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Monday, July 29, 2013

Movie Moments

About an hour ago, I came here to write this post. I typed in a title, and I had my idea. But it just wasn't happening, so I decided to just let it be. I began watching the movie Avatar on the television, and suddenly I had the missing piece to my blogging puzzle.

Have you ever gone to a movie when you probably should have stayed home? Maybe you're distracted with worries. Or perhaps you are just really, really tired. Unless the movie is charged with excitement, you just might drift away. Heck, even if it is, you just might snooze it out. Some years ago I went to a movie matinee with my sister Liz and her husband Dick. The movie was The Fisher King, and was rather dramatic. Actually, as I recall, it was borderline depressing, with a few moments of humor thrown in. Thank you, William Shakespeare, for popularizing comic relief! I believe they had seen the movie already, but Liz wanted to see it again and invited me to go along. 

Dick was on the aisle, then Liz, and finally me. As we were watching this dramatic movie, Dick dozed off with his head rolling back, and began to snore. Liz and I had a few quiet giggles, and she gave him a light elbow to the ribs to wake him up. It is a bit difficult to keep up with a movie when someone is snoring, after all. After a few minutes, the symphony of snores resumed, and again, Liz nudged her husband to wake him up. This cycle repeated a few times, but Liz finally got sick and tired of trying to keep him awake. When I told her to nudge him, she refused, telling me that she just wasn't going to try any more. So I struggled to understand the rest of the movie with the extra soundtrack, and life went on.

A few weeks later, I was at Liz and Dick's home when his nephew came over to visit for a bit. They spent a little bit of time catching up on what was going on in the family and how everyone was doing. After a while, Dick asked Brian if he had seen any good movies lately. Brian said, "Well a few weeks ago I went to see The Fisher King. But there was some old man who kept falling asleep and snoring, so I didn't really get much of it. We thought that he was pretty funny, though." Needless to say, Liz and I nearly collapsed from laughing so hard. Brian had gone to the exact same showing of the movie, and had been both frustrated and entertained by the snoring old man that we had been sitting with. Dick expressed that he used to like Brian, and that we two laughing women could just shut up. Well, I will admit that I softened up the language a bit...

Fast forward to about a month before Trent and I got married. We were celebrating my friend Jill's birthday by taking her out to lunch and a movie. A scary movie, so Jill was nervous before it even began. I was sitting between the two during the movie, trying to keep my girlie-scared friend from losing it completely. And then it happened. Trent began to softly snore. I nudged him a bit and he roused up, only to drift off again. In his defense, the movie wasn't all that great. After one of the times that I gently poked him, he crankily asked why I did that. I told him, "You fell asleep. You were snoring." Using a logic that can only be called upon when you're not really awake, he said loudly, "I paid good money to sleep through this movie!" The theater erupted in laughter, and I gave up on trying to keep him from sleeping. Of course, as soon as I gave up the fight, he stayed awake. But he still thought the movie was boring and stupid.

And how does Avatar fit into all of this? When the movie came out, Liz and Dick took us to see it in 3D on Christmas Day. I don't know about you, but on special days like Christmas, I feel like being kind to my fellow humans and other critters. I want to be happy and want them to be happy. But before I knew it, an altercation had started. Apparently an almost-teenage boy had accidentally cut in line in front of us, and Dick started yelling at him. Within moments, the kid's father and Dick were about to exchange blows. Seriously, they were toe-to-toe with their chests puffed out, and inviting each other to throw the first punch either in the lobby or the parking lot. Both Liz and the kid's mom were upset and embarrassed, and apologized to each other after convincing the men not to fight.

Unfortunately, for both Liz and me, the damage had been done. I was literally shaking, and almost in tears. That's what sometimes happens when you have PTSD and a history of abuse. How was I to sit calmly through a long movie when I could barely breathe? Liz was also shaken, and took a Xanax, offering me one as well. I accepted because I knew I was on the verge of falling apart. About three-quarters of the way through the movie, Trent said something about me sleeping through it, and I dismissed it as smart-aleckiness. Months later, when we watched the DVD at home, I said that I didn't remember some of the things that had happened in the movie. "I told you that you slept through part of it," Trent said, "Now do you believe me?" I couldn't argue with him, he was obviously right. I guess we all have our movie moments.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

My First "Best Dog"

It was near the end of May, shortly before school would be out for the summer, the summer during which I would turn fifteen and my sister would get married. I was in bed, asleep, and heard my sister's and Gram's voices arguing. I didn't know what they were arguing about, but it wasn't unusual for them to have words with one another. In fact, it was a fairly common situation. I went back to sleep knowing that I would probably find out about what had happened when I woke up in the morning. And what did I find out in the morning? Liz had brought home a puppy.

