The Memory of Christmas Snow

 

There is a lot to be said for living in the home in which you grew up.  Everything is familiar; every creaky floorboard, every squeaky stair tread.  You know which windows rattle when the wind blows.  There is a feeling of comfort and warmth and safety that can’t be equaled anywhere else.

Of course your home is full of memories.  You meet yourself at every turn – different ages, different eras.  The furniture in the living room is in the same basic position that it was in fifty years ago.  I realized the other day that I was sitting in the same spot watching the same episode of “I Love Lucy” – only fifty years later.  It was a thought-provoking awakening.   Either I was a total loser, or very lucky.  I still haven’t decided which.  Two nights ago I was watching “Petticoat Junction” reruns, and I could have sworn I smelled stuffed peppers – the meal my Mom made every Monday night.  I actually would not have been surprised to hear her call me to set the table.  I was saddened when I realized that wasn’t going to happen.

The holidays are especially rife with nostalgia.   As Christmas approaches I am reminded every year of one particular Christmas – the Christmas of 1966.

That was a turbulent time in history in many ways, and a lot of local boys were spending their holidays in the jungles of Vietnam.   But I was eight years old and full of the excitement of the holidays and having my sister, Beverly, home from the hospital.

Bev was sixteen years old and very much the big sister of our family of three girls.  She was the best big sister – she was always willing to play games with me (and she didn’t let me win – or at least not so that it was obvious), I could tell her ALL my secrets, and my Barbie dolls had a full wardrobe that she sewed for them at our new Singer sewing machine!  She never made me feel like the pest that I probably was.  Even at eight, I appreciated that.  She was also a genius at designing and drawing her own paper dolls and I had shoe boxes full of them!

Beverly was not just MY favorite… she was our middle sister, Allison’s, favorite as well.  They were at Girl Scouts together, in CYO together, and in high school together since they were only two years apart.  And she was definitely Mom and Dad’s favorite – the eldest, so dependable, and the sweetest and most even-tempered person on the planet.  Everyone loved her and no envy was possible.  It was her divine right to be loved by everyone – she deserved it, although she never saw it and wouldn’t have believed it.

So here we were, Christmas Eve of 1966 and beginning our celebration.   Christmas Eve for my family was tree trimming day for as long as I could remember.   The cookies were baked, the gifts wrapped, and my letter had been delivered to Santa.   I had begun that year’s list with my usual “St. Bernard Puppy” that topped my list every year until I was 29.  (I never did get that St. Bernard, but who knows?  Maybe Santa will bring him at some point).

Beverly, on the other hand, just had three things she wanted.   First on her list was that she be asked to her prom.  She was now a junior in high school and she was concerned that, because she was out of school so much, she wouldn’t have a date to the prom.   Even I knew this was ridiculous.   As I said, everyone loved her.  Literally.   Especially the boy that had given her a Valentine’s card every year since fourth grade.   I knew that someone would find a way to ask her, even if she didn’t know that.  And I was mildly interested in the pretty dress she would wear and the possibility of me playing dress-up in it after the event.

Second for Bev was that she receive her class ring.  Those rings had been ordered at the beginning of the year, and she was eagerly anticipating the arrival of her size four ring.  They weren’t due in for a little while, but the anticipation was getting to her!!  Anyone who has had a high school ring, knows the excitement of its arrival and the thrill of wearing it.

Last, but not least, Beverly wanted a white Christmas.  She wanted snow.  We had had a few flurries, but she had been in the hospital at the time and had not had the bed by the window.  So the snow on the ground when she got home already was “used” – dirty from tires, plowed out of the street, tracked with footprints.   Bev wanted fresh snow, Christmas snow.   The kind that only falls on Christmas Eve.

Well the weathermen had put the kibosh on that with their forecast of unseasonably warm weather and clear skies.  But I sympathized completely so I wished for snow too, as did our entire family.

All things considered, it is incredible to me in hindsight that her wishes were so few.  Beverly had been in and out of hospitals for months with increasing frequency.   On her last trip home, a wheelchair came with her.  I could tell she HATED it, but in no time at all she had accepted it and was whizzing around the house with her pug, Tiffy, in her lap – ears flying and tongue lolling (his, not hers).   I only heard her question once why God was doing this to her.  I wondered myself at the time, but being a child, could not come up with an answer.   The words “bone marrow” and “transfusion” had become commonplace around the house, but I had yet to hear the word “Leukemia”, and wouldn’t have understood it…… and I never would have connected it with my big sister.

Back to Christmas Eve…..  Dad had the tree in the stand, and had only scraped the ceiling a little bit when he stood the tree up and belatedly realized that he hadn’t trimmed enough off the top.  At least the Christmas tree top hadn’t broken this year.   The lights were lit, and the wax angel from Germany was on the tree.  Dad’s job was finished.  He disappeared to the kitchen to concoct his secret obligatory eggnog (another Christmas tradition, although I’m not sure that any of us actually LIKED it).  Mom had the hors d’oeuvres ready.  Tiffy was in his chair in the front room next to the tree so he could reach the candy canes on the bottom of the tree and the hors d’oeuvres on the table with equal ease. The ornament boxes were all accessible and opened.  Time to trim.

Mom and Allison had the top of the tree.   Beverly was responsible for the middle of the tree which was easily reached from her wheelchair.   That left me with the bottom of the tree which was just fine with me since that also included the Nativity under the tree.   I could spend all the time I wanted arranging the animals, and they would be rearranged continuously on a daily basis throughout Christmas vacation.  I never tired of handling them.

Dad returned with the Eggnog and stopped at our new Hi-fi stereo to change the record so we had new Christmas music to listen to.  Bing Crosby began singing about a “White Christmas”, and Dad sang along.

We all dug in, but each ornament had to be admired and exclaimed over.  The beautiful, colorful ones from Germany, the beaded ones from Czechoslovakia that Dad had bought the first year that he and Mom were married, the flying Stork from Lord and Taylor in Manhasset, Long Island, and all the other ones that had a million memories attached; each one carefully chosen for beauty and significance.

