Tag Archives: dogs

A Day Turns Around

Standard

IMG_0681

I won’t go into the many and varied elements that contributed to the end result, but I was bone-tired, grouchy, and on the verge of tears by the time I got home last evening.

I have been determinedly forcing myself, no matter how tired from my day at work, to get in an hour or two of garden work every day, digging, weeding and planting, before I come inside. Even with that, my progress is slow, and the summer will quickly be upon us. There are days when I’m stymied by rain. There is no time to waste!

Last evening, I let the garden go. I quickly unloaded the groceries from car to house. I refrigerated what needed it, and put my precious pint of special ice cream in the freezer. I loaded the dogs in the car, rolled down the windows, and headed for Fox Lake. There, a couple geese with a half-dozen goslings swam leisurely just off-shore. The dogs wandered, and waded, and played. I updated my planner, took a few photographs, and relaxed. A walk through the woods along the shoreline completed our excursion, and we headed for home.

It had started sprinkling by the time we got there. Inside, then! While feeding the dogs and putting my own dinner together, I called my sister Brenda. There was a bonus: my sister Robin was there, too! I spoke to both of them, told them about all the worries and conflict playing around in my head, listened to good advice and welcome empathy, heard about their day, and even found plenty to laugh about. It was a long, good conversation that ended with “I love you”s all around, and improved my mood tremendously.

Off the phone, I sat down to a dinner that included potato salad made to my Mom’s recipe and standards. I mixed it up and served it from the sunshine yellow ceramic bowl Aunt Katie gave me. For dessert, a wedge of rhubarb crisp, from the first rhubarb picking of the year. Again, Mom’s recipe. Later, one small waffle cone filled with raspberry-cheesecake gelato. None of these foods are good for my diet. All were worth it for the good they did for my state of mind!

Finally, I eschewed “cleaning time” and laundry waiting to be moved along in the never-ending cycle. I poured a glass of wine. I used a special hand blown wineglass in swirling blaze colors that was a gift from my daughter Kate. I ran a hot bath, and added scented oil that I’d purchased on a trip with my sisters. I lit a candle. I gathered up a fluffy towel, my good book, and the wineglass. A long soak in the tub, then early to bed.

Not every bad day can be turned around; yesterday, I managed it.

 

 

 

Pushing On

Standard

IMG_0690

So, what is it now, that has kept me away from writing? I’ve been busy, sure, and tired. There have been a lot of things going on here on Beaver Island, and in my life.

Saturday, for instance. I worked at the hardware store. It was our busiest – by far – day this year. The side of the building has become a nursery, with stacking shelves arranged under a sun shade for perennials and shrubs, annual flowers, vegetables and herbs. Folks were flocking in to our store for necessities for lawn and garden plans as well as all the usual painting, plumbing and home repair projects.

I had started the day loading art work in the car, so that I could drop it off at the Beaver Island Gallery, on its first open day of the season. I did that in the early afternoon, just before running out to attend the memorial gathering to honor my friend, Roy. I then ran to the point, to attend the annual shareholder’s meeting of the Beaver Island Boat Company. Then, back to the hardware to finish my work day.

Home, I changed clothes, doused up with mosquito repellent, and headed for the garden. I’ve been forcing myself to get in at least an hour of work out there every evening, no matter how much I want to collapse. Saturday, I raked, dug stubborn weeds, hauled away another wheelbarrow full of roots, and assembled a raised bed for my strawberry plants, before coming in to shower. I ate dinner in my pajamas, and was in bed not long after.

In addition to long and busy days, I’ve had a few side-line inconveniences that have further complicated my life. I picked up a tick, while working in the garden, and didn’t discover it until it was firmly embedded in the skin of my inner thigh, and fairly well engorged with my blood. That was the most traumatic (and gross!) thing that has happened to me in quite some time! A trip to the medical center, a dose of strong antibiotic, a few instructions about prevention and how to handle it should it ever happen again, and I was on my way…though the nightmares continue.

My car is in the shop for repairs. That has caused me to be using vehicles that I’m not familiar with (Oh! No cup-holder? And where is the knob for windshield wipers?), changing one car for another, begging rides from here to there, and sometimes walking. It’s not a big deal. It will all be over soon, and I’ll have my own dusty, messy car back, with a nice fat repair bill to boot!

