He's having a cake deprived day of relaxation and fun! We are so happy to have gotten to know him and his Mom this last year. They live a few hours north of where I grew up. I shared my family meatloaf recipe (on the blog back in June of 2017) with her and it was a huge hit, and Astro's Dad asks for it weekly.
Well, last week, I experimented and made a different meatloaf and my husband raved about it. Pinwheel Meatloaf
1 to 1 and 1/4 pound ground sirloin (the lowest fat of the ground beef)
1/2 cup of Rice Chex, measured out and then crushed in a sandwich bag.
1/4 teaspoon salt-free seasoning (Mrs. Dash is what I used)
a shake of crushed red pepper
a little more than 1/2 teaspoon crushed garlic
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
a splash of milk (about 2-3 Tablespoons)
1 large egg (if using smaller egg add another Tablespoon of milk)
Mix just until combined and on a baking tray sprayed with a little non stick spray, pat out into a square that's about 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick.
Sprinkle with 3/4 to 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, an even thin layer that does not go all the way to the edge.
Then gently roll up the meat so you have a pinwheel cheesy thing going on.
Place in crockpot and cover top only with jarred basil pasta sauce. Cook until inside temp is 160 F. (in my crockpot on low about 4 hours.)
An hour before done remove lid and add another handful of cheese to the top. Serve with some shredded basil if you like and extra heated pasta sauce.
Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over
the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God
was hovering over the waters.
It was a river wild, a river rogue. A summer day long ago, a day of rushing water, a summer on the edge of adulthood.
I remember it as an unusually hot day for the land we lived in. We were itching to cool off, to break away from the confines of starched clothing and rigid rules around the house, one last good swim before school started up again. Time to run off, to the water, to the ledges overlooking a mountain pool. This area had been a spot for years. We knew where the rocks were that would ruin your day with a good C 6 or 7 fracture. We knew where the current would gently propel you to the shore when you started to go numb with the cold that stole into the pale rigidity of the rest of your bones. Even as a child, I found something magical in water. I'd stand in it thigh deep, fishing, I'd wade in it, as a child at camp, the small laps of waves from passing canoes pressing up against my back, coming and going, but always present. As children, rain crashing down, we'd rush to go out in it, seeing not cold, not wet, but drops of wonder on everything around us. We'd look at our shadows on the ground as the sun came back, wondering why the shadow was shaped like us, but nothing else, a mirror that is not a mirror. Wondering why when I looked straight into the sun, I saw a perfect pure circle of light. Hope personified.
Growing up out West, water was everywhere. It was a land of blue streams tickled with trout, dying fall leaves flinging themselves into the water, flotillas of the lost, splattering the water with yellow light. It was still waters as green as the scent of rain, frogs moaning with boredom in hushed summer light. Soft pale air breathes on the skin, a lover's moist breath. Pine needles snap under my feet as I'm drawn to the water like a flame, a rush of steelhead scented water over stone, the communion of movement.
We didn't have a mall, so on that long ago summer day, we hung around the water. We gathered near bridges that could be jumped off of, near streams in which you could paddle around like a pre-school kiddie pool. The older kids, the braver ones, would jump off the rocks or grab an inner tube and then propel down through some rushing water to a pool further down. Not I, for I was still too shy, too fearful of the rush of ice cold water, the rocks.
There was a boy there that I'd had a crush on since about 4th grade, one of my older brother's friends. He was friendly to me when he was at my family home but not so much around the popular kids. I was younger. I was a band geek. I had braces. It did not stop me from having the feelings that a person thinks only exist for the young.
I paddled around, hoping he'd notice me, hesitant to grab an inner tube and hit the faster water, cursed by my shyness, but emboldened by something I couldn't even name yet. I was the youngest person there. I was immensely out of my place yet in my element, outdoors. But I saw the other girls, they of the tight clothing and disdainful eyes, gathered around him. I figured it was now or never. With a deep breath of courage, I went up to him and asked. "Do you want to go to the dance with me?" It was one of those Sadie Hawkins things where the girls ask the boys.
He looked at me as the girls giggled, standing straight and rigid, the curiously formal angle of his arms gleaming in the sunlight, immaculate and empty but for my heart which he now held.
