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I Returned My New Puppy

6 surprising and profound things I learned from making this difficult decision

It’s quiet today.

There’s no shuffle of little feet in the next room, or the sounds of random objects being chewed, dragged, or sniffed. I’m not on high alert for the signs that will send me on a mad dash outside with treats in my pocket. The dog toys have been picked up and put away. Food and water bowls gone.

I brought him to his new home yesterday, amidst gut-wrenching sobs on the hour-long drive. He had never seen me cry before, and so he sat there, with his head resting on the console, staring at me with worried eyes. It was the first time in almost two weeks he actually made eye contact with me.

It’s been six years since our last dog passed, and I loved her so fiercely it was only recently that I felt ready for another one in our house. But I’ve been looking and longing for a while now. On our last trip to New York City, I could hardly focus my attention on anything other than the dozens of dogs I saw that day, walking happily alongside their people. And so we decided to take the plunge.

We wanted a rescue puppy, like our last dog was. But it’s been 20 years since we chose her from her litter at our local Humane Society, and there are so many more options out there now with the advance of digital everything. So hard to make a decision, sight-unseen, on the right puppy for us. But we picked one, and we were accepted to adopt him. He was so freaking beautiful, we felt like we had won the lottery.

But after the first couple of days home, the fear of his new surroundings dissipated, and we found ourselves in a position we never expected. He didn’t come when you called him over, but rather gave a disinterested glance in our direction and laid down where he was. He preferred to go off in a corner (specifically, the boot tray by the door) to take his naps, rather than be near us. He didn’t ever look at me directly, unless I held a treat up in front of me. As each day passed, he only became more aloof. And aggressive. He didn’t really like to play, except to attempt to wrestle with me and bite — hard. Normal puppy behavior in a way, but there was something different going on. A few times I noticed him out of the corner of my eye, crouched low, stalking me. When I turned and began talking to him, he lunged at my face. His bites broke the skin more than once.

We were devastated.

The puppy’s behavior, along with our unsuccessful attempts to encourage affection and bonding, was triggering some pretty deep and painful stuff for my husband and me.

We’ve been parenting our five children for twenty-seven years now. Four of our kids were adopted, and two of them have Reactive Attachment Disorder. When they joined our family seven years ago, they were pre-teens from an extremely traumatic background. You can imagine the issues that arose between them and our other children, and between them and us, as parents. RAD is no joke, and parenting children with it is just about the most exhausting, soul-draining act of love you can imagine. But we did it. We stuck it out and made it through. The stony soil of our kids’ hearts has become softer and more fertile, and they’re growing and blossoming in all sorts of ways.

But we are tired. And we just didn’t have it in us to work out those same kinds of issues with a dog, so we made the decision to ‘return’ him to the rescue, and they found a home for him the very next day.

And so there I was, driving, crying my eyes out, ready to relinquish my puppy to his new owners. It had been a long, hard day. Full of thoughts and advice and interactions — some welcome, some unwelcome. Along that drive, I reflected on some things I discovered through this experience:

1. The importance of knowing yourself and your limits.

It has taken me far too long in my adulthood to really know who I am and stand confident in it. I’m introspective and self-reflective, and aware of my many shortcomings. But I also know my own heart, my motivations, and how I do life. I am deeply sensitive and compassionate, have a strong drive to see justice and mercy in this world, and I am firm in what I believe. My life choices reflect all of this. But my life also reflects (more subtly) my poor choices, and I’ve finally accepted and made peace with what I am not good at and where my inner resources max out. I’ve come to learn that knowing these things and abiding by them are as critical to a healthy life as it is to get out of your comfort zone so you can grow.

2. What it means to have boundaries in difficult — even contested — situations, and to be secure in drawing them anyway.

Drawing boundaries is the outworking of knowing your limits, and a real challenge especially if you’re a people pleaser or a peacemaker, because boundaries directly involve other people. I knew I’d get pushback about returning the pup. I knew my kids who are still at home (17 and 20) would be very sad about it. But I also knew how carefully my husband and I weighed this decision and all the pros and cons associated with it. And we were keenly aware that, at the end of the day, it would be the two of us who would have to live with the consequences. Therefore, it was necessary to draw a firm boundary around our decision so that we wouldn’t be manipulated by the opinions of others or by our own emotions, for that matter.

3. How ‘helpful advice’ from people who don’t know the full context can hurt and add extra weight to an already heavy burden.

