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Looking out my window this morning, the patio chair closest to the house is barely visible. A heavy bank of fog has moved in making the landscape murky, and trees and bushes but shadowy figures moving in and out of view in the background. Growing up in Nova Scotia on the arm of the Halifax harbor, fog was an integral part of my world. At night, tucked in my little bed in the my room on the second floor of my grandmother’s large comfortable home, the fog horn was often the last sound I was to hear before drifting off to sleep. As I’ve said, repeatedly most likely, I do enjoy a little weather. I would not be content in a place where one season looks like the next, and a bit of inclement weather less likely than developing a case of smallpox. Change, in all things, is what, to me, makes life interesting.

Even if you must go to the same job every day year after year, I believe it is important not to follow the same route every morning in order to get there, or to bring the same lunch to put in the fridge in the break room you’d eaten the day before. Once I dated a man who had his clothes lined up in his closet according to the days of the week. There were his Monday pants, hanging next to his Monday shirt. On the floor beneath them sat his Monday shoes and socks waiting to be put on once his Monday clothes were in place. I dated him for two years and never saw him in other than his Monday shirt on a Monday in the time we were together. If he removed a catsup bottle from what he referred to as his “staples shelf” a bottle of catsup was immediately added to the list hanging on a clipboard on the wall to be purchased at the next trip to the store. Each moment of his life was neatly organized. I like my surroundings to be neat, but I don’t want my life too tidily in place as to not have room for movement.

Now, let me preface this writing by saying I am by nature a very organized person. I do run a tidy ship in my home and don’t find comfort sitting around in a bunch of clutter or disorder. That is just me. If you wish to sit in your house with old McDonald’s bags tossed in the corner, piles of unfolded laundry on the couch and your last dish sitting in the sink dripping maple syrup, it is not my business, nor would I judge you for doing so. This is simply not how I choose to live. Each of us has our own way of plowing through life, and I believe whatever works for you, is precisely what you should be doing.

I had a friend who went through a twelve step program for an addiction he was fighting. As his friend, I went to a meeting with him on several occasions by way of support. The speaker on the first visit was talking about how important how you keep your personal area is to your overall well being. I believe there is truth to this. Most likely if your living space would be suitable for Porky and his pals to take up residence in, your life might well be a reflection of this. But who am I to say? My house is clean, but my life has been untidy often and had many chaotic spaces in it. I’m just throwing the information out there. You may chew on it any way you might like.

Speaking of chewing, there is good news on the cow flatulence front. Cows pass gas or burp, it would appear, at an alarming rate which is negatively effecting our ozone layer. A farmer by the name of Joe Dorgan living in Prince Edward Island (PEI to us Canadians) discovered by feeding his cows organic seaweed it made the animals far less gassy. Go team Canada! They are still investigating how to make this seaweed accessible as a food source for all the gassy cows presently strewn across the globe, as well as determining whether this is a short term fix or a long term one. Either way it is quite an amazing discovery. Right on Joe.

I think of this, because yesterday I went to visit my mother. No, she does not suffer from gas. However, she is presently living in a board and care in a rural section of a Sacramento suburb. It is a lovely area, populated with large ranches situated on huge chunks of property. While driving along the back roads, I passed a flock of wild turkeys deciding whether or not to cross the road, a bee farm (I guess you’d call it that) and a huge flock of cows grazing in a pasture. There you go, the much needed connection to the previous paragraph. Having just read the article about the farmer in PEI, my mind naturally went to the the bovine gas producers as I drove on by.

There are currently three residents and not a single cow in the board and care where my mother stays. There were four, but one lady passed away several weeks ago. My mother and the other female resident both have varying stages of dementia. The third resident, the other woman’s husband, lives with her but is in fairly good health. He moved in to be close to his wife. I find that terribly sweet as I write it. He is always by her side. It is my understanding they have been married for years and when she needed more significant care he opted to join her without hesitation.

Last week, I went to the dollar store and purchased Christmas stockings and all kind of goodies to stuff them with. Then I went to another store and found warm socks for the ladies, and a wool cap for the gentleman in the group. I had noticed on my visits there were perhaps four hairs remaining on the top of his head. Rick, when I met him, was totally bald and always favored wool hats in the winter months to cover this exposed skin in the cold weather. The gentleman was so excited to get the hat, it immediately went on his head and was still in place when I was saying goodbye several hours later. He also told me he had never had a stocking in his life and was most pleased to be able to hang one up. I don’t know his story, perhaps it’s a religious preference, or just a personal one, but all in all it was really fun and a big hit on the other end. Funny how a little something like that can bring a smile to someone’s face. Small acts of kindness, really do have big impact.

The hat made me think of Rick, not that I don’t often have him on my mind. We were together nearly twenty years. That is not a vacancy you fill easily. As I said, he was bald when I met him, having begun to lose his hair in his thirties. With all the stress I’ve had in my life over the past three or four years my hair has taken a hit. Fortunately, I had quite a bit to begin with, but it certainly is less lush then it used to be. Once the hair went, Rick cultivated the middle aged manscape on his face, basically a moustache which was attached to a neatly trimmed goatee. The hair shows up on the face, I believe, as it begins to disappear on the top of the head. I thought he looked wonderful without his hair, and as I never knew him with it in place, never noticed the loss of it. He told me it was devastating for him, however, when his hairline first began to recede. I can feel that. I had a very dear friend who was much older. His hair had completely disappeared on the top of his head but he still had a healthy growth around the sides. His solution to this problem, was to grow it really long on one side and draw that up over the vacant space on the top. Once in place he sprayed it into submission. A comb over. Let me be the first to say, this is not a good look. If the wind comes up, for example, or you go swimming? The hair on the side either stands up or droops to one side and the empty field is revealed. Seriously, I would much rather see a cleanly shaved bald head any day then that. I’m just saying. In the end it is the person existing below the hairline is who is important not what’s growing on their head.

As we age, the things that seemed so important when we were young seem to fade into the background. People gain a few miles on them and aren’t as shiny and factory fresh as they were in their twenties or thirties. The good news unless we invent a magic elixir, all of us are going to age. As yet, I have heard of no effective cure for it. Oh, there is plastic surgery (sometimes scary), and there are a myriad of products out there touting youthful results if you use them, but in the end aging must be faced and accepted as part of the journey.

So, I am inside and cozy on this foggy, foggy day. Have many projects on my table in various stages of production so lots to keep me busy. Christmas is on the horizon and a new year with hopefully more exciting prospects and great bounty for all of us.

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The flood gates have opened, and rain is pouring down in buckets full outside my window. This is a cold rain, and it’s brought along a playmate, a capricious wind. My yard is strewn with leaves and debris. My snowmen once decorating the patio in the back yard, are now standing on their heads pushed up against the fence. You could leave the wind at home, but I do love the rain. Even though this is quite an intense storm, we surely need it out here on the west coast and I’m glad to see it streaming down the pane.

When Rick was alive, dreary stormy weather such as today severely affected his mood. Speaking for myself, I find rainy days exhilarating. Particularly when I’m tucked inside cozy and warm working on projects such as I am today. Rick viewed overcast skies as dark and foreboding giving him a closed off feeling. Often, he said he felt claustrophobic on stormy days. When it became more than just an annoyance, we consulted his primary care physician who diagnosed Rick with seasonal depression disorder. It was suggested we order a special light to increase Rick’s levels of melatonin. So, on rainy days while I would be dancing and singing in the kitchen, Rick would be sitting in his recliner with a huge bulb focused on his head wishing it would all go away. We are so different and individual we humans. Each of us cut out of the same cloth, but woven with different colored threads making varied patterns and designs. I wonder sometimes we can all be considered brothers and sisters of the same species. Weather of all sorts could have been more tolerable for me coming from Nova Scotia, where inclement weather is not unfamiliar. Rick was born and raised in Cairo, Egypt. There weather didn’t vary vastly as I understand it, ranging from hot to somewhat less hot, according to the time of year you were in. Cairo typically measures less than an inch of rain annually, compared to Halifax which comes in at 50 plus inches. A bit of a climatic variance to say the least. I often think could two less like people have possibly have come together? It’s a question that remains unanswered.

I have spoken before about my “wishcraft” as Rick used to call it. Simply put, I imagine something I need or wish would occur, and voila, like magic, it materializes. He was always asking why I couldn’t use what he referred to as my super power to purchase a winning lottery ticket. Last week I was wishing I had a new refrigerator. The one provided by my landlords has a relatively small freezer, of which I use every inch of available space. Also, there is no ice maker so in order to make ice, cumbersome ice trays take up a quarter of the space. I secretly suspect it was probably put here when the house was built in the early 1930’s. Don’t misunderstand me, I am not complaining. Well maybe I am, just a little. At the time I was wishing for a new appliance, I was really only wishing only for enough room for my freezing hands to stuff my Costco order in the existing one. Night before last, I woke up to what sounded like a buzz saw running in the kitchen. “What now” said my tired mind? Rolling slowly out of bed, I moved my shuffling feet in the direction of the annoying sound. Turning on the light, on inspection, it appeared to be coming from the refrigerator. Great. Just bought $200 worth of groceries and it’s a Saturday night. Purrrrrrfect. Once again, Murphy was having his way with me. Sigh. Opening the freezer door, the fan was obviously running on high. Beads of water had begun to hang down from the roof of the compartment. “Oh no! The dreaded unscheduled DEFROST.” Wow. For two hours this went on, and then as quickly as it started, quiet once again returned to the kingdom. The freezer began to hum softly, and nothing appeared to have thawed. Crisis averted. My scallops would live to be baked another day. Thank you Amana gods for your help.

