Sunday, October 6, 2013

Monsoon Warmth and Comfort

Today's good thing takes some explanation.  Last night it was pouring rain when I went out to feed the rabbits and -- despite my umbrella -- my velour bathrobe got soaked.  I hung it up thinking it would dry overnight, but this morning it was still damp and cold.  So, I put it in the dryer while I made my coffee and, after a while, I took it out and put it on.  Heaven!  I was cold from running around in my nightie and the warm velour on my back and arms was ecstasy.

It was so good that I guess I'll get to do it again in a few minutes!  When Jeff came down, he was concerned about the drainage patterns around the new patio and in the back yard.  He insisted that we go out in the backyard with a shovel and dig drainage ditches to the backyard drain while the pouring rain was showing us where to dig.  Actually, he did the digging and I watched under an insufficient umbrella.  So, my bathrobe is in the dryer again.  I can't wait to get it out!

My friend Annette is missing her little Daisy, just like I'm missing Sam.  Daisy was an adorable little Bischon and the light of Annette's life.  She developed an auto-immune disease and had to leave us last week -- just a week after we lost Sam.  They will both be greatly missed.  Maybe they're playing together in the great beyond and comforting each other until we rejoin them.  I doubt that it works that way, but it's a nice thought.  Austin had a wise comment.  It's likely that heaven isn't bound by time the same way we are.  So, Sam may not feel the separation the way I do.  He's such a mama's boy -- it's hard to imagine him being happy without me.

They certainly enriched our lives.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Truth and Nothing but the Truth

Today's good thing is that my daughter got safely home from a two week trip to Shanghai -- where she contracted bacterial gastritis and had to make two trips to the ER for IV fluids.  We were so worried, but now she's back home and feeling better.

I have a little rant today about "The Butler."  We went to see it last weekend because it was reviewed very positively and, as history buffs, we thought the life of a man who had been a part of the Whitehouse staff through five administrations would be fascinating.  Even more interesting, he was a black man seeing the civil rights movement from a privileged place inside Washington politics.

What we saw was a rabble rousing indictment of how this man had been oppressed as a black man in a white culture.  The story opens as he picks cotton on a Georgia farm.  The overseer openly rapes his mother and when his father speaks a word in protest, the overseer shoots the father in the head in front of the entire group of workers.  There is no punishment for the overseer, but the lady of the house takes pity on the traumatized son and teaches him to be a house servant.  

Over the course of time, he marries, has two sons of his own, and works his way into a job as a butler at the White House.  His older son is a rebel and becomes part of the civil rights movement, marching with Dr. King and spending a lot of time being beaten and thrown in jail.  In fact, much of the movie's focus is on this older son.  The younger son is dutiful and home-loving, so he is sent to Viet Nam, where he tragically dies.

The only white people who are nice are Ron and Nancy Reagan, who invite him and his wife to be guests at a state dinner.  But this is also portrayed as a token gesture meant to make the Reagans look egalitarian to their other guests.  He and his wife are embarrassed and ill at ease.

At the end, he resigns from the White House staff and goes to join his elder son in a protest that lands him in jail. The son later becomes a congressman.

At the very end of the movie, Barack Obama is elected president and the theater erupts in applause and cheering.

We left the theater thinking, wow, what an amazing journey this man has had.  They made it clear that it was based on a real life person, so I went to the Internet to find out about which parts actually happened.  Was his father murdered?  Did his son become a congressman?

It turns out that ALL the horrible things were completely fictious.  His father wasn't shot by a lecherous overseer.  His older son, the civil rights worker, was COMPLETELY made up.  He only had the one son and that son returned safely from Viet Nam.  One true thing is that he and his wife were invited to a state dinner by the Reagans, which was one of the happiest memories of their lives.

Why make this stuff up?   What's the purpose except to sow dissension between people?  This man knew five presidents intimately.  Wasn't his life interesting enough without making it into a racist pile of propaganda?!  Even if his integrity prevented him from revealing personal information about about the presidents, surely his unique perspective would be interesting and there would be some interesting stories over the course of thirty years.  But no.  They hung a fictious and inflammatory story on this guy's life and most of the people leaving that theater will forever believe that it actually happened just as it's portrayed.  

I think that's irresponsible film making and it only hurts understanding between the races.

That's my two cents.  

