Sunday, May 31, 2015

Guess Abby's Date!

I have a date for the dance!

I'll let you all guess who my handsome date is and I'll be BRIEF.

He is very smart, which is part of his APPEAL We can talk BEAGLE-ESE.  After the dance (EX-PARTE) we can go for a walk and talk some more.

I do LIEN towards a night of fun with good friends and I can't wait for this one.

Now, no LEADING QUESTIONS , just see if you can figure out who wonderful Ruby fixed me up with for the big event.  I had such a good time at the last dance with her help and I was hopeful she'd come through for me again.

For the venue and other info check out the link at Sarge's and join in some Birthday fun for a dear friend.  I'm going to ask Mom to bake a TORT  to celebrate and help get ready for the big day this Tuesday.

Join us in Blogville for the dance to celebrate Recuit a Pal! Click on the link below for Sarge's post with the information and the prizes.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Welcome Home!

We made it home.  It's been a month since we've been here due to Mom's on call schedule and a move to a new condo  in the city where she works, though Dad spent two 3 day weekends with us.

I missed it.  I know Mom did too.  Thanks for keeping us company on all the nights she was on her own and Dad was in another state working. Blogville is my kind of town.

Abby Lab

Thursday, May 28, 2015

And Always - Give The Dog an Extra Biscuit

An Excerpt From Saving Grace - A Story of Adoption (and some new photos)

I've heard so many people say: "I'll do that when I'm older, when I lose 20 pounds, when I'm retired." We go through life saying, "I would, but it probably wouldn't work out," or, " I'd like to but. . ." We too often base our actions on an artificial future, painting a life picture based on an expectancy that time is more than sweat, tears, heat, and mirage.

You can't count on anything. For out of the blue fate can come calling. My husband and I had recently lost our beloved black Lab Barkley after a brief but valiant battle against bone cancer and a weekend of pain we couldn't keep at bay for him. In a flash life robbed even of the power to grieve for what is ending. I think back to when my brother Allen and I were kids: going down a turbulent little river with little more than an inner tube and youth, risking rocks and rapids and earth just to see what was around the bend of that forest we'd already mapped out like Lewis and Clark. The water was black and silver, fading swirls of deep current rising to the surface like a slap, fleeting and gravely significant---as if something stirred beneath, unhappy to be disturbed from its slumber, making its presence known. A fish, perhaps; or simply fate.

I think of the true story of the woman whose parachute didn't open on her first jump and she fell more than a mile, and lived---to change her whole life to pursue her dreams. Did she sense something as she boarded that plane, looking into the sky at a danger that she could not articulate, that she could not see? Or was she unaware until that moment when she pulled the cord and nothing happened, as her life rushed up to her with a deep groaning sound? What was it like in that moment, that perception of her final minutes, what taste, what color, what sound defined her soul as it prepared to leave? 

I was in the paint section of a hardware store the other weekend, looking for a brick-colored paint to spruce up a backdrop in the crash pad’s kitchen. I noticed the yellows, a color I had painted my room as a teen. I noticed the greens, so many of them---some resembling the green of my parents’ house in the sixties and seventies, yet not being exactly the same color. The original was one that you'd not see in a landscape, only in a kitchen with avocado appliances while my Mom sang as she made cookies. I remember Allen and I racing through the house, one of us soldier, the other spy, friends forever; stopping only long enough for some of those cookies, still warm. Holding that funky green paint sample I can see it as if it were yesterday. Memories only hinted at held there in small squares of color.

What is it about things from the past that evoke such responses? For some it’s a favorite photo; a piece of clothing worn to a special event; a particular meal. Things that carry with them the sheer impossible quality of perfection that has not been achieved since. Things that somehow trigger in us a response of wanting to go back to that time and place when you were safe and all was well. But even as you try and recapture the memory it eludes you, caught in a point in your mind between immobility and motion, the taste of empty air, the color of wind.

One morning while out in a hangar checking out a pilot friend’s home-built project, I had one of those moments. It was an old turboprop lumbering down the taxiway with all the grace of a water buffalo. It wasn't the aircraft that caught my eye, it being one of those planes that carries neither speed nor sleek beauty but rather serves as the embodiment of inertia overcome by sufficient horsepower. No, it was the smell of jet fuel that took me back---to years of pushing the limits, not really caring if I came home, only that the work was done without my breaking beyond re-use something I was trusted with.