Now, for many people this would be no big deal, but let me remind you about my Aunt A, Gram's daughter, AKA The Dognapper. She had already foisted some dogs on us, and there were others that Gram had been gifted with by other relatives. As I recall, before this puppy showed up we had five dogs living in our home. Five! Gram didn't want to add yet another to the household. And she knew it would be a permanent resident because Liz would move into an apartment after she got married. I didn't have much time to get details on the situation before I left for school, but I thought that the puppy was really cute. And when Gram gave him a dish of milk, he stuck his nose in it and tried to suck it in as if he was nursing.

When I got home, I found out that the little fuzzy black puppy with the white blaze on his chest had been named Lucky. Liz had taken him to the vet for an exam and shots, and found out that he was about six weeks old, barely at the age to be weaned. Liz had been driving down I-25 late the previous night and had seen her headlights flash off something. Yes, some heartless person had dumped this innocent black-haired puppy on the highway at night so that he would be run over. But Liz pulled over and took him home, hence the name Gram gave him. Personally, I liked to think of him as Lucky D, for Lucky Devil. I suppose I thought it was terribly clever and witty.

So Lucky became a member of our family. Since it was Spring and the weather was warm, he was never paper trained. Every time he ate, and several times through the day, he was taken directly outside for potty time. When school was out and I would sit in the back yard reading a book on the glider or swing, he was in my lap or next to me. When he was still a little thing, he was on my lap when he caught sight of an airplane. He watched it until his head was twisted so far that he lost his balance. It was then that I began to realize this was no ordinary dog.

During that summer, I was with him every day. Although Liz tried to say he was her dog, he was clearly mine. At a very young age, he showed that he had a great desire to play fetch. When he was about two months old, he dragged a branch that had been cut from one of the trees in the yard, a branch that was easily twice his size, and dropped it at my feet. He hoped that I would throw it for him to fetch. Instead of large tree branches, he had tennis balls and rubber toys to catch or retrieve. One day a tennis ball took a bounce into the forked trunk of one of the plum trees. He looked at it, tail wagging, and lifted his foot to push it out. About a week later, the same ball was lodged in the chain-link fence at the back of the yard. I thought for sure he'd push it through, forcing me to hop the fence and do the fetching for him. But he looked at the ball, cocked his head, and walked up to it. Instead of pushing it into the neighbor's yard, he got his face up next to the fence and pulled the ball out with his side teeth. Smart, I tell you!

He missed me when I went back to school in the fall, but he was waiting for me at the back gate when I got home. For the rest of his life, he always seemed to know when I was going to get home. I could leave for work in the morning and go out after work, and five minutes before I got home, according to Gram, he would walk to the front door and sit there waiting patiently for me to arrive. He also seemed to know how to spell. One evening I asked Gram if she thought I should give him a C-O-O-K-I-E. He got up and walked over to the cupboard where the dog biscuits were kept! He also had his own candy dish, which held jellybeans. I was a flat, circular, cut milk-glass dish with a lid. When he was in the mood for a jellybean, he would walk over to his dish, turn his head, and nudge the handle on the lid of the candy dish. He also did the my-head-is-too-heavy-to-hold-up routine whenever I ate M&Ms.

Lucky hated leaving home. One day I went outside to find that Lucky was not in the yard, and the gate was wide open. I was terrified that I would lose him, and started going through the front yard toward the street. Then I spotted my dear dog looking at the front of our next-door neighbor's house, with the most desolate and longing look on his face. When I called his name he was overjoyed to come back to me, and come back home. He also hated thunderstorms. He was so smart that when the skies darkened, he would go into the tv room, which had windows on two adjoining walls, sit leaned up next to a large hassock, and start watching the skies. As soon as he saw lightning, he'd go into Gram's bedroom and close the door with his nose. I may have been his number-one person, but he knew who the mommy was in the family! He'd continue to watch the skies with Gram's arthritis-gnarled hand on his head. When the storm had dissipated to his satisfaction, he would let Gram know that it was time to re-open the door because everyone was safe.