Yesterday, I called my landlord and told him what had happened. After examining the patient, he said though not gone yet, the old girl was definitely on her way out. Later, he called to let me know a replacement had been ordered, but due to supply chain issues it would take a couple of weeks. Yay. After I hung up, I remembered my wishful thinking and thanked the universe for once again coming through.

Again, the witchcraft came into play this morning. Yesterday, I was reviewing the damage I have done to my bank balance this Christmas. I don’t usually spend like this on gifts, but this year it felt so good to me to buy for those I love, I just jumped in with both feet. Damn the torpedoes, and all that rot. I knew it would put a wrinkle in my savings but my “what the heck”, attitude kicked into gear as I pulled my credit card out with joyous abandon and stuck it in the slots around town. So, this morning I noticed my mail was already in the box, which is unusual. Perhaps this was because it is such a blustery day. Maybe the mailman wanted to get it done early so he could go home, put his feet up, and enjoy a hot beverage. He’s going to need one. I saw him walking by a while ago, the strong wind pushing back the flaps of his jacket, and shorts covering only half his legs. People in California would wear shorts in a blizzard, I swear. Especially men, no offense to those of the gruffer set reading. Really? It’s in the mid forties outside. Whew. Where is your mother? At any rate, I gathered my mail and in one envelope I discovered a stimulus check that will take a lot of the wind out of my Christmas debt, while also allowing me to breathe a lovely sigh of relief. All is right with the world this morning. Breathe in, breathe out. Ahhhhhh.

I am sewing a blanket for Zeppelin, the youngest of our clan. I will post a picture of it when I’ done if I think of it. I think it’s pretty special, and I hope he does. I have tried to make blankets for most of my kids over the years but haven’t always made it. Will have to make it up to those I missed when they are old enough to have kids of their own if I’m still planting roses and not serving as their fertilizer by the time this occurs.

There are still two packages that have to be mailed. Not only is everything in the store going up in the price, it now costs nearly as much, sometimes more, to mail the items. I paid $27.00 last week to mail an envelope 2-day delivery to Texas. Would have been cheaper to book a flight and take it there myself, and I could have picked up some great Mexican food in San Antonio while there. Over the weekend, I hit some of the stores at the mall. For the first time, it really resonated how much prices have gone up. Amazing. I’m not employed anymore, at least not full time. Feel sorry for those trying to get by. The minimum wage goes up, and then prices rise and completely nullify the benefits. Makes it hard to get ahead.

On that bit of whine, I’ll sign off for today. Downton Abbey awaits me. I’m still on season one and am binging like a professional. Have a wonderful day and stay dry, safe, and at least socially acceptably sane such as I do. Later.

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The weekend has been busy. I spent Saturday night with my daughter and her family at a Winter Wonderland attraction. For Zeppelin, who recently turned three, this was a magical adventure. Being a “COVID” baby he hasn’t had much exposure to the outside world over the past couple of years. Snow cascaded down on us inside the gate, generated by a snow machine set up towards the entrance to the light show. This, for the small set, was the big deal of the night. The look on his face reminded me of how I felt the first time I saw fireflies while living in St. Albans, West Virginia. Only difference, I was thirty-eight at the time. Wonderment, is wonderment, no matter what the age, I like to think.

The Christmas elf in me seems to surface no matter what external forces are going on in my life. Always, I have come to life this time of year, and in spite the fact Dale will not be with me for the official lighting of the tree, the tree will go up as it always does. My son-in-law stores my tree in his rafters each year. Before going over there I asked him to get it down for me so I could bring it home with me. There was a time when I wouldn’t have owned an artificial tree. Part of the experience of having a tree for me, was to go to a lot or Christmas tree farm and pick out a tree the day after Thanksgiving. Since the kids have their own kids, and particularly now the cat and I are the only ones here to appreciate the splendor, I’m happy to have a conveniently accessible tree-in-a-box to put up instead.

Getting ready to head home yesterday morning, my son-in-law offered to put my two bags in the back seat of my car. I thanked him as I was going out the door, where he pulled me aside for a moment. “Don’t open the bags in the house”, he whispered in my ear. “Why not”, I asked? Apparently, Zeppelin had been playing in the garage with my son-in-law and he told him he was afraid of the bag. When asked why, he indicated the bag had been moving by itself. Oh-oh. Soooooo, I am being told there could be something in the bag? The bag now resting in my bag seat? Swell.

On the way home I jumped every time I heard a noise, and kept looking over my shoulder expecting to see two little rat ears and a big set of razor sharp teeth staring back at me. Thankfully, nothing escaped and hopefully there was nothing to escape. Once home, I unloaded my other items leaving the bags in place for last. Pulling on my industrial plastic gloves, I retrieved a long pair of tongs from my utensil drawer. “I’m going in”, I thought to myself. Dragging the cumbersome bags over to the side of the house, I watched them for a moment to make sure I didn’t detect any movement before unzipping the first bag. There were no obvious signs of entry so I felt pretty comfortable removing the contents, picking them up with the tongs just in case there were any surprises in store for me. The second bag was a totally different story. On one side there was a huge jagged hole obviously gnawed by huge jagged teeth. Let the games begin. Gingerly I pulled back the zipper. Grabbing the section of tree on the top with my tongs, I pulled hard dislodging a jack in the box ornament flying which came flying up out of the hole and landed on my head. The dance that ensued was worthy of at least a 10 from Len Goodman on Dancing with the Stars. Good form, excellent footwork, nice content. When my toes finished tapping, I looked up to see my neighbor leaning on his rake watching me. What? He waved at me cautiously in my direction, as one might do when dealing with a crazy person. In the end, there was no creature tucked in with tree either dead or alive. However, something had definitely eaten a hole in the side of the bag as well as all the fake cranberries off some decorations in the bottom of the bag. Note to self: Find a place in the shed for my trees.

Rats, well pests in general, are a way of life. Whether you live in the inner city or in rural areas a rat or two is going to turn up at one juncture or another. I try to find the inherent blessings in all living things, but I have to stretch a little farther to find the value in these nasty flea carrying rodents. Wherever there is food, rats will congregate. When we owned the restaurant I would sometime see them foraging out by the trash bins. Euuuuwww. When recounting the above rat story to a friend of mine, she said she saw a wire hanging beneath her car. When she reached up to yank on it to pull it out, a dead rat fell out on the ground and she was holding his tail. Ugh. They will get up under the hood of your car for the comforting heat of the engine. While visiting, they will chew on wires and connections leaving a mess if you’re not careful.

Moving on lest you’re eating and rodents put you off your food, this morning I am making soup out of what is left in my vegetable bins. I haven’t been shopping lately the way I did when Dale was here for meals, and I haven’t been cooking much either. The refrigerator, I’m afraid, reflects this lack of interest. I found four carrots, three stalks of celery, two onions, and some green beans hanging on for dear life in the bins. I had a half a rotisserie turkey breast that was about to travel south with the veggies so figured they’d all play well in a bit pot of soup. It’s supposed to be cold today, so what is more perfect on cold days than a piping hot bowl of soup and a grilled cheese sandwich, yes?

Murphy has been mucking about in my house the past week. As I mentioned in my previous blog, both toilets went on the fritz one right after the other. At the end of last week I was working on organizing my shed and one of the doors came off in my hands when I tried to close it. Thankfully, I figured out how to reattach it, or that would be the perfect place for critters to take up residence as the cooler weather prevails. Don’t misunderstand me, I do love my critters, but don’t really want any unwelcome surprises when looking for a package of paper towels out there in the dark.

So, this morning I began to assemble my soup ingredients. The landlord installed shelved pantry units in the laundry room to give me more storage. As I’ve said, this is a small house. I am very creative when it comes to using up all the available space, but even I have my limitations. The shelves in these cabinets are held up with little metal fasteners which regularly wear out, or come out and disappear into the atmospheric continuum somewhere. My theory is they are out there hanging out with all my missing socks. I have stocked these shelves fairly substantially so these little fasteners are being asked to hold up a fair amount of weight. This morning they rebelled. Opening the cupboard, cans, boxes, bags of pasta and all manner of consumables came pouring out like the dam had sprung a leak. A large can of crushed pineapple landed on my baby toe which is now the color purple. Ouch. I will find that Murphy one of these days and see he gets some of what he has dished out. Sorry, lost my head for a moment.

Not to be deterred from the task at hand, I sorted through the mess until I located what I needed and made my soup anyhow. What is it they say, “it’s not what happens to you in life that is important, it’s how you handle what happens to you”, or something along those lines. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.

