The pursuit of happiness… A photo blog…

I believe that sometimes you have to place yourself in a happy environment to find yourself in a happy place.

Now that it’s fall, it is easy for me to find happy places because it is my favorite season.

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The flowers are still pretty and it’s not too cold.

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The colors of the leaves are just beautiful.

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Sitting outside is just perfect!

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You’re not alone because the birds are still out.

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A nice walk is fun.

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Sunsets are gorgeous.

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Everything is decorated for fall.

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You can find so may new things to do!

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It’s a good time to relax and reflect.

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The scenery never gets old…

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And the sunrises aren’t too shabby either.

Fall is the perfect season to be in pursuit of happiness.

-L
** be sure to enter your email at findinglaura.com to keep up with new posts, or find me on Facebook and Twitter!

Clean Slate

I woke up this morning and didn’t even know where I was.  I looked around at the white walls and thought, did it finally happen?  Am I institutionalized?  I wouldn’t have been surprised but I was far from it.  I was sleeping in the guest room at my brother’s house.  I will be bringing them some wall art to prevent future confusion but it was an interesting exercise for my brain.  My recent emotional state has allowed for new and deeper thoughts and this morning, that white wall seemed to be a clean slate.  I thought about it over and over again.

The reason I am sleeping at my brother’s is because I do not want to be alone and I have finally allowed myself to admit it.  My brother and his fiance have been completely understanding and supportive and have taken me in like I belong there.  I don’t belong there though, in my mind I keep wondering how much of an inconvenience it is to them or, even worse, an annoyance.

People who are important know how to make you belong. Last night, I cooked dinner, we looked at pictures, we went out for ice cream and I never felt like a burden. It was exactly what I needed and I felt like that is exactly where I belonged at the time. Interesting how that happens when you give up on the thoughts and beliefs you have always held. The alternative was sitting alone in my empty house dreading each minute to come and the thoughts that haunt my brain when I am in that place. That is exactly where I would have been at a different time.

Today, I find myself thinking of that clean slate, thinking about how that small adjustment in my willingness to admit a need helped me. Now, I’m thinking of what else I can do.

I know, I can find productive things to fill my time that I now find empty. It’s fall in Pennsylvania! It’s my favorite season and it’s beautiful out. Time to find new happy places!

Here are some things to do, and places I found to visit:

     Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway http://www.lgsry.com

     Pennsylvania Grand Canyon www.pacanyon.com

     Valley Forge National Park (my fav) http://www.valleyforge.org

     Horseback riding http://www.haycockstables.com/

I may have some new picture blogs this weekend! =)

-L
** be sure to enter your email at findinglaura.com to keep up with new posts, or find me on Facebook and Twitter!

Lessons from Jax…

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He was here for only a short time but I learned so many lessons from him that I’ll keep forever. Maybe you can take a lesson from Jax too.

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Thursday night, Jax got really sick, and I knew it was time. His last days were fun for him, I stayed with him most of the time and played with him and fed him a lot! He was in my arms and the last words he heard were “Mommy’s here.” He is not in pain or suffering anymore which makes it all okay but it doesn’t get easier.

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When I got home right around midnight that night, I knew I wouldn’t sleep so I started collecting his things. I knew I wouldn’t want to come home and find a toy or a treat laying around. Of course, I missed a few so that’s exactly what is happening. I didn’t realize how many weird and random hiding places I had for things. I did what I could to get my house back in order and then I headed to my office very early. I know there is a lot to catch up on after spending so much time with Jax.

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I learned that people are understanding.

Then I ended up in a coffee shop and a field of flowers, literately. I stayed distracted until late afternoon when I had to accept it was time to go back home.

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I learned that a happy environment is the best place to be when you’re sad. I tend to hide out when I’m hurting but I think it actually prolongs the pain to stay isolated for too long.

I learned to be really friendly to people, especially children, when I’m sad. Their response to your friendliness in most cases will actually really cheer you up!

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I learned that I am completely inspired by pet owners. They are incredibly passionate, loving and protective of their pets and of other pet owners, and they are pets too! It amazes me how they will reach out, even if they’re strangers, some people you haven’t talked to in years and even people who you don’t get along with. Pet owners understand each other, and they step up to the plate when they know there is a problem.

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I learned about the Rainbow Bridge.

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I knew that going home was going to be hard. The first thing I saw was his empty cage. The house is quiet and empty and, for some reason, it seems bigger without him in it.

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As I walked up the steps, I still look down like he was going to be walking next to me. And I thought if only there was a way to erase everything from the last six weeks, I would do it. I thought the best thing to do would be to forget that any of this nightmare ever happened. That’s when I really stopped to think.

