Articles

On Loss, Remembrance, and Renewal

Last Wednesday, we said goodbye to the Murphy-dog. I’m still not one-hundred percent sure what happened, because he was doing better, and then just sort of crashed, but due to several other health issues he’s been dealing with, we opted not to treat this time, and instead had him euthanized. Thanks to our amazing veterinary team, it was quick, peaceful, and I was able to be with the Murph right up to the end, even with pandemic precautions still in place.

Murphy was one of the best dogs we’ve ever had, bar none. Sweet, kind, independent, stubborn, smart, lazy, loud and seriously goofy. There will never be another quite like him, and I’m so glad we got to have him in our lives for the last five or six years.

As we all do, I deal with the grief and letting go in my own way. The day of is the hardest, and the next few days after a mixture of loss and guilt and second-guessing. Distractions are welcome from that point on, so things can be dealt with in small bites rather than big gulps. As I move through the next few weeks, I’ll remember the small moments as I move through my days, a sort of ongoing tribute as time passes. And much like Murphy’s head prints in the snowbank outside my back door (he loved to go out and rub his face in the snow, which always made me laugh), the pain will gradually fade and the memories will make me smile when some small, everyday thing brings them to mind.

After awhile, when you’ve lived and loved enough, this sort of ongoing random tribute happens a lot. I’ve said goodbye to seven dogs now, and I still remember each of them often, for specific things they liked and did and disliked. They are each always with me in spirit. I love that.

For now, it’s just Athena here with us, and she’s dealing with the loss in her own way. The happy howling is on hold (I miss that!), and she’s quiet, unsure. But like the rest of us, she’ll get through this, and soon enough, she’ll have a new friend to bond to and play with. Sometimes it takes awhile to find the right fit, but we’ll start looking this week.

Life will go on, as it always does. Happiness will prevail, as it always should.

We will make sure it does.

Rest well, my big, gentle goof.

Doggie Vertigo, Routines, & Other Stuff

You know how when you set up a bunch of new routines that are almost guaranteed to be successful just because you’ve done the research and testing and everything is finally ready to fall into place and then…it’s like the universe knows you’re on the cusp of something really, really good, and takes it as a challenge, and suddenly in the space of a few hours everything falls apart due to one completely random event that has to take precedence over everything?

That’s how my week started last week.

Monday was a horrible day, from the minute I crawled out of bed, and just kept getting worse, culminating in a trip to the emergency vet after work so the Murph could get diagnosed with “old dog vestibular disease”, which is basically the worse case of vertigo you can possibly imagine.

That led to two days at home making sure he was on the mend and safe to leave with Athena the Cyclone. Thankfully he was able to walk again within around 16 hours or so, but it was shaky (literally) for a good while there (and still is occasionally).

Even so, my new routines have been proving themselves mostly worthy, though I’m not getting as much writing done during my late writing time as I’d like (despite moving it up by half an hour). I’m just not awake/alert enough at that time, and I need to figure out how to wake myself up enough to get a good hour’s worth of writing in, while not keeping myself up much longer than that. But otherwise, things are working. Which is a nice change.

I didn’t meet my publishing deadline for this month, but considering I didn’t set the deadlines until mid-Jan, I’m going to cut myself some slack on that, and focus on meeting February’s deadline. I have a plan, I have motivation, and I’m pretty confident that everything should work the way I’ve set it up. I just need to show up at the keyboard and do the work.

In non-writing related news, I’m definitely getting better at dying my longer hair, and it’s getting to a place where I’m going to need to get it cut soon. Which means picking out a new hair stylist. I was hoping to hold out until we were closer to the end of the pandemic, just because it seems like a bad idea to have someone who can’t see the bottom half of my face figure out how to cut/style my hair, but…well, we’ll see.

I also figured out my hip issue and have almost completely rehabbed it. Huzzah! Now to just keep getting my body into better shape, and strengthen the muscles in that area to protect against it happening again. That’s the key, really. No being lazy, no skipping workout sessions. It’s important.

