, Earl of Mercia.

If she is the same Godiva who appears in the history of Ely Abbey, the Liber Eliensis, written at the end of the 12th century, then she was a widow when Leofric married her. Both Leofric and Godiva were generous benefactors to religious houses.

The legend of the nude ride is first recorded in the 13th century, in the Flores Historiarum and the adaptations of it by Roger Wendover: despite its considerable age, it is not regarded as plausible by modern historians.

The typical version of the story:

Lady Godiva took pity on the people of Coventry, who were suffering grievously under her husband’s oppressive taxation. Lady Godiva appealed again and again to her husband, who obstinately refused to remit the tolls. At last, weary of her entreaties, he said he would grant her request if she would strip naked and ride on a horse through the streets of the town. Lady Godiva took him at his word, and after issuing a proclamation that all persons should stay indoors and shut their windows, she rode through the town, clothed only in her long hair. Just one person in the town, a tailor ever afterward known as Peeping Tom, disobeyed her proclamation in one of the most famous instances of voyeurism.”

Celebrate or censure?

Maybe you’ve heard of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich? In 1976 she wrote a scholarly article about little-studied Puritan funeral services. Perhaps you’ve heard the quote that went viral not long after, or seen it on mugs, t-shirts or decals:

“Well-behaved women seldom made history.”

She went on to write a book using the title which examines ways in which women shaped history using examples from the lives of Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman, to name a few.

Whenever I hear or see that famous line, I think of a broad spectrum of women. From world leaders like Golda Meir to another woman with long hair.

You can read all about the latter in the gospel of Luke, chapter 7 verses 36-50.

This story is historical fact and is found in the pages of God’s word, the Bible.

In this account, “When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.”

What kind of love would motivate a woman of ill repute to audaciously scorn being scorned by the powerful leaders of her day to offer her most precious gifts–her tears, her expensive ointment, her hair, her time– to the object of that love?

Celebrate or censure?





“He’s Especially Fond of You.”

Multnomah Falls, Oregon

The Shack by WM. Paul Young released in 2007.

For ten long years, I danced around the book. Intrigued but fearful of what I might find inside those pages.

About a month ago, my husband plucked a copy from a shelf of our local, family-owned Christian bookstore. It’s been nestled among a stack of bestsellers, on a night table in our bedroom, silently beckoning me ever since.

We just returned from the movie, of the same title. It features an all-star lineup of actors like Sam Worthington, Octavia Spencer, Tim McGraw and Graham Greene, to name a few.

This is a story about Mackenzie Allen Philips. A man who loves his wife and three children. The pain and secrets he carries are only compounded when the unthinkable happens:

“Mack’s youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation, and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later, in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend.

Against his better judgment, he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack’s world forever.”

This is a beautiful film about asking God the tough questions in life. About being real and letting God be real back. It’s about forgiving and being forgiven.

While the actors are top-rate and the cinematography stunning, what moved me most and left me drenching a fistful of napkins with my tears, was the raw emotions within relationships. The struggles and strain. The awkward moments and angry outbursts. The silent sufferings. The hope and grace available to anyone who longs to be restored and revived.

“If you ever get a chance to hang out with Mack, you will soon learn that he’s hoping for a new revolution, one of love and kindness–a revolution that revolves around Jesus. It will be a revolution involving the daily powers of dying and serving and loving and laughing, of simple tenderness and unseen kindness, because if anything matters, then everything matters.

I’m at a juncture in my journey, where I’m through with letting fear dictate and define my path. Where I’m letting God’s love cast it out, and like Mack, moving beyond the past and charging forward to tell others about the freedom we all can claim.

Will you open your heart, too?

After all, “God’s especially fond of you.”



Hope and Grace – Gifts from God

I met Karen Saari in an online writing group. She candidly shared her scars and audaciously proclaimed the faithful love of God in her life. Truly a kindred spirit and my new friend. Just pure joy to journey with her today!

So, I’m 57 years old and I’ve been married 3 times. That was never in my plan for life. I wanted nothing more than to get married, have a family, stay at home to raise my children and be a homemaker. I yearned for it. It was my dream.

First requirement: finding a man who wants the same thing.

First failure: marrying a man who didn’t agree with my beliefs.

And what followed was 26 years of grief, tears, abuse, and unthinkable things that can’t be written down. I got a divorce after being told many times by my church – “God hates divorce”. Yes, He does, but doesn’t He also hate the abuse that was piled on our children and myself? I never wanted to get married again.

God had other plans. He brought Mike into my life and we married. I was filled with hope – hope that comes from Him. Hope that we would build a life together. We had a wonderful marriage and I actually knew what marriage was supposed to be like. When we’d been married for 8 years he was diagnosed with advanced liver cancer and given 2 – 3 months to live. I was devastated. He went home to be with our Lord less than 30 days later.

Well, now I knew I’d never get married again. I’d had my turn. I was glad for the wonderful marriage He had given me and content with that. Again, God had plans.

He brought Robert into my life and we married. And are married still! This is the grace of God turning all the tears to joy. Here I am, once again living in the mountains I love, with a bundle of grandchildren (15 in all!) and a job I love and all I can say is, “God is good.”

Karen Saari is a writer, editor and writing coach. She is the author and Indie publisher of Morningshine and Morning Glory, the first two books in a 3-book series titled The Spring Street Quilters. She is also the author of Log Cabin Quilts: A Brand New Story. All available on Amazon.

She blogs at diyserendipity.com and KarenSaari.com