Next, my little dog, having worked herself into a frenzy over having her nails clipped, managed to get out of my grasp…and bit me. By the next morning, redness and swelling made another trip to the medical center necessary. “It was an accident,” I explained, “she was trying to bite the vet.” My tetanus vaccine was still good; another dose of antibiotic, and I was finished. All dog bites have to be reported, so next came a visit from the deputy. My dogs are up to date on all of their shots. Still, according to standard protocol, Rosa Parks had to be placed in quarantine (“House arrest,” I told her) for ten days. No rides to visit the inland lakes; no walks down the Fox Lake Road. “That’s what you get,” I tell her, without sympathy.

Yesterday, it rained. That put all yard work on hold. After coming home from work, I took a lovely, long nap. I got up in time to feed the dogs and make my own supper, then went shortly right back to bed. Today, I feel rested, and like I just might make it. The sun is shining. The grass is desperately in need of being cut. The dogs and I could all use some outdoor time. That’s where I’ll be, then, for the rest of this day.

 

Artifacts to Memories: Bunny Rabbit

Standard

img_7185

This bunny rabbit is not a personal artifact, but it’s been in my home for quite a few years now. Memories attach themselves to objects, and this little raggedy soft toy is no exception.

I brought two of these little bunnies home, when my dog family consisted of Maggie and Clover. Clover was a joy to watch with a new toy. She tossed it in the air and caught it in her teeth; she gave the toy a good shake before tossing it up again; she’d bring it to me coyly, inviting me to play, too. Maybe tug-of-war? What about fetch?

Maggie, on the other hand, was just a hoarder. She’d impatiently watch Clover play, until she could grab the toy away from her. Then she’d stand, chest out, on her bed, daring anyone to try to take anything away. She was the oldest, and largest, of the dogs, so she always got away with it. While I was away, she’d settle in and chew the stuffing out of any soft toy, but she didn’t otherwise engage with them. She just wanted them. All of the toys. On her doggie bed. All the time.

By the time Maggie passed on, Clover had lost interest, mostly, in toys. I’d try to engage her in games; she try to comply, for my sake, but the joy was gone. She preferred just a good walk. The collection of beat up chew toys and stuffed animals sat neglected in a corner.

Then, little Rosa Parks came in to our household. She was young, curious and ready for adventure. What were all these toys, gathering dust? Could she, with her keen young nose, detect a whiff of another dog…one that she had never met? As the toys were dragged out, one by one, Clover engaged with them as well, just to let the little dog know she knew what they were for. Mostly, they just got them all out, and strewed them around the living room.

As the years went by, though, both dogs lost interest. By the time Clover died, the toys – with a few additions – were occupying the neglected basket again. Rosa Parks, who had engaged in all kinds of games and play with Clover, was a hard dog to entertain, on her own. Often, I’d drive her down to Fox Lake, just to see her tail wag. There the water, and the memories of squirrel-chasing play, always put a spring in her step.

It seemed like Rosa Parks needed a companion, besides me. So, mainly as a gift to my little dog, I adopted Darla. Turns out, both Darla and Rosa Parks would have preferred to be the only dog in my house. Or so they thought. For my sake, they put up with each other. It took a few months for them to learn to enjoy each other’s company.

The toy basket, though, was an immediate success! Darla loves a toy. Her tail wags just snuffling through the basket, trying to pick just the right one. If she has gotten into the trash while I was at work, and she hears displeasure in my tone, she’ll bring me a toy. If that doesn’t do the trick, she’ll go get another. Once, having exhausted the toy basket while I was still picking up scraps of paper from the floor, she brought me a throw pillow!

Darla always likes to carry a toy outside with her. When she goes tearing out of the house, growling, to chase wild turkeys out of the yard, she often has a cute toy dangling from her jaws. Stuffed animals come on our walks with us. Until a chipmunk or a smelly piles of leaves distracts her, Darla will carry a soft toy in her mouth for a mile or more. I try to pay attention to where she drops it, so that I can tuck it in my pocket for the walk back home.

