Monday, April 30, 2018

May Your Trails Be Crooked

LB here - After a wonderful couple of days off, my Monday was, as my late Mom would say, "interesting".

It was early morning.  I had to be in my expensive midnight blue "court suit" so I could perhaps help win one for the good guys today.  I'm not an attorney, but I get to do the expert witness thing, or forensic testimony every once in a while, usually looking around going "where!?" when someone calls for "Doctor Johnson" (I'm still a six-year-old playing grown up most days).

I stepped out into the drive to the truck where I'd left it. The air was calm, the east was still grey, but it will soon burst forth in crimson garb any moment, the sky suddenly red with the firing, the burst of sun, before it finally, after hours of heat and volley, marches back into the West, wearily but not defeated. Overhead I hear the sound, the sound, a winged formation of geese performing their own maneuvers in grey, laying the field for a retreat from winter. I stopped in the drive to look up and admire them, the precision, the form, the beauty. Honk Honk!
I thought, "wow, I wish I had my camera".

What I actually said was CAC!  (you may need to brush up on  your Gaelic).

I know a fair bit about blood spatter, such as the greater the height from which a drop falls, the more it will spray out in a star-like shape. Let me tell you, blood has NOTHING on goose crap from 50 feet.

The jacket was going to have to go to the cleaners, probably the pants as well. I had no choice but to change into my only other clean suit,  the "oh we are so going to lose" brown one.  I'm not saying it was ugly or out of date, but. . .
Suit notwithstanding, the rest of the day went OK so perhaps my misadventures this morning were an anomaly.  After work, I  looked forward to running a couple of errands and then getting home to a furry dog, a happy husband, and a large bottle of Single Malt.

One of those stops was the car wash to get rid of the goose spatter. The bat truck was ever so shiny as I pulled out onto the road.

Honk honk honk! No I hadn't cut anyone off.

SPLAT.

DamnĂș ort geese!

Days like these it's just best to go work out and get rid of some stress. I usually do 90 minutes with a personal trainer on Thursday, repeating the reps on my own on Saturday, but why not go to the gym tonight.
I made the mistake of foregoing my usual swimming and exercise bike and joining a new class that consisted of skinny soccer moms performing what I do believe was the dance scene to Saturday Night Fever to new age music.  I completed the class with all the fluidity and grace of a stepladder and crept back to my car, hoping no one got pictures.

The geese were nowhere in sight.

The last stop, the grocery store.  As I enter the store, I see an older gent with a beard and a cane having trouble with one of the powered cart. It looked like he'd had knee surgery, so I figured he was new to the carts.  I stopped and helped him, telling him I'd had to use one recently and then, with a conspiratorial wink said: "don't go too fast, they track your activities".
Apparently he took my "being in the know" seriously because the next thing I knew he was following me around the store happily chatting away about Elvis's current location and how the aliens abducted him last Fall while squirrel hunting and took him bowling on Mars.

I lost him in the Tampax aisle.

Quick! To the parking lot!

Honk! Oh good, I just cut someone off. There's the finger! Wave!

As I pulled back into that driveway, I realized I'd planned to bake a cake for a couple of LEO's who man the entrance at squirrel central.
But you know, as I headed inside to break out the cake pans, I thought to myself -no one ever said being a grown-up was easy. There's machines and body parts that break, usually resulting in more bills to add to the bills you already get just by existing. There's dealing with other people and man's general nature to evoke religion or politics to justify what their ego or glands insisted upon no matter the outcome. There are battles and defeat and then there is glory.

But isn't it better to get out there as you are, to take chances, to fight, then to sit home on the couch, living on the sweat of the taxpayer or simply your own inertia, until nothing is left of you but silent, sentient meat that knows not the difference between trial and triumph?
No, you get out there and try.  You may get help along the way, not by your government, but by those that know and support you. But you live. You do it when you have all the energy of youth and health, you do it when all that is left to you for now is the grooved habit to survive. You do it because this is all you really know that you have for sure, this place, these hearts, here now, today, goose poop and all

So for me, I'll get up, get out, get dirty, get bloody and occasionally make a complete fool out of myself. Then I will come home with a smile, for I have lived. Then I can simply sit with those two souls that share this house that love me and tell them everything (even if one of them looks at me like "Blah Blah ABBY, Blah Blah ABBY).
What were you saying Mom - it's time for another treat from chewy.com?