He looked at me and said "God. . . no."
The words that struck were no louder than the striking of a flint against a stone, a short, sharp sound that spoke with profound finality. At that moment I truly saw him, not the romantic version I'd created in my girlish head, but the real person, there underneath, the eyes cold, the mouth hard and open like a dark, empty cave.
I retreated to the sound of the girl's laughter. Tears stung my eyes, but I wasn't going to let them see how deeply I was hurt. I turned and grabbed an inner tube, and head held high, dived right in. My tears mixed with the water as I rode the rushing flood of water that came sluicing down, the water moving fast, grabbing my baggy little kid's shorts and pulling me on, hurry, hurry. down and forward.
The water was not so deep and fast as to be overly dangerous for a good swimmer, but enough, so that for this moment, this little band nerd was part of something wild, wet and unstoppable, something so much bigger than this single day in a life. As I came rushing down the sluiceway in that torrent of water, something as well spilled out of me, was released in me, and and I rode it until the water ran still.
We've all had that experience in one form or another, in deep water or clear sky. The one that scares the stuffing out of you or rips open a wound in a place that would know an endless capacity to hurt. Those moments, bringing out instincts ingrained in your breath, making you reticent to get back anywhere near what caused the situation in the first place. "Getting back on the horse" as they call it.
Sometimes it's a near-fatal accident, a misadventure, more often it's just a badly broken heart. You'll get through it, even as the reality of it clamps down hard with sharp weasel teeth that leave scars no one else can see. But eventually the teeth will pull free, perhaps taking small bits of flesh, exposing nerve endings to the cold, but you are alive and you're learned something. That in itself is something to be thankful for, even if your heart, as they say, won't "buff out".
Talk to people who've had a near-death experience on a mountain top or some other loss and some say I'm not going back. Ever. I'm not going to climb again. I'm not going to get another dog. I'm not going to need. I'm not going to trust. Many don't. The rest look at such events, not as a failure, a loss, but a measure of that which they know they can survive. The event may fade in time, but that which it brought to you can never be destroyed, it's the full measure of life and love, cataloged back in memory to be retrieved in later years, when it can and will, save you again. It's that moment when you know what you are made of, and what you are capable of, of surviving, of feeling.
Years later, I'm back, kayaking the same area with a couple of friends when we come across the same stretch of water, the pools milling around like restless teens, hoping to be left alone, while desperately wanting to be noticed. There's been some rain, just enough to raise up the water level to the level of our spirits. We grab our kayaks and go in, the water yanking at the edge of that last bit of fear, pulling us down, water fast and huge and furious. Once we picked up the paddle, there was no going back, we had to be there, to see if to the end or die trying, water in a place that's inside of us, water in a place that's somehow holy.
The fear of my youth was gone, replaced by a world much bigger than a small cliquish school. My heart was strong, built up by being broken down, bad choices and healed wounds, one defining moment of sacrifice as a teen that became my biggest act of courage. The water lifted us, and we were part of it, strong, fast, so much bigger than ourselves. Water flew up around me and licked my skin, turning parts of me hard, and parts of me liquid, water rushing on, rushing in.
That first step is always the hardest, whether it's walking away with your head held high, or embracing something you've yearned for with a longing you didn't know was in you. Tiny leaps upward propelled by desire and only held back by the gravity of restraint. Why do we hesitate? It's the hesitation born of fear. Fear is not conceived in one quick fumbling in the dark, but repeated sweaty couplings in the arms of that which raises your heart rate and the hairs on your arms. But you also know you can handle the fear. You have learned life's lessons, lost on the youth. You have the capabilities.
It's only fear of the what you don't know that holds you back, while upward a huge unknown, your future, beckons. Awaits in a rush of roaring water, awaits in a still pool in the evening, where past hurt is left lying upon a drifting and imponderable shore, washed clean in the yellow afternoon.
Water leaves it marks. Gouges from rivulets in the calloused summer soil, as if scraped by hard nails. Marks that will not fade until the water flow again, but it does, like a cleansing rain, washing the landscape clean.