There are many things I'd like to share about Lucky, but his life was too big for one blog post. When he died, I was devastated, and so was Gram. We both said that we'd never have another dog because it hurt too much when we lost them. Gram had another dog from Aunt A within months, and I was terribly angry about it, but she was an okay dog. There was no way she could live up to the standards Lucky had set for me, but she had her good points. When Trent started in about getting a puppy, I was hesitant. But it ended up being wonderful, and Paris was my second "Best Dog," and even smarter than Lucky in many ways. She is number one in my heart and he is number one-point-five. Knowing both of them enriched my life in numerous ways, even if they did both eventually break my heart. I'll love both of them forever.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Happy Birthday, Gram!

Yes, Gram has been gone for some sixteen years now, but she continues to be a part of my life. We spent so many years together, and living with her helped in the formation of my character, philosophies, and personality. I imagine that one could look at all of these things and say that her effects on me may have been both good and bad, and I am sure that she would get a kick out of that. It's interesting to me that you can be reminded of a deceased loved one at odd times, and by such random things. One of the most delightful for me is something that almost become a totem for me. It is a simple but beautiful thing. Gram's favorite color was yellow. Although the rooms of her home were all painted different colors, the kitchen was a bright and sunny yellow. I'll admit that if I ever have a house I will want to paint my kitchen yellow as well. It adds a warmth and sunniness to this important room on even the dreariest days. 

After Gram's passing, which was an extremely difficult time for me, from time to time I had those days that anyone who has lost a loved one can easily understand. There are just some times when the loneliness for someone you love, and the grief at any family ugliness that occurred at that time, can overwhelm your emotions. Your guard is down, and suddenly you are incredibly sad, perhaps even crying. A few weeks after Gram's passing, I was walking to my mailbox on one of these days. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something fluttering just at the edge of my vision. I turned to see what was there, and it was a beautiful yellow and black butterfly. It flew alongside me as I finished walking to the mailbox, lingered a bit, and stayed nearby until I was nearly back to the stairs leading up to my apartment. At the very first moment I spotted it, I burst into tears. I felt as if it was a sign from my Grammie that she loved me, and that everything would be all right. I felt at peace, and knew that if I persevered, I'd be okay. In the years since, I have noticed yellow butterflies when I have had times of stress or sadness. Trent has even noticed them with me, and almost always says, when he sees them, "Look, Katrina! It's your Grammie!" 

Something else I still love about Gram is her cooking. She made all sorts of dishes without ever using recipes. This doesn't sound too impressive at first; many of us throw meals together without any planned recipes or strict measurements. But she could do it with things like cookies and doughnuts! Anyone who bakes (like me) can tell you that there is science as well as art to baking. Chances are that if you just throw a bunch of stuff in a bowl, you might end up with something that looks like a cow pie rather than a cookie. Not Gram. She'd add the flour and know just by the look and feel of the dough that she had the right mixture. She even did it with bread, both yeast and fruit breads! She and I used to get a laugh about it almost every time she made sweets, whether peanut brittle, doughnuts, cake, or chocolate chip cookies. I loved to watch her cook, and wanted to learn from her. I'd ask her how much of a certain ingredient was needed. Her answer was invariably, "Enough!" Now that's an exact measurement for you! We'd dissolve into laughter, and I knew I would have to learn to make my own versions that came with instructions.

Another thing Gram made that I have never been able to replicate was an absolutely delicious rice dish. She told me that a Chinese cook she met when she was young told her that she could use her hand to measure the amount of water needed for cooking rice. Something about putting one's hand flat on the bottom of the pot and then adding water to reach your wrist. I have not been brave enough to try it, but I know she never measured either the rice or the water, and it always came out just fine. The rice dish she made that I loved included chopped onions, beef bouillon, and a liberal amount of paprika. When it was done, it was an orange-hued, fragrant, savory dish. I've tried to make it, with no success. Maybe I'll give it another shot this weekend. After all, disappointment doesn't kill, it just stings really, really bad. And sometimes it bruises.