The only other thing really bothering me at the moment is my eye, and that is going to require a very up close and personal exam, new glasses, and probably a referral to a cornea specialist. I’m still trying to wait that one out, but it’s probably contributing more to my productivity problems than I realize, and it might be better to take the risk and make the appointment sooner rather than later. We’ll see.

It’s a new month, and despite everything, I feel optimistic about what the next few weeks have in store. Here’s hoping.


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Variety Pages – March 9, 2020

Weird ‘n Wacky

Pants on the Ground

It had been a particularly windy day when I came across these pants while walking to my car after work. I often pass discarded articles of clothing, but they’re normally gloves, hats, scarves, or the occasional shoe or coat. It’s not often I pass a pair of pants, and my immediate thought, of course, was, “Wow! You know the wind is blowing hard when someone loses their pants!”

And then of course I wondered what *really* happened…if they fell out of someone’s bag, or if there had been a “de-pantsing” incident there, or if they’d simply blown off of one of the balconies from the nearby apartment building. Assuming the latter was the most fun, and provided me story fodder for the ride home.

Where does your mind take you when you see a rogue pair of pants like this?

Puppy Pic of the Week

Athena & Murphy, practicing patience.

Off the Shelf

I’ve been making reading more of a priority this year, and at the moment, I have two books and several comic series in progress. In print, I am still working on Origin by Dan Brown. “Still” because I started it before Christmas last year, and then let it sit for far too long while I worked late instead of getting to bed early enough to have reading time. Now I spend about 15-20 minutes with it a night, and it’s moving quickly, both story-wise and page-wise! I’m enjoying it, and very curious as to what the ultimate reveal will be.

Digitally, I’m reading Blame it on the Frosting by Samantha Hunter. It’s cute, sweet, and funny, as you might expect. Also, I find the thought of pheromone-laced cookies a little disconcerting.

And my current comic series in play are Harly Quinn, The Amazing Spider-Man, Daredevil, Deadpool, and I just finished Pearl. I’m a little behind (catching up quickly), but I’m exceedingly glad that the “Hunted” story line in Spider-man is over. It was getting a bit tedious, in my opinion. Definitely looking forward to what’s coming next.

I was also a bit bummed to come to the end of Pearl’s story…at least for now. I’m not normally interested in things with a gang subject, but I was drawn to this one by the tattooing and art style, and definitely got hooked on the Yakuza-centered story line. Fascinating.

Excerpt of the Week

How It Begins

“So this is how it ends.”

Nori locked gazes with the dull green eyes peering through a black mask at her over the barrel of a gun. She didn’t know what kind of gun it was, and didn’t care. She didn’t bother struggling against the zip-ties that bound her wrists, didn’t bother begging. She couldn’t see his face, but she knew him well enough.

“It won’t give you peace, you know.”

His nod was almost imperceptible. “I know. But I can’t let you leave.”


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Barriers, Sore Muscles, & Reflections at 45

This past weekend, the hubby and I installed a wire barrier in the Subaru between the back seat and the hatchback. Normally people do this to keep their dogs in the hatch, but my dogs ride in the backseat (I mean, that’s where the windows are, right?).

The thing is, just before Christmas, Athena-dog decided to eat a chocolate cookie while we were out grocery shopping. She climbed over the back seat and into the hatch to get to it while we were inside our last grocery store of the day.

Then the next week, I put most everything into a zip-top cooler, but left my bags from the bread store out (because it’s bread…not much of an enticing smell, or so you’d think). she ate an entire package of english muffins that day.

The week after that, I put everything into a sturdy zipper thermo-bag, and when I came out of the last store, I found a burly, tattooed guy in a big red truck towing a compressor sitting there in the parking lot, laughing at Athena as she ate her way through the top third of a beef liver container (it was half-frozen, thank goodness). He had a great time, she had a great time, and the dogs had slightly less liver in the batch of food I made that week.