The trimming took a while, but in between hanging ornaments or moving sheep and camels, I would sneak a peek out the window to look for snow, and then glance around the room to find everyone doing the same thing.  But the sky couldn’t have been more clear – not a cloud in sight.

Eventually the eggnog was finished, the hors d’oeuvres disappeared (into us or the pug – who knew?)  and the trimming was done.   The dishes and glasses were whisked out to the kitchen, and the ornament boxes were packed away.  Beverly rested in her chair by the picture window admiring the beautiful tree with a sleepy (and very full) pug in her lap.

Suddenly we heard her calling us, and from all parts of the house we came running.  Her calls were never to be ignored.   She was sitting bolt upright at the window staring out into the dusk.  “LOOK!  It’s SNOWING!!”

Dad said, “It can’t be, it’s not cold enough!”

“It IS Dad!! IT IS!!  LOOK!”

SO we looked…and there it was, drifting silently past the window.  Snowflakes by the hundreds!!  Not just flurries – a full blown snowstorm!   The most beautiful one I had ever seen – or have ever seen since.

Beverly couldn’t take her eyes off it.  “Oh Mom, it’s SNOWING!”   My Mom just hugged her, with tears in her eyes.  No words were necessary… or possible.

It snowed all night, and by morning we, indeed, had a very white Christmas, as Bing Crosby had said.   Beverly spent the day pretty much glued to the window admiring the untouched, crisp, white snow which blanketed our lawn, our street, and our driveway.  For once, my Dad didn’t go out and shovel  right away.

The weathermen talked about it on the news.  It had not been a very widely spread snowstorm, and it was completely unexpected.  I’ve never seen so much snow fall on Christmas Eve since then.  But it came that year when it was needed most.

That Christmas of 1966 was Beverly’s last Christmas.   She left us on February 10 of 1967.  She was invited to the prom, but when the prom came she was already gone.   Her high school ring arrived the week after her funeral.   My Mom had called the jewelry company and tried to explain the urgency, but they didn’t understand.   Her ring is here now, completely unworn and tied with a faded ribbon.

But the Christmas snow arrived when it was needed most and made that last year a beautiful one.

As Christmas approaches this year, I will be looking for Christmas Snow.  And if it comes, I will know that my big sister is still with me.

Posted in Aging, Barbie Dolls, Big Sister, Christmas, Czechoslovakia, Dog, Dogs, Family, Germany, Girl Scouts, Home, I love Lucy, Leukemia, Life, life lesson, Love, Mom, Mom Eyes, moms, Mother, Oldage, Over50, Parenting, Petticoat Junction, Pug, rescue, Sewing, Uncategorized, winter | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rescue

I’ve always wanted to rescue an animal – to make a difference in some innocent baby’s life …. I’ve held my breath  through the stories of people climbing down cliffs to rescue stranded puppies, firemen carrying family pets out of burning buildings, brave souls crawling out on icy lakes to break stranded animals out with their bare hands, the fleet-of-foot dodging traffic on speeding highways to reach scared creatures on the median.   My life has been so changed by the loving pets that have owned me, that I wanted to pay this forward and change the future for another.

The reality is that I don’t climb cliffs, I dislike the cold too much to be near an icy lake, and I work five minutes from home – all on side streets.  As for firemen , there is a level of courage in that career which defies all description.  It seems I am pre-ordained to a life of “ordinary”.

The other reality would be that I have five cats, as previously mentioned.  And it’s not that I don’t have room in my heart for many more…. it’s the other places that I am full up – like my home, my bank account, my lap…..

But I digress….

Let’s rewind this picture to this past April – a Sunday specifically.  My daughters and I arrived for a late lunch at a local restaurant – one of those train station restaurants…. right by the tracks and partially composed of old train cars.  Can you see it in your mind?  Good.

As I was trailing them up the outer stairs, one of my daughters said “Oh look!  A kitten!” I turned my head and made eye contact with a little white cat… filthy, laying in a patch of sun right next to the train car, and meowing at me.  Direct eye contact, mind you.   None of that side-eye stuff.

I couldn’t get her out of my mind all through lunch.  The food was hard to swallow and turned to lead in my stomach.  I kept picturing her out there… a couple of feet from the tracks….inches from the parking lot… ugh.

Finally I spoke to God. “God”, I said, ” if that kitten is still out there when we leave, I’m going to do something about it.  I’ll leave it in Your hands.”   (I didn’t hear the thunder clap, or witness the bolt of lightning, but after uttering those words I know that they happened.)

I didn’t spot her at first as we exited the building…. but then there she was.. relocated slightly under a bush, but still meowing plaintively at me. Apparently God’s decision had been made. I dropped to my knees, put out my hand, and made that all-encompassing ‘psspssspss’ noise at her to which all cats through the ages have responded.  She trotted right over and  I was permitted to pick her up and wrap her in my jacket for the car ride to the SPCA – which was closing in 25 minutes.  God definitely had a plan for this one.  She made herself at home in the car – exploring the back seat before settling down companionably in my daughter’s lap for a snooze.2-img_1643

We arrived minutes before they closed and left her in good hands, on the proviso that as long as she wasn’t Feline Leukemia positive (because of the five at home), I wanted to adopt her.  She had been placed in my path for a reason.  Evidently five cats was not enough and there was still room at the inn….3-img_1644

Here we are seven months later.  Elsa is a beautiful girl.  Not a kitten at all when we found her, but at least a year old.  Who knows how long she had been on the street – long enough to be hit by a car at some point because both her upper and lower jaws were broken on one side and a bone was protruding through her chin.  Considering the amount of pain she must have been in, it’s a testament to her trust in us that she allowed us to help her.