Gram made all sorts of dishes ranging from Hungarian goulash to spaghetti sauce, corned beef and cabbage, pepper steak, and the best chili con carne and beef stew that I've ever tasted. When she made beef stew, she always added extra potatoes because she knew I loved it that way. And her desserts were wonderful. In the summer we'd often have strawberry shortcake made from berries grown in the back yard. We used little cakes from the supermarket, and after the strawberries were placed on top, we poured half-and-half over them and them topped them with whipped cream. They were heavenly. And I am pretty certain that if I could make a lemon meringue pie as good as hers, I'd be as famous for my pies as Mrs. Fields is for her cookies. The woman made an amazing tall meringue that browned gorgeously and sat atop a tart-sweet lemon filling. Just writing about it makes my mouth water. And yes, when she made the crust, filling, and meringue, it was all without the benefit of any measuring implements!

Perhaps Gram's cooking methods could be a great philosophy for life. We do not need to measure every moment, experience, or person we encounter to have a delicious experience with living. Sometimes we just need to use our instincts to know when and what is enough, and trust that things will turn out fine. Wow. Maybe my little white-haired Gram was on to something big. You go, Gram! Happy Birthday! We miss you!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

InsomniZombie

I have had a worse time than usual lately with insomnia. Today was a bit rough; I was awake until about 4:00 am, and the alarm went off at 6:15 because Trent had an early doctor's appointment. I managed to open my eyes without the assistance of a crowbar, and we got the appointment over and done with. By about noon we were both having a much-needed nap so that we could get through the rest of the day. Although such short sleep added a bit of difficulty to the day, I still prefer last night/today's experience over what happened the night before.

You know, I used to be able to fall asleep so quickly it made Trent envious. I would say good night, and that I was tired, put my head on the pillow, and be asleep in mere minutes. Nowadays it seems that even if I am so exhausted that I can barely hold up my eyelids, much less my head, it takes me forever to get to sleep. Okay, exaggeration...it can take me hours to get to sleep. Several years ago I began listening to audio books to help myself sleep because they would allow me to shut off my brain. I am a professional-grade worrier, and it can be difficult to turn it off, especially when it is dark and quiet and there's nothing to divert your attention.

I also think that living with psychological issues impacts the quality of my sleep. My doctors prescribed medicines several years ago in an effort to help me get to sleep. I didn't notice myself falling asleep any quicker, but I noticed something else that I hadn't dealt with before. My dreams were more vivid, and were incredibly frightening. When I discussed them at my next appointment I was told that those weren't just bad dreams, they were nightmares. I was advised to quit taking the medication and my dreams became less, well, horrible. We're talking about dreams that are so terrible that you don't want to share them with anyone because you don't want to burden them with such terrible images. Suffice it to say that when you have a dream in which the best moment is when you cut out your own heart to let it drop into boiling water, your dreams suck.

Like everyone else, throughout my life I have had dreams of all types. Sometimes they are remembered, and sometimes they are even repeats. I can tell without the use of a thermometer that I have had a fever, because I will have what I call serial dreams. Something bizarre is happening in my dreams, and I will wake up, relieved that it was a dream and that it is over. I get up and go to the bathroom, return to sleep, and pick up the dream where I left off. The night before last I was awake until sometime in the three o'clock hour. When I fell asleep my dreams were incredibly clear, and incredibly bizarre and frightening.

For lack of a better description, the dream that really plagued me was along the lines of Les Miserables meets a modern-day Night of the Living Dead. There were these lovely moments in which some songs were in dress-rehearsal. Then the evil undead showed up. And not just a few of them, but hordes upon hordes. And not your garden-variety zombies, either. They were not the unthinking creatures you're used to. These zombies were pretty savvy. They had the ability to reason, and to discern whether a potential victim was faking death or sleep. Interestingly, they wouldn't attack anyone who was asleep. In my dream, I had fallen asleep with my head on a table. In the real world, I began to wake up. 