I learned exactly why I run from everything and everyone. When you would rather not take the risk of being hurt than just being without feeling, you really do miss out on a lot.
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It would be a mistake to forget my time with Jax. Some people would say, “he was just a dog,” but to me he was a lot more. You see, before Jax, I would have said that in my entire adult life, I never thought I was good at anything but my job. I learned a lot about Jax and his condition, but I also really learned a lot about me.

I’ve learned a lot about things I do and how I treat myself and people.

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I’d have never gotten attached to anything or anyone. I’ve always done that on purpose, I’m told it’s a defense mechanism. Except, in the last two years since I moved back home, I started to feel like that was a mistake, and being good at your job is not enough to make you happy. I knew that something had to change but I’ve struggled with feeling heartless and detached sometimes. My experiences in trying to open up we’re complete failures and I ended up hurt more than I started with so, again, I withdrew. Jax taught me though that it is worth the risk to have the attachment.

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I learned that I have a big heart and I am not selfish.

I learned that I can handle anything.

Jax got scared and cried a lot at night because he was sick and I would rock him to sleep. A lot of nights we were up every two hours. I was exhausted and I loved him anyway. It changed my life and how I spent my time and I loved him anyway. I would’ve done anything for him and I gave him all I had to give.

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I learned that I am capable of that, and even through a very tough and hurtful situation.

I learned that I believe, even more than I did, that God will never allow you to have more than you can handle. I operate in extremes, I always have, and sometimes I need extreme situations to learn from.

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The thing is, I’m actually kind of excited about exploring all of the new lessons I just learned. It’s interesting because I had a conversation this morning about how I have guarded myself so well and kept everyone out. It makes so much sense now. I just went through exactly what I’ve been hiding from all this time, in friendships, relationships and in life, not just in pet ownership. These are life lessons.

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I learned not to be afraid to ask for support and not to be guarded with friendships. I have always been so worried about being independent and saying “I can handle it,” I would never ask for help. When it hurt so bad and I couldn’t do it alone anymore, my entire world stepped up to support me. People were amazing. I even cried in front of people, often. I am so glad I let great friends in to help me when I needed it. People are not perfect, some friends will disappoint you, but you’ll never have an opportunity to know great friendships if you let a fear of bad ones keep you away.

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I learned that we’re not meant to go through life alone.

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In another conversation, we talked about how I’ve let myself get consumed with only men who would never treat me right and would hurt me because it would be shallow and easier to detach from. Now though, I know that men who don’t care about me enough don’t deserve to have me caring about them.

I learned that I have so much to offer people, pets, family, friends, co-workers, etc, that I deserve to surround myself with people and things that care, support and treat me like I treat them.

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I learned that I am a good friend and a lot of people thought I deserved good friendship in return.

What I have just learned, is that my job is not the only thing I am good at.

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I learned that I can be an amazing wife, and a wonderful mother and with a family I will find the perfect new puppy to raise in my house. There is a man out there who will be amazing enough to get through to me, and to put up with me, and I will give him everything I have just like I did for Jax. I don’t know him yet, and I know God’s timing is always right but the next time I get a puppy, it will be because we will raise him or her with our children. Although I know it makes some of you sad, I will not get another puppy before that. I know what you’re thinking… I know that the chances of this happening again would be unheard of, that is not the reason.

I learned that something like this, that is so close to your heart, is incredibly difficult to handle alone. Not only because he was sick, but even the bottom line care he deserved, the love and training he needed and the heartache when something was wrong.

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I have learned that being independent does not have to mean being isolated or alone.

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I have learned that it is okay to be sad, that I can give myself compassion and that crying is not bad.

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I learned that, at the end of the day, it would have been easy for me to shut down and never realize any of this, and at another time in my life, I probably would have. Today though, I am happy and proud to have gone through every moment and challenge with Jax. I remember being in the pet store and saying, “this puppy is sick, I can’t afford to take him home and risk him not getting better. I can’t handle that.” I literally said that, and more than once. There was never a chance that I was going to leave there without him though.

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He was meant to be with me, to teach both of us about the beauty of life that we both would have missed without each other…

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-L
**be sure to enter your email at findinglaura.com to keep up with new posts, or find me on Facebook and Twitter!

CUTE AS A BUTTON, SICK AS A DOG…

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On Friday, August 29, I excitedly called my brother because I saw an 11 month Female German Shepherd ready to be rescued. I didn’t think much about it, because I didn’t have to, she would be perfect. He said, “Let’s go!” So, I packed my office up and went to get her. When we got there, it was clear I couldn’t have her. She could not be around kids, didn’t even like people and was aggressive. Of course, I was disappointed.

I asked Billy if we should go play with puppies and the puppy store to make me feel better. It sounded like a good idea because there’s not really ever purebred German Shepherds in the pet stores and I knew that is what I wanted. So, we did.