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Dog Days

Today's good things are dogs playing joyfully together and Trixie Koontz's book "Life is Good."

This morning when I let the dogs out, our neighbor's dog Ginger was in the front yard.  She's a large reddish dog -- maybe a golden or setter mix -- and I wasn't sure how the dogs would react to this stranger.  After some cautious investigation (and sniffing), Pepper and Ginger began to play and it was such a treat to watch.  Tiny Pepper would jump at Ginger saying "chase me!" and then run at top speed in a big circle around the front yard.  To Pepper's delight, Ginger was just as excited about the game as she was.  Poor Sam hasn't been much of a playmate for her -- although, once they got going, even Sam joined in to the chase game for a few rounds.  Ginger chased Pepper and Pepper chased Ginger and they had such fun.  They ran and jumped and Pepper would lap Ginger and come up behind her.  I wish I could have filmed it, but I was afraid they'd stop if I went to get the camera.

One interesting thing happpened -- and I don't think I was over-interpreting their behavior -- but Pepper got a little tired on one of the rounds and took refuge behind me.  When Ginger pursued, Sam gently moved between the two dogs as if he were protecting Pepper.  Maybe he was protecting me, but it seemed like he was protecting Pepper -- which is very interesting since he generally seems to regard her as a bratty little sister.  Pepper has recently taken to gently licking his face and ears and paws and I think it may have formed a bond between them.

The second good dog thing is that my copy of "Life is Good" by Trixie Koontz arrived.  Trixie was a golden retriever who lived with the writer Dean Koontz.  She wrote this book because, as she described it, she is unhappy for about a minute and a half each day -- for thirty seconds after her food bowl is emptied three times a day.  Humans, she observed, seem to be unhappy for a much larger portion of the day.  So, she shares her doggy wisdom about joyful living.  I haven't read it all the way through yet, but here's a representative sampling:

"The poet Homer (not a dog) wrote 'Sleep is the twin of death.'  Get me a blue doodoo bag.  That Homer stuff is a pile of poop.  Sleep is just life slowed down.  So you can rest.  So you can dream about bacon.  And chicken.  And sausage.  And cantalope.  And peanut butter.  And about buying a fancy convertible and driving around the U.S.A., pee-marking territory till it's all mine."

"Water is restful.  Swim in water. Play in water.  Never pee in water.  Only fish pee in water.  Fish have excuse, are never out of water and are very dumb.  No offense to fish, but is true.  No fish ever wrote book like this.  Lassie saved Timmy every time he fall down well.  No fish ever saved Timmy or ever could."

Life with dogs is good.  

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Summer Sunday Morning

Today I feel like I have a lot of blessings.  First and foremost, Sam is still getting along okay.  He's not showing any acute signs of disease -- he just seems to eat less and less every day and he's getting boney.

This morning after my meditation I felt led to take my coffee out to the new patio.  I let Charlie out in the exercise pen and Sam and I enjoyed the morning air.  There's a young rabbit who frequents our crabapple tree and eats the fallen apples and it was out there investigating the planter and chairs under the tree.  I wonder if I could tame it like Annette has tamed Pip but, with the dogs around, I don't think I'll get a chance.

Sam was alert to the rabbit and watched it carefully, but he didn't really get preturbed until a lousy chipmunk came down the hill.  That was simply too much and he took off up the hill after it ... almost as fast as he did in younger days.  After running the chipmunk underground, he sniffed around on top of the hill and then decided to take a tour of the neighborhood.  Ever since we've had patio and drainage construction, the invisible fence has been torn up and non-functional, so Sam -- who usually stays close to home without the fence -- was free to roam.  I saw him sauntering around the neighbor's yard and then lope out to their front yard.  I followed him there and he knew he was busted and came home.  It's good to see that he still has some life and adventure in him.

Another joy was seeing Charlie binky all around the exercise pen.  He hasn't been out in a few days and he was thrilled with the opportunity.  One reason he hasn't been out is that last time he discovered a way out of the exercise pen and went on a romp of his own.  I wasn't sure how he was doing it, but I watched him this morning and I think I blocked up his escape route.

Yesterday was peach day.  We've been overrun by fruit flies, so I decided to cook up all the peaches we had and get them out of the kitchen.  I made peach jam and peach cobbler and both are delicious.  Die, fruit flies, die!!!

Three tips for making peach jam.