The dream was so vivid and believable, that as I woke up, I was terrified. I knew that if I was awake, I might be killed by the zombies who were checking to see if anyone was conscious. I had a clear waking thought that I couldn't wake up without risking my life. I told myself, in my moment of terror, that maybe if I laid my head back down on the table, they wouldn't know that I was awake and aware. So, with my heart pounding and my breathing shallow, I decided that I had to do what I could to stay alive. I went back to sleep and the dream eventually ended, thank goodness. But when I awoke, the memory of it flooded my conscious mind. I was relieved to be awake, aware, and alive. And away from the zombies.

Some of you may read this and get a big laugh out of it. I'm okay with that, even though I don't mean for this to be humorous. Perhaps if you laugh at these dreams for me, you can help diminish their power to terrify. Sleep well, my friends, and may your dreams be happy ones...

Monday, July 22, 2013

Good Night, Lucky...

I think many people have rituals in their everyday behaviors. Whether we live alone, have children or pets, or have a partner in our lives, we do certain things on a daily basis that become part of the normal ebb and flow of our days. They may become habits so that we don't forget the small, important things in our lives, or just because they make us feel better. Perhaps in some ways they ground us, or make us fell that all is right in our world. It may be a thing as simple as brushing your teeth at night, something that, when completed, tells your brain that the day's labors have ended and it is time to get some rest. 

We are no strangers to little rituals in this home either. There are some things that we do occasionally, and some daily. Heck, even our little dog had rituals. She liked to begin and end each day by showering us with kisses and lying next to us for tummy rubs, or on our chests for back scratches. Heck, when I tell Trent that a meal is ready to be eaten, he usually fills a large glass with ice and a beverage before putting anything on his plate. If he doesn't do it, there seems to be something out of order.

Something that is very important to us is how we end each day. The last thing we do every night before going to sleep is tell each other good night, and that we love one another. Even if we may have been cranky with one another, we don't go to bed without saying these important words. Even when I traveled to Europe, for example, I would call every night before bed, afternoon for Trent here at home, talk about the day, and say say, "Good night, I love you." After all, you never know when you might be having your last conversation with someone you really care about.

One night, after we had said our ritual good nights, and I had plugged into an audio book to help me get to sleep, I heard Trent chuckling. At first I thought perhaps Paris the poodle had pulled a sneak kissing attack and made him laugh, but realized she was curled up under the covers, fast asleep. I pulled out my earbuds and asked what was going on. "Nothing," he said, "go back to sleep." He began chuckling again, and I asked again what was so funny. "Never mind, it's something that you won't think is funny." Well, there was no way I could let it go. I told him that I was not going to leave him alone until he told me what was so funny, because I wouldn't sleep until I knew.

Finally, he caved in. "I was just laying here thinking that it would be funny if I told you 'Good night, Ball and Chain.' " I knew he meant it only as a joke, so it didn't bother me, as there was no insult or disrespect involved. "Go ahead," I said calmly. He giggled and said, "Good night, Ball and Chain!" Without batting an eyelash or changing my tone of voice, I answered, "Good night, Luckiest Bastage on the Face of the Earth!" In just a few moments we were breathless with laughter. Paris was awake, tail wagging, and dancing around on the bed with excitement at the "happy sounds" that her Mommy and Daddy were making. Even though this happened a few years ago, one or the other of us will occasionally replace our normal good nights with this funnier, but still loving, version. And we still laugh at it. It's sassy, but sweet, like our love for one another.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Moderate To Severe

Okay, I'm willing to admit it. I often have the television on as a sort of white noise. The background chatter keeps the room from being too quiet when I'm doing something else like cooking or catching up on social media, or even when I am blogging. I don't necessarily tune it out completely, however, and have been known to hurl responses at the program or commercial that is being broadcast even while I continue typing. (Incidentally, the telly is not on as I am writing tonight's installment.)

I noticed something the other day about a specific type of commercials, and had to point it out to Trent to make sure I wasn't just imagining it. It seems that the ads for almost every kind of medicine follow the same script. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that some medications are used for multiple conditions, but I don't think so. When one of these ads came on several days ago, I paused the program and said to Trent, "Now pay attention to this. No matter what disease or ailment they are talking about, they are going to say that their drug is for moderate-to-severe whatever it is." We then watched the commercial, and I was right. Trent has now begun paying very close attention to these ads, and he says I have them all figured out. Take a listen, and you'll hear, "If you suffer from moderate to severe Crohn's Disease/Fibromyalgia/Chronic Dry Eye, etcetera, ask your doctor about Miracle Drug Number Forty-Two."