This stuffing-less bunny rabbit and all of his soft companions have a new lease on life, and  are getting out more, now, than they ever did before!

img_9905

 

A Path to Happiness

Standard

img_0009

I was sleeping so soundly at 2AM, when the little dog decided she needed to go outside, I could hardly drag myself out of my slumber. Rosa Parks was fairly frantic by the time I made it to the door. I closed my eyes and leaned against the door, waiting for her to finish. Immediately, when she came back inside, I went back to bed. I wanted to go back to sleep. I wanted to be back in the center of the good dream – something about horses…and dancing…and spelling – that was still playing ’round the edges of my mind.

But, no. Though I could have slept, I’m sure, standing up, with my cheek pressed against the cold glass of the door, now I could not sleep. Always, in those times, there is plenty to think about. I run through the events of the past day, both in my life and – lately – in politics. I worry; I fret; I distract myself with my “to-do” list. That is overwhelming enough to make sleep impossible. Finally, I get out of bed.

I turn on the computer with good intentions of doing some necessary writing. I am drawn into “breaking news” and political headlines. I pull myself away from that with engagement in time-wasting word games. Soon, I am ready to try to sleep again, having foiled my good night’s rest and not accomplished one single productive thing.Then, wrapped in my fleecy robe with both dogs crowded on the couch with me, I slept late.

Immediately on waking, my mind is flooded with all the things I need to do today. And already it’s 10AM and why, why, WHY  do I continue to sabotage my life like this, so that I always seem to be on the sheer face of a cliff, fighting my way upward through a blizzard…WHY is it never just easy??  I make coffee. Turn on the computer. Check my Email.

The first thing I see, right on the first line of my in-box, is “This Is How To Have A Happy Life: 4 Proven Secrets From Research.” I pour a cup of coffee. I sit down to read. It is not an invitation to a weeks-long on-line seminar to unlock the secrets of happiness. It is not an effort to sell a book. It turns out to be a not-too-long, well-researched article with good advice.  And, as it happens, exactly what I needed this morning! Thank you, to whatever gods of internet content sent this to me!

The article, written by Eric Barker and published on his “Barking Up the Wrong Tree” newsletter, draws heavily from the book Authentic Happiness by  University of Pennsylvania professor Martin Seligman. He suggests that there are four choices of happy lives:

  • The Pleasant Life: a life that successfully pursues the positive emotions about the present, past and future. Schedule more fun.

  • The Good Life: actively doing stuff you’re good at and getting lost in it. Trying to improve your skills. Accomplishing goals. Go as far down that rabbit hole of “flow” as you can, Alice.

  • The Meaningful Life: using your signature strengths and virtues in service of something larger than you are.The Good Life + helps others.

  • The Full Life: experiencing positive emotions about the past and future, savoring positive feelings from the pleasures, deriving abundant gratification from your signature strengths, and using these strengths in the service of something larger to obtain meaning. Enjoy the pleasures of life, leverage your skills, seek flow, and use it to help people.

The Full Life might sound like a lot. It might sound hard because of formal terms like “signature strengths” and intimidating concepts like “meaning.” Don’t let any of that stuff scare you off. Just try this:

  • Every single day, do something that makes you smile.
  • Every single day, do something you’re good at.
  • Every single day, make sure your efforts help someone else smile.

That’s all it takes to start living the happiest life there is.

And that’s just what I plan to do!

Travel

Standard

img_9615

On the last day of November, I loaded my luggage into the car, brought the dogs to Andi’s kennel,  stopped at Aunt Katie’s to say good-bye and pick up the car keys and went to the airport. I was going on a trip!

I’d been unable to leave the island over Thanksgiving, but still wanted to get visits with my brother, sisters and daughters before the weather turned bad. My friend, Bob, hosts a Christmas Party on the first Saturday in December, so I planned my trip around that. Complications caused him to have to reschedule his party, but my travel dates had to remain the same.

My flight was at eleven 0’clock. This time of year, the water temperature is often warmer than the air. Steam rolls up from the water.  As I flew over it, the shoreline was completely obscured by huge masses of fluffy clouds beneath us; I couldn’t see the big lake until we were halfway across it. It was a calm day, though, and a good flight.

Upon landing, I retrieved the “mainland car” from the parking lot and pulled around to load my suitcases. Five bags for five days travel: one with changes of clothes: one with pajamas, medicines and my toiletry bag; my computer case, with computer, scanner, and some paperwork inside; one bag of paperwork and reading material; one bag – my purse – loaded to the brim with everything else I might need.

