Category Archives: dogs

Super Powers


Today, I mowed the grass. Not the entire lawn, but the small side yard that the kitchen door opens onto, and the whole back yard.

I wasn’t planning to. There are several memes going around about “no-mow May,” encouraging everyone to hold off on mowing until June, for the sake of the pollinators. I was happy to comply. I need very little encouragement to put off chores.

A few things caused those intentions to change. First, ticks. They are very bad this year, and I was getting nervous, thinking of them laying in wait in that long grass. Second, I swatted a mosquito yesterday, the first one this year. My house sits on a half-acre of cleared land surrounded by woods and fields. Mosquitoes can make any outdoor activities challenging; an un-mowed lawn just encourages them. Third, my sisters are coming next week. I won’t want to take time away from them to do yard work. Finally, I intended to spend this day in the studio, preparing for tomorrow’s art class. Nothing makes one job more enticing to me than when I can use it to avoid doing what I should be doing. So, by late morning I had decided that the lawn absolutely had to be mowed. Today.

I started by disassembling the massive puzzle that made up the contents of my garden shed. First, the table, that was the last thing in before I closed the doors last fall. Then, the bench and three chairs, tucked around and on top of the lawn mower. Finally, I could wheel the mower out. I checked the oil, filled the gas tank, pushed the little button three times. then pulled the rope to start it. The rope would not pull! I walked away and came back to it. Several times, expecting – or hoping – that suddenly, miraculously, it would work the way it was supposed to. No such luck.

What could be wrong? Had the engine seized up? There was oil, right to the level that it should be. There was gas. The good gas, with no ethanol to gum up the motor. I have a long, horrible history with lawnmowers. I’d spend hours out there, pulling that rope until I was sobbing in exhaustion and exasperation. When I could, I’d hire someone to come and start my mower, then mow until I was finished, no breaks, knowing that if I turned it off, I’d never be able to get it going again. My grass was always overgrown. I was constantly frustrated.

Then, four years ago, I bought the little mower that I have now. At about the same time, I learned about the problems ethanol causes in small engines. I was careful to always use the right fuel. Joy of joys, this mower would start right up for me every time. Until today. What the hell. So, I pruned the service berry tree, and weeded around the peony bed. I pulled the first of this season’s rhubarb. I worked at cleaning up the garden.

Ready for a break, I came inside, got a glass of water, and sat down at the computer. On a whim, I typed in, “can’t pull the rope on my lawn mower.” That question directed me to three youtube videos, each with a different kind, knowledgeable and not-too-patronizing man, showing me what the problem might be, and how to repair it! In my case, it was a build up of last year’s grass in the undercarriage, now hardened around the blade. It took me only minutes to find the problem AND FIX IT!

I was ecstatic! I felt like I had super powers! I wanted to burst into song, “I am woman, hear me roar!” I mowed the side yard, then moved on to the back. When that was done, even though I’d already clocked more than 12,000 steps on my Fitbit just from walking in circles and rows behind the mower. I took the dogs for a walk.

Then, fading fast, I fed the dogs, jumped in the shower, then made myself the simplest of meals: peanut butter on a flour tortilla, followed by a small ice cream cone, and finished with a large bowl of popcorn. I’m still feeling really proud of myself. As my energy fades, though, I feel like my super powers must have only been temporary. That’s okay…they came through when I needed them!

Doing Nothing


In the United States, today is Mother’s Day. I celebrated by doing almost nothing. Not that I needed a holiday to manage that. Sundays, except in the summer when my second job kicks in, tend to be lazy days. I like to watch the lighter news and features on CBS Sunday Morning. That is followed by Face the Nation which handles more serious issues. I usually make a good breakfast on Sunday. I manage to do the few tasks that I set for myself every single day, and that’s about it. Often, I make big plans for what extra stuff I’m going to accomplish, but it rarely happens. Today, I didn’t even try.

This morning, I woke up early, wrote in my journal, did a little reading, let the dogs outside and back in, then went back to bed. When I got back up, I made coffee, checked social media, read Email, and settled in for my Sunday morning programs. I made a “Dutch Baby,” essentially a large, baked pancake, and had wedges of it with mixed fruit jam for a buttery, sweet breakfast.

I took a long walk. Rosa Parks opted to stay at home. We miss her, of course, but when we aren’t hampered by the Chihuahua’s short legs and bad joints, the big dog, Darla, and I are able to go both faster and farther. Today we walked to Hannigan Road, then turned and went quite a ways down that road, too. Sometimes that area is pretty wet in the springtime, but it was dry today.