Until one day, while my heart was beating despite being broken unseen beneath starched white cotton, my aircraft made a decided effort to kill me. It was not the "Well, I'll make a weird sound and flash some red lights at you and see what you do," an aircraft's equivalent of the Wicked Witch of the North cackling: "Care for a little FIRE, scarecrow?" No, it was a severe vibration that shook the yoke right out of my hand as we accelerated through 180 knots on the initial climb, as unknown to me, a small piece of metal on the aircraft's tail had come loose and was flapping in the breeze.

In that moment, as I heard the silent groaning of the earth below, I thought "I do not wish to die," and I fought back---in that moment of slow and quiet amazement that can come at the edge of sound, finding in myself a renewed desire to live, recognizing the extent and depth of that desire to draw another breath and share that soft warm breath with another.

Today is a memory that months from now could be one of those memories---not of fear but of triumph. You may look back and see this day, the friends you were with, the smile on your face, the simple tasks you were doing together. Things, so basic in their form to at this time simply be another chore: cleaning, fixing, an ordinary day while children played with a paper plane fueled by laughter and the hangar cat drowsed in the sunlight. It might be a day you didn't even capture on film---no small squares of color left to retain what you felt as you worked and laughed together, there in those small strokes of color, those small brushes of hope as you wait for your best friend to join you.

Twenty years from now you may look at yourself in the mirror, at the wrinkles formed from dust, time, and tears around your eyes, at the gray in your hair; and you will think back to this day, the trivial things that contain the sublime. On that day, so far beyond here, you may look around you, that person you were waiting for no longer present, and you want it all back. Want it as bad as the yearning for a color that is not found in nature, in the taste of something for which you search and ache, acting on the delusion that you can recreate it, those things that haunt the borders of almost knowing.

You touch the mirror, touch your face and wish you'd laughed more, cared less of what others thought, dove into those feelings that lapped at the safe little edges of your life, leaped into the astonishing uncertainty.
Allen spent years running silent and deep under the ocean, visiting places I can only guess at as he will not speak of it, a code about certain things I share with him. But I knew the name. Operation Ivy Bells. He understood testing the boundaries of might and the deep, cold depths to which we travel in search of ourselves.

On his last nights, Allen and I talked, but not of that, being aware of grave matters of honor but not speaking of them, not even with each other. I'd sit as he talked about Dad and how he hoped Dad would live to be a hundred; how he hoped he would be there to take care of him, even as I watched 120 pounds leave Allen’s frame as he went through that second round of chemo and radiation.

He talked until his eyes closed, only his labored breath letting me know he was still with me; the rise and fall of his chest as he were trying to push up from the waters of the sea, unfathomed flesh still so buoyant if only in spirit as the cold water lapped against him.

I too have had more than one day where I stood outside on a pale crescent of beaten earth and breathed deeply of that cold. On those days I felt every ache in my muscles; my skin hot under the sun; the savage, fecund smell of loss in the air, lying heavily in the loud silence. Somewhere in the distance would come a soft clap of thunder; overhead clouds strayed deliberately across the earth, disconnected from mechanical time. I'd rather be elsewhere; the smell simply that of kitchen and comfort: the sounds only that of laughter. But I knew how lucky I was to simply be, in that moment, and alive.

I'd go home on such nights and pour a drink, prepare a small meal. I'd eat it slowly, letting the sweet and salt stay upon my tongue. For me there would be no quick microwaved meal eaten with all the detachment of someone at a bar, tossing back a handful of stale nuts with their beer. No, I wished to taste and savor the day, the warm layers of it, this day that had been someone's last.

You can't control fate but you can make choices. You can continue your day and do nothing, standing in brooding and irretrievable calculation as if casting in a game already lost. Or you can seize the moment, the days, wringing every last drop from them. Tell the ones you love that you love them. Hug your family; call an old friend you've not spoken to for months; forgive an enemy; salute your flag---and always, always give the dog an extra biscuit. Then step outside into the sharp and unbending import of spring, a dying winter flaring up like fading flame, one last taste, one last memory, never knowing how long it will remain. 

 - L. B. Johnson

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Where's Abby?

If I hide behind this potted plant Mom can't see me and won't try and trim my toenails again.

