Friday, June 21, 2024

Lorelei's Rainbow Friends

I was so touched to see this banner that the women at Our Rainbow Friends did in a post in honor of Lorelei's passing.  They truly captured her spirit in the color and the art.  There's a banner for them on my sidebar - each month they honor some of the special pets here in the pet blogosphere who have left for the Bridge.

Thank you Linda (DeWeenies of Florida)Ann (Zoolatry) and Carol (A Shutterbug Explores) Your compassion and artistry brought a wistful smile in what is a difficult journey for u all. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Date Night - When Your Date is Covered in Fur.

My husband had a business trip that has him gone a week so last night it was just Sunny and I - popcorn, maple butter popcorn seasoning, my favorite Doctor Who (Matt Smith looks like my husband, who also wears only bow ties) AND a Kong and treats for Sunny D.

A good time was had by all.  

Saturday, June 15, 2024

Cicada-Free Kong Adventures


Finally, after a little over a month since they started crawling out of the ground and circling our house like a busy day at O'Hare, the Cicadas are dying off.  Yesterday was the first time in a month Sunny has been able to play in the yard without an anti-cicada eating muzzle (she thinks they're flying pork rinds, but though, not poisonous they can cause some serious tummy upset with their hard exoskeletons).

I think she enjoyed every minute.  I know we did.

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Sunny Daze

I was teleworking and heard a clatter from the living room.  I walked out and there was Sunny's water bowl upended against a table and empty.  

There was a trail of water from their to the kitchen - where my husband stood behind the baby gate in bare feet because his socks were soaking wet.

Not sure what happened but the look on Sunny's face was "it was SO worth it!".


Monday, June 3, 2024

Field of Dreams

Why does it seem that when we set out to do something, the actuality of it seems forever away, and when we're finished, we look back wondering how we did it at all.

Everything we touch, hold, use, or love---was once just an idea. Had the person who first envisioned that thing thought too keenly as to his or her chance of success, it may have never happened at all. My writing started with blog postings, a way to unwind and work through things that were painful, it was a way to view my life and actions as a third party, which sometimes is painful in its revealing of the past and past actions that weren't good choices.

 People said "You need to write a book" and I put it off with the excuse of "after retirement". Part of it was (insert Dr. McCoy voice here "Jim - I'm a doctor, not a writer!") But honestly, the thought of writing an entire book wasn't just daunting; it was flat-out frightening. I pictured it in one of those $5 bins at the bookstore, spent brass of the heart that no one wants to pick up. I pictured the sound of the critic's crickets, or worse---their scorn.

But I did it anyway. 7 books later, 5 #1 bestsellers, 3 major literary awards and I still show up at book signings looking around like I expect a “real author” to show up, then I just dive into the cookies, pour a cup of coffee, and share my dreams. Without dreams, there is nothing to do but wait to die.
My parents fell in love as teenagers. World War II interrupted their wedding plans but they wed on his return from England, so many years later. Dad told very few stories of those times. All I have of those lost years is a stack of letters, written in the years he was overseas, carefully held together with a ribbon. Reading them feels a little like eavesdropping, as you can almost hear the words as they formed---heartfelt, intimate.

I open one; it is just one single page, and I think of the way their day stopped at the brink of it. In these letters bridging the time and distance they had to be apart, there was talk of how much they missed one another; of how their families were faring; of good coffee and how Dad missed vegetables from the farm; of burning heat and a cold on the field that would murmur to your very bones. There was playful affection, there was unstated passion and stated promise. Some were in Mom's flowery script, the rest in Dad's meticulous, indomitable hand. "Is everyone there well?" Mom would ask, and Dad would reply that they were, though some were now only well beyond Lamentations.
Dad never imagined that he would not come back, he never told himself that they would not be married, would not have children, would not make a life. Even in times of great battle, he held the final prize in his hand, never doubting that it would come to be. He watched over that dream as our Father in heaven watches over us, his creation shaped out of the primal absolute that contained nothing and all, knowing we are equally as capable of being ruined and being saved, but believing we will be saved, as to believe anything else is to perish. 