Sometimes being a grown-up is hard.  But as  I sit here, my furry pal by my side and my husband on the way home, even if late, I realize the rewards are worth it. - LBJ

Friday, April 27, 2018

Meet Beaux Tox - A Dog That Shows That It's Only a Heart that is Beautiful

Blogville is made up of animal lovers from all over the world.  We share in our joys, and we help each other heal with our losses.  Sometimes we meet someone new, unexpectedly and they quickly become part of our world.  Sometimes those souls are two-legged.  Sometimes they are four.

Such it was with Beaux, a purebred Labrador retriever who had been terribly neglected, left outside for years, without shelter or a bed, simply because he had been born looking a little different than his brothers and sisters.

He has been all over the news this last week, on the Today show, featured by People magazine and multiple major media channels.  When I read his story, I had to reach out to to the woman who rescued him to see what I could do to share his story, and her continued efforts to help other shelter dogs.

Read

It made me cry, sorry for the life he had previously and so happy for the life he has now. I was so touched by what the lady that rescued him, Jamie, did for him, investing not just dollars, but her heart, in getting him to a safe and happy place, a journey that involved almost losing him more than once.   Beaux is now happy and healthy, going from 42 pounds to 108 pounds of pure Labrador love and his mom is raising money to help OTHER pets in need. After chatting with her and learning more about what she does for a number of animals we were so happy to help.
For how can you resist this happy face.  Beaux loves wearing his handmade ties and "Beaux -Ties" as it makes him more approachable by people who quickly learn what a loving and happy soul he is.

Because the people that recognize that love is a heart and not your appearance are truly special. - L.B. Johnson.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Thankful Thursdays



By the end of the work week - things I have in common with a raccoon.

Dark circles under eyes.
Staying up all night.
Eating junk.
A little chubby.
Will fight you if provoked.
Possibly rabid.

So thankful tomorrow is Friday.

Joining

For Thankful Thursday.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Tuesday Eats - Ball Peen Hammer Cooking Tips



 Loose E!   You have some 'Splainin to Do!

 It just going to be one of those weeks.

Key issues with the blogging computer, a lot of squirrels on leave or out with a Spring "bug" that's going around. Plus, by the end of the day, I was seriously coming down with it as well and was running a fever when I got home.  At least the day started better.  For when everyone is a little down, bring in some goodies for the skeleton crew that is working.

Scooby Snacks.

Butterfinger cake. 

Bake your favorite devils food cake recipe or mix that will fix a 13 x 9 pan.  Poke holes in the top a couple inches apart with the end of a wooden spoon when still warm and pour a small jar of Smuckers butterscotch ice cream topping (thinned with 1 and 1/2  Tablespoons of cream so it's more pourable) over the top, spreading with a spatula so it fills up the holes. Whip up a pint of real whipped cream with a small box of sugar-free instant French vanilla pudding and 3 to 4 Tablespoons of milk to get the thickness you want and top with 3 regular sized butterfingers which you've whacked in their wrapper with a ball peen hammer, the remains scattered over the frosting.
It didn't last long. 

I think everyone was feeling better afterwards.

Monday, April 23, 2018

On Birthdays

Abby Lab here.  Mom is going to try and forget it (but for the cake) but she turns 60 this summer.

The picture above is a birthday cake Dad baked her for one of her last birthdays.  He was afraid of burning the house down with the correct amount of candles so he just used big plumbers candle.

Mom was born in the Chinese Year of the Dog, and so was Dad, but 24 years later.  When he had his birthday last month she said if he used the "old" word she would feed him McDonalds for a week.

