The Transformation

May 27, 2018 10:27 AM (for May 26, 2018)

Yesterday, I made a spur of the moment change. It wasn’t well-thought out. I made my decision on Friday night and executed on Saturday morning.

While the change isn’t important in the big scheme of life. I can tell already that it is a life-altering change for me.

I had my hair cut and dyed yesterday. I chose a drastic new style and a drastic new color. Here’s the before and after pictures.

beforeafter2

I’m not one to shirk trying new hairstyles. I’ve gone short before. But it’s been a long time since I’ve been this short before. I think it was back in the mid 90’s where a dye mishap left me with jet black hair. I decided to rock a pixie cut until it faded out. But I was younger than. Twenty years younger, at least.

Once I hit my forties, I’ve been consciously choosing styles that I think are age appropriate. My personal taste tends to be unconvential. I like bright colors and patterns. I love animal prints — especially leopard. In an attempt to not be that little old lady someday with the wild hair and clothes, I’ve been reigning in my choices, gradually. Easing my way into a more mature look.

As far as hair color goes, I’ve never ventured beyond the rainbow of hair colors that can occur naturally in nature. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had every color of hair possible — blonde, brown, red, all highlighted with various hues. But I’ve never ventured outside that spectrum to what they now call “fashion” colors.

I like fashion colors! I’ve always liked them. I had a girlfriend in college (mid-80’s) who dyed her hair a lovely shade of eggplant purple and shaved it on one side. I liked it but I was never brave enough to do it myself.

Nowadays, the hair dye aisle in Walmart looks like a box of crayons. There are non-permanent dyes to change hair to blues and greens and pinks. I love them! The past few years I’ve admired them as I bought my dark brown spray tint to hide-the-grays. I’ve wished they were available when I was younger. I totally would have played around with color when I was younger if it wasn’t permanent. Totally. (Can you tell I’m a child of the 80’s?)

Then a couple of months ago, I picked up a can of pink spray color on a whim. I added a hot pink streak to my hair now and then. Which was fun, but since my hair is dark it wasn’t that noticeable. I had I use a lot of the spray to see the color which left a chunk of my hair feeling crispy and shellacked. I couldn’t get a comb through it.

I get that playing with pink dye that washes out is a big difference than permanent dye and good head shearing. So what happened to force me out of my comfort zone yesterday?

It was, surprisingly, a writing seminar that I attended last weekend. This was an informal seminar not affiliated with a college. There were writers of all kinds but the majority of them were women. Many of them were as old or older than me.

And many of them were rocking fun personal styles. Personal styles that I wouldn’t necessarily deem age-appropriate. There was one white-haired lady with bright red glasses. The instructor had short, red-spiked hair. One of the published authors on the panel had this awesome hair cut where part of the top was long and part was shaved. The long part was held back with clips to expose the partly shaved part. Granted, she was probably at least ten years younger than me, but she wasn’t in her early twenties either.

I got a lot out of that seminar. More than I expected. I learned a lot about getting published and I learned that age appropriate is whatever you like at your age. Were these women dressed out the norm in what you’d see at Pick N Save on a Saturday? You bet. Did they care? I doubt it. Did anyone at Pick N Save care that the woman had a partially shaved head or an elderly woman wore bright red glasses? I doubt that, too.

One of the gifts of growing older is the freedom to do and be who you want to be. Some people learn this much earlier in life, like my friend in college with the eggplant hair. Some of us, like me, learn it later; but at least I learned it.

So went I went into the salon yesterday, I told my stylist to go to the “fashion” colors of her dye chart. She was shocked. I handed her a couple of photos of hair cuts that were part Katy Perry, part Pink. The result: a super short haircut that is shaved at the back and a hair color that’s somewhere in between the color of an eggplant and a red pepper. Still colors found in nature, just not colors found on humans.

I love the change. I love the ease. This morning I got up, ran my hand through my hair and it was done. (Those of you who color know you can’t wash it for the first 24 hours). I saved at least 20 minutes from my morning hair routine. That’s two plus hours a week!

Now I think I need new fun glasses to match the hair.  I saw a pair of leopard print frames I liked but didn’t buy the last time I looked. I do love my leopard print.

Will I end up being a little old lady wearing bright pink lipstick, too much leopard print (as if there is such a thing!) with bright, garish hair? Quite possibly.  Maybe those little old ladies had it right all along. Age-appropriateness is all in your mind.

I just had to hit the appropriate age to recognize that.

 

11:14 AM

The Boss

Friday, May 25th 1:52 PM

It’s an odd thing to watch the obituary column in the newspaper waiting for a name to appear. But that’s what I’ve been doing for several years now.

I was a few days behind on my newspaper reading so this morning I took an hour out and read my back issues.

It was there.

The name I’ve been watching for, but didn’t want to see, was in the Wednesday edition of our local newspaper.

It wasn’t a surprise, of course. This man was 93 years old and had been in failing health for several years. I last saw him six years ago before he entered Assisted Living.

Dennis asked if I wanted to attend his funeral. It’s today. I thought about it briefly and decided I did not for many reasons. That does not mean I am not mourning his loss or remembering the impact he had on my life.

So who was this person; who was he to me? An interesting question that’s surprisingly hard to answer.

He was originally my mom’s boss back in the early sixties. He started a custom home building business and my mom was his secretary. When I was born in 1966, he let her bring me to the office until I was old enough to walk and start making trouble. Then his wife took care of me while my mom worked. I grew up with his children until I was five and they were the closest thing to siblings that I had.

Eventually, in the late sixties my father went to work for him as well. My parents went to Hawaii with him and his wife in the early seventies. We went to their house for dinners. I remember him making grasshopper drinks that I wanted to try but wasn’t allowed since I was only seven or eight at the time.

All through grade school, whenever I was sick my mom would bring me into the office. I’d lay on the couch in the back room and read.

I loved the office. Sometimes I got to go there in summers, too, when I wasn’t sick. I remember playing on the typewriter, the smell of the mimeograph machine and how the papers came out slightly damp. I played with the building contracts that crinkled with carbon paper and smelled inky. I sat at my mom’s desk pretending to answer the phones while his loud booming voice echoed out from his office.

At lunch time, my mom would set out sandwich makings on the table in the back room. The three of us would sit down together and eat. Sometimes the three of us went out to McDonalds. That was a treat.