No one had looked for her.  She had not been microchipped.  Yet 22-img_2029this beautiful, pure white cat was not feral at all.  Clearly she had had a home at some point.  How sad.9-img_1956

It took a while for Elsa to get used to the other cats…. and the dogs.   She accepted my senior elsa-zeus9Golden first…. naturally since he is the most gentle and he took the time to approach her slowly and sleep outside her cage at night until she trusted him.

Eventually she stopped ducking below the window sill elsa-sit1whenever a car drove by outside our home.  She no longer panics about meals, although she still likes to eat a little removed from the rest of the hoards.

Elsa likes to play with her sisters and brothers now… she loves toys, and she loves warmth.  I like to think that she has forgotten the horrible time she had – she sleeps very peacefully so I trust her dreams are happy ones.

I’ve only been back to that restaurant once since… and my eyes definitely strayed toward the train car…. but no one was there.  I guess six cats is enough for now.

Changing the life of an innocent creature is a wonderful experience, and Rescue comes in many shapes and sizes – and sometimes takes the form of a little white cat…..

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Posted in Cat Lady, Cat Lover, cat rescue, Cats, Dog, Dogs, Family, pet rescue, rescue, rescue animal, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Wonder of Pets

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Growing up with pets is a wonderful experience for children.  They learn to be gentle, caring, compassionate, and responsible.  They have the wonderful experience of receiving the unconditional love that only a pet can give.  They learn patience, and the value of sharing one’s life and caring for another being.

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At no time should parents expect or anticipate that a child will be solely responsible for the care of a pet.  Any parent thinking that needs shock treatments, and possibly incarceration.  Do not get your child a pet unless YOU are willing to accept the responsibility for the care yourself.  Animals are not disposable…. they are not there for our convenience or to teach lessons.  They are living beings with feelings and emotions.  They have a right to happiness, a home, food, good health care, love, and a family – FOR THE DURATION OF THEIR LIVES.  If you can’t provide this, do not get a pet.

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All the wonderful experiences that pets provide for children, they also provide for adults.  My pets are companions, friends, loved ones, family.  They have provided unconditional love when I am not lovable to anyone else (I know you all understand that feeling).  They have listened to my complaints and my heartfelt thoughts…. the real benefit to this is that they cannot type or text, so my secrets  and innermost thoughts go no further.  They have soothed heartache, and heartbreak.  I can literally feel my heart rate slowing when I have one of babies snoozing on or around me.

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As I’ve often said, I am a dog person.  I love them, I understand them, I relate to them, I trust them…in fact, I prefer them to most people.   However in the past seven years, I have added cats to my list of loved pets.  People often speak of how aloof cats are…how they don’t want to be petted, and they only emerge at mealtimes.

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Where do you get cats like that?  As I lower myself into a chair, they get into position…..by the time my butt hits the seat, cats are jumping into my lap from all directions.  They then go through the “kneading” process, and settle down for the duration.  I have frequently woken up with three or four of them asleep on me, from my neck on down to my ankles.  Good thing I’m tall and wide – I don’t know what they’ll do when I finish dieting and am half the woman I am now.  Maybe that’s why they keep trying to feed me cookies….

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Loving pets adds quality to your life.   It is a huge commitment, but for those that love them, it is well worth the effort required.

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But as with loving anything, there is worry and pain involved.  I have cried on my pets, and I have cried over them.   I’ve run to emergency rooms with them, visited them in hospitals, given medications, administered injections, and held them in my arms at the end of their lives.  Eye drops, ear drops, vitamins, special diets – these are all part of reality.  When you take on a pet, you take on their whole lives – their babyhood, childhood, old age, health problems, behavior problems, bad habits.   If they are not trained, it’s YOUR fault – not theirs.   If they chew on your belongings, put your belongings away and crate your pet till they learn.   Same with housebreaking.   Some pets take longer than others – some breeds take longer than others.  (I have one little guy here that I hope “gets the hang of it” before I die)

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As I’m sitting here, within four feet of me there are four dogs and four cats sleeping peacefully.  The fifth cat just climbed down off the back of my chair – over my shoulder, down my right side, and onto the keyboard of my laptop.   By the way, she can’t spell.   As I typed this, she looked knowledgeably at the screen, then turned, gave me the stink eye, and bit my arm.   Why?  who knows.    Obviously she didn’t think much of what I wrote.   This is the cat who is probably the most “cat-like”.   She wants to be handled and petted when SHE wants it.  She will recline in my lap purring happily, and I can pet her 4.7 times.  After that, she will bite at any given moment with no warning.  Imagine if she didn’t like me!!   Having proven her superiority over my right arm, she is now doing a victory lap across the top of the piano.  She is one of our first cats – she feels that gives her the right to exhibit her temper upon occasion.  Just often enough to keep me in line.  The only ones who have never been on the receiving end of her ill humor are Zeus, our older Golden Retriever, and Lou-Otto, our senior Basset Hound.  She loves them without any trace of the ire that the rest of us bring out in her.

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So much for dogs and cats not getting along…. another myth dispelled!

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To sum up; some of my best friends are four-legged.   There have been low times in my life when the loving eyes of my boys have kept me going – when their love has dried my tears.   I am grateful to them, I love them, and I would never want to be without them!

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It’s That Time of Year

For me, “that time of year” is whatever is just beginning.  I love WINTER- the first snowfall… snowmen…. toasty warm fur lined boots, and hot steamy radiators.  Christmas lights shining in the darkness, warm mittens, hot chocolate, long icicles off the roof sparkling in the sunshine, and warm quilts to cuddle up in.

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But just about when the snow turns to muddy black slush and I think that if one more snowflake falls I will personally impale myself on one of those icicles, a patch of green appears and the first snowdrops peak out of the ground.  SPRING!!   Just in time!!!   The first robins appear;  crocus, tulips, hyacinths all show their faces, Spring rain replaces those damn snowflakes …. the lilacs fill the air with their beautiful fragrance.  Even the forsythia heralding the return of allergy season is not enough to dim my excitement!  I hop around as happy as the Easter bunny – and it takes a while for the sneezing, watery eyes, and muddy dogs to wear me down.