I was watching for morel mushrooms. The time is right, the weather is good, and several people have found them already this spring. I don’t have a good eye for spotting them, so I didn’t have much hope, and, in fact, did not find a single one. The wildflowers are out in force, though. Trout Lilies and the tiny Spring Beauties are bountiful, and I’ve never counted so many Trillium. They seem to have all opened at once!

In my own yard, the forsythia is already dropping its yellow flowers, and the cherry tree blossoms are just about to burst open. Daffodils, tulips and hyacinth are blooming. The rhubarb is unfurling its leaves. The garden spot needs lots of work; I just glanced at it as I walked quickly by. I wasn’t in the mood for that today!

I received Mother’s Day greetings from sisters, friends, children and grandchildren. I warmed leftovers for my dinner, and cleaned up the kitchen. Of course, tomorrow will be a full day, doing all the things I didn’t do today in the areas of housekeeping, gardening, prepping for my art class, and planning for family coming to visit next week. On this day, though, I was happy to do nothing!

Shadows and Blessings


It was a rough weekend.

On Saturdays and Sundays, I start with morning news. The coverage of the coronation couldn’t outweigh the preponderance of grim reports. More devastation in Ukraine. Violence in Sudan. Another mass shooting in this country. In another city, a driver plowed into a group of people waiting for a bus.

Here, it rained. I didn’t sleep well. There is turmoil going on within my family that I’m unable to fix or alter. Doing nothing is difficult, even when there are no helpful actions to take. And, I’m still working at getting over this sickness that has grabbed onto me and held on.

I’m much better; sometimes I think I’m completely recovered. But, I still have a persistent cough that that catches me by surprise at the most inconvenient times. And, I’m lacking stamina. My daily walk wears me out. Yesterday, I stripped the bed, laundered the sheets and comforter, and remade the bed. For how exhausted I was after that endeavor, you’d have thought I’d run a marathon! It was all I could manage to get through after-dinner clean-up and a bath before collapsing into bed, dead-tired.

No matter how bleak things seem, though, I have learned to look for the blessings. There is always something of value to find.

A phone call from my daughter, Kate, was a nice surprise. A long walk with my big dog did us both some good. Words of encouragement and understanding from friends and family made my heart swell. A long, hot bath, with scented salts and a good book, is always so relaxing. And it is such a good feeling to crawl into bed between freshly laundered sheets!

Today, the sun is shining. I think it’s going to be comfortably warm. I have the day off. There is nowhere I have to be. As for what to do, I could go in several directions. The flower beds need to be raked out. There’s still organization to be completed in the studio. I have to go over my notes for art class. Right now, I’m going to pour another cup of coffee while I consider my options!

Wake Up!


Mornings start early at my house. Rosa Parks wakes up first. She tap-tap-taps on me, the same way she taps on the door to get me to open it. I lift the covers and she scoots under, and curls up beside me. That usually gives me about five more minutes of sleep. Then she pokes her head out from under the comforter, and starts checking out her options. There are cushions on the floor beside the bed, to make it easier for her to get down. Sometimes, though, the big dog, Darla, is sleeping on those cushions. Sometimes Rosa Parks, who is nearly blind, doesn’t know if Darla is there or not.

If she’s afraid to jump, she starts whining. That annoying habit, she learned from Blackie Chan. That little dog was a world class whiner, and used the tactic whenever he wanted up or down. Or a treat. Or a snuggle. Rosa Parks never had been a whiner, but she’s a quick study, and she picked it up quickly. If she whines for more than a minute, I get up. I lift her down from the bed, and follow her to the door. If she thinks it’s safe, she’ll jump down, and go to the door on her own. I get up and follow. She tap-tap-taps; I open the door. While she’s outside, I run to the bathroom. Sometimes I turn on the coffee pot, but usually not. That feels too much like surrender. I’m not ready to wake up yet.

When she comes in, I get three pieces of kibble. One for Rosa Parks (“Good girl!”), one for Darla (“Rosa Parks got this for you,” I tell her), and one to give Rosa as a bonus when she comes back to bed. I get back under the covers. At this point, I can fall easily back to sleep. The little bit of activity, though, has roused Darla. Darla doesn’t whine and she rarely barks. She doesn’t scratch at or tap on the door. When she needs to go outside, she goes to the door, and breathes. Loudly. If I ignore it, or sleep through it, she will eventually come to the side of the bed and loudly breathe right next to my ear. So, I get up and let her out.

