Thanksgiving Hangover and a New Holiday Season ~ by Darlene Kuncytes


Well, we did it. Thanksgiving is over. Black Friday is done, and we are now in full on holiday mode!

This year is going to be different than any other before. The holidays are so special for so many different reasons, but this year we are living in a different reality. One most, if not all of us, have never faced before.

That being said, it doesn’t mean that it has to suck.

I always take time on Thanksgiving to reflect on all the things I have been thankful for throughout the year, and I will admit that this year it has been a little tough.

But I still found some!

I got up each morning this year.

I continued to write and to work and was able to talk with friends and family. I am so grateful that I can say that.

So, let’s remember to enjoy the season as much as we can. There are so many things we can still do to make is special! Video chat with loved ones and sing carols!

Pile into the car, grab some hot chocolates and drive around to see the lights. It’s a safe way to enjoy the beauty of Christmas!

Don’t send out cards this year to the people you talk to. Instead, how about sending those Christmas cards to a retirement home? That small gesture might just mean the world to someone. 

Yes, things are going to be hugely different this holiday season. But we can do our darnedest to make sure that it is STILL a wonderful, magical time of year! 

Don’t you think we all deserve it?

No matter what holiday you celebrate, do something to make it mean something this year. 

More than any other year, we need to do something that might just inspire someone. 

Be safe. Be happy. And know that we will persevere! 

We kind of rock like that! 😉

Have an amazing holiday season!
Love and kisses! 

Pictures courtesy of Google 

Aviation Through the Eyes of a Photographer ~ Keely M. Flatow


(c) Keely M. Flatow
I am a photographer. For me, photography is more than a hobby, it’s part of who I am. I consider myself a visual artist who uses a camera as a way to express my joy and passion for aviation. 

I love everything about airplanes. The sleek shapes, curves, angles, and the way the wings attack the air as they depart from the runway and take to the freedom of the sky.

(c) Keely M. Flatow

I see airplanes as more than just machines. They each have a unique spirit and personality all their own. I have a special affinity for vintage WWII airplanes, but especially the C-47 Skytrain or “Gooney Bird” as it’s affectionately called. Don’t get me wrong, I love the heart-pounding, ear-splitting roar of four B-1 engines in full afterburner, but it doesn’t make me swoon like the throaty sounds of two radial engines and propellers cutting into the air!

(c) Keely M. Flatow
I didn’t much spend time around vintage planes until I moved back to my hometown of Missoula, Montana from Washington, D.C. in May 2019. I lived and worked in D.C. for 10 years after serving 12 years on active duty with the Air Force where I lived all over the world. Just two months after moving home, I started volunteering for the Museum of Mountain Flying and met the most special C-47 in existence (in my humble opinion, anyway) that became my personal inspiration and photographic muse. When she was born, she was known as NC24320, and later bestowed the name of Miss Montana in honor of all the Montanans who fought and died in WWII. She shares her name with another WWII Veteran B-25 flown by a Montana native and pilot whose grandson is now Miss Montana’s captain and President of the Museum . Miss Montana’s touching and incredible story is much too long to share here, but I highly recommend reading about her in the book, ‘Every Reason to Fail’ by Bryan Douglass. I promise you’ll be moved and inspired! I even had the opportunity to fly in a WWII veteran B-25 Maid in the Shade and got to shoot photos from the cockpit and nose pod as it flew over my home in the Bitterroot Valley. It was an experience I’ll never forget! 

(c) Keely M. Flatow
I love being a visual artist. It’s my goal to find new ways to see old aircraft. I want to bring the planes to life and connect the public with these beautiful machines. We must keep them alive and flying to be a visual reminder of the brave men and women who fought and died for their country in conflicts around the world. 

