Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Look - Out in the Yard, it's Robin!

Abby T. Lab here. All sorts of things come out of Mom's  Secret Squirrel kitchen, shop or laboratory. Sometimes it's the smell of something burning that's not supposed to, sometimes it's a completely new Chemical Formula. (which those of you who grew up in the 60's like Mom did will likely understand). I hope there's room on the Periodic Table for this one.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Sunday Black and White

Old houses have a story to tell,
 
in the quiet it tolls as clear as a bell.
 
It wears the lives it held in each scratch and mark,
as silent witness in light and dark.
Old houses bear scars with nothing to hide,
showing you what's important, in what to take pride
Old houses have secrets, in their light you will see,
of loss and of pride and what it means to be free.
So get out your tools, lay past hurts away,
with that cookie cutter house of yesterday.
For your home's now an old one, where treasures abound,
to be unearthed as from Heaven, its angels watch down.
You'll hear the music of the lives that lived here,
and dance to it as the days becomes years.
it is not practical, easy or cheap,
but old houses, unclaimed, never fail to weep.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Moms, Doctors, and Toe Trucks

Abby Lab here - things are kind of quiet around here.  Mom was NOT feeling good today and was crying when she tried to put her socks on because her slipper suddenly didn't fit on one foot.  I asked what was wrong and she said

Go Out!  So I expected to go to the door but she ignored me.

Well, that's what it sounded like.  She said it's something that hit her when quit taking hormone replacement as she was worried about cancer risk. She doesn't eat much meat and she doesn't drink beer at all, just a small glass of wine before dinner sometimes. Excessive meat and alcohol can sometimes cause Go Out! but not with the amounts she has so the doctor first thought that she'd broken a bone in her foot.  When that was ruled out he ran blood tests. It was Go Out! The doc said that happens sometimes when women go into Men-O-Pause (does Dad know about the pausing thing?)

The main drugs they give for this she can't take due to kidney issues so she just has to put up with it till her toe deflates.

Her whole foot is swollen and red and it makes her cry.

I suggested calling a toe truck.  Mom did not find that funny.

Go Out! is apparently REALLY painful and she cried more when she had to walk to the bathroom.

I will be glad Dad is home from Texas tonight.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Should I Stay or Should Eggo?

What are you making out there?

Abby remember when you barked at the
'Big Brown Truck of Doom" yesterday? 
He was bringing me this special waffle iron."
Oh, yes, from the great AMAZON region of South America.
You get a LOT of stuff from that particular jungle.
I bow before you oh great waffle iron beast!
"It's Swedish pancake batter Abby.  It's extra fluffy as I separate the eggs and whip the egg whites into a
soft meringue then fold into the buttery batter.
with the yolks and milk and stuff."

"They're thinner than regular waffles crispy
on the outside and moist in the middle."
That smells yummy!  How many do I get?
What do you mean "grains like wheat upset my tummy?
This is just WRONG.
You're not supposed to have dairy but when Dad is 
out of town you eat a big bowl of mac and cheese
 and subject me to "Toot-O-Rama" all evening.  
And do I say anything?
No, because I love you more than gas.
I'm calling my Congresscritter!
Dad's slaving away on the road eating
Hilton gruel and you're making 
waffles and not sharing.
Beep!  There's another one cooked, just torture me
here with crunchy buttery goodness, I can't have.

How about a wheat free pizza bone instead Abby?
That would be a big YES.  Thanks, Mom!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Til We Meet Again Sarge


We were very sad to learn our dear friend

got called to the Bridge unexpectedly, leaving us quietly as he slept.  His family is devasted and we are still in shock as he had no known health issues and was only 11 years old.

We are so going to miss the most loyal friend and Police Chief Blogvilole has had since we've been here. 

Abby Lab and the Johnson Family

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Restoring Ourselves - A Story about Rescue and Reclamation

It was that time of the evening when things grow both restless and weary.The sun has dipped below the horizon, just enough light remaining to make out the forms of a couple of bicycles strewn across a lawn down the street, abandoned by children called in to supper. Piled up in the corner by where I sit and read are Abby is the pile of Abby's "stuffies" laying as if napping, where they will remain this late afternoon until she gently carries them to her dog bed at night, to sleep by her side.

As I get ready to go out for a quick jaunt around the neighborhood before dark, it's not hard to see the houses that have big screen TV's in the living room as they are directly evident if the windows are open, or providing that tell tale glare of light through the curtains. For many people, the TV is on as soon as they walk in the door, People come home, turn on the television, turn on the video games, draw the blinds, their view of the world that which comes through on the TV, losing imperceptibly their sense of the outside, of the world beyond a news anchor.

If someone walked past our porch at night, they'd see no such light. For we don't have a big screen TV. We don't have a TV at all, but for a small one in the in basement where we can get the weather with an antenna on the roof if we're down there due to Mr. Tornado.  If we want to watch a favorite show we have boxed sets, (cheaper than cable) from which to pick, watching on the computer monitor that can be turned to face the cozy futon in the office. Even that is something we only do on some weekends.
The crash pad where I lived after I got married, but before I was able to transfer to our Chicago facility, had a nice TV from my old house, but it was given to the young couple in need who are got all of the furniture, which we really have neither need nor room for up here.  They had lost everything in a natural disaster, and on a waiting list to adopt a baby, were anxious to be able to provide a furnished home.  They rented a small house, I provided all of the contents of mine, and they were finally at ease, that baby coming along in two months time from an unwed mother loving enough to give her child up to a good home.  Some things just work themselves out.