  • First, put the peaches in boiling water for minute and then allow them to cool a little before peeling them.  You're going to cook them anyway, so it doesn't matter if they cook a little. The peels will come right off with very little effort.  
  • Second, use a melon baller to remove the bits of coarse fiber that are right next to the pit.  I've never seen this suggested before, but I thought of it yesterday and it worked like a charm.  It's probably an old trick, but I prefer to think I'm a genius.  
  • Third, mix the pectin with 1/4 cup of sugar before adding it.  This will prevent it from blobbing up or making little gummy balls.  

I like jam with a strong flavor, so instead of the four cups of peaches the recipe required, I started with six cups and cooked it down into four cups before adding the pectin.

The results of my peach jam experiments have been very satisfying.  I think I may try some other jams and/or jellies.   

Monday, August 5, 2013

Home Comforts

Today's good thing is my velvety full length teal bathrobe.  I love the color and the soft velvet of it. It's not too bulky but it's cuddley.

This weekend we made peach jam, just like my Mom used to.  Kate bought a bunch of lovely peaches at the farmer's market on Thursday and on Saturday she helped me peel and prepare them.  We ended up with seven and a half 8 oz. jars of luscious peach jam.  It has been a long, long time since I had made any jam and I was afraid it either wouldn't jell or it wouldn't taste like anything -- but it turned out beautifully and was delicious!!!  We've already eaten one jar!

Thursday, August 1, 2013


Today's good thing was brought to my attention by a friend's facebook post.  She works at Chase Law School and posted a group picture of the graduating class of 1921 with the following observation:  When the two women pictured above started law school in 1919, it was illegal for them to vote.  Imagine that!  

What extraordinary women they must have been.  I wonder if they were supported by their families -- they certainly weren't supported by their culture.  I wonder what their friends thought.  They took the bold step of studying for the legal profession and yet they were forbidden to take part in the political process. And this was less than 100 years ago.

I remember learning about the fight for women's sufferage when I was a teenager and eagerly asking my grandmother, who lived through it, what it was like.  The answer was disappointing.  She didn't really pay attention to things like that.  She was more interested in nail polish and romance novels.  I expect there are a lot of women like her -- then and now. 

I'm hardly an activist myself.  I think politics is a dirty dirty business and I stay as far away from it as I can.  It's hard to support any politician when you make the assumption that ALL of them are lying to you and are ultimately working for their own interests.  

At heart, I'm a Libertarian.  I don't want anyone to tell me what to do and I don't want to control anyone else.  Live and let live as long as you don't hurt anyone else.  Government regulation and the tax code have become tyrants that overshadow everyone's lives.  Government surveillance and misinformation remind me, shockingly, of what I was brought up to believe were the characteristics of the Soviet Union during the cold war.  

So, I guess I do have strong feelings about politics.  Maybe I need to be more like the women pictured above and act on my beliefs.  

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Don't Weed the Charmin!

Today's good things are Burger King's 50 cent ice cream cones.  I love that I can drive through and get a small sweet treat for 53 cents (including tax).  It's not expensive and it's not huge, so it's not guilt inducing, and on a hot summer day it's a perfect little treat.

I've been weeding the garden again and so we have another installment of the misleadingly named Weed a Week.  I discovered half a dozen odd-looking plants with yellow flowers, large heart-shaped leaves, and strange thistle/crown shaped seed pods.  After some research, I determined that this weed is called Velvet Leaf (Abutilon theophrasti) or Buttonweed.  It was originally brought from China to the U.S. for the purpose of making rope, but it was a commercial failure and soon became a noxious weed.  It's often found in corn fields where it's quite a nuisance because it out-competes the corn for nitrogen resources in the soil. 

As I found with other weeds, this weed has its own virtues.  It's useful for making rope.  Here's a video showing how to harvest the fibers for use.  It's also edible -- the seeds may be eaten as snacks and supposedly taste like sunflower seeds.  The flowers and leaves may be eaten either raw or cooked.  Most useful of all, though, the velvety leaves are large and -- in a pinch -- can be used as toilet paper!  

It's too late tonight to get a good picture, so I'll add some tomorrow before I ruthlessly pull them up. 

Added pictures: 

These things can grow six to eight feet tall!
Large velvety heart-shaped leaves
Interestingly shaped seed pods
These are the mature seed pods -- the seeds can lie
dormant for 50 or 60 years.  A very durable plant!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Everything Old is New Again

Today's good thing is the satisfying feeling of getting exactly what you want at a bargain price.