I worked at the office on and off during high school and college. I suspect he wanted to give me a job and income more than he needed the office help.  I think I learned more about how to succeed in the work world there than I did in college.

My birthday is one day after his wife’s was. My parents were celebrating his wife’s birthday when my mom went into labor with me. I still have several birthday cards that he gave me in which he signed them simply, The Boss.

While he was, of course, the boss, he was so much more. I liked that he chose to sign my birthday cards that way, though. It signified that they were just from him, not from him and his family.

I have many fond memories of The Boss. He drove a big, black Cadillac and I loved riding in it. It was like floating on a cloud. It was the first car that I ever saw that had a climate control thermostat setting. He always wore a gold ring with a black onyx top that had a diamond chip set in it. It clanged the table sometimes when he moved his hand. He taught me how to play cribbage and the strategy of the game at his house one cold night in October of my freshman year of college.

Then something happened between the families – his and mine. To this day, I’m not sure what. I know what my mom told me happened. Maybe that’s all there is to it. Maybe not. In any case, the ties were severed between the Boss’ wife and my parents.

My mom and I still worked for The Boss and there was no animosity between him and my mom or me. My dad hadn’t worked at the office for several years already by then, but there was no animosity between him and The Boss either.

Around that time, one of The Bosses’ sons came to work at the office, too. He was always my favorite of The Bosses’ kids. I had a crush on him when I was little. Our lunches in the office expanded to four. The rift between The Bosses’ wife and my parents was never discussed.

When my son was born, my mom and I split the full-time job at the office. One of us would work at the office and the other would take care of my son. I have fond memories of those days at the office.

Prior to that time, my time with Boss was always shared with my mom. Splitting the shift meant more one on one time with him. It was a turbulent time in my first marriage fraught with a lot of problems with my in-laws. The Boss listened to me and helped me through it. I could talk more easily with him than with my own father.

The Boss was an excellent wood craftsman. He got a wood craft magazine delivered to the office and I would look through it and point out items I’d like. I still have an expertly crafted CD carousel, high chair and cradle that he made for me. In my back yard stands a bird house he made me for my new house in 2004. It’s not just a random bird house, he designed it to look like the one room school-house he attended as a child in northern Wisconsin.

Ray's Bird House

The one-room schoolhouse The Boss made for me.

The Boss came from very humble beginnings and that he came to own his own company is a testimony to his character. No matter how successful his company was, the worry that he would someday have to go without again never fully left him.

When he was 18, The Boss was badly injured in a work accident and was laid up for nine months. The injury was so severe that he was classified 4F during WWII, something he was very ashamed of at the time. I remember discussing how that injury could have saved his life during one of our lunches. Born in 1925, The Boss would have been one of the first round of Americans to enter the war.

Eventually, my mom retired and I took the job full-time while she took care of my son. The Boss didn’t do anything to acknowledge her 30+ years of working for him on her last day. I know she was very hurt by this. I think The Boss just didn’t know what to do and he was upset that she’d changed their plan of retiring at the same time some day.

I worked full-time for a while at the office, but it wasn’t the same place anymore. The Boss was stepping back, working less days and his son was taking over the business. One day, when The Boss was out of the office, I got into a fight with his son and I quit on the spot. It’s a decision I still regret to this day. Not because I left the job, it was time for me to do that. Because I added to the rift which was already there with The Bosses’ family.

I have never repaired my relationship with the The Bosses’ son. I saw him at the grocery store about ten years ago and I was going to apologize to him but he turned away and made believe he didn’t see me.

What I didn’t consider when I quit (actually, I didn’t consider a lot of things) but the main one was that I would no longer see The Boss. I found that I missed him and our talks. If he was angry about my leaving abruptly he never said so. I did see him occasionally at my parent’s house and he stopped by my house now and then. It was never the same, though.

And so today was the day I’ve been expecting. I learned of The Bosses’ death by reading his obituary in the paper. It was short and it gave some genealogical information on his children and his brothers and sisters. That was it.

I know it’s just an obituary, and that’s what obituaries say, but it struck me as so lacking in the depth and feeling of what this man accomplished and how many lives he touched through his business and his personal life.

So I come back to the question, who was he to me? He was someone very important in my life. He was someone who cared about me and who went out his way for me and took care of me, in his own way.

He was The Boss.

2:57 PM

 

 

 

 

Bow-Chicka-Wow-Wow

Thursday, May 24, 2018 11:42 AM (about Wednesday, May 23)

Dennis and I spent the afternoon yesterday in a pay-by-the-hour-motel.

Seriously. Me, germophone extraordinaire, not only went to a pay-by-the-hour-motel, I actually used the hot tub — something I never, ever do in any hotel, no matter how many stars there are in their Michelin rating.

The truth is, I don’t like using public swimming pools at health clubs or hotels, but I love, love, LOVE to swim. I have a bad knee and swimming is the only exercise I can do without pain.

A few years back , I overcame my germophobe ways enough to swim laps for an hour a day, five days a week, at health club. I did it for five months and my knee felt amazing. No pain at all. I’d like to get back to that. But I really, really don’t want to go back to swimming in public pools. It was this conundrum that brought me to the doors of the Sybaris Motel in North Brook, Illinois, yesterday afternoon.

The Sybaris motel is a small chain of motels in Wisconsin and Illinois that are marketed as a lover’s getaway. Brochures show dimly lit rooms with fireplaces, beds encased with lights and full size, private swimming pools.

I’m not a fan of staying in hotels in general. When I do stay in one, I bring my own blanket and I touch the bedspread only enough to pull it off the bed and cram it in the corner for the rest of my stay. I don’t go quite so far as to sleep in my own silk encased sleeping bag like Howie Mandel does when he stays in hotels, but I understand the sentiment behind his doing it.  Staying in the Sybaris, much less using any of the pools where you-know-what has certainly happened in them, has never crossed my mind.

Until I learned about the swim spa room. I discovered swim spas about three years ago. They are essentially a large bathtub with strong jets that propel out from one end. These jets are strong enough to allow you to “swim in place”. It is the perfect answer to my want to swim/hate swimming in public pools problem. They can be put indoors and they cost much less than building a regular swimming pool.

