Chapter 16 of A Life Worth Living – Making Lemonade

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Chapter 16 – Making Lemonade

The rest of 2004 was a bit more mundane. Anne, Sassy, and I continued to enjoy life in our neighborhood and we grew closer to our new friends there. I was a quick study in my new job and soon became one of my boss’s favorites. I kept in close contact with my grandfather and parents back home and everybody seemed to be doing well. So all in all, things were pretty nice. The only negative thing was that Anne and I didn’t get a chance to get married at Siesta Key as we wanted to, but as Sassy soon taught us, when things don’t go as planned, there is always an alternative.

Now as I mentioned before, we made a bit of a mistake when we extended our patio and enclosed the front porch because we ended up taking away Sassy’s views, but trooper that she was, Sassy did not complain and instead found a new favorite past time. Granted, it didn’t happen overnight – at first it was quite sad to Sassy mosey over to her bed by the front window and get ready to look out, only to remember that she no longer had a view – at which point she’d lay there and look back at us with those sad eyes (pet owners know how this rips your heart out). But thankfully Sassy soon discovered the benefit of our home improvements – the chance to lay out in the sun on the screened back patio.

Anne and I have always joked over the years that Sassy would have made a good nudist. Believe it or not, the city we lived in (Land O’ Lakes) was known for having one of the highest nudist populations in the country and there were countless nudist communities quietly nestled into the nooks and crannies of the area. Apparently the local area had just the right mix of sunny weather to suit that crowd. For her part, despite being a Yorkshire Terrier (a breed famous for having long flowing hair), Sassy hated being furry so much that we continually had our breeder keep her shave her as short as possible. When she’d come home from a cut, Sassy would be as happy as a clam with her ‘nudist’ haircut and she’d prance around like she was tiptoeing on roses because having less hair allowed Sassy to spend more time outside and not be as hot.

When I got home from work a few days later, Anne called me into the kitchen and pointed at Sassy laying on the floor of the new patio.

“What’s she doing?” I asked.

“Sunbathing.” Anne smiled. “She’s so comfortable without all her hair that she’s able to stay out in the sunshine longer.”

“And even though she may not be able to see things at her level,” I observed, “that new screened area is great for sitting in the sun and not having to worry about all the bugs.”

“Actually sometimes she makes me open the door so she can sit outside too. The bugs don’t seem to bother her. But either way she lays so peacefully; it’s like she’s in a trance. She stays out there for awhile, comes in and gets a drink, then goes back out. Totally content.”

“She’d make any sun-worshipping nudist proud.” I laughed.

And so, once again, Sassy took a negative event and turned it into something positive – teaching us yet another lesson — one which Anne and I soon applied to our overdue wedding.


“There’s always Vegas.” I joked as Anne and I sat at the kitchen table running down two lists that had been rapidly dwindling this past year: available wedding spots and available friends. “Remember, I’ll be there for a company meeting in February (2015), so perhaps you can just meet me out there and we can get this deal done!”

“I suppose so.” Anne sighed – which surprised me because I wasn’t really all that serious with my suggestion. “You know my brother Charles got married there, right?”

“They eloped right? But wouldn’t your mom be devastated if you did that too? I mean you are her only daughter, isn’t your wedding kind of a big deal?” And before she could reply, I thought about it more and added with horror, “Can you imagine what MY mom would say about that?”

“Michael, this is our wedding, isn’t it? I don’t care about who can or can’t attend – I say we invite people and if they want to come that’s great. If not, that’s ok too. All I care about is marrying you and I don’t want to wait anymore. We have the house. Now it’s time to get married and have kids. If Vegas makes that happen faster than I am all for it – and the Little White Chapel would be fine for me.”

“The Venetian.” I corrected her.

“That’s where you’re staying for your company meeting, right?”

“And that’s also where I’d like us to be married. I mean, if we’re gonna do Vegas, then let’s do it right, honey. How about we get married on the Gondola in the Venetian’s river? It would be the next best thing to a wedding in Italy?”

Anne smiled – I could tell she liked the idea. “That’s my Michael – always the romantic one.”

“So, do you like the idea?”

“I don’t like it. I love it!” And Anne leaned over to kiss me. “I’ll contact the hotel and see if they have a wedding planner to help us.”


Vegas turned out to be a huge hit – on many levels.