We've tried to make a manly space in our house for Jeff in what we formerly called the computer room.  Nowadays, everyone takes their computer from room to room with them and we don't really need a dedicated computer room.  I cleaned it all up and repainted and decluttered and declared the space to be Jeff's.  Since it adjoins the living room, though, it needs to look somewhat presentable. I replaced his old huge broken-drawered office desk that we bought second hand when the firm was selling off old desks with a smart-looking cherry desk with multiple functioning drawers and a glass top for durability.  Well, he hated it.  He doesn't care about drawers, functioning or non-functioning, but he does care about having a large flat surface area and the new desk didn't have it.

So, I started looking for a large table/desk for him.  After poking around for a couple of months, I came across this gorgeous solid cherry Bob Timberlake desk from Lexington Furniture at an online estate sale.  The top surface was discolored in a couple of places (I should have taken "before" photos), but I knew that Jeff would want it to be refinished with polyurethane anyway so he wouldn't have to worry about setting glasses and dishes on it.  So, I picked up this beauty for $60.  Yay!

I stripped the finish off of the top and re-stained it.  Now all it needs is a couple of coats of polyurethane.  It looks great and fits in perfectly with our Queen Anne cherry living room ... AND gives Jeff the large surface area he wants.

I have the satisfaction of reclaiming a gorgeous piece of furniture that fits perfectly with our decor and fulfills Jeff's needs for a mere $60.  I feel smart!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Shrugging it Off

 Who chewed up this computer power cord?
 Was it you?!  Of course not.

You there, with the two chew toys right beside you, was it you!?  I think we've found the culprit.

Which leads us to today's good thing.  This is a good thing specific to my life -- and specific to this particular time in my life.

Last night we discovered that the new puppy had chewed up Ally's computer power cord.  The power cord was spanked and told that it was a bad power cord and Pepper was given a "good chew" as a substitute.  As we went to bed, Jeff heaved a big sigh and noted that there was $100 down the drain.  And that was it.

I thought to myself, "Thank God, we can cover that loss without stressing out."  No one likes to have to pay $100 they don't have to pay, but it wasn't a crisis in our house like it might have been in some houses.

This morning when I was thinking, a memory floated back to me of a trip we took to King's Island amusement park when the girls were little.  We were on the tram going into the park with a bunch of other eager kids and their parents. A little birthday girl about six years old and her dad were near us.  She was squirmy with excitement and I remember her dad impressing on her that he had promised to take her to King's Island for her birthday and that he was fulfilling that promise.  It wasn't hard to guess that there were a lot of promises in this girl's life that he hadn't fulfilled.

A little of the joy drained out of my day when I thought of our season passes and that my daughters had been to the park so often that it was almost a bore.  This little girl had never been and her dad was so proud to be able to give her this treat.

I like to think that we would be the same people if we were in different circumstances.  We would simply make different choices and have different joys.  Instead of looking forward to a trip to Japan this fall, we would look forward to a trip to Gatlinburg or a camping trip -- like my family did when I was a child.  Instead of dining at Jo An's and Robert's Table, it would be a treat to bring home KFC or eat out at Frisch's.

But that's probably not true.  When money is tight, there is an added stress to life.  There is pain when you have to say "no, we can't afford that," to your kids.

Of course, not all of my daughters' dreams were fulfilled.  We never got that pony and I never furnished the outdoor fort with electricity and running water.  But, overall, we've been able to say "yes" to most things.

I hope no one thinks that I'm boasting in a back-handed way.  It's just the opposite. I recognize that I'm not entitled to this standard of living and I'm grateful for it.

And it was a blessing to be able to shrug last night and know that we could buy a new computer cord without economizing somewhere else.  Maybe the real blessing is in recognizing what a blessing that is.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Abundance in the Aisles

Today's good thing is the grocery store.  Last night I went to Meijers and got some groceries for the week.  Everyone at home was in the mood for fruit, so I bought some peaches, mangoes, a papaya, bananas, plums, avocados, grapes, and apricots.  What an abundance of fresh fruits from all over the world!!!  We have a selection available to us that no previous generation has ever had.