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At some point, I begin haunting the garden centers and planning out my vegetable and flower gardens…. and I am champing at the bit for it to be warm enough to plant.   When I can’t hold back another second, SUMMER arrives in all its glory!!   Turning the soil, planting those seedlings, staking tomato plants, feeding the roses.  The heat of the sun makes me move a little slower – but that’s okay, it’s summer – time to relax!   Even mowing the crabgrass that I pass off as “lawn” is okay – it just become a matter of timing – mow early before it gets too hot – or later when it cools down.  The bees are lazily flying from blossom to blossom, and I’m lazily moseying from lawn chair to barbecue grill to air conditioning.  Lovely time of year.

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Let’s face it.  There really isn’t any point at which I get tired of summer.  What is there to get tired of??  Too much sunshine?   Too many flowers?  Too much good weather??  Please.  It’s a constant source of joy!

However Summer ends of it’s own accord – whether we like it or not.  School begins for the children.  The days start getting a little shorter.  And Autumn arrives.

That’s where I am now.  The air is getting a little cooler – at night it’s good sleeping weather!  I am anticipating a few weeks from now when the air is crisp – the dry, cool bite in the breeze – still the warmth of sun, but with the promise of the winter that is yet to come.   It just makes you want to bite into an apple!   The Pumpkins and the gourds are out ….. the Indian corn is ready to be hung on the door.  Fall is here!

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I am lucky to live in the Hudson Valley where we embrace our “Fallness” wholeheartedly.  We are minutes from the home of Washington Irving, and the village of Sleepy Hollow.    This whole area comes alive now with The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor, Horseman’s Hollow at Philipsburg Manor, Apple and Pumpkin picking all over the county, Tours of the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.  Ichabod Crane doesn’t stand a chance around here, as the Headless Horseman rides again!

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At this point I begin craving something else too….  my holiday lineup of cartoons.  “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” is first on my itinerary… Linus and Sally are waiting in the pumpkin patch, and I need to go join them.  I also have to sneak along the battle lines with Snoopy after his Sopwith Camel is shot down by the Red Baron behind enemy lines.  Afterwards, I’ll need to go visit “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and watch Ichabod attempt to court Katrina Van Tassel, until that fateful night he meets the Headless Horseman in the race for the bridge!

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I’m ready for it!   I’ve dusted off the giant black spider and the inflatable pirate ship for the front of my home.  I have my favorite pumpkin pie recipe in hand.  I’ve begun shopping for the dogs’ Halloween costumes.  (I tried costumes on the cats one year…… have you ever heard the expression about fur flying?…. yup….not doing that again…..hopefully my scars will heal eventually……)

From here on in it’s a smooth slide till year’s end.   Halloween…… Thanksgiving…..Christmas….. one great holiday accompanied by great cartoons after another!   I’ll be loving every minute of it!

Until…..that muddy black slush that is awaiting me in February/March……

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MESS 2 – My Diet Update

WOO HOO!! I found my cheek bones today!!! I always knew they were there, because whenever l ate something REALLY cold my teeth would hurt right up into where my cheek bones used to lurk. But they haven’t been out and visible in a while! It’s like finding an old friend… or two 🙂

  
Twenty-two and a half pounds down – that’s the diet update. Twenty-two and a half pounds!! It’s not enough YET, but it’s a tidy sum with which I am moderately pleased. I’ve been good about the yogurt… I’ve been good about the rabbit food…that is to say, endive, carrots and cherry tomatoes…. I’ve been good about the healthy cereal, fat free milk, berries, I’ve been good about the grilled chicken. I’ve even been good about the fat free cottage cheese (small curd, of course – I couldn’t be good about large curd!)! I did sneak in a slice of cheese pizza twice, and a peanut butter cup once, but my diet success just proves my own theory that the rare “cheat” does not ruin real progress. In the past, if I cheated once during the day, I would call the whole day lost and eat whatever I wanted. Now I recognize that one momentary lapse is not enough to call it quits for the day. In fact, I think the occasional lapse helps. That one peanut butter cup was enough to satisfy a sweet tooth for a month – and the pizza was delicious, but I realized that one piece of it was not worth ruining my diet for on a regular basis. Win win! 

  
I definitely feel a difference – I have more energy, and I can walk at a faster clip – almost as fast as I used to go when I had a child by each hand flapping in the breeze behind me as I raced along! I have not reached the point where my knees don’t hurt – but I would say they are cautiously enjoying the lighter load that they have to lug around! They haven’t said as much to me, but there is a lot less complaining when I have to get up out of a chair. (Yes, my knees have been known to talk to me….a lot of it used to be in expletives, but osteoarthritis coupled with overweight will do that to a knee) My right hip is still angry…. but remember, hips don’t lie – and mine have been cranky for a while. Not only have they been hurting, but they haven’t even looked nice in a dress. A double insult that any self-respecting hip would find hard to swallow! 

  
Some of my clothing is starting to hang on me a bit…. right now I’m wearing an old pair of shorts that will be hitting the ground in another five pounds. These are the only shorts I own because I threw out all the tight ones that no longer fit in a paroxysm of frustration last summer. So these will be the virtual yardstick against which I will measure my progress. I actually own two pairs of the same shorts – because when you’re overweight and you find shorts that fit comfortably, don’t ride up too alarmingly on your inner thighs in the summer, and are machine washable; you buy as many as they have in the store. I will never throw these shorts out….although I may use them to slipcover my sofa…..

  
Of course if you are picturing me as an older lady walking around in baggy old shorts and t-shirts, ratty sneakers, and talking to herself you would be correct. I have become that woman that talks to herself in stores; holding conversations with persons unknown and unseen (I occasionally give encouragement to my knees and hips), who looks like she found her clothing in a secondhand store and it was all she could afford. I am okay with this. There is no one out there I want to impress. I am doing this for ME. Well let me amend that slightly… me, my daughters, and my multitude of well loved pets – none of whom I want to be forced to leave behind anytime soon. 

