Saturday, October 7, 2017

Make Lemonade ~ Cope with good memories ~ Part 3

We don't even realize how many pictures we have taken from special moments to daily routines. Once they are gone, especially ones captured everyday life become much more significant than special occasions. Without words, those pictures tell you all stories which keep you nodding.

Projects with pictures are easy to get hooked with for most of people. Material is easy to get. You could find all sort of ideas online and offline. If you wish to do some projects but not sure what it would be, this could be a good one to try.

Some would make a beautiful scrapbook with all fancy embellishments. I wanted the pictures to be storytellers. So, I generally kept it quite simple though mixing up with some different backgrounds.


Picture Perfect

There are so many pictures of her, print and digital formats in the drawers, the photo boxes, the computers, the camera, my cell phone, my Flickr account, and on the walls and the refrigerator. Oh, do I need to mention my cube at work? I had made a photo album for her sweet 16. That one got some extended pages for her 17th birthday charity cookout. Naturally, I started adding more pages to it.

Soon, I realized one album was not big enough... It was over 3 inches thick, oh boy! I kept the sweet 16 and the charity cookout in the original album, also added all Christmas cards made with her pictures with Mr. and Mrs. Santa.

Everything else was moved to a new one. The expandable scrapbook album led me add more than pictures. The "Marilyn thing" from the drawer was added to the album.

Every picture, every object has stories. They brought me back to the moment. They made me smile. I didn't put any words on purpose. I can tell all stories of every single picture. They have much more words than being able to fit in the pages.

From the camping, the vacations, the trips, the parties, our wedding and all other adventures we did together to the naps in the yard, they are all in it.

This is her post on Petfinder. This is how I found her... and she hypnotized me to take her home over the Internet😜

It said

Please make this girl part of your 2008 plans for addition in your home.

So, we did it. Marilyn, checked!

One of the cancer walks we did together.

Marilyn was the winner of the Newburyport Store for the Black Dog Lookalike Contest. She is at the top left in the facebook page.

Thank you very much for all your kind words. They stay together with her memories.

The pages go on even after her furry body was gone.

I looked through the finished pages, sorted them in the order for the album. There was one blank page in the middle. I sorted them again, then sorted them again... No matter how I arranged the pages, the blank page was still there.

I went through all her pictures again to fill the blank page. I couldn't pick any more pictures. "How can I finish this album?" I started going crazy with the thought. The thought was looping in my head.

A couple weeks past. One day, I realized that I didn't need to finish the album yet. That was ok. I could add more pages in the future. There was no reason to finish it there. I would find more good memories to add later. I felt it so right. The blank page is still there so far.

From Marilyn to Marilyn

I think Marilyn sent me a subliminal message to make another album for her saver, human Marilyn, as our appreciation for all joy and happiness brought to us. My Marilyn was named after the lady. I found her contact information on one of the vet receipt in the adoption package.

For this one, I added some notes to tell how Marilyn's life was like in every page.

Finishing Touch

When I picked up the frames at the craft store, there were something else I found for her.

In case she hadn't gotten her wings yet, I would give her a pair or two. I tried to find the best color for them.

Here are the wings for my special girl.

The navy album flew away to Marilyn in Tennessee. I was nervous about how she would think of the package from a stranger though I put a letter to explain and a copy of Marilyn's Petfinder post.

Some time later, there was a voice message from Teresa, who was the contact for Marilyn's adoption at the rescue. She said she saw the album and wanted to talk about it. It seems the album reached Marilyn.

In the conversation with Teresa, I learned the lady, Marilyn, was my Marilyn's sponsor and Teresa was the one who found my baby at the shelter. It was my first time talking to Teresa since all communication with her for the adoption was done with email. It was nice to hear her voice. I felt her passion to rescue dogs in need in her voice and stories. It is so grateful that we can have our dogs because of people like her and their efforts.

The little extension of the project led me to Marilyn and Teresa. My Marilyn keeps connecting me with more people.


Stay tuned. The last post of this series, Part 4, is in working progress. It's about a shadowbox project.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Make Lemonade ~ Cope with good memories ~ Part 2

This is not like a little project in Part 1. And, you would probably put your thoughts into the most. I hope you would find what the most makes sense to you...


Home Again

Marilyn came home a week later after sending her off to the rainbow bridge.