In addition, I was able to purchase all the ingredients necessary to make sushi -- the seaweed binder, the special rice, the rice vinegar, everything -- right there in the store.  So now Kate and I can put to use what we learned at our sushi making class last Saturday.
Kate's sushi

My sushi

When I was in graduate school, I had a good friend who was Latvian.  She had been raised in America, but her grandparents were still living in Latvia under Soviet rule.  When her grandmother came to visit one year at Thanksgiving time, my friend told the story that they ran out to a convenience store to get some butter and the store was out.  It was Thanksgiving and a lot of supplies were running low.  The grandmother was triumphant and seized on this as an indication that there were shortages in America, just like in Latvia.  They could never convince her that all they had to do was go to a different store to find some butter.

We're very lucky to live in a country and a time when so much is available to us.  So, grocery stores are a good thing.

My meditation this morning was so interrupted it was almost comical.  I settled down with Pepper in my lap and Sam on the floor beside me.  After about two minutes Sam was suddenly alerted to one of his phantoms.  He doesn't hear very well at all anymore, but sometimes he starts barking for no discernible reason.  He can't hear us telling him to hush, so he continues until he feels the danger has abated.  He got Pepper all riled up and she went to the door and rang her bell.  [We're teaching her to ring a little bell on a string hanging from the door knob when she wants to go out.  So, of course, when she rings the bell we're highly motivated to open the door and reinforce that behavior.]  They both went out to deal with the impending doom.  After about six minutes, they were back, wanting to come in.  I guess their mission was successful.  I let them both in.  Well, it turned out that Pepper was coming in just to see what Sam was doing and she started ringing her bell to go out again.  I ignored it twice and then figured I'd better open the door for her.  I got to meditate for a few minutes and she started scratching at the door to come in again just about the time the meditation timer bell began to ring.  So much for peace and serenity!!!

Friday, June 28, 2013

A Phoenix from the Ashes

It seems like I'm focusing on plants recently, but today's good thing is that I finally got some cuttings of Mom's Zephirine Drouhin rose to root.  A couple of years before she died, I got Mom a climbing Zephirine Drouhin rose.  It's an heirloom rose, with a strong scent and bright pink blooms.  It's other advantages are that it's  nearly thornless and will even grow in the shade.  

I've been wanting one for my yard and even ordered one that I promptly killed.  Early this spring, I took cuttings of Mom's rose and none of them rooted. I think they dried out.  I tried again a few weeks ago and put all the cuttings in their pots into two big plastic bags.  They all seemed to die -- the leaves mostly fell off and looked moldy -- but when I went to throw them out yesterday, lo and behold, two of the stems had rooted and were sending up new leaves.  

There's no guarantee that I won't kill them in the next few weeks, but at least they've gotten this far -- so they must be tough.  

Yesterday, I finally finished putting together the raised garden box that I've been wanting all spring.  It's a little late for planting this year, but I still plan to set out a few things if any are available in the garden stores at this late date. Well, the box is done:  4 ft. x 8 ft. and 12 inches high, but I still have 800 pounds of top soil in the back of my van to move into the box!    So, I'm not exactly finished .... 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Great Oaks and Little Acorns

Today's good thing is this little Burr Oak seedling that I got from my Dad's yard.  He has a majestic Burr Oak in his back yard -- the trunk is seriously about 3 feet in diameter.  Mom put one of those tree "faces" on it, with eyes and a nose and mouth that you tack onto the bark.  It looks like the type of tree that ought to have a face.

Anyway, Dad has seedlings from this tree coming up all over his yard as a result of the squirrels burying the acorns.  When I was down there a couple of weeks ago, he dug one up for me and I brought it home with the acorn still attached at the bottom.  I potted it and I've been keeping it watered and it's sprouted eight new leaves.

Over the past couple of days, I've watched the tiny buds grow and then, suddenly, unfurl into leaves. It happens so fast and they grow so much, you almost feel like you could watch it happen if you could just sit still long enough.

Overall, my thumb is pretty much brown.   I do my best, but the chances of this little seedling actually growing into a magnificent oak like my Dad's are pretty slim.  Maybe that's okay though if I enjoy it to the fullest today.  Maybe its purpose will have been fulfilled.

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Life of Love

Today's good thing is that Sam seems to be hanging on pretty well.  He's still eating -- probably a little less each day -- and he's still getting around okay.  His backbone seems to be bonier and more protruding than it used to be.  He doesn't seem to be in a lot of pain -- just a little slower every day.  He's enough himself that I can be in denial about his ever leaving us.