(c) Keely M. Flatow

So far in my photography career, I’ve found an enthusiastic audience with both plane lovers and those who connect on an emotional level with my art. I hear from veterans and their families how much they appreciate the way I present the history and heritage of vintage aviation. Even if they don’t like planes or air travel, they tell me they feel the connection to the aircraft through my work. It’s my mission to show that these metal veterans of the air deserve honor, respect, and dignity for their service to our country.

You can follow more of my work on Instagram:@keelyf29 and contact me there for prints if you’re interested. My website will launch soon!  


Ruffle Your Feathers ~ by Grace Augustine

Feather, the component structure of the outer covering and flight surfaces of all modern birds. Unique to birds, feathers apparently evolved from the scales of birds’ reptilian ancestors. The many different types of feathers are variously specialized for insulation, flight, formation of body contours, display, and sensory reception. ( )

In today's society, feathers are used for crafts, as adornments on fabric, and as pillow filling, though not so much the latter with the synthetics that are available today.

Native Americans believe that if a feather is on their path it is a gift to them. It is seen as energy from the life form who dropped it. Once the person is given a feather, the person must cherish it and care for it. It is to be displayed in the home, not stuck away in a drawer or closet.

I have a love of feathers, and quite a collection. I have one that is especially sacred to me. When this particular feather fell upon my path, I consulted a couple Native American friends who told me the ritual that needed to be done. It was sacred. I felt the spirit of the animal and could almost hear it.

Each bird species holds special traits that are gifted to the human who comes upon a feather from that bird. Here are some examples:

Crow tail feathers: a symbol of foresight are usually given to young boys.

Hummingbird: Love

Raven: Creativity and knowledge

Falcon: Healing, motion and speed

Eagle: This is the most sacred of all feathers. 

United States law recognizes the unique significance of eagle feathers in Native American culture, religion, and tradition. The eagle is a highly protected creature under U.S. law, but special exceptions are made to allow Native Americans to possess, pass down, gift, and acquire eagle feathers within specific conditions. 

An eagle's feathers are given to another in honor, and the feathers are displayed with dignity and pride. They are handled with great regard. In fact, if an eagle feather is dropped during a dance, a special ceremony is performed before picking it up again, and the owner is careful to never drop it again.

The eagle feather is also used to adorn the sacred pipe because it is a symbol of the Great Spirit who is above all and from whom all strength and power flows. When a feather is held over a person’s head, it is a blessing, wishing bravery and happiness. Like many Native American symbols, some even choose to tattoo feathers on their bodies to help them on their journey or to tell their story. To wave it over everyone present means everyone is wished peace, prosperity, and happiness. ( )

I have collected feathers for many years. Big ones, medium sized, small, very small, black, brown, white, orange.  In all of those I have been gifted, I have yet to have a cardinal or blue jay gift one to me.

I am always so excited when I see a feather! Every time I go outside, there is one at my feet, on my way to my vehicle, or even inside my car (I don't ask how that gets there)

I can remember driving down the interstate on a summer day with the sunroof open. A red tail hawk flew through the sunroof, perched on my shoulder for not more than 3 seconds and flew back out. (I had the claw marks in my shoulder to prove its presence!) It was an incredible moment.

I pay attention to the birds. Before August 11th when the derecho hit,
there was a grove of trees to the east of my apartment. Owls hooted at night. Hawks and falcons of various sizes flew through to land in the trees. Blue jays, cardinals, juncos, sparrows, robins, wrens, and some I've never seen took up residence in the branches. 

The next time you see a feather, pick it up. Examine it. Hold it and connect with its spirit. You may receive a message meant just for you.

To read my other posts, please click HERE to be redirected to my members page.

All photos are property of Grace Augustine and may not be used without permission.

Un-Girly Bridal Showers ~ by Ruth Ross Saucier

A good friend of mine (let’s call her Sherie) was throwing a bridal shower for her soon-to-be sister-in-law, Connie (not her real name, either). As a friend of both of them, I was invited to the shower held by the groom’s mother.  It was typical. Attended by both the mother’s generation and the bride’s friends, all the women there were mature. Still, we played silly little games like scrambled words that related to the kitchen, that sort of thing. Tame. Ordinary. Very sweet. No surprises.