At the end of the run, as we got the kayaks to shore, I saw a man in jeans with dark hair, a man who resembled someone at this very spot so very many years ago. It wasn't of course, but for just a moment I hoped it was so he could see what he'd passed up and I could validate why things can make us stronger if we only dare.
For now, it's time to head on down the river to the cars and soon a place to camp. Time for a warm fire and the laughter of friends, releasing our day with the stories we tell. We paddle gently down into a calm pool, floating down streams, like veins, that let the forest bleed. - L.B. Johnson
I got back not too long back from a trip long trip out West to check on Dad and spend time with him. Although at 98, his health and his heart are failing, he seemed to be holding it together mentally at least, eating well and doing all he could do, as a man, to defend the remote from those that would wish to watch “chick flicks” between beating me at multiple games of Cribbage. He does have a nurse's aid 24/7 now as he is physically much weaker, but still mentally quick.. They also keep the house clean and prepare his meals, including a hot supper each day, laughing I'm sure at some of the "as seen on TV", things Dad has added to his "bachelor kitchen" since my Step Mom passed.
I met the young women working with him now and they are giving him the best of care, as they stayed even though I was there, my knee with the missing meniscus not able to pull him up from his bed or from the low slung car seat from those daily car rides he likes to take without further injury. It was obvious from the cadence of their routines, and the spotlessness of the house, that they have his habits and the needs of he and his house down to a drill and with their medical training I'm more at ease than if he just had a "companion". That care, obviously, is not cheap, but hey were quite attentive and hard working and it was obvious he genuinely enjoys their company. For the option - to leave a home of 60 some years to live with family thousands of miles away or go into local assisted living, would break his heart. As long as I have a job, he'll stay where he can be happy, my ensuring the bills get paid, knowing he is welcome to live with us or my cousin L. in her mountain cabin, and knowing he never will.
But he's fallen a couple of times and his judgment for things physical is not the best (we had to hide the ladder and the portable heater). He said he's fine, but his grief is still there under the surface, sometimes clouding his thoughts, and perhaps his judgment. Having been there, I know that he keeps it in, simply, with surface tension, like a cup filled too full. Memories of the two wives and a son and daughter he outlived (the daughter died as an infant before they adopted me) come to him more often now. I saw him tear up again, rising from a nap with moisture in his eyes and the words. "H. and I were having a time" and he just smiled, not elaborating.
Dreams. They come to us unbidden, some frightful, some bringing a joy that is only a glimpse of what is to become. Some are such that as soon as they touch us, we wish to pull out of them quickly. Such dreams are better faced awake, armed with reason and courage, then in the leaden movements of the night, where things will pull you down into the depths of fear and pain, while your legs struggle to move, caught in a quicksand of time and tide.
But for every occasional nightmare over those years (usually after late night Pepperoni pizza) there were those dreams that would wake us up with a smile on our face; a look, a face, a touch, unknown to us in the day, but yearning for us in the night. Those were such thoughts that follow us into our days as the sun warmed our face. In school, I was an attentive student, not prone to wandering thoughts, though I did get sent to the Principals office for getting caught reading a car magazine behind my history book in 9th grade. (Look, I already knew about Lewis and Clark, I wanted to know how to put headers on my car, as soon as I could buy one).
There were also few expectations in a small mill town other than you try and finish high school, only a few going to the local two-year college. From high school, most get a job in the timber plant, get married young and work hard. The green chain of a lumber mill might be a place to earn $20 bucks an hour, big bucks at 18, but for me, it was a place where dreams would go quietly to die. Dad understood and gave permission for me to opt out of most of my high school courses and start my studies at our local college at age 14.
Three years later, with Dad's blessing, I left for the big city, disillusioned by the indifference to the song of a destiny in a factory town displayed by my classmates, afraid of a fate that herded its own through a shortcut from school to an oft early grave, with sometimes dangerous and back-breaking work. Higher education was my only way out, and as much as I loved my family and some of my friends, I had to go. I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it, there was no money for college, with Mom's long battle with cancer, but I knew that with the hard work ethic of those I grew up with, I could put myself through, as both my parents did. So I watched those familiar mountains grow distant, my dreams about the only thing I had to consume in that first year on my own, which in the Chinese Calendar would have been the “Year of the Ramen noodle” as I sometimes worked up to 3 part-time jobs to pay for tuition and a room to rent in a big house near campus.