When she comes back in, I still haven’t turned on a single light. I haven’t started the coffee. I distribute treats again: one for Darla (“Good girl!”), one for Rosa Parks (“Darla wanted you to have this”), and a second, bonus treat for Darla…then back to bed for me. At this time, I’m kind of awake, but feel like I need more rest. With slight effort, I fall back asleep. I vaguely notice Rosa Parks adjusting herself next to me. I hear Darla come snuffling around, then gently stepping up onto the bed. She settles in behind my legs. I am now perfectly warm and comfortable, wedged in between two dogs.

I sleep in that position for a short while. It’s a good sleep, but as the room starts to brighten, and my joints start to cry out from spending too long in one position, I know it’s time to get up. Then, the problem is how to shimmy these old bones out from under the covers without disturbing the two sleeping dogs! In my house, waking up happens in stages!



Quiet. That’s my topic for the letter Q. Maybe you expected another post spent complaining about my spring cold? I could have! I’m pretty good at those whiny, self-pitying diatribes. I am still sick, though I’m starting to feel like I’m on the mend. I decided to give it a break. I still have the rest of the alphabet (Recuperation, Sickness, Temperature, Under-the-Weather…)if I feel the need to grumble.

Today, the subject is quiet. Mostly, I love silence. Growing up in a large and raucous household, I went to great lengths to find spaces where I could be away from the fray, alone with my thoughts. The top shelf of a deep built-in bookcase became a cherished hideaway for me. With a soft toy and a book as my only companions, I’d spend hours up there. There were nooks in climbable trees, thickets in the big field behind our house, and spaces in the garden when the corn was tall that were welcoming spaces, too, for a child looking for quiet.

I’ve always felt that I need time alone. When my children were small, no matter how tired and sleep-deprived I was, I’d be up after everyone else was asleep, for the peace and quiet. I rarely feel like I need the background noise of radio or television. Though I talk to the dogs, my house is mostly a very quiet place. Sometimes when I pick up the telephone, I’m a little surprised at the sound of my voice!

For most of my life, I’ve worked in some form of customer service. And, I’m pretty good at it. I could rattle off daily specials, the merits of one product over another, or all the services offered by our Community Center. I’m pretty chatty, when the circumstances warrant it. One time, as I was about to embark on a lengthy lecture about how her behavior was unacceptable, and why the consequences were justified, my young daughter begged, “Pleeeease stop telling me! Just give me the punishment!” But, for all the talking I do, I feel like I have to regain my equilibrium…and for that, I need quiet time.



Mornings arrive softly out here on the Fox lake Road. At almost 8:30 on an April morning, the sun us just making an appearance over the trees that frame my yard.

The dogs notice, and are contemplating a move to the rug in front of the door, where they’ll be able to take full advantage of the warm rays. For now, they hold their positions on the wide cushions behind me. No sense in moving too quickly…it’s still early.

There’s a little warning, sure. Before the bright ball of sun bursts over the treetops, it sends a warm glow that shines through the pine needles, and turns the grasses to gold. “I’m coming,” is the promise, as grays lose their pallor, “I’m on my way!”

Sunrise on the shore is a whole different affair. Without the tall landscape to slow its pronouncement, mornings come earlier…and more suddenly. The brilliant sky gives the first introduction, and then the sun bursts onto the scene. Different every day, I know, and always spectacular.

Sometimes we drive to the places where land meets water, to experience the sunrise with that level of aplomb. Most mornings, though, I prefer the sun’s more understated arrival here. I start my mornings slowly, and like to ease into the day. It’s fine by me if the sun does the same.



When I was younger, the belief was that dogs aged seven years for every one human year. There is some debate, now, about whether that is accurate. Still I, at age seventy, think that my dogs, each around twelve years old, are about the same age as me. In disposition, if nothing else. We are all set in our ways. We are stubborn and a little cantankerous. We’re all noticing it’s becoming more difficult to get around. We have discomfort and stiffness in our joints, and some losses of vision and hearing. For our age, though, I think we’re doing quite well.

When we head out for our daily walk, my big dog Darla practically dances through the door. She jumps and rolls, and wriggles with excitement. All the way down the road, she keeps watch. According to Darla, squirrels, deer and turkeys are not supposed to cross the road while we’re out walking. If she sees any wildlife, she’ll break into a run to clear the way. If a human comes down the road, whether on foot, on bicycle, or in a vehicle, she hurries, tail wagging, to greet them.

My small dog, Rosa Parks, doesn’t always walk with us. Though she needs the exercise as much as the rest of us, she often stubbornly refuses to come. She’s nearly blind, and must feel more vulnerable when she’s away from the house. I always invite her, but I rarely force the issue. When she does honor us with her company, she certainly seems to be enjoying herself. She grins and wags her tail all the way down the road.

