Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Abby Lab Has Gone to the Bridge

"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard."
-A.A. Milne, 'Winnie The Pooh.

'It is with heavy hearts we have to tell you all that Abby Lab went to the Bridge today, peacefully, and happy (after a Reese's peanut butter cup she spit out at the Vet because "I want the nasty DRY treats Mom gives me!").  She made her journey from our home with a very caring Vet and her sister Lorelei Lab got to say goodbye.

 She would have been 16 in February.  Considering she started her journey to us after being left heartworm positive at a high hill shelter when she was 8, that's pretty good.She brought a lot of joy to us but we are happy to know she is playing with Frankie Furter, Arty, Sarge, Ruby, Joey, and all of her friends from Blogville that left before she did.

Friday, November 12, 2021


The neighbors threw out a bunch of stale bread to feed the squirrels. Unfortunately, some of it went where Abby could snag it.

She can't eat grains. She's fine - a little chicken and yogurt and some time in the back yard did the trick (plus some open windows).  But I have two new terms with regards to the Labrador Retriever Digestive Track. 




Tuesday, November 9, 2021

An Abby Lab Haiku

Oh New Stuffie Toy 
I Will Love You Forever 
Unless Squeaking Stop

Monday, November 1, 2021

Monday Smiles

 I go back to work tomorrow after two weeks off (finishing up paperwork for Dad's estate - which is in trust for my late brother's kids - our decision when my brother was terminally ill).

I HAVE enjoyed sleeping in a bit, but there's not been a lot of time for blogging so for tonight, some smiles. . . .

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Just When You Think It's Safe to Go Out

Once a week, after a telework day, I go into our little Village and visit the acupuncturist.  I HATE needles, but acupuncture doesn't hurt at all, the needles are SO thin compared to the needles you get shots with.  Plus it's helped with pain, stress, and sleeping better, and my insurance covers their share. I walk out of there SO mellow, it's the highpoint of my "middle of the week".

It's off of our Village's crazy traffic circle (which I incorporated into my novel Small Town Roads because it is the craziest traffic circle I've ever driven in and I moved here from Indianapolis, home of the maniacal traffic circle.) So after I make my way around the corner onto the side street without the blaring of a horn, the screeching of brakes, or someone giving me the friendly Chicago "You're #1" wave,  but with a different finger, I can park out front of it or one of the small businesses that are closed and for sale.
Today I couldn't as it was the day they scoop up leaves from the street and that side of the street was closed.  It's too close to the circle and too busy to park on the other side and dart across so I went south two blocks (the next block is one way in the wrong direction) into a residential neighborhood and parked.  I was parked at the end of the street in front of an old white farmhouse-style house. Across the street from it was an old stone church, with no one in sight.

Ever seen a house and it just looked CREEPY?  This house did.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe it was the junk around the side yard and junk in the back, the slightly peeling greyish-white paint, and the dark upstairs windows, but it was really bothering me.  Plus I felt like something was WATCHING me, and I noticed how dark it was getting and how deserted the street was.  I prayed they didn't have some mean junkyard dog back there with all the junk because there was no fence.  I got out of my truck, still feeling eyes bore into me.  I looked around ready to dash back in the truck if the hound from hell came rushing out of the dark.

Then I saw it - in the window - its eyes GLOWING.

It was a tiny little chihuahua dog wearing a bow.

He was guarding the front window as inside I could see a kids video game on the TV playing in the background to the sound of a lot of giggling.

Sheesh, I'm a scaredy-cat.

Have a wonderful evening, remembering our crazy friends that we so miss, both two and four-legged,

Sunday, September 19, 2021

When Your Pet Isn't the Only One Scratching - Bend Soap Products for Sensitive Skin and Eczema

Dwight and Marilee Johnson (no relation to us!) and their family live on a 40-acre farm in beautiful Central Oregon. I know that area well. Back when I was playing airline pilot we had a run into the Redmond/Bend airport and it was one of my favorite trips as we had a layover long enough to enjoy the amazing scenery.

