Tuesday, January 21, 2014

#365Grateful: I am grateful for this opportunity...


Dear readers

I will be taking an 'indefinite' blogging-break from this particular blog - except for a few posts - time permitting. I realise that 'LIVING LIFE TO THE MAX' has been a predominantly 'dog-blog', but 2014 is a year of Spiritual pilgrimage for me personally - which may not be entirely appropriate for this particular blog.

Please know that I appreciate you, my readers, immensely and feel blessed by your patience in what may appear to be erratic blogging behaviour. It's just something that I have to do at this particular time in my life.

If you would like to read more about this journey on my more 'personal' blog, please click on
I would appreciate your support although I realise it may not appeal to everybody. 
Thank you for your understanding.
Sending lots of love to you all...
With love

Thursday, January 16, 2014

#365Grateful : Day 16 : Our swimming pool

***I am grateful for our swimming pool
Today, the temperatures are soaring towards 40 degrees C and I am grateful for having the opportunity to cool off in our swimming pool.

Okay, that's putting it mildly.
More correctly, I AM VERY GRATEFUL!!!
Phew, it's hot here today!

On occasions, I prefer to swim alone.  It calls on all of Toby and Lexi's resolve to obey my command to stay OUT of the pool while I am in it.
By way of compensation, I throw balls for them to retrieve and bring back to me.  They enjoy this game - diligently fetching the balls and returning to the water's edge.  Most often they just drop them in the pool near me for me to throw again. (Lol!)

But it's not only me who enjoys being IN the pool on these hot days.
Here is an old video of the dogs' enjoyment.
(with apologies to those who have already seen it)
BTW The hit rate on this video is over 78 000

***I am grateful for our swimming pool!

Sending lots of love
(...and keep cool!)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

#365Grateful : Day 15 : Doggie-duo

***I am grateful for my doggie-duo

So now we are down to only two dogs in the household: 
Lexi and Toby, my doggie-duo.

The recent passing of Aunt Tam' has rattled the canine hierarchy a bit. Perhaps I should call it 'dog-dazed'. They are somewhat confused by her absence and, as a result, have leached themselves to my ankles during the day. It's as if Toby has suddenly realised that it's time to man-up. He lets off a loud, authoritative and totally unnecessary bark at the oddest of times, rendering us rooted in fright. He'll have to learn that there is a time for such things - and it's NOT in the middle of the night when all is well!

  Lexi, on the other-hand, is lavishing in the glory of being elevated to the doggie-Matriarch status. She's lapping up the opportunity of extra cuddles and has claimed the swimming pool as her own.  At times, we find her "tracking" the pool-cleaner - leisurely swimming in it's path and retreating to the pool's step when she gets tired. She's a real 'Princess'.
 Above: Lexi alongside me - early morning.
Below: Lexi, the intrepid gardener has chewed up a flower pot.
 Below: In the morning, Toby and Lexi patiently wait for me to rise and shine.
My doggie-duo bring me immense joy and entertainment. 
It's somewhat bitter-sweet that their daily walk is also much more comfortable for me now:  
Two dogs, on lead, is certainly much, much easier than three!

***I am grateful for my doggie-duo

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

#365Grateful : Day 14 : The love of writing

*** I am grateful for my gift of a love of writing

As the sun rises this morning, I am aware of the empty space in our home; the absent indentation in the dogs' mattress in the corner of our bedroom and the missing gentle aura of the old lady. Even the boss overslept this morning. Tammy was a regular 5.30am canine alarm clock but we'll have to find a substitute. She is missed and my heart is sore.
Even Toby and Lexi are somewhat confused.  I am left with a duo of utterly devoted dogs, glued to my heels and waiting for my next move.

It's at times like this that I am so grateful for the gift God has given me - my love of writing.  I find solace in words and gain clarity of things when I write them down. The above poem was written at the time of Maxdog's passing.  I penned it in less than five minutes.  Today, 4 years later, its words speak deep into my heart as I imagine the Captain of the ship calling our dear Tammy ...

*** I am grateful for my gift of a love of writing

Monday, January 13, 2014

Fly free, sweet TAMMY: 2001-2014

Sadly, we had to say good-bye to our dear, gracious old lady - Tammy - today. She's been ailing for a while now and we could see that she's grown tired.  The Rainbow bridge welcomes her as she now runs free with her soul-mate Maxdog, as well as Toffee, Tommy...and all the other furry-friends who are no longer with us. Our hearts are sore, but we are grateful that she could go with dignity.
Thank you so much - Dr Colin van Rensburg - for caring so kindly for our Tam'. 

***I am grateful for the amazing life of Aunt Tam'.

Some photos

Tammy, in her prime...
 Puppy Tammy  2001...
 Juvenile Tammy...
 Below: Tammy and Maxdog check out the birds in the tree...
  Below: Walks were always Tammy's favourite activity...
 ...and snuggling with Miss J...
 She even tolerated the Christmas hat...at times...
 Below: Tammy in her personal spa...  