Some of them actually have me split between wanting to laugh or yell at the telly. I am not an insensitive person. I know what it is like to have illnesses, both physical and mental. I also know what it's like to have visible symptoms of illness, and what it feels like when someone's curiosity overpowers their good manners and they feel compelled to point it out to you, or question why things look a certain way. That's why one of the commercials has me both laughing and yelling. You'd never catch me saying, "I was embarrassed when my five-year-old niece asked about my moderate to severe Plaque Psoriasis." Oh, heck no! I'd have a quiet little chat with her about what was going on. I'd also mention to her that people who look different might feel bad if others make a big deal about it. But I am not trying to sell medicine, so what do I know?

I guess all that I really know about the subject is that pharmaceutical companies walk a fine line. Yes, they create products that can alleviate symptoms of numerous illnesses. But the truth as I see it is that they are always going to work on developing medications that will make them the most money. If you disagree, I have one word for you: Viagra. So, they keep coming up with new medications, especially because when generic versions hit the market, they lose their exclusive earning potential. Yes, there may be five thousand people with a specific ailment in the world, but the earning potential isn't there, so nobody looks for a cure. Just like people with mild symptoms, they are orphans in the pharmaceutical world.

I'd really like to start seeing commercials for mild to moderate symptoms. Or at least saying something honest like "mild symptoms require less medicine, so we don't really care about how they impact your life." Or a commercial that says, "Does your family make you moderately to severely cranky? Maybe you should ask your doctor about taking a few days for yourself and visiting the Indian Hot Springs Healing Waters Spa in Idaho Springs, Colorado. Leave those demanding family members behind, pack your friends in the car, and come get steamed in our natural hot caves. Float in the warm waters of our chlorine-free, naturally-heated pool, surrounded by tropical plants and banana trees. We will temporarily relieve your stress with our aromatherapy massages and mud baths. Leave that moderate to severe anger behind, and refresh your spirits at Indian Hot Springs. We also have spa packages suitable for mild to moderate crankiness, including the newest chocolate therapy treatments. So on your next doctor's visit, remember to ask about treating that moderate to severe anger by spending a few days at our spa!"

I wonder if there are any treatments out there for moderate to severe sarcasm and smart-aleckiness. Who am I kidding? I wouldn't take them anyway!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Pudu And PooDoo

The other day I spotted a news story online that made both of us smile, and opened up some lovely memories. The story was about the birth of a doe at the Queens Zoo in New York. The new baby weighed one pound at birth, and is a member of an endangered species of deer called pudu, pronounced poo-doo. Pudu are native to Chile and Argentina, and, when fully grown weigh about twenty pounds and are twelve to fourteen inches tall at the shoulder. If you want to see something adorable, feast your eyes on this baby pudu.




Is that a cutie, or what? I am sure that at this point you're thinking that it is sweet and all, but it doesn't take much to make their day, does it? Well, I can understand you thinking that. The reason that it made our day is that we used to call our little dog Paris a PooDoo. There's a valid reason for us to use the nickname PooDoo. You see, Paris the poodle was a very smart dog. When she got a new toy, we would give it a name. As she began playing with her new toy, let's say a purple stuffed poodle with a squeaker in the noggin, we'd tell her the name a few times. Usually she had it down by about the third repetition. Paris had numerous toys, such as Cow, Boney-bone, Elephant, Ball, Santa...and Poodle. All it would take was a mention of the name of the toy, and she would jump into action. She'd stand at the end of the bed, stomping her feet and "talking" up a storm. She was ready to play, and waiting for us to throw her toy. So after she got her toy poodle, we couldn't call her our poodle any more without creating a scene, and a PooDoo was born. 