  
I do have clothing for work that is in better shape…. just as old as the shorts, but it hung in there better. My work clothing is that wonderful rayon/nylon/polyester blend that feels like it has elastic running through all of it, and gives and stretches like a champ. I’ve had a few of these dresses for more than ten years – through every weight fluctuation – and they just expand and contract as needed. In one or two of them I feel like the years are starting to take their toll on the fabric, though. Have you heard the expression “the elastic gave out”? Well for me that is inaccurate. I don’t think my elastic gives OUT. I think the elastic in my clothing gives UP. There have been times at my heaviest when my waistbands have said to me “listen chubby – put the hanger down and step away from the closet!” On a couple of mornings, my underwear looked at me and whimpered. Have you ever seen pantyhose cower in the back of a drawer? I have. It’s not pretty. I haven’t seen my bathing suit all summer. It is hiding somewhere in my room – I searched for it one day but gave up when I realized it probably wouldn’t fit anyway. As I left the room, I heard a sigh of relief coming from my closet, but I chose to take the high road and ignore it. I don’t need to deal with a sassy swimsuit. I deserve better. My clothing should just come out and take it like a man. 

  
So my diet is still going well. I’m rather proud of it – it hasn’t cost me anything, it is all my own invention, and I still haven’t joined a gym (which is why I’m not in traction or hobbling with a cane). Of course I break one of the cardinal rules of dieting – don’t weigh yourself every day – the theory being that you then won’t see the daily fluctuations up and down, just the overall progress. 

I, instead, weigh myself at the same time every morning. I am not discouraged by the fluctuations of a pound or two up or down. But I do use the daily weigh-in to “tweak” my diet as I go – a pound up and I am a little more careful or I take an extra staircase or two instead of an elevator. In this way, I feel more in control of the whole process. My body can’t betray me by sprouting five extra pounds in the weekly weigh in. I’ll have seen it edging up a pound at a time and done something decisive about it long before that one week mark comes along!

  
I’m looking forward to the next twenty two pounds. Those will make a big difference – not only will my shorts fall off, but probably my bra too. (See earlier blog post on dieting for this :)) I am even toying with the idea of getting out my Sweating to the Oldies DVDs! They popped into my head the other day… but my hip said to me “not yet, Lady. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves !!” So I let it go for the moment…. Maybe I’ll revisit the thought again in another ten pounds….. by then my hip may feel as optimistic as my knees seem to be….hurting, but not violent! Pain I can handle…. it’s outright rebellion that is out of the question! 

  
So stand by… it’s onward and upward from here!! Through Mom Eyes, I’m doing pretty well! I’m on the path to good health and fitness!! I’ll report back soon…… 🙂

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The Forbidden Pet Store

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I have always had an iron clad rule in my home:  we do NOT get dogs from PET SHOPS.  I left no doubt on this rule – no room for discussion.  I was secure in the knowledge that, as acting head of the household, my word would be law.  With the respect and esteem that my children had for me, I just knew that no one would break this solemn pact.

Are you with me?  Good.

I even went so far as to make them take an oath with their right hands on a vet bill that they wouldn’t even ENTER a pet store lest they lose their minds and their will and succumb to the temptation of a caged puppy.  I was certain they wouldn’t break this sacred oath.

You know where I’m going, don’t you…..

There is always that one child…. the one that likes to test the bonds of parental authority.  The one who flounts convention and hurdles the constraints of house rules.   Actually she’s a great daughter…..  But even as a child she liked to test the limits of the restrictions.  She was also the master of the understatement.  When she would come and ask me for a band aid, I would need to go see if she really required a tourniquet, or if a simple ambulance trip would suffice.  (She got this from her Grandfather, but that is a story for another day)  So it is not too surprising that I felt a pang of unease when she came home one summer day and said “Mom, I saw the cutest puppy in a pet store today!   What would you have done if I’d brought him home?”  I cocked an eye at her, but her arms were empty and I couldn’t hear an extra set of breathing, so I threw caution to the wind and considered my reply…. “well,  I wouldn’t have killed you….”  BZZZZZZZZZZZZZT!!!  Wrong answer!!!

Maybe a week or so later, I came home at lunchtime to feed the four legged family and found both my daughters hovering in the dining room with what my Dad would have termed “shit eating grins” on their faces.  You know the look.   I just knew.   I literally said “where is he”, when RIGHT ON CUE, a fuzzy face, bright eyes and two paws popped up on my knee and a happy little face smiled right at me.  Duncan had arrived.

Never one to fight a losing battle, I acknowledged defeat and lifted the little newbie into my lap.  The girls buzzed around telling me how much “we needed him!”  The words “like a hole in the head” ran through my mind but I kept my mouth shut and let them gush.  My daughter told me how she had called the store so many times to see if he’d been purchased, but apparently while the puppies around him came and went Duncan was left behind.  Fate?  Prophetic?  Who knows.  He was ours now.  He had found a sucker… oops, home.   My daughter’s boyfriend had gone in and haggled over the price (the little guy had been there way too long already).  A bargain was struck and the pup was secured.

Duncan left the pet store with an iron clad health guarantee – as well as a double ear infection and severe case of worms.   He was the poster child for why pet stores should not sell puppies.   He had been taken from his mother way too soon.  His medical care had been grossly inadequate.  He was behind on his vaccinations despite assurances that he had everything he needed.  He was a mass of insecurities and fears.  He had been kept in a cage so long that it was difficult to housebreak him.   During his infrequent walks, he was on a cement sidewalk outside the store.  Because of this, he was afraid of grass.  He could barely be persuaded to put his paws on it at all.  The same was true of fresh air and the outdoors in general.   He still gets carsick.  While I realize many dogs have this problem, most of them wait until the car is running and has left the driveway.   As soon as Duncan’s  paws hit the seat, the foaming commences.  By the time the key slides into the ignition, he is in full froth.