So, we installed a barrier to keep the groceries safe from my little perpetually-hungry boxer. And it works great! The groceries are safe, Athena-dog only pouted a little bit, and I don’t have to worry about catching a dog before she can run as I open the hatch to put more groceries in. Win-win for me!

However. I am so, so very out of shape – something I didn’t realize until the day after kneeling/squatting in the back of the car for 30 minutes to install that wonderful piece of equipment. I tell you what – my butt, the backs of my thighs and my inner thighs were all in *so much pain*, they were just burning up. Walking hurt, sitting hurt, standing hurt…I haven’t been in that much pain in a long, long time. Even my back and knees got in on the “let’s remind Jamie she’s not getting any younger” bandwagon.

Ouch.

Yesterday was only slightly better. I did yoga, but it was the slowest I’ve ever done, and it hurt like hell stretching those poor, sore mustles out enough so I could make it back up the stairs. I tried not to sit for too long of time periods at work, but my inner thighs (abductors? Adductors? I can’t remember) are still painfully sore and hurt whenever I sit down or stand up. Or walk, to an extent.

My back, ankles and knees still aren’t happy either. Part of the back/shoulder/neck issues is all the crocheting I’ve been doing to get that shawl done…but I should be able to do that without hurting. And I would be, if I were staying in shape in the first place. *sigh*

I used to recover from such things far more quickly, but alas, I think I still have a day or two to go until I can comfortably sit down/stand up. It was a stark reminder of how out-of-shape I’ve allowed myself to get, and also how much longer it takes to recover now that I’m right at my mid-forties.

Yes, I turn 45 on Friday, and I know people in their 60’s who are in better shape than I am. So…I really need to do something about that, especially since we’re headed back to Universal Studios and Disney World in Orlando this coming fall. I see new, more intense workouts in my immediate future. You know. After it doesn’t hurt to move again.

I’ve been thinking a lot as I approach what is probably close to the midpoint of my life, about the life I’ve lived so far, and the choices I’ve made. I don’t regret anything, really – I’ve found regrets are pointless for the most part. I do wish I could believe in reincarnation or some such philosphy of infinite do-overs. Not because I think I *should* have done things differently, but I so wish life could be like one of those Choose Your Own Adventure novels. I think it would be fun to be able to go through life, making the choices you make, and then at the end, be able to start over again from the beginning and make just a few different choices, to see what that life is like, and then do it over again to see what *that* reality is like…don’t you think that would be fascinating, especially if you could remember it all?

I like the life I’ve built, but I’m also constantly wondering “what if?”, and I think it would be fun to be able to explore all of those possibilities. Alas, it’s not to be, but perhaps that’s why I’m a writer, eh? To explore all sorts of different lives without getting into too much trouble, hurting too many people, or getting thrown into prison (*ahem*).

What’s one choice you made a long time ago that you’d like to know how it would have turned out if you’d chosen differently? Or do you already know how it would have turned out, and would just like to go back and…do that, for the experience? Inquiring minds…


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Introducing Athena & A New Keyboard

Wow. I’ve been trying to get a post written for nearly a month now, and things have just been so busy that every time I start working on it, it’s late and I’m tired and I just don’t have the energy to finish, much less post. Which really just goes to show you how routine-driven I am, and what happens when those routines are disrupted for an extended period of time, as they have been this summer. July and August have been busy months, and I’m just now (as in, for one whole week) getting back into my regular routines without random sidetracks and distractions throwing me off.

Although there’s another disruption coming, as we have to replace our shower surround this weekend. Hopefully it will only take one day though, and we can still have a “normal” weekend with Labor Day tacked onto the end.