We walked in the door, and in the first window there he was. I don’t even remember it but when Billy thinks back he tells me that I just said, “that’s my dog! Can someone please get me my puppy!” I instantly fell in love with him. We took him out and played with him and we both basically knew there was no going back. There was just one little thing, he was very thin. At the time, I was told that he had stopped eating and his muzzle swelled so they had to take him to the vet to have an abscess tooth pulled. He had been put on a very strong antibiotic and he was only halfway through and that was causing him to get sick.

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Of course, me being me, I knew that I can fix that. I will get a special food, I will wean him off the medicine and I will love him so much he won’t even know that he was ever sick! Well, that was the plan anyway….

He stopped taking the medicine, but continued to get sick. I took him to vet after vet and no one could tell me what was wrong with him, only that he was too thin. Most mornings, he would wake up getting sick starting at 3 AM so we sat on the floor and cried together because we were both so tired. He would get sick often through the day, I would do anything I could think of to get him to keep his food down. I tried changing his food, I tried giving him special organic food, I tried blending his food and most recently I started cooking for him. If you can imagine this, I cook chicken and then put it through the garlic press and cut it up really small to make it soupy for him to drink.

Every feeding takes about an hour and a half to be fed 8 to 12 times a day. That was okay though, because I could handle it and we would find what was wrong and he would be okay. We signed up for puppy classes and went every weekend. He listens so well and is very well-trained. He was already sitting and laying down after only a week or two. I have to give Billy some credit for that too. He is so attached to me, we didn’t even have to teach him the “come” command in class. When the teacher held him and I walked across the room, he ran to me immediately as she let go before I even said to come. We did a lot of training at home too!

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He was only 12 pounds, playing and going after my brothers 115 pound German Shepherd, Chopper! Watching them play was so much fun.

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He made so many friends in the neighborhood. It was like Cheers, but only…. everyone knew HIS name, not mine!

He hates his cage!

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He loves going for walks, especially at Valley Forge..

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He loves car rides…

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He even loves the beach!

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Anyone with access to my social media pages saw happy pictures and outings with my puppy. I took him everywhere. He even spent plenty of time in my office with me. See, he requires special care so I have to pay special attention to him and spend more time with him than normal. In addition, because he is sick, he is so cuddly. When you think of the new puppy, you think of them running around like crazy and chewing on things and being terrors. My Jax doesn’t get to be a normal puppy. He doesn’t feel good most of the time, so I spend a lot of time just holding him. He takes his naps in my arms, he sleeps at night on my chest so I can make sure his heart is still beating and he sure has become my family.

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Two weeks ago, a vet told me that I should think about getting another puppy. I was appalled. After thinking about it though, I appreciated his honesty. He pointed out that sometimes there are sick puppies and they just should not be sold. After going through this process I started hearing a lot of stories about sick puppies coming from pet stores. Now, I am not ready to get into that but I can tell you this, my Jax is a sick puppy.

He has seen five different vets. He has gone through emergency services, he has had bloodwork, X-rays and ultrasounds. None of which were conclusive. Yesterday, however, we found someone who could find the answer and it was not good. I had myself convinced that he had a condition called megaesophagus. Even though the symptoms didn’t match exactly, they were very close and I researched all night and decided that is what he had. I started taking the advice of the Internet on how to feed them and work through it in a different way. This new vet told me immediately that he did not have this condition. Actually, he did a barium dye test which showed a congenital defect which explains part of the problem, but there’s more.

To make a long story short, Jax is starving to death while we look for answers and he is not even healthy enough to have a surgery. I am stopped on the street by people telling me he is too skinny. He is going to be five months old and he is a large breed dog and he is barely 14 pounds. I have really run out of options and it is clear that he is suffering.

As I write this, my little Jax is laying on my chest, snoring just a little bit, completely oblivious to all the problems of the world. I don’t think I will ever be able to wrap my head around why this happened but I know that he has had love and happiness through his struggle. I gave him a good home and did all I could for him. I also know he would not have had that if he would have been left in the pet store that day….

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** be sure to enter your email at findinglaura.com to keep up with new posts, or find me on Facebook and Twitter!

CAR ACCIDENTS FOR DUMMIES

… Does the book exist?

Car accidents are no joke. It’s hard to know what will happen, or plan for something you don’t know will happen. My luck, I was on my way to get my hair done at the salon for my brothers wedding. I took a specific route so I would pass the Dunkin’ Donuts and be able to get a cup of coffee. Coffee addictions are no joke either.

There were two cars turning in front of me and the 7-Eleven and I heard a loud noise behind me. I quickly realized that I was about to be part of a car accident. Two guys driving up the street weren’t paying attention and hit a car, who hit a car, who hit me.