I’ll say right up front I’m guilty of this myself. I genuinely want to help people in their struggles, and so do many others who offer advice. But the truth is, unless you are doing life closely with the struggling person, you don’t know the whole story or the context, and that person doesn’t owe it to you to share everything involved. So when you speak into the situation, you’re actually assuming a lot and coming to conclusions that may not be accurate. Even if you would make a different choice in a similar situation, it isn’t really relevant. Because each of us is a completely unique person, with an equally unique set of life experiences that guide our decision-making. So if you truly want to help, listen. Encourage. Support. Ask questions. But don’t saddle the person with guilt or judgement or more information than they need while they’re already hurting.

4. That sacrificial love doesn’t mean you have to be a martyr.

As a Christian, I am all about sacrificial love. I strive to live and love sacrificially every day. And again, my life choices reflect this. I have laid down my life in many ways for my children and for my husband, and have given myself to great depths for friends and for people in need. I do not live a me-centric, take care of numero-uno kind of life. But I have also learned that loving yourself and loving someone/something else can sometimes be incompatible. Doing what it would take to raise this particular little pup to be a happy, healthy dog would have meant draining a reservoir that was already running low, and forcing us to expose wounds that are not yet fully healed. This isn’t just about the dog. There are other areas in my life that I need to let go of so I can be a healthy woman, wife, friend, and mother.

5. The other side of adoption.

This one was deep. And it’s not that I’ve never considered it before, because I have four adopted children. But if the tangible, heart-rending pain of surrendering a puppy was almost too much to bear, can you imagine the pain of a mother (and/or father) surrendering their child? Even knowing that I couldn’t (and did not want to) take on raising this dog, I still loved him. I kept telling him that over and over as I drove, and I meant it with every breath. I thought about being a mother, walking out the incredibly hard truth that you just can’t — whatever your reasons are — and because of that, you must do what you’re about to do. For your child and for yourself. By the grace of God, I have only been on the receiving end of this kind of sacrificial love. But I had a tiny glimpse yesterday of what that might be like. We don’t give this near as much credit and attention as we should. So birthmothers and fathers, I honor you. I honor you.

6. How deep sadness has ‘hooks’ that dredge up old pain.

It’s when the cork pops out of the bottle and makes way for a fountain of grief, sadness, anger, and pain to flow forth from places it’s been hiding for some time. I think if we’re wise, we need to acknowledge and pay attention to the other thoughts and feelings that arise in the midst of whatever is going on right now. Don’t get me wrong — my grief and sadness over the puppy was enough on its own, but the experience of it was so big and deep I knew I was grieving more than just that. Even when we don’t try to stuff it down, there are inevitably leftover hurts, sadnesses, and griefs that haven’t had room to emerge until something triggers them. I can’t say I know all of what was coming up yesterday, but I will be reflecting on it for some time, hopefully with fewer tears.

When I arrived and brought our puppy into his new home, a family and their one-year-old lab mix awaited him. After a few moments of fear-based freakout, the puppy warmed up to the dog’s advances to play. He lay in the teenage girl’s lap, on his back, batting at the dog with his giant, soft paws. His mouth was hanging open, tongue lolling out in what was immediately recognizable as a big ol’ dog smile. He looked happier in 10 minutes there than he had in two weeks with us.

Turns out he needed a dog as well as a family.

Unwilling to take on two dogs in our home, we would have deprived him of what he needed to really thrive, and for that, I am so grateful we chose to give him up. I still cried all the way home.

So here I am now, sitting in a quiet, calm house — at peace, but a bit empty. There is another puppy on the horizon, though, one that promises to be a better fit. But regardless of how perfect that fit is, she’s gonna be a keeper. There was enough heartache yesterday to last us a long time, but I am thankful none of it was wasted.

Thank you, Java, for what you taught us over the past two weeks. We will never forget you and pray you live out the many years ahead of you having the time of your little doggy life. Our memories and our hearts will always remain tender for you, and for the many kind people who have given you a chance at a really good life. Be a good boy.

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Digital communication can sometimes get a bum rap for being a poor substitute for in-person socialization. While it’s true that nothing can replace face-to-face relationships, there are plenty of times when it’s not possible or practical to be in the same room. That’s when technology can really shine and play an important part in keeping loved ones close.