Sherie, however, was also hosting a bridal shower for Connie. From the second we left the first shower, Sherie vowed she would never do anything so lame; she had to do something more inventive.  More fun. More grown-up. Agreeing to that, I ended up in charge of games.


Games for women who were past the age of blushing brides. Games that were fun. Inventive. And perhaps a bit bawdy, because Connie was a nurse, and we knew from firsthand experience that nurses were neither shy not easily embarrassed. What could we do?

Taking a cue from the first shower I decided to create a scrambled word game.  What could I use as a theme? George Carlin had just released a follow-up to his famous comedic bit, “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television”. Go ahead, Google it; he changed comedic and legal history with this bit. He was also arrested for saying those infamous words in a show in Milwaukee in 1972. His follow-up to the first seven words bit included words that were much worse and a whole new level of vulgar.  The follow-up bit is more difficult to find today, but then I had Carlin on videodisc.  The words I didn’t understand, I left out; but that left a wide range of highly ribald vocabulary that I could ascertain by context and guesswork. Very enlightening, even for nurses!

For a second game, I had heard about a contest where guests blew up balloons and then burst them.  That seemed a starting point, but how could I dress that up for a bunch of mature nurses at a wedding shower? When I saw the long balloons on a rack at Party City, I had an inspiration.  Guests would not only blow up a balloon, they would blow up three balloons: one long and two round. (Go ahead, I’ll give you a minute to visualize this.) Then they would take a rubber band and tie the three balloons together, two round and one long. Lastly, they would have to sit on the balloons to break them.  (Go ahead, I’ll wait.) First one to break her balloons wins. Got it?

Everybody was laughing hard when the game was explained. Then they started to blow up the balloons. They blew and they blew and they blew.  They laughed and kept puffing.  They turned red- and purple-faced, nearly passing out. After ten minutes, NOBODY had managed to blow up a single balloon; what was happening?

The room filled with sputtering and laughing; most were lying on the floor and trying to catch their breath. After ten minutes more of puffing and gasping, a few had managed to inflate a balloon, and others were slowly collecting their sets of three.  

By the thirty-minute mark, we had a room full of women bobbing around the room, howling and shrieking, bouncing on their suggestive balloons and ricocheting off each other. By the time someone finally got all three balloons to break, wheezing laughter and exhausted demands for explanations filled the room.

I had no explanation.

Then somebody grabbed the bag the balloons came in and said: “Hey! These are helium quality balloons!”

Tough buggers, those helium quality balloons! 

[Highly recommended party game, but only for respiratory-abled individuals.]

For more posts by this author click:  Ruth Ross Saucier Author Page

Hitting a Brick Wall? ` by Lexa Fisher


I usually don't think of a brick wall so pretty as the embossed pattern above from one of my fellow card makers. This example inspired me to challenge myself to see what I could do with cards that start out as empty brick walls. Along the way I also looked at a few examples of brick sayings--hit the bricks, gold bricking, and hitting a brick wall.


Hitting the bricks with my first attempt provided a much needed warm-up opportunity. My favorite card supply shop closed last January and I was a little rusty from the lack of camaraderie and inspiration. Starting simple, I colored bricks using a stencil my husband designed and made on one of his 3D printers.

My second card has raised bricks that were done with the stencil and tinted modeling paste. My husband shares his 3D creations on Thingiverse and this is his most often downloaded design. Sounds like other card creators like Thingiverse.

My card making muscles are warm now, so my next card used the Glaminator to create a shiny red brick wall. Another tool I pulled out was my Cricut to cut out the letters J and Y. 



