Category Archives: dogs

Hope

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“The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.” – Barbara Kingsolver

I’ve always been a hope-er, a wisher, a dreamer, a pray-er. Which may, as I think about it, indicate that I have never been satisfied with my life “as it is.” Rather than simply being perfectly happy in the present moment, I’ve looked to the future, with a long list of hoped-for objects or occurrences that would make life better.

As a child, when prayer seemed to offer the most promise for achieving things that were otherwise out of my control, vanity dictated the direction of my appeals. “Please…” I would beg, and follow with a long list ranging from thicker lips, thinner eyebrows, lighter hair and more curves in my slight frame. Looking back, it is clear that I should have better appreciated the assets I was born with. In fact, if I were going to get deities involved in my appearance today, I’d be requesting that many of those dreaded characteristics be restored to me!

As a young mother, I became a little obsessive about my importance in the lives of my children. I wanted them to be confidant in themselves. I wanted them to be happy, and healthy, and to always feel loved. I wanted them to make friends easily. I wanted them to be polite, and to have good grammar. I felt my participation in their up-bringing was central to the success of these goals, so my biggest hope was that I was able to be there. It was for their sake that my biggest hope, beyond their health and safety, was my own safety and good health. I needed to be there, to see that they had the childhood that I wished for them.

I have a long, long list of things I have hoped for throughout my life. Many involve material things. I’ve hoped for more money, newer furniture, a bigger house, nicer clothes, a better haircut, and on and on. In hindsight, I can often feel relieved that I didn’t get some of the foolish things I wished for. And, I can see that some things, once achieved, were not as glorious or life-changing as I’d imagined they would be.

I have gotten much better, over the course of my life, of appreciating exactly what I have. Though I devote an entire page in my bullet journal to “Wishes,” it rarely has more than one or two items on it. At this time, new windows for my kitchen and dining room are the only things listed. They aren’t my only hopes, though.

I hope my children, and their children, are happy and healthy. I hope that they have goals that challenge them but that are not unreachable. I hope they manage stress and difficulty with good humor and determination. I hope they always know that they are loved and valuable. I hope they know joy.

Personally, I hope I am known, and remembered, as intelligent, kind, a good worker, and someone who always acts with good intentions. I hope to be always forgiven for the times I show temper, vindictiveness or meanness. I hope my dogs feel cherished. I hope all of the many important and influential people in my life have been aware of the difference they’ve made. I hope all the people I love know that they are loved. That the best I can hope for.

Dog Bed

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My big dog, Darla, has always had her own bed. Though she enjoys napping on top of my bed during the day, she’s just too big to sleep there at night. When she came to live with me, I invested in a large, sturdy, “miracle foam” dog bed. I positioned it close to the stove for warmth, and central to the household activity so that she wouldn’t feel left out.

Over the years, the mattress compressed and flattened. The washable cover developed tears in the surface that allowed the foam to poke through. Eventually the washing cycle, even with products specifically made for combatting pet odors, did not remove the “doggy smell.” The mattress, which was not washable, picked up the odor, too. It was definitely time for a new dog bed.

I went to the on-line shop for Sierra, which deals in closeouts of sporting goods and outdoor gear at extreme discounts. I found a good quality (orthopedic foam; soft, brushed corduroy cover, removable for washing; size Large) dog bed for only $29.00! I ordered it (along with two new sweatshirts for myself, and a new toy for Darla) immediately. I did not measure the old bed. That, it turned out, was a big problem.

When the new bed arrived, I put the dog bed cover in the trash, and leaned the old mattress against the back of the house outside, until I had a chance to load it into the car. I swept the floor, and put the new bed down. Obviously, it was smaller, though by a very few inches. Clearly, it was a big problem with Darla.

She sniffed the new bed, nudged it with her nose, and gave me a look that said, “Now where am I supposed to sleep?”

Darla continued, throughout the day, to display her displeasure. She gazed wistfully at her old mattress, outside in the snow. She walked a wide path around the new bed, refusing to even step onto it. That night, she slept on the floor, rather than on her new bed. The next day, I ordered a second, identical bed. It was a big concession, on my part.

