Pugs and Pics

Writing, Art & Photography



In a few hours I head off to one of the most beautiful places in the world, Hana, Maui, Hawaii, for my sixth missions trip with Jonathan Shuttlesworth. A few hours ago, my 18-year-old nephew Christian headed off for Army National Guard bootcamp. The world keeps turning as they say. Last night, I received a text from Christian’s mom saying they would be celebrating at the 99 Restaurant with a send off meal for Christian. Mom and I were on a way into a movie, so when it ended we stopped by the 99 on the slim chance they might still be there. They were—standing outside in a huddle around Christian and his father, my brother Paul, who had stopped by while on the job as a Lebanon Police Officer to give Christian last minute pointers on bootcamp. Paul, in his mid-thirties, had only enlisted last year.


The scene nearly broke my heart. You see, it shows how much we love that boy! Born to teen parents, he’s our success story. Work and tears and anguish and love poured into him from all of us. When he flew off today he took all of us with him. I didn’t have the chance to go and see him off, another thing that nearly broke my heart. When he registered for kindergarten, a crowd of us showed up complete with video camera. But, when I picked up my cell just now his Momma had sent me a photo of a teary-eyed Christian hugging her. She included me in the circle. He just called my Dad to say he had made it to the waiting point, found the clock tower his Dad had told him about, and my Dad reiterated how well loved he was. “You’re the most loved boy I know,” he said, wishing that he had known that he was that loved growing up. We come from a family of love, but Dad is right—Christian may just be the most well loved of us all. The Jarvis and Gifford clans are big, our hearts bigger and he has grown into a man who carries us all.

They say “Aloha” is used in both greeting and parties. I can’t wait to see my Hawaiian ohana, the family I leave behind each time I return to the mainland, all the friends we have made. It is a wonderful greeting, but right now before I leave I say “Aloha” to our boy-turned-man. It will be a long four months, kiddo, but don’t think for a minute you left us behind. Aloha is better than goodbye because we’ll say it when we see you again real soon!


Winner Common Thread Give-a-way


And, the winner of Karen Heenan’s lovely lion is Barbara! It seems this little guy was very popular so Karen has offered a 10% discount for those wishing to purchase it through her Etsy shop. The code to receive the discount is THANKYOU.

And, thanks to Karen for being our guest artist. Tune in next month for another give-a-way. Be sure to check out everyone’s blog:

Picking My Battles

Little House Home Arts

Full Moon Fiber Arts

Bedlam Farm

Pugs & Pics

July Common Thread Give-a-way


We’re late, we’re late for a very important date! It’s that time again, time for the monthly Common Thread Give-a-way, but we’re a wee bit late because one of our participating artists, Jon Katz of Bedlam Farm, recently had heart surgery. But in spite of having to postpone, we have a wonderful guest artist, Karen Heenan of Sewing by the Seat of Her Pants, who is giving away this adorable felted lion. Karen makes wonderful creations from stuffed animals and kids clothes to bags and scarves out of recycled materials. She says that the felted lion shown above is one one of her more recent creations that has done well at craft fairs. Karen’s other work may be seen at her blog, Sewing by the Seat of Her Pants and at her Etsy shop. To qualify for a chance to win Karen’s felted lion just leave a comment on her blog between now and Wednesday and a winner will be announced on Thursday.

And, please don’t forget to check out the sites of the other participating artists:

Maria Wulf

Jon Katz

Rachel Barlow

Jane McMillen

and me!