 As the Johnson's raised a herd of happy healthy goats that ate only good food and were given natural substances to keep them healthy rather than medications that would then end up in their milk – they got the idea of making some soap with it. With a long history as a successful entrepreneur and the support of his creative and clever wife, Dwight's initial soap soon became a family effort as a result of crafting some soap from their farm’s goats to help with eczema that their young son Chance was suffering with.
Making some goat milk Kefir in my "cowboy wineglass"
 - no milking involved, just a trip to Whole Foods.

Consuming goat milk (which I drink in place of cow’s milk which I don’t digest well) the Johnson family knew the benefits of the milk nutritionally.

• Goat’s milk is full of vitamins, proteins, and minerals
• Is easily absorbed by the body
• And has a pH that is relatively close to that of the human body

Could that also help young Chance's skin if used topically?

They found that by putting a couple bars of their newly created honey and oatmeal soaps into the bath and letting Chance play and soak in the water for 15-20 minutes gave him great relief, and his eczema was practically gone after one week of daily baths like this. This is great news because it’s often recommended that you avoid frequent bathing if you have eczema as it dries out the skin, making the itching worse.
That’s the secret behind their amazing milk bath product. This was one of the first products I ordered, because sometime after I turned (ahem) 50-something I developed a sensitivity to most skincare additives and perfumes and had regular eczema flare-ups.  The only things that work on my face are Ishga skincare from Scotland (my newest "love it" find and more on that later), Little Seed Farms, and Frangipiano products 

The goat milk bath is SO soothing and it's seriously helped the eczema on my hands and arms.

Rather than a powdery, strongly scented product like many bath additives, it’s fine shards of the purest soaps with essential oils (except the unscented one which has no essential oils) that dissolve in your bath like a cloud. Goats milk also has natural alpha-hydroxy acids which will gently exfoliate the skin. 

I also started using the bar soap as a shampoo. As instructed, it took about 3 days for my hair to get used to it (the first couple of days it felt somewhat oily), and then wow.  Soft, full hair and I don't have to use conditioner to get a comb through it after shampooing.  Even my hairstylist commented a couple of weeks ago that my hair was MUCH thicker and stronger, asked what I was using (it was NOT their high-end salon products anymore), and had me quietly jot down the name of the product on a piece of paper for her. 


Got Pets with sensitive skin?  Made to lather well, the goat milk soap is easy to use on your dog or cat's coat.  It will get their fur clean, but it is a LOT easier to rinse off than most other pet shampoos.  Gentle and non-irritating on the skin it also doesn't contain chemicals that their bodies will absorb, or remain on the skin to be licked off later.  Always do a patch test first like any new product, but Abby and Lorelei Lab have their baths with goat milk soap (a much more expensive brand so I'm happy to find this) since we got her and her fur is SO soft and shiny.

For a shower or bath for us humans, it’s great. Most commercial skincare products are made with a mixture of alcohols, synthetic fragrances, and other chemicals which strip our skin of its natural oils that keep it protected and are intended to defend it against becoming dry, irritated, and unhealthy.I had a little rubber bucket of assorted bath products for my nightly bath, but I couldn't use them every night or my skin would dry out and itch.  (I hadn't learned yet that the GMO oils used in cheap bath products, even those touted as "moisturizing", can irritate and dry the skin.)

The Bend Soap and Bend Milk Bath have made a huge difference in my eczema and air in only a few weeks and the milk bath is soothing and inexpensive enough I can use it frequently! 

There's soaps, lip butters, scrubs, lotions, and even a natural deodorant and lots of information on their company and products on their website.

Go check them out, especially the gift tins with the holidays coming up (and seriously- orange Sugar Scrub? - I am SO ordering that!)

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Lab in an Elevator


Lorelei - our latest Lab Rescue (released from a breeder to a rescue group when she quit producing enough puppies) has been a joy these last two years.  She was six when we got her, had no idea what "grass" was or playtime or couches.  She's now spoiled rotten and Abby Lab treats her well, no jealousy between our "girls".