I'm fine with my smaller, older home. But anyone curious or casing this place to rob it would see hardwood floors, restored antique furniture, lots of leaded and stained glass and a Victrola, my service revolver in the nightstand and a few vintage LEO pistols of generation's past carefully locked up in the safe.
As big and beautiful as it was, I don't miss my old house.  It was your typical McMansion, those huge suburban  houses that are less home than monopoly game house squares of plastic and cheap lumber and wasted spaced.  What wood is there is usually laminate, the walls not thick enough to withstand a really good storm or the thump of a neighbors bass played too loud. They look OK now, but I can't imagine what it will take to sustain them 100 years from now, if they're even still standing.  But they are big  and "new!" with three car garages full of a lot of things that aren't paid for yet, the neighbors house so close you can't swing a tax assessor without whacking your next door neighbor. Some didn't even have furniture - the people buying them not having enough money after buying the too big house to properly furnish it.
Our house is old, it's small and it's sturdy.  There is no big mortgage, there is no credit card debt for the furnishings.  But for a small table that was a family heirloom, everything in our view we bought with cash, or picked from curbside trash, restoring it as best we can, those items that another found to have little worth.  I think the only things well under 50  years old in the house are the computer, the mattress, the frame of a couch we restored and the two beloved souls I live with, both two and four legged.

I've had a couple casual acquaintances look at the sagging porch that needs to be redone, the antiquated kitchen and a sun porch that makes the Green Acres house look upscale and make a subtlety snarky comment about it. They're not invited back. It's a work in progress, the whole house being a restoration project, much of the work on things you won't see on the surface. I look at it differently, I guess.  I don't see what still needs to be done.  I see what HAS been done.
The little village within the big city we live in is small, with a train station, a small grocers, a mom and pop pizza place and a couple of pubs.  The houses themselves are grey, white, brown or brick, no trendy Victorian doll house colors, no urban renewal shades of  yuppie reclamation.  The houses and porches are the shades of time and shadow and quiet murmured voices gathered between columns, as if time and breath had made them all one quiet color, a hushed vestibule where all is forgiven.

Within a short drive is a trendy urban area where people live in half a million dollar apartments, taking the train into the city, some not even owning cars as every bit of millennial spender and excess is within walking distance. We do go there as that's where the big home improvement store is.  That's where we bought all the copper pipe and wood for the house and a nice runner for the hall at a good discount, because the young man with the trendy haircut couldn't multiply $12.97 times 6 on a piece of paper when the calculator went missing.

No, I'll pass on all the "hip" places unless they have tools.  I'm perfectly happy browsing in an antique book store or standing in line at the grocer with elderly Polish women.  Dressed as if they are going to church, many of them have survived more than one war, holding our numbers and waiting for the deli clerk to slice meat that was roasted in the store, not unwrapped from cellophane, shaving the meats and the cheese and carefully wrapping them up for me with a smile. There's homemade sausages, salads, and potato pancakes, foods known well to the immigrants that settled in this place. I'll pass on the toaster strudel, and buy one of the real thing, made by hand, breathing in the scent of sugar and yeast as I head home with my bounty, driving past an ancient church and a small park which knows know only the shades of those first children that played there.
Am I just getting old - looking at the past as simply stories of youth and bravery, doomed to forgetfulness as I eventually pass, as we all will, those points of affection and regret into a fog that quietly dims the lights? Or have I simply changed what parts of the world are important to me based on how I have touched the world, and it has touched me in return?

I think it is the latter.  Getting to middle age is is some way, like surviving a war.  There are false truces and negotiations, retreat and reconciliation, triumph and treachery. In the end, if you are lucky, there is peace, your warrior's medals and ribbons being internal, only recognized when you look into the mirror and see those first lines around your eyes and smile because you know that despite it all, your sustained breath is its own little victory.
It's a peace I enjoy and as some of my peers rush around getting Botox and fillers, putting on enough makeup to make Krusty the Klown jealous. I'm perfectly content to put on sweat pants and tactical lip gloss and just hit the road, face bare and long red ponytail trailing behind me like those red warning flags you see on timber hanging off the bed of a fast moving little pick up.

So tonight, I'll  take a jog down through the village across the railroad tracks and down past the old church.  In the small graveyard there stands upon a grave site, a  stone angel, her shadow painting a canvas of dimming light as I move past.  She is a melancholy spirit, crafted in another century, her eyes closed as if in prayer, her mouth open as if she turned to stone in the moment she uttered her life's final secret.  Around the grave there is a garland of living flowers, grown wild, even as the rest of the small graveyard fades to dust, flowers reaching for one last bit of sun, there amidst the silent stones, the histories that live on in this place.
I wonder how many people have walked past her, with earbuds on, or their head down with texting, not realizing the significance of a forgotten grave - that one small thing, that soul - at one time, the most important thing in the world to someone, held through sickness and health, and cherished even as they grew old and faded as flowers will.