When Marilyn turned 10, I sometimes thought about how I would do with her ashes when the time would come. It made me sick to think about it. But, a large breed like her and not knowing her history, I had no idea of her life expectation. It was possible that it could have come sooner. On the other hand, it is a big deal to me what to do with her ashes. I wanted to have options Marilyn and I would be happy about. Here are what I found besides you and I like these ideas or not.

Cremation Urns and More

I started looking up urns for ashes. So many designs and sizes for pets are available. Some are even wearable called cremation jewelry.

In my culture, we don't keep ashes at home. We believe they should be in their graves, so they can rest peacefully. From that aspect, I am personally not comfortable with the idea of carrying around ashes. This is not for me. It could be suitable for someone who wish to keep their loved ones close all the time.

Cremation Gemstone

Marilyn and I are not so interested in gemstones. I knew this was not for us, but just share the information.

It seems they got the idea from creating artificial gemstones. They process ashes in high pressure and turn it to gemstones. I didn't look into options and cost.

I can see there are many different opinions in many levels about this. I leave it to you.

Artful Ashes/Rainbow Bridge Hearts

Then, I found Artful Ashes. They are a family owned business in Seattle, WA. They create glass art with ashes. The owners/founders started the idea with finding a way to cope their own loss. They happened to be artists and their glass object came from their love to the family they lost. They told me that Artful Ashes for human memorial, Rainbow Bridge Hearts for pets. Both are run by the same family.

I thought this was it. It's not just beautifully made, but I love the idea of the transformation of the ashes. I was not sure about her ash stuck in a box or urn. It's dark inside. I was not sure if Marilyn could rest in peace in one of those. She loved to be outside. She loved to be in the sun. If the ashes is in a transparent container, she would get some light, but it constantly reminds me her death. I wouldn't be able to handle that. Her physical absence is already hard enough.

If her ashes are in a glass object, she could get the sun. The ashes are hardly recognized as ashes in it. It eases my mind. At the same time, I know where she is in it without any direct reminder of her death.

Their web site provides information for pretty much everything you'd think to ask. They are very empathetic and respectful. If you ask them questions, they respond pretty quickly.

They store received ashes in their safe with labeling. They send you back the remaining ashes after the production with your order.

Memorial Creation Collection Package

Once you are ready to order your memorial art, you request them a Memorial Creation Collection Package. When I requested mine, they shipped it quickly and gave me a notification of the shipment.

The package includes a scooper and a container for ashes, a recipient filled bubble envelop along with all information you need from ordering to receiving your glass art — a catalog of the memorial arts, the instructions of how to prep and mail your ashes.

To order, you pick a style and colors from the options. They even do a little engraving for you, too.

Thoughtful Personalized Communication

Once I mailed her ashes to them, they emailed me a notification of receiving the ashes and their production schedule. That was actually personalized email, not from a template. It was very nice.

About 4-5 weeks later, I received an email from them: "Marilyn is coming home." They really said that. A couple days later, for some reasons, I felt I needed to be home that morning. So, I worked from home. Then, I heard the doorbell. The mailman was at the door with Marilyn!

They are sensitive about the situation of you who lost your loved ones. They also honor to work on your orders.

This is Marilyn's glass sphere. The white swirl reminds me her gray hair. The silver swirl is her ashes.

I asked them to engrave her name with a paw. They did it for me.

It comes with a certificate. They also put a hand writing note with the package.

I made two pillows for her. You know, you need a pillow otherwise the bum gets hurt.

I could put little pon-pons at the corners, couldn't I? Well, there is always room for improvement.

She sits on the window sill on sunny days. Her sunbathing routine never changes.

Whenever the sun reflects on her, she looks so happy. That makes me smile.


Continue to Part 3.

Make Lemonade ~ Cope with good memories ~ Part 1

Feelings cannot be always in the state we intend even though we think, believe, or even want them to be. They are parts of us, but it is sometimes the most difficult to control.

Grieving a loss of loved ones is never easy to deal with. Everybody takes it differently and handles in their own ways. One thing for sure to anybody is that denying or avoiding grieving wouldn't help you. We accept our feelings, process them, then we see where we could go from there. It is a sort of journey. When you start grieving, your healing begins at the same time. Nobody knows how long it takes, but it is sure you are one step close to the end of your journey.

Here is my journey. Good memories with Marilyn have been guiding me my journey. During the grieving, thinking back the time with her made me feel how lucky I was to have her in my life. So, I decided to do something with all good memories with her — my way of honoring her... and processing my feelings.

