Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Barkley Memories - Road Trip!

Winter 2013. It was time for the weekly commute to work, a several hour drive in the usual heavy truck traffic. I left early, to get here before dark, but with what was left of an accident closing all but one lane, it took over four hours.

I'd driven this route for a couple years already while dating my now husband, no accidents and no tickets.  The secret is -

(1) drive a vehicle with an engine that sucks fuel like a CF700 turbofan  engine
(2) don't break any traffic laws
(3) don't break them as bad as anyone driving around you.

#3 is easy.  Find the worst possible driver in the world (which is not hard to do on I-65) and when you spot him or her, stay back at their 8 or 4 o'clock position, whichever keeps them between the Highway Patrol on the median and you.

Or simply draft behind the trucks sharing the road responsibly until that smile and glazed look (brains!) in the eyes of the Dart Guy on the back of the truck creeps you out and you have to pass.
Barkley would with me, with a harness that assured in a sudden stop he couldn't turn into one of the Wallenda's.  It did, however, allow him JUST enough room to sit with his rear end on the seat and his front feet on the floor. 

You think I'm kidding, that was  how he sat at home when he wasn't napping.
When we finally got to the crash pad,  he would be all excited, RUNNING to the back door in the garage.  Then he realized, this was the small place, with no "Dad", with less toys per square foot, no squirrels to bark at and his pretty friend who took him to the dog park when I worked wouldn't be here until the morning.

And the sulk began.

No one can sulk like a lab.
At least he didn't have to go on call at midnight like some people.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

I'm Not Fat I'm Fluffy Banana Bread

I was up early to bake before it got hot out. I've been tweaking a banana bread recipe to make it (1) really low sodium < 20 mg per slice and (2) a super light fluffy texture with a crisp exterior, instead of the standard denser throughout banana bread. It took a couple of tries but this is a keeper, tasty, and moist with a wonderful light texture. I used goat milk butter and sour cream and Bob's Red Mill organic unbleached flour.

I’m Not Fat I’m Fluffy Banana Bread
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter softened 
1 cup white sugar. 
2 eggs 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 teaspoon lemon juice 
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (210 grams - weighing really helps) 
1 teaspoon EnerG baking soda substitute
1 ½ teaspoons Hain Sodium Free baking powder (if using regular baking powder decrease to 1 tsp)
½ teaspoon Morton salt substitute 
½ cup sour cream 
2-3 medium-sized ripe (just starting to spot/darken) bananas, mashed well (1 cup total which was 2 and 1/2 bananas) 
A couple pinches of cardamom

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 C.). Spray a 9x5-inch loaf pan with non-stick spray or lightly grease it with unsalted butter. 

 Cream the sugar and butter together in a large bowl with a hand mixer until fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla, and lemon juice and mix well on low/medium speed.

 Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cardamom in a separate bowl and stir into the butter mixture until smooth. Fold in mashed banana and sour cream til blended.

 Bake in preheated oven until a thin knife inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool loaf in the pan for 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

A Barkley Memory - An Attempt Was Made to Breach the Perimeter

Another stuffie makes the attempt to breach the perimeter and it doesn't end well. Barkley with G-Dog - her pal and co-conspirator.

Friday, May 5, 2023

Scene of the Crime

Me:  "What happened here!?"
Lorelei - "I thought they said "PupTarts".
"What do you have to say for yourself?"
Lorelei: "I like Toaster Poodle better."

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Quick - call the K-9 unit!

This is what it's like at our house. Every time the neighbor comes home from the store or the grandkids', the same kind neighbor we've had forever, Lorelei has to sound the alert.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Love and Hope - a Journey Through Alzheimers

Do you ever wake up and not know where you are?  If you've traveled a lot on business, you know the feeling. But to wake and not know who you are, that would be a terrible thing to behold.

My stepmom married my Dad two years after my Mom died.  He grieved for my Mom terribly, but he was still a relatively young man, and lonely. She was a widow with three grown kids. They were set up on a blind date by a female friend of my Dad's.

She was always a bundle of energy, 5 feet nothing and 95 pounds of whirlwind motion, laughter and care.  An expert seamstress, she joined a group of ladies from the church who handcrafted stuffed teddy bears to give to kids being brought into the trauma unit at the hospital.  I've written of them before, the ladies making the bears from scratch with clothing and accessories, all unique, cowboy bears, farmer bears, made with love, and all at their own expense. 

I remember one story of a trip the ladies made to the hospital with the newest batch of bears. While they were there, a very elderly man was brought in, muttering in pain and confusion, hurting and alone.  His eyes lit up at the bears and he asked to hold one. She gave him one and he hugged it to him, like a little child would, talking to it, breathing deeply of the comfort of soft fur. The ladies let him keep it, a small bit of peace for someone lost and alone.

She had her little moments of forgetfulness, like any aging person, but a previously diagnosed cancer was in remission and she was doing really well, still active in church and in volunteering, taking dance classes, and working in the garden.  But one morning, a few months later, she came into the kitchen and sat down, looked at me and I realized she did not have a clue as to who I was.

What struck me, was not that, but the look on her face as she realized this, realized she should know. I obviously wasn't a burglar or a neighbor over for coffee, I was a girl with red hair like everyone else in the family, wearing a fuzzy robe that she herself had washed and put in the guest closet the night before.  I will never forget the look of her at that moment. It was the most starkly exposed face I'd ever seen, a face in which unknown terrors haunted the edges; the face of a fledgling dove about to tumble from the nest.

It came into our lives quickly, one moment she was laughing, engaging in board games and puns with us, her face bright, her wit razor sharp. Then came those moments where everything just went sort of dim. The doctor only confirmed what Dad had suspected and kept from us for some months until he knew for sure.  Alzheimer's.

It's a terrible disease for all involved. We read what we could about it, we planned as a family and we prayed.  There really wasn't more we could do.

As the next year and a half passed, there were a  few moments she was quite lucid, and happy. But those were the hardest for all of us, for in those brief moments she was fully aware that her mind was going, what was happening to her, and how helpless she was to do anything about it.

The disease's progression is as predictable as its course is certain.  Mood swings and aggression, words that made no sense, dropping to the floor like marbles, tears as she tried to mentally gather them up, anger at the very air around her. She always was gentle with my Dad though. Only with him would she remain calm, the reasoning that was blind and deaf somehow responding to something in him that her mind could still see.  Dad cared for her at home, no matter how bad it got.   We arranged for a home health aide to come in and lend a hand a few hours a week but he refused to let anyone else care for "his girl" or to send her to skilled nursing care. When she passed, it was quite sudden, after she contracted pneumonia. From her sudden coughing to her collapse, was just days.

Sometimes when you get to the far edge, the edge just breaks away.

We laid her to rest on a tree-covered hilltop. We visit, we bring flowers, we hug and shed some tears, neither of us immune to having our hearts broken.  Then we smile through the tears, sharing their stories as we make the long trip home to photos and a little stuffed bear wearing the colors of the flag.

Would she have lived her life differently had she known her fate ahead of time? Perhaps not. Perhaps, in essence, she did, her mother dying of the same disease, as she and my Dad courted. 

She lived life to the hilt, a wheel in motion, racing downhill, a light against the darkness, the whir of a needle into the soft fabric. I have a picture of she and my Dad on their first date, and you could see something in their smiles that would be lost on so many people.  Love is a story that tells itself.

I woke up the other morning abruptly, the glaring ringtone of the bat phone waking me with a message just after I'd fallen asleep.  For a moment, I did not know where I was at. The small room was cold, with no sound of a dog checking on me as I came awake.  I was in a hotel room, traveling in the previous day when duty called.  My heart was pounding as that particular ring will do that to me, the surge of adrenalin. There would be no going back to sleep.

But I was aware, of every tick of the clock, of the feel of my skin, missing the soft panting of doggie breath waiting to see if I was going to get up and leave or go back to sleep.  I was so blissfully aware, of these moments, these sounds. It was a new day, and even if tired and cranky, I'd leap right in, like a deer into the brush, feeling no thorns.

So I go, and so I watch, finding sense in the senseless, finding my purpose even as sparrows fall to earth. People watching from a distance would think me too quiet, too still, shouldn't this activity be a frenzy of lights and motion, like on TV?  But there is a great activity in being the quiet observer, standing in a stillness that smells of silence,  breathing in so many scents in damp cold air. Sweat, blood, and a flower that only blooms in the dark, the wind so scant it's like breath on a mirror. Each smell blended yet distinct, always overlayed with the copper tang of life spilled. The air hums along to the night's quiet as all I see, smell, and feel, forms into a substance I can almost feel on my flesh, capturing it, recording it there in the stillness. The truth is often still, inarticulate, not knowing it is the truth.

When I get home again, I'll once again see that photo of them on that first date, the feelings there so sudden and so very unexpected, incapable of being formed into sound. I'll look at another photo, the last one we have of her where she was completely with us, a laughing woman on my deck in the Indiana summer, her movements that of a bird, free and spirited. There is no fear in her, in that memory, even as the picture lies silent. But there is hope.

Those last days with her were difficult, but they taught me a lot.  Not just visible confirmation of what my Dad was truly made of, but that words aren't necessary to define what you believe, that nestled in the strong crook of an arm of the one who understands you without words, you know exactly who you are.  Even when she didn't know who I was, she taught me about not being limited by fear but going forward with hope, even if the future is not articulated.

Home and love, love and desire, can be what propels us silently onward.  Hope and love, love and desire, can also merely sound, that people who have never hoped or loved or desired have for what they never possessed, and will not until such time as they forget the words. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Especially If It's the Sunny Spot

 "If you want the best seat in the house - you'll have to move the dog" - Unknown

Monday, April 3, 2023

On Getting Older

My husband just had a birthday - he passed the age 40 mark.  I reminded him any comments about getting old would involve dog houses and kibble for dinner, as I turn 65 this summer.  But all in all, I feel really good - except when the weather changes and "Accu-Knee" forecasting kicks in.  So for this Monday - some thoughts on getting older.  
1.   My goal for 2023 is to lose 10 pounds.  Only 15 to go.
2    I had a salad for dinner Saturday 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 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 65.  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 happiness?  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

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Lab Testing - Flying Frisbees of Goodness

Lorelei Lab here - Mom made my favorite flying Frisbees this morning.  I don't get syrup on mine, but they are FUN to catch and eat.

This is the best recipe ever and makes the lightest, most aerodynamic Frisbees ever with the best texture as well as lift over drag ratio!

In one bowl mix:

1 cup plus 1 Tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons sugar

In a small bowl mix

1/2 cup goat yogurt mixed with goat milk to make 3/4 cup, using additional milk to add to the batter if it's too thick (Mom goes for a batter than's thicker than cake batter, but thinner than brownie batter)
Splash of vanilla (about 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon)
1 egg (at room temperature) or equivalent egg substitute.

Whisk wet ingredients together, and then SLOWLY stream in while whisking - 

1/4 cup melted butter or melted vegan butter substitute
Mix wet and dry ONLY until mixed (do not overmix) and cook on a griddle.   Don't make them too big to make them easier to flip.  Makes about 10 medium-sized pancakes.

Warning - Eating Too Many May Induce Flying Frisbee Coma.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

The Dogfather

"I was never here and you never saw what
 happened to Mr. Duck.  Capiche?"

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Suspense Novels for Dogs

 I took the recycling and the trash out.  You think I'd been gone for DAYS.

That  got me thinking about what if dogs wrote some of the most popular suspense novels:

And  Then There were None (cookies on the counter)

The Dog in the Window (bark bark bark bark bark)

Gone Girl (someone left eh gate open again)

The Cat Next Door

Murder on the Oriental Carpet (a stuffie mystery)

What You've Done (bad dog!) My apologies to my favorite suspense author and friend J.A.Schneider

Watching You

The Hunt for Red Elephant

The Wildlife Between Us (Squirrel!!!)

The Turn of the Key (Mom's home, Mom's home!)

The Count of Monty Cristo (You thought there was a fancy sandwich left, you miscounted)

The Silence of the Stuffies (Squeeker Removal)

The Silent Patient (no one can sulk like a dog at the Vet)