Another minor annoyance, more to Boo than to myself, is that because nothing is getting to the store shelves these days, her cat litter brand of choice is out of stock. Boo, like most cats, is not a fan of change. Forced to either choose a new litter or allow the aromatic smell of ammonia to waft up to permeate my nostrils, I bought a different brand. The one I got was clumpable. I know, or really I didn’t know. At any rate, I diligently cleaned her box and sanitized it and poured the new litter inside. Shortly, as she always does, she sauntered up to take a virgin run at the fresh litter. First she smelled it, then after circling the box for ten minutes she deigned to step inside. You would have thought I had filled it with hot coals. She walked around lifting up her paws and behaving as if torture could only be a worse fate. Really? After a few days she accepted the fact that the old litter was not returning any time soon, and adapted herself to the situation. I, on the other hand, didn’t do as well. The clumps as it turned out were how the litter dealt with the bodily fluids etal. Huge clumps form in the litter after the cat uses it, looking like meteorites. They weigh a ton and hardly fit in the trash can I’ve always used to store the ……..um, well, poop. At any rate, it got kind of funny to me at one point but finally just annoying so I went and bought a new brand. Boo is circling the box as we speak. Life on the edge over here.

Happy Monday. The beginning of Thanksgiving week. Stay safe, spread kindness, be happy.

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I have to say, Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, has stepped up to the plate in a big way since Dale passed away. As it does after someone dies, the house goes from a hotbed of activity, to a quiet, sometimes deafeningly quiet, refuge. Family and friends return to their lives, and you are left alone (if just the two of you) to sort out the remnants of yours. Boo has been my steadfast companion over the past weeks, and I don’t know what I would have done without her. In times where I felt lost, she would find me. Her beautiful silly furry face would lift me up from whatever dark space I had crawled into, and pull me back into the world. God bless animals, really. We could learn a great deal from them about humanity.

I have had many pets over the years. I never say I owned my animals. To my mind you can’t own a living entity. You share space, possibly rent one for a while, as they can be costly, but never own one. My first “pet” was a loaner who haughtily sauntered into my life when I was about the age of six. Whiskers was a grey tabby with attitude, who lived with our neighbors, The Bells, in the house directly across the street from ours. Not permitted an animal of my own, Whiskers and I made a silent agreement to meet every day in front of the garage for scratches behind the ears and a few moments of cat to human companionship.

I didn’t get an actual pet until third grade, when three guppies, and two angel fish showed up in a small aquarium under the Christmas tree. A puppy was what I had written on my Christmas list, but fish were what Santa delivered. Watching them milling about inside the glass I believe for a moment I thought about leaving him a hunk of coal instead of chocolate chip cookies and milk the following year. To give Santa his due, we lived in an apartment with a “no pets” policy, so fish were all I was allowed to own. He must have read the lease before crossing my golden retriever off his list. They were entertaining, for creatures that basically just swam around, pooped and ate, but they weren’t much when it came to going for walks or playing in the yard. Santa had included a manual detailing the care and feeding of each species, however, it included nothing about the reproductive status of guppies. As things will happen when you put males and females of a species in the same environment, one of the guppies got pregnant. When she produced her offspring, I watched in horror as the father immediately gobbled up all his own children. It seems this is not an uncommon phenomenon among the male guppy population, which leads me to wonder there are any guppies in the aquariums at the north pole to provide for children over the holidays. The following day, my mother found a new home for my tank.

To ease the loss of my guppies, a new furry face arrived on the scene in fourth grade. A Boston terrier by the name of Puck. That is Puck, from Midsummer Night’s Dream, with a P. To be honest Puck was not a name I might have chosen for obvious reasons, but he came to us at six months old, and his previous owner had a leaning towards Shakespeare. Not wanting to confuse him, Puck he was, and Puck he stayed. Puck was a little black and white shivering bundle of energy. He had one blue and one brown eye and was prone to passing truly obnoxious clouds of gas at the most inopportune moments. His favorite game, if left alone and the bathroom door open, was to grab the end of a roll of toilet paper and run through every room of the house until the roll finally came to an end. Often I came home from school to find him sitting in clouds of Charmin looking really pleased with himself. In his defense, the only companion the dog had when I was in school was my mother’s roommate’s brother’s mynah bird. Follow that trail if you can. The black menace, was a contentious feathered creature answering to the name “Uncle Charlie”. Uncle Charlie could match expletives with the vilest of sailor’s mouths and could often be heard in his owners room blaspheming loudly to his little hearts content. Puck’s bent for flatulence, unfortunately, turned out to be more than just socially unappealing, but also an indicator of an underlying serious intestinal condition resulting in his demise before he celebrated his second birthday.

I didn’t venture into the realm of pet ownership again until the eve of my thirteenth birthday. The doorbell rang that night just after we had cut my cake. I opened the door, to find a delivery man standing there carrying a cage. Reading from a card he had in his hand he announced he had a special delivery for Susan Dennis, which at time would have been me. Handing the cage across the threshold to my waiting hands, he turned and walked down the driveway. Looking inside, I was more than surprised to find two large frightened looking topaz eyes staring back at me. “Hello”, I said? Taking the crate in the kitchen, my mother determined the gift had come from my Aunt Eleanor. Eleanor was not really my aunt, though I called her Aunt El, but rather an old friend of the family. Eleanor was in her seventies at the time (I perceived her as ancient and more than a little eccentric). The woman lit one cigarette off the last, drank vodka by the truckload, owned three beagles who smelled like old socks, and was a retired legal secretary. She had never married, had no children (except her beagles who she called her “girls”), and her only relative was a rather unproductive brother who lived in her spare room with Mr. Charlie the foul mouthed mynah bird. Aunt El, however, in spite of her many quirks, had a heart the size of New Jersey. Knowing it was a difficult time in this girl’s life, she knew a kitten might just fill the fill. Had she asked my parents permission, I’m sure the answer would have been a resounding no. So El came at the situation like she did most situations she had during her life in the legal field, and just cut through the red tape. The eyes as it turned out were attached to a peach colored persian kitten, who aptly came to be called “Peaches”. Peaches was gorgeous even by persian standards. In the dark, her golden eyes shone brightly like the orbs of a underworld goddess replete with locks of flowing curly golden hair. Her regal bearing belied an underlying love of martinis, which came to the fore after a night of partying on the part of my parents and a group of their friends. I woke up to find the living room littered with the remnants of the previous night’s festivities including half filled martini glasses and bowls of crusted over guacamole. In the middle of the disaster sat Peaches happily lapping up what had to be her second or third gin martini.Oh-oh. On seeing me, the fuzzy sot weaved across the carpet in my direction getting about halfway to where I stood before dropping on her side like a possum caught in the headlights of a car. Thankfully, the amount of alcohol she consumed did not do her in, but the next day she had the same look on her lovely face I’d seen on my parents the day before. Peaches would be my steadfast friend and companion for the next two years, before being hit by a car on our street and having to be put to sleep. My young heart, as they say, was broken.

It was to be, that once again I was to mend my broken heart from the loss of one furry friend by finding another one to step up to make me smile. Don’t misunderstand me, you can not simply exchange one pet for another and make everything all right, any more than you can with human beings. Each animal, like each person in your life, if special, occupies a certain space in your heart and mind that is unique and belongs only to them. Their imprint, can never be written over with a new one, but will rather stand side by side with the others. Such was the case with the little Pomeranian puppy given to me on my sixteenth birthday by my mother. Mandy, like another guardian angel, arrived on the scene when life was a bit bumpy at our house and a loving companion was just what was needed.

When Mandy came into my life I was sweet sixteen, with more emphasis on the age than the description. My home life was complicated, and in reaction to that chaos I was a bit rebellious. Toss all those ingredients in a bag and no matter how much sugar you added the cake it still didn’t taste that delicious. My mother and I were trying to find a way to communicate, and teenagers aren’t notably gifted in this area, and my stepfather, well that’s for another blog. Mandy helped to iron out some, not all of the wrinkles at home, making life a little easier for all concerned. Small in size, with a pointed snout and a bush of reddish gold hair, she resembled a little fox. Before long we were inseparable. She understood me, didn’t ask a lot of questions, and was an excellent snuggler, and for a small being, a fierce protector. What more could I ask for? My stepbrother, Mike, also had a dog, Chip. Mike’s parental visits included every other weekend at our house during the school year, every other holiday, and a month during the summer break. Chip accompanied him on the summer break the first year Mandy came to live with us. My mother and I had discussed getting Mandy fixed as soon as her first heat and come and gone. Apparently Chip, an ardent suitor, hadn’t read that far in the book. Sure enough, before the surgery could be done, Mandy was pregnant. The vet said the pregnancy was too far along so we would need to complete the journey. One night I noticed Mandy was very restless. She stood up, then laid down, yawned, and then whimpered. This went on for some time. Alerting my mother something was wrong, she called the vet and they said we should bring her in. After an xray revealed two puppies, one too large to come through the birth canal, (Chip was a mutt, but a mix of larger breeds) Mandy was prepped for a C-Section. This would end up costing my mother nearly $400, pricey even in those days. Mother was not wearing her happy face on the drive home two puppies richer. Mandy produced her only offspring, Chip and Dale. The boys were healthy but an odd pair, with Chip being at least double the size of his brother. When they were old enough,we put them up for adoption and they were scooped up before the ink was dry on the ad. Mandy remained with me until I got married three years later. She stayed with my mother until I could find an apartment where I could bring her. I think she died of a broken heart, though they said it was liver failure. As I’ve said often, life is a series of hellos and goodbyes.

There have been many other memorable fur babies between Whiskers and Boo. If I mentioned them all you’d have to put on a fresh pot of coffee. Dale’s memorial is tomorrow. Nursing a big case of sad this morning but Boo is here at my feet keeping a watchful eye on me. Happy Saturday!!

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I woke up to a light rain falling outside my window. Boo, the Queen of Cats, was curled up in a tight knot on the pillow next to me and all felt right in the world just for that quiet moment lying in my warm comfortable bed listening to the glorious sound of water falling from the sky. California has been so dry the past few years. It fascinates me there are people out there still trying to argue climate change is a figment of people’s imaginations. The polar ice cap is melting, sea levels are rising, mega storms in the Atlantic are becoming the norm, drought is on tap nearly every year out here on the west coast and fire season now lasts all year long, and still there are doubters shaking their heads in disbelief. What, one has to wonder, will it take for these non believers to see what is clearly unfolding in front of their eyes? I really do try to leave room for opinions other than my own under this mop of blonde hair, but this I have trouble even following the logic of the opposing argument. How do you argue with what is obviously happening as a result of we human beings being less than diligent caretakers of this beautiful planet? Perhaps it’s just easier to deny. Doing nothing is always easier in some way, then taking a stand.

I get denial, believe you me. My daughter used to call me “The Queen of Denial”. I have to confess to being a bit of a fairy duster. I would prefer to think the best of people initially and perhaps later be proven wrong, then to assume the worst from the onset and find out I was mistaken down the road. Always I will assume a friend or loved one to be telling me the truth unless given reason to believe otherwise. I do have to say though, once I have confirmed a person has lied to me about something important, that original assumption goes out with the bath water. Now I’m not speaking to little white lies. I believe most of us will admit to telling those little fabrications now and then. Aunt Millie calls when you’re in the middle of a good book, and you tell her you’d love to talk but you’re on the way to the dentist. I’m sure these little “fibs” get noted on our record somewhere, but I think in the end they are fairly harmless diversions meant to keep the other person from feeling hurt or offended. Anyhow, whether this premise is true or not, it works for me, and until proven otherwise, I am sticking to that plan of action.

I am a terrible liar. My face gives me up every time. So, in my case, there is no point in even launching into a big whopper. For one thing, I over embellish, providing details as finite as commenting on what color footwear the person was wearing in the concocted fairy tale, or what they were eating at the time the incident occurred. People telling the truth don’t need to add copious details or write things down to recall the intricacies of what happened when relating a story. They do not need to take notes because what they are saying actually did happen and they have imprinted the sequence of events to their memory bank. Hello? Dale, as far as I know, has only attempted to tell me one “fib”. Have to say, he wasn’t very adept at it. It was at the beginning of both our relationship and the pandemic. Like everyone else on the planet, I was nervous about contracting the dreaded virus. I told Dale because of my asthma, it would be helpful for him to avoid public places if possible with large gatherings of unmasked people. There was no vaccination to turn to at that time, so masks and social distancing were about the only weapons available against the disease. A friend of Dales has a brother who races cars. This particular Saturday the brother was bringing his current “ride” to a local track and Dale had been asked to come and watch the car put through it’s paces. The temptation proved to much. He went, knowing this probably wouldn’t sit well with me. To keep me from knowing where he was, he called me from a copse of trees about a half a mile away so I wouldn’t hear the engines roaring in the background. The thing about lying, is one lie generally breeds another. In order to support the first fabrication, other fabrications need to fall into line after it to keep the illusion going. If you have a healthy conscience, once you have let the lie out out of the gate, then the guilt sets in. Sitting in the stands after our phone call, Dale began to not only feel the guilt, but guilt had invited a new friend to the party, worry. He began to worry I might find out he had not told me the truth. Remembering I knew the friend’s wife, he texted her to ask she not mention where the two men had gotten off to. Problem in this move being, he sent the text to me instead of her by accident. Oh-oh. The text I received read, “Please don’t mention to Susie I went to the track with Mike. This might upset her. Thanks so much.” I replied, “Too late, Bubba. The jig is up, the cat is out of the bag, the beans, as they say, have been spilled.” There was no reply for a moment, and then the phone rang. Somebody was in trouble. I told him then and there lying was one of my least favorite behaviors in a mate. If you can’t trust your partner, and believe me I have been there, then there isn’t much point in going forward.

Lying to avoid consequences is something we learn at a young age. I remember finding one of my grandchildren, around four years old at the time, standing at my outside refrigerator with the door open. I had put a lot of food out on the table in the kitchen for whatever party was going on, including a huge bowl of fruit for everyone to enjoy. The one statement I had made to the children specifically was “You may have everything I put out, but the strawberries in the back refrigerator are for a luncheon I’m going to tomorrow so please don’t touch them”. Standing there in his bare feet he looked up at me with that innocent baby face nearly totally obscured by red strawberry juice. In his hands, and on the floor below him, were an assortment of leaves and partially eaten berries. I said to him, “did you eat Nana’s strawberries?” To which he answered vehemently while shaking his head, “no”. Uh-huh. Nana’s got your number little man.

As a mother I was a big consequence girl. I felt “if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime”. Never was I a hitter, but there was punishment to be exacted if they did something they knew was not in their best interest or mine. Usually my punishments involved extra chores, or lost privileges. To me, an integral part of being a parent is teaching them about life. When you grow up and do something you should not, there are consequences for your actions. I remember one time asking my son to take out the trash I had sitting in a 33 gallon trash bag by the door heading out to the garage. I asked twice, as the dogs, a large golden retriever named Barnaby, and a Shih Zsu answering to Sushi, would have access to the house through the dog door due to the rain outside. Barnaby, already had his name on the books as a known trasher.”Sure, Mom”, was the standard answer. I placed the bag against the door as I left for work so that my son would literally have to repel over it to get out to the garage to go to school. No problemo. Later that day, I arrived home from work before my children had gotten in from school. Pushing on the door to go into the kitchen, it did not move easily. As I pushed harder against the door, I heard tin cans rattle and paper rustle. From beneath the door, an ooze of tomato juice seeped through onto the stairs. Sigh. Inside, the kitchen floor was littered with trash and debris. Barnaby, so it would seem, had made the best of his time on his rainy day break in the house, indulging himself of the feast left at his disposal. Calling the dog’s name, I got no response other than the familiar thump, thump, thump, of the dog’s tail whacking against the hardwood floor in the next room. Sushi, wisely had distanced herself from the scenario, having her back to me sleeping in her dog bed. She did not look up, lest she be caught in the crossfire. Conveniently, Barn had already put himself in the corner in the family room, totally aware trash bags were not a place I wanted him to bury his head. The culprit, it would appear, had been apprehended. This was not his first infraction. Giving me a side eyed glance while I told him I was unhappy about the situation, I could see flecks of cheese clinging like stalagmites to the end of his snout. What a mess. Shortly thereafter, my son arrived. Surveying the damage, I could see my boy’s mind working to find some plausible explanation to offer me as an excuse for the oversight that would get him out of cleaning up the ungodly mess. Nope, nothing there. There really was no explanation needed, so I handed him the broom and the mop and left him to his job. Truthfully, it was not the dog’s fault temptation was left in his way. The next time I asked for the trash to be taken out, I noticed it had disappeared when I got home. Lesson learned.

As I say often, life is but a series of lessons. We either learn them, at least in my case this is true, or they show up again somewhere down the road offering us another chance for redemption. I have found the lessons I have most stubbornly resisted learning, are the one’s in the end to have hit me the hardest. The current process we are going through with Dale as the cancer tightens it’s grip, makes me wonder what the lessons I am to be understanding in this. For him, I would guess it is a lesson in surrendering, a lesson in faith, and in the beginning, a lesson in unrelenting hope for a miracle. How difficult I was thinking this morning, it must be to know that your time here on earth is coming to an end. That the sip of delicious sweet coffee you are taking might be your last sip, or the kiss your daughter plants on your forehead might be the one that fills the cup. I struggle with understanding all that is going on in my world, but try to still find much joy in the lovely fall colors sneaking into my neighborhood as each day unfolds, or watching the silly antics of my crazy cat as she chases a furry mouse (toy of course) around the kitchen floor. Each day really is a gift, perhaps that is the simple lesson here. Ta ta for now.

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A friend of mine recently started dating for the first time since going through a messy divorce about five years ago. Her children are grown, so that is one issue she won’t have to deal with. Still, dipping your toe in the dating pool again is a slippery slope when you first put yourself back out there. On this specific subject, I can speak with some authority having been married four times. Now, having been married four times certainly does not qualify me as an expert. Let’s be real, betting on four horses who never crossed the finish line is not exactly to be considered a stellar track record. However, those unions and others have left me with a sizable bank of experience on the topic of relationships at this stage of the game. For the most part, I have already fallen in most of the potholes encountered while looking love, and climbed back out of them more times than I care to mention. Hopefully, I have gathered a little knowledge to take with me each time I made it back to the surface.