 The following are fun little gadgets that don’t require a lot of tech-savviness to use, and as such, they make great gifts for seniors:

  1. The Lovebox Messenger

This adorable little gizmo was originally intended for long-distance lovers but is also perfect for people who don’t text. It’s a Wi-Fi-enabled bamboo box with a mirrored screen that can display short love notes, sent via text message. When the box receives a message, the interchangeable wooden heart spins to let the user know a message is waiting for them. The user can then spin the heart to “text back” a shower of hearts to the sender’s phone.

  1. Amazon Echo Show 10

A smart display screen like this might just be the next best thing to being there, according to reviewers. The 10-inch screen is mounted on a motorized, cylindrical “neck” that pivots and rotates, so you don’t have to stay in one place while chatting. This makes it extremely easy and convenient to have organic conversations, as you would have if you were in the same room. You can use the Show to make video calls to users with other apps, like Alexa, Skype, and eventually, Zoom.

  1. Friendship Lamps

Long-distance, Wi-Fi-enabled friendship lamps are another great gift idea. You pair your lamp to one or more other lamps; each person in the group can be assigned his or her own color. When you touch your lamp, it lights up your loved one’s lamp with your personal color, so they know that you are thinking about them. If only two lamps are connected, they’ll cycle through a full-color spectrum when you touch them. 

  1. Portable Signal Booster

Sometimes, no matter how good your cell service is, you occasionally cross into the dreaded “dead zone” —  whether it’s an area of your house, inside a store or at certain outdoor locations. You can easily install a signal booster inside your house, but did you know that you can also purchase a portable version? Having a portable signal booster allows you to stay in range, whether you’re out walking in the neighborhood or lounging on the beach. For seniors, this is especially important as a safety precaution, particularly when paired with a phone that has a safety service enabled. 

  1. 2-in-1 Hybrid Laptop

One of the best, all-around gadgets to have is a hybrid laptop because it gives you all the convenience of a tablet with the added functionality of a laptop. Every year, manufacturers improve upon the previous year’s model, resulting in faster machines with better screen resolution and longer battery life. If your current laptop is lagging or frequently freezing up, it might be time for an upgrade. There are many brands and options available, so the price is usually quite competitive, especially when you take into account sales and online coupons. 

Nothing can ever replace face-to-face communication or living in the same city or neighborhood as your treasured family and friends. When you can’t just stop by in person, it’s so important to touch base regularly to let them know that you care and that you’re thinking about them. Fortunately, there are countless ways to do that, thanks to digital communication technology. Any of these fun gadgets would make amazing gifts for your parents, family members or friends to help keep in touch and stay close at heart, even when you’re miles away.


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What’s on your agenda today? For many of us, that question sparks anxiety, dread, and that all-too-familiar feeling of being completely overwhelmed. We juggle, we multitask; we keep those plates spinning better than a circus performer. Exhausting, isn’t it? If you’re aching to simplify your life – even just a little – read on, weary warrior.

But First, a Quick Caveat
It’s important to point out that we tend to use “simple” and “easy” interchangeably, but especially in this case, they don’t mean the same thing.
The first means uncomplicated, and the second, not difficult. You know where I’m going with this:

It will probably not be easy to simplify your life.

There, I said it. Our goal here is to not only offer you encouragement, tools, and resources to help you live your best life but also to do that in a way that is honest and transparent – even vulnerable, at times. The truth is, it won’t be easy to make most of the changes you want to see in your life, but the most valuable things are rarely easy.

Take a deep breath. You can do this.

 1. Shortlist Your Priorities and Values

Set aside some time to think through and make a list of your top five most important priorities and make sure they’re general categories (family, career, etc.) Now rank them in order of importance and set that list aside. Second, determine your top five values – Psychology Today’s article, 39 Core Values and How to Live by Them, takes you through specific questions and steps to help you identify what they are and whether you’re living according to them.
Now, take a good look at your two lists and let those sink in for a bit. What’s coming up for you as you look at them?

The fact is, a lot of our stress, angst, and general lack of peace comes from living our lives out of sync with our actual priorities and values.

 2. Know Your Short-term and Long-term Goals

It’s up to you to decide what constitutes short-term and long-term, but not knowing or not moving steadily towards our goals leads to frustration, confusion and feeling overwhelmed. I often get so caught up in the details of day-to-day living that I lose sight of my goals.

Be honest with yourself about what your goals actually are right now. If your primary goal is to simplify your life or even just get through this week, that’s okay. Maybe your goals are huge and world-changing, and if that’s the case, you need to break them down into measurable, attainable steps (think SMART goals) if you’re ever going to get there.

