Bad Dogs and Amazing Grace

Have you ever seen that movie Marley and Me?

It’s about this couple who adopts this yellow lab puppy.  The puppy is so adorable in all its soft, puppy fur and sweet brown eyes…and it grows up being what the author of the original book (based on a true story) called “the world’s worst dog.”

Turns out I can relate.

We took Charlie into our home when Ryan moved in last October.  Before that Charlie lived with Ryan’s parents, who took him in after he had bounced around a couple other homes.  We decided we would give Charlie his forever home, and were excited to give Cooper (our angel dog) a sibling.  What we knew of him was that he was a little dense, but incredibly sweet, and got along with Cooper great.

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What we have learned about Charlie since is that he insists on barking incessantly at squirrels, innocent passersby, our mailman, any delivery person, falling leaves, any sudden movements made by Ryan or myself, and I swear, should I think too loudly, he will resound his booming bark.  We have learned that we need to precariously monitor his water intake or else he will create small lakes on our floors.  He has intense bowel issues and needs to eat very specific (and expensive) dog food.  This will take away a touch of the smell, but the farts remain.  He is never allowed a bone or a treat or anything other than that food.  Try to give him scraps in my line of sight, I dare you.

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Charlie is a nightmare on walks.  If he sees another dog he will growl so vehemently that he also begins breathing fire like a murderous dragon as he pulls me like a rag doll across the sidewalk.

He also has terrible allergies and licks his paw through the fur to his skin, causing massive sores.

So last night, Ryan and I thought it would be a brilliant idea if we took the dogs to a beautiful off-leash dog beach on Lake Michigan for a relaxing picnic and family time.

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From car to beach there’s a short hike on which they require dogs to be leashed, and before we even approached the beach we passed four dogs, and Charlie maintained his erratic supremacy for each.

As Cooper ran the beach freely with new sweet doggie friends, Charlie remained on the leash, but not without attempting to remove my shoulder from its socket and causing leash burns all over my hands.

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The relaxing evening I had planned was replaced with one of anxiety.  I constantly prayed that he would not latch his jaws around another dog’s neck.  I prayed for no blood.  I growled through my own clenched teeth, “I cannot stand him!”

At one point he freaked so intensely that in my retaliation I allowed my emotions to become physical and I smacked him…hard…several times.  “Feel better?” Ryan asked.

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I felt terrible, and guilty, and still so angry.

We went home and went to bed, me wallowing in the sadness of my bad dog ownership.  Until around 3am when I awoke to Charlie peeing in my closet.

The Devil knows how to ruin me.

Ry and I cleaning up a huge puddle of urine at 3am is not a pretty sight.  It was a lot of swearing and partial nudity, followed by apologies and jail time (for Charlie).

Did I mention that Charlie’s original name was, indeed, Marley?  After the “world’s worst dog”?  Fitting.

In all of Charlie’s ridiculousness, in his frustrating antics and infuriating behaviors and habits, I can still say that I love this dog.

I am consistently reminded of God’s grace with our goofy dog, because even when I want to throw in the towel with him, I often think about what would have become of me if God acted in the same way.  What if the One Who Saves would see my behavior time and time again and shake His head and give up on me?  What if He thought I’ll never get through to her, I’m done!  I’m taking her to the pound!

If there was no such thing as grace, I would be totally screwed, because let’s be real, I’ve peed in the good Lord’s closet many times.

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With Charlie, I’m reminded of the importance of forgiveness, not only with him, but with others in life and with myself.  If I’m incapable of moving on past his barking and his farts and his doggie dominance, how will I forgive those who hurt me, dominate me, or use words to bring me down?  How will I be able to see past my own giant flaws and be able to feel the warmth of God’s forgiveness?

I believe we would all be lost without grace…without forgiveness, and I hope Charlie is around for a long time to keep giving me those reminders.

To the cute blonde sunbathing quietly on my back deck, our little Charles Vader,

Cheers.

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Vegas Adventure.

So it’s been a while.

I could totally dive into all the things that have happened since my NYC adventure.  We found a house, got hitched, welcomed another fur-baby into our lives…it’s a lot of big stuff.  Lots of BIG, MONUTMENTAL, LIFE-CHANGING stuff.

You know, the stuff I was craving last summer when blogging was difficult because life was just so CALM.

I’m actually not going to write about any of that today.  Because today is dedicated to Vegas.  Even more so to Francis and Lisa.

I’ll be honest, of all my travel destination desires, Las Vegas was never one of them.  I’ve never been a gambler, I hate crowded pools, loud all-day bashes, and I was also too scared for my liver to make a lengthy visit to Sin City.

However, two friends of ours (yes! you’re right! Fran and Lisa!), decided to get married there, and little Las Vegas soared to the top of our Travel List.