 Below: "Roaching" in the cool of the afternoon shade...

Below: Tammy welcomes little Lexi...
 Below: Tammy and Max - better days...

 Below: Soulmates - Tammy and Maxdog

 Below: "The cat on the wall"
 Below: "Please get better, Maxdog"

Run Free, sweet Tammy. We will miss your gentle presence.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

#365Grateful : Day 11 : Music

*** I am grateful for Music

They say that music is a universal language. Some music calms us; some inspires us to unknown heights; some invigorates us;energises us; speaks words for us; expresses that which words can't say.
Worship and praise, in a Christian context, can speak deeply into the soul.
I am grateful for music which reminds me of my reason for being here.

I invite you to join me in one of my favourite songs of praise:
"I surrender: Hillsong Live (Cornerstone New 2012 DVD Album)

Have a wonderful, happy weekend.
Sending lotsaluv

Friday, January 10, 2014

#365Grateful : Day 10 : The Weed

***I am grateful for our special "Weed"

I am grateful for our ‘Weed’.

Some time ago a simple seed drifted in the wind and landed in one of our flower beds.  It quickly took shoot and grew in earnest.  I was intrigued by its resilience and gave it a little space to ‘do its thing’ that summer.

The ‘Weed’ stretched its limbs and grew tall in the rich sunlight that fell on that flower bed. Taller and taller it grew. Wider and wider too. Soon it was bigger than all the other plants and its first flower buds began to appear. They were beautiful ; a large, fleshy bud with five stringy bits. One evening it burst open to reveal a beautiful, pink, tulip shaped bloom.  Soon the bees arrived to investigate this new treasure. Throughout that season we watched as the plant religiously produced a brand new bloom each evening. Sometimes it produced more, but by sundown the blooms had wilted and dropped. Glory is short-lived.

My intrigue turned into irritation as the dry blooms dropped and created an untidy mess at its base. By winter, the plant turned into an ugly, dried arrangement and I instructed my gardener to removed it and throw it away.
It was obvious that the plant had a mind of its own.  The root system was cumbersome and the poor gardener spent hours chopping it out.  Finally, the bed was clean again and the stump of the ‘Weed’ discarded into tiny, chopped-up pieces in our compost heap.

A cold winter followed. Spring finally arrived and so did our desire to spend time in the garden.  One afternoon, while examining the compost heap, I noticed the all-too-familiar green leaves. Whilst we weren’t looking, our ‘Weed’ had taken root, once again but this time IN the compost heap.

Oh well, I thought, let it be. Once again, it's made itself at home, growing tall and wide. It’s been ruthlessly pruned over the years. Nowadays, the ‘Weed’ still graces the untidy compost heap. In summer evenings a waft of its pretty fragrance drifts through our bedroom windows. We’ve discovered that it is called a ‘Moonflower’ (Possibly because it blossoms at night).  I’ve come to love its ways… as well as its subtle message to us all:

“Sometimes the ‘unwanted’ flourish in unlikely places.”

Never discount ANY of God’s creations!
 After all,  by definition a WEED  is simply and UNWANTED plant.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

#365Grateful : Day 9 : Books

*I am grateful for books!
(Some of my book collection)

 I am grateful for books…

…and their pages which offer us insight into unknown worlds. I am grateful for the endearing characters which sprinkle fairy-dust on the walls of our imaginations.  It’s books which have allowed me the opportunity to unravel mysteries and to explore the history of bygone eras.  I have discovered foreign customs, cultures and peoples who have enriched my own life.

 I am grateful for the wisdom I have gleaned from the pages of books, and the windows they’ve opened for me - to other paradigms and ways of thinking. I am grateful to have been educated by books which have inspired me, authors who I admire and occasionally mimicked. I’ve been forced to weep when discovering the appalling living conditions which some people and animals have to bear, and I have been encouraged by their strength and perseverance in these difficult circumstances.

When insomnia hits me, I reach for a book to find found solace…  It never fails!  I drift away into the talent of the authors and the stories they bring me.  How often have I chosen to escape for a few hours, beverage in hand, ensconced in a blanket? I engross myself in tales yet to be discovered; sometimes pondering over the talent of photographers who have brought images to me of places I will never get to see.

Books have shaped my thought and my life.  I have discovered laughter, tears, fears, foresight, hope, encouragement and the joy of imagination. I've discovered my faith in the greatest book of all - God's Holy Bible. Some books have even forced others around me to interrogate my mirth.

I am grateful for the dedication of the writers who offer us pages upon pages of their imaginings; who provide us with a channel to escape this world for a short while and who offer us hope for a better world. I am grateful for their dedication and commitment; the hours which they have spent paining over their choice of words, and the angst they have gone through when editors have performed surgery on their personal masterpieces.  I am grateful for the sleepless nights they have endured whilst they've pondered over a single idea, and the "mountains" they had to climb to finally offer us their works of art.