But this summer she suddenly stopped going up the back steps. X rays revealed severe arthritis in her back hips, probably from years of inbreeding in her lineage.What to do? Our house is on a walk-out basement so there is no way into the home except going up steps. We had to use a harness and lift her up, not easy even with two of us as she's the biggest Lab I've ever owned, weighing in at well over 100 pounds.  When Partner in Grime is on the road there is no way I can get her in and out of the house.  The stairs are too steep for a ramp up to the top but there was no way I was going to rehome her to a place with no steps.  Quick. . . a winch, some wood, and an engineer with a sandwich-making sidekick - we have a doggie elevator!

It plugs into an existing outlet and the whole setup can be removed from the steps if need be for major snow removal (so no required building permit).

I present. . Lab in an Elevator

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Happiness is a Warm Cookie

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

Someone was trying to quietly raid the homemade cookies.

This picture makes me smile. On the wall at Dad's 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. 

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Little Beau Sheep


Have any of you used dryer balls in your dryer?  They are a natural alternative to fabric softeners.  Unfortunately, many of them are made of plastic, which brings plastic smell (and what it's made of) onto your clothes, as well as adding to landfills when they are worn.

This is why when I saw these dryer balls made out of 100% wool, I had to check them out.  Little Beau Sheep was started by a busy mom, who handcrafts each ball out of British wool (which can be gently laundered every so often).  It's the natural, reusable, chemical-free alternative to fabric softener.  Dryer balls make your clothes come out fluffy, with fewer wrinkles and less static cling. Thanks to their native lanolin content – which really is Mother Nature’s very own softener – laundry balls naturally massage the fabric during the drying process. So when your garments emerge from the dryer, they feel naturally softer as well. Even better, there’s no residue that softeners can leave behind and no laundry sheets or excess plastic packaging going to landfill.

Sarah's business has grown from a local Etsy shop from her home in the Yorkshire Dales to the world wide web, shipping internationally.  The collection also now includes oil blends to add to the balls to give your laundry that wonderful line-dried scent you remember from childhood as well as felted soaps (a natural exfoliant) and lanolin-based skincare items.

Sarah has also crafted dryer balls from rare breed sheep, with proceeds going to The Rare Breed Trust, a charity that is a champion of sheep of every shape and size.

My order arrived in about 10 ten days and I couldn't be happier with it (and am wishing I'd ordered the lanolin hand cream to go with the hand wash which is SO softening and smells so good).

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Downward Dog

 When you're trying to do some floor exercises on the yoga mat on the floor.

"Do you have a treat down there?"

"Can I have it""

"No?  No treat?"

"Can I climb on your head then?

Friday, July 9, 2021

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 jet engine
(2) don't break any traffic laws
(3) or 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 always travel 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 paws 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.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

So Long Frankie. . .

We just got word that Abby Lab's longtime friend Frankie Furter has crossed The Bridge.  So many happy memories there.  

We are sending our love and hugs to his Mom Lana and all of his family.  

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

In Memory

Dad passed away a few days ago after a wonderful celebration of his 101st birthday, time with friend,s and time for him and I to say goodbye one last time.  Today's post something I wrote a couple of years ago that brings back a lot of memories. If you have family around - don't forget to hug them and tell them you love them.
Dad's home of 60+ years sold earlier this year.  Last fall he made the decision to go into assisted living. He swore he would live out his days in his big old house, but he needed 24 hour looking after and with ice and winter storms his nurse's aids couldn't always make it safely to his home and at one point he just said: "I'm ready." He did NOT want to live with family, he wanted his own space.  I get that.  So my cousin Liz did some checking around and found him a really nice assisted living place.  It's very new and not in the town I grew up in, but it's a short drive away, so his friends can still visit and it's only an hour away from where Liz's partner Keith's family lives so they can visit often after they helped him move in.

Still, it was really hard seeing everything from the home that's been "home" to me for 60 years, leave, to be sold or donated to charity so the funds could pay for the care I'd been providing since my brother died in 2014. When I saw that the last of the house's contents were gone, I could only stand silently, as something like the wind, chill and solitary, blew through me.  So many memories within those walls.  Dad took it better than I did, I think, feeling at first a bit miscast but then accepting his new surroundings as a safe shelter.  He has grown to love his new place with a view of the woods, and someone there all the time if he needs help. He has made friends with other Veterans, and they spend many an hour sitting out in the garden area exchanging stories and bad jokes, their rapport not like that of siblings, but as people who had breathed and endured wartime, the internal scars of which they all still bore with honor.