Here's where I recalled the phrase "to gold brick", meaning to cheat or swindle. My first idea was to use gold glitter for the bricks. A lot of crafters hate working with glitter, and I'll admit that after this trial I've had my fill for the year :) 

Then I switched to gold leaf--still a bit messy, but not as much as glitter, and it's not something to be used during allergy season! It may look like you're pulling out a tiny pinch, but it really fluffs up and  breathing on it will send it all over the room. Here is a card made with gold leaf.

That's enough designing with bricks, so I'm hitting the yellow brick road to make other holiday card creations!

Photo by Akshay Nanavati on Unsplash




Meet Our Members

 Today, we meet author and co-founder of Originality by Design, Joanne Jaytanie. Joanne resides in Washington with her husband Ralph and Fur-daughter, Mazie.  To learn more about Joanne, please visit her member page by clicking HERE

Fixin' to Think About Getting Started ~ Jacquolyn McMurray

Photo by Juan Rumimpunu on Unsplash
At our house we often say we're fixin' to think about getting ready to start something. It's incredibly easy to put off things we’re not quite prepared to tackle—cleaning a closet, organizing photos, or starting that new book.

Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash
I'm full of excuses. No sense cleaning a closet when all the 
local thrift stores are closed due to COVID. Where would I put all those clothes I plan to give away? They might as well stay where they are.

Photo by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash

And don't get me started on all the reasons I can't organize the photos, not to mention umpteen carousels of slides from the 70s.

First of all, the photos are in several places--physical photographs in boxes and albums, digital images stored in at least three different clouds, some stored on my hard drive, and others stored on memory sticks. There are simply too many choices on where to store them.  

And really, who wants someone else's photos? Most of them are only meaningful to hubby and me. My focus at this point is to gather photos I think our kids and grandkids will enjoy. 

Photo by on Unsplash
And then there's the plethora of reasons I can't get chapter one started in my newest book--do I really know my protagonist well enough to start penning her journey? And what about her hubby? Don't I need to know his unique backstory and his goals and motivations? 

I'm reminded of one of my favorite episodes of The Bob Newhart Show. Does anyone else remember that TV series? It aired between 1972 and 1978 and Suzanne Pleshette played Newhart's wife. Bob played a psychologist who had some issues of his own, including needing everything in place before he started a task. 

Photo from wikipedia

One weekend, he and his wife decided to trade chores.  I'm not sure I remember all the particulars, but the gist is that Emily left the apartment to go do things like get the oil changed in the car and pick up some items at the hardware store while Bob stayed home to complete the chores on his list. His first task was to write checks to pay their bills. 

A couple of hours later, Emily completed everything on her list and returned home to find Bob just setting down to start his first task. When she questioned him about why he hadn't completed anything, he explained that he had to get ready to pay the bills. For Bob that meant finding his lucky socks and hat, trying out different locations in the apartment to spread out the stack of bills and the checkbook, and deciding on the best ink pen for the job.

Sound familiar? Bob fell into the trap of needing everything perfectly organized before he started a simple task. A typical procrastination ploy.

Are you a procrastinator? If so, what kinds of things keep you from starting a project?

While you think that through, I'm fixin' to think about starting to draft that book.

Bring Your Brave ~ by J.D. Greyson

For as long as I can remember, I have been a dreamer. Frozen puddles became my ice-skating rink, a rickety swing set — my Olympic equipment, trails cut through woods — my escape to Narnia. As a child, the beautiful part about being able to dream was that it was free. 

Unlike my reality, my dreams didn’t segregate me due to my socio-economic status. They didn’t tell me I didn’t have enough experience. And when I was in the moment, other people’s criticism was non-existent.

But something happened as I grew.

Where once stood a fearless girl who tamed lions and performed death-defying stunts in her imaginary circus, now cowered a constricted chameleon who did anything to stay out of view for fear of criticism, chastisement, and rejection.

Inside, I was still that girl who longed to take risks, dance in the middle of a crowded street, or quit my job to travel the world with the Peace Corps, but the me that feared the world’s perception kept her quietly caged inside.