The trip with my company went smoothly and I learned a lot at the meetings – including the fact that pharma companies love, love, love to hold meetings in Vegas: mainly because there are always plenty of hotels willing to give them space at a discount (and that savings means more profits). I’ve since been back to Vegas more times than I can count over the years and stayed at hotels all over the strip, but on my first visit Aventis had us staying at “THE hotel” at Mandalay Bay. It was awesome to begin with and through some quirk I ended up with a “manager’s” room and thus had a suite all to myself – not bad for a rookie rep. Up to that point in my life it was easily the nicest room I’d ever stayed in — so by all accounts my trip was shaping up nicely.

My pharma trip flew by: we had our planning meetings, did a lot of practicing our sales’ pitches, ate at some high class restaurants, and generally did what pharma companies too – spend other people’s money. Although this was the very thing I had railed against before getting into the industry, I have to admit it was easy to get sucked into that lifestyle.

When the week ended, my pharma colleagues left, while I stuck around and took a taxi to The Venetian where Anne was already waiting. As nice as Mandalay Bay was, for the money I’d take The Venetian. Their styles were totally different: THE hotel at MB was modern chic, while The Venetian was Italian luxury. But perhaps more importantly, from a purely practical sense, The Venetian was much more centrally located on The Strip than MB (which was at the farthest point on the northside and really away from all the action). Given that The Strip was really long, I’d found it was better to pick a hotel around The Bellagio midpoint area so you had easy access to all locales. But I digress…

When I first met up with Anne, we had a few difficulties – for starters it rained like The Dickens (and it never rained in Vegas, right?!?). Then, when we went to get our marriage license at the Clark County Courthouse there was a line out the door and around the building (apparently a lot of people did get married in Vegas!) But thankfully those minor troubles dissipated quickly and we had brighter days ahead…

To say our wedding at The Venetian went well was an understatement. Quite frankly The Venetian blew us away with how they treated us. Did we have a great room? Check. Did we get married on a gondola? Check. Did we have an awesome minister? Check. Did we get some amazing wedding pics in a bunch of super secret areas of The Venetian gardens that most people never even knew were there? Check, check, and more checks!

Although we didn’t have any friends or family join us, we still made the best of it and had a great time. Being alone allowed Anne and I to focus 100% just on each other and it was a blast. After our wedding, we had dinner at Emeril’s Delmonico Steakhouse and both the food and the service was outstanding. After that Anne and I hit the strip and did some gambling – little did I know that Anne would soon develop a passion for Video Poker! Now miser that I am, I hated to play games with low odds, but having done my research I’d already learned that VP was actually a game that the gambler had a chance at — if you played the right machines and you knew a little what you were doing. As a result, I drug Anne around the strip on a whirl wind tour searching for VP machines with good pay tables. It was a great way to see lots of hotels. And go figure – Anne actually started to win!

That meant we had to go shopping the next day… But it didn’t matter because Anne continued to win…

Although we didn’t end up hitting a jackpot, Anne’s winnings offset much of our expenses and that was a big help to the pocketbook. All in all things really couldn’t have gone any better. Nonetheless, after a few more days, we were both ready to get home.

So we returned back to Florida and to Sassy as Mr. and Mrs. Stoppa – happy as clams and now ready to get busy working on the next big item on our agenda: building our family.

Little did we know that that journey would be far more difficult than we could have ever imagined — and that some of our darkest days were fast approaching…for Anne, I, and Sassy.


Sassy’s Life Lesson #16 – Making Lemonade

You know the cliche “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Like so many cliches, we take the saying for granted because we’ve heard it so many times – but the danger of doing that is that we overlook the wisdom of the words. There is real power in this cliche. Life changing power in this wisdom – if we only listen.

Sassy understood this wisdom – in this chapter we saw her overcome the difficulty of losing her beloved window views by discovering the joy of sunbathing. And this would not be the last time Sassy used the ‘lemons’ of life to her advantage. In the days to come, she’d inspire us again and again with her dogged persistence in finding the bright side of life. I’ve never personally known another creature (dog, human, or otherwise), who could overcome so many challenges without folding – it’s something I will always remember about her.

Thankfully for us, Anne and I were able to use this wisdom to our advantage too. Our original wedding spot in Siesta Key was destroyed? No problem, we got married in Vegas instead. We didn’t have any friends or family join us? That’s ok, we still had a blast. It rained on our wedding day? No worries, we trusted in the old adage “Life isn’t about waiting for the storms to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”


Points to Ponder

What are the lemons in your life?

Is there a different way you can look at these challenges and turn them into something good?

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