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  I'm not saying it was ugly or out of date, but.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.


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

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

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Two-Legged or Four - Why We Adopt

When I was out at Dad's on the last visit we went through some paperwork in his safety deposit box, as he's readying his affairs, realizing he probably won't be with us much longer.  Most of everything is in a trust for my late brother's children, as he just left them a lot of debt when he died.  With Dad's expenses, there's not much remaining, though, just a small house and some memories, those remembrances for which we are so grateful.  One of the items he gave me was the original of my birth certificate, sent to them a year after I was actually born, the names on it, his and Mom's, as they had just adopted me. Their only child deceased, they adopted my brother and me and gave us their name, the four of us joined together in a bond that obliterated a painful past in which we had only been a small, unwilling participant.

There is much history in that piece of paper. For I was born to an unwed mother prior to such generation in which raising a child as single woman, was not something to be ashamed of.  
So, through timing, fate, or circumstance - however you look at it, I am the product of adoption, as is my child.  This is our story, this may be yours.
You're almost Sixteen,  soon to have a license to freedom in your pocket, the chrome polished chariot to your future sitting in the driveway in the form of an ancient Volkswagen Beetle. Sixteen, a mile marker for some, for you anyway, old enough to drive, time stolen through pale fences that line the roads as you rush towards your future. 

There's a boy in the Cello section of the orchestra that you like, but he's always hovering around the delicate, blond flowers of the flute section. You are part of the posse of math and science geeks that occupy the wind and brass section that plays with the orchestra one day a week. But there, you are with friends, armed only with overbites, wit and lung capacity, as you sit outside of the strings and the flutes, moving clumsily around like bespectacled bumblebees among the flowers.

There's a dance coming up, a Sadie Hawkins one, in which the girls ask the boys. Your Dad will have to drive you but it's almost like a real date.  With hopeful eyes, you bumble over and ask him to go with you. The blond next to him looks at you with a withering giggle. He says "uh. . I'll call you later" with an expression that is not so much a smile as a dismissal. But you are too young and naive to see anything but the smile.

You rush home, anticipation lingering around you, waiting to be breathed in and let loose in a sudden exhale as you rush to your room to wait. You will sit there in your room in silence for hours as the family eats without you, as dinner dishes are put away, and the room grows cold, your breath vaporizing in the growing dark.

Waiting for that phone to ring.
You're 18, in college, trying to be grown up, as you took your first summer class there at age 14, when you were still a child. But you are a child who is now carrying a child. The older guy who swept you off your feet and took what can't be replaced was gone with that call from the doctor. Everyone says it's your body, your choice. You may have been naive, but you are grown up enough to know that your choice was when you gave yourself to someone outside of marriage.  THAT was your choice, not the taking of this innocent life.

You remember the night she was born, ten pounds, six ounces, after 34 hours in labor, her head crowning, her body bursting forth onto the sweat and blood soaked sheet. You remember only getting to hold her once, for just a moment before she is handed over, in your pain, to her adoptive parents, incredulous of her soft hair, perfect fingers, smelling of the womb, of warmth, of love. She looked at you with a peripheral glance, while you uttered the name you would give her and the words you were not able to say again for years, for in fear of their utterance, the object of those words would be lost to you. I love you, don't forget me. 

You bring nothing home from the hospital, even as you left something there, not a baby, but something you could have lived your entire life with, without ever having known it was inside of you.
It's an open adoption, you know where she is, and with who, but your word is your honor and you promised not to get close. She has the option to contact you if she wishes when she turns of age, but if she doesn't? That, as they say, is that. You gave your word, you will respect. There is nothing to do now but back to your life and try not and notice that when you stop to think if she is safe from harm, your breath catches as if there is no air, and you are going to have to learn to either not worry about her every moment or live without breathing.

So it is as if she fixed in that moment, forever an infant, the walls of that hospital, the door to that room, fleeing away, leaving just her image, immobilized within a tear, inviolate in innocence, forever safe from harm and alteration.