We all have our dreams, just as we all have our fears. My husband was, and is, a gifted musician, a prodigy as a youngster. He performed with a symphony orchestra in Austria before he was 18, offered a university scholarship to study music. He wanted to be an engineer. He still plays, well enough to make me cry. But his passion is creating---inventing things out of form and void, and steel and noise, things that touch his brain and his heart---for what the heart holds becomes our only truth.
I talked to my father every night in his last years. He did a lot in his life, Golden Glove Boxer, Veteran, Freemason, father. One night I asked him what was his biggest regret, and what was the one thing he was glad he did. What he said was his regret was: "That time in my 20's I spent $5 on hair growth tonic from a bald barber", and he chuckled. What he said he was most happy for surprised me until I understood what it meant. He said. "I'm glad I loved and lost Gracie" (my mom).

But it was not because he was the one that physically remained after she died, but because he was glad that he had followed his heart, not his good sense. Because if he had not, she would not have become the one he had to grieve over, because he chose to abandon the idea of them.

Those of us who have lost a furry family member understand. Though we hate that deep hurt of loss when it is their time to leave us, we have no regrets about the months or years with that soul, if offered a choice now to change the experience. So many precious memories; so much love, we would not have experienced if we'd not dare to dream that dream, of making them part of our lives. So as you look around your life this day- think of things you'd like to hold onto, picture flesh and blood, wood or glass, cat or dog, paper, or plastic. Do not think about all you will risk to get it. Do not think about how long it might take, or even if it will be what you expected. Do not think about what happens if you get it and lose it one day.

I look at a photo of my parents on their wedding day. Dad in uniform, my mom wearing a beautiful dark suit. They look both innocent and immortal, even if slightly amazed to be saying those vows after a great War separated them for years.

On my table, I see a violin, worth more than my first home. I carefully put it away, for in a few hours my husband will be home and that table will be littered with all manner of tooling bits and mechanical drawings and plans. They will lie next to a small pile of books to be autographed and mailed for an animal shelter auction. Across the floor are strewn countless toys of a new rescue dog, one surrendered because she wasn’t physically “perfect,” I look at her bowed legs and funny gait, and all I see is her heart (and the remains of a slipper).
I don’t have the vista of the open plains that was to be my dream home, I have the skyline of a major city. Yet, the sun still dawns just the same here, with a first ray of light out of the east that darts fleeting and faint through uncertain clouds, a portent of daylight and thunder. I wouldn’t trade this view of life for any amount of planned perfection or the promise of only sunny days. All these things are objects that print the often-silent mold of our dreams and desires, as easy to be ignored as small fairy feet, when they are magic indeed. - LBJ

Thursday, May 23, 2024

In Remembrance:

Lorelei W. (Wigglebutt) Johnson 
5/7/2013 - 5/22/2024 
We said our goodbyes in the backyard with Dr. Maura. A high wind came up last night, no rain, or thunder, just a mighty wind that blew all night and, in the morning, there were no cicadas in our yard. So, we set up a picnic basket full of “chimkin,” treats, cheese, and yogurt in the soft grass and got in lots of pats and cuddles. There was no fear, no pain, and no anxiety; only sun, warmth, and love. EJ and I said goodbye, holding her close and talking to our “foofy dog” with those words she knew so well. Where else could we be but to just be there as the needle quietly slipped in and she was free from all burden, one surge, one leap towards the light so easily and joyously, losing all sense of restraint, weightless upon the warm, invisible air. Lorelei was free, the pain of bone and flesh departed, only one long, joyous, soundless bark as she went Home to wait by the Rainbow Bridge until we can catch up.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Forecast - Sunny with a Chance of Mayhem

Things I've learned from Sunny Lesson #457

(1) If a zoomie in the house isn't enough, run and JUMP up on the recliner and bounce until you launch yourself off like a high diver at the Olympics. Rinse and Repeat.

(2) Take your bully stick and rake it across the bars of Lorelei's crate (cell) as she naps like a prison guard does in the movies. 

(3)  New adult teeth are great.  You can bite a Sprite stolen from a shelf and spray the whole kitchen like a winning Nascar driver with the soda venting from the puncture hole!

(4) Still bored? When Mom waters the grass seed where Dad removed a bush that wasn't safe for pups to chew on- take your toy and plop into the mud, ignoring a big yard of soft, dry grass.

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Update on Lorelei

We recently found out that Lorelei - our 11 year old Rescue has inoperable cancer.  We took her to the best Veterinary oncology surgeon in the state, the cost didn't matter, but there was nothing he could do.  An aggressive soft tissue sarcoma, it's symptoms were likely masked by her arthritis and hip issues It was only when the ortho Vet that sees her monthly found a suspicious lump which was biopsied that we knew something was worrisome.