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Duncan has proved to be a special little fellow in every possible nuance of that word.   He is sweet, silly, very eager to please.   In obedience school, he learned surprisingly quickly, although he is still timid and slightly high strung with other animals, strangers, and noises.  He runs happily out into the garden with the other boys now, and stays on the grass for at least 45 seconds before hauling ass back onto the deck and jumping convulsively up and down at the door until we let him back in.   He plays frantically with the gang in the house, and then suddenly realizes what he’s doing and that he’s perhaps having fun.  He then immediately and quickly seeks the highest ground possible (my end table is a favorite) and puts himself on a time out.  He’s made friends with the cats, and the dogs all love him – with the exception of Lou, our senior Basset Hound, who hasn’t forgiven me yet for giving Duncan houseroom.  Lou has added this to his list of grievances against me which he airs from time to time (he is the master of the stink eye).   Like my father, Lou is also a story that needs to be told another time.

I have since reiterated the pet store law around here, adding the codicil that no one is even to drive past a mall that might have a pet store in it!  Any reputable breeder will not sell their puppies through a store.  They want to meet the prospective parents and screen them thoroughly.  The sire and dam have health screenings, and one or both of them are on the premises.  These puppies come with a REAL health guarantee and come from a real home.  They are bred for health, beauty, companionship, service.   So called breeders that sell through a store, breed for one reason…money.  The dogs are in-bred, the mother and the puppies are badly treated.  The words “AKC puppies” and “health guarantee” mean nothing from a pet store.  It would be better to adopt from a shelter, rescue, or if a particular breed puppy is wanted, find a reputable breeder and go through the process.

It’s three years now that Duncan has been with us and he is one of the family.  I am very glad that he came home to us – he is a little love and it is rewarding to see how healthy and happy he is now.

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As an added precaution after my new set of rules, I’ve fitted my daughter with one of those electric fence collars used on dogs.  If she goes anywhere near a pet store, the collar will zap the heck out of her…

That should do the trick……

Posted in Aging, Arthritis, Cat Lady, Cat Lover, Cats, Children, Cockapoo, Daughters, Diet, Dieting, Dog, Dogs, Family, gardening, Golden Retriever, Life, life lesson, Love, Maine Coon, Mom, Mom Eyes, moms, Mother, Oldage, Over50, Parenting, Physical therapy, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Life Lessons

If I could go back and meet myself at 19 there are a few pieces of advice I really wish I could give me.   Among them are; Do better in school, save your money, stay the hell away from THAT guy (exclamation points after that one), you’re not really going to become a veterinarian so study something you can actually use, and the list goes on.

However, as I was cleaning my garage today, I figured out the four major pieces of advice that I would pass on to every female:

First, never stop jumping rope.  Be it single jumping, group jumping, double dutch, hot pepper, or jump rope songs there is something about jumping rope that is fun, relaxing, companionable when done en masse, good exercise, and down right enjoyable.  You can sing to it, dance while doing it, daydream, laugh, get sunshine and fresh air.  It works up a sweat, gives you rhythm, flexibility, agility, synchronization in a group, and mobility when you learn how to skip while locomoting down the street (if there is no such word as locomoting, there should be and will be from now on)  It also helps with your ability to count by tens when doing Hot Pepper.   And the final cost is so minimal – a piece of your mother’s clothesline.  All those fancy shmancy weighted jump ropes are unnecessary to say the least.  A piece of good old fashioned rope.  That’s it.

Second, never stop riding your bicycle.  I spent so many happy days out pedaling frantically over to my friend Mary’s house or her to mine.  We would then ride around the neighborhood, ride to buy the latest Archie Comic books, ride to get a soda, ride to the playground, or to the field to pick wildflowers, play Follow the Leader on bicycle, or just coast the hills talking and laughing.   As I got older, I exchanged my two wheel transportation for four wheel transportation.  But I would still get my bicycle out on the weekend for “Bicycle Sunday” when parts of the local parkway would be closed to traffic and everyone would be out pedaling in the sunshine.   This was not only great exercise, but something of a social occasion as well.  Families were out, couples on tandems, the occasional unicycle, and the odd velocipede.  Nothing will ever feel quite as good as coasting over the gentle bumps in the road with hair blowing behind me (that was in the dark age before helmets arrived).

Third, never lose the ability to wear heels.  I remember my first pair of heels.  They were my pink satin Easter shoes the year I turned 13.  I could barely totter across the living floor when I first got them, and I practiced every day so I wouldn’t disgrace myself by wiping out on my way up to Communion at Easter mass.  In reality they were not very high – I think I’ve had sneakers with more of a heel.  But my thirteen year old self practically had a nose bleed from altitude and excitement.   After those pink gems, I loved heels.  When I went to work after college, I wore heels constantly and spent every day on my feet in a lab.  In a three story building, I used to run up and down the stairs in my heels, scorning the elevators ( actually I didn’t scorn the elevators.  I feared them.  It was a brand new building and the elevators occasionally went on the fritz.  I was stuck in one for what seemed like an eternity with a very strange, hygiene deficient guy from another department and another planet.  My fingernail marks are probably still on the inside of the elevator door).   Then I married someone shorter than me.  That in itself is not a problem, but it became a personal insult when I wore heels.  I was “young and in love” (read that as stupid)  so I began wearing flats.   Thirty three years later, I am no longer married, but I’ve lost the ability to wear heels.  Drat.

From number three comes what I will call 3A.  Avoid people who want you to change things about yourself.  Clothing choices, heels, hair color, whatever – you are beautiful just the way you are.