The biggest news since my last post is that we adopted a boxer puppy (2-3 yrs old) named Athena. She’s adorable and spunky and was obviously mistreated at some point in her young life, but she’s brave and curious and has made herself right at home with us. She’s also white, and shedding like crazy at the moment – getting rid of an old, malnourished coat and growing in a much thicker, healthier one. So, we have little white hairs all over everything, including ourselves. I ordered lint rollers last night, along with a shedding glove, and am going to get some conditioning shampoo for dear Athena this weekend. I just can’t make myself buy lighter clothing. LOL

In any case, Athena is young and full of energy, and she’s already getting the Murph off the couch more often (I don’t think he necessarily appreciates that, but it’s good for him) and he’s walking a tad bit farther with her at his side. Of course she needs a much longer hike than he does, which means we go with him, take him home, and then Athena and I go for part two, which is a good half-mile to a mile at the moment, and we’ll work up to a couple miles most nights in moderate weather. So I’m getting more exercise too, which is perfect (and much needed). It’s always easier to walk with a buddy, IMO.

Writing has been hit or miss, a lot more “miss” unfortunately, but as the routines get back to normal and I don’t have to think so much about every little thing I do during the day, I have more energy and headspace available for creative endeavors. I have gotten a little lazy about using the Neo though – mostly because uploading to the laptop requires plugging the Neo in by cable and then transferring the keystrokes into my writing program (yWriter). I tried working directly on my laptop again, but between hating the keyboard and having distractions so readily available (I forgot to order this! I need to post that! Was that an important email that just came in?) it just doesn’t work for my flighty brain.

So last week, I ordered a bluetooth keyboard (full-sized, with scissor switches) to pair with my cell, and I can use that to write directly into yWriter from my lap. The size of the phone screen really doesn’t lend itself to switching apps often (so less distractions) and my yWriter files live in my Dropbox account, so I can get to them from both my phone and my laptop – no transfer needed.

I think it’ll be a good solution…we’ll find out at the end of this week. The keyboard I really wanted with Cherry MX switches and a really nice “typewriter” look was two hundred bucks, the one I got was thirty. Maybe I’ll splurge on the nicer one if the solution works well enough to finish a novel by Christmas.

So, moving along. Getting back on track. Putting the things I can back on auto-pilot, so I can focus more on things like writing. It feels good. I hope things will stabilize for awhile now. My brain could use the rest.

Next week…a resolution check-in.


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Stress, Death, & Sleep

Good to rest after a nice walk in the rain…

It’s been a few weeks, hasn’t it? If I remember correctly, two weeks ago I was busy wallowing in writerly self-pity over not making/taking/finding the time to do all I want to do on the writing side. So then instead of writing a blog post, I tried to work on my fiction, and ended up coming up with a plan to work in some sort fiction, which failed miserably in the first week (keep reading).

Then last week, there was a problem at work that required quite a bit of extra troubleshooting hours, which pretty much tanked both the ultra-fun weekend I had planned and bled over into the week. Such is life, sometimes, and at those particular times, life sucks.

But not nearly as much as when you have to say goodbye to a furry friend, as I did last Wednesday afternoon. I had our vet come to the house and put my quirky Mica-dog to sleep after watching him decline rather quickly over the week or so before that. He was older, around 10 or 12 (hard to say for sure with a rescue), and had many tumors and some other health problems that finally made it so he couldn’t leave the property (not that he’d get in a car…he’d refused to do that for the past few years, but he loved to go for walks), and while I wrestled hard with the decision for three days after scheduling the appointment, I knew it was ultimately the right choice when I looked into his eyes that day.

Mica-dog…on guard!

I sat on the floor of our living room with the vet and the nurse, and held his head as he closed his eyes for the last time. It never gets easier (and it shouldn’t), but unlike a few of the other five times I’ve done this, I don’t think I’ll have any lasting guilt or agonizing over whether I made the choice either too soon or too late. This is one of the few times I’ve been at peace with the timing after the fact (it’s never going to be a peaceful process to get to that decision, and again, it shouldn’t be). So there’s that, I guess. I still miss him – he was loud and demanding and persnickety and sometimes really annoying, but he was also the best couch-cuddle-buddy and one of those dogs who just wanted to be with his people and keep his “pack” in eyesight.