As I aged, my life centered around everyone else. Giving to others made my heart happy. And so, I learned to find contentment and gratitude in the feeling that came with helping others. I would run myself into the ground organizing hat/glove drives for children in need, volunteering my talents to my boys’ school, and depleting our bank account to help others feel loved. 

Busyness was my way of silencing the lion-tamer within. Busyness was my way of validating my worth. Busyness was my way of avoiding ME.

Yet, when I allowed the world to be still, if only for a moment, the emptiness that existed within was overwhelming. Stillness allowed uncomfortableness to reveal that inquisitive girl I used to be, peeking out from the door that I had slid box after box of other people’s opinions in front of. Sheepishly, she would smile and for one small for moment happiness, true happiness, would ignite from within. 

But just as soon as that joy would spark, shame came rushing in like a jealous sibling blowing out the birthday cake candles, shutting the door on joy and replacing it with responsibility, societal constraint, and conviction. 

As I aged and my children grew more independent, life threw curveball after curveball. I found myself isolated from the very busyness I had relied on. And it was in this stillness that I realized just how much of myself I had buried. 

Life has this way of revealing paths when we are ready. Had I been given this opportunity ten years ago, I would have missed it as I was too consumed by other’s perception of me.

What I didn’t understand when I was younger is that though my body continues to age, my soul, is ageless. The dreamer within still exists. The desire for passion, romance, love, to become a writer, to save animals, to dance in the moonlight, to lasso the sun and swim with the dolphins, to soar the sky with Falcor from The Neverending Story — all of that still exists within me. 

I still feel the magic when I watch Titanic as Rose lifts her arms at
the bow of the ship with Jack nestled from behind or when the snow begins to fall and the choir and symphony begin to play that haunting melody during Edward Scissorhands. The magic within never dies.

What happens is we bury it, drown it out, or learn to dismiss it for fear of what others might say, for responsibility, or for the sake of being a “grown up.” But the truth is, others miss that magic just as much. Why else do we read or watch movies in the cinemas but to chase that feeling if only for a second? Yet it exists within, longing to be set free.

This past year I was given the opportunity to set myself free. 
It wasn’t a tornadic moment that darkened the sky and came rushing in, rather it was more like the cinematic build of a movie that lays the scene and then unfolds slowly and methodically. One moment led to another moment that led to another moment. Until one day I realized the door to the dreamer inside me had been opened and allowed to see the world for the first time in at least thirty years.

Like leaves falling from the Oak that stands tall in the wood outside my back window, my walls began to fall. I allowed myself to stand naked to the world, baring my imperfections and my scars. In my vulnerability, I allowed my quirkiness to stand with outstretched arms with the wind of perception to my back and the sun of self-acceptance on my face and I stood tall, leaves continuing to fall one by one.
With each word I have learned to merge the dreamer within and replace worry with acceptance, to breathe through the hard moments instead of holding my breath, and I’ve learned to open myself to risk, knowing that though I am scarred, I am strong. The beautiful thing about scar tissue is that it grows back stronger than what existed before, connecting my former self to my authentic self, and bridging the gap that once held me back from all I desired. 

How different would your life look if you allowed the dreamer within to be set free? Can you imagine the ripple effect if we allowed our hearts to touch with another without fear of rejection or in anticipation of the potential pain that may follow? One touch, one smile, one extension of kindness…a dreamer dreams without fear of the consequences. 

A dreamer brings their brave.

Aging doesn’t stop us from dreaming, only we do that. While it’s true that our bodies may prevent us from doing some of the physical things we desire — it’s also more the reason to take the risk while you still have the physicality that you do now. Most dreams are still within reach if you just allow yourself the opportunity to take the risk. 

Take Joan, for example. She is a 73-year-old woman who decided to transform herself three years ago. In her own words, “You can't turn back the clock but you can wind it up again!" 

JD Greyson is a mother of three boys, wife to an amazing husband, and a free spirit who runs on copious amounts of coffee, conversation, and compassion. She can be found chasing sunsets, breathing in nature, and having dance parties in her minivan at stoplights. If you enjoyed this or want to read more of her work you can reach her on TWITTER where she holds a weekly poetry battle or on MEDIUMwhere her soul lyrically expresses itself in the form of words. 

Topaz and Citrine ~ by Grace Augustine

November is filled with beautiful bronze, butterscotch, red, gold, and yellow in the floral arrangements for Thanksgiving as well as in trees that are beginning to drop their leaves. So it is with birthstones, too.

This month we focus on the beauty of topaz and citrine.

From blue to pink and fiery orange to honey yellow, the topaz has long been a favorite gemstone. Scholars have traced the name "topaz" to the ancient Sanskrit language in India... the word meaning fire.

Topaz is known to the ancient Greeks for bringing strength. During the 1300-1600, Renaissance period of history, it is thought to have broken magic spells and dispelled anger. In 19th century Russia, pink topaz was mined in the Ural mountains and ownership of the gem was exclusive to the royal family.

For more than 2 centuries, topaz has been mined in Minas Gerais,
Brazil. Some of the richest colored topaz has been produced from these mines. Northwest Pakistan is known for its production of pink topaz. This gem can also be found in the historic mines of Russia as well as in Namibia, Nigeria, Madagascar, Mexico, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and the United States.

Using high heat or ultrasound to clean this gem is a no-no. While it comes in at an 8 on the MOHS scale of hardness, it still has a propensity to crack. Warm soapy water and a dry with a soft cloth is your best bet.

Citrine is a brownish/yellow or yellow/green version of quartz or silicon dioxide. It is often confused with the topaz, which isn't quartz but aluminum silicate. The gem name is believed to be from the French word or lemon. It is the most affordable and desired gemstone today.

Ancient Greeks carved rock crystal ornaments from this gem, and Roman priests were seen pairing citrine with amethyst in holy rings. This gem was wildly popular in Scotland during the Victorian era.

Sources for this beautiful stone are Bolivia, Spain, Madagascar, Mexico, and Uruguay. The Anahi mine in the wetlands of Bolivia is the prime source of natural unheated citrine. This mine was discovered by a Spanish Conquistador in the 1600's. It was given to him upon marriage to the Princess Anahi of the Ayoreos Tribe in Paraguay. The mine was lost for many years until rediscovered in 1960. The mine produces a rare combination of citrine and amethyst in the same crystal.

Weighing in as a 7 on the MOHS scale of hardness, the citrine should also be cleaned with warm soapy water and dried with a soft cloth to prevent scratching. 

If you are interested in reading about the other monthly birthstones,  please click on MY MEMBER PAGE

Reflections of a Dog Handler's Wife ~ by Author Laura Frost

Dogs play an important role in our world, whether through
delivering a sloppy kiss or by proudly wearing a service jacket. I am fortunate to have had an amazing canine in my life that played both roles.

Gus was a police narcotics dog, trained to sniff out a wide range of drugs. His skills were used to search prisons and airports, but most often, Gus sniffed suspicious vehicles traveling down the nation’s highways.

As a chocolate lab of just over a year, Gus had destroyed his owner’s yard by ripping apart the fence and digging a series of holes, as though an elusive bone must be hidden somewhere beneath the once-manicured grass. Gus’s owner realized that Gus was not an average dog built for life as a family pet, but rather one that needed to have his energy harnessed for a higher purpose. Thus, Gus entered the Police Dog Services program at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police dog training facility where he was paired up with my husband, Ryan, in the fall of 2009.

Gus and Ryan were a perfect randomized match for one another, flipping from peas in a pod to fighting for rank as the alpha of the team. Both stubborn with a deep drive to perform, Gus and Ryan excelled in their training while always trying to one-up each other.

After graduation from training, Gus came to live with our family in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. With Gus’s unyielding energy levels, we could not trust his hungry mouth and ever-wagging tail inside our home, so he lived in a large kennel in our yard. Cement pad, chain-link fencing, plywood roofing – the dog who loved to plan a jailbreak needed a special home. He had a lovely double-insulated doghouse in his kennel, plenty of food and water, multiple walks (or a mountain hike) a day, and so many sticks to chew and destroy.

Yet, he wanted more.

The barking. In those first days, non-stop barking – not acceptable in the close quarters of a small mountain town. Ryan bought a bark collar that sprayed citrus oil every time Gus barked. It settled him for about an hour.

Then Gus tested.

Just how loud could Gus bark but not release the annoying spray into his face? He figured it out and we became used to the low rumble of Gus’s perfect tone, just below squirt threshold.

Gus spent his workdays traveling the highways in a police SUV, ready to brace himself when Ryan yelled, “Hang on, buddy!” as he learned to lean into a sharp turn, sirens blaring overhead. Gus’s days off were spent hiking to tops of mountains or playing catch in our yard. No matter what Gus was doing, his energy levels ruled him.

Despite being a police dog, Gus was also part of our family, and so he went on family vacations with us, training with Ryan between hotdog roasts and family walks. On one sunny winter day at our cabin, we had shoveled a spot on the lake for skating. Gus had freedom to run on the frozen water, all the while being psychologically corralled by Ryan. Unfortunately, no one thought about the luscious winter boots that had been left on the bench by the ice. Gus snagged our son’s boot and turned it into a wonderful hour-long game of “watch Ryan chase and swear at me.” That was a very fun day for Gus.

Summer at the cabin was full of other adventures. One day, after
what was surely an exhausting swim in the lake for Gus, Ryan secured him to a tree and gave him a bone to chew. Gus rolled his eyes and turned his attention to the leash itself, chomping away until he was running free, tattered leash trailing behind. Shaking his head, Ryan hauled out a metal chain. Surely that would do the trick. Now chained to the tree with a fresh bone to love, Gus eyed the source of the problem: the tree itself. Just as Gus closed his canines around the scrumptious trunk, Ryan relocated him to the deck, with no tree close enough for Gus to get his mouth on. So, Gus chewed the deck.

When it was time for our family to take the boat out, Gus was left in his kennel to chill. (Haha… “chill”) We had a glorious day on the water and, as we hopped from the boat onto the dock, Gus appeared. He galloped towards us, pink tongue hanging out and lolling in the breeze. “How did you get out?” Ryan asked. We inspected the kennel and realized that Gus had disappeared into his velociraptor persona again – testing the kennel for weak spots. He used his four-thousand dollar tooth (a previous repair due to his propensity to chew non-chewable objects) to pry up the bottom of the chain-link fencing of his kennel, just enough for him to wiggle under and break free. And fixing the escape hole? Ha. It took a number of tools and all of Ryan’s strength to bend that fence back into a semblance of its former state.

Although Gus was destructive at times, he was able to harness his energy and put it to work when the time came. Gus’s primary goal in life was to play with his Kong – something he only got to do that when he worked hard. When Ryan directed Gus to search a vehicle, Gus took all his crazy energy and put it into his nose, searching until he narrowed in on the scent and found a stash of drugs. The RCMP were able to take another traveling criminal off our highways and Gus got to play with his Kong.

By the end of his policing career, Gus had helped take over sixteen million dollars worth of illegal drugs and other contraband off our highways. Gus had also eaten one patrol jacket, a first aid kit, the stuffing from too many “indestructible” dog beds, the headrest of a police SUV (which created a diarrhea bomb that was comical to all but Ryan), the weather stripping from three police trucks, and too many sticks, shrubs, and trees to count.

Gus eventually retired from police life and, for six weeks, became our own. My walking friends teased me that I was growing “pipes” because of the craziness that I had to control at the end of my leash for the five kilometers that we walked each morning. It was that same energy that took four grown humans to hold Gus down at the vet clinic to administer his annual shots. To paraphrase the vet: “Labs have an energy level of 9. Chocolate labs are a 10. Gus is a 15.”