Fourth, never stop laughing.  Keep the ability to see the ridiculous in life….and sometimes even in yourself.  Not everything is funny…. not every day is funny.  But if you can’t laugh several times each week, there is something wrong.  The best feeling is when you laugh until the tears roll down your face.  I think 4A would be to surround yourself with people who know how to laugh.  I am very fortunate in having family, friends, and even pets who are side-splittingly funny.  I can’t imagine my life without them, and without the ability to laugh with them (and sometimes at them!)

I ran out of daylight while cleaning the garage and tying up the trash.  But I retained a nice piece of rope.  I have my eye on it for tomorrow…..

Fudge, Fudge, call the Judge!  Mama’s got a newborn baby!  Wrap him up in tissue paper, send him down the elevator, first floor MISS.  Second floor MISS.  Third floor, you better not miss ’cause H O T spells HOT!  10! 20! 30! 40!

(I should live so long I’ll get all the way through it, but with practice who knows!?  But I still remember the song! And at the very least, I am sure to get a laugh out of it!!)

Posted in Aging, Arthritis, Cat Lady, Cat Lover, Cats, Children, Daughters, Diet, Dieting, Dog, Dogs, Family, gardening, Golden Retriever, Life, life lesson, Love, Maine Coon, Mom, Mom Eyes, moms, Mother, Oldage, Over50, Parenting, Physical therapy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lazy Day

I didn’t get to exercise today.   As previously stated, I fear gym memberships for the twisted knees and strained tendons they bring down on me.   But I have been known to pop in the ole Sweatin’ to the Oldies DVD from time to time and bop around the living room….. (this is not a pretty sight and I make sure to pull down the blinds before this takes place….)

But today was not to be the day for that. I took the day off from work and it was a lazy day for me.   I woke up this morning and went out with the dogs before breakfast.  I picked up the yard after them, and moved the lawn furniture onto the deck.  I cleaned off the picnic table, and opened the umbrella.  On my way to open the gate, I noticed some dead roses, so I got out the pruners and a bag, and pruned all the roses .  I removed some dead branches on two trees and three bushes too.  Then I planted that Butterfly Bush that I had still in the pot.

Since it was still too early to rev up the mower to cut the crabgrass, I decided to put some laundry on.  On my way up to get the laundry I stopped to clean the rabbit cage and feed her.  Carrying the laundry back down to the basement, I noticed the light bulb was out on the staircase, so I went out back to get a replacement for it.  In the cabinet with the light bulbs I saw the clear bags and remembered I wanted to change the bag in the recycling bin in the kitchen.  When I carried the full bag out to the bin, I realized I needed to bring in the recycling can from the street.

On my way back up the driveway dragging the can I noticed the boxes of cat litter and the big sack of dog food in the back of my car and carried them into the house.  After carrying in the cat litter, I decided to clean the litter boxes on the second floor.    I went back to the first floor to get garbage bags for the old litter, and heard the washing machine stop in the basement so I went down to move the first load to the dryer and put in the second load.

Coming back up from the basement, I realized it was getting hot out and decided to cut the crabgrass before it got hotter.  I mowed the front and back lawns, bagged the clippings and dragged the bags to the curb.  When I finished I went back in for something cold to drink and noticed the water dish was empty.  I filled it and then fed the dogs and the cats their first meal of the day.

While they ate, I folded and put away the first load of laundry, moved the second to the dryer and started the third load in the washer.  Then it was time to go out with the dogs again.  After that I remembered the litter boxes and went back up to clean them and carry out the bags of old cat litter.

I wrote out a basic shopping list and made a trip to the local grocery store.   My few items became a cart full of groceries – paper towel bundle packs and Poland Springs gallon bottles were on sale.  Hurried home to put away the cold stuff first, then carried the rest into the house and found a place for everything.  Third load of laundry moved to the dryer and second put away.

Out in the garden again, I played a rousing game of fetch with two Golden boys.   Then it was dinner time for the boys.   Third load of laundry out of the dryer and put away.

Somewhere in there I had a yogurt for lunch, and my usual endive, cucumber, cottage cheese, cherry tomato “salad” for dinner.

I never did get to exercise today.  I just spent a nice leisurely day at home.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll work up the energy for it…..

Posted in Aging, Arthritis, Cat Lady, Cat Lover, Cats, Children, Daughters, Diet, Dieting, Dog, Dogs, Family, gardening, Golden Retriever, Life, Love, Maine Coon, Mom, Mom Eyes, moms, Mother, Oldage, Over50, Parenting, Physical therapy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ouch

I inherited a lot of good qualities from my parents:  my sense of humor (such as it is), my love of animals, my green eyes, brown hair – back when it actually WAS a color (the tendency to go gray very early came right from my Dad, God love him).  I also inherited my long legs and arms, round face, high blood pressure, allergies, and arthritis (Thanks, Mom for that last one :)).

Thanks to the wonders of Osteoarthritis and degenerative discs, I have been introduced to the joys of Physical Therapy.  I have been assured that my aches and pains will end and new range of motion will be restored to my neck and shoulders.  Everyday I perform my exercises religiously in the privacy of my living room.  Twice a week, I leave after a full day of work and go directly to meet with my PHYSICAL THERAPIST.  Notice the italics.  Anyone who can cause that much agony in the name of good health deserves the italics.

Now don’t misunderstand me.  It’s not that I don’t have faith that it will ultimately work.  I am just hoping against hope that it doesn’t kill me in the meantime.

The office is lovely and very reassuring, with huge windows, soft music, plenty of tables with pillows to lay on, nice new equipment, and plenty of assistants in color coordinated Polo shirts.  Impressive to say the least!

The session begins with me comfortably reclining on a cushioned table, pillows under my head, bolster under my knees, facing one of those windows with a positively bucolic view – all designed to engender feelings of peace and tranquility.  A lovely heated wrap is placed around my neck, and the warmth lulls me into a false sense of relaxation…and depending on how trying the day was – euphoria.  I’m allowed to recline there cradled in warmth and soft music until I’m almost dozing… or comatose.