*sigh*

So. Throughout all the pity-party and work stress and losing-a-best-buddy stress, one thing was very, very noticeable to me. I wasn’t sleeping much, and not only did that not help, it created even more problems, from digestive issues to being hungry all the time (and subsequently making poor food choices), and then also not performing as well as I sometimes can, and also not communicating as well as usual. Stress is a killer, and certainly no fun to deal with, but when you haven’t gotten a decent 6 hours of sleep in nearly two weeks…yeah. Things start to slip. The body starts expressing displeasure. And while sleep can’t fix everything, it sure can go a long way toward helping you deal with whatever’s stressing you out. Especially when it comes to making good food choices (what and how much to eat, specifically).

I’d always read that sleep was that important, but it was never so evident to me as during these last few weeks, mostly because I’ve just been hungry *all the damn time*. I was doing so well at maintaining a lower weight and even moving down on the scale here and there…and I’m on the cusp of being seriously derailed all because I didn’t go to bed (and this past Sunday night, just because I couldn’t sleep for some reason – nothing on my mind, even, just…no sleep).

In any case, I have one more night with less-than-optimal sleep to go (gotta be at work an hour earlier on Tuesdays), but after that, the only thing stopping me from a solid 6 hours is…me, choosing not to go to bed on time. So often I don’t make the right choice there, because I don’t want to lose any of my precious alone-time at the end of the night, but…sleep is important. Rest and mental rejuvenation is important. I need to make better choices when it comes to getting enough sleep.

Rest well if you can, dear readers. And for my Mica-dog…rest in peace, buddy.


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The Excess Vacation Hours Vacation

As of tomorrow, I’m on vacation until next Wednesday to burn the excess vacation hours that I’m not allowed to carry over into the new year. Why Weds to Weds, you might ask? Psychology, my dear Watson.

It seems like every time I take a traditional week off (Monday- Friday), I spend the better part of at least one day troubleshooting something for work via email or phone. When I only take a few days off in one week, I rarely get called on to help fix something (or if I do, it’s quick). So, I’m trying something new, and taking Weds – Fri off this week, and Mon – Tues off next week. That still gives me a full week off, but no full “work” weeks, so we’ll see if I end up troubleshooting or not (there is network maintenance going on this weekend, so the potential is there, but…). Call it an experiment.

What’s the plan for this vacation? Catch-up, mostly. I need to make dog food for the week, since I spent this past Sunday not feeling well (my own fault – too many days in a row last week of poor dietary choices…though I’ll admit, I enjoyed every last “choice” at the time). I need to take the Subaru in for some recall work if I can get it scheduled – wiper motors and airbag replacement. Murphy-dog is due for his rabies shot, which normally I wouldn’t redo in a dog his age (he’s around 9-10 now, best guess), but he’s a pitbull, and people are people, so…better law-abiding in his case (I can’t re-license him unless he gets the shot, even though they’ve been proven to be effective far past 3 yrs). Hopefully he won’t suffer any averse affects (I’ve seen more issues of the tumor-causing kind with vaccines in older dogs, unfortunately).

Aside from those things, I hope to do a lot of writing-related tasks I never seem to get to. Formatting, cover art, editing…and some new words too. My horror alter-ego has a short story in progress to add to the “Death by Veggies” line, and I’d like to get that finished, and I’d really like to make some good headway on a couple of other novels I have going. So, definitely writing, after I get the dogs walked so they’ll sleep and let me be.

The only other thing I really want to do (aside from some gaming, hopefully) is “spring cleaning”. I suck at cleaning. I find it incredibly boring, so I do the absolute minimum. Most adult women and a fair amount of adult men would run the other way at the state I keep my house in. I can’t tell you the last time my blinds have been dusted. Definitely not this year. Probably not last year either. Maybe not even the year before that…

That said, I do occasionally get the desire to “clean all the things”. It passes quickly, but I did buy a dust-mop for the kitchen floor (it’s laminate, and I hate it, and have ruined more of the finish every time I try to clean it), a new scrub brush for the bathroom, and I have plenty of microfiber cloths and rags on hand. The plan is to do one major thing in each room every day of my vacation…like cleaning all wide wooden blinds in the living/dining room. Or washing down all the kitchen cabinets/walls. And wiping down the bathroom walls/ceiling (don’t ask). And then I want to add hard floor cleaning to a monthly maintenance schedule.