It helped me to cope. After all, sweet memories are great remedy for broken hearts. The toughest part is you need to reach your sweet memories in your torment. If you are having the great pain in darkness, I hope you'll find a tiny light of your sweet memories, then reach it out. The next couple of posts are about what I did. I also hope they would give some ideas to somebody who are wondering what they could create with their loved ones' memories.


Since Marilyn was gone, I had thought I was ok. I enjoyed posts about their dogs in the doggie groups on Facebook. They made me smile. I thought I was moving on. Some kind people often PM'ed me to check how I was doing. Their messages started with "How are you?" I didn't know how to respond to it. I found myself I couldn't say "I'm fine", then noticed I was not ok. I realized I didn't even know what to do with my sadness and emptiness. I was just trying to make sense of whatever it was that I couldn't quite accept.

I thought I had to do something to find my closure or some sort of answer to myself. As a start, I decided to go through Marilyn's drawer, where I had kept all her paperwork. It's not a big drawer, but my dining table was quickly covered by piles of receipts from the vet, the dog licenses from the towns, her adoption record, the references I had collected about her health issues over the years, the recipes of dog treats, some random pictures of her, the dog tags, etc., etc....

I knew one thing... I wouldn't be able to throw them away. They are not trash to me. I didn't want to let those pieces of her go. I was not ready for that. Every piece brought me tears. They were sorted in two categories, something for our future dog(s) and things for Marilyn. The first one went back to the drawer. The table was still covered with her stuff. Then, I headed to a craft store.

It Is Meant to Be

I didn't know what I was looking for at the store. So, I just wondering around. Then, I found two of this black frame. The dog in the frame was not the reason I picked this... ok, maybe a little bit.

This has some depth, not like a usual picture frame. It can be used as a shadow box. It's perfect to display keepsakes.

It's a sort of rustic, but not too much. I guess it was intended to be industrial, but to me this is more rustic vintage nautical inspired design. I like the brass accents a lot. It's casual, but has enough class, too. The design is simple. I don't need to worry about the frame takes away objects in it.

At this point, I knew exactly what I was going to do with them. It is always exciting to find a perfect match.

See? It is meant to be!

The top green one is what Marilyn was wearing when we met for the first time. It has the rescue's name and their phone number. I kept it thinking it would tell her where she came from and remember to thank them rescuing her.

The middle red one is what I got her when I submitted her adoption application. It has the matched leash we went for walks with. She never pulled, and walked right beside me. I set the leash the shortest, but still I had to wrap it around my hand not to drag it on the ground. The red looked great on her black coat. It was her color.

Chad got the bottom one for her. It had been washed so many times. Its green and blue are torn.

I liked the mat came with the frame though it wouldn't serve the purpose in this case. I grabbed the mat and went to Jo-Ann Fabric. It was Sunday evening, close to their closing time. I thought it would be easy to find similar fabric since it is pretty generic ivory color with some specs on. I couldn't find a right shade. Some were too orange, too yellow, too bright... I couldn't pick one, so picked two closest I found and went to the counter.

I placed my mat on the top of two fabric I picked, and asked the store person which one was closer to the mat. She looked at them five seconds, then said "Hold on." She stepped out from the counter and disappeared behind the bolts of the fabric. She came back with one bolt in her hand. "I think this is better."

She made my day. I thanked her, but I don't think she was aware how much her act meant to me. She helped me to keep my baby's memory perfect.

Everything was sewn down on the backing, which is an acid free foamcore. The fabric is pinned along the edges of the backing. No glue. This way, I don't need to worry about the fabric gets stained over the years. I could change the frame and backing in the future if I wish without damaging the objects.


They are on the hallway wall we walk by every day. The side of the camera located is the stairs. Whenever we use the stairs, we see them. They got the perfect spot for themselves.

The tags look so worn out just because she wore them all the time. There were at least 3 tags on her collar all the time. It was fun to find out what shape of tag was picked for a dog license when it came in mail every year.

Those tags hit each other and always made a very distinctive ting-ring sound. They never led her sneak up to anybody. We knew where she was without looking around.

Looking at these tags, I can hear the ting-ring sound far away in the back of my head. It's bitter sweet.


This is a simple project which doesn't require special tools or material. It's just a matter of finding a right frame. By putting it in a frame, your keepsake can be protected from possible damage while you can look at them all the time.

Continue to Part 2.