Lost and Found



Last week I had one of those days filled with metaphor and meaning, stolen joys and confirmed fears. It is not a day you can sum up in a quick blog post. It is a day that needs to be digested, pondered, explored. It started with a lost dog, TarBaby, my friend Joan’s grand diva of a Pug. Tar Baby began her life at Pugdom, Joan’s home, by getting lost wandering in the woods for 11 days and returning to our amazement as a scrawny, scratched up pup. That was many years ago and TarBaby has transformed from that wee little scamp to an old lady with secrets to share. Weeks ago she suffered a severe injury in a dogfight and Joan has been nursing her back to health. She decided TarBaby needed some time in the sun and while we snacked on Jane’s brown rice breakfast pudding and watched our brood of pugs explore, TarBaby snuck off perhaps desiring one last adventure in her old age. We searched and we searched and could not find her. Hours passed and still no TarBaby. I finally had to leave with the hope that TarBaby’s homing nature would resurface and she would return to the driveway as she had in her youth. No sooner had I hit the road than I received the call that she indeed had found her way home!

Another mile down the road and there was another old dog wandering in the street. Cars stopped on both sides as we tried to corral a wobbling German pointer. She looked dazed and limp and when we finally got ahold of her she climbed happily in one of the cars while I set off to guide them to the local vets. Problem? I had no idea where the local vet lived. I tried to call Joan and finally got through. Googled the vet’s number and entered her address in my GPS, called the veterinarian on the dog’s tags. It was Saturday, no one was in. Joan met me at the vets, who also was not home and we loaded the sweet old lady of a dog in her car with the promise to tell the lady who had been escorting her that we would later text the dog’s fate. We rode up to the ski area where the annual beer festival was taking place to see if anyone had reported a missing dog. Just then, a call from my Mom. She wasn’t feeling well. She was at the pharmacist’s office and thought she might be having a reaction to her new blood pressure medicine. She was ready to drive home, but I couldn’t let her. I called my nephew’s mom, Chesne and asked her to pick her up, then called my Mom back to learn that she was having trouble breathing. I told her to have Chesne bring her to the ER, mere minutes away, and called my brother to have him meet her. Then the phone rang. It was the emergency vet on the other line. Had I found the owner yet? Another ring. The local vet. She was at a memorial service. Could I leave my friend’s number with her answering service in case the owner called? My friend Jane came to the car to share that no one has reported a missing dog. I call my father to tell him about my Mother, call my brother to make sure he is en  route to the hospital. Hit the road and call my Mom again to see if she is okay. She is at the ER, her breathing still a challenge.

My Mom is my rock and my best friend and suddenly I was in charge of making sure she was okay. Those who know me know that I pretty much juggle my family’s responsibilities on a daily basis. Twelve years older than my youngest sibling, I’ve pretty much helped raise them and taken care of their kids, arranging family plans, making sure everyone knows what is going on. I’ve crossed the t’s and dotted the i’s for the family, assuming the role of oldest child. Single and childless, to me my mom remains the earth around which my moon evolves. She alone seems to know that while my shoulders are broad they are capable of bending under the weight, that sometimes it is all too much. I dread the day when she is no longer here. No one wants to lose a parent, but my Mom is more than that. I looked at the medicine cabinet in our bathroom today. Three separate compartments, combined into one large mirror. My parents’ recent choice when renovating the bathroom. There is a place for Dad, and Mom, and me. My compartment sandwiched in between the two of theirs. It has been that way since the beginning, me born one year into their marriage. The three of us. They tried to choose a set up that would give us each a space. It is not the setup I would have chosen. The three cabinets break up the mirror and I cannot see myself. And, yet there I am, my space between theirs. I love my parents. I am thankful that they share their home with me. It’s just hard sometimes seeing myself as separate. If Mom were to go, would I just disappear?

I don’t think it’s unusual for a child of any age to question her identity in light of a parent’s mortality and fortunately my Mom is fine. She indeed had a reaction to her meds and is now home trying out a new one. She will be okay. It is the future I do not like to ponder.

At midnight on Saturday, a car pulled up Joan’s driveway and took the German Pointer’s leash in hand. The dog’s name is Belle, 12 years old. She wandered off lost when they opened her crate. She was not far from home when we found her.  There is probably a metaphor here: flying the coop, feeling lost, dependence, independence, mortality, the mother-and-child bond. Just because things are obvious doesn’t mean they are easy to see. Sometimes we lose ourselves in love.