I was thinking about Rick and our first date. He took me to a hockey game in San Jose. The Sharks were playing the Canucks. At the time, we were still at the stage where we were gathering information about one another. The fact I am Canadian by birth hadn’t been a topic we’d discussed at any length. Seated in his excellently positioned season ticket seats, we had a great view of the ice. Naturally, being in the Shark’s home stadium, the stands were packed with ardent Sharks fans wearing all manner of team shirts and waving Sharks paraphernalia. A man two seats over from me had his head completely obscured by a full size shark head with a hole in front where he could watch the game between the teeth. When the Canucks took the ice something deep in my roots pushed my nationalism button and I began whooo-hooing vigorously for the Canadian players. Rick turned to stare at me with his mouth fully agape. Aside from the fact he was a die hard Sharks fan, this was not recommended behavior when seated smack in the middle of a huge pool of fans rooting for the other side.The man who’s face appeared in the middle of the sharks teeth turned and actually stuck his tongue out at me. Really? In spite of a bit of a rocky start to the evening, people forgot my indiscretion in the heat of the game, and we had so much fun. Talking came easily between us. After the game was over, and my Canucks had plummeted down like a maple leaf swirling in a stiff breeze, we decided to go to a local hot spot where there were video games lining the aisles of every type and description. Sitting side by side on motorcycles connected to a screen in front of us, we leaned left and then right. Manipulating the controls on the handlebars, an animated screen simulated our movements as if we were actually careening along the highway faced with obstacles along our way. That, I have to say, was the highlight of the night for me. By the time we said our goodbyes, we’d sewn the first seeds in what was to be a nearly twenty year relationship.

I have had some really memorable dates over the years, both good and bad. Just because you remember an evening, doesn’t always mean you recall the details for the right reasons. Getting married the first time at the ripe old age of nineteen, I never dated as a legal adult until I was single again at twenty-seven. Though unattached, as far as relationship status on my Income Tax papers, I did not consider myself unattached. There were two children in the picture. This puts dating on a very different level. Being a single mother is very rewarding but it isn’t a walk in the park. All the parenting falls to you, and the decisions you make whether the right ones or the wrong ones, lead back to your door as well. Essentially, though there were stepfathers in the picture, my biological father died when I was one year old, so I consider myself raised by a single mother as well. After my father passed away, my mother didn’t start dating again until I was around four. I was her point man. As she likes to tell it, if a date came to pick her up at the front door, I would look up at the man she was going out with and say, “are you going to be my daddy”? There it was, I was a buzz kill at four. As you can imagine that cooled off a lot of engines before the first rush of gas even made it to the carburetor. Looking back, I think I was interviewing for the job. My mom was a beautiful young woman, so there were a lot of eligible men interested in getting her attention, who I perceived as potential fathers. About two years into the program, I had made my choice from the selection I’d been given of the gentlemen in her social circle. Admiral Fox, was his name, Foxy to his friends. The first time I saw the admiral, he arrived to pick up my mother to take her to a dinner dance. As my grandmother was to describe him, the admiral was a “tall drink of water”. When he entered the house from the foyer and stepped into the downstairs hall, he had to remove his hat to keep from knocking it off as he walked through the door. An impressive man by any standards, to me he looked like a prince standing before us. Bending down to shake my hand, I thought him resplendent in his naval uniform adorned with all manner of medals detailing the history of his military achievements. Interested in winning over my mother, and understanding the chain of command standing between him and that goal being my grandmother and then myself, he wisely brought my grandmother flowers and for me a sailor’s hat plus an armload of comic books. He had my vote tucked in his well decorated pocket before he left on my mother’s arm for the evening. Unfortunately, though he was my choice for hero, he was not to be my mother’s. The heart wants, what the heart, wants, and in the end Foxy was not what my mother’s heart wanted. That being said, after a lovely lunch on the aircraft carrier Admiral Fox commanded and several dinners and outings following, I bid a regretful “ships ahoy” to the admiral and the search for a dad continued. Note to reader here, I am still on that mission.

I was allowed to begin dating, other then in coed groups, when I was fifteen. The one place I was forbidden to go whether as a couple or with other couples, was the drive-in. My parents viewed drive-ins as hot beds of raging hormones populated by steamed up windows and overheated teenagers. Which, of course, is exactly what they were. Mother was a bit of a helicopter parent, before the phrase had ever been coined. I can remember when I was in high school she would send my dog in the den with us if I had invited a boy over. To preface, my dog, a tiny Pomeranian named Mandy, didn’t like men. This, largely due to the fact my stepfather didn’t like dogs. It was a Mexican standoff between the two of them and there were to be no winners. He would make his distaste evident by leaving her in the back yard when she wanted to come in or yelling loudly when she barked. She, would exact revenge by urinating in his slippers or lying in wait for him as he was headed to the kitchen for coffee, and nipping at the back of his ankles. Even more than the dog’s dislike for men, she resented anyone sharing my affections. If she detected someone else was getting more attention than she was, she would give it her best effort to level the playing field. Positioning herself between my date and I on the couch. If I put her down, she’d jump back up. If I removed her from the room entirely, she would sit outside the door and howl until let back in again. If put outside she would scratch at the screen until my mother let her in. What she lacked in menacing stature, the dog made up for in dogged (pardon the pun) tenacity. I believe she was in fact a well trained agent in my mother’s network of spies. If the boy as much as lifted his arm to scratch his nose, Mandy would curl back one lip and growl menacingly. Should he try to place that arm around my neck, my diminutive guardian might attempt a coup and snap her teeth together in his direction. In her defense, though she could appear menacing, she never bit anybody. That being said, she could be a fierce little defender when the spirit moved her.

The trouble, beyond the obvious, with ending a relationship with one person, is eventually you most probably will have to begin a new one with someone else. This means starting at Ground 0 once again, answering all the familiar questions and establishing new bonds with yet another potential mate. The song “Getting To Know You” is now freely streaming in my head. Sometimes I think I’d rather get a puppy or a bird and just leave it at that. Other things to think about might be if the new man or woman in your life has children. If they do, it will mean meeting them. Just because you are enamored with one of their parents, does not offer any guarantee you will feel the same way about his or her offspring, nor them about you. Friends too can be a problem, especially best friends, if there isn’t a connection to be found there. The more I write about this the more attractive adopting a little Corgi puppy is beginning to sound.

Thankfully, Dale and I haven’t had any problems over the last couple of years. He is a likeable being who attracts likeable beings to him making the whole process so much easier. He, in turn, likes my friends, an eclectic bunch, but very lovable. I like them just that way, and wouldn’t change a hair on their pointy little heads. Always I have chosen to associate myself with interesting, somewhat complicated, fun human beings. People who can see more than one side of the coin, and have something interesting to contribute when sitting across the table from you. I also like people who are willing to get a bit silly at times, dance in the moonlight, or sing karaoke even if totally off tune like myself. People, I guess you might say, not afraid to color outside the lines on occasion, wear white after Labor Day, or live their lives without having to always do the “right thing” at the “right time”.

Many times I have gone on dates where I knew in the first ten minutes of the evening would last for only that one encounter. Chemistry, I believe, is not something that can be created. It is either there, or it is not. For whatever reason like little fireflies blinking in the dark, some people’s lights shine brighter for us than others, and that is a fact of life. I have met people I instantly felt a connection with, both friends and love interests. People who I could talk to right out of the gate, and share a commonality with that would endure over the years. Other people, and I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences, I could be locked in a vault with for thirty days and a single spark would never ignite between us.

There are certain traits I have identified over years of dating, I choose to avoid. I don’t enjoy people who still have the first dollar they ever earned. Don’t misunderstand me, I am not a high maintenance female, but also I don’t like someone who when you share a tab tells you your share is $15.92 exactly. It is important to establish from the beginning who you are and what you enjoy doing before you fully commit to getting to know someone. For example, your idea of fun is staying in binge watching “The Crown” and ordering take-out on weekends, and he is a guy who climbs Half Dome for fun on Saturdays or has a kayak rack on top of his SUV you have to wonder how that is going to work out on down the road when the fairy dust has dispersed. Picking the right partner in the sea of humanity we have to choose from is no task for the feint of heart I’m telling you. I always admire people who do so successfully in the beginning and remain in one union for sixty or so years.

So my thoughts for a Monday. Rick’s birthday was yesterday. Seems like he was sitting next to me in the car last week and it has been nearly three years since he passed away. Happy Birthday dear Ducky. Thinking of you.

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It’s been a week this week, I have to say. Yesterday morning my IPhone froze up. For over an hour I followed instructions to unfreeze the damnable device producing no change whatsoever in the screen. I can’t be without a phone at the moment, and this one is relatively new. Finally, totally frustrated, I got in the car and drove the twenty or so minutes to the nearest dealer to have them take a look at it. I walked in the door, explained the situation to the clerk at the front desk, handed my device to a kid who looked to be in middle school, and with the flick of one thumb and two fingers “voila” the phone released the screen. Really? The gods are angry.

At least it is at last September. The days are marching forward in a steady rythm towards fall. I cannot tell you how ready I am for autumn, and all that season promises this year. I already have a few fall touches sprinkled about the house by way of a welcome mat for my favorite season. There is a bit of melancholy attached to fall creeping up so quickly. Before long all the beautiful colors decorating the landscape, the pumpkin lattes, and artistically carved jack-o-lanterns grinning on people’s stoops will have come and gone. I am feeling this way as I approach the end of this difficult year, I believe, because I have become weary of saying goodbye.

This has been a stressful couple of years, I have to say. Dale and I have spent a lot of time together the last year and a half, partly due to Covid and partly to the fact he has lung cancer. Though he doesn’t let his prognosis overrun him, with oxygen equipment all around and medicine containers, you can’t help but notice the elephant in the room every day when you wake up. When you think about sharing company with someone dealing with a terminal illness, several adjectives probably immediately come to mind….. depressing, sad, exhausting. Surprisingly there are many other adjectives of a positive nature that apply as well…..tender, compassionate, warm. Don’t misunderstand me, for I don’t want to misrepresent the experience, it can be all the darker adjectives and a bag of chips on some days. However, there is another, perhaps lighter side to it, people don’t often talk about. Along with all the deep emotions involved in losing a loved one, there is also the gift the person dying gives to the people they ask to share their last journey. The sweet gift of allowing someone you love to accompany you on your final days on this plateau. At the beginning of your travels with someone facing such a challenge, you will walk side by side. As the disease progresses, however, you will reach a crossroad. When at the fork in the road, you will continue on to wherever your destiny is to lead you, and the person transitioning will stay on their path to complete the final lap of their trip alone. Dying is an integral part of life. If we looked at death more directly instead of being afraid to say the word out loud or speak of it, perhaps we would be able to approach it with more easily with grace and dignity. Let’s face it, thus far none of us have gotten a hall pass to avoid it, so perhaps it would be better to accept, even embrace it.

Though the situation Dale is currently dealing with tends to pervade our lives, it’s amazing how resilient the human spirit can be. We still find plenty of time to catch a favorite movie, sit outside under the umbrella in the yard and watch the grass grow, and now that we can, spend time with our vaccinated friends and family. I say that not as an arrow directed at the hearts of those who still choose not to get the vaccine, but because Dale is definitely compromised when it comes to health issues. Being around someone who possibly could transmit the virus to him would be unwise. The beginning of the week we had a friend stop by to spend a couple of hours. She texted me not long after she’d left to tell me driving home from her shopping trip, she could see a huge plume of smoke billowing up behind the hills near where we live. As we were speaking, I began to hear planes flying overhead and sirens in the distance. Oh-oh. Sure enough, a fire was brewing and neighborhoods in our general area were being evacuated situated closer to the origin of the blaze. Sometimes it feels like it never rains but it pours. I’d like a rainbow or two thrown in for good measure. I’m just saying. While I was packing up the trunk of the car as a precaution, I thought once again, “the gods really must be angry”.

Maybe there’s some truth to that? It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if our creator or creators, however you believe, aren’t particularly pleased with how we’ve been handling ourselves recently. We’re not exactly behaving like kind, compassionate beings. Turn on the news for an hour or so, to remind yourself how true that statement is.

On the good news side of the page, since I wrote the paragraph about a fire brewing, the blaze, thanks to the continuing efforts of firefighters keeping us safe all over the state, has since been contained. Another “whew” moment for us living here in the north state. No structures or lives lost is always a good days work. Continuing with that positive note, I woke up in the middle of the night night before last to the sweet song of rain drumming on the roof. Wow. It has been so long since I’ve heard that, I almost didn’t recognize the sound. Got up the following morning and took a long walk just to grab a lungful of the sweet fresh air outside my window. There really is nothing to compare with the smell of the earth after it has been soaked with a good dose of rain.

This morning, I actually have the windows open in the house. A lovely cross breeze is flowing in through the screens. Between the smoke and my allergies, I haven’t been able to open them in a while. PG&E will undoubtedly be sending us a thank you letter for keeping them afloat with our energy consumption this summer. Yesterday marked the twentieth anniversary of 9/11. Seems as though it was so much more recent than that. For most of us, I’m sure what we were doing the exact moment we got the news of the events unfolding on that day has become permanently etched in our memory banks. I know for me it has. I was at work, standing in the conference room with a large group of co-workers standing in front of the TV. We watched in disbelief as one unreal image after another appeared on the screen. No one spoke really, other than an occasional “oh my, God” or “oh no”. When the realization of what had just happened on U.S. soil sank in, most of us filtered out the doors and went home for the day. There was no point in trying to work with those images fresh in our minds. Driving down the freeway I remember tears sliding down my cheeks. So many lives were instantly changed in those moments. My daughter-in-law, who’s birthday falls on September 11th, said that her birthday was changed forever for her with all the memories attached to it after the Twin Towers fell. I’m sad to say we lost her as well recently due to an unfortunate accident. So, I remembered her as well, and am thankful for the two beautiful grandchildren she left behind for me to share time with.

It is not an easy planet right now. Not that the earth has ever really rested completely comfortably because, in the end, it is a globe populated with human beings replete with all their foibles and missteps. Perhaps 9/11 is a day to remember how much we have to be thankful for, and be reminded in the end we’re all trying to survive as best we can and not as different from one another as it might sometimes appear.

Have a great day. Remember those who bravely went in to help and never came out, those who were in the buildings that fell, and those amazing passengers who brought down the second plane before it could reach the intended target. Bless them all and bless us as we move forward. We are left behind as caretakers of this glorious planet and I believe we need to step up and do a far better job.

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Growing up in Canada, Fourth of July was significant in our house only in that it was my grandmother’s birthday. July 4th was Independence Day, after all, for the United States of America, not the Canadian provinces. We do, however, celebrate Canada Day on July 1st in much the similar way. It’s a time for Canadians to celebrate their history, achievements, and culture. Since it began in 1867, nearly a hundred years after the U.S. claimed independence, I have a feeling perhaps we looked across the border and saw all the Americans having a helluva party and decided to join in. I’m just sayin. There is no doubt we Canadians enjoy a good party.

In Halifax on Canada Day, just like here, we packed a picnic, grabbed a blanket, and headed for a fireworks display. Often our venue of choice was the Waegwoltic Club, or “The Wag” as we referred to it back then. The name, so I’m told, is derived from a Mi’ kmaw word loosely translated to mean “end of water”. The Mi’kmaw were the dominant tribe in the Maritime provinces. The Wag was, and still is, located on the Northwest Arm of the Halifax harbor a fork which defines the western side of the Halifax Peninsula. My grandparents always held a membership at the club, and as their progeny I reaped the benefits of this membership during my childhood. In the summer months my grandmother would walk me to the bus stop around the corner with a friend or two in tow. When the bus arrived, we would excitedly pile on,locate a seat, and ride the bus to our final stop just outside the gates of The Wag. Many times she would have packed me a picnic lunch which I would eat at one of the many picnic tables provided, but sometimes I was given money to eat at the snack bar in the main clubhouse or to get an ice cream. Thinking of this now, it strikes me how kids don’t have these kind of adventures anymore. Nobody seemed to worry back then about us being abducted, least of all us. It’s not, I’m sure, that there weren’t plenty of bad people to go around in those days, I just think it was there wasn’t as efficient a transport of information such as the Internet to tell us about it, or perhaps times were simply different. In either case, I loved those days of freedom right down to pulling the cord and waiting for the bus doors to release us for a day of swimming and boating on the Arm.

“The Wag”

The Wag was my families usual spot to spend Canada Day. Sitting high on a hill on a blanket laid out on the grass, I would watch in fascination as the fireworks exploded in vivid splashes across the dark sky over our heads. The most impressive display of fireworks I ever witnessed was not above the Atlantic, however, but rather right here in Northern California. When they were youngsters my second husband and I took our three children (two mine, one his) to an Oakland A’s baseball game to celebrate the Fourth. Being California, there was no weather other than good weather to deal with, so the day was perfectly constructed for spending the afternoon outside. The stadium, near the San Francisco Bay, got a welcome ocean breeze to keep the temperature down, so even though we sat high in the more exposed nosebleed seats, we were not uncomfortable. The game was really secondary to everything else going on around us. Though it had been a long day, the children, having had their fill of typical baseball fare, were still wired for sound and raring to go. Between the hot dogs, peanuts and nachos their little stomachs must have been lined with cast iron to still be asking for ice cream when the vendor went by our aisle just before the fireworks began. As night fell, with the game decided, the festivities centered around the holiday began to ramp up. When the show began, we were so far off the ground as the fireworks exploded over our heads it felt almost as if we were part of the blast. For the youngest member of our group, my stepdaughter only “free” as she liked to pronounce with three chubby fingers extended, this was a bit too much. Was it not for the loud bursts overhead, the scream that emanated from that child’s mouth after the first rocket went up, most likely could have been picked up by spy cams in the Kremlin. OMG. In the end we watched the show fading out of view out of the back window of the car exiting the stadium parking lot with two sulking older children and and one sniffling little one. The price of parenthood. Sigh.

This year, though we’re now fully vaccinated and able to mingle with others, we decided to stay home. We binge watched “The Virgin River” series on Neflix most of the day in between filling our faces with leftovers from a dinner party we hosted on Friday night for several friends. There is something absolutely freeing about doing nothing. I didn’t bother to get dressed any further than the boxer shorts and tee shirt I was wearing when I rolled out of bed. My hair, though having had a good brushing along with my teeth (but not with the same utensil) when I first got up, was then left to fend for itself the rest of the day. Generally, I was a lazy no good layabout for the next twelve hours after rising. Loved it. Thankfully, we don’t live in a neighborhood, like many in the area, where people were up at three in the morning setting off fireworks. It’s not just how annoying that is to the people around them, but animals are traumatized by fireworks. My girlfriend’s schnauzer used to live in the cupboard under the sink when the Fourth of July rolled around. They had to medicate him. I love fireworks myself, but when we’re sitting on a tinder box like we are at the moment on the west coast, activities involving fire don’t make me comfortable. Fire crews responded to 1500 calls over the weekend. Wow. They had a busy couple of days.

Seems we are all “busy” all the time. When my kids call, they generally begin the conversation with “Mom, I’m really busy so I have about fifteen minutes before”….. a) a meeting, b) I arrive at whatever destination I am headed to, or c) I am tired of talking and just want to drive along in silence for a few minutes before the fun begins again once I arrive where I am going. Trying to book a weekend with my children is like trying to get reservations at Yosemite for Memorial Day weekend. Calendars are researched, children’s schedules are consulted, it is a major undertaking of epic proportions.

I’m guilty of “doing” constantly myself. Truly, I can’t remember the last time I spent a day pursuing not one thing above and beyond sloth. Doing so Sunday left me with the most peaceful feeling in my head. It felt as if everything I’d been worried about over the past few weeks had either faded considerably or even disappeared all together. I must remember to add to my calendar “Day off” from time to time and honor the writing. I think women suffer more than men from this. Now, now, if you’re male don’t get all upset by this. Statistics indicate women have much to be responsible for. I told a friend the other day it still amazes me I have been married four times and cannot ever remember seeing one of my husbands holding a toilet brush. More is expected of us, and for the most part we are up to the task. As I’ve mentioned before, though in many houses both parents need to work to keep things going, often women are still doing two more hours of housework a day than men. This is changing certainly, but not at warp speed for sure. A woman put up a post on Facebook a while back that said simply, “Can we all now agree that housework is not gender specific?” I’m in.

At the dinner party Friday night we were discussing how expensive things are getting. It’s hard to imagine my mother’s house when I was in high school, a nice, three bedroom, two bath, tract home in a lovely middle class neighborhood, was purchased for $28,000 and change. To add to the mix, it had a huge Olympic sized pool in the back yard. Today in California at least, you couldn’t purchase shares in a garage for that amount of money. I just filled up half of my tank on Saturday, and with the new gas tax just implemented, the receipt totaled $49.74. Now I have a mid-sized sedan I’m driving around in, so I can only imagine what people with SUV’s or trucks are dishing out. Where is all this tax money going one wonders? They say it is for infrastructure, roads, and bridges, etc. They have been saying that for some time. I went down a road the other day in a local park. The ranger at the gate told us it had a few potholes. A more accurate description would have been it had a few flat spots. Good Lord. My kidneys were up under my left ear lobe by the time we got to the bottom.

Last week when I went to Costco I could not believe how pricey meat has gotten. A package of short ribs was selling for nearly $50. Whoa. I half expected to see a guy in a trenchcoat waiting by the curb as we exited the building selling a little black market beef on the side. Thought of doing it myself. No wonder people aren’t getting enough to eat. I was distressed to hear a news commentator talking about food insecurity in this country. So many little ones going to bed with grumbling stomachs. I have volunteered at the local food bank since I moved to this area. You think your neighborhood is immune to this because there are nice houses and well manicured lawns, but food insecurity is a serious and real problem in the U.S. At any rate, I hope we all do what we can to help when we can. I had to use a food distribution place once while living in Washington. I remember the humiliating feeling of standing in line for a handout, and I also remember how kind the lady handing me the free box of food was, and how relieved I was to have it. I asked what I could do to pay them back, and she said simply “pay it forward”. Words to live by.

Hope you had a safe and sane Fourth and got to hug a few family and friends this year. Something to be doubly thankful for.

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I had a discussion with a young parent the other day I found interesting. She told me she asks her children what they would like to eat before preparing a meal. Things really are different then when I was growing up. I can honestly say I was never consulted about a meal really. What was put on my plate and served to me, I ate. If I chose not to eat it, my grandmother, at least to my recollection, never got up from the table and went in the kitchen and whipped me up something else more to my liking. Sometimes at breakfast, my grandmother did ask if I wanted my eggs poached, scrambled or fried, but other than that, what showed up on the plate was generally what I was expected to eat.

Now that I think more about it why shouldn’t children have some choice in their menu plan? They aren’t old enough always to make all the choices but I do think after they have tried a food several times and still have a strong distaste for it, perhaps they shouldn’t be made to eat it? This does not mean they can exclude every vegetable, fruit, or meat and substitute ice cream or candy bars, but within reason if there is a food they really do not like perhaps they need not be made to eat it? My son, for example, could not stand peas. His father, thought children should eat what was placed in front of them, and not waste food. The “starving children in China” script was pulled out often when food was left uneaten on their plates. This particular meal, the peas remained intact on my son’s plate and like the elephant in the room did not go unnoticed by my husband. “Eat your peas before leaving the table” was put out there. The gauntlet had been thrown. Dishes done, I came back to find my little one still staring at his plate. Stubbornness is definitely genetic. After a while the fork was lifted to his lips and he took a big bite of the dreaded little green bullets. The face was too much as the chewing commenced. Shortly, as quickly as they had gone down the chute they made a return visit all over my tablecloth. Having had enough of both men in my household, I scooped up my son and headed for the bathtub and handed his father the cleaning utensils to clean up the mess. Peas were no longer an issue at our house.

I never had to be forced to eat. I liked just about everything my grandmother put in front of me except for the dreaded liver and onions or the god forsaken beefsteak and kidney pie which were both my kryptonite. Ewwwww. Food was where she and I totally bonded. So many of my warmest memories of my younger years were created in my grandmother’s sunny kitchen. Sometimes, one of those memories will pop up in the most expected location. The other day while waiting for a doctor’s appointment, I had some time to kill. When driving into the complex parking lot I’d noticed a “Grand Opening” sign on a sandwich board in front of a new antiques and collectibles store. Antiques not really my decorating style, I decided it still might be interesting to take a look and see what they had to offer. On entering the store, it gave off that same musty, dusty smell most stores of that genre seem to have. Since the store (at least according to the sign out front) had only been open a couple of weeks, it got me to wondering if that scent actually came in a spray can, like new car smell at the car wash. Perhaps it’s the Moldy Oldie fragrance collection by Air Wick or the Granny’s Attic grouping by Fabreze. At any rate, while looking at the eclectic assortment of oldies but goodies for sale along the cluttered shelves, I came across four little china egg cups. Seeing them on the shelf took my mind immediately to childhood breakfasts in my grandmother’s family home on the hill in Halifax. The main focus of the room, was the lovely picture window looking out over Halifax harbor. Always I loved being in that kitchen with my grandmother. I can see her busy at the stove, apron in place, and if I inhale deeply I can almost smell all the delicious aromas wafting through the air. Our evening meals were usually taken in the formal dining room replete with all the bells and whistles. Breakfast, however, was served with far less fanfare at the little formica table by the window in the kitchen.

My grandmother woke up precisely at 6:00 every day. If asked why in later years why she still got up so early when she could have languished in bed, she said “you have plenty of time to sleep after you die”. Before coming out to greet her day, her nylons were in place neatly secured to her undergarments beneath one of her house dresses as she referred to them. These were cotton dresses all cut from the same pattern in varying fabrics, with short sleeves and a parade of buttons marching down the front. Specifically they were worn for working around the house to keep her good clothes from getting soiled. Up until she was in her eighties, when my mother finally convinced her pants on women were not the work of the devil, did I ever see my grandmother’s knees covered by anything other than a suit, skirt or dress.

The first order of business each morning was always to prepare my grandfather’s breakfast. A urologist, his days often began quite early. Breakfast was served to him on a tray each morning in bed, accompanied by his morning paper. Very health conscious, and dealing with some health concerns himself, the menu was shredded wheat with berries, a glass of juice, one half a grapefruit and a slice of whole grain toast. A small vase with one flower from the garden was added during the summer months next to a colorful little china pot filled with Gammy’s delicious homemade marmalade. Once my grandfather had opened his paper and begun to eat, she tended next to the needs of the smallest member of the family, namely myself. Eggs were often on the menu breakfast. They came dressed up in a variety of ways, my favorite to this day being Eggs Benedict, basically poached eggs perched atop a split English muffin then smothered with buttery Hollandaise sauce. Yum. These days no one has time to whip up homemade Hollandaise, or at least I don’t. Back then, there were no packages to buy at the store to add water to. If you wanted Hollandaise, you dragged out the double boiler and whipped up a batch yourself. Another way I loved eggs was soft boiled and served in an egg cup. The shell was left on with the top sliced through (it’s hat, as my grandmother would say) and you lifted it’s hat, and dipped your toast in the gooey yolk.

Funny how smells, tastes, sounds and pictures can trigger an immediate memory of perhaps an easier time or those you particularly enjoyed. Of course, these sensory reminders can also be of traumatic or unpleasant experiences, but I’m trying to look at the bright side of the moon at the moment so let’s stay there for a while. My memories are often associated with food it seems. Always I have loved to be in the kitchen. Although I have to admit these days I do find myself tiring of coming up with new dishes to tantalize my guests. As I’ve said before they need to introduce a new meat, or at least a new vegetable for those of us who love to cook to play with. Perhaps they’ll just create a new one. My granddaughter, a vegan through and through, says other than organic vegetables and not all of those, you don’t know anymore if the vegetable you’re eating is real or was created in a lab somewhere. I think we need a new blue something, something. At the moment blueberries are kind of holding down that fort all by themselves.

I bought the little egg cups as it turned out. Did I need them? Nope, not in the least, but want won that argument and they are sitting in my china cabinet waiting for a soft boiled egg to bring them back to a useful life.

This has been a rough year. I thought last year was full of potholes but that was just the preliminary match, and, unfortunately, this year seems to be the main event. I am working on my grateful self. I am grateful the virus seems to be getting under control. I am most grateful it got a hold of me and my partner Dale, and then threw us back relatively unharmed. I am grateful all my family and his, and my friends and his, are still here to talk about what a strange year it truly was. I am simply grateful for so many things.

On the downside of things, Dale, my partner and companion, has cancer. Being asked to be grateful about this is certainly an uphill climb. Rick, my partner in crime for nearly twenty years, as I’ve mentioned many times, passed away nearly three years ago from lung cancer. In a stroke of synchronicity even I find hard to grasp, Dale has been given the same dire diagnosis. The oxygen compressor is once again humming in my spare room and questions without answers are swirling and twirling about in my head.

So, I pull up some happy thoughts and fond, fond memories of being young and free and unaware of all the sadness that life insists on being peppered with. Memories, I always feel, are tucked away to be pulled out perhaps when you need a hug and don’t have one handy, or are feeling blue and want to remember the pure joy of laughing out loud. Memory really is such a gift, and probably one we take for granted. One of the hardest things for me is to watch my mum slowly loosing her grasp on all those wonderful mental highlights she has stored away over the years. I am her memory these days and I’m okay with that. Again, I lean to the side of gratefulness and remind myself she remembers my face and that alone is money in the bank.

Sorry if this post is a bit of a song with sad lyrics. Usually I am upbeat, but even a stand up comedienne has days when he or she can’t pull a joke out of the hat.

Have a good one. Remember to not put your “I love you’s” off until a better day, there is never a better day then today. Talk soon.


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I really think we women are the queens of multi-tasking. Sometimes I stop and look at all the pies I have my fingers in and am amazed when I hit the pillow at night I don’t slip into a coma, rather than spending most of my time trying to convince my mind to go back to sleep. Part of night restlessness, of course, includes the eternal march back and forth to the bathroom that has become part of my repertoire in the last couple of years. John Phillip Sousa should have devoted some time to penning a piece about that. I have followed all the suggestions, “don’t drink anything after six”. Check. “Use the bathroom right before going to bed.” Check. I don’t drink alcohol, nor do I use any artificial sweeteners or consume processed sugar unless in small amounts. Then we get to reducing caffeine. Now, there I draw the line. Susie has got to have her coffee. Logically, it would seem if I drank coffee at 8:00 in the morning, it shouldn’t be processing through my system at 3 a.m., but apparently it can have an effect even after all that time has passed. Disappointing. Coffee is my only vice these days, and they will have to pry my favorite owl cup out of my cold dead hands before I’m giving it up. To be interesting, I believe you need to have at least one vice. This should be limited to something obviously that doesn’t cause you bodily harm, like collecting bottlecaps or being secretly addicted to Pringles. Whoops, it appears I have two vices going at the moment.

Yesterday was a grueling day at my house. The phone was relentless, as there is a lot going on in my world at the moment. Don’t get me wrong, I am more than thankful I have such a wonderful and caring group of friends who keep up with me, but still sometimes my lips get worn out with making words and I have run the white flag up the pole. My list of errands was starting to get past the manageable stage, so I decided to cross some of those trips off before I had to run an add for an assistant. Also, I am having my first small dinner party since the Pandemic on Saturday night which requires I actually purchase some food to put on people’s plates. When Rick and I owned our restaurant, we entertained a lot. Looking back I wonder I had time to pull together a large dinner party with the restaurant consuming most of our time, but somehow it all got done and I enjoyed doing it. The house we lived in at the time was set up for entertaining. This little house, as sweet as it is, is more an intimate dinner party than a large gathering. More than six people under this roof would feel like a crowd. As I’ve said before I refer to my kitchen as a “two butt kitchen” because if you get more than two people in the room at once you cannot avoid some intimate contact. I tend to deflect any offers of help cleaning up, because if someone else is in there with me we spend the whole time saying, “I’m sorry”, “excuse me” and it becomes annoying rather than helpful.

Surveying my to-do list I decided to go into Home Goods first. Home Goods is my happy place. You could just lock me up in there for days, and I would never call for assistance. Specifically, I was looking for a kibble container for Boo, the Queen of Cats. I’ve had the same jar for years, with kitty paws decorating the outside, and the lid finally gave up the ghost. Rummaging about in the pet aisle, a lady joined me on the other end with a small wiener dog in tow. The dog, I’m sure much to it’s humiliation, was wearing a pink tutu and had a matching pink and white bow attached to one floppy ear. Dachshunds really are such funny little creatures, with their long tubular bodies, and short little legs. This little one immediately went to the dog toy section. Without hesitation it began politely sorting through the shelf, sniffing this toy and sniffing that one, until finding one that apparently suited its needs. Retrieving the oversized stuffed toy with it’s mouth, the animal sat politely while the owner continued looking at something on the shelf in front of her. Made me smile. The toy was nearly the size of the dog who chose it and was, appropriately, in the shape of a hot dog in a bun. Sometimes life achieves perfect harmony. When the dog’s owner saw me smiling at “Sadie”, she told me Sadie comes into the store quite often and always selects her own treat. Animals really are amazing. When I look at what’s going on in our world these days, makes me wonder if they aren’t the ones who really have things figured out not we humans.

Sometimes, in a weak moment, I think about having another dog. Boo, of course, is not ever going to raise a paw in support of this idea. My sweet old cat believes my world revolves around her furry puss, and in some ways she’s not far off. What I would have done without her over the last few years, I really don’t have an answer for. Was I to get another dog, it would have to be an adult dog, a rescue probably, and already trained. I don’t have the bandwidth at the moment to train a puppy. I have a friend who recently got a Yorkshire puppy, and this little guy has become a full time job. As much as I love animals, I simply don’t have room in my day for long walks in the park, and cleaning up deposits on my rug. Nor do I want my currently disorganized world further disorganized with pee pads, and leash training. The dog, I’m afraid, will have to come later on down the road.

In an effort to reduce my load a bit, the other day I handed the new man in my life a grocery list and sent him off to the store. Yay. Oh, not so fast. The first phone call came in about twenty minutes later. By the time he was done there were six calls in total with questions about this item or that. I could have been in and out and made a pie and had it cooling in the window by the time the trip was complete. My granddaughter went shopping with me a few years ago. Loading the bags in my trunk she said, “Nana, you are the fastest shopper I ever saw”. There’s some truth to that. I am an in and out girl, no side trips. My mother, on the other hand, when she shops, is soooooo slow. Each zucchini has to be examined. Only those passing the Mary Mack comprehensive vetting program will eventually be placed in the bag. Back when she was still living independently, I often visited her in the bay area. While there, a visit to the grocery store was often part of a day out. Mother liked to shop at several higher end stores. The kind of stores where pears are sold with little hammocks swaddling each piece of fruit. One store in particular, had a very attractive produce manager. Mother took me right up to him and while introducing the two of us went on and on about how good looking he was and that he was single. It happened I was as well at the time, so the innuendo was not lost on either of us. This hunky vegetable man kindly selected only the very best produce for my mother to take home with her. Really? Once we’d cleared the vegetable department with no matches made, we moved on to the meat department where every butcher seemed to know her name. After collecting the white packages of meat, we went on to the bakery where small pink boxes wrapped with twine marked “hold for Mary M.” would be waiting for her to pick up. It was like having a concierge grocery store at her disposal.

Grocery store, was fourth on my list yesterday. My plan was to run in and run out with only three items I needed. You know how that goes? You go in for a jar of pickle relish and come out with enough food in your cart to feed an army. While waiting in line, a lady walked through the doors not wearing a face covering. The store had an employee seated by the entrance to provide cart wipes and ostensibly welcome shoppers to the store. Secretly, I suspect they also are tasked with making sure masks are in place before people proceed any further. This lady was not happy when asked to put on a mask. For me, I’m so used to it that I don’t quite get the problem. Just put it on, do what you need to, and get over it. I could see this wasn’t going to go well. The CDC says fully vaccinated people can ditch the masks but unvaccinated people need to continue wearing him. How do you enforce that I wonder? It’s not like we get a stamp on our hands or something once our regimen of shots have been completed. People who weren’t inclined to wear masks in the first place are also likely to fall under the people who don’t want to get the vaccination in the first place umbrella. Why would you think they’d suddenly volunteer to wear one if it wasn’t mandated? Is is just me?

At any rate, this irate lady got her irritation out LOUDLY, and then stormed out of the store. K. Susie just needed her chicken, and now apparently twenty or thirty other items. Shopping seems to have become my favorite pastime lately. I like to attribute this to not being able to get out of the house for the last year and a half, but truthfully I think it’s hereditary. My mother is a consummate shopper. I have known her to arrive at a mall when it opened and remain there until nearly supper time. As a teen, I can remember helping to unload bags and packages from her trunk. These were stored in my closet out of the way of my stepfather’s watchful eyes. One by one the clothes, shoes, handbags, jewelry were introduced into the household. My stepdad would say, “Is that new”? My mother would reply, “This old thing”?

So today I am off to finish my list. Think I’ll get some fresh flowers for my table. Feels festive to have guests again. Have a great weekend.

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