It's the only way you can sleep at night, as for the next 18 years you wait for that phone to ring.
You get through, as best you can, with family, and a dog. A rescue, a runaway, soon to break your heart, that Husky. He was fiercely independent, living the life that philosophers and knights are known to do. You are pretty certain he was purebred, an incredibly beautiful dog, one that probably set someone back a few dollars. But all that mattered was he was lost, no tag, and you tried your best to give him a home.

But huskies are born to run, and with them, they will take your heart. But you are determined to ensure he wouldn't be lost again; getting him vaccinated and tagged, with good food to eat, and a warm bed to sleep in. He spent the next month trying the escape the prison that he viewed his home and your ministrations. Even with long bike rides, and a big yard, he was determined to escape.  He'd dig under the fence, climb over it.  He was good with the family, he behaved well inside the house but he was forever a compass between the far horizon and your affection, both implacable.

You try the big pet store dog training, you tried pleading and tears, which works neither on men or dogs and for good reason.  You tried walking him morning, noon and night. Finally, one day, he got out past your legs at the front door and ran and ran, not looking back. All you could do was put up fliers and worry.

Waiting for that phone to ring

He was found, and returned safely.  You would have asked him why if you could, were you not a good "Mom"?  Was he searching for the home he was lost from? All you got back was an inarticulate gaze, behind which could be either sadness or yearning, though he never let either show.  You'd give him all the exercise you could, so he wouldn't run away.  But it wasn't as if he was exhausted. He simply surrendered, as if he'd given over and released completely that grip upon the horizon that called, if only for now. It was a relinquishment that in some souls would mean death, but for this dog, was simply a deep, soft sigh and a longing gaze out of a window as he rests his head on your arm.

You do what you can to keep him happy and safe the rest of his life, but tell yourself you're not going to get another rescue dog after he's gone.  Or any dog, you can do all right all by yourself
You're in your late 30's, happily playing kerosene warrior, loading up a transport plane, simply getting ready for your responsibilities that night, the four bars on your shoulders a reminder of your duties. You don't know if it was pain or illusion that drove you to the skies, leaving broken hearth and home for that greed of adventures that flutters out there somewhere beyond. You don't look inward too closely, being more focused on what is outside, for what is there behind the darkness is more final than simply the loss of one's illusions.

You're all aware of it and one night, while waiting for the fuel guy when we get word a plane is down, Isn't that the one that John? . . .

You pause for the rest of the words, there in that moment before the sun plunges into the edge of the earth, the shapes and forms of aircraft fixed by that already fading explosion. But you can't stop what we're doing, each of you has one ear tuned to the task, men moving and working, shadows on the wall, not of flesh and blood, which is so fragile, but shadows of enduring hope and will, quiet as the murmur of  your breath as you work, one ear still listening.

Waiting for that phone to ring.
You're all grown now, still logging those miles on the road, still checking in with your Dad when you arrive at your hotel when you travel, for though you're grown up, he's seen his 90th birthday and he worries, especially now that his days grow short. The phone lays silent on the seat of the car as you head out, the thump of the tires on the pavement tapping out a Morse code that is unheard, the wheels pulling you further away from everything you have counted on and closer towards the unknown.

The thump of the tires takes you back to those days on the back of a motorcycle, riding with your brother. You think of him, his arms strong in command of that bike, his hands calloused but delicate as he tended to your father all these years. You think back to your last night together, sitting out on the deck, birds twittering above as they built nests for their young, their sounds that of the chirp of a clock, counting off each and every second of Spring. You could not imagine him so sick, even as you can't imagine him not being here now, talking to you each night, the cell phone silent in your pocket.
The house is so empty now, with him gone, your furry best friend gone as well, the two of them quitting this earth just a few weeks of each other. No regrets for that dog, that time, for you realized how alone you really were and added a purebred lab puppy to your life. You ponder a puppy again, a clean slate to start with a new friend, fresh starts, no scars, no history. But you also ponder adoption, a rescue animal, one that needs sheltering as much as your heart does, one that will take more work, more trust. You said you never would, but hitting five-oh, you realized that life is a risk, never a possession. You fill out all of the paperwork and you wait, there with a picture of a fuzzy older black lab mix saved to your computer, wondering if she was already adopted, praying they would call.