Yes, I know people clean their floors more often. I vacuum once a week, even the hard floors. Baby steps. We don’t eat off my floors. Obviously.

So…that’s the plan for my “vacation”. Be all adult-like and do the stuff I keep putting off because I just don’t wanna (or in the case of writing, just want some focused time for). Seems like as good a use for the time as any, especially since they’re vacation hours I didn’t plan on using until later.

Next year, a trip, but for now…spring cleaning. Errands. Maybe a little Pokemon. Good times!


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Wishes & Talismans

Merry Christmas or Bah Humbug, whichever suits your mood better today…or Good Morning if neither of those quite fits.

Bet you didn’t think I’d post today, did you? And you’d probably be right, except I just gave one of the dogs (Mica) half of a probiotic treat in the hopes it would help his gassy stomach. With him, you pretty much never know what will help, and what will send him out to the backyard alternately throwing up and eating grass for the next twelve hours. I stopped taking him to the vet after the third time…and just accepted that he has an extremely sensitive stomach. Needless to say, we’re always very careful about what he eats, and apprehensive about letting him try new things. He can handle these probiotics, but not often and he’s never had one so far after his regular meal (he did just have a snack).

So, that’s why I’m still up on this very early Christmas morning (was the eve just 13 minutes ago). I was seriously considering bed, and then just knew that if I went now, Mica would need to go out about the time I was just falling asleep (and just as I wrote that, he had to go out…excellent timing). Now we’ll see how he does by the time I’m done with this post.

For those of you wondering, we managed to get a tiny bit of snow on Christmas Eve…and some really incredible fog to go with it as we were driving home. It doesn’t get foggy like that much here, so it’s kind of fun, especially with all the lights shining through the thick white cloud hanging low over everything. It’s still snowing a little, big, fluffy flakes that if they continue, could end up giving everything a slightly more white sheen, at least.

So, I got my Christmas wish, which is pretty amazing considering it’s not something that can be controlled.

We did Christmas Eve at the in-laws earlier – MIL likes to open presents early, rather than on Christmas Day. The gifts we gave went over well, and the ones we got were actually on point as well (and not so many, which is a nice change too). I only asked for one thing (MIL hounds us for a request), and she got me the cabinet I wanted for my spoon collection. There were a few other small things as well, but my favorite was a silver bracelet with many colored book spines all over it – like a bookshelf with books going every which way.

I haven’t worn bracelets in awhile, though I do like them quite a lot. This one feels like more of a talisman though. Something that when I look at it and feel it, I’m reminded of how much I love books, both reading and writing them. I think perhaps that’s the one gift I needed this year to send me into the next one with more focus.

Last year, a friend gave me a small, smooth stone with the word “Possibilities” (or Possibility – I can’t read it anymore – the color in the word has worn off) stamped into one side. I’ve carried that in my pocket nearly every day this past year, and whenever I feel it in my pocket, it reminds me to look for the possibilities in whatever situation I happen to be dealing with. So I suspect it will be with the bracelet this year. A wearable reminder of just how much “story” means to me, and a reminder to keep writing, daily.

I think perhaps next year I’ll look toward the small but ultra-meaningful gifts rather than the larger ones. Not everyone will appreciate that approach, but perhaps I’ll be able to find some things that speak to others the way these two tiny gifts have spoken to me.

Mica has gone to bed, and considering I have two more obligatory Christmas meals to attend tomorrow, I believe I’ll do so as well. Merry, happy or humbug, may this Tuesday be as mellow and carefree as you want it to be.