How many now, truly possess that which holds weight and value, something that when viewed, when held, lights up the eyes with the triumphs of all risks and renunciations. Or have we become a society of the easy and disposable, be it a product, a relationship, or worse, even a life?

As the sky begins to spit snow again, I hurry home, but not before lifting my closed eyes up to heaven, mouth open, catching flakes of snow on my tongue, a self-communion of one, as I say a blessed thanks for a long safe travel through life.
As I approach our house, the light dimming, I see the glow of the television sets in other homes, an unearthly artificial glow, as canned laughter seeps out of an open window. As I arrive home, climbing up the tired stairs unto the large porch, there is light inside from the wall sconces, rewired but decades old, bright as a spark, significant of human shelter and repose. As the key rattles in the door, there is a soft woof of an old Rescue Lab, her grey muzzle snooting me happily as I enter the house

A burglar casing the place would look through the front window and shake their head, seeing little for which they would give value. I look inside and see the riches of a strong house that shelters me with vigilant accord. It has stood for a hundred years, with an air of history and invincible possession, which will remain, long after I am gone.

I set my keys near the Victrola and my husband's Fedora.  As he calls out a greeting from the kitchen, I pat Abby the Lab on the head, looking at the small precious things that have been rescued and now live here, grateful for eyes that finally learned to see.
 - L.B. Johnson

Monday, February 19, 2018

A Pet's Dictionary

Abby Lab here.  Mom says I know quite a few words since I came to live with Mom and Dad 4 years ago, but I know a LOT more than I let on, many that SHE doesn't know.  For the rest of you felines or canines - I'll clue you in here on some of them.

Barkroom -that small dark closet I go to when it thunders
Ballderdash -  a mad chase across the dog park to fetch the ball.
Floordrobe - that pile of clean clothes that makes the best place to nap when pulled off the bed
Slowbber- lazy drooling
Peticure - getting my nails trimmed
Hairaphernalia - all the grooming stuffs Mom has to keep me looking nice
Napcident - accidentally falling asleep while watching for squirrels
Overtoyed - being SO excited from all the new things to play with
Foodiness - when I sulk because you haven't fed me yet
Vettlement - what Mom ends up paying the vet after the pet insurance settles the claim
Fooditarian - the ability to eat anything that's found on the kitchen floor
Infilthtrate - when I come in the house with muddy paws
Toppleganger - knocking something breakable off the table with my tail
Peeography - mapping out the neighborhood one bush at a time
Incendairy - that time I got diarrhea from eating too much cheese
Naptivating -  something that just makes you want to sleep
Carioki - when I howl to the radio on a drive
Intoxicat - when someone's had a little too much catnip
Petrofried - what happens to me when there's big storms
Meanderthal - people that walk me too slow
Shoeberries -  The little decorative bits that are all that's left of your new shoes
Bathroam - following my Mom wherever she goes
Sockrifice - eating just one sock out of a pair
Peeoccuppied - not paying attention to Mom when I'm doing my business
Cattitude - you know what I'm talking about
Carpolepsy - being all excited about a "drive" then immediately going asleep
Phonundrum - barking at the doorbell when it's really Dad's phone
Mytopia - when the walk to the dog park is longer than it looks
Chillenged - Not wanting to go out and potty when it's 10 degrees out
Fartunate - what you are when someone else in the room gets blamed
Bathing Snoot - putting your cold nose to your owners backside as they get in the shower
Puffalope - a square puffy creature that comes through the slot in the door that's so fun to kill
Petrol - checking every corner of the yard for squirrels
Blamestorming - making it look like the cat did it
Toilert - when I bark because you get up at night to pee
Suppervise - when I have to watch every bite that goes in your mouth
Catsnip - getting Mittins neutered
Shedlines - when Mom realizes she needs to vacuum up the hair today
Abdicat - when you renounce all claims to be head of your kingdom when you get a feline
Travelsty - having to commute to the veterinarian
Nocra- not liking vegetables as "treats"
Mouse Potato - the cat that just sleeps all day
Fartland - a great open expanse of the couch that you suddenly have all to yourself.
Bonecall - something you just have to respond to
Askinine - when humans ask "do you want to go out?"
Stuffiecate- How you dispatch the plush squeaky toy before disemboweling it
Epoophany -  I will know the secret of life if you just let me out one more time
Interwet- when I knock Mom's coffee over on the keyboard with my nose
Treat and Great - saying hello to my pet sitter
Lawndry - pulling the clothes off the line is fun!
Reciprocat - taking the neighbor's "free kitten" because they took one of yours
Defence - what the neighbor put up to keep their dogs from getting loose
Affleasement - when I just have to give in to the urge to scratch
Furloin - if I keep licking myself there Mom will give me food to distract me
The Collar Store - where we go to get cheap pet toys
Toester - laying on Mom's feet to keep them warm
Catacombs - where the kitties go hide in the basement when it's time to go in the cat carrier