Lately, when I come home from work, both dogs are often still napping. They sleep much sounder than they used to. When they were younger, they’d have noticed my car pulling in the driveway, and they’d be waiting at the door to greet me. Now, as I put down what I’m carrying and strip off coat and boots, they rouse themselves. They look a little sheepish when they come to say hello, as if they were caught sleeping on the job.

Both dogs, though, still adjust their habits. When I get into bed at night, Rosa Parks joins me there, and Darla sleeps on her bed, in the same room. Daytime sleeping is a different story. Ever since our third dog, Blackie Chan, died – almost a year ago – the other two have changed their routines. Darla now prefers to nap in the far corners of the house. I’ll find her curled on the small rug beside the bathtub, or in the laundry room, or way upstairs. Rosa Parks has taken to sleeping inside the crate that came to us with Blackie Chan. Even Blackie Chan did not spend time in his crate, once he found that he had other options!

Rosa Parks has had the habit of, when she comes in from outside, going under my desk to wait for a treat. This winter, I often had a basket of yarn sitting beside my desk chair, and a project underway. When she followed her usual path, the little dog would often get tangled in the yarn. She didn’t like that, and she liked even less the detangling process. So, she changed her behavior. There is no longer a basket of yarn near my chair; I have put my crochet work away for this time. Still, when Rosa Parks comes in, she now makes a wide circle around the dining room table, and over the dog bed, to scoot under my desk from the other side of the chair.

Though Darla sometimes rests on my bed after I’ve gotten up, she does not sleep with me. It’s a small bed; she’s a big dog, and she has a bed of her own. It’s always been that way. Last week, though, after a restless night, I was desperately trying to get a little sleep before getting on with my day. When Darla came snuffling around – because it was clearly time for me to get up – I patted the foot of the bed, to invite her up. She took me up on the offer, and I dozed as her wagging tail thumped against my leg. A few days later, when I was trying to sleep in, she came around, then climbed onto the foot of the bed, without even an invitation!

I am encouraged by the fact that both dogs are still able to grow and change. I hope that I, also old, am able to as well!

Assessment: A Quarter-Year Check-In


Here it is, the first of April. We’re already one quarter of the way through this year. Its a good time to assess how I’ve been doing, with all my big plans and good intentions. Everything seems so possible when I start a new calendar; it seems I lose momentum quickly as the days pass.

First, I was going to divide the failures from the areas where I’m still plodding along, That doesn’t seem very nice. I’m not going to be that unkind to myself. I am old; winter is hard. I continue to push myself…though there are things I need to give more attention to, if I’m going to get back on track.

  • Writing. Every day, I write in my gratitude journal. Sometimes I do some other journaling, too. I have a book where I’m writing down memories, dates and other bits of information that might be valuable to me or others later. I have another where I take notes from books I’m studying from. I’ve started a family history for the Beaver Island Historical Society, but I have to crack down and put a lot more effort into getting that finished. Having fallen off in my blogging last year, I intended to do better. I started out the new year strong, then got lax about it. In an effort to try to get back on track, I am once again going to attempt the “April A~Z Challenge” where I post a blog each day of the month except Sundays, with titles and subject matter based on the letters of the alphabet.
  • Studio. I have a long list of cleaning and organizing tasks to do in the studio, to make it even possible to get in there to work. And I intend to get some good work done in the studio this year. At this time, so much space is taken up with storage of frames, materials and old work, there is barely a pathway through. I have hardly even gone into the room, except to pull out supplies for the classes that I teach. Sometimes, in a rush to find what I need, I create even more disarray. This is an area where I have to prioritize NOW, before summer’s busy-ness makes it impossible.
  • Health. I went in for my yearly “Wellness Check,” and managed, finally, to get across for annual screenings and treatments. I continue to walk almost every single day, and have logged over a hundred miles so far this year. My other exercise, a selection of aerobics, yoga, Pilates or weights, depending on my mood and the time available, has been sorely neglected so far. I blame it mostly on a lack of energy which I has been an ongoing issue this winter. My weight, despite all my efforts, has crept right back up to where it was when I started Intermittent Fasting over two years ago! I have to admit that it is not working for me. I still think the regimen has promise, and it fits well with my lifestyle, but it obviously needs to be adjusted if it’s going to do me any good. So, I’m reading a couple new books on the topic, and paying closer attention to quality and quantity.
  • Friends and Family. As always, I need to put more effort into my relationships. Make more regular telephone calls, send notes, make contact. This is an area where I consistently fall short, and carry a lot of regrets.
  • Dogs. I have two, and they are both doing well at this time. Though I swear living with dogs brings me just as much guilt and self-remonstration as I had when raising small children, I’m doing pretty well. I only wish I’d shown as much patience with my daughters as I display every single day with two spoiled dogs!