I'm careful to watch for any signs that he's in pain.  I've started giving him a pain killer every night so he'll sleep well while the rest of us are asleep and can't be with him.

Particularly with the new puppy around, we've been lavishing him with attention and making sure the puppy knows that she's nowhere close to being the top dog around here.  In general, he just ignores her.

He's been such a good dog and faithful companion.  He's been a source of unconditional love for the whole family for 13 years.  Not to be maudlin, but -- rather than lesser creatures -- I sometimes wonder if dogs aren't superior beings, maybe angels, in disguise.  They lighten the load wherever they are with love and humor.  Unlike people, they're able to live in the present moment all the time.

I'm very thankful for Sam and all the good years we've had together.  I hope to see him again in another world.

Anyone who hasn't seen this, needs to:

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Armchair Power: Make It So, Number One.

Today's good thing is online shopping.  When I was growing up, stores had very limited hours.  Banks had even more limited hours.  If you needed a wedding gift, you had to ask around to find out what the couple needed, have the money on hand, make a trip out to the store, wrap the gift, and make another trip to the post office to mail it.  And, even then, you didn't know if the gift was duplicated by someone else.  

This morning I was able to sit in my chair, watching Spongebob, and view my niece's entire wedding registry.  I could even see which gifts she had already received.  I was able to pick something I thought she and her fiance would enjoy and send it, gift-wrapped, directly to her.  All without leaving my chair.

I love the Internet.  

Friday, June 21, 2013


Today's good thing is Reese's Puffs cereal.  I love the stuff.  I know, I know, it's a disgustingly sweet cereal and adults should know better, but it's really not THAT bad for you.  Read the label.  I usually eat some for breakfast and another bowl for a snack before bed.  In fact, when I go on trips I usually bring some with me.   Somehow the sweet chocolate and slightly salty peanut butter and the crunch are perfectly satisfying.  

So between my sweet cereal and my Spongebob addiction, I'm about five.  Don't let it bother you.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Spring Fed Pond

Today's good things are my new Stella D'Oro daylilies.  These were a kind gift from a friend who was overgrown with them and thought of sharing them with me.  This spring, when she and her son were thinning their plot, she set aside several clumps for me.  I planted them in the front yard and they have made themselves quite at home.  They started blooming last week and they're lovely.

I love it when a person shares what they don't need or want and another person can enjoy it.  I remember the dandelions that Nancy brought me last year when she and Eric were weeding their lawn.  The bunnies loved that treat.  Things like that reassure me of the abundance of life.  Like a spring fed pond,
Pepper thinks the flowers are for eating.
we can all be endlessly full.  

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Happiness is a Warm Puppy

Today's good thing is a warm puppy in your lap.  Well, sort of.

This morning, I let Sam and the new puppy, who has finally been named Pepper, out and got them taken care of.  I made my coffee and sat down for my morning meditation.   About two minutes into it, I heard a crunching noise from upstairs.  I ignored it.  It persisted.  I finally got up and investigated.

Pepper had gone into the upstairs bathroom, selected one of the girls' safety razors, and was chewing vigorously on the plastic handle.  In accordance with puppy protocol, I informed the razor in a low, menacing voice that it was a very bad razor and spanked it severely.  Then I found Pepper's toy squirrel and praised it in a high cheerful voice, telling it what a good toy it was and how it was such a good thing to chew and gave it to Pepper.  Pepper got the point.  She does not want to be associated with any item as bad as that naughty razor.

Sam meditating
Sam is a good at meditating.  When he hears the bell, he goes to his bed and lies down and, generally, doesn't stir for 20 minutes until the ending bell sounds.  Pepper, not so much.  After I got the razor away from her, she tapped around the house and played with her squirrel and investigated all the corners, and generally distracted me.  After a while, she jumped into my lap and began licking my face.  Again, not too good for meditation.  Finally, I was able to discourage her enough that she curled into a ball and went to sleep on my lap -- allowing me to finish a very disrupted meditation period.

Pepper meditating
Still, there is something sweet and life-giving about a warm puppy in your lap.  So sweet that I name it today's good thing.  Being able to roll with life's little distractions is a good skill to practice.  