Once my defenses are down, the heated wrap comes off.  The announcement is made that I am about to be worked on.  (I think a better statement would be that I am about to be worked OVER, but it’s all semantics.)  The massaging begins….

In theory, it makes sense for probing fingers to seek out the knots in my neck and shoulders and attempt to unknot them.  The reality though, oh my.  I have to give this man credit.  He knows his business.  He unerringly finds the knottiest parts, and has the audacity to ask me if ” this hurts”.  Upon being assured that it does, he REALLY digs his fingers in.   Some part of my brain finds it interesting that as he prods deeply in the area of my clavicle , pain shoots up the side of my neck, past my ear, and over the top of my head.  Upon being informed of this surprising occurrence, he comments that’s a new one, usually the pain centers over the eye.

Seriously?   Is this the same set of rules as when the dentist tells you never to use sharp objects on your teeth, and then the next moment goes in with a grappling hook?   The same theory as you have to spend money to make money?   You have to cause pain to cure pain?  I’m already hurting…. somehow I’m not so sure I’m going to break even on this….

After an interminable amount of time, I have somehow survived the unknotting and can now move on to exercises on those shiny machines.  Everything is in three sets of ten….the magic number.  I’m afraid to lose count in fear that one extra or too few will ruin this path I am on to health and flexibility (or at least the ability to turn my head enough to look over my shoulder without losing consciousness).   I ignore the throbbing ache that has settled across my entire head, and settle into a smooth rhythm for the sets.  I’m pretty proud of myself on completing the first ten and begin the second with the end in sight.  Then one of those Polo-shirted youths hops over to tell me that I have to hold my elbows differently, my shoulders further down, and pull back with my arms more so that my back tightens and draws together.  He then stands there until I execute his directives to his satisfaction.   Fortunately I am able to do this.  Unfortunately this position aggravates my lower back and elbows where the arthritis and disc problems had been dozing in silence.

By the time I finish up and go confirm my next appointment, I am carrying my purse with my left arm while my right arm hangs uselessly at my side,  I am slightly stooped to alleviate the shooting daggers in my lower back, my neck is (still) sore, my head is still aching, and  I am squinting in the sun because the pain has finally reached the correct position over my eyes.

I’m sitting here now with a hot water bottle tucked at my back.  My neck feels like it can hardly hold my head up.  As soon as I can drag my sorry body out of this chair, I am going to take Advil.

I can’t wait for this Physical Therapy to take effect…..

Maybe if I do FOUR sets of ten……

Posted in Aging, Arthritis, Cat Lady, Cat Lover, Cats, Children, Daughters, Diet, Dieting, Family, Life, Love, Mom, Mom Eyes, moms, Mother, Oldage, Over50, Parenting, Physical therapy, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lambert, the Sheepish Lion

Twas the hour before dawn and all through the house not a creature was stirring…. well maybe one or two.  It’s that time of night when I feel the need for a late night walk to the bathroom (one of the wonders of being female, taking a diuretic for blood pressure, or being over 50 – take your choice).  It’s not a bad thing, I actually enjoy the quiet and peace of this time of night – the stroll through the house, flipping on a light switch here and there…. I can really look around and appreciate my home and how much I love it. ( I also lost the ability to sleep through the night as soon as I was handed the first baby in the hospital. )

But I digress.

As I came out of the bathroom, one other creature was stirring in my house…. and it wasn’t a mouse.  Sitting right outside the door patiently awaiting my exit, was a fuzzy body and big sparkly eyes.  As I crossed the hall, he fell into step beside me and accompanied me on the rest of my journey.

One of the most companionable guys in my life is Lambert, my big orange Maine Coon.  He came into my life as a tiny kitten in a basket – beautiful orange and white perfect spirals on his sides like Fibonacci ( my daughter was student teaching at the time – the wonders of the Fibonacci sequence).  As he grew, his beauty and personality increased.  Lambert is big and gentle, with a  soft, long coat and a huge fluffy tail like a bottle brush that he carries proudly in the air.  The fur on his back legs makes him look like he is wearing pantaloons, and he trots gracefully through the house going about his self-appointed errands.

True to his name (Lambert, the Sheepish Lion), Lambert is very placid and a little on the shy side with strangers, which is only the more endearing.  He sits off to the side and assesses new arrivals with a slight frown on his brow.  He is a peacemaker with the other cats, and plays very gently with the tiniest cat of the bunch.

Lambert is a good conversationalist, and can be quite vocal with a distinct sequence of chirps and meows that is recognizable from a distance.  He has quite a bit to say at mealtimes, as he snakes around my feet and stretch his paws up for his dish (meals are very important to this guy).   Lambert is only too happy to lay on the table during my meals, pretending indifference to my food.  He lays down in the vicinity of my dish, and then gives a very nonchalant ssssttttrrrretttccchhh with both front paws – which, if I’m not observant, will land very cleverly in my plate.  He also likes to play with water, and will bat at a faucet drip, or play in and with his water dish.

One of my favorite “Lambert moments” comes when he is cuddling in my arms or lounging in my lap watching television (his favorite movie is “Mulan”).   He stretches out, settles in, and gets his motor running…. a nice low hum of a purrrrrr that is so soothing – the sound of happiness – guaranteed to lower my heart rate and make any day better.

I can whole-heartedly say that Maine Coons are an extremely special breed of cat – companionable, loving, truly a gentle giant.  And my Lambert, my sweet buddy, fellow night owl, is truly everything wonderful that one cat can be.

I have to go now….. I’m being chirped at, and I just happen to have “Mulan” on DVR…..

Posted in Aging, Cat Lady, Cat Lover, Cats, Children, Daughters, Diet, Dieting, Dog, Dogs, Family, Golden Retriever, Life, Love, Maine Coon, Mom, Mom Eyes, moms, Mother, Oldage, Over50, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment