The Big Brown Dog

Josie, the big brown dog. That’s what we called her. Well, on the occasion we got my mom to admit she wasn’t people, that is.

She was my mom’s dog, but she was our family dog.



She was put to sleep on July 25, at the ripe old age of 13. That’s old for a dog, especially for a Lab, but it still doesn’t seem like enough time. It never does when you have to say goodbye.

Unfortunately for me, I was out of town and did not get to say goodbye to Josie-girl. However, the last time I saw her, the Tuesday before, I was sitting in the garage and she was sleeping. She got up and came over and laid down at my feet. She curled up and rested her face on my foot.

When she was a puppy, she was obsessed with feet and was always licking and nipping at everyone’s feet. As she aged, she stopped doing that, but we’d still get a lick once in a while if we wore flip flops around her. That night, I thought to myself, “that Josie, she still likes people’s feet” as I sat and chatted with my family. But now I wonder if she didn’t know. If that wasn’t just her way of saying goodbye. Maybe, somehow, she could sense that it was the last time we’d see each other.

She was a sweet and easygoing dog, kind of goofy, but so full of love. I’m not much of a dog person, but Josie made it very easy to love her, to imagine having a dog of my own. She might have been the world’s worst guard dog, she never bark until a car was already parked in the driveway, which isn’t much warning, or not at all, or at nothing. Didn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to her system.

She loved children and never tired of playing with them. She would sit patiently and let Arionna feed her dinner, one single piece at a time. She’d catch the ball for Simon over and over and over again, tirelessly.

Simon and Josie


She was the only dog I’ve ever known who preferred a butt rub to a belly rub or an ear scratch. But, in fact, she loved being petted so much she couldn’t even hold still for it. Sometimes I’d scratch behind her ears and she’d wiggle around until she was practically dancing in a circle around me. She’d give a little nudge if she didn’t think she got enough loving, definitely she wasn’t shy.

Josie in Repose


She was a wonderful dog and a member of our family. She could be a pain in the ass, but then she’d stop and look at you with that sweet face and you’d forget why you got mad at her in the first place. We watched her train us all how to be her people. She knew who the easy marks were for food, she knew who’d take her outside the fastest, she knew the sucker for some petting, she knew us as well as we knew her. And even though I haven’t lived with her for almost four years, she never forgot. Whenever I’d come by she’d be right there, at the door, wagging her tail as though she missed me like crazy.

Which is exactly how we are all going to miss her. Like crazy. And forever.

Josie in black and white (RIP edit)

Another Love Lost

My mother called a little while ago to tell me that a friend of theirs, Tom Baumann, passed away. He was 60 years old. We don’t have much information now, so I am still not sure what happened. 60 is far too young, he’s the same age as my dad. His boys, Nick and Michael, are in their early 20s. Tom is my brother Nick’s godfather. When he and his wife, Leslie, found out they were having a boy, they asked my parents if it was okay if they used Nicholas, because they loved the name, but didn’t want to infringe. It was very cool of them, very sweet. When my siblings and I were little we saw the Baumann’s all the time. One of my early childhood memories is being in our house in St. Paul and Tom and Leslie were visiting. This was years before they had children, but they were always so sweet and attentive to us kids. I understand more now, how generous it was of them to give us their time and attention when I am sure they just wanted to hang out with their friends (my parents).

However, for whatever reason, Tom was being especially sweet to me and I announced to the room at large that I was going to marry him when I grew up. I was maybe 4? 5? Never mind the fact that his wife was sitting right next to him, I didn’t care. I had made up my mind that I would marry strong, tall, handsome Tom.

He was my first crush.

The Baumann family attended all of our family’s events (graduations, weddings, etc.) as we did for them. As the years passed, we didn’t see them as often, but when we did, they were exactly the same. Kind, generous, fun to be around. And Leslie still always teased me that I wanted to steal her man. Tom was a wonderful man, strong and tall and handsome, as I remember him. Also generous and loving, and friendly, very quick to laughter. I obviously had good taste.

My condolences to their entire family, I cannot imagine the pain and heartbreak you are all suffering right now. I will always remember Tom and think fondly of him; the first man I ever wanted to marry. Tom, you will always be missed.


Term Limits

Is the name of the first book by Vince Flynn. It is the only standalone title, the rest are part of the Mitch Rapp series. I’ve read every single book this man has written, I OWN every single book, and I’ve gone to hear him speak, I’ve met him at public events, and I have an autographed copy of one of his books.

It is pretty safe to say that Vince Flynn, a Twin Cities native, is one of my favorite authors. He is one of the few that I will wait on end to get the new book and then read it immediately once it comes out. He is also perhaps the only thing I have in common with my older brother, as he reads him too.

Vince died this morning, at the age of 47. That’s way, way too young for anyone to die. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer a couple years ago, which delayed the release of one of his books. It was how I found out.

Now, less than three years later, he is gone.

This is very sad for me. I am saddened to think of how many more stories he had to tell. Someone asked him in an interview recently if he had any plans to end the Mitch Rapp series. Vince said that he would keep writing those as long as people wanted to read them, he had that many ideas. Now we will never know. We’ll never get a sense of how Vince thought it should end. It will just….end.

I know the newest one was due out this year, in October. I just looked it up, it is, ironically, titled The Survivor.

RIP Vince Flynn and know that I will certainly feel your loss.

From the talk I went to.

And him, actually autographing MY copy.


Much Too Young

Yesterday, my friend Justin lost his mother to cancer.

Today, my heart breaks for him and for his family. It’s so hard to say goodbye to the people we love. Justin told me a week ago that since she’s been sick for so long, they’ve had time to prepare, to talk about arrangements, to say their goodbyes. That’s very fortunate, of course, but it doesn’t really help. When the end comes, there is no amount of preparedness that can stop your heart from hurting.

Justin is the most loving and giving of all of my friends. He loves with his whole heart and isn’t shy about it. He gets that from his mother. Jackie was amazing, the life of every party she was at. Good at conversation, happy and fun to be around, a good listener, with a big heart. Like her son. They are a lot of like, Jackie and Justin, and they were very close. I know that this is hard on him especially.

Also for Justin’s dad, Kevin, who lost his love and the mother of his children. And for Tara, Justin’s sister, who lost her mother, while pregnant, no less. For everyone in their family, for Tiegen, who is so young he likely won’t remember his grandmother, and for everyone who knew Jackie, I’m so sorry. I feel your pain and know your loss. I knew her, too. I loved her and will miss her laughter and her sense of humor.

Justin, I’m so sorry for your loss. You know, I know you know, that I am here for you. Whatever, whenever, however.

Please, if you can, take a moment and say a prayer for this family today as they learn to navigate this world without their center. Jackie, you were much too young to leave this world and we are poorer today for the loss of you.

An Apple a Day

I didn’t see it, I didn’t hear, I didn’t know.

I was caught up in the drama of my life and missed the passing of Steve Jobs. On Wednesday, I didn’t hear a word. I arrived at work on Thursday morning and before I even sat in my chair, our art teacher gave me a sheet of paper. She said, “this is for you, something to ponder today.” I love quotes. I was so excited. This is what it said:

Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But, of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works. The design of the Mac wasn’t what it looked like, althought that was part of it. Primarily, it was how it worked. To design something really well, you have to get it. You have to really grasp what it’s all about. It takes a passionate commitment to really thoroughly understand something, chew it up not just quickly swallow it. Most people don’t take the time to do that. 

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experience than other people. 

Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enought dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader ones understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have. – Steve Jobs, Wired, February, 1996

I really enjoyed reading it and hung it up on my wall.

Then, moments later, upon checking my email, my boss sent out her quote of the day, “My job is not to be easy on people, my job is to make them better.” -Steve Jobs.

And I thought, “Hmm, two Steve Jobs quotes in minutes? That’s weird.” And still, I knew nothing.

Then, I read the very next email, which is my Word of the Day email. It gave the word, definition, and usage, and then, as always, there was a fun quote at the bottom.

We’re here to put a dent in the universe.” -Steve Jobs

Okay, something weird is going on. Then I noticed that after his name, the last one said (1955-2011) and I thought, “that’s strange, they only do that when people are dead.”

No kidding. I’m an idiot.

I then, finally, went to the internet and clicked open Yahoo!. Lo and behold, Steve Jobs was 4 of the top 5 stories. How did I miss this?!?!?!

It was actually a comedy of errors.

And, strangely, I found myself saddened. He was the same age as my mother. That’s far, far, too young to die. He was a brilliant innovator and the world is a bit poorer for all the things he didn’t get to do. Not like we really NEED more technology, but it was incredible to see the things we think and dream turned outside in, every few years, with a new idea from Apple.

I remembered a few years back, Steve Jobs gave the commencement address at Stanford University. There was a lot of buzz at the time about the inspiration in his speech. I think it even may have circled the globe in a few email chains. There was a passage I always particularly liked. I looked it up this morning:

Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life. 


Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

And I remember thinking, upon reading those words, that he is a very wise man, and, that college students are idiots. We’re so young when we finish college, we don’t often stop to reflect on the wisdom of the ages. We’re full of “I did it” and we don’t ask questions of those who’ve had it done for years.

It isn’t until we get there ourselves, until we begin to see the innocence of our own youth that words like that begin to make sense. We can see the road behind us and the road laid out before us and we start to wonder. Am on I the right path? Is this road going to take me where I want to go? Should I be on a road at all? Maybe I should fly…or take a path…or trek through the woods.

That’s what he did. He took a path unlike the one most of us will ever know. He revolutionized the world. He gave us the first Mac, the portable music player, and all the things that start with the tiny i. It may not seem like it to some, but Steve Jobs changed the world, in measurable ways.

But, it was not in just his products that he inspired a genereation, it was in the way that he lived and the way that he dreamed. Dreamers have a tough row to hoe in this world. Dreamers are encouraged to live practically, to choose reality, to make the smart choice. Dreamers whisper while the whole world screams. I am a dreamer. I’ve always been. There are times when I drift and times when I feel that no one can tell, but, still I dream. He may have been just a businessman, be he was also one of the world’s great dreamers and I will miss him.

My dreaming soul will leave you with one final quote, my favorite of all the things he’s ever been quoted as saying.

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, about the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” ~Steve Jobs

Heartaches and Memories

This weekend brought more sadness to my family, though this time it was less shocking. My aunt, Carole, who is not biologically related to me, lost her mother on Friday. Though I was not related to her, it was saddening nonetheless. Growing up, she was an additional grandmother to me and my siblings. We leaved nearby and within walking distance from our preschool and our playground. Grandma Shedd was what we all called her. To this day, we still refer to her that way, even though she is not, in actuality, my grandmother.

I can remember countless times we would go and play at their house and she always had baked goods for us (isn’t that the way of true grandmother’s everywhere?) She never seemed to mind when all of us loud little children were stamping around underfoot. She and Grandpa Shedd (who passed away more than ten years ago, now) were the only people I knew who didn’t have VHS in the 80s. They had Beta. It made them cool, unique. They were always a part of family holidays, birthdays, special events. Like true grandparents.

Now, they are both gone. I am sad for my aunt Carole. I think it is beyond hard to lose both of one’s parents. My mother lost both of hers years ago and I know that it is still hard for her. I doubt that you ever get over needing your parents.

And so it is that I am attending a funeral service tonight, for the second consecutive Monday. In response to my previous post about the loss of my friend Peter, my mother offered up a quote:

“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.” –from a headstone in Ireland

I think that says it all. Here’s to hoping the memories will flow tonight, helping to soothe some of the heartache.

God bless, Grandma Shedd.