But I still came back, if only for Dad. For his dreams, tattered as Fall leaves that waved like a brace of flags, were still real to him. He was, and is, happy there, children close in spirit if not in miles, sharing in the memories of much happier times, stories of those he loved with great intensity.
I understand such things, for like my Dad, I am a closet romantic. I once had a talk with a friend about what would be the ideal relationship for me, not the pride of ownership with the ensuing need for control, but something else - “I want someone for which I’m necessary, not simply loved, but necessary", I said, trying to explain it as best I could. He said such things are the 'stuff of romantic fiction' but he did so kindly, not understanding.
Perhaps there are only a few like us to which that romantic readiness which is the extraordinary gift of hope is to be found, those with that heightened sensitivity to the promise of a smile; the rest of the world, staid, their hard and fast existence only dust, floating on the wake of their dreams, leaving behind the elation of hope in the practical drift that is life. But I would not settle for less, for there is no amount of dust or fire that can challenge what someone dreams of in their ghostly heart.
Dad understood, and over the years sure we'd have talks well into the unquiet evenings while I was there about my life and my heart, not to be nosy, or to bring up the pain of the distant past that he knows was still there, but to simply make sure I would be OK when he was gone. He knew how fortunate he was to love greatly, not once, but twice, two marriage, each lasting decades, the last a great one that pulls at his heart daily though in no way diminishing his first love.
When I brought my boyfriend, now my husband, home, one of only two men I'd ever brought home to meet my family in the last 25 years, Dad was relieved to see I was finally happy, and my Big Brother took to EJ like he was already family, the two of them discussing engineering in the kitchen well into the wee hours, as even then, my brother knew his days were drawing to a close. They both loved him and were happy that I was not just in love, but that I was "safe", something I'd not been with a spouse twenty years ago who used his fists as exclamation points. Yet for all his romantic soul, Dad’s a practical man, raised in the depression, career military, living with Norwegians for which the utterance of profound despair may only be “ya, the coffee is getting cold” and possessing those fine set of brakes which can put a halt to any runaway emotion lest you lose control. And like my closest friends he is very much a "man's man" on the outside. He loves his sports and once glued to the TV, there’s not much conversation. I was cooking a large meal for him for dinner one night, and halfway through he came out in the kitchen and hugged me and said “I love you”. I looked at him, laughed and said “it’s halftime isn’t it”. And he just laughed.
But my Dad and I are just alike, even as, both redheads, we occasionally gently and humorously spar, out of stubbornness and concern for one another, as anything. Which is why I travel the long miles to see him as often as I do, spending time with him rather than going on trips with friends,or vacations with my husband, tending to Dad's large house, cooking him his favorite meals which will go into the freezer for later, getting his beloved garden in order, running his errands.
With my brother gone, keeping those memories of the family alive for him is even more important. When I go home my brother's best friend since childhood and his beautiful wife often visit, so many memories to be shared about my brother, and that final question I AM going to ask my brother when I see him in Heaven - "Why DID you have a live loaded flare gun in your nightstand??"
There’s not a lot for me to do there when Dad is sleeping, which is about 14 hours a day, the nearest town fairly small, the unemployment in that whole part of the state staggering. The town is coated with the smell of the pulp mills taking the form of grey houses and grey smoke and tired men and women who move slowly and seemingly without thought or dreams in and out of the vast machinery that keeps this little town alive. Their eyes dimmed by many hard days under rain and cloud, yet remaining here, for what tethers them to this land is as profound to them as what drove me away.
For though I go there because I am needed, I do not live there, I only watch. Watch the thin yellow sky, that bleeds into the smoke from the mills down the river, a smoke that offers a cloud of secrecy that is sensed rather than felt, by the casual watcher of the landscape. Whether we stayed or we left, we all have our secrets. Some are known, those that look at me in the grocery and whisper. And those secrets we don't speak of. We feel the words in our head and they are summoned to lips where, in an intake of air, they are almost spoken. But air alone is not enough to make them form, and they remain uncommunicated, except for the touch of fingers in our sleep.