I visited him just a few weeks ago, and one of the drives we made was down the street of the old house.  It looked to be occupied by a family, there were a couple of kids bikes out front and new flowers had been planted and the trim around the windows had been repainted. Dad was happy to see it went to someone who would care for it as he did with the laughter of children within those walls no longer only an echo.
On Veterans Day today, I thought back to one last flight before the house was sold when an Honor Flight Group was at the airport as I arrived.   How wonderful to see the crowds of people who stood up and clapped as these brave Veterans were wheeled past, and the line of officers that shook their hands and thanked them for their service. I had brought a tiny little point and shoot out on this trip and got one discreet picture, even as a tear ran down my cheek.

Good people honor their Veterans as we are taught to honor our parents. Dad bought his house 10 years after his service in WWII when he left the military for good.  He did everything he could to make sure we lived in a safe world, even before we were born. That is why my "vacations" the last 30 years have been back and forth to Dad's house to care for him and my stepmom when she had Alzheimer's and later just my Dad. My big brother, a retired Navy Submariner who worked for Electric Boat, made sure the house stayed in good condition, with both of us making sure there was enough money in his bank account to handle its upkeep (you can't see it from this angle but my brother and I got him one of those recliners that lifted him up to a standing position). I handled cooking and cleaning, canning and freezing, so meals when I was gone, were easy. Clothes were mended and the gutters were cleaned. After my stepmom died and Dad was recuperating from a minor stroke, my brother moved in with Dad so we didn't have to pay for in-home care, which he was needing more of.

When my brother died I realized just how much he had been doing for my Dad that was now up to me so more frequent trips were made and nursing care was arranged so Dad could stay in his home as long as he wanted to.
When I came home that last time before the house sold, he did something that my brother always did for me, leave a couple of balloons tied to one of my stuffed animals (yes, they were still in my room) on the bed.

My bedroom looked just the same as when I was a teen, with the rainbows painted when I was 14 out of the horrid colored 70's leftover paint (I do NOT want to remember which room the aqua one was, but I remember the awful salmon color as my childhood bedroom paint scheme).  The rest of the house had been repainted prior to sale, my room, being the last to be "updated". I think my Dad knew that seeing those rainbows painted over, as tacky as they were, would break my heart.
Being in that house that last day brought back so many memories. The houses on our block were all were erected in the 50's, sprawling across what used to be farm fields, rich soil that lay at the foothills of the mountains, small squares of cedar and brick, laying in the shadows of tall unaxed trees and the log train that serenaded a little girl to sleep.
The neighborhood back then was different than the dynamics of a neighborhood now.  Families moved in and didn't move out. There weren't foreclosures popping up every few houses, and kids tended to live in the same home from the time they came home from the hospital until they went off to the lumber mills or college. It was a small mill town, most of the kids ended up there, drawn by the lure of a log mill wage at 18 that seemed like a fortune until you saw the brutal tax on your bones and your spirit after 40 years of it. Only a few of us made our way out beyond those snow-capped mountains.

We knew all of our neighbors, the other Mom's home during the day, welcoming in the noise and the occasional dirty footprint onto the linoleum.  We knew which Mom made the best chocolate chip cookie, and which one would be as stern a taskmaster as our own Mom when it came to playing quietly in the house.  (Look it's NOT a hallway, it's a Hot Wheels racetrack and I needed 6 extra kids as a pit crew).