She's happy as long as she has her pain meds which he's amped up, and she's playful and eating well, enjoying her new little "sister" and enjoying the moment.  But our time with her is short (weeks perhaps) so blogging will be light while we spend as much time as we can spoiling her (which includes extra cheese treats).

Hugs your loved ones close, especially the furry ones.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

I'd Bark at That

Things Sunny won’t bark at: 

Sketchy looking dude riding skateboard past house. 
Mariachi music blaring from a car. 
Ambulance and Police car sirens. 

Things Sunny WILL bark at:
Robins (not the Batman kind).
The Bread Machine. 
Mr. Carson From Downton Abbey.

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Who Let the Nordic Gods Out?

Saturday was busy with Spring chores. After the usual mowing and weeding there were gutters to be cleaned and a few posts put in for some galvanized barrier fencing around a red downspout water barrel which Sunny thinks is either (1) the world's biggest Kong or (2) an invitation to compete in barrel racing.

Then the mallet disappeared.

I'm THOR!!!!

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Should I Eat This - A Labrador Flowchart

Sunny - attempting to eat dinner while Dad is still carrying in the food bowl from the porch where the food bin is kept.

So for those of you who have loved a Labrador, or have a Labrador puppy, I present. . . 

Monday, April 8, 2024

I know my name - pup update

Sunny doesn't start training with a trainer until next week, to give her some time to acclimate If you have never acclimated a rescue puppy that's 65 pounds, take a small Rhino, 45 towels, and a few squeaky toys and unleash in your small house.  Yard playtime time is essential.  That is where the puppy will race around with all the speed of a tree sloth, sniffing everything as slowly as possible, only to resume the last 3 laps of the Nascar race once re-entering your home.

But she knows her name now, will sit on command, and takes treats gently from my hand when she is praised for doing well.

I won't change a thing. 

Monday, April 1, 2024

Freedom Ride!!

We have added another rescue to the household.  Meet 10-month-old yellow Labrador Retriever  "Sunny"  - formerly AKC Honey Bee - I just wanted to avoid the whole shouting out in the yard in the morning at my husband and dog "Honey, don't  put that in your mouth!"  "Honey - NO! don't eat the rabbit poop!"  So a name change was in order, and she didn't seem to know her name at all given her previous environment.  

So Sunny she is. And she joins our Lorelei, age 12 and happy to have a playmate with Abby Lab gone now.  A breeder release, Sunny's front legs are a little bit bowed, likely from confinement in a too-small crate as she grew (for those of you my age, you'll know what I mean when I say she looks a bit like Festus from Gunsmoke when she ambles).  But she runs and plays without any issues and is LOVING a big sister and a big fenced yard.

Welcome to the pack Sunny.

Friday, March 22, 2024

Competing for the Gold in Competitive "Counter Sufing".

When the dog is busted trying to sneak up. stealth like. on the freshly frosted cupcakes.

 Who me, no, I was just, uh, practicing my Ninja skills. 

Sunday, March 17, 2024

The Great Stuffie Laundry Round Up

You're not taking Gumby.   He's Green, he's exempt from washing on St. Patrick's Day.

Friday, March 8, 2024

On Invisibility

When we were kids, we used to talk about what super power we'd like to have if we were a Comic Book Hero.  Strength would be good, but I'd be constantly breaking things.  X Ray Vision? (the human TSA scanner - no thanks).  I never thought the one I'd get was invisibility.

One day you're walking down the street, and everyone wants to say hello, be your friend, hear you speak (or just chat you up), and the next the mailman doesn't even make eye contact.  You realize that you are what you always labeled anyone over 40 when you were that kid.  You're OLD, therefore invisible. You are that library no one visits, that painted landscape of experience and color that no one looks at because they're all too busy taking a selfie or staring at their phone.

But I'm OK that that.  When the world isn't clamoring for your attention, you are free to step back and truly see it.  See it in the quiet hours of domestic life that are marked, not by a time clock, but by the shifting of light and shadow on ancient oak. Hear it, in the grace of stillness that lingers between walls that have known multiple lives and loves. 

There's that sense of time lost, but only in those changes, the loss makes in the course of our daily thoughts that can be felt in vague yet poignant moments of remembrance.  We remember those that have gone before, their breathing no longer in our power, but the memory as steady as always.  For, with aging, not only comes responsibility but loss. Suddenly, for myriads of reasons - fate, illness, accident; the people around you, as reliable as the sunrise, leave, insensible to your pleas to stay, 

But being invisible does have its perks.  I can watch the world as it does not watch me back; finding humor in the mundane, shaking my head at others so obvious to it all, their passive insensibility as the caffeine wears off interrupted by slight convulsive starts as a new text comes in, such as may be observed in a dog having a dream on a hardwood floor.  At first that sense of unwanted solitude is disconcerting, but then you realize how much you are truly not seeing, the stroke of a brush on a canvas, the launching of a thousand boats, the sound the tide makes as it retreats to the pull of an invisible moon.

After an errand that took me into the city, I walk down to the lake, before it gets too dark to be out alone.  The setting sun sets a metallic tinge to the waters as it begins to set, taking the moment to gather gold, the gold one meant to secure, but squandered, the gold that is promise, too soon forgotten, the gold worn on the left hand, enduring when all else was lost.  People think the clavicle is the most delicate bone in the body as it's so commonly broken, but to me anyway, it's the lacrimal bone, a small and incredibly fragile bone the size of the little fingernail, found at the front part of the medial wall of the orbit - its main function is to provide support to the structures of the lacrimal apparatus, which secretes tears.  

In my pocket is a small stone, gathered at a beach in Northern Indiana on one of the last outings to the water with Barkley.  I'd collected several, one of which looked to be an ancient seashell, found there on the shore of a lake 1000 miles from an ocean, that now lay upon a shelf by my bed.  I stand there at the water's edge, for just a moment as if separated from the world, the heavens, earth, and the very water next to me, swallowed up in a thick veil of gathering gloom.  As I clenched that stone as hard as I could, I breathed out the name of that black dog, into limitless space, sure of being heard, instinctually sure that the plaintive hearts of small children, grey-muzzled dogs, and a lone woman, are heard. 

As I feel the wetness on my cheeks, I guess I should just be happy my lacrimal bones are intact.  

I toss that small stone across the water, hoping to see it skip. only to watch it plunge into the darkness.  Next came a small stick, which freely made its way out into the depths of the lake growing small and indistinct in the near darkness.  Where would the currents carry it, north, south?  No matter how long I stand, patiently, watching the gleam and spark of the waves as the sun sets, that small stick will not return. It is as lost to me as the stone, just taking longer in its leaving. 

Some would look at my countenance and just think "old woman" yet in my eyes is a gleam of surprising intelligence that looks at the world gravely, wide open and steady as if facing something invisible to all other eyes, while I stand straight, unconscious of myself, yet aware of the power I still had in my hands.  They are hands that have held the paw of my best friend as he left me, hands that have sawed through the human breastbone to take a measure of a heart.  Hands kind, capable, but not to be trifled with.

A storm is coming in, that time of year when you don't know if you'll get rain or snow, the temperatures in the high 60s yesterday and in the 20s today.  In the distance are long flashes of vivid lightning, interrupting the short bursts of annealing day, the thunder speaking in the tongues of the gods.  It's best to get home as the sound of traffic floats out of the great silence that is water as big as an ocean.

Arriving home, I'd watch the news, but I gave away my TV long ago, preferring the vast library of books behind leaded glass a hundred years old.  Besides, I'd need to don my rescue dog's "Thunder Shirt" to listen to the news any more.  

I let our rescue Lorelei out, her grabbing and shaking her favorite toy while I quietly watch smoke from the neighbor's chimneys spread the thinnest of veils of haze over the neighborhood. No one pays any attention to me, despite the green "scrub" pants, bright red coat, and orange hat (intuitive color coordination apparently another superpower I lack).  

An ancient tea kettle shrills its warning, and soon we are back inside, Lorelei riding her escalator up into the house, her tail waving like a Nascar flag as she rides past the finish line, where she can snoot the latch open and walk into the house.  Coat and gloves off, it's time to be savored over tonight's book. I gather the makings of the tea, my soul's task as focused on those simple tasks as anything I do, but that is just how I am.

I curl up with an old favorite. Joseph Conrad's story "Youth" - an old man's story of his perilous experiences as a young seaman on a storm-wracked coal liner. Having always been a headstrong girl, taking on one dangerous job after another, I empathized with what he said. "I remember my youth and the feeling that I will never come back anymore, the feeling that I could last forever, outlast the sea, the earth, and all men".