Ryan and Francis became friends while serving in the Marine Corps together.  They have this man-love for one another that just doesn’t happen after “hanging out a lot.”  It’s an incredibly bond that formed after hours together of hard work and sacrifice.  They spent days of exhaustive, relentless, and punishing training.  It’s a bond that builds after countless hours practicing dangerous scenarios, knowing full-well that they could come to fruition, and in those cases, your brothers beside you would die for you.

….Like I said, it’s a serious man-love.

And it’s the best.  They are constantly embracing in these muscle-y bear hugs, and making each other roar with laughter.

Lisa has a heart of solid gold.  She is witty and funny and will tell you what you need to hear.  She doesn’t sugar-coat anything, and that kind of honesty is FRESH AIR.  She is down-to-earth and easy-going.  Not only that, but she is over-the-top, stop-dead-in-your-tracks beautiful.  Wrap it all into one human and you have Lisa. I’ve known Lisa for a little bit, and finally met her last summer when she and Francis visited Michigan.  I knew the minute I met her I wanted her as a friend for life.

That’s what it’s like with these two.  It’s fresh and easy.  We can talk about the serious and the mundane, the important, gut-wrenching stuff that shapes us, and we can talk about how good Francis looks in a man thong.  It’s a friendship we hold dear to us, and booking those tickets to Vegas was the easiest click of the button.

So why did they choose Vegas?

Fran and Lisa decided to get married there for a very specific reason.  New Jersey.

These two have been together for years, and had plenty of time to decide exactly what they wanted for a wedding.  In Jersey the weddings are over-the-top, and after they started the planning process in their hometown, they decided they didn’t want that.  They didn’t want the pressure to spend thousands and invite hundreds and undergo the pressure of “how big can we make this event.”  For them, it was never about that.

So they sent out an e-mail saying they would be going to Vegas, and if you wanted to join, they would love your company.

I love them.

SOLD. We were going to Vegas.

So first of all, Vegas is quite beautiful, which I never really imagined.  Everything is glamour and glitz, and then it’s surrounded with jaw-dropping mountains.  IMG_4771.JPG

That’s a random plane picture…but still, gorgeous, right?IMG_4788.JPG

the night before the big day…clearly unable to focus.IMG_4797.JPG

Day of the wedding!

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I mean…unreal. (Photographer was www.tylerfreear.com and he was FUN and amazing.  If you are looking for a photographer in the Denver area…or clearly Vegas area, check him out. )IMG_4798.JPG

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The wedding was to take place at 5:00pm at the Elvis Wedding Chapel.  The lovely couple rented a party bus to bring us from the chapel, to the Vegas sign, to Old Vegas, and then back to the Strip where we would dine and party.

Things got interesting.

The party bus was 15 minutes late and traffic was crazy.  Francis and Lisa missed their 5:00 wedding.  I have to tell you, Lisa stayed so calm.  (Francis was clearly stressed, which I don’t blame him, he just wanted to marry his girl!)  They were able to reschedule for 8:00, and we moved on to Old Vegas for some photos.

It was here that one of Lisa’s friends was called out to dance for a crowd of strangers, the couple got a photo with an Elvis impersonator, a tiny old lady with Cheetos all over her face and holding a Sephora bag stalked me asking for $5, I lost Ryan on several different occasions and found him conversing with random new “friends,” and I began to worry that not all of us were going to make it til 8:00…the Vegas fun was flowing.IMG_4815.JPG

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We made it.  All of us.  Most of us coherent and some of us on the way out of that realm.  We watched and laughed and even got teary eyed as Elvis married our dear friends.

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It was unlike any wedding I’ve ever experienced.  And despite the costumes and the singing and the humor in it all, it was still beautiful and heartfelt.  I don’t think Grand Rapids could pull off weddings like that, and I don’t think New Jersey could either.  It was something that only Vegas could get so weirdly right.IMG_4872.JPG

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Oxygen bar we tried before leaving…don’t waste your $40!IMG_4883.JPG

Sad to say goodbyeIMG_4886.JPGSeth, Francis, and Ryan.  All served together.

Vegas was everything I thought it would be, but it was also beautiful and surprising.   I didn’t know any of their friends, and I think the raw spirit of Vegas broke us out of our comfort zones and our shells.  We were quick friends.  In the busy, crowded pools we were forced to sit close together for conversation.  We bonded on the Strip in the chaotic evenings, trying to decide if we wanted a grand dining experience or pizza in the hotel.

We have these expectations for things, places, people, moments in life, and I love when the actuality destroys those expectations.

Vegas, you were a lovely reminder that things may not be what we imagine, that friendships break barriers, that our preconceived notions may be inaccurate, degrading, or even complete bullshit. Thank you for reminding me that beauty is immeasurably more than what we may expect…

Francis and Lisa, we are so blessed to have shared in your amazing weekend, and even more so by your friendship.

To Vegas, surprises, and mostly to the new Mr. and Mrs. G,

CHEERS!

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