There were people with injuries, so I helped as much as I could, and then waited to see what happens next without really paying attention to the discomfort in my back. Honestly, I was really concerned about missing my hair appointment, horrendous, I know!

After all of the paperwork was done, and ambulances left, I went on my way to get my hair and nails done. As the day went on it got harder and harder to walk. I started to have pain all through my back and my leg. I thought, “surely, this can’t be happening right now.” Injuries do not wait for it to be convenient, that is for sure. I ended up with with and having to get pain medicine to get through the flight to California… and the wedding.

Now, I had contacted my insurance company after the accident and I assumed that all of my bills as a result of the accident would be taken care of. As the pain got worse and the tests required started multiplying, I checked on my insurance and my rights.

Limited tort is a very important designation on your insurance policy. It is because I have limited tort on my insurance, I cannot bring a claim against the insurance company for not only pain and suffering but the expenses that I have incurred since the accident. Because of injury to my ankle, I was not allowed to drive for two weeks and I continue to have pain. I have been in physical therapy for two months. I lose two hours of my day every other day to do so. In addition, I have had to pay people to take care of simple things that I can no longer do.

After dealing with the pain and the restriction that it caused for sometime, it became very frustrating. I met with Lawyers, which was an interesting experience, but there was not much they could do because I had limited tort. In addition, my insurance policy only covered up to $5000 in medical bills. If you know anything about the medical field, you know that will not get me anywhere. I have been in chiropractic care, had x-rays on my neck and back, seen a general practitioner, had x-rays on my ankle, been to orthopedic specialists multiple times and had two MRIs. Those costs alone, before physical therapy, far exceed $5000. So what happens to those costs?

Well, in my case they turned over to my personal insurance company, who denied them. The amount of hassle and stress that this accident has caused has been incredible. I now know that life will not be the same, as I am restricted by my injuries. I have back pain that prevents me from doing things that I have always done. I cannot wear heels, and I love heels, and I can’t even blow dry my hair. The mental and emotional ramifications of the injuries and the restrictions are serious.

There is, pretty much, nothing I can do about it, because I chose limited tort. Apparently, limited tort is cheaper in your monthly payment. Insurance companies want you to have limited tort, I’m sure, so they do not get sued. Limited tort exists to eliminate your ability to make a claim against the insurance company, for expenses and/or pain and suffering.

I never pay attention when I sign something, so an insurance policy is an insurance policy. I never would have thought twice about limited tort, because I’m not the lawsuit type. I never really thought about what would happen in a car accident where I had injuries. Now, I know. I’ve change my insurance policy to full tort, and a much higher financial consideration for health and injury. Unfortunately, it took me living through it, to really know or understand it. Things that we take for granted every day, like walking, driving, wearing the shoes you want, are no longer luxuries for me. I walk into a physical therapy office in the morning in professional work clothes on…and sneakers! All ready to start my day in a way I never knew I would have to.

I don’t like it, no one would, however I know I have to do what is required to get better. I’ve always been the type to revolt against what a doctor would say or instruct me to do. This is different. I want to be able to walk.

If you are ever in a car accident, my advice to you:

Go to the doctor or hospital immediately. Even if you do not feel like you are seriously injured at the time, injuries take on new forms as time goes by. It is better to get checked out and be safe, and have it documented that you have injuries and you’ve been seen by a doctor. The insurance companies will not take your word for it if it comes down to it. Unfortunately, you have to protect yourself against greed and big corporate thinking.

Make sure you get all drivers information, the police report and the names and contact information of the police officers on site. Of course, be sure that the police are present, no matter how severe the accident.

Call your insurance company right now, and get full tort insurance.

Do not talk on the phone to the insurance companies, especially when they are recording the phone call. You want to be careful about what you say, because anything you say can and will be used against you. Again it is unfortunate, but it is reality.

Don’t assume because your car does not have much damage, that you are not injured. What I learned in this process is that in some cases the vehicle is not damaged at all but your body actually takes a more significant impact. It is better to be safe than sorry in this case.

If you need a lawyer, find a good one. Do not sign paperwork with the first person you meet, without regard for the terms and conditions. Personal injury can be an opportunity for corruption, so you want to be sure you trust your lawyer.

Keep a file. No matter who is involved, be sure to keep copies of all of your paperwork and documentation. You never know what will come up or happen. Things will be questioned along the way and you have to be sure you know what is documented so that you can be sure you are properly represented.

For me, I’m going to continue with my physical therapy, I am going to be determined to improve every day, week and month. I’m going to do everything the doctors tell me to ensure that bulging disc and vertebrae and tendons don’t bother me for the long-term. As much as I would love to have a little talk with the driver who caused this accident, I forgive him. He has changed my life. But it could’ve been much worse.