I had one stop to make in Charlevoix, and was then on my way. M-66 south through East Jordan then onto M-32 east to Gaylord. I filled the car with gas there, and went to the Big Boy restaurant for coffee and a late breakfast. I was a little disoriented, as the restaurant has a totally different look. Had I made a wrong turn?

“What town is this?” I asked the server.

“Gaylord.”

“Well, that’s what I thought…Didn’t there used to be a gigantic Big Boy statue outside?”

“Oh, yes,” she smiled, “that has been moved to the Big Boy Museum.”

Well, that explained that.

I got onto I-75 south after my meal, with about three hundred miles yet to travel. Just outside of Flint, I switched to the I-69 freeway, which took me right into Lapeer. From there, it was a quick drive to my sister Brenda and her husband Keith’s house, where dinner was waiting. That would be my “home-base” for the next several days.

Thursday, I drove to Clifford to see my daughter, Kate. As I walked through the door, she handed me her telephone, to say hello to my oldest grandson, Mikey. Kate’s house is cheery, decorated for the holidays and adorned with her collections of art, books and antique toys. She and my son-in-law, Jeremy, took me to Frankenmuth, for lunch and some shopping. I got my glasses fixed. We got back to her house in time to catch up with Madeline and Tommy, just home from school. Kate helped me solve some computer issues.

Friday, my daughter, Jen, came to Brenda’s. We set up two computers, and spread our paperwork over the dining room table and the kitchen island. We managed to sort out many billing issues for the Beaver Beacon, and plot out the next two issues. Jen helped me solve some more of my computer issues, approved my bookkeeping method, and straightened out my database. We managed a little bit of a visit, too, but agreed that – if time allowed – we’d like more opportunity to catch up on things. Friday night, sisters Cheryl, Robin and Amy came over for a dinner of salad, pizza, wine, with lots of laughter and good conversation.

Saturday, I picked up a small gift, and went to North Branch to help celebrate the first birthday of my grand-niece, Ellie. That turned into a good opportunity to see other nieces and nephews, and more of my family. That evening, Brenda, Keith and I watched movies.

Sunday, I drove out to Lake Nepessing to see my brother, Ted, who has had some serious health issues lately. They were getting ready to decorate the Christmas tree, so his whole family was there. Jen stopped in, too, and we traded ideas around the table on healthy low-fat and diabetic diets before my daughter and I left them to their decorating, and went to have a less-than-healthy lunch at the bar across the road. Brenda and I drove to Cheryl’s house that evening, for dinner and several games of Scrabble.

Monday morning, up at seven 0’clock to start a long, hectic day. First coffee, and write, then pack: dirty clothes separated from clean and crammed back in the suitcases; new acquisitions and gifts put in bags that would endure the luggage compartment on the plane; computer – with all of its cords and paraphernalia – tucked back in its case. More coffee, then, and last minute conversation with Brenda and Keith before the final sad good-byes.

I filled the car, again, with gas and hit the road. My next stop was Gaylord, where I revisited the Big Boy restaurant just off the freeway. In Charlevoix, I topped off the gas tank and handled a little business downtown before going to the airport. Back on the island, I checked in with Aunt Katie and returned her car keys, went to Andi’s to pick up my dogs, then home.

Monday night and all day Tuesday were spent catching up: loving up the dogs; unpacking; laundry; assessing what groceries I need, what bills I need to pay and what other things I neglected in my time away. Rest! I came home with a virus, and no energy at all. Travel takes it out of me. Today, it’s time to get back into the swing of things.

Dog Comics, Part III

Standard

img_6703

 

Now these two. I spent about a year, after Clover passed away, wondering whether to get another dog. I work long hours, and have a lot of guilt about the time my dogs spend alone. Would a second dog be a good companion for Rosa Parks, or just double the guilt for me? My sister has a camera in her house, so that she can keep an eye on her two pups while she’s at work. They don’t really interact much, she told me, until close to the time either she or her husband are expected home. Then they get up and start looking out windows. Two veterinarians and the woman who boards my dogs when I travel all assured me that dogs do offer comfort to each other, even if they’re not actively playing. I finally made a decision, and brought Darla home to join the family.

img_6723

Rosa Parks was unimpressed. She had not been unhappy being the sole beneficiary of all of my attention. Darla, too, in our drive across the state, had come away with the idea that she was going to be an “only dog.” Neither one was happy with having to compete for treats or attention. They got along, for my sake only, but took their time becoming friends.