But it was time for other thoughts as you're nearing your destination, the blue and red lights guiding you to where you are called. For now, you can't think of the future, you can only drive through avatars that mark the accumulation of tears

Waiting for that phone to ring.
You are here, this moment, now, laying in bed. You shut your eyes, laying your hands flat against the cool sheets, trying to will yourself to sleep so early, going on call at midnight. You remember what your martial arts instructor told you about breathing, how you enter the true home of your spirit with each intake of breath, each exhalation, actions as old as time, a rhythm that is both life and death.

On the nightstand are two phones, your personal one and the one that tethers you to duty. You never know when that one will ring, a call signaling the exorbitant burden that is nature, fate or someone's personal jihad.  Tonight, you somehow expect it to go off, thinking of swinging out of bed and grabbing the bag, jumping into the truck. Gear in the back, teetering as if to fall, you accelerate too fast, the high beams blinding more than illuminating as they cut through fog that coils in the lows in the road like a snake.

You do this, as the world sleeps, in that state of blessed forgetfulness in which the most fragile of senses can slumber, free from the godless dark intents of man and nature. You go because it is what you do, as much as who you are.
But tonight, the thought of that drive already exhausts you, even as you can't get to sleep. You look to the clock, wondering what time it is where your husband is at, a mission for him that's as much a part of love of what one does, as duty, something you so understand. You wish he wasn't flying right now, burying the worry under the Kevlar exterior, but it's what he does, as much as who he is.

He'll call when he gets into his hotel, so you know he's safe. You will smile, and you will both laugh, happy to be connected again. Till then, you lay in the embrace of the sheets, all the thoughts of what is going on in the world tickling your senses like electricity, a flicker of current before darkness.
On a shelf are photos, a boy, and a little girl in the lap of the man that chose to be their Dad, having a snack of apples as he reads to them.  There's another picture of those children, in motorcycle leathers, years later, in front of a couple of Valkyries in his driveway. There's an old picture of a group of pilots, all friends, all intact, even after a scare or two.  There's a photo of someone holding a musical instrument, not the silly high school crush, but a person of substance and honor, who, through time and the tears that come from suspect choices, was always there for you, softly touching your scars while bearing your history.

Among the photos on the nightstand is one of a little girl, with eyes the color of a storm-tossed sea, shaped just like yours and just like her mothers.  There's photo after photo of a young redheaded girl, all of those many years that you missed, a dance outfit, a soccer game, a graduation, there in scraps of memory you can now safely hold and breathe in. All you have is the photo to show for those years you simply waited in silence, in stone.
Below that is a photo of a senior black rescue dog, taken by her Foster Mom. Abby is her name and you've completed the paperwork, this Spring day in 2014 to adopt her. You glance at all of the pictures and smile, breathing deep as you drift off to sleep.

Somewhere out there trouble may stir, shadows may rouse themselves from sleep. But somewhere far above and far away, someone slumbers aloft, their breath, in and out, a rhythm which not the mind, but the heart, marks and calls the measure for. Somewhere far away, your child and her children sleep safely in their beds, as safe as a scared teenager, turned protector of those that have no voice, could make them.

The clock ticks off one more notch of breath as you lay in that big bed in a quiet room, a too-long empty dog bed laying in the corner.

Waiting for the phone to ring.

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.


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.


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

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Sunday Black and White - Dogs at Work

But why can't I go to "work" with you?

I can eat all the food that everyone forgets in the back of the lunchroom fridge

I can bark at people from the guard shack that I don't recognize

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

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

I can do undercover investigations.
I 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"
I can "think outside the box"

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

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

I can be part of trials and hearings.

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

You can get rid of the shredder

You need more work space?  I can re-negotiate your leash

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

Squirrel interrogatories!

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.


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!