The town's only grocery was across a two-lane 50 mph roadway that leads to the mountains. We were NOT allowed across it on our bikes on our own, even if there was a four-way traffic light at the intersection with the grocery and the gas station. There was no even THINKING of breaking that rule. We knew the consequences of being reckless, and it was not a slap on the wrist or a taxpayer-funded 'stimulus'. Outside of that, there were all kinds of places to roam, and in the summertime, we were pretty much outdoors from breakfast to supper, no helmets, no sunscreen if we could help it, no hand sanitizer, no shin guards.
We'd ride up and down the block, usually playing Man From Uncle (I always got to be Ilya Kuryakin whom I'm sure started out his Secret Agent stuff, as I did, with training wheels).  We'd play soldier and spy or cowboys and Indians in our back yard where Dad and my favorite Uncle, an engineer, built a cool A-frame playhouse for me.  I could usually squirrel away some of the Hostess products from the kitchen, inside its structure for the Indians to run raids on. I was ready, I had my cereal box Colt six-shooter and a BUS (back-up slingshot).

But, like the examples of our parents, and the lessons of TV, which did not yet involve drugs and spandex, we were careful with our weapons, even if they were plastic.   Besides, should those rules be broken, we knew who the Sheriff in town was, and it was Mom, even if she gave up her actual Deputy Sheriff badge and an 18 year career in Law Enforcement, when they adopted both of us.

Those were glorious days.  We'd drink from the hose or come in for KoolAid, and a hug, soda pop being something not in a budget of a single income family, reserved for a treat while on vacation to my Aunt and Uncle's ranch. We'd count marbles, candy money, and coup, and we'd roam as far as we could without crossing that highway.
Many of the houses had fences, many did not, but there was an alleyway of grass that ran behind our house where we could run covert missions into a neighbor's place. The ones without kids were off-limits, we were taught to respect others' property, but we did raid one retired couple's little decorative pond at the back corner of their place for the occasional frog which we'd use to scare some sissy kid, and then return it safely. (Seriously, if I ever give you a shoebox with holes in it with a big bow on top, don't open it).

On Saturdays, the cars came out to be washed and sometimes waxed. I could earn spending money for candy by washing the station wagon for Dad and gladly did so, learning early the correlation between labor and putting food on the table. Our Dads would mow, and our Moms would get groceries and bake cookies for the week.
In the late afternoon, Dad would curl up with some sports on TV for a couple of hours, his only break in a long week of work and family. Mom would go to her needlework or crafts while the neighborhood kids continued to play those glorious summer games that were relegated to single days off during the school year for us. For Sunday was a day of worship, of rest, reading, board games and music, not raids on a local fort or trying to blow something up in the garage.

Now, so much of the area has changed  I see houses down the street where there's no money to repair a roof, moss taking over, plants growing in the gutter, but there's a new fishing boat or a Hummer in the driveway of the very modest home. On others, there are bars on the front doors of the homes we'd run up to ring the doorbell on Halloween, without any adult in trail.
I love my Dad, as I think we all do our parents, even when we don't see eye to eye with them, both sides occasionally causing hurt even to someone they love dearly. Such is human nature.  But I also admire him even as I tease him a little that he has a picture of Ronald Reagan riding a horse on his desk.
So I did all I could to keep some continuity in his life as long as I could. Having buried two wives and two children, a daughter they lost in their late 20's and my brother, Dad needed that sense of stability, even if the martini making duties have been inherited by my husband.
The very last look at the house - it was completely empty, nothing at all left, but walls that held within them so much.

The span of that empty space is as wide as our grief.
As I left the house that last time, I looked up to the Heavens and told my brother told him I loved him, went to the car, climbed in and started the engine and gave my Dad a hug there as he waited for me. You can't NOT take the opportunity for a hug.  For it might well be the last one. Dad and I are not related by blood but we are, by a life lived, commitment honored and memories made. He touched my cheek, with work-weary, dry, thin hands, an old man's fingers, yet still, his hands, my Daddy's hands, touching my rosy cheek where the strength of his blood still flows within me, will flow, even after his long journey back to his reward.
I looked at the house as I left it that last time, my family pictures now adorning the walls of Dad's new place.  All of those memories seemed to condense in it, as if the house alone were the source of them, shining from it from that big picture window, glimpsed just for a second as my rental car pulls away, like that 10 point whitetail you see the split second after he sees you, when he's already gone, even as you yearn for him to return.