Productivity is important whether you’re a student, professional, stay-at-home mom, or any combination of roles you might play. For me, feeling productive is nearly as important as being productive, and can really drive my mood and motivation to get things done. These are two of my favorite productivity tools that help me work towards and achieve the goals I set:

Week Plan is an app you can use on your desktop or phone and is probably my favorite of all the planners and organizers I’ve tried. It’s not free (about a hundred dollars for a year or ten dollars a month) but is well worth the cost, in my opinion. More than just planning and scheduling, it helps you identify your values, priorities, and goals, and organize them into time-sensitive action steps.

A Pomodoro Timer app is a great way to get stuff done and stay focused. The Pomodoro Technique was developed by Francisco Cirillo and named after the tomato timer in his kitchen. You set the timer for twenty-five-minute intervals to accomplish tasks, followed by a five-minute break. After four pomodoros, you take a fifteen to twenty-minute break. Works like a charm to stay focused, and is great for kids, too (hello, chores!)

 3. Limit Your Media Consumption

You knew this had to be on the list. The average person’s life is absolutely saturated with media and technology, and it’s just not good for us. (Did you even know that “Tech Neck” is a thing?) No surprises here, but too much media consumption:

  • steals our focus
  • wastes valuable time
  • replaces face-to-face communication
  • allows us to numb our emotions
  • overwhelms our brains with (often useless) information
  • makes us sedentary
  • distracts us from living out our priorities, values, and goals

This is super hard to do, I know, but it is critical if you truly want to simplify your life. About five years ago, I decided to stop watching TV and movies and deactivate all my social media accounts for an entire year. Part of my motivation for doing so was because I wanted to write a book, but it was also because my emotional and spiritual life at that time was a hot mess. So, instead of zoning out in front of a screen, I wrote. I read books. I spent lots of time with my husband and family. And I had an incredible amount of peace.

 4. Remove Your Obstacles

Do you know what’s complicating your life unnecessarily? We all have things we can’t avoid, but we also allow other obstacles to consistently thwart our efforts to get our lives under control. Make a list of the things over which you have power and choice, and eliminate them. Scratching them off that list, one by one is gonna feel great.

 5. Curate Your Environment for Success

Take a look around you – at work, at home, wherever you spend a good part of your life. Clutter, disorganization, and dirt often mirror what’s going on inside you. It may be time to unleash your inner Marie Kondo and simplify your environment so you can simplify your life. For most of us, it will mean cleaning, removing extraneous junk, and organizing the necessities. However, your spaces don’t need to look sterile and merely functional. Incorporating what “sparks joy,” as Marie says, as well as what you think is beautiful, helps to create an environment that’s not only conducive to productivity, but also to creativity and thriving. Many of us easily lose touch with the simple pleasure of enjoying the beauty around us. You can create that for yourself!

Sisters, life is hard and complicated, and unpredictable. There’s no getting around that, and you are not alone in feeling overwhelmed by it all. It’s also true that life is beautiful and wondrous and what makes it worth living is not all that complicated when it comes down to it. We just have to keep it all in perspective so we know what we need more of, and what needs to be pushed aside. Again, it might not be easy, but doing these five things will significantly simplify your life.

Take a deep breath. You can do this.


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To protect the organization and keep their clients’ data safe, some companies go to great lengths to educate their employees on the regulations and privacy laws that govern their industry. Their employees are also expected to know and follow the security practices and privacy policies that are in place at work. It’s almost a rite of passage for new hires to endure “Orientation Week,” where they are inundated with information about the company and given a lengthy handbook on the procedures and practices, which they must learn and internalize before they begin work. Other companies lean heavily on the latest technology to provide security safeguards and trust these tools will catch any potential data breaches and deal with them appropriately. While both approaches are appropriate, the best strategy to protect your business from data loss is a combination of technology and education. 

Threats to Your Data 

Data loss presents a significant problem for businesses of any size and it can happen at any time — accidentally or deliberately. Unintentional data loss can occur due to power outages, hard drive crashes, natural disasters, liquid damage (like spilling your coffee on your laptop,) and various kinds of human error. Other threats to your data are intentional, including hacking, computer theft, viruses or malware, phishing, social engineering, and more. Unfortunately, data thieves are constantly working to find new ways to steal sensitive information. Data loss prevention (DLP) is a system of tools and processes designed to prevent data from being accessed by unauthorized viewers, misused, or lost altogether. Naturally, DLP is important because it protects your data and reputation, but it also defends your business against interruptions and downtime, degradation of performance, and disruption to customer service.