Although Gus was an important part of our family, we quickly realized that he was never meant to be a pet in the classic way and was getting bored sitting around while the rest of us rushed off to jobs or school. With heavy hearts, we said goodbye to Gus and sent him to his new life as a sniffer dog at work camps.

After a couple of years cleaning up the camps, Gus’s senior years began to take hold and he was finally able to live inside a house without completely destroying it. With the assistance of Ned’s Wish, a foundation that supports police dogs in their retirement, Gus found companionship with his new family, including their autistic boy who bonded with Gus. Yet, as much as he would spend his time cuddling up to his new favorite person, Gus’s energy still crept out and the family would have to buy a new indoor kennel every few months after Gus destroyed the last.

Gus passed away on October 28, 2019. For a dog who was impossible to manage at times, who ate everything in sight, taunted my husband with his stubbornness, and outsmarted devices designed to control him, Gus was a champion at keeping our nation safe, and then at being a companion for a child who needed a dog just like him.

From being sling-rescued off a mountain by helicopter, to standing proudly beside a hundred pounds of confiscated marijuana, Gus packed a hundred years of stories into his eleven years of life. Thank you, Gus, for all you have done for our family, other families, and our country.

May the walks be long and the sticks be plentiful in doggy heaven, old buddy.

Laura Frost is a writer of upmarket fiction and is pursuing publication of her novels. A pie aficionado, Laura has crafted 103 distinct pies and cannot imagine a life without flaky crusts and interesting fillings. She has restless feet and her passion for adventure has led her to many different corners of the world, from the chill of the Arctic Ocean to the peace of a Nicaraguan mountaintop. To connect with Laura, please click the links below.


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Author Jennifer Daniels joins us from New York. She writes fantasy and paranormal romance. To learn more about Jennifer, please check out her member page by clicking HERE

What Bleach Taught Me About People ~ by Author Marj Ivancic

Did you know that bleach loses its potency over time? I didn’t. I learned by happenstance when my husband, thinking it was of the color-safe variety, added some to a laundry load of semi-whites. Luckily, the bottle had been in the cupboard for months and was no more dangerous to our stripes and flower patterns than water. 

But the experience was oddly enlightening.
As I reflected on some past relationships, I realized, sometimes, the people in our lives can be a bit like bleach. Harsh, draining, detrimental to the vibrancy of our souls. I used to subscribe to the “cut the toxic out of your life” philosophy. I still do, in some instances. But that old bleach helped me see that not all toxins stay so.

Sometimes, those people are fundamentally decent folks. It’s just their opinions or interests that clash with my own. Or maybe things they say are hurtful or leave me feeling down. Or maybe, for no real fault of their own, they just bring out the worst in me.

Sometimes, that incompatibility is due to where they are in life. Or where I am in life. Timing, as they say, is important to any success. And we humans are the product of not only our past but also our now, so things like new influences or life events can shift that timing out of whack. Or heck, even waking up one morning and realizing you haven’t met any of those childhood goals and you need to get focused and do it. Sometimes, one person is struggling with something they haven’t shared or don’t even realize yet themselves and it’s manifesting itself in their actions and words.

Perhaps in those cases, the relationship just needs a little shelf time to allow the two ingredients—them AND me—to change, to grow and maybe mellow. Or for the circumstances in which we exist to change.

Of course, not all relationships are meant to be. Some don’t deserve a stay of execution in the first place. For those that do, some don’t survive their time up in the cupboard. They dry up, leaving the bottle empty. Others may come down as noxious as ever and still need to be flushed. But sometimes, they emerge different and better. Healthier.

Happy 2nd Birthday Originality by Design


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Joanne & Grace

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  Foiled and hand-colored card   I continue to bring in cards to the food bank where I volunteer weekly. Since we are past Mother’s Day, I’v...