The problem is, and has been for three years, I haven’t been able to find a place to let me try one. This is a significant investment. One I’m not comfortable making unless I can give one a good long test drive.

The various places that sell swim spas offered to let me try their units out in the showroom. How appealing, having to show up in my swimming suit to swim in a showroom full of customers and sales people. Not! And how long could I use it? A minute or two? I certainly couldn’t swim for even fifteen or twenty minutes in there. How would I know if it was really a good workout?

Then last week, Dennis discovered one Sybaris location about two hours from our house that has a swim spa in one of their rooms. The rooms are expensive – well over $200.00 for a night. However, they did have the option of renting the room from 12:30 to 4:30 on a weekday afternoon for a little over a $100.00.

Could I do it? Could I get over the ick-factor of going in the water at one of these sex-motels to try out my swim spa? Now granted, this is a no-name swim spa, so I knew I would have to try out the exact model I want in a pool show room at some point. However, that could be a minute or two swim to try it out if I had already spent significant time swimming in a swim spa and knew I liked it. The Sybaris could be my proof-of-concept test. If I hated it, that would be that.

We booked the room for Wednesday afternoon.

The Sybaris was not what I expected. In spite of the subtly decorated rooms in their brochure, I was expecting to get a tacky, seventies-era room with mirrors everywhere, a fake leopard print bedspread and Bow-Chicka-Wow-Wow porn music piped in. There were no animal skins fabrics, there was an 80’s station playing and the only mirrors were a mirrored headboard. It actually looked like the room in the brochure.

room1

There are strict rules at the Sybaris. Top of the list is no animals, no children and no more than three people to a room, no matter how large the room is. I’m assuming this is to discourage parties in their rooms?

From the time we drove off the congested highway into the parking lot, everything about the Sybaris screamed discreet. There were large hedges and privacy fences that blocked the busy road from seeing the cars in the parking lot. The desk clerk asked “which car” we’d be driving to our room. Only one was allowed. Apparently, there are many people who arrive here with two.

View from the parking lot when checking in

We drove through a privacy gate to our bungalow. It was a small house that was not connected to any of the other bungalows around it. More tall hedges and privacy fences hid the view of our bungalow from any of the others. We had our own parking space right in front of the door. I read that some of the bungalows have their own attached one car garage for those who want complete discretion.

The bungalows looked nice from the outside. They were landscaped nicely with flowers, and they had an architectural style that reminded me of a small tropical bungalow. All the bungalows are made of painted cement blocks. When I got inside the room I realized there were no windows. This place was essentially a bunker; completely sound-proof and the ultimate in privacy. If there’s ever a real threat of nuclear war, I’m renting out one of these places. I’ll get the one with the private one car garage so I can smuggle in my animals.

The room itself was nice looking. There was not a mirror above the bed as I expected, but there was a small lighted panel with the constellations of the zodiac. In the center was a large ring.

ceiling 1hook2

What was the ring for, we wondered? Then we opened the closet. Next to the ironing board and behind the suitcase stand was a sex swing. It was even wrapped up in the paper “sanitized for your safety” label that they normally put on toilets. I’m not sure if it came with instructions or warnings — weight limits or bad heart warnings, perhaps?  Sanitized paper or not, there was no way I was touching it to look.  There is no mention of the complimentary sex swing in their brochure on their website. Everything at the Sybaris is discreet.

swing1

Our room didn’t have a fireplace but it did have two TV’s with eight channels.  Two of them were porn. Bow-Chicka-Wow-Wow.

And then there was the swim spa. It was smaller than the ones I’ve looked it, but certainly large enough to give it a try. I changed into my Tankini (a two piece swimming suit that looks like a one piece) gritted my teeth and went in. It was warm which made me cringe. A cooler pool means less germs in my brain. I was somewhat comforted by the note on the check in slip that said the pools were serviced daily (even if guests were staying for more than one night) to ensure safe ph levels.

spa2swim2

Swimming in the swim spa was a challenge. It didn’t have multiple speeds like the ones I’m considering. This meant that I had to swim fast enough to keep myself in the “swim lane”. If I went too slow, the current would kick me out and I’d bang into the sides. If I went too fast, I banged into the front of the spa where the jets were.

I learned a lot. I learned there is a light in the bottom that allowed me to center myself in the current to sustain the swimming rhythm for longer periods. I learned I need to buy a swim spa that has an under the water current because it’s hard to get a breath of air while there are jets throwing up water around your head. I learned that swim jets will cause the top of a Tankini to gather around your arm pits leaving the thin layer of lining the only thing between you and swimming topless. Learning this last lesson prior to trying out a swim spa in a showroom was worth the cost of the room in and of itself.

There were a lot of stops and starts at first, while I figured out what I was doing. Finally, I was able to swim for longer periods of time before stopping. I was out of breath a few times, which is a good sign it was a good workout, but I still wasn’t sure. So I did one final push to swim for a long time without falling out of my swim lane. I lasted about 2.5 minutes straight. Considering I used to swim for an hour straight, this isn’t much.

I wasn’t convinced that the swim spa gave me a good workout. Until I got out of bed this morning. Every muscle in my body hurts today. Shoulders, arms, even the tops of my feet! They say swimming exercises every muscle group in the body. I believe it.

Overall, the swim spa experiment was a success. I liked it enough to warrant further research and test swims. I will be buying a no-nonsense one piece suit before I swim in any show rooms, however.

When we checked out of the Sybaris, I was amazed at how many other people were checking out, too. Apparently, there’s a lot of people who rent hotel rooms for four hours in the afternoon. I wondered how many of them were actual couples looking for a change of pace and how many of them were there cheating on their significant other? I wondered if they were wondering the same thing about me. Maybe they were all testing out the various pools Sybaris offers. Probably not.

But I came here just to try out the swim spa. Honestly!

All in all, it was a fun afternoon. I got to try my swim spa and I caught a glimpse into a lifestyle I’ve not seen before. I think there could be inspiration for a story there. Finally, and best of all, as of this morning I’m free of any creepy, yucky rash I could have caught from the water.

Proof-of-concept completed.

12:48 PM

I’m a Survivor

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018  12:50 PM (for Monday, May 21st)

I have a writing helper today.

20180521_105354_1527014115428_resized

Frankie wants to help.

20180521_105552_1527014068207_resized

Isn’t he a handsome boy?