Technological Solutions

On the tech side of data loss prevention are network security tools that combine procedures, policies, and devices to prevent and respond to unauthorized access to your network. Their function is to prevent data loss in three basic ways: Protection, preventing network security intrusion; Detection, analyzing network traffic and identifying threats; and Response, reacting to intrusions and resolving the threat quickly. There are dozens of cybersecurity tools available that fall into a wide range of categories. They provide what is sometimes referred to as “Defense in Depth,” that is, layers of security that aim to protect your data and network on all levels. Here are a few examples of DLP tools:

  1. Network Access Control allows you to control who has access to your network and allows you to block certain devices or behaviors. It uses analytics so that once you define what behaviors are normal or abnormal, it will alert you when it detects suspicious behavior. You can also install firewalls that block your network from outside sources you don’t trust.
  2. Email Security applications address the number one threat to your network security. Once hackers gain access to your email and personal information, they can use your email to wreak havoc. Sending spam, viruses, inappropriate content, or blackmail to your clients are just a few malicious things hackers can do with your stolen data.
  3. Antivirus Software protects against viruses and malware and is one of the most common security tools in use in both personal and business contexts. 
  4. Endpoint Security prevents security breaches, data loss, and viruses in your business network when it’s accessed remotely or through personal devices. This is especially important as it’s becoming more common for employees to use their personal laptops at work or when working from home. 
  5. Wireless Security provides an additional layer of security to your wireless networks, which are intrinsically less secure than wired ones.

Your IT infrastructure and data are at the heart of your business. Because any attack could potentially cripple your entire operation, DLP tools are essential for your company’s health and longevity. A network security expert can evaluate your current solutions, assess their performance, and recommend additional upgrades or safeguards to further protect your data.

Education Protections

One of the most important ways businesses can protect themselves and their data is by properly training their employees. Training should begin right at onboarding with emphasis placed on the importance of cybersecurity and the gravity of data loss and breaches. Procedures should be outlined in the employee handbook and explained thoroughly by trainers. Employees should understand what is expected of them and the consequences of carelessness or breaking the rules. Data loss, theft, and misuse are a constant threat with new hacks being developed every day, so employees must be updated regularly on the latest cyber threats and instructed on how to avoid them using the proper tools and procedures. They also should be certain of what information they are not allowed to share and the circumstances under which they may be asked or tempted to share it. All the technology in the world can’t prevent a data leak over the phone or in person.

Areas that should be covered in employee training are 1) password protection, 2) recognizing phishing and social engineering schemes, and 3) internet and social media policies. Best practices for creating and storing passwords should be taught and strictly followed, which is often a challenge. A solution for this problem is to use a password managing tool that generates strong passwords, remembers them, and allows you to share them within and across your teams. Phishing and social engineering tactics are a little trickier to address. Since social engineering preys upon the desire to help people, employees should be taught how to think critically and recognize bogus requests from potential attackers. Phishing attempts in email can be identified using these protocols:

  • Scan any file attachments with an online open-source virus scanner.
  • Hover over shared links to see the full address the link will take you to before clicking on it.
  • Check the sender’s name against the email address it came from.
  • Look at the format of the email to see if it’s suspicious.
  • Make a phone call to the sender if you’re unsure.

Policies concerning internet and social media use should be clearly outlined and adhered to by all employees. Understanding general internet safety rules and how to avoid cyber-attacks, phishing, and social engineering schemes on social media platforms is a must. Not only is it important from a security standpoint, but it also can cross privacy boundaries, posing legal risks and threats to your company’s reputation. 

Because different industries require different measures of protection, employees need to be briefed on all the necessary tools, procedures, and rules that apply to your particular business. For instance, HIPAA laws for the medical and health industries, GLBA laws for the banking and finance industries, and the California Privacy Act are a few examples of specific regulations that govern privacy and data protection. While those used to be separate entities, privacy and cybersecurity are now converging, making a robust DLP system all the more necessary.

Defense in Breadth

Combining thorough cybersecurity education with a broad range of the latest, most effective tech tools provides your business with more than just “defense in depth,” but “defense in breadth,” as well. To do this, you need buy-in at all levels, from your C-Suite to your administrative assistants. Building habits, holding regular training sessions, setting reminders — even holding cyber-attack drills — will support your network security tools for a complete DLP system. Your business is worth every effort to have the best possible system in place.


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