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Ties That Bind ... And Bind

So much for my new resolution.  I already missed a day ....

Good things ... good things ... good things ....

Okay.  I've got one.  I had a pleasant call from my brother last night.  We actually communicated a bit as equals.  Most people won't understand that.  Most people think my brother is a great guy -- and he is.  He's a well-respected doctor who is very social, has a ton of friends, and is active in his church.

But to me, his big sister, he is aloof, snide, and superior.  When I was so horribly overweight, he made cruel jokes about it. Once, when my Mom's dachshund was trying to jump up into my lap, he noted dryly that she was looking for a lap where no lap could be found.  He would probably have said it was tough love and for my own good.  He tends to laugh quietly to himself whenever my sister or I make a statement of any kind, as if we're such children and one day we'll understand the world as he does.

So, when he called last night and had an actual conversation with me, it was nice.  He called to encourage me to take more control over Dad's financial affairs -- so he wasn't just calling to be friendly -- but he was pleasant and he thanked me for the work I do handling Mom's trust and taking care of Dad as much as Dad permits.  I shared my day with him and he listened and I complimented his wife.  I thanked him for spending Father's Day with Dad.  It was all very pleasant ... almost friendly.

So, it's a good thing.  

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Good Things

I'm going to try to resurrect my posting of daily "good things."  It was a helpful exercise and helped to make me mindful of the little blessings in my life.

Today I'm thankful for those mornings -- most mornings -- when I wake up before everyone else and get a little private quiet time.  I brew my coffee and pour my milk and cereal and then sit down to meditate for twenty minutes.  Sometimes I sit and cry with Sam and for Sam, my dog who has liver cancer.  Sometimes I listen to the birds.  It's a peaceful, nourishing time and I'm very thankful for it.

Sam is relaxing too.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Young Visitor

This morning I found a fledgling robin on top of my shelves in the garage.  He was making quite a fuss and complaining loudly about my presence in the garage.  After a while, he managed to fly out the open door.  Crazy kid.  Get off my lawn!

Bad news is getting me down this morning.  My little shadow, Sam, seems to have liver disease.  His check-up two weeks ago showed his liver enzymes were in the 700s.  Normal is under 120 and last year his liver enzymes were 48.  The doctor took him off of one of his medicines and ordered a re-test in two weeks.  Yesterday, his liver enzymes had gone up to 1100.

The doctor says it could be chronic active hepatitis, a liver tumor, or gallbladder disease.  They'll need to run further tests to find out.  None of those is good news for a 13-year-old dog.

Still, he's acting fine -- to the doctor's surprise -- and he doesn't seem to be suffering at all.  He should be throwing up, refusing to eat, and lethargic.  We seem to have caught it early and maybe something can be done to help him.  I'm trying to be hopeful.  :)  See, he doesn't look sick.  I just took these pictures a few minutes ago.
Sam investigating the back yard.

Sam is ready to come inside.

Sam is vigilant for squirrels.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Maryland Sheep & Wool 2013

I haven't been into blogging very much recently, but I did want to note that my friend Lynne and I had a great little holiday going to the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival last weekend.

We drove up on Thursday and poked around Baltimore on Friday.  We saw Edgar Allan Poe's grave (Jeff claims kinship with Poe) and ate Maryland's Best Crab Cakes.
Edgar Allan Poe's Grave

Little gifts left at the gravesite -- two airline ticket receipts, one from Alaska and one from Arizona

The place for excellent crab cakes

We took a water taxi to Fells Point and looked around there for a while.  There was a museum that told about the area's history as a deep water port.

And I had a Guiness at an Irish pub there.

After a little shopping, we called it a night and drove back to Columbia where we were staying.

We had beautiful weather for the festival and, even though I had been twice before, both Lynne and I were overwhelmed by the magnitude of the event.  It was total sensory overload!  Here's some of it:

 We had a glorious two days of shopping and ogling and laughing and eating and being in the company of people who understand our obsession with wool.   In two days, I'm still not sure we saw it all.  I know I missed some of the handiwork displays.

On the way home, we stopped in Milton, WV to see the Blenko factory and watch the artisans blow glass.

 As we left the Blenko Visitors Centre, we saw these adorable Muscovy duck chicks and their mom.
 Thanks, Lynne, for a wonderful trip.  I had a great time and brought back another layer of stash for my basement.  :)