She's actually in pretty good shape.  She started doing this military-style workout that involves weights, planks, squats, kickboxing and cursing in Norwegian.Dad's fine with how she looked before but she had this deep-seated fear of both elastic waist pants and being mistaken for a flying squirrel when wearing tank tops. .

But she does have her "moments".

So for Mom, who is feeling a little sluggish this Monday morning after a weekend that involved WAY too many party meatballs and wine, I'm sharing her thoughts on getting older.

1.   My goal for 2018 is to lose 10 pounds.  Only 15 to go.
2    I had a salad for dinner Satuday night!  Mostly croutons and tomatoes.  Really, just one big round crouton covered with tomato sauce.  And cheese.  FINE, it was a pizza  I ate a pizza
3.   How to prepare a healthy dinner
  a.   Put the vegetables back in the fridge
  b.   Start frying the bacon

4.    I just did a week's worth of cardio after walking into in a spider web.
5.    I tried the Weight Watchers diet. I did great and ate exactly my 24 points.  The only problem was it was only 10 am in the morning.
6.    A recent study has found women who carry a little extra weight live longer than men who mention it.
7.    Kids today don't know how easy they have it. When I was young, I had to walk 9 feet through shag carpet to change the TV channel.
8.    Remember back when we were kids and every time there was a foot of snow they would cancel school. Nah, me either.
9.    I may not be that athletic or funny or beautiful or talented.  I forgot where I was going with this.
10.  I'll love being 60.  I'll learn something new every day from the stuff I forgot.

11.  My parties don't wake up the dog, let alone the neighbors.
12.  I've pulled a muscle putting on a sock
13.  Phone calls after 9 p.m. upset me
12.  People call me spry and I'm not offended.
13.  I don't have hot flashes.  I have short, private vacations to the tropics
14.  I was finally asked to appear topless on film - time for the mammogram!
15.  I'm becoming more reflective as I get older.  I ask myself - what is life? - what is happines?  How many pints of Healthy Choice ice cream can I eat before it's no longer a healthy choice?
16.  I can sell my childhood toys on eBay for a small fortune.
17.   I've learned there is absolutely no good reason to act your age.
18.   I'm still younger than Mick Jagger

Friday, April 20, 2018

Getting Skunked Stinks

On my drive into work today, a little after 5:30 a.m. there's one stretch I go through that's two lanes each direction that goes through a large park area.

This morning I noted a late model VW bug that was apparently disabled and had pulled onto the grass edge of the road so not to block traffic.  It's quite dark and muddy out there, not the best place to break down.

There were two gentlemen bent down over the engine as I approached, working away.

In my headlights I saw two skunks lumbering quickly towards them, to see what the noise was about I guess.

The men would not see them coming, and I was not in a position to stop as I had someone on my bumper doing 40 mph.

Somehow I do NOT think that ended well.


LB

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Sun is Mirrored Even in a Coffee Spoon - On Grief

We shall deal here with humble things, things not usually granted earnest consideration, or at least not valued for their historical import. But no more in history than in painting is it the impressiveness of the subject that matters. The sun is mirrored even in a coffee spoon. . . .modest things of daily life, they accumulate into forces acting upon whoever moves within the orbit of our civilization
.— Sigfried Giedion, Mechanization Takes Command (1948)

This winter, and even into spring saw storms that had the city and most of the surrounding small towns come to a grinding halt.  Wind chills in the minus 20's and heavy, drifting and blowing snow resulted in a suspension of travel within parts of the city except for emergency vehicles and those seeking shelter. Out in the small towns, there was little movement, but there are those hardy souls that won't let frostbite and politicians tell them what to do.

We have another round forecast today and I have the blinds and what curtains we have, closed against the cold. Since the house is atop a walkout basement with windows above the ground level,  the huge windows on the south side of the house that look out onto the Spruce trees only have some antique lace, making for a lovely view but not maintaining the home's warmth.  Even with the little heater next to the desk, the chill eddy of cold licks in at my skin, as I go to get a warmer sweater and some thicker wool socks.

