Place value on moments, people, and you’ll find happiness

IRON MOUNTAIN — Every morning in the shop, before the customers arrive and the steady hum of business rings through the building, my pup, Mully, buries his bone. He wanders around the floor, with his bright blue leash trailing behind him, rawhide in tooth, looking for the perfect spot. Sometimes he wedges it between two pillows that are decoratively sitting on the ground, other times he gently covers it with a rug, and quite often, he simply puts it down next to a table leg, display box, or card rack. After he hides his treasure, he follows the exact same routine. He comes back behind the counter with me, lays down on his soft pad, and plays with one of his toys, but without fail, after about five minutes of shaking his head vigorously while his stuffed chicken has been tightly held in his chompers, he gets up, goes and finds the bone he only recently hid, and moves it to a new and more “secure” location. By the end of the day, the bones have all ended up being right where they started — next to him on his cushy bed — with us both behind the counter.

Knowing Mully, it’s easy to depict the things in his life that are of the utmost importance, and it’s not a lengthy list. In his number one spot are me and my husband, followed by my sister and my other family members. Next would be Tucker, his favorite Golden Retriever cousin, followed by Mo, our cat and his mostly unenthused brother, and then any human being that he encounters throughout the day that will rub his ears and tell him he’s cute.

Then comes food and treats — yes, we did the “what will your dog eat challenge,” and so far, Mully enjoys everything (which includes cucumbers, lettuce, and broccoli), except for pretzels and potato peels — and last, after all of that, are his bones and toys. It is said that the same chemical that is released into the brain when a parent looks at their child is the chemical that is released when a human looks at their dog, which is partly why the bond between man and canine is so strong. It’s also said that dogs understand love, which is why they are so fiercely loyal and committed to their humans. As I thought about the list of “Mully’s most prized possessions,” it wasn’t hard to come up with the few items that make his life. Yes, he’s a four-legged bundle of fluff, so it’s arguable that it wouldn’t take much to please him, which is probably true, but that in itself is a beautiful thing. It’s why nine times out of 10, instead of laying on his comfy plush pad, he lays under my feet on the hard-tiled floor.

What’s on the list of most prized possessions by those who live in today’s world? Do phones and computers make the list, full of their social media, gaming capabilities, and instant messaging opportunities? Would TV be a top contender? What would we do without ESPN, cable, movies, streaming sites, and our regularly scheduled programming? How about money? Sadly, it’s inevitable that we need a certain amount to sustain a life, but does the importance of money overshadow family, friends, experiences, and authenticity? Do we worry about money so much, whether it’s wanting more or having too little, that we forget to look around us and see everything we’re blessed with? Greed is a green-eyed monster; is it merely coincidental that our money is green, or is it accidentally symbolic? What about the kind of cars we drive, the brands of clothing we wear, or the sizes of our engagement and wedding rings?

Rob and I have asked each other often if our house were on fire, and we only had time to grab five things, what would we grab? We also play this “game” under the assumption that Mully and Mo are already safely outside. So, we begin to think. What would make the “Samm’s most prized possessions” list? When you’re forced to look at your life, and only chose five things you want to not be forever turned into ash, you really have to think. So, what would I grab? The picture of my grandpa and grandma Swanson that sits on my shelf of remembrance. They’re sitting on a stone half wall in the middle of some park, and their faces and clothes are black and white, but they’re young, and smiling — their hair is not white, but dark, and while they’re an age that I never knew them at, their eyes still hold the same twinkle and my grandpa’s hands that are clasped in his lap are still the same mitts that could palm a car battery and picked me up and placed me on his knee. It’s a moment that I never witnessed, but would never want to lose.

Next would be our wedding guest book, which wasn’t a book at all. During our reception, while our friends and family nibbled on appetizers and sipped champagne, they signed a beautiful board. In the center of that board was a cartoon drawing of my husband and I in our wedding garb – I’d had it done months before, and the artist captured us perfectly, right down to my freckles and my husband’s bushy beard — and that board, which now hangs on our wall, enclosed in a rustic white frame, is the forever preserved ink that wrote out love and affection.

I would grab my “Big Red Book of Everything,” which was gifted to me by one of my mom’s closest high school friends when I was a baby-faced freshman. At the time, all it was was an oversized journal, but by the end of my senior year, it was filled with my heart. There were entries that were journal entries, describing days that were hard, experiences that were never understood, and joys that had been experienced, but there were also pages filled with favorite quotes that had come my way, poems that mattered, short stories I’d written and found, art that I’d drawn on napkins and placemats that was now taped to its pages, photos of moments, movie lines, song lyrics, and so much more. It was a coping mechanism that got me through some of the darkest periods of life. After saving my trusty paper companion, I’d move on to my closet, and amidst the racks of footwear, I would find the one pair of crème sling back Manolo Blahnik’s that my Grandma Flood gifted to me. To some, shoes might seem like a silly item, but to me, they represented more than just a shoe fetish; they represented a woman I had looked up to my entire life. My grandma used to tell me stories about how she’d walk to work on the streets of Chicago in her high heels. She took me on my first shoe shopping trip. When I was little, I would go into her closet, pull the most beautiful pairs of heels off the wall, and clop around her bedroom pretending to be someone important. She is the epitome of style, and when she gave me a pair of her most prized possessions, I felt beautiful.

Lastly, if by some miracle we could manage to muster enough strength to push it through the multiple doorways to protection, I would want to save my mom’s piano, that now sits in my dining room. She had me not so gracefully touching the keys of the old black and white since I was five years old, and later, after years of practice, my playing became graceful. I learned on her baby grand, on old and rickety white keys turned yellow during my academy days, on keyboards with ivory’s that clicked and popped and on smooth classics nestled in church sanctuaries, but the piano that was hers since she was young, that she had learned to play on, with stories held in its creaks and scars, is more priceless than any Steinway or Bösendorfer.

The people in my life make my life, and it’s no surprise that the materialistic items I would choose to save amidst the flames of death are items that not only represent people, but hold memories and moments with those people — moments and memories that could never be replaced.

Sometimes, during the hectic nature of life, and the stress and anxiety that it can produce, we place too much value on the pieces of our lives that don’t hold true meaning. We allow ourselves to get caught up in a handheld device that “holds our entire life” in it. We focus too much on wanting more more more because we tell ourselves that if we only had that grill or that job or that life then we’d be happy.

I hate inspirational quotes, but it’s true that happiness is not a destination; it’s a journey. This week, if you feel bogged down by the pieces of life that seem important, but aren’t, try thinking like a dog. All they need to be satisfied is the love of one good human, and if I took away every other part of “Mully’s most prized possessions,” that love from one person, would be enough.

Remember the value in the parts of your life that could never hold a price, and make sure on your list of most prized possessions, the temporary attachments are left behind.

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