I have a small house. Darla’s old bed was 32 x 48 inches, which demanded a good portion of floor space. The new bed was 30 x 40 inches in size. It was plenty large enough, for my big dog. I’ve seen her curl onto a tiny (18″ x 24″) rug, if it happens to be where she wants to lay, and she often curls up onto the seat of my armchair, a 19 x 22 inch space. Still, she held her stance. In the days and nights while we waited for the second bed to arrive, Darla slept on the floor, or on the chair. Once, in either a huge compromise on her part, or another attempt at showing me how put out she felt by the situation, she slept with her body half on the bed, the other half sprawled across the floor. Emphasizing the fact that the bed was just too small.

When the second bed arrived, I put it down beside the first one. Combined, the dog-sleeping area now commands 40 x 60 inches of floor space. Darla is happy, though. With the two mattresses side-by-side, Darla immediately went to the bed and stretched out, a big contented grin on her face. And, she has happily slept there, without grievance, every night since. I want to note, though, that when she sleeps there, she only sleeps on one half!

A Year After “Aloha”

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Last year, when I started the “April A to Z Challenge,” I was in Hawaii, and my title was “Aloha.” I was, in fact, stranded in Hawaii by shut-downs associated with the – then brand new – Corona Virus. What a year it has been! What a time we have all been through! Today, beginning on this first day of April, I feel that this last year has got to take center stage.

First of all, let me remind you what the April A to Z challenge is. Through this month, I’ll post one blog every day except Sunday, based on the letters of the alphabet. I don’t have a particular theme in mind; maybe one will develop as I move through the letters. For now, it’s just the commitment. During this month, I am setting aside the list of blog topics that I’ve been writing about on Sundays, based on David Whyte’s book, Consolations. I plan to take Sundays off from blogging in April; I’ll pick that up again in May. I’m also changing my “Timeout for Art” blog. I’ve been working my way through the alphabet with that, too, and had just gotten to those difficult few letters at the end…I’m happy for the interruption there! Though art will still turn up as a topic, this month it will have to fall in to whatever letters turn up mid-week..

I should clarify that “stranded in Hawaii” sounds a lot more dire than it actually was. My older daughter and I had travelled together for a visit to my younger daughter and her family. Our one week planned vacation was extended to almost a month. Truly, it was quite wonderful! The weather, of course, was fabulous. We always felt safe. We were comfortable and well taken care of in my daughters house. Until last spring, I hadn’t had more than a couple days at a time with my two daughters together in at least thirty years. So, though there were concerns about our jobs and pets, and our lives were put on hold, I feel blessed to have experienced that special time.

By the time I got home, and finished my mandatory self-quarantine, I had been replaced in my job at the hardware store. That was, without a doubt, challenging in many ways. Still, it offered me several weeks OFF, in the spring and summer, on Beaver Island, for the very first time since I moved here in 1978! My vegetable and flower beds were never so well-tended. My lawn got mowed before it looked like a field. My dogs basked in the attention. And I loved it!

Since last year at this time, I started a new, seasonal job at the Beaver Island Golf Course. I began volunteering at the Island Treasures Resale Shop. I worked out the details for an art show next October. I read at least one book each week. I continued and expanded on a rewarding morning routine. I took care of several long-neglected medical procedures. I found and enjoyed quite a few new recipes. I walked almost every day.

It’s not possible, though, to look back on this year without acknowledging the tremendous devastation caused by Covid-19. How many lives have changed? How many jobs have been lost? How many businesses have closed? How many have died? Everyone knows someone lost to the disease. Everyone has been affected by it. This virus has touched all of us, in the entire world, in one way or another. We are experiencing trepidation and fear, trauma, and grief on a scale never experienced in my lifetime. This year has altered our thinking, and our behavior. I think, as humans, we are forever changed.

That’s the crux of it, I guess. This last year has been defined by the ways that the virus has changed our lives. Everything else seems unimportant in comparison. That makes it all the more necessary, I think, to continue to notice all the little pleasures along the way. As long as I’m here to appreciate them, they still matter!

Disappointment

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The more I think about it, the more it seems that disappointment is a pretty common emotion in my household. I’m surprised at how often it comes up!