One needs to be prepared for such things. A few days ago it was in the upper 50's, before plunging again, another sleight of hand from the greatest of magicians, Mother Nature; Machiavellians stroke on the part of that foe, a new battle towards which it channels ancient wounds, inflicting its grievance upon the land. It will likely arrive to do battle when you least expect it when the prolonged blow of the dark and ice sinks through the skull and lays its claim deep on the bones of the winter landscape. It will not be a day and night safe for man nor beast.
Other than the sound of my husband puttering in the basement as he took a vacation today to do some home repairs, it's intensely quiet. No birds, no clattering of cars starting up. Just the sound of  the incessant wind, a  long, broad hum, as if through wires. There is little noise or movement, but the whine of a piece of shop equipment, maybe a half block away, the sound sticking to the cold air as if snow on a branch. Then the sound of a bell, a wedding that was scheduled this day in the corner church.

It's funny, I'm perfectly fine holing up at home for days with nothing but books, a kitchen, and some tools.  But tell me I can't drive to the store or run to the library, and I suddenly get cabin fever, peering out the window every so often, like a bird from a cage that fidgets with feathered annoyance.
I also noticed something else, something a little nicer.  My knee does not hurt.  After the fall that tore out my meniscus and the resultant surgery and physical therapy, my knee hurt, even years later.  After six months, it was bearable but always there, a twinge,  much worse in cold weather.  Now, six years post-injury, after adopting a serious military-style weight/boxing/cardio program,  I sit here and realize, it doesn't hurt.

It's not the pain that bothered me, I've dealt with pain.  It was being unable to run, to jump, to MOVE, quickly and without effort. It was crutches, then a cane, then just walking with a bit of a limp when the air pressure dropped and it ached.  It was sliding back in time, back to when I wasn't confident in my physical abilities when I was just a skinny, quiet little kid who was picked last for dodgeball, because frankly, I'd rather be inside reading a book that the teacher would think was inappropriate for someone my age.

It wasn't the pain, it wasn't an injury hat in the grand scheme of things, wasn't very serious.  I realized at this point that what is dire profundity to the very young, is usually just "been there done that" to those of us in middle age, which is still preferable to the six-foot deep and eighteen-foot square reality that faces us all eventually.
No,  it wasn't torn and missing cartilaginous tissue and the wobbly feeling I had every time I tried to use that leg.  It was losing a foothold I'd stretched so far and so hard for. It was realizing that we treat our bodies with a sense of entitlement we may eschew in other things as if breath was some plaything given to us just for our own pleasure. I look down on the small scars as if speaking to them. You will let me run, you will let me climb, you will let me explore and make mistakes and play. Now I can't walk up a flight of stairs. When our body fails us, it's like a personal betrayal

It's much as if seeing a beloved old building each and every day, an old church perhaps, the stones so study that time had not displaced it, could not ever displace it, not all of time could have.  Then one day you drive on past and it's simply gone, razed and replaced by a shabbily built storefront that won't withstand a good wind.
I sat here in this spot, six years ago, during another storm, crutches up against the wall, the curtains drawn, as the pain in my body drove for an instant upon me, the thorns of slain flowers.  On that day, I wished to be anywhere but sitting in intense pain. The sky was spilling snow, the only light there was laying low to the ground as if held down by the wind itself, unable to rise and move away. It was a day in which I could only sit immobile as the wind howled, dreaming in an Arctic landscape of a sea that never freezes and a landscape that is forever green.

It's easy to throw a pity party, and I was on the verge on that day I realized I was in a motorized scooter in WalMart, one place I swore I would never be.  But in that same moment, as Partner in Grime smiled down at me, his having been with me without fail since I got hurt, canceling his whole Christmas to get me home and tend to me, I realized all that I had. I also realized that putting the small end of the crutch out in front of me like a knight's lance, I could knock the Billy Bass out of the cart of the guy with no teeth.  Oh, sorry, accident, really. SCORE!
I am who I am through hurt and pain and failures and because of them.