So, for Dad, for his dream, I would stay, if only for that week. For this is what he needs now, for though his town is not the place he settled, so many moving away, it is is a memory of post-WWII life, setting up a home here with his first wife, my Mom, after years of separation while he was at War. It was a town full of music and dreams and tall hills covered with ceaseless timber, the rain, not a grey blanket but a sound, a rising and swelling with the gusts of emotion, and passion that was worth waiting for. That place is still alive for him, in an old covered bridge, in an old house near the water, in dreams of steelhead trout that never grow old, never tire.
I left this place to seek my dreams, and he says behind so he can live among his, in a home that contains those memories of what made him happy. Two china sets, two completely different women, both fragile and strong as steel, both beautiful. The marks of children raised here, a small playhouse out back, the marks on a door where we grew and grew. On the table in the dining room, a photo, of a pair of blue eyes in which his whole world achieved its value by the response he could draw from them. This was a woman who was completely necessary to him and will remain so even as her actual presence is but the touch of fabric left by a sewing machine, forever stilled. After my visit there, I go home to dreams rendered real, eyes kind and a face smiling, the countenance of St. John the Divine, made flesh. Someone to make me laugh, someone who would mourn my passing. My nights on the road might be lonely, yet in the wandering paths of my dreams both asleep and awake will come lips on my shoulder, fingers that hold my own, gently as if in sleep, silent shadows of faithfulness that communicate more profoundly than any words I could write here. And like my Dad knows, I am aware of how very fortunate I am, to have these remnants of family, strong and abiding still. He and I both know this may well be the last Father's Day I get to say these words to him, but I know that when he does have to leave us, there will be more than shadows remaining. There will be laughter and warmth reflected in invisible glass, seen from a distance by loving hearts that will always remember.
Chicagoland is under a heat warning, with temps in the upper 90's with high humidity. 90+ weather is not that common up here along the Great Lakes. Some folks in the city don't even have Central air, they just have a window unit in the upstairs bedrooms which in these old Bungalows get really hot in the summer.
Abby Lab has shown no interest in going out after an early morning walk. I think we'll skip the afternoon walk, the pavement is just too hot for her paws. If she wants to play in the fenced yard which has a lot of shade, we'll do that, then my husband can walk her quickly to the end of the block and back before we go to bed.
Some breeds are more heat sensitive than others, but all pet lovers need to know ways to keep your pet cool in the summer. You should also educate yourself to signs of heatstroke in your pet. Talk to your vet or visit some of the Veterinarian supported web pages that contain that information.
Today we're just going to talk about some simple things you can do, many of which cost little to nothing, to keep your canine comfortable when it's hot out.
*If you have a room with a linoleum, or tile floor provide a wet (but not sopping, wring it out) towel for your dog to lay on.
*If you have any of those thin gel pack (I use the CVS Gentle Fabric cold compress) that you can put in the freezer for sore muscles that have no tears in them, wrap in a dry towel and place on their bed. Abby loves to lay on one when she comes in from outside. Do NOT use if your dog is a chewer, the gel may be toxic.
*Add some ice cubes to the water dish.
*Replace a meal or two a day of kibble with wet food, which will help your pet stay hydrated. As with any food change, start by substituting a 1/4 cup then work up each day until you are at the amount per day of wet food you want
Even the evil squirrel cartel gets extra water when it's hot.
*Have a collapsible or lightweight dish for water on walks. I got one made by Petmate at Chewy that was less than $5. That way you can give your dog a drink with bottled water mid walk
*If you don't have a.c., put a big pan of ice cubes in front of the fan and turn it on in the room your pet hangs out in (by the way fans are great on a deck or patio if you have a power source to keep mosquitoes away - they can't land in a crosswind!)
*If the dog is going to be outside for playtime, and the house or landscaping doesn't provide shade, string up a tarp so they can rest under that. A beach umbrella in the yard will work too. Make sure they have lots of water and shade and check on them often while they play
Avoid pavement in the afternoons. The asphalt can easily get over 100+ degrees on even a moderately hot day and can burn the dog's paws. Morning and evening walks are the best. Abby will NOT wear booties but they are available to protect the dog's paws.
Abby hates it, but Barkley LOVED his inexpensive kiddie pool. If we see them on sale we do what former neighbors did and get extra for a few of the young families on the street that have dogs but a tight budget.
*Soak a bandana in cold water, wring out then tie around your dog's neck with the bandana laying it flat across the back. Just like a cold bandana tied around YOUR neck is cooling, so is this.
Some breeds are more heat sensitive than others, but all pet lovers need to know ways to keep your pet cool in the summer. You should also educate yourself to signs of heatstroke in your pet.
Talk to your vet or visit some of the Veterinarian supported web pages that contain that information
You also need to watch for signs of dehydration:
skin, if pinched at the top of the neck is slow to "snap" back
If you think your dog is slightly dehydrated but they are avoiding their water add a bit of salt-free chicken broth to it, or a splash of carrot juice. Even floating some pieces of your pet's favorite dog safe fruit (no grapes!) in the water will encourage extra drinking.
If you think the dehydration is more than slight, or they continue to avoid extra water, consult your Vet.
Warning! Your Lab may melt at higher temperatures.
If your dog needs a little extra help cooling down after playtime, use evaporation to your advantage. We humans cool off by sweating and then the sweat evaporating. Dogs don't have a body's surface area to sweat like we people do. They cool off by panting. You can help this a bit by wiping your dog's paws after a walk with warm (not cold water). You can also use a dab of rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball or cotton cosmetic oval to gently and lightly wipe theirpaws. Isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) has a MUCH lower boiling point than water and will then evaporate much more quickly. Don't overdo as it's drying and let each paw dry before going to the next one so the dog doesn't lick it until it's dry.
You can also wipe inside your dog's ears with a soft cloth dipped in cool water then wrung out (make sure it's wrung well to avoid ear infections). That helps cool those capillaries in the ear area.
Grooming is also important. I'm not a fan of shaving in the summer as the hair is part of a dog's natural cooling system. But grooming is essential. Abby has a thick dark upper coat and a soft reddish undercoat (we think she is part flat-coated retriever) Those top hairs act as insulation against heat and sunburn and the undercoat is part of her cooling system. But if it is not groomed it will become mattered and will prevent air flow across your pup's body. Brush your dog frequently to remove any dead fur, which will help them be more comfortable in the warm weather.
And lastly - don't forget those frozen treats. Abby loves her Frosty Pause which is sugar-sweetened low-fat vanilla yogurt (check that it's not artificially sweetened some of those sweeteners can be fatal to pets) mixed in a blender with a banana and then frozen in little dixie cups. Peel and serve!. I will also fill up a single-serving size Tupperware with salt-free veggie broth (no onions or garlic) and let her lick that out on the patio after it has frozen and been removed from the container
Abby the Lab here with a report from home. Mom was working on a big case and teleworked most of this week, which is great as I get to spend more time with her. So for tonight a recap of her typical day. Secret Squirrel pops out of bed, ready to start the day.
First, a little walk to get the blood circulating.
A few reps on the workout bench.
This is NOT a yoga pose, someone is stuck.
What are the neighbor's up to? If you see food, go over and say hello.
Look - nuts!
What are YOU looking at.
This is Mom's professional telework attire.
No, not her Alma mater, but but it's soft and comfy (I slept on it while Mom took her shower, I wonder if she'll notice the dog hair)
Mom - it's too early to start the day.
Telework days go pretty quick, as a lot of work can be accomplished with the quiet. Let's see, I bet Mom can mark out where the witnesses were standing using Gumby and Pokey ( hmmm - that might go over as well as the interrogatories with hand puppets).
At lunch - while Mom gets dinner in the crockpot and takes me for a short play session out back. I get to sniff and see everything going on in our neighborhood. While Mom gets back to work - focused and serious.
My job as telework dog is to nap on the futon in the office as the work day draws to a close.
While Mom makes a phone call to someone she needs a report and puts together a hundred tiny, seemingly unrelated details to form a story.
Yay - she's done and I get another play session with Mom before she finishes dinner and Dad comes home.
"Did you say walk? Or Bacon? They sound the same."
Before you know it the light was dimming and it was evening. Mom didn't save the world or gather a bunch of nuts, but such days are productive days - especially with the best furry office assistant ever.