So, there are the basics. I may have missed a few areas completely, and I’m sure others could use further examination…but this is it for today. After all, I’ve still got the rest of the alphabet, and the whole month of April to go!

Three Years in Pictures


My plan was just to write a blog, to publish tomorrow morning. I had a title, and a good idea of the subject matter. I brought my camera on our walk today, and took a few pictures so that I’d have something current for illustration. I didn’t realize how that would complicate my evening.

For the last couple years, I have not used the little “point-and-shoot” camera much. I found that my small electronic tablet was easier. It has a larger screen, so it is easier to focus in on what I was trying to capture, and – being about 10 years newer – produced better photos. I always have it on hand, as I use the tablet for both reading and listening to books. So, once I got used to it, I’d often leave the camera at home.

Recently, though, the tablet would not let me take pictures. “Not enough space,” the error message explained. It has stubbornly maintained that stance, even after I’ve deleted every single thing that I can do without. So, finally, in frustration, I pulled the little camera out, put in fresh batteries, and tucked it into my coat pocket.

Preparing to sit down to write, I found the device that transfers the images from the camera’s SD card, and hooked it up. I checked on its progress as I was making dinner; it was sure working very slowly. I continued what I was doing while the computer continued working. When I finally took time to notice, I saw that it was downloading over seven hundred images!

What an adventure! What a trip through time! What memories! There is my sweet granddaughter, Madeline, with me, at Crow Canyon, when we went on an archaeological dig together, for her high school graduation. There are hundreds of photos taken in Hawaii, of my family, the amazing sights, and the back-yard rooster. There are all four seasons here on Beaver Island, showing spring blooms, fall color, tomatoes on the window sill, and my dogs at all times of year, both inside and out. There’s my darling little Blackie Chan, who died last spring. He always was the most photogenic of all my dogs!

I’m sure you can guess how my evening was spent…not writing, but reliving memories of the last three years!

The Rules at My House


First of all, there are not very many rules at my house. We play it pretty fast and loose out here on the Fox Lake Road.

I do try. After a little excessive spending toward the end of last year, I made a rule: “No unnecessary purchases this year.” That hardly lasted a week. Deciding my purse was a bit small, I found another at the resale shop. Only two dollars, that hardly counts, I told myself. When that one didn’t work out, I donated it back and bought another, also only two dollars. Then the cover for my bullet journal, purchased in December as part of my end-of-year buying blitz, arrived in the mail. With the cover on it, I need a larger bag to accommodate it. So, I donated the second purse back, and went on-line to find a purse that will work.

I intend to double the distance I walk this year, and started the month with a renewed plan to walk every single day. We’re not even at the end of January, and I’ve already missed two days! In an effort to get my blogging back on track, I determined that this year I would post a blog every third day. Yesterday, I came home tired and let that commitment go right out the window, too.

I think I’m not much of a “rules” person. That’s my thought…though my daughters would tell quite a different story! Maybe I’m just not big on regulating my own actions. Still, there are a few behaviors that I adhere to almost without fail. These are the rules of my house.

  • I make the bed every day. That wasn’t always the case, but now I can’t imagine ever having an unmade bed.
  • I start each morning with a list of things I am thankful for. This helps me to appreciate the good things in my life, and gets my day off to a good start.
  • I recycle anything that can be recycled, and compost anything that can be composted.
  • Whenever the dogs go outside and come back in, they get a treat. Even if one of them (Rosa Parks!) goes out-and-in a dozen times in an hour (ignoring me when I ask “Rose, did you even pee?”) because it’s the only game she remembers…and because she loves those rewards. For this reason, I’ve had to drastically reduce the size of the treats over the years. Currently, the payment for being a “good girl” is one pea-sized bit of kibble.
  • Similarly (because it seems that my dogs do like rules), the dogs get fed before I sit down to my own dinner, Darla always has to lick the spoon that I use to stir their food, and I have to sing to them when I put down their dishes. Not a whole song or anything, just a little rhyming ditty to let them know it’s dinnertime. They expect it. If I happen to be on the telephone, and just put down their meal without singing, they just stare at me, unsure of what they’re supposed to do.
  • Whenever, for whatever reason, whether frustration or a stubbed toe, I exclaim, “Oh, Lord…” I have to follow up with the rest of the song, “…won’t cha buy me a Mercedes Benz…” preferably in my best approximation of the voice of Janis Joplin.
  • I always do the dishes before I go to bed.
  • I read before turning out the light to go to sleep.

That’s about it. These are the things that keep my life moving steadily along. Nothing much, but important anyway: the rules of my house.