A writer less dedicated than myself might interpret this as a sign to play PS4 instead of writing. Probably Tropico 5. Or maybe Assassin’s Creed-Origins. Maybe even both.

Thankfully, I’m not that writer. Really, I’m not.

Yesterday’s snap shot is actually a culmination of an event that occurred over the weekend. If you’ve been following this blog, you know that in addition to three cats, we also have two dogs. Sammy is a year and half and he’s full of energy.

sammy

Sammy getting ready for bed. Yes, he sleeps in our bed.

We also have Charlie, who was my mom’s dog that we adopted when she passed away last July. He’s almost 13.

charlie and louis

You’re not seeing double. Our neighbor dog, Louis is on the left. Charlie is on the right.

Charlie has led a very sheltered life. My parents rarely went anywhere so he was always with people. He’d never been alone for over 2 or 3 hours, much less overnight, when we got him. He’s a pretty nervous guy in general.

When we got Sammy as a puppy, I was determined I would raise him differently than my parents had raised Charlie. My dog would be well-socialized, well-trained, and independent. I wouldn’t be tied down because of him. We have a fabulous dog sitter we trust with our cats when we travel. We’d just add a few extra visits to let Sammy out when we were away.

Easy-peasy, right?

Except for the part where I discounted Sammy’s own personality, sense of will and independence. And not the kind of independence I’d hoped for. He’s perfectly happy doing what he wants, how he wants and when he wants independent of what we want him to do.

I had a similar goal to raise my son differently than my parents raised me. Thankfully, I was more successful with him than with Sammy.

We’ve tried to socialize Sammy, but he is not at all friendly with people and does in fact bark at my son and his girlfriend every time they visit, no matter how many times he’s seen them. Our latest problem with him is in the past six weeks Sammy has developed separation anxiety. He will bark, literally from the time we leave the house until we get home. This went on once for five hours. (We have camera’s in the house we use to watch the animals when we’re gone).

A few weeks after all the barking I noticed that Frankie, one of our cats, was downstairs with us less and less. He was nervous and jumpy. I feared all the barking was taking its toll on him. I knew I had to do something. And fast, since Dennis and I have short trip planned to Las Vegas in the near future. I’d arranged for the pet sitter to stay over night so the dogs would have company, but I couldn’t let Sammy bark for the entire day when she wasn’t there.

I spoke to the vet and he suggested putting Sammy on Prozac, which we did. Sammy’s behavior became more subdued and controllable. The cats returned to visiting us downstairs more and Frankie stopped cowering and slinking around the house. All good signs!

After two weeks on the medicine (the doctor said to give it a good two weeks to build up in his system) we tested leaving Sammy and Charlie alone for five hours. Sammy was quiet for about three of them and the barked for the other two. Better, and good enough for everyday life, but still not good enough for us to be able to go on vacation.

The vet then suggested a sedative with the Prozac. We tried that, but we were afraid to leave Sammy alone after he took it. He was woozy and dizzy. We were afraid he’d fall off the couch or a chair. And it made him kind of sick. It was a long eight hours until the sedative wore off. That wouldn’t work either.

It’s ironic that Sammy is causing us the problems because I really thought Charlie would be the problem child when we brought him in. He’d never been around other dogs, and the few times he was around Sammy he didn’t like him. He even snapped at him a few times.

However, once my mom went into the hospital it was as if Charlie knew I was his only option. The dog who had to have a set routine and a house all to himself breezed into our home without a stutter. It was as if he’d lived here all his life. He bonded with Sammy immediately and Sammy bonded with him.

My mom didn’t believe Charlie was so happy so I brought her videos I shot of Charlie playing with Sammy. She still wasn’t convinced until I brought Charlie to visit her at hospice. Charlie ignored her and followed me around. He didn’t want to sit by her on the bed, and when he finally did, he watched me the whole time to make sure I didn’t leave without him.

My mom said she was happy that he’d bonded so strongly to me and she was relieved that Charlie was happy. All of which I believe is true, but she had to have been hurt that Charlie didn’t greet her or care to be near her after them being constant companions for eleven years. I told her that I thought he was probably mad at her for the change in his life. She called him a survivor and said it didn’t matter as long as he was happy.

In the months that passed after my mom died, I never saw Charlie look for my mom, even when I’d take him back to my mom’s house as I was clearing it out. I’ve read about dogs going through depression when their master’s die, but there was never any evidence of that.

Charlie, the survivor, could teach a thing or two to Sammy, the barker.

With the Prozac only partially working for Sammy, I came up with two potential options to save our impending vacation: 1. Hire what amounts to a babysitter to stay in the house with the dogs for four days. 2. Put the dogs in a kennel.

I’m not sure I could even find someone willing to stay with my dogs for four days, so last weekend I opted to test out option 2, put the dogs in a kennel.

I chose the kennel All Pets Inn in Pewaukee which is affiliated with Charlie and Sammy’s vet. I figured if something was radically wrong with Charlie while he was there, at least there’d be doctors around.

Saying I was nervous about leaving them on Saturday morning is an understatement. I never in a million years thought I’d be leaving one of my animals in a kennel, much less leaving an elderly dog who already has stress issues and has never been away from home, or been alone overnight, in a kennel. But Charlie is a survivor, right?

We stayed close to home all weekend even though it was a good opportunity to get away. I received updates from the kennel. It was a struggle to get the dogs to eat, especially Charlie. They did hand feed him and get him to eat eventually, though. Charlie shook for the first day. I nearly went and picked him up but kept remembering my mom telling me “to what I had to do” with Charlie. She said this before she got sick under the context of putting him down if he didn’t adjust to my house should she die unexpectedly. But it applies to this situation, too.

It’s not fair for me to deny Dennis from taking any vacations because of the dogs, so I stuck it out and left them in the kennel. By Sunday morning, Charlie stopped shaking. Neither dog was barking constantly and they were both friendly with the workers. Even Sammy who doesn’t really like anyone other than his immediate family and the pet sitter. Charlie had to be hand fed Sunday night again, but at least he ate.

Finally, Monday morning came and I was able to pick them up. The small lobby of the kennel was crowded with people picking up and dropping off animals. I was so happy when I saw Charlie and Sammy being led out on their leashes.

Sammy made a beeline to me, jumping up and tail wagging. Charlie made a beeline to — the woman standing next me! I was surprised and I glanced over at her for the first time.

She was an elderly woman, probably in her mid-seventies, with gray hair. Her height, stature and even style of shoes and clothing was very much like my mom. I did an involuntary double take myself when I saw her.

When Charlie sniffed her leg he immediately looked surprised and confused. He rushed to my side and greeted me. I felt so bad for him.

Charlie is a survivor. A survivor with a good memory as it turns out. And though he may not outwardly show it, I’m betting he feels the loss of my mom, too. I couldn’t help but wonder if he thought back to when he ignored her at hospice, angry that she’d left him alone but never fathoming it would be his last chance to be with her. I hope he isn’t living with regrets.

Of course, he isn’t. I know he’s a dog not a person. But still. I’m convinced that animals understand more than we give them credit for. They just process and understand life in different ways than we do.

Thankfully, my mom was right and Charlie is a survivor. I know he might not be happy with kennel life, but he will survive the three days he will be there and our much-needed vacation (we haven’t been away since before my mom died) is still a go. I will rest easy in Las Vegas knowing that my cats aren’t enduring constant barking, but I may need to have a few more cocktails than I normally would to calm my nervousness about the dogs being in a kennel. I think I can live with that, though. I’m a survivor, too.

Now if I could just get Sammy to stop barking.

5/22/18 2:00 pm (Missed it by 10 minutes today)

Another Kind of Fairy Tale

Sunday, May 20th 7:07 AM (written about Saturday, May 19th)

While much of the world was watching the fairy tale wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry yesterday morning, I was sharing the day with a group of like-minded folks chasing another kind of dream. Getting their writing published. (By someone other than themselves, that is.)

I attended a seminar taught by Kathie Giorgio on how to market and publish my writing. It was hosted by  All Writer’s Workplace and Workshop  based out of Waukesha, Wisconsin, (although they work with students all over the world).

I’ve taken a lot of writing technique classes in my day. In fact, one of the very first creative writing classes I took that wasn’t a college requirement was taught by Kathie Giorgio, All Writers founder. That was back in spring of 2001. I remember that because a flight attendant sat near me in class and I got to know her a bit. I was worried about her when 9/11 happened a few months later.

Yesterday’s class was different. It was about how to publish with a real life publisher, not a self publisher or Amazon self publishing. We talked about how to submit, where to submit, and what to expect (and not expect — as in a boat load of money) should a piece get accepted.

But I already knew there wasn’t much money in writing. With the rare exception of writers that get large advances from publishing houses (think Stephen King caliber writers) or writers that happen to get movie contracts (Wisconsin author Jacquelyn Mitchard comes to mind) there isn’t a lot of money to be made in writing.

There was another reason 40+ people chose to spend six hours of their day learning about how to get their poetry, short stories or novel into the hands of a magazine or book publisher other than money.

They’re all chasing the dream, the thrill of seeing the words they birthed go out into the  world and speak to others in a way no other writer can. It takes time and sometimes money to learn the craft, but I think it’s a worthy dream.

When I got home and went online I saw the news sites and social media were flooded with another kind of dream. A real present-day fairy tale. The Royal Wedding.  Pictures of Meghan’s dress. What crazy hat was Princess Beatrice going to wear this time? Would Kate have shed the baby weight?

There were some stories about people in the US gathering to watch the wedding together. One site showed some pictures of mothers gathered around the tv sharing the experience of a real life fairy tale unfold with their little girls.

Everyone has dreams, and one isn’t loftier or more deserving of our attention than another. But I’m glad I spent my day with my dream and not the one across the pond.

It’s not that I begrudge the Royals their grandiose wedding or people back here in the US enjoying it. I get that it’s big news for America because the bride is American. Personally, though, the Royals just aren’t my cup of tea.

I wasn’t always such a curmudgeon. In 1981, when Charles wed Diana, I was 14 years old. Almost 15. This was before the internet and social media. I spent hours pouring over newspapers and magazines reading about the couple. I bathed in the romance of it all. A young woman, only five years older than myself, swept off her feet and from her normal life to become a princess and eventual queen.  I even kept a scrapbook of the news clippings which I still have, although I don’t know why I keep it.

It’s sad now to look at the picture of Diana knowing how her fairy tale ended. How she must have been thinking she was marrying her prince when in reality she was just cast in a role she didn’t even know she auditioned for; the ingenue that would save the prince from himself. Classic fairy tale plot line.

I even remember a tv broadcast the morning of wedding that discussed how a doctor had examined Diana to ensure she was a virgin prior to marrying Charles. Fourteen-year-old me had no issues with this even though I knew the stories about Charles romancing women all through the 1970’s.  It was fine for a woman to held to a more rigid standard than a man. The monarchy couldn’t let some slut bear the heir to the throne, could they?

Some fairy tales can be dangerous to young minds. And to young women.

Diana’s fairy tale didn’t end well as we all know. Some believe it cost her her life. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I think it’s fair to say it cost her her happiness. She never had a chance of saving Charles from himself. He never wanted to be saved in the first place. I do think she shook things up a bit for the monarchy.

Now times have changed, right? After all, yesterday the Royal Family accepted a bi-racial, divorced American actress into their ranks. Except that we have to note that she’s divorced and Bi-racial and the monarchy is still accepting her into the fold. Now if she could just be Meghan Markle marrying Prince Harry without her back story, I’d be more inclined to believe the change is real.

Is that the monarcie’s fault or the news media’s fault for calling attention to it? I’m not sure. I can’t help but wonder, though, if Meghan would have been given the same welcome by the Royals had she been marrying Prince William who will become king and bears the heirs to the throne, instead of marrying Prince Harry who is very unlikely to ever take the throne.

There’s the curmudgeon coming out in me again.

I do hope Meghan ends up happy in her new role. Considering she’ll be living under public scrutiny, palace rules and abandoning her acting career I’m not sure how that will work out of her. Maybe there’s other aspects of the fairly tale I don’t know about that will compensate?

That’s the things about dreams and fairy tales. One never knows if they will actually come true. And if they do, will we want them to? One think I do know is that I’m still going to keep working on mine

8:16 am (darn! Eight minutes over today.)

The Worry Gene

IMG_1462

Friday, May 18th, 9:11 AM (for Thursday, May 17th)

I’m a worrier. My mother was a worrier. I suspect her mother was a worrier. It’s in the genes.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to worry about less things. But there’s still a few areas that get me.  Like creepy, crawly things that invade my house and live on flesh.

Ticks. I hate ticks. Really, really hate them.

Ticks like dogs. I like dogs. Eventually, it was bound to happen. I just didn’t think it would be this early in the year.

After our lovely day on Wednesday (which you can read about here A Wisconsin Tradition), Dennis and I returned home to a relatively mellow Charlie and a frantic, yapping Sammy. (That’s a whole other issue).

We’d be gone for awhile so the first thing we did was let the dogs outside in the front yard. After they came in, Dennis noticed something black on the floor, about the size of a large blueberry, but a bit darker.

In a house with three cats and two dogs, you never, ever pick up anything dark and round off the floor with your bare hands. Dennis grabbed a paper towel and picked it up.

It was odd looking and it felt weird. Kind of rubbery. Dennis thought it might have fallen off of a vacuum cleaner or something mechanical. I looked at it, too. I rolled it around in the paper towel.

I squished it.

A thick, gooey, reddish-brown substance oozed out onto the paper towel. I was confused. What was this thing? I thought maybe it was some kind of weird berry that one of the dogs brought in from outside. Dennis, being much more of an outdoors man than myself, knew better.

He calmly took the paper towel from me and went into the kitchen for a good look where there was more light. There he announced that the “berry” did indeed HAVE FEET and I had, in fact, just squished a tick. A big, fat, well-fed tick that must have been on one of the dogs for several days at least.

I was stunned and then horrified. Both dogs sleep in bed right next to me. I’ve been sleeping with a tick for how many nights? On my worrying scale this is about an 8 out of 10. Creepy crawly things that feed on blood might be living in my bed? Not good.

After washing my hands in scalding hot water with lots and lots of soap, I insisted that Dennis do a thorough tick check on both dogs. Where there’s one there could be more. Sammy was clear. He has such a thick undercoat that I think it would be hard for tick to burrow its way to skin. At least I hope so.

Charlie has much thinner fur, however. While checking him, Dennis found a raised spot on his belly. It was small and black and looked suspiciously like a tick embedded in flesh to me. Dennis said he didn’t see feet (I wished he’d stop talking about tick feet. It was totally freaking me out). However, feet or no feet, Dennis couldn’t be sure it wasn’t a tick. He wasn’t sure what else it could be, though.

nipple

Then I started worrying. This is not a normal spot. I’ve combed Charlie countless times throughout the year I’ve had him and I would have noticed a dark, raised mole. This was new. If it wasn’t a tick, what was it?

That night in bed (which I thoroughly checked for ticks before crawling in), I wrestled between hoping it was a tick, and knowing that Charlie was sleeping next to me with a tick on him or fearing it might be something worse. Something potentially deadly. Charlie is almost 14 years old. He’s never been that healthy. It could easily be a cancerous growth. A tumor. On my scale of worrying, the health of my animals is a 10.

I didn’t get much sleep Wednesday night. I tried to focus on the tick option, which was better than cancer, of course, but it still made me uncomfortable. First thing Thursday morning I called the vet and got an appointment for 6 pm.

It was a long day. Charlie seemed okay, but he didn’t eat much. Charlie can be picky but it also could be that he was sick. Cancer impacts the appetite, right?

By 2 pm I decided if it was cancer, I wouldn’t intervene. Charlie is old. I can’t put him through surgery or treatment. I would let nature take its course. If the vet said he was in pain I would be prepared to say goodbye and have him put down. I asked Dennis to come to the appointment with me.

After barely touching his dinner, (more proof that it was something serious), we got Charlie ready to go. We took Sammy along, too, because he freaks out when he knows he going to the vet and I thought it would be good for him to have a visit where nothing happened to him. (And I wanted him there for moral support.) Also, we were planning to stop for a hamburger on the way home and Sammy loves drive through food.

We got to the vet fifteen minutes early, which means we had to wait about twenty-five minutes for the vet to see us. They always seem to run late, especially late in the day.

We have a very nice vet. His name is Dr. Ted and he’s very gentle and soft-spoken. He has a very good bed-side manner and he always returns my calls promptly when I bother him with questions and concerns about one of the menagerie.

First the vet tech came in and we showed her the spot. I told her I thought it looked like a tick. She agreed it did have that look but she didn’t see feet. (Ugh! Feet again!)

Then Dr. Ted came and took a look. Definitely not a tick he said; no feet. He turned on his bright examination light and got in close to examine. He got a shaver and shaved the area around it the spot. He felt around. He poked. He prodded each side of Charlie’s belly. He found another spot!

This is it, I thought. There’s more than one spot. The cancer has spread.

And the he looked up and announced that it wasn’t a tick, or a mole, or cancer. It was a nipple.

A nipple. A black nipple. Just one large black nipple. The other one is very small and hard to see. He laughed and said Charlie was asymmetrical but it was in fact just a nipple and he was fine.

Whew.

Once I realized Charlie wasn’t going to die, I was so embarrassed. I apologized several times for wasting his time. Dr. Ted is a very nice man. He just laughed and said I got the “Overly Cautious Pet Mom Discount” and he didn’t charge us for the office visit.

Although, we did buy tick medication on the way out that makes ticks die if they bite dogs.

It was a very happy ride home in which Charlie wolfed down his half of a hamburger that he shared with Sammy. Then he came home and ate his dinner.

I think Charlie is a worrier, too.

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So for my snap shot memory today, I am going to remember that the worst case scenario isn’t always what happens in life. Sometimes a dark spot really is just a nipple.

9:52 AM

 

 

A Wisconsin Tradition

Thursday, May 17 11:11 pm (for May 16, 2018)

Yesterday, Dennis and I embraced a tradition of sorts. This is rare for us. We’re not big on traditions. I’ve served Lasagna for Thanksgiving and Swedish Meatballs for Christmas. There have been times when we’ve skipped holiday celebrating entirely and just hit the casino. There are a few traditions we do enjoy, though, and Wednesday we indulged in one of our favorites.

Ishnala. It is the quintessential “Up North” Wisconsin supper club located in Wisconsin Dells. It’s nestled in Mirror Lake State Park and it’s been open for 65 years. The original owners were the Hoffman brothers, and although they’ve all since died, the new owners have changed very little in the restaurant from it’s original owners. It’s like stepping back into 1958 when you go inside.  That’s one of the things I love about it.

There are literally trees growing in the middle of the restaurant. Or at least there were at some point; now they’re probably dead. But they still look real. There are huge picture windows looking out over mirror lake. When the air is still the lake really does reflect like a mirror. The windows are single pane windows so the restaurant is only open 6 months out of the year. I suspect it gets pretty cold in there come January.

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The understated entrance

teepee

Tee Pee overlooking the lake. There is a short set of steep stairs that lead down to it. I managed to tumble down them during one visit. I blame my high heels and not the Old Fashioneds I was drinking.

table view

The view from our table.

interior

They built the restaurant around the trees.

Ishnala makes the best Old Fashioned cocktails anywhere (next to Dennis’). And the food. Ohmygodthefood. Deep fried, breaded cheese curds so fresh they still squeak when you bite in to them. Cheese curds and Old Fashioneds. Doesn’t get much more Wisconsin than that.

Unless you count the complimentary cheese spread and crackers. I used to get the cheese all to myself but since Dennis has been expanding his culinary horizons, he realized what he was missing out on. So now I have to share. The same thing happened with onion rings, sour cream and mushrooms. If Dennis starts eating guacamole we’re going to have a problem.

drinks

Usually Old Fashioneds are made with brandy and cherries. I buck tradition and get my with Southern Comfort and Olives. Notice the cheese spread on the right. I was able to get a picture of it before Dennis dug in.

cheese curds

Ahhhh.  Deep fried breaded cheese curds. There are no words.

According to Dennis the seafood at Ishnala is excellent. Being allergic I wouldn’t know, but he seems to enjoy it. I appreciate that there’s enough other types of food that I can order on the menu and enjoy. And unlike other seafood restaurants, the air isn’t laden with shellfish odors which triggers my asthma and makes it hard to breath. Breathing is good. If Dennis gets good lobster and I can breathe AND have fried cheese curds all at the same time, it’s a good night.

lobster

Twin cold water Lobster Tails for Dennis

chien

My Chicken Cordon Bleu.

After we finished eating we went to HoChunk casino for an hour. Dennis actually won! He won enough to pay for dinner, gas, my gambling losses, with some leftover for next time. That doesn’t happen too often.

casino

He’s thinking, “I won! Now I can buy more lobster…”

While I enjoyed the drinks and the food and gambling, I also was so thankful that Dennis and I were able to usher in another Ishnala season, happy, healthy and together.  It’s easy to take those things for granted and it’s nice to have a tradition here and there that reminds me of how incredibly lucky we are.

us

Ushering in our twelfth season of Ishnala. I no longer go near the tee pee.

So this is my snap shot for Wednesday, May 17th. A fantastic day with the best husband in the world. And the best cheese curds in the world.

11:40 pm

Veg Day

Tuesday May 15, 2018 2:17 pm (To be posted on Wednesday, May 16)

It occurred to me that when I post these blogs about snap shots of memories I will likely be writing them about something that happened the day before. Or writing them the day of, but posting them the day after because I already posted once for the day. Did that make sense? Anyway, I will now list the actual day and time that the piece was written along with the day it will be published.

Today’s snapshot is an easy one. And rather than being a specific moment, it’s the entire day. An unexpected, unplanned day of freedom and creativity.

Although I don’t presently have a job, I do keep a schedule to my days. I’m that kind of a person where I like to have a daily goal that I work toward before I have “free” time. Sometimes the goal is just to finish a load a laundry, other times it’s a whole list of chores and errands I feel need to be done. Today was supposed to be one of those days. The laundry-list type of day, complete with laundry and errands and my most hated task of all – dog food prep.

My mom’s dog, Charlie, has special dietary needs. Many special dietary needs. He’s allergic to chicken and turkey, has mixed reactions to beef and can’t tolerate much wheat at all. This means no store-bought dog food works. My mom devised a recipe that he tolerated well, made of ground lamb, mashed canned green beans and carrots and smashed baked sweet potato. She cooked two pounds of meat for him for about two weeks worth of meals. She didn’t like doing it either.

charlie by addy

Charlie. He’s a pretty happy guy these days. 

Since coming to live with us, Charlie has more than doubled his food intake. I think it’s all the exercise he gets playing with Sammy and the walks. He used to pick at his food and he now steadily eats (I don’t think he’ll ever be a gobbler, like Sammy). In any case, that amounts to a minimum of four pounds of ground lamb (or ground pork – we’ve branched out), four cans of vegetables and two sweet potatoes a week just to cover his day to day needs without having any extra saved up in the freezer.

It took a lot of time to cook enough food for him every week so as the months went by, I devised easier ways of quickly prepping his food. One of those way is to prepare a large volume of what I call Veg – the mashed canned veggies and sweet potatoes. I make ten packages at once (that’s 20 cans of vegetables and 5 super huge baked sweet potatoes) and freeze them in individual packages. It’s much easier to only haul out the food processor to grind the canned veggies once a month than several times a week. Then throughout the month, I can pull out two pounds of frozen meat, fry it and add the add the defrosted veg. Takes all of 20 minutes. Much less painful than prior dog food cooking sessions.

However, this means that once a month Veg must be prepared all at once and I hate – make that HATE – prepping Veg. It’s messy. There are bits of carrot and green bean on every towel and in the crannies of my counter top, no matter how much I clean up. It’s also time consuming. Twenty cans of carrots and green beans have to opened, drained, rinsed with water, drained again and then pulverized in batches of two cans each in my food processor. Even with microwaving the sweet potatoes, Veg still takes me at least 2.5 hours to prep and clean up. There is no way to fill a freezer bag with Veg and seal it without Veg creeping out and getting all over my hands and the counter. Every dish rag and towel I use during this chore has to be washed after Veg is prepped. Did I mention it’s messy?

frozen veg

Veg in it’s frozen state

Veg with meat

Veg being cooked with meat.

Today was supposed to be a Veg prep day. And a laundry day. And an errand day to run to the store to get more ground lamb so I could make another batch of dog food tomorrow. Not a day I was looking forward to.

However, when my alarm went off this morning at 7:15, Frankie, one of our cats, was snuggled next to me purring. This is a rare event not to taken likely. Our cats are playful, but there’s not much cuddling allowed so I felt I had to take advantage of the opportunity and stay in bed and soak up all the cat love I could until Frankie left on his own. Of course, I fell back asleep and didn’t get up until 9. Already behind schedule.

Frankie

Who could say no to this guy? Not me!

Then I opened the blinds and discovered it was a marvelous, sunny, warm with a nice cool breeze sort of morning. The Orioles were singing on the deck and the spring peepers were chirping in the swamp. This kind of a day cannot be taken for granted in Wisconsin where it feels like it’s winter for 8 months year. I felt the same way about the gorgeous morning as I did about the affectionate cat. It was a rare gift not to be wasted.

Oriole

This is a picture from last year taken on our deck. The Orioles love the grape jelly.

So no Veg prep happened today. Most of the chores have been deferred until later in the week (although I did manage to do a couple loads of laundry today). I am enjoying sitting outside writing which is exactly what I want to be doing now. It’s a true gift and a blessing to able to do exactly what you want, when you want, and I’m extremely grateful to have it.

This kind of fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of day reminds me of when I did work. Whenever there was one of the first really nice spring days like this one, I would use a vacation day and drive to Devil’s Lake State Park by myself to soak in the wonderful weather, the gorgeous scenery (which is especially pretty at Devil’s Lake during spring when the dark green of the pines contrasts with the pale spring green of the new shoots), and to just hang out and veg with myself. My way of re-calibrating my brain cells after shaking off the doldrums of winter. I’d always bring a notebook and pencil and get some writing done, too.

So that’s what today turned out to be. My re-calibration day. It’s still a Veg day, but a different kind of veg than I expected. I like this kind much better.

devil's lake

Devil’s Lake last fall. It’s even prettier in the spring.

side yard pic

This is the view I enjoyed for most of the day. I opted to stay inside the fence instead of going on the deck so the dogs could hang with me.

May 15, 2018 2:44 pm

A Snap Shot of Life

May 15, 2018 10:41 am
Last week, I received my notification from Word Press that my blog, One and Done, would renew for another year in June. I was surprised to receive it. It doesn’t seem like a year has gone by already. A lot has happened since then. A lot hasn’t happened since then. A lot of writing that is.

I started One and Done committing to write an hour a day as way to get back into the flow of writing with the intent to finish the rough draft of a book I’ve been working on forever. It was my way to get the creative juices flowing again if you’ll pardon the cliché’. And that did happen for awhile. A few weeks of steady writing. Then a few months of sporadic writing. And lots of months of silence.

And now this. The email reminder. The line in the sand moment, so to speak. Do I renew for another year and invest $38.95 in a promise which didn’t turn out to be as much of a promise as a wish the last time I made it? Or do I cancel it and use the $38.95 to take my husband out to dinner? Admit defeat that writing one hour a day is too daunting of a task?

Admittedly, a life-changing event happened early on in my endeavor that I hadn’t anticipated when I started One and Done and it derailed me. The event caused my world to shift in a way that will never be righted. For a long time, sorting out the event and what my new life looked like seemed to be all I wanted to write about (I’ve got many, many composed entries that I never committed to paper swirling around in my brain from the past year). But I didn’t want this blog to sad and dedicated to loss. I didn’t have a specific theme when I started it (which is a problem), but I knew and I still believe, it’s not meant to be about living in the past. It’s about now. Being present and creative for one hour a day. Can I do that? Do I still want to?

Do I or don’t I hit the renew button? As of last week Tuesday, I decided I don’t. I hit the cancel button and admitted defeat. Not a big deal, right? I’m sure there are more people who give up on blogs than ones who actually stick to them. Not doing a blog doesn’t mean I still can’t write.

Even though I cancelled the blog, I didn’t stop thinking about it. Which I was doing last weekend when I was finally able to bring myself to go through the boxes of old photo’s from my mother’s house. They’ve been sitting in my sewing room in the rec room of the basement in a storage cabinet that I purchased for the purpose of hanging on to the items from my parent’s house that I wanted to keep. They were the last bit of her personal items that I haven’t gone through yet. Probably not the best time timing to do this task – right before my first Mother’s Day without my mother, but I felt like it was the right time.

It wasn’t as hard to do as I anticipated, and I actually enjoyed the memories some of the old snapshots brought back. Some of the people in the pictures I didn’t know, but I wish I did. I wish my mom had jotted just a name on the back of them so I could tie their faces back to an old story or even the family tree I’ve been working on in Ancestory.com

Which gave me an idea. An idea for a theme for my blog. What if I write about one moment that is worth remembering each day? Some moments may be funny, happy, or sad. But they will be my written snapshot of life. As the days race by and meld into years, it would be nice to have a way to go back and remember the ordinary happenstances that make up a life. One day and one hour at a time.

After ruminating on the idea for a few days, this morning I logged into Word Press and clicked the Renew button. I committed the $38.95 for another year. And I’m committing to do better with my posting, too, with a few changes.

While I would like to commit an hour a day to One and Done, realistically, that’s not going to happen for a variety of reasons. Some days, especially weekends, are busy because it’s the time Dennis and I get to spend together the most. Other days are still hard for me with my mom being gone, and I won’t have it in me to write. Excuses? Maybe. But allowing that they’re likely to happen will make it more likely for me to meet my goal.

So I’m changing up the rules a bit. This year, my goal is to post three to four times a week. Maybe more, if I’m on a roll, but not less. I will still keep the one hour format. Once my hour is up, I’m done. I try to stop writing five minutes before the hour so I can spell check, but if I write too long, I hope you’ll forgive the occasional error.

I’m going to change up the name slightly, too. When I started the blog, I named it One and Done with the tagline “Learning to let go one hour at a time”. My intent when I wrote it was referring to letting go of constant revision thus the rule of writing and publishing a post in one hour. However, the tagline proved to be very ironic when my mom died several weeks after I started the blog. Now when I read it, it no longer has the original meaning to me anymore, so the tagline has to go.

The new name of my blog is One and Done 2.0 – A Snapshot of Life. The tagline is now, “Capturing life, one hour at a time”. I’ll hope you’ll join me in my journey as I create the 2018 memory album of our life.
May 15, 2018 11:35 am
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My little buddies hanging out with me while I write.