Abby Lab

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Last Thing - A Poem for Memorial Day


The last thing I saw was a disk of golden sun through a haze of smoke.  In the few months I've been here, the sun and duty's risk are the only constants.

The last thing I heard was the report of fire. Just one last wild spurring of colors made sound, shaping the hot blind earth into darkness.

The last thing I felt was an intake of breath, air drawing in deep. It lays warm in me, then stills. I thought nothing could reach me.

I never felt what hit me.

I think that was close, surrounded by the savage heat that no longer burns, the fecund odor of sand and earth that reaches not my nostrils, the incredible silence. Oh God, why is it so quiet?

I look down on my form from above, whole but without body, thinking I must have a concussion, as this vision could not be real.

 I close my eyes and recite the steps to field strip my AR. Bolt fully forward,remove the bolt carrier and the charging handle, and will unblinking eyes to clear my sight. But the vision didn't change.

They knock on my front door, with words that my wife's ears and heart will have to accept without proof, but for their sound.

They watch her search their words for anything that can hold sanity together, with language that is within her understanding. But with the words she hears, she crumbles like fragile paper.

They gather up my things for her, a comb, a ring, a broken blade, a wallet photo of my Mom and Dad, their hair singed with ashen grey, where none before existed.

They send me home in a box, draped with a flag, in clothing I had never worn.

My body is buried in the late summer, the corn in fervent zeal, bowing before behemoth combines that will pull it into an oblivious end.

My name is spoken reverently, soft force that drowns out the protesters. It takes everything my Father has in him, not to confront. They know not what courage and duty really mean, their nothings as irremediable as my everything.

 My wife says my name silently over and over, until it takes shape and form, then falls into a sob as taps are played. The sounds drifts up to echo in heaven.

But sometimes an echo is heard.

My gravestone sits as if listening and waiting, the cemetery vacant. The trees have long since turned gold.

 My wife sits with my last letter, worn from the many times she's read it, sun slanting through trees, quiet light upon the dying leaves.

She reads of the restless moments of every last memory, taking what comfort she can from my words. My words to her, of my love, of my fears, of the child she carries.

The more she reads, the less she sees, as the writing becomes fainter, words wet with tears, until the paper itself crumbles away.

The paper is as fragile as she has become strong.

The cemetery is old now, my grave now surrounded by others, so many others. My eyes live on in a child I never met. My name lives on, on a stone in a place forever solemn, in a picture, in a flag.

I am everywhere, in memorial. I am here, in a tombstone, in the flag I hope you salute more than once a year.

I am part of the earth beneath you, of the wild, strong blood that formed this land, of all that lived, and should live, in freedom. I am dust in the wind, the hard roots of the past, the sound of earth as it falls on a pine box, the broken body of the past, the invisible footprints of patriots.

I am your father, your son, your daughter, your mother.

I gave my life in service to my country. I am a memory that begins and ends with what is left, stakes in the hard ground on which to peg our history.

When the last thing you see is that disk of golden sun in the sky, remember me. Remember my sacrifice.

For I am everywhere, in the trees, in the wind, under your feet in a land that's still free.

You never knew me but remember me always.

 L. B. Johnson - Author

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Memorial Day Weekend

It's not a day off from work.
It's looking at history, and what has withstood time and conflict.
It's not meeting friends for a meal and fun.
It's not ice cream and a barbecue.
It's not sitting in  your lounge chair.
It's raising your flag, remembering what is important as you look hard at everything.

It's saying "thank you" to those who have served.
It's remembering brave sacrifices.
It's putting your pride in your country out  for all to see, not on this weekend, but every day of the year.
It's  remembering duty and courage and the willingness to defend. 
It's honoring the memory of all of those brave men and women who gave their life in the service of this country, so you could live, here today, in the safe place they made for us. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Dating Disasters - Dogs and Dates

Blind dates from hell.  Admit it, you've had one.  In the Barkley book there is a story of my personal shortest blind date, which fortunately, I can laugh at now.

Tonight, I think I want to laugh again, if only to myself.

 So for you, some adult Classic Dating Disclaimers.  Feel Free to add your own.

There are good dates and bad ones.  The good ones hold in close and smile. But the bad ones? The statute of limitations has run out on some of those.

Dates from Hell. We've all had one, or will. My worst, a couple of years before I met my husband, was a fellow that came over for a fancy dinner I cooked, then proceeded to pull out a little hand held video game and play it for an hour, totally ignoring me on the couch next to him. I finally said "uh, what are you doing? and he said "I'm getting so and so to the next level!"  This was NOT some kid, this was a 40 something year old neurobiologist.

He did NOT get to the next level.

When I was just a pup, one of the mechanics that worked on the airplanes I flew, asked out a lady that was on the city council. She was attractive, educated and well dressed. He liked the attractive part enough to ignore that they might not have a lot in common as he was sort of a country boy and she was more designer clothes and politics.  They went to dinner, and did not have anything in common, so he just told her he enjoyed meeting her and they could remain friends but there wouldn't be a second date. She seemed to take that well and thanked him for the friendship.

That night he started getting phone calls from different people with different voices, but not QUITE different, telling him what a jerk he was and how wonderful this lady was and he should see her again.  It turns out his date had multiple personalities and all of them started to stalk him. He said the one named "Oscar" creeped him out the most. He ended up moving and changing his phone number. She was probably elected to Congress.

But still, we  open ourselves up there in the dating world, which can be a wonderful adventure, or simply that giant rock rolling down the hill at you.

Love can make us do things we normally wouldn't consider. It can lead to a buddy asking a vegan to go turkey hunting, only to have the girl jump up at the first sight of a trio of young turkeys yelling "Run Mr. Turkey, Run for your Life!" It made one young lady from a friends workplace, flushed with happy anticipation of her first  serious date with her long time crush, spend $100 for top of the line lift and firm undergarments.  Love made her glad she did, disappointment made her set her new lingerie on fire. In his office. During a meeting with his biggest client.
Chasing it was more fun than catching it.

But we still get out there, we get our hearts ripped out, stomped on and set on fire and eventually we put on our brave faces and get back to living, and if we're lucky, find someone special we can laugh with.

So, for those of you new to the dating scene, stuck in it or getting back into it, here is some Barkly Memories and Dating Disclaimers.

Disclaimer: Dating is for entertainment purposes only. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental. All models over 18 years of age. Void where prohibited. Some assembly required. No other warranty expressed or implied. Apply only to affected area. May be too intense for some viewers.  Subject to change without notice.

Terms subject to change without notice.  Times approximate. Simulated picture. Do not attempt to put in pants.  Don't try in your living room, these are trained professionals.. Use only as directed  Breaking seal constitutes acceptance of agreement

May contain nuts.

One size fits all. Edited for television. Keep cool, process promptly. Return to sender. Not responsible for direct, indirect, incidental or consequential damages resulting from any defect, error or failure to perform. Penalty for private use. See label for sequence. Add toner. Your canceled check is your receipt. Sanitized for your protection. Sign here without admitting guilt. Limited time offer, call now to ensure prompt delivery. Not actual size.

You must be present to win.
Approved for veterans. Some equipment shown is optional. Price does not include taxes. Reproduction strictly prohibited. List at least two alternate dates. First pull up, then pull down. Call toll free before digging. Driver does not carry cash. No user serviceable parts installed.

You must be this tall to ride the ride.
No transfers issued until the ride comes to a complete stop. Package sold by weight, not volume. Your mileage may vary. For external use only. Tumble dry on low heat. Do not spindle, fold or mutilate.

Safety goggles may be required during use.

Use only in a well-ventilated are. Keep away from fire or flames. Replace with same type. Not liable for damages arising from use or misuse. No substitutions allowed. For a limited time only. Action figures sold separately. If ingested, do not induce vomiting. Substantial  penalty for early withdrawal
Slightly higher west of the Rockies.
Do Not Taunt Happy Fun Ball!

Disclaimer does not cover misuse, accident, lightning, flood, tornado, pestilence or projectile (including but not limited to bullets, arrows, BB's, lasers, sharks with frikin lasers, shrapnel, torpedoes rock/paper/scissors, and Alpha, Beta or Gamma rays), neglect, incorrect line voltage, customer adjustments that are not covered in this list, and incidents owing to vehicular accident or snake bite. Detonation of nuclear weapons will void this policy. Other restrictions may apply.

Lastly, for those of us who are no longer youngsters.

Contents may have settled.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Moving On - A Chapter From "Saving Grace

Chapter 47- Moving On

My husband and I had retrieved the rest of my things to be moved from my home to his. There was a box of dog toys on the porch which I couldn't bear to open. We had talked about getting another dog, looking at reputable breeders, checking ads; but I didn't think I was ready, waiting for a sign perhaps.

That night as we went to sleep I dreamed of my old dog Barkley, something I’d not done in several months.

* * *

In my dream life hadn't changed; my brother and Barkley were still with me and it was just a normal day of prayer and reflection.

On the wall is a crucifix, symbol of blood and wind, strength that follows me through my day.

As I enter the building the light shines on those small testaments of ritual, those things that bring peace and beauty to what could otherwise be chaos. A drape of white cloth upon which lies a cup; a candle there, unlit for now but soon to be anointed by flame.

I know he's waiting for me so that I can unburden myself. He's probably thinking as well, it's been so long since I've been back. I wait outside the door for just a moment, taking in the tranquil quiet, the peaceful shadow.

But first I will light the candle, for me, for souls unlit. For the ones I could save and those I could not, all merging now into one sustained breath that ignites this small candle into flame. The flame swirls up unto the heavens as the stars bow and draw backwards.

In my pocket are implements forgotten. I gently finger them like beads, uttering the words that came from my mouth as I worked with them, words that strung out like coronals of roses as I disturbed another’s solemn remains, bent and bowed to my duties. Forgive me. Forgive them.

I pull those tools of my day from my pocket and lay them upon the white cloth. In the candlelight they gleam like the nicked and scuffed chain mail armor of angels.

From behind the door I hear the murmur of movement as my arrival is sensed. I stand outside, as silent as I did not long before, tongues of ash and flakes of fire raining on down, anointing the bones of men. How I wish they would stir, awakening to the fire, but they sometimes do not. I make the sign of the cross, peace to their ashes.

I open the door but it is not the door to penance and confession, not at this hour, this place. But it is a door to one that still, with heart untouched by either sin or evil, will listen to me even if he cannot speak.

He will listen as liquid words flow from weary brain, symbols that are not of a periodical but of the elements of mystery, questions asked, and reasoning answered. He will listen without asking and he will forgive without penance, though he can be stirred to almost evangelical zeal by a small nugget of biscuit.

From the distance, a church bell---a sound that does more than note one more hour, one more increment of time and grief that's ticked since Genesis. It's the sound of hope and faith, one that cleaves the air with a sharp instrument of promise as a dog joyously barks.

For it is not a man of a cloth I was unburdening myself to, but my best friend Barkley the Labrador retriever.

When he has eaten first I will go out to sit at that cloth covered table. I will take the meat, the bread, and the wine and I will pause, bent with sin but saved by grace, there as I bow my head in thanks. It is thanks not just for the company of friends and the reminder of hope but for a small furred creature who blessed me with the wag of a tail.

* * *

I awoke with tears on my face and the comfort of words in my head.

I think it is time to add another dog to this home. This time it's going to be a rescue, a dog who needs a home as much as we need him.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

How was Your Day - Abby the Rescue on Learning to Trust Again

 So how was your day Abby?
The Big Toaster Truck with the delivery guy stopped by and he didn't bring me anything from Chewey - THAT tells you how my day is going to be.
No one sends me goodies in the mail
 See - YOU got a box from the Big Toaster Truck
 I was robbed.
Even worse, the delivery guy saw me through the window and said "nice doggie".  Doesn't he understand I have mandibles of death. I'm a ferocious watch dog protecting Mom.
" No" - he says "Labs are NICE doggies - they're always friendly."  SIGH
 So I gave him this face. GROWWWLL  He just laughed and said "isn't she cute"
Just wait until next time delivery guy.  
But on top of the box on the porch he left a little doggie biscuit.  Just for me.
 Color me surprised.
And you were so happy to open the box and find the picture of a black lab, a happy, friendly, black lab.  Because we ARE happy and friendly, we're not mean or scary and don't want to be.
I feel so bad, I was trying to scare the Big Toaster Truck guy away and he just wanted to be my friend and bring things that make my Mom smile.
You were right Mom and Dad - judge people by how they treat us, not how others have treated us.
Did you get that subliminal message Mom. . . . .Treat??