Beauty, Patience, & Dog Food

This past weekend as I was working in the yard and exposing my oh-so-pasty legs to the sun for the first time since last summer, I thought about beauty, and the patience it often requires. Effort too, to a certain extent, but while I trimmed the rose bushes and maple saplings and cleared away last year’s weeds, it occurred to me that while in that moment it felt like a lot of effort to facilitate growth and eventual beauty, the effort on my part wasn’t actually necessary.

The thing is, despite the dead leaves and weeds and dead grasses, the roses were budding out (and in one case, growing new canes under the weeds), the trees were budding out, and geraniums were pushing up through the dead leaves. Nature really does “find a way”, no matter what we do for (or to) it. And even weeds can be beautiful if we’re not trying to keep them from strangling our favorite “domestic” plant or tree.

Beauty is a very subjective thing, of course. We used to have an apple tree in the backyard that I absolutely adored. Every spring, it would bloom with these huge clusters of single pink flowers that filled the yard with a divine scent – especially at night. It provided shade and privacy for the yard, and the apples it produced were small and tart and perfect for just eating or making all sorts of fun treats with. I found great joy in just watching the flowers in spring, picking the apples in the fall, and having shade from the hot afternoon sun.

My husband, on the other hand, hated that tree. The sprawling branches that I found intriguing and interesting just got in his way while he was trying to mow, the fallen apples made a mess all over the lawn and attracted yellow jackets, and the leaves were just one more thing that had to be cleaned up in the fall (along with any leftover apples).

Needless to say, the tree needed to be trimmed, and when we decided to replace the back fence it was growing by, hubby happily said the tree had to go. They could have worked around it, I think, but I knew hubby would never be happy with that tree in the yard, so I agreed to let it go.

Yes, I miss it. One day hopefully our maple trees will be as tall and provide their own kind of beauty to the back yard (without annoying the hubby). Will we put effort into supporting them with water and nutrients and pruning? Absolutely. But they’re tough, and I’m fairly certain that without any interference from us, they’d still leaf out and be beautiful every summer. It’s just the destiny of a tree. Or a rose bush, as it were.

In other, completely different news, I’m on the hunt for new dog food again. For the second time, a favorite dog food brand made in Canada has set up a plant somewhere in the southern US, and I hate to say this, but even though the ingredients list doesn’t change, the quality of the food goes way, way down when that happens. Murphy and Mica are both having problems with the food they’ve been on for several years now, so it’s time to find new foods for them both.

This sounds like it should be an easy task, but my dogs are never *that* easy. Murphy needs fish, and lots of it for the anti-inflammatory properties of the omega-3 oils. Too little omega-3’s, and he’s gimping around like he’s 80yrs old, due to the self-inflicted damage and resulting arthritis on his right front foreleg. Good omega-3’s, and he’s hopping around like a puppy. Magic.

Yes, we can supplement, but it’s a tough balance without a predominantly fish-based food to start with (too much fat alone is just as bad as not enough). There are few foods out there based solely on fish, and none raw that I could tell, so we’re going to try a dehydrated human-grade food instead. Hopefully that will work, otherwise it’ll be back to reading a million dog food labels again. Oh goodie! Said no one ever.

I’m going to try a dehydrated food for Mica too, though he’s hard to find food for too, because he’s allergic to pretty much any grain and…yes, he’s allergic to fish, too. Trying to find a kibble without added fish oil is next to impossible. The food he’s on right now used to be fish-free, but they added herring oil awhile back. He can tolerate it, but it’s pretty obviously not optimal for him. He’s an odd dog in that he doesn’t do well with raw feeding either (tried that back when I was making Lucy’s food from scratch), so raw is out too. I’ve considered cooking for him, but it’s a big time commitment (which is why I stopped making raw food…though I regret that, which is another story for another time).

I have to order the fish-based food in specially…our local pet shop carries The Honest Kitchen dehydrated line, but not that particular food. She’ll order it if I ask her too, but I want to have Murphy try it first, to make sure he’ll do okay with it. I got a box of a limited beef-based/grain free version for Mica to try, and gave some to both dogs last night with no ill effects, so I’m optimistic, but you just never know.

It’s expensive, but health always is, it seems. I haven’t always been able to afford specialized diets, and I did the best I could (especially with Lucy’s very specialized needs). That’s all any of us can really do. But I do feel like I need to make the best choice I can at the time, which generally involves a lot of label-reading and googling and gnashing of teeth until I find something that “might” work. And then there’s testing, and trying again, and maybe trying something different….

Crazy process, that, but if I’m patient *and* put in a lot of effort, I should be rewarded with beautiful dogs in good health for however many years they have left (too few, at this point).

Except they’re already beautiful, without any effort *or* patience on my part. Which is exactly as it should be.

What kind of beauty have you noticed recently? Did you put any effort into it, or was it just…there?

Feathers, Fur, & Other Things

Last week I watched a flock of blue jays flutter through our yard on their way to who knows where. I think that’s the first time I’ve ever seen a blue jay, much less several of them. They reminded me of our finches, always moving, always bobbing, always looking around and flitting somewhere else. Very busy little birds, and oh-so-pretty. I think they know it, too.

I also watched squirrels playing in the neighbor’s trees (mostly making sure Murphy didn’t get too energetic and decide to jump the fence while they taunted him from above). They’re so cute, scurrying around the branches, stopping for a quick wrestling match, chasing each other around and then practically flying to the next tree. Cheeky little things love to sit up in the trees or on the power lines and chatter at the dogs, lecturing them for barking and holding their ground (so to speak) against the big, apparently not-so-scary monsters below.

Another bushy-tailed dude was hiding wares in the front yard, digging holes and covering them back up, most likely to forget what he put where over the winter. And a large, well-insulated bunny was mocking the tiny yapper-dogs in one of the neighbor’s yards, sitting there under the lilac bushes not 10 feet away from pups that are smaller than he is. I can’t imagine he was enjoying the noise he created (I know I sure wasn’t), but he did seem kind of proud of the ruckus, and completely unwilling to give up his cozy spot.

I haven’t seen our wild turkeys around lately, but that probably makes sense given the season. Not that you could legally shoot one in the city limits (I don’t think, anyways), but still…probably best to stay hidden this time of year.

All this was an entertaining and, contradictory as it seems, almost relaxing backdrop for a busy and very “people-filled” work week. It was also the week in which my grandpa was hospitalized and died after a two year (or so) decline in both physical and mental capabilities. He lived a long life (he was in his late eighties) – a good, simple, rural life, and while it’s never fun to say goodbye to someone like that, I’m glad the end was relatively quick and that he didn’t suffer. The funeral is next Saturday, and after that, I’ll share a little more about his life and how it affected mine. I’m certainly a better person for having had him in my life, especially during my younger, more formative years.

Coincidentally, the day my mom called to tell me Gramps was in the hospital on end-of-life care was the day I sent the first cookbook I ever had home with a co-worker for his daughter. She wants to learn how to cook, and neither of her parents like cooking all that much, but they are always very supportive of their girls. That cookbook was a Christmas present to me in 1983 (I was 8yrs old) from my grandparents, so underneath their signature to me, I added my own wishes and the date for my co-worker’s daughter. Hopefully someday she’ll pass it along as well, either to her own kids or some other youngster who wants to learn to cook.

This week will be another busy, disjointed one, with work Mon – Weds, and Thanksgiving with my in-laws on Thursday, and then one more undoubtedly very calm day at work before the funeral on Saturday. I’ve always liked working the Friday after Thanksgiving. I’m not a shopper, and I like being in the office when things are quiet, most everyone else is gone and I can just focus and work at my own pace without being interrupted every half hour or less. In my younger years, it was also a good excuse to escape the family for awhile – my introverted self needed the time alone to recharge between the large family gatherings that holidays tend to require (some years multiple families on the same day – we’ve since put a stop to that, for the most part). That will be the case this year too, it would seem.

Whether you’re celebrating here in the states or just heading into another normal week everywhere else – here’s to thankful hearts, good memories, lasting legacies, and peaceful endings.