Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Rainbow Bridge Warrior - Sherman's Tale

My Brown Newfies Mom - who has quietly been part of Blogville for a long while lost her dog Sherman this week, very unexpectedly.  He was raised with his Newfie Bro Leroy and she was really worried how he would react to the loss.

She posted this on Facebook and it made me laugh as well as cry (a lot).  I used to live in the part of the country they do so the accent totally cracked me up.

Get your Kleenex handy and scroll down to "message from Leroy".

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Take Your Dog to Work Day

But why can't we go to "work" with you?
We can eat all the food that everyone forgets in the back of the lunchroom fridge.

We can bark at people from the guard shack that we don't recognize.

We can sniff the packages that come through the x-ray machine in the lobby.

We can help the attorney's in the building and then bill in dog hours.

We can do undercover investigations.
We can work in tech support and delete your cookies and carefully check the SPAM.

Save on janitor costs:  No more crumbs on the floor.

Need that report, another coffee pod or a pen?  Can you say "fetch".
We can "think outside the box".

Meetings won't last too long because I have to go "out!"

then "in". . . . then "out".

We can be part of trials and hearings.

When the boss says "you really dropped the ball" I can go find it!

You can get rid of the shredder.

Drool can get rid of most desk food stains.

Food taster. That cheeseburger from the secret squirrel cafeteria look a little sketchy?  I can try it first to make sure its safe to eat.

You already have a "lab" at work, what's two more.
and finally:

Squirrel interrogatories!

Friday, August 16, 2019

Posts From the Road

The hum of the tires on the pavement is soothing, mile markers going past me like years.

I don't have to drive in to "work" every day, like many in offices, do. Often I fly out and am gone for days, sometimes weeks. But I enjoy the drives in when I make them, often in the dark, before the roads are busy.

I've made most of my vacation drives by myself, though a friend from college and I recently drove across half the country in a couple of days, to visit our families who lived in the same area. I remember when we pulled into the subdivision where one of my relatives had moved, I'd only been there once, and I got lost in all the streets, each bearing the same name but with a different ending. Magnolia Lane, Magnolia Drive, Magnolia Trail (that's not confusing), etc. I had a map printed from Mapquest out but it was ignored in the back seat. My gal friend said "uh. . you want to grab that map" and I was "no. . I'll get it, this looks familiar" as we got further lost. She says again, "say, how about that map behind you" and I responded, "nope, I'm sure this is it". She started laughing and said "OMG. You're a GUY! You don't want to ask for directions."

If I'm alone, sometimes I watch other drivers. On one truck a NRA sticker with an older fellow driving. When I came abreast of him, the driver looked at me, expecting some sort of liberal stare down but I just gave him a smile. When he pulled past me and saw MY stickers he gave me a friendly wave. Speeding past us both, a young girl, driving 20 over the speed limit in the construction zone, as she tossed what appeared to be three days worth of lunch bags and trash out onto the roadway, cups, bags, everything. The fact that she had a bumper sticker of our previous President on her beat-up car did not surprise me.

People often drive as they think, modestly, slowly, recklessly. Some move in and out of traffic with the brisk efficiency of a surgeon, others, shyly and with hesitation, invite themselves out to dinner with the Reaper. Myself, I just roll along, not faster than anyone, not slower than anyone, not wanting to stand out, simply watching the centerline break underneath of the vehicle.

When I tell people that I sometimes drive to the Rockies to visit family there they look at me like I'm daft. "You can fly there in an hour". Yes, I can. but I like that time to myself, no schedule, no commitments. When I get hungry I stop and eat. When I get tired I find a quiet, clean place to sleep. If I want to stop and look at the world's largest ball of yarn, no one is going to tell me "sorry, that flight has already left the gate." Though I still wonder about some gas station bathrooms. Why do they lock them? Are they afraid someone might break in and clean them?

As we travel through life we often pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that we blow right by it. As adults, we usually fail to stop and just look at what we have right here as we pass by it, things are hidden by the layers of indifference casually tossed on us by others, dreams gathering dust while we toil to somehow make our world conform to what we are told it's expected to be. And everything in a hurry. Maybe it's the specter of mortality, maybe it's just this new generation of entitlement that's trying to nudge common sense out of the way, but people seem to expect things they've never earned.

I'm not sure why I enjoy the slow and hard look at things. Perhaps it's just the process of becoming slowly born that are those years leading up to middle age. Perhaps it's what I do for a paycheck. Maybe it was all the hours hiking up into mountains of the West as I grew up. You really learn to appreciate the slowness, the detail, the stillness of a day in the outdoors. The ascent may be hours or it may be days, but with a compass and a few tools, you simply gather your wits around you and head uphill. What you expect to greet you is up ahead of you, even when you can't see it. It's there in the blue, and it only remains for your body to reach it. Patience, one blister, one tear, at a time.

The wilderness gives you time, for the wild, though changing, is still eternal. That's what long road trips are like for me. I keep the horizon in my window but still look back, savoring the journey. The tumbled landscapes of glacier stone, and great pristine rivers, thin as a strand of pearls as I travel on past. It's time, my time, filled with the immaculate sameness of hours bathed in the sun's warm honey. Anything that really requires detailed thought, the engine setting, a scan for traffic, occurs in brief, unhurried intervals. The miles roll by with the thoughts, miles of tears, of laughter I've not known since youth, of love, of mechanical, rhythmic memories of the past that I carried with me as I started this journey.

Those memories are not always happy ones, which is part of the trip you will make. As the miles flow past, you realize that when you are young, no one really tells you the truth about love, about life. About coming into your heart and your strength and what it means when you realize what you have beneath you.

When my friend and I took that trip, after heartbreak for both of us, we finally talked about many things we never had. Sure, we'd shared many a cup of coffee and a beer discussing past dates from hell over the years (what do you mean you have guns? Eeekk!), kids, parents, coworkers, and dog hair. We'd talked about old loves, about the hopes for a new one. Like old friends, we hadn't really talked about those things that seemed obvious.

Talking matter of factly about such things seemed banal, like proving a right angle or finding the equal distance between two lives but it felt good for us to share our joys and our griefs on that drive. The two-lane highway rose slowly out of the Plains as I tried to navigate through words that carried with them both joy and pain, holding me back like the weight of a dead end. So we talked, not in a great gush of words, but as friends do, in small bits of ourselves spread out on the table like show and tell of things that troubled us, those hurts that built up over years of living. The miles and hours flew past, fields clutching onto the skeletons of flowers that long ago died, of bare, windswept trees, and clusters of burrs that stick to everything with a tiny pinprick of pain. Things were sticking to us both.

All that was left was the words; and they flowed, like the laughter and the tears, until I opened the window to let the wind dry my face. Wind that would carry those old hurts to where they would simply bounce off the landscape like a piece of discarded trash, delicate, crumpled tissue best left to be disintegrated by time. Better left behind as the sun began to relax on what would be a renewed journey; the road pulling away from discarded thought, the highway lines breaking up like Morse Code as we moved forward. Moved away from that painful past, those roads best not traveled, till it was just a speck in the rearview mirror.

My friend has found her happiness, and I've found mine, nothing left but the memories that I'm making now, moving on into new skies, open roads. Time ticks past as the diorama of life unfolds in the window up ahead, the rush of the world, fast food, fast life, suspended for a few hours. The truck still moves on, this time to find a place to rest for the night and I do, cleansing myself of blood and bone and the grime of the day. The hotel room has all the ambiance of a dental lab and I can't help but wish I was instead at hunting camp, sleeping under a fluttering tent, canvas murmuring to the whispers of the rain.

As I lay there, I think of Heraclitus, of whose writings are only left fragmentary remains, who said it better than I, expressing the nature of reality as a flux in words, the way I'd express them in motion today.

The rule that makes
its subject weary
is a sentence
of hard labor.
For this reason
change gives rest.

Sometimes it's time for a change of landscape, of thinking, a journey forward. No agenda but to see the day transfolded before you up ahead. You need those moments alone, those miles of the open road, miles of the open sky.

Those times of solitude, for souls like us, are simple moments of inwardness. In our simple code of life, quiet independence stands guard over courage heightened by change. This is our own compass north, that directs our paths, the self in isolation, resolve, honor, emotion, thought and liberty held in like breath until they are amplified within us, becoming direction in life's unhurried journey.

Mark Twain said in Huckleberry Finn "We had the sky up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them and discuss about whether they was made or only just happened". But I know they were made. Made to serve as tiny points of light to guide a distant traveler back home.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Nostalgia Kitchen Hot to Tot

Cooking for me isn't just food, it's nostalgia.  Many of my earlier memories are of my Mom in the mid/late sixties in the kitchen making most things from scratch but still spoiling us occasionally with such goodies as Kool-Aid, Popsicles, Hostess products, Tater Tots and those little crinkle-cut oven fries which we got only on Friday night with the small steak from the home raised steer, sourdough toast, green beans and orange slices.

I was a big fan of the Tater Tot and as a kid was very disappointed to find out the lyrics to that Christmas Carol was NOT "Tater Tots with their Eyes all Aglow".
Mom had a couple of recipes that were made frequently in our house. One was called "Husband's Delight" that had a mysterious creamy/cheesy layer between two layers of noodles in Italian meat sauce. It was a great way to use up leftover meat sauce and that last couple cups of macaroni or pasta shells in the cupboard.
The second was hamburger and Walla Walla sweet onion fried up and mixed with cream of something and a dash of Worcestershire sauce and topped with tater tots.  It was a typical Lutheran Basement Church Supper dish.

I had a bag of Schwans Crispy Taters (their version of Tots, a bit more expensive, but really good with no dairy or fillers for those so inclined).

What if I combine the tastier elements of both, but instead of an Italian based sauce, make a Sloppy Joe version?

Sloppy Joe Tater Tot Bake (recipe in comments)
Sweet and savory homemade Sloppy Joe sauce with peppers and onions surrounding garlic infused sour cream/cream cheese layer, and topped with crispy tater tots.  It's nothing like Mom made, yet it was delicious and comforting, like the best of "Mom" cooking.  It had a lot of flavor but was mild enough that  kids should like it and won't even notice the extra veggies you stuck in the sauce. If you want to up the spice a bit, just add an extra shake or two of crushed red pepper to the sauce.
I made it for friends who said it was good enough I should share the recipe.
With some veggies as a side dish, it easily feeds six, wasn't hard to make and  was assembled in this case, out of a mish-mash of little bits and pieces in the fridge so it  was relatively inexpensive to make.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

What We Do for Love

When Barkley came up lame in the early winter of 2013 in what we hoped was just a pulled ligament from romping in the deep snow, one issue was the back stairs of my new husband's little Mission Bungalow.  They are VERY steep.  He did good using a cloth tote bag with the ends cut out, placed under his chest where we could "lift" the weaker half on his way down.

But after a couple weeks at my crash pad in another city where I work, hours away, he was hurting to the point I knew even that would not work.  I called my husband, who made the above stairs.  Now in the picture - they are not done, it was just set out for some measurements.  The final product would have some blocks under the middle to make the hinge angle positive rather than negative  Then to connect the top to the porch where Barkley didn't have to step up or down, keeping it secure, there would be eyebolts into the riser for the first step and then some carriage bolts added as pegs under the ramp to hook into the eyebolts in the center where it folded to keep it straight.  Then rails, so Barkley couldn't tumble off, When it wasn't being used, it could be folded up and put on the sun porch.  It was an experiment.  While Barkley was being overnighted at the vet to do some additional tests and a biopsy, I made the 8 hour round trip to check on it and bring emergency sandwiches.

Making it with just one length of wood, would get him to the ground but at too steep an angle.
So my husband made and added another section, then hinged so it would fold in half to carry like a ladder to the garage or just straight up the stairs into sunroom (which was just storage).
With someone walking him down the steps to his left, we figured he could learn quickly and safely, it's like the ramps at the dog park for agility, only bigger.  The longer length could also be used on another set of stairs to the basement if needed in the event of a tornado.   All for about $30 and a promised sandwich for the engineer.  Still not done here, but you get the idea.

Please can I have a skateboard?

But Barkley never got a chance to use it. He was in too much pain to travel again and his days with us were short, the tests showing very advanced bone cancer. But in looking at the photos of the ramp now, and the amount of work my husband put into it, well into the wee hours of the night, after working long days as an engineer, to craft it in two days, I realized just how lucky I was to have him.

If you've read The Book of Barkley you know our basic story.  We were friends for many years online (I knew a couple members of his family) but due to the age difference (24 years, though we are both the Chinese "Year of the Dog") we always said "well too bad. . . . ." and then we met in person---he, Barkley and I.  After that, the three of us weren't apart much, and when I fell on ice, walking Barkley and tore my meniscus, on our first official weekend together as a couple and he canceled his Christmas to drive me hundreds of miles to an orthopedic surgeon, taking leave from work to tend to Barkley and I while I recovered---I knew I had a keeper.

And he's been wonderful to Abby as she got comfortable after being in a shelter for five months.

I hear Dad's car alarm - he's home!

Now there is Larelei - clearly a "Daddy's Girl".

We have an anniversary this month of our first date - and I just wanted to say.  EJ - you are the best husband ever and Abby (and now Larelei) is one lucky dog.  And I am SO happy you rebuilt the Mt. Everest of steps for me! (by repositioning them 90 degrees we were able to fully fence in the yard for the dogs).

Monday, August 12, 2019

Monday Smiles

My husband is overseas on business, and between wrangling rescue dogs an a phone call with my publicist in about 20 minutes just a few funnies for a Monday smile. - LBJ