I was planning to write about a job I recently applied for, and did not get. With help from my sweet daughter, Kate, I updated my resume. I filled out the application form and read through the job description. Then I debated about whether I really wanted the position or not. At the eleventh hour, I turned in the paperwork. An interview was scheduled. I anticipated topics and prepared possible responses. I also wrote out several questions about the job requirements. I had a long conversation via “zoom” with Kate and her family, to make myself comfortable with the on-line meeting format, and to make sure the screen was placed so that I was not looking ghoulish, or like I had a double chin.

The only glitch, on the day of the scheduled meeting, was several inches of fresh snow. While I was waiting for the interview to start, the road truck went down the road, throwing all of my dogs into fits of barking. They had just calmed down when the other participants showed up on screen. I started right out with a warning that, if the young man showed up to plow my driveway, I’d have to interrupt the interview to put at least one dog (Rosa Parks is the instigator) into “time-out.” It’s good that I warned them, because that exact thing happened!

Beyond that, though, the interview went well, in my opinion. I was able to communicate my abilities, voice my concerns, and address their questions confidently. I know all of the other participants, and they were each as friendly, kind and generous as I expected they would be. The next day, I got a call letting me know I did not get the position.

I felt a little twinge of disappointment, sure. It would have been nice to be working at something challenging like that. It would be a chance to use my abilities and education; I’d be learning new skills, increasing my knowledge and stretching my boundaries. The money would be helpful.

If I had gotten the position, though, I’m sure I would have felt an equal amount of disappointment. I’d had so many concerns. Did I really want to take on a third part-time job? The hours to fulfill the requirements of the position would not, I’m sure, include the self-training I’d need to update my computer skills. Would I be a failure? Was I trying to do too much? When would I find time to make art? To walk the dogs?

So, that’s one example, in my life, of “Disappointment-No-Matter-What.” It’s a fairly regular occurrence. I walked, penguin-like, to the end of my icy driveway yesterday, only to find the entire length of Fox Lake Road to be equally as icy. Too slippery to take a long walk. That’s a disappointment. The day before, the road to the north was nearly clear, and the dogs and I went for a good long walk…which eliminated time to get in the studio before dinner. That was disappointing.

It’s kind of a trade-off. I’m always a tiny bit disappointed when I finish a good book, but I’m excited, in equal measure, to begin a new one. Every page that I turn in my journal gives me a wisp of disappointment at the lack of accomplishment and the too-swift passage of time. Yet every new page is a fresh start, with new promise and possibility. Disappointment at not being able to travel means, at the same time, no guilt and turmoil over leaving the dogs at the kennel. Disappointment over not being able to eat out is accompanied by the comfortable pleasure of enjoying my own cooking at home, with book in hand, and three dogs waiting for leftovers.

Disappointments are just little bumps along the road that remind me to take notice. They aren’t devastating; they don’t lead to despair. They are part of the juggling act in my life, where there are many good things that cannot all be acted upon at once. That kind of disappointment, I can live with!

Destiny

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Fate seemed to play a part, when I met my big dog, Darla. She is a boxer, pit-bull mix, which is the same mixture that my sweet, recently-deceased Clover was. I was told that she was good with people, including small children, cats and other dogs. That was important because of potential visits from grandchildren and others, and because of my little dog at home. She was six years old, which was the same age as Rosa Parks, my lonely chihuahua who I felt would benefit from a companion. Her name was Darla, which is also the name of one of my sisters, beloved and remembered though she died in infancy.

Along with my friend, Linda, who I was visiting, I stopped to see Darla several times at the no-kill shelter where she’d spent most of her life. Finally, I signed the papers to make her a part of my family. With the big dog beside me in the passenger seat, we drove across the state toward home. With several stops along the way for short walks and nature calls, and one shared fast-food meal, we got to know each other. Through the long drive and the short, noisy plane ride, I assured Darla that she was coming home. By the time we got to my house on Beaver Island, she almost seemed to be wearing a smile.

There were a few complications when Darla and Rosa Parks met. It turns out, each of them would have preferred being an “only dog.” Still, they both loved walks down the country roads, rides in the car, and trips to the water at nearby Fox Lake. They both loved me, tolerated each other, and learned to be friends. Later, when Blackie Chan, a long-separated litter-mate of Rosa Parks, was added to our family, there were a few more challenges. Again, we worked through them.

As I’ve worked to negotiate a “pecking order” to keep the peace in this multi-dog household, Darla’s good nature has been a blessing. Because she is the fastest eater, I always put her food dish down last. Because she’s too large to share my twin-sized bed with me, Darla has to be removed to her own nearby bed when I’m ready for sleep. The two small dogs sleep with me. Though Darla has her own large comfortable bed between the heater and my desk, the small dogs often take that space to be near me when I’m working at the computer. Darla doesn’t argue, but moves to the armchair, or a rug, or the now-vacant bed.

Both little dogs have rugs that mark their eating spot; Darla has a raised stool that I put her food dish on, to make her meal time more comfortable. Still, she seems to notice the discrepancy, and I’ll often find her big body curled up on a tiny rug, beside a small dog’s food dish. I see her looking enviously at a little dog taking up space in my bed, or in her bed, or in my lap. I imagine her thinking about what it would be like to be the only dog. Still, she kindly puts up with the little ones, watches out for them, and indulges them with the utmost patience and good humor.

Last week, without a single thought to Darla, I brought home a new rug for the kitchen. I got it to replace the tiny, unraveling and threadbare one that had been in front of the sink. The new one is beautiful, thick and cushion-y, and large. It stretches across the length of the floor in front of the entire double sink, right beside the stool where Darla eats her dinner. I love it!

Someone else does, too! Darla believes I brought it home just for her. It’s right next to her food dish, after all, and exactly where she loves to lay – underfoot – while I am preparing dinner. It is perfectly sized for her. She claimed it immediately, with a big smile. “Finally,” I imagine her thinking, “I am the favored one. THIS is my DESTINY!!!”

Despair

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Last week, I looked at the next topic to write about, from the list I compiled from the table of contents of David Whyte’s book, Consolations: Despair. Oh, dear. What to say about despair? How could I relate to that?

Of course, I know what the word means. I have probably experienced it at one time or another, in my long life. I recall times of great upheaval, others of tremendous sadness and loss. Despair, though, was different somehow. Though it seemed like something I had a personal understanding of, I didn’t quite recall the feeling. I couldn’t get a handle on how to write about it.

Instead, I added another topic. “Deliriously Happy” was still roughly following the alphabetical order of the list, and was easier to expound on. It wasn’t the first time I’ve altered the format, and I’m still very close to the beginning of the alphabet! I wrote two essays on the topic of “Besieged.” I added “Christmas Past” and “Cancer” that were not a part of the subjects Whyte listed, and then I wrote two essays on “Crisis.” So, not feeling in the mood to write about despair, I did it again. It’s my blog and my list (complements of David Whyte), so I guess I can adjust it when the mood strikes.

It is easy to write about being happy, when happiness is all around, and I’m feeling it in my bones. I didn’t know exactly where it had come from; I noted several small and unrelated events that led up to it. I compared it to a great astronomical event, caused by all the stars and planets quietly and slowly converging into just the right formation. Well.

A few days later, I woke up at two o’clock in the morning. I noted the little dogs, snuggled in on either side of me, as usual. I looked out over the room, dimly illuminated by the moon. Nothing was out of the ordinary; nothing was wrong. And yet, like a damp and musty, heavy woolen blanket, a great feeling of sadness and isolation washed over me. Ah, yes. Despair.

I was smart enough to analyze, right then, how the feeling differed from sadness. In my life, even extraordinary sadness brought on by immeasurable loss was tempered by the knowledge that I was not alone in my misery. When my sister died unexpectedly just a week before my mother died of cancer, and less than two years after my little brother died, I had other siblings around me, sharing my grief. We shored each other up, and helped each other through. In despair, I think, you are all alone. Or, at least, you feel all alone.

Sometimes, circumstances or feelings of depression conspire to make you believe you’re isolated, whether that is actually true or not. I often feel like my frustrations are my own fault. Sharing them seems like a sign of weakness, and/or a cry for help. I’m rarely looking for help. It is keeping things to myself, though, that leads to feelings of despair.

So, what went wrong? How did I fall from “deliriously happy” to “despair?” I don’t know, really. Nothing big, certainly. Minor annoyances, small disappointments, little vexations. Much can likely be attributed to normal fluctuations in mood. When I’m laughing hysterically one day, I kind of know I’ll be crying uncontrollably before long.

How to fix it? First, I got out of bed and wrote a long rant. We won’t have a dentist here until spring. At least until spring. My tooth, that I’ve been trying to get repaired for almost two years, continues to crumble, leaving sharp edges that scratch the inside of my cheek. Getting it fixed before spring means an airplane trip to the mainland and the use of a car there, all adding to the cost of the necessary crown.

The new manager at the hardware store is young enough to be my granddaughter. She doesn’t have any idea how much I know, and she’s a little bossy. Beyond that, there’s the owner, who I’ve worked for for over 18 years, who should know my capabilities, who put her in the position of being my boss without a word to me beforehand.

The window estimate from the contractor came back high. Or, much higher than expected, anyway. Do I want new windows…or tooth repair? And on and on, in that fashion, about every little rotten thing.

Next, I went for a long walk. The dogs don’t care if it’s a good mood or a bad mood to credit for my desire to get out in the fresh air, they always enjoy a good energetic walk. Later, I made a couple phone calls. I spoke to my friend, Linda, and my sister, Brenda. They are both good and sympathetic listeners. Slowly, the feelings of despair faded. Luckily, not before I’d gleaned enough information to write this post!

Deliriously Happy

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I’m a pretty cheerful person. I work at it. Each morning, I write a page of things – small, ordinary things – that I am grateful for. I have a list of “the happiest words in the English language” and I make an effort to use them in conversation, and when writing letters. I have read Martha Beck’s The Joy Diet, and try to incorporate her “10 daily practices for a happier life” into my days. I’m in the process of reading Joyful by Ingrid Fetell Lee, which is providing insight about ordinary things – polka-dots, for instance – that tend to increase feelings of happiness.

I am known for my smile. I joke that it is an unavoidable side effect of working for forty years in customer service. I note that it helps to hide my sagging jowls. It also helps to smooth the rough edges of a conversation. The fact is, though, that I appreciate the friendly openness of a smiling face. It makes me feel good when someone smiles at me, so I make a point of smiling at others. It’s not hard, because it’s genuine. I like people, and I’m usually pretty happy.

There are times, though, when a smile doesn’t seem like enough. Now and then, I find myself to be outrageously happy. A broad grin stretches across my face, The dogs look at me strangely as I joyously laugh out loud in our normally quiet household. I can’t explain it. The events that might lead up to it are often scattered, minor, and unrelated. Not really anything that would be associated with wild joy. Still. Just like when the stars or planets quietly converge to create a major astrological event, small things work together to alter my mood.

Last week, it started with an appointment. One of the contractors and I had arranged to meet at a set day and time at my house. He was going to measure my kitchen and dining room windows, to give me a price on replacing them. That, alone, was reason to celebrate. The windows were already old, being taken out of someone else’s house for more up-to-date versions, when I bought them for my house. They’ve been in service here for more than twenty years.

The wood frames are rickety; the windows have always been difficult to open and close. Two (or maybe three) summers ago, I accidentally broke one of the panes out of the east-facing kitchen window. For every winter since then. a sheet of plexiglas (triple wrapped in bubble wrap and with the edges sealed with duct tape) has been the only thing keeping the cold outside. Doing a fair job, at best.

The north-facing dining room windows, that face a shady area under large maple trees, used to offer a lovely cool breeze in the summertime. It was well-worth the effort it took to wrestle them open, and prop them up. Unfortunately, when a crew came in to weatherize my house several years ago, the only way they saw to prevent the inevitable winter drafts, was to permanently seal them closed. So, they can no longer be opened in the warm weather. Spiders, however, have managed to get in to the space where I cannot, and have built elaborate webs between the panes of glass, spoiling my view.

I was thrilled to be, finally, moving toward a solution to the window problem. A visitor to my home, though, is a rare thing, and even more unusual during these Covid-conscious times. The last “company” I had was when my heat stove malfunctioned and needed repair. Without anyone to complain or judge, my home often reflects my lackadaisical attitude toward housework. With a contractor scheduled, things needed to improve!

The south-facing counter in the kitchen had a generous collection of junk mail, stuffed into empty cereal and pasta boxes, waiting to be burned. Beside it was a large bag filled with plastic, and another holding tin, aluminum, glass and other items for recycling. In front of all that was a single narrow strip of formica that had – weeks ago – come off the face of the counter, waiting to be fixed back in place. The stainless steel compost bin was nearly full, and had not been polished since I last had a visitor, I’m sure.

In the short hall that houses my laundry, along with the big trash can and one small laundry basket, there was a cardboard box filled with corrugated cardboard, also waiting to be recycled at our Transfer Station. The dryer had a collection of miscellaneous socks, scarves and rags on it, mixed with coins, pens and paper clips rescued from pockets, and all coated with a heavy layer of dust. The coat hooks were over-loaded with several fall sweaters and light jackets bulging out from underneath the winter coat I wear every day.

Suddenly, I was seeing everything – usually so easy to overlook – through someone else’s eyes. So, I whipped through the house, taking care of things I’d neglected for too long along with the regular weekly cleaning and tidying. Then, in the following days, I put a little polish on things: added a candle, cleaned out a drawer, shined a surface, until I felt like I was living in a brand new space.

Early afternoon, on a sunny winter day, the young man came, as planned. He measured windows, talked a little about timing, pricing and methods, and was gone. I still had the much-improved space, though. And the sunshine. And hope for new windows in the spring. Just like that, I was deliriously happy!

Days to Remember

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I took my dogs for a walk down the Fox Lake Road the other day. Just as I do every single day. It was different, though; I’ve been puzzling over the reasons why.

First, the sun was shining. That in itself is a reason to celebrate. On this small island, when the temperature drops and the big lake still holds open water, we have many gray days. I know it has something to do with the variance between water temperature and air temperature, but I couldn’t begin to explain the science. It doesn’t take an expert to notice, though, how rare a day of sunshine is. Not that it isn’t beautiful here anyway; it is. Not that there isn’t plenty to appreciate, whether the sun is out or not; of course there is. But, when the sun is shining in the middle of the winter on Beaver Island, we do take notice, and appreciate it, and get outside to enjoy it whenever we can.

Second, in a winter that has so far been wavering in its production of either lasting cold or snow pack, we got a few inches of fresh snow. Thus, all of my driveway and most of the Fox Lake Road, that had been a slippery, frozen mess of ruts and ridges, was now easy to walk on. I could stride along without worrying that my next step would send me off sideways, or down. Beyond that, snow converts the regular scenery into a magical place. No matter what winter means, with its offerings of cold and mess and discomfort, it’s hard to deny that there’s a great deal of beauty in a snow-covered landscape.

Third, we were all feeling pretty spry that day. I’d had a not-too-tiring day at work that had been just stressful enough that I was looking especially forward to getting outside in the fresh air. Though I have the normal aches, pains and complaining joints that seem to come with age, I was feeling strong and capable. My three dogs, too, were up for the exercise. They are each nine years old, and have their own health issues, but they all still relish their walk.

On that day, Rosa Parks ran ahead, full speed, just like she used to when she was a puppy. Then she’d make a wide loop, and run just as quickly back to me, with bright eyes and a wide grin, to get a treat before she charged off again. Blackie Chan picked up on the excitement, and charged off, too. If Rosa Parks slowed down or stopped, which happened a couple times, Blackie Chan, nearly blind, ran right in to her. It didn’t faze either of them for long, and they continued on with their game. Darla was, meanwhile, loping steadily beside me, except when she was following scents along the sides of the road.

I smiled the whole distance down the road and back. Except when I was singing, to help Blackie Chan find his way. Or when I was laughing out loud at the antics of my three companions. It was one of those rare days that I recognized, in the moment, how unique and precious and special it was. I told myself, “Remember this, when the days are gray or the road becomes a muddy path. Remember this…when the dogs are older, or more infirm, or gone. Remember this…when I am not so strong, or so capable as I feel right now. Remember this, remember this…one more perfect day.” And the fact is, there was nothing so much more special about any of it; it was just a slightly-above-average, ordinary day. Except that I took notice of it!

Crisis II

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I have three good dogs. They are wonderful companions, a good source of comfort and laughter. They each believe they are my favorite, best dog. They are each correct.

Rosa Parks knows that she has seniority over the other two dogs. She expects first place, and usually gets it. I put her food dish down first, only seconds before Blackie Chan’s and then Darla’s. She usually holds the prime position, closest to my pillow, next to my heart, in bed at night. Usually, though, she doesn’t take advantage of her exalted position. She lets Darla take the lead, and most of the credit, in their bird-chasing, barking-at-the-road-truck home-protection antics. When Blackie Chan decides he wants to sleep exactly where Rosa Parks is sleeping, he climbs right on top of her. Magnanimously, with a look on her face that says “Oh, brother…” Rosa Parks just rolls her eyes.

Darla is the biggest dog in my house, and she has the biggest heart. She watches over and worries over the other dogs. If Blackie Chan wanders down the neighbor’s driveway, Darla paces with furrowed brow at the road, waiting. If Rosa Parks falls behind on our walk, Darla circles back to see what the hold-up is. She waits patiently while the little dogs dance in place, excited to get their dinner, until I put her own dish down. Usually, the biggest danger Darla presents happens when I’m on the floor giving pats and scratches. For a good belly rub, the big dog would, without a second thought, crush any chihuahua that stood in her way!

Blackie Chan makes my heart ache with the earnest, intentional way he approaches life. A walk is serious business. I can almost hear his mind working, as he runs through the checklist: “I must walk straight and tall; keep a little smile on my face; keep my tail in the air, gently wagging; I must pee on every single clump of grass and pile of leaves.” Blackie Chan has a mild, imploring little whine that he directs at me when he wants his dinner, or some attention. His voice changes in an instant – like a scene from The Exorcist – from the humble mewling tone to a tooth-baring snarl if Rosa Parks gets involved.

Still, most of the time, my dogs get along. Until the rare instance when they don’t. Then, it’s a crisis! It all started when I gave Darla a beef bone. It had quite a bit of meat and gristle still on it. The small dogs were outside. I was right there to watch that she didn’t chomp down and splinter the bone. I took it away from her as soon as she’d cleaned the meat from it.

I thought nothing of it. Darla will, if I forget to put it up out of her reach, go through the garbage. She’ll gnaw on old dog food cans that were rinsed and flattened, for any slight flavor she night be able to still get out of them. She will lap up old hamburger grease and chew up the tin foil it was wrapped in. She has chewed into bits the styrofoam containers that once held sausage or chicken. Amazingly, it doesn’t make her sick.

That beef bone, though, did not sit well with Darla. For an entire day, she ate grass whenever she was outside. She declined treats when I offered them. When I got home from work, she had vomited a big mound of grass onto the entry rug. She rushed out the door, and dug right in to eating more grass. Clearly, Darla had an upset stomach!

By the time we got back from our walk, though, Darla seemed better. I fed the dogs on time, as usual. Darla was still working slowly through her meal when the other dogs finished. I gave each of them a “Greenie” that is their after dinner treat. I dropped Darla’s into her food dish. I turned back to the stove to finish preparing my own meal.

Suddenly, the room erupted in chaos! All three dogs were barking; Darla and Rosa Parks were tangled up in battle. Both were yelping and snarling, Darla on top of Rosa Parks, who was on her back on the floor. “No,” I shouted, as I slapped Darla (not hard!) on the flank. Immediately, the fight broke up.

Rosa Parks righted herself, and scurried to her “safe spot” under my desk. Blackie Chan, still anxiously trying to figure out what was going on, poked his head under the desk. Rosa Parks snapped at him, and he backed away, as if beaten, to cower on his corner pillow. Darla had gone, right away, to the rug in front of the kitchen door, where she huddled, ears down, tail between her legs, so miserable.

In a flash, my happy household was in crisis! It seems Darla had abandoned her food dish, with a few bits of kibble and one whole Greenie still in it. Rosa Parks had decided to take advantage of the situation. Darla wasn’t having it. Blackie Chan was just trying to understand. By the time it was over, my heart was pounding, and I had three sad dogs.

I gave them each some individual love and attention, in their own areas. I made sure Rosa Parks wasn’t hurt, let Darla know she wasn’t bad (and that I was sorry I’d smacked her), and explained the situation – as well as I could – to Blackie Chan, while rubbing his ears. By the time I sat down to my own dinner, the crisis was forgotten and all were forgiven.

Besieged II

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A week ago, I had to look up the word “besieged” to make sure I had the correct meaning for it in my mind. Now, I feel like so much of an expert on it, I’m giving it another entire post!

Sometimes, the entire universe seems to conspire to weigh a body down. It feels like an attack somehow, coming at me from all angles. I feel besieged.

In addition to normal bills that come due regularly, new things crop up. A medical procedure that should have been covered by my insurance turned from “screening” to “diagnostic.” Which makes it necessary to come up with the “deductible” that I have to pay before the insurance kicks in.

A simple call to have the pilot light on my propane furnace lit for the season turned into a major, unexpected problem. I needed at least one new, expensive part to get it going. Since my only other heat source is an electric space heater, and electrical outages can be common here on Beaver Island, it could not be put off.

At the hardware store, in addition to the regular weekly freight, that can be pretty overwhelming all on its own, we received a whole pallet of new Christmas stuff. That, in addition to the 12-foot, floor-to-ceiling section of Christmas stuff in the basement, stored from last year, waiting to be brought upstairs.

The process involved first moving displays of heaters and humidifiers from the front shelves, coolers from the side shelves, T-shirts and sweatshirts from the front shelves in Housewares, and the life-jackets from where they hang near the door to the Gift Shop. All of those items had to either be stored in the basement, or displayed elsewhere. It involved a lot of moving and rearranging.

Then, every Christmas box and tote, old and new, had to be opened, as we started to formulate a plan to make sense of it all. Some shelves are adjustable, some not, so the size of items often determines their location. Of course, we try to keep tree-trimming items together, yard decorations in a group, gift ideas and “stocking-stuffers” close by.

As soon as that job is done, it’s on to help finish up with getting the regular freight put away, so that the next order can be prepared. The last ferry boat of the year runs in December. After that, any shipments have to come over by airplane. It not only increases the cost of freight, but whole pallets cannot be loaded onto the small planes. There’s a lot more handling and moving of everything to get it from the warehouse truck, across Lake Michigan, to our store on the island. We try very hard to plan ahead, and order supplies to last us until the boat runs again in the spring. It’s a great deal of pressure.

At home, there are my three dogs, each nine-years-old, and each with their own health issues. Each morning, I grind up their medicines, mix the individual tonics in with a bit of soft food, and dispense them. Last month, Blackie Chan was lame; next, severe allergies kept Rosa Parks (and I!) from sleeping. Darla’s health is okay, but she’s been showing a predatory interest, lately, in my neighbor’s chickens. It’s always something.

I have an art show planned for next October, in my home town of Lapeer. It’s a long way off…but, for me, that’s a dangerous way of thinking. A lifetime procrastinator, I am well-acquainted with the hazards of putting things off! So, I’m trying to stay on top of it. I’m trying to limit the days I have to work outside of my house; I’m blogging just two days a week; and I’ve forced myself into a regular routine.

Then, someone has family visiting for the holiday, could I work? Someone else has a funeral to attend, could I fill in? Someone needs to go to the mainland…yes, I can work. Then Dennis, who is always so kind, and who, along with Kevin, helps to turn my simple blogs into an “Island Reflections” radio program, wrote to let me know that “we’ve been in re-runs for several weeks now.”

That does it! I spend a sleepless night worrying. I get a little snippy with the people at work. I shoot off a letter to Dennis. I feel overwhelmed.

Besieged.

Buried.

Then…

I get a message from my friend, Audrey, offering the wonderful treat of a take-out meal from a Greek restaurant on the mainland, ordered, paid for, and socially-distanced delivered to my home!

I receive a check in the mail – larger than I expected – from my friend Lois, for the artwork I sold in her gallery this summer.

I get a letter from Dennis…and then one from Kevin…both assuring me that I have nothing to worry about; they have plenty of material for the radio.

Finally, my first Christmas card of the season, from my friend, Bob. As always, it’s the hand-drawn invitation to his annual Pine & Pasta Party. This year would be the 41st and, though it, too, has been cancelled due to the current pandemic, he still sent out the invitation.

And here I am…once again…besieged with the kindness and goodwill of others!