I am grateful for the books we so often take for granted. And I am grateful for the ones I am yet to discover.
*I am grateful for books!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

#365Grateful : Day 8 : Electricity

***I am grateful for Electricity

As a child, I grew up on a remote farm, without electricity.  The first time I ever experienced electricity was in 1970 - when I was 11 years old! It felt like heaven had arrived! At last, I could see at night. And the hours that were available to complete my homework had suddenly doubled. Gee, did we celebrate!

  Up until that stage, we used gas lamps and candle-light on the farm.  Our food was cooked on an old coal stove and we had to be frugal in our planning - because we didn't have fridges. It was wonderful to be able to sit outside in a moonlit night and enjoy the cool of the evening.  Fans were unheard of, so too were washing machines. (All our clothes were washed in an old, rusty bath, under the bamboo tree, using "sunlight" soap.)

 I remember, when I was even younger, how the distinct ghostly shadows pranced along the farmhouse wall as I walked along with my torch.  I remember how I'd retire with a torch under the bedcovers - reading my book - in a vain attempt to ward off the shadows and the tales in my imagination.

How times have changed! In the city, one hardly gives electricity a second thought.  The city's lights twinkle for miles - that is until Eskom (our electricity provider) decides its time to load-shed. It's then that the gas cookers, candles and torches are retrieved and letters of complaint circulate social media.  Twitter is abuzz with tweeters who are dissatisfied because they missed their latest soap-opera. 

The reality is (and it's almost unbelievable) that there are still 1.6 billion people (2013) around the world who still don't have access to electricity. The life-style of my childhood is echoed in these people who don't share our privileges.

So...today, I acknowledge the usefulness of this commodity called ELECTRICITY. Without it, I can't operate my stove, my vacuum cleaner, hair-drier, television, pool-pump, lights, kettle, washing-machine, charging cell-phones, etc, etc. In fact, the whole house comes to a standstill. (Wow, it's sounds so trite!) 
...And the list goes on and on...and on...and on.  
This blogpost also, would not have been published without access to electricity, so I am thankful to be able to share this with you.

***Phew, I am grateful for Electricity!

Sending lots of love

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

#365Grateful : Day 7 : Twix

*** I am grateful for little Twix
 Every morning when we open the door to our kitchen, our little Guinea-pigs are there to greet us. They scamper up the ramp of their cage and hang out of their 'balcony'; almost falling out in their urgency to greet us (and receive their daily carrot).

TWIX, the little ginger one on the left, has a long history. She is approximately 18 months now - a beautiful, fat little Guinea pig who has provided immense inspiration to me at times. She has a special place in my heart, probably because I rescued her when she was less than a month old.  Also, because I subsequently had to pay a fortune for a caesarian section when we found out that she was pregnant.

 People laugh at me when they discover that the bill amounted to thousands of rand.
 "Just to save the life of a Guinea-pig?", they ask, in shock.  
At the time, it really was touch-and-go for little Twix and her ordeal resulted in the loss of her one and only pup - 'Stardust': 
 Above: Twix and her pup, Stardust (a few hours after her operation)

Below: Little Stardust who only survived 24 hours, but still lovingly remembered.
Thankfully Twix survived and recovered to full health.

Soon after losing Stardust, we got a companion for Twix -little "Bonny".  Over the months they have become happy cage companions. We'll often find them playing tug-of-war with a bean or exploring the perimeter of their crate together.
(Please note that I love BOTH these little guinea pigs to bits! Today's post, however, is all about little TWIX.)

Some time ago, I entered a short story competition. I thought I'd share my entry (again) on this blog today.  The parameters for the competition were: "EXACTLY 100 words!" 
As you see, Twix was my inspiration for this little story.



Frankly I’m shocked. The tiny Guinea pig stares back at me from a corner of the cold cage; one month old, severely malnourished, quivering uncontrollably.  Large, knowing eyes plead for protection. 

“Yes, I’ll take her.”

At home, “Twix” receives royal treatment; a spacious crate, regular cuddles, excellent food. Her transformation is staggering - a soft ball of exploratory energy, growing fatter and shinier each day.  I glow with accomplishment.

We watch TV together, loving fingers curled beneath her. Suddenly, I feel the unmistakeable ripple of life in her round belly.

“Twix! How can you possibly be pregnant?”  I exclaim, in delight.
(Above: Twix, just before her caesarian section)

*** I am grateful for little Twix - and that she survived her early ordeal and has turned into a happy piggy.

Sending lotsaluv

ps. For readers who may not be aware:
This year, I have decided to take up a very specific challenge
The project is called 365 GRATEFUL and involves finding something everyday for which I am grateful. Gratitude is something we often forget to express.  This year, I resolve to be more grateful and to express my gratitude more. I am going to try my best to put up at least one picture every day - no matter how simple - as an expression of my gratitude.
If you've missed out some of the previous #365Grateful blog posts, please read back on this blog. Maybe you'd like to consider joining me in this special 'gratitude challenge'?