Because of that, I know what is important. And that is all the endurance of which mind is capable, of which the flesh has an appetite for. That has kept me going on nights when all I could do was sit and hold a small faded photo, eyes, tightly shut, as if the light was diminished by its own grief, leaving only a lone huddled shadow upon the wall, pale and fading. That has kept me going when fate swiped a paw at me and I swiped back, harder, EPR's steady, left hand tight on the yoke, planting that aircraft on a piece of hard ground as small as my fear.
I get up from my chair and open the curtains up.  I'll have a higher heat bill, but for now, I want to look out, and up.  I look at the sun I've not seen in two days as the fierce wind hollowed the remaining light out of the sky, the light now holding a quality beyond heat and illumination.   In the distance the sound of a church bell, a deliberate note blowing free, like snow from a winter branch. Somewhere within, a priest lifts the Host in a series of shimmering gleams like warm rain that falls from the sky as vows are spoken, and what is broken is healed.
 - L.B. Johnson (in memory of Jessie, Sarge, and Molly, who we knew so well).

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Gotcha Daze

May 15th is Abby's 4th Gotcha Day.  Hard to believe.  The above photo was one that I came across this morning. THAT is the look of a dog that spent 5 months skinny, sick, and scared sleeping on a cold floor at a high kill shelter (that was actually shut down it was so bad) and then gets a nice surprise.

Her first encounter with her very own poofy and soft Orvis bed at my little townhouse in Indy.

 She stayed with me for a couple of weeks at my crash pad when I first got her to get her used to a new "Mom" after foster.  Then I took her up to Chicago to see her permanent home (my husband drove down the second weekend to meet her).

You can't see her tail in the photo it's so hypersonic!

May we have many more to celebrate sweet Abby.

Monday, April 16, 2018

On Perspective - The Value of Sparrows


Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing?
 and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.
  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
 Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.
Matthew 10:29

Snow covers the ground, here so early on a late Spring morning.  The neighborhood is quiet, no one leaving for work quite yet, no tracks in the snow, but for an early morning taxi, one of the neighbors likely headed to O'Hare.

You think the snow is done for the year with May halfway here.  Then two weeks later, there it is again.  There's a lot of life like that.  You get through one big adventure, thinking, that will be the best one yet, only to have another, even better down the road.  Or you suffer hardship and loss and think "that's it, Lord, I can't handle any more of this" only to have your words catch in your throat with the tears as life swats at you with its clawed paw yet again. Then there are the moments when danger is all around, and you are pretty sure you are already dead but pretend to be alive for those around you who do not see that you are only a pile of ashes and dust, only to fly past the red line into the rising sun as your co-pilot states "Well Skipper, THAT was hardly "light turbulence" was it?" and you both laugh. I miss the flying, I don't miss the nights in hotels in beds that were never soft enough, or warm enough, yet are always big enough to remind you that you are alone.
Out in the driveway sits an 11-year-old Truck.  A lot of people ask why I don't buy a new one.   I can afford it, yet I don't see the point in making a car payment when I have wheels that get me where I want to go, with just enough rust, that carjackers look on it with derision. But good, gently used trucks are hard to find in Chicago, where the salt takes its toll, on anyone not willing to wait at the car wash every single week and the potholes often have their own potholes.  My truck has been mostly garaged since purchasing from a dealer well south of here, and overall I'd have a hard time finding one as reliable.

Plus nothing says "Yield" like a redhead woman driving a giant black extended cab  4 x 4  with Browning and American flag stickers on the back window in Chicagoland traffic.

It's going to get some use this week.  As you already know, my husband, "Partner in Grime", got in an accident at a notoriously bad corner in our village last week  No one was hurt, and no one was cited, it is a blind spot that has claimed more than one fender.  But the local auto repair place is backed up and it will be a week or so until it is done.
I guess I'll be teleworking or taking some leave so he has wheels to go to work.  Best laid plans of mice and men, they say but it beats paying for a rental car.