If I had the chance to be 20 again I wouldn't. Time and memory are what has made me who I am. Events in my life, even the ones I'd rather not repeat, all served to awaken within me a stranger who was strong enough to survive it, to grow, becoming someone forged new, honed sharper, and stronger. I've moved past the deception of Conrad's youth, to a place where my soul is still, my heart is full and when I leap from a runway with the wind in my hair, I know I will not live forever on this earth and it doesn't bother me, it just makes me treasure what I have

I go to sleep with a clear mind, having given up alcohol or anything that dulled the senses years ago, preferring life lived sharp, like obsidian, not fragile as shale. Earth, the waters of the lake, and the sky are all wrapped up in deep sleep as am I.  It is a sleep peacefully oblivious to wealth or misfortune, friends, or enemies, yet eternally aware of that empty spot by the window illuminated as the lightning flashes where an invisible black dog stands watch into the invisible night.

 - LB Johnson

Monday, March 4, 2024

Simplifying Chores - Labrador Style

Mom - since you're going down to the basement freezer to get more dog treats, I suggest this bag to bring them back - it appears to be empty. 

Friday, February 23, 2024

Happiness is a Warm Cookie

Look closely at the photo----------->

Someone was trying to quietly raid the homemade cookies.

This picture made me smile as I looked through some old photos of my childhood home here two years after Dad passed at age 102, and my brother and stepbrother passed as well.  This was taken in the house I grew up in shortly before I got married 10 years ago.. On the wall was a platter that my Uncle the Boeing engineer brought back from a business trip to Iran back in the late '50s or '60s.   He had told my Dad that it was a serving plate, covered with olives and all sorts of tidbits and they gave him the platter as a gift.  I went to snap a photo and only after enlarging it, did I see someone in the kitchen pilfering a cookie.

As is often the case, when I went to visit,  Dad only had packaged cookies from the store, made out of special Keebler Kevlar, so I usually made a batch when I popped in for a visit, and cousin L. always brought a big bag up when she visited.

On the trip the photo was taken, Dad was a little low on chips, sugar, and real butter. so for this recipe I added in some sour cream for moistness, and a hint of cardamom and orange zest to accent the reduced dark chocolate.  It made a soft, almost cake-like cookie that Dad raved about.

2 cups flour
1 and 1/2  tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of sea salt
1/2 tsp cardamom
1 tsp. orange zest (the finely grated outer peel of an orange)
1/2 cup butter, gently melted so it's mostly liquid but not real hot
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream (not "lite")
1 cup dark chocolate chips.

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or grease it well, even if non stick).

In a large bowl, with a hand mixer, cream together the melted butter, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Beat in eggs and sour cream until well blended.

Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and cardamom, stir into the butter mixture. Mix in the orange zest and dark chocolate chips.

Drop dough by heaping tablespoons 3 inches apart on cookie sheets. Bake 13 to 15 minutes, until lightly golden brown. These will be soft, lightly colored cookies so do NOT overbake. Let cool on wire rack

That trip, Dad didn't get a fancy platter, but after his late afternoon snack of cookies, he did get a small martini and both remotes so he was a happy man.

Good memories. 

Friday, February 9, 2024

Room Service Please

After 45 mph winds, 57 degrees, and a couple severe thunderstorms yesterday we settled in for the night, just Lorelei and I, as my husband was out of town on a business trip. Lorelei, usually napping in her crate after dinner, came into the den where I was on the computer, nudging me repeatedly. She already had her snack (4:00), dinner (6:00), and her non-fat Greek yogurt treat (7:00 after she goes out to potty) - what did she want? Something was wrong. I went into the living room- her crate bedding was ALL bunched up, the bottom of the crate uncovered. Waiting patiently while I crawled inside, not fun on the knees, and adjusted the bedding, a thrift store washable quilt, an ortho pad, and her pillow & favorite stuffies; her tail WAGGED as I finished. As I stood up - she wagged once, then promptly went to her OTHER dog bed and fell asleep. She was probably mad that housekeeping didn't leave a mint on her pillow.

Monday, February 5, 2024

Attention Burglars -

Dear Burglars - 

Forget the alarm system that will alert the police, We have a large fluffy dog that sheds furiously and you are wearing dark clothing.

The Residents

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Dog Days of Winter

The food lady is out - must stay vigilant.
I knew if I waited. . .
Enjoy it Larelei - the 8 inches of doom and gloom forecast turned out to be about 3 inches total

Time for breakfast Dad!
Mom;s Scottish Pancakes (known as dropped scones) Syrup on Dad's and Jam on Mom's.