Some of those habits linger. If Darla is acting up, begging at the table or clambering for the attention of guests, Rosa Parks will remove herself from the situation. Suddenly she, the bossiest, most demanding and spoiled of the two, is sitting calmly off to the side, one paw crossed casually over the other, with a look of absolute superiority on her face. “Do you see this?” I imagine her saying, “I am the good dog!”

When Rosa Parks whimpers and – one ear to the floor, tail in the air – begs me to stop what I am doing and give her some attention, Darla is quick to take advantage of the opportunity. While I’m on the floor rubbing Rosa’s ears and tummy, the big dog wants her belly rubbed, too. Rosa refuses to give up her spot, but takes on a pained expression as Darla – without fail – rolls right over on top of her.

img_7194

Over the course of the last several months, though, the dogs have developed a rapport. I notice when they rush out the door to chase wild turkeys out of the yard, they look at each other, a shared mission, as they go around the corner of the house. They’ve learned to take turns begging for treats, so that neither appears too greedy, but both benefit from the handout. At their last doctor visit, Darla stoically endured being poked and prodded by the veterinarian. Then it was the little dog’s turn. Rosa Parks was simply having her nails clipped. Always the drama queen, her response might lead one to believe she was at least enduring an amputation. The vet and I grinned at her melodrama. Suddenly, from her place in the corner of the room, Darla started talking. Not a bark and not quite a howl, but the sound dogs make when they are trying to sing…clearly she was not pleased with what we were putting Rosa Parks through! “Leave her alone,” was my interpretation. At last, my dogs have become friends!

img_7401

Dog Comics, Part II

Standard
img_4213

Clover and Rosa Parks

My next pair of dogs was Clover and Rosa Parks.

Though Clover often had issues with other dogs, she and the little dog became friends very quickly. In fact, Rosa Parks quickly took on the roll of the boss, letting Clover know when she she was being annoying, or when she could – or could not – share space on the bed or sofa. Rosa’s coloring was very much like Maggie’s; I often wondered if Clover didn’t see Rosa as a much smaller, reincarnated version of her old friend.

Clover, being the older and wiser of the two, took her roll seriously. She was the teacher, Rosa Parks the student. Clover would come upon a footprint in the snow. She’d put her snout near it, look up toward the little dog, and raise one eyebrow. Rosa would run right over, and put her own nose down to smell what Clover was smelling. They would exchange a knowing look. If it was a coyote print, the look was of concern. Deer or turkey tracks were interesting but not scary. A dead snake in the road would also demand attention. First the meaningful look, that would send Rosa Parks scurrying over. Then the demonstration: aim, flop onto the back right on top of the dead animal, and squirm. Jump up, sniff again, and repeat. “Now you try it,” I imagined her saying, and Rosa Parks complied every time.

Clover, who was very enthusiastic about chasing chipmunks, did her best to get Rosa Parks involved in the sport. Rosa pretended to be interested. If Clover was watching, the little dog would dig madly at the base of the tree, stare into its branches, circle and jump, just as Clover was doing. If Clover wasn’t paying attention, Rosa’s lazier nature came out, and she’d find a comfortable spot to watch the action. If she saw me watching, Rosa Parks would be quick to roll her eyes at Clover’s antics, letting me know that she was well above behavior like that.

Clover always rode in the car with us down to Fox Lake. Coming home, though, she preferred to run. And chase every single squirrel, and follow every single scent all the way home. Rosa Parks, on my lap, would watch Clover out the window, just as Maggie had watched her from the passenger seat as I followed closely behind. Eventually, though, I’d lose patience with her side trips, and with driving in second gear, one foot always on the brake. At some point, when she was off on the trail of a bird or rodent, I’d speed up, and let her make her own way home. That always put a look of satisfaction on Rosa’s little face. “Finally, rid of her!” By the time we got home though, her relief had changed to concern, and she – with me right behind – would head down the Fox Lake Road on foot, to meet Clover and accompany her in the final stretch for home.

img_4615