When bad things happen, how we survive them is really how we look at it  Some people look at every slight, every setback as if looking into a dark forest that is more than gloom but an actual menacing hostility. With the slightest rustle, they are ready to scream, in fear or for help.  I look into the forest and see, sometimes, danger, sometimes challenges, but ultimately a silent journey that will have me leave it for the next clearing, stronger, with a better-defined purpose of what the plan is for my life.  In such moments, you don't look down at the scars, but simply embrace the joy that comes with both reckoning and recognition of finding your path.
The snow is being replaced by sleet now.  If I'm going to go get some more seed and food out for the critters now would be the time.  No matter the weather, when it's winter and the ground is frozen, they know I will come. They don't see me when I'm inside, they don't know from where I came, they just know I am a presence that will tend to them, even if it's burying a still form out in the garden when time catches up with them. For just as sparrows do not worry they also do fall to the ground.

As I went out, the stillness was the first thing I sensed, then the brilliance of the ice that had struck the ground, only to hold on fast for dear life, lest warming come.  It shone with a brilliance that is newly blown glass as if the slightest shift in the air would shatter it to pieces.  Above it the sudden glint of the sun through the clouds, there for that moment as if enchanted into staying by the mysterious spell that is a snow-swept landscape. Some people don't like the cold brightness of snow, seeing it as cold brutality as opposed to a cleansing brightness.  I love the snow, yet I understand how others view it, knowing too well the peace that a warm night can bring to a day weary soul.
From the nearest tree, a squirrel peers from the branches.  I don't get too close, as rabies in the species is common but there are a couple of the older red squirrels that are so used to me, they will come out of the shadows and greet me when they hear the rustle of the peanut bag. They're not pets, they are wild things, even if I've named a few that live among our 100-year-old Spruces, including Bubba the world's fattest Robin, who I can't see, though he is likely nearby. Such is the nature of wild things and wild dreams, which when viewed, summon our wish for constancy, but when out of sight, seems so elusive and illusionary, they appear less like dreams and more like ghosts that now live in another dimension.
I scatter some peanuts and some sunflower seeds, making sure the feeders and suet corral are full and return to the house.  In my wake, small winged forms hop happily into the bounty even as I shut the door to the house as the wind blows the snow into intricate patterns like some ancient hieroglyph that only God can read.

Then, it was time for one last errand, before I handed over my keys for the week.  The sirens were the first things I heard beyond the scrape of a snow plow and the honk of a horn as cars positioned for first place on a street slick with sleet.  Up ahead, a cluster of red and blue lights and an ambulance that was waiting too far away from the actual crash to bring thoughts of comfort.  First responders were tending to the uninjured, standing on the sidewalk, while the roof was cut off from what used to be a small car to extract the soul that had been there.
There was no going forward, there was no turning around, at least yet.  I could only sit and watch the scene thinking of time, of forest creatures and blazing suns, pondering actions and dreams, the sound of tears and the wet warmth of laughter, and the bright red agony that is a loss beyond control. I see the faces of those that for at least for a little while I have outlived, and I touch a coat on the seat that still bears the woodsy scent of that last person who wore it.

As I turned and headed back home, the errand being one I could put off for a couple of days, I realized that I had no reason to grumble that I have to share my vehicle or any costs out of pocket for the repair.  Partner had only a crumbled fender as a result of his lousy morning last week, and fenders can be fixed. I looked up to the sun, now in hiding, and said a quiet thanks to He who watches over, not just the birds of his field, but his fledgling, forgiven children. - L.B. Johnson

Saturday, April 14, 2018

DIY Walkies

Mom, Dad, you know it's like 2 hours past Walkies Hour?  See my unhappy face?  What's the hold up?
Oh, I SEE, Dad gets homemade biscuits and bacon gravy 
Sure, I got some bacon but I did NOT get a walk.
 Sure, butter me up with pets, like that will work.
OK, it's working.
What's this?  Dad made me a new leash out of paracord. My old one was getting kind of faded and grungy.  U of I colors.  Thanks, Dad! 
 The coat is on  - that's a good sign.
 While we're young Dad!
 Come ON already.
I like my collar, it will pull snug if I try and escape it but it's not scratchy or tight.
Oh boy, walkies!
Off we go!