After I saw the story and gasped at the name of the miniature deer, I shared the picture and name with Trent. We felt all gooshy and happy about it, and had fun talking about some memories of our precious little Poodoo. She may have been only ten inches tall at the shoulder, and all of eight and a half pounds, but she had a brave and huge heart. I still get a laugh every time I get hiccups, because it reminds me of her. Apparently when I hiccuped she thought something had happened to startle me. She would jump to attention from wherever she was, spinning around mid-jump so that she'd land facing the front door. She had a bark and a few growls for whoever it was that had scared her Mommy and made her gasp.

I'm glad that the passage of nearly a year since we lost our little Paris has softened the harsh pain we have felt at losing her. We have gradually come to the point of being able to have moments of laughter about the fun times we had with her and her idiosyncrasies. Even though she is gone, the memories of times with her still enrich our lives. Twelve and a half years with a loving and intelligent creature will do that to you. 

I have shared a picture of the pudu, so I'd be remiss if I didn't share one of the PooDoo, so here's our girl Paris. I hope that whatever critters you love enrich your life like she has done with ours.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

What A Cutie!

There's a lot to be said for and against the computer era in which we're living. We all know about how much easier it is for people to be cruel to one another through this faceless, no-contact format. But on the other hand, it is also easier to make friends with others, broaden our horizons, and expose ourselves to new things. And there is a virtual treasure trove of information at our fingertips. Just think of all of the things you can access, and often at no cost - movies, books, funny little videos, music...and there's all sorts of information available. Don't know what kind of plants grow well in your region? What were the dates of The Civil War? What does a white-sand beach look like? All can be found online.

I have enjoyed the way the friends I have made on social media have enriched my life, and from time to time one of them will inspire me to write a blog post. And that is what spurred me to write this piece tonight. My friend Rich posted a song from the soundtrack of the movie Rain Man. I really enjoyed the movie, and loved the soundtrack enough to purchase it in cassette format. (Some of you younger readers may not understand this. Google it.) The song was Beyond the Blue Horizon, sung by Lou Christie. I have loved that song since elementary school. We sang it in music class and choir. I adored the song and my music teacher, Mrs. Schlundt. Unfortunately, she died in a car crash at the end of my fifth-grade school year, but I still love the songs we sang with her. These were my first thoughts as I listened to the music.

As I continued listening and looked at the picture of the album cover, I remembered something delightful that happened regarding that little cassette. If you do not remember, the soundtrack album cover is a picture of the two brothers, played by Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise, riding in their deceased father's car. I was listening to the music one day while working in my stand-alone unit as a drive-through teller. One of my coworkers stopped by for a couple of minutes to say hi and have a little chat, and she saw the cassette case. "Oh, is this what you're listening to? I really liked this movie!" I agreed that it was a good film, and she looked at the listing of the songs. She took another look at the cover photo and said, "He's so cute!" And then we accidentally said the exact same thing at the same moment. "And Tom Cruise isn't bad either!" It was one of those really great moments when two people have the same funny thought at the same time. We had a good laugh at our wittiness, and it really brightened my day.

It was lovely to have that memory come to the front of my mind. I hope that my former coworker remembers it from time to time as well. Little moments like this can be bits of sunshine that stay bright for years. And isn't it fun to bask in that kind of sunshine?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Squirrely

I won't lie. Summer is very difficult for me. For various health reasons, the sun and heat just make me feel icky. I fondly remember the years of my childhood when my friends and I would run and play outdoors when it was a hundred degrees and love it. The drinks from the garden hose, which had the coldest and best-tasting water in the world, certainly helped. And it never hurt to douse your head with it either, or to run through the lawn sprinklers. I just can't handle the heat any more like I did back then. 

There are some things about summer that I really do love, however. As the days of spring get longer and the beautiful blossoms fade from the trees, you start to see the next amazing phase of nature. Suddenly the birds are all hanging out in pairs. If you walk within their field of vision, one will fly off to draw you away, while the other yells at you to get away from their nest, darn it! We have a pair of falcons that have nested on top of the building next to ours, and today we saw what may have been one of their young. He was standing in the grass underneath an oak tree, within ten feet of our car. He bent over to pick something up; it had tiny legs and a tail, so he must have been taking a rest break as he was flying home with his mousey catch. The cycles of life keep repeating. Perhaps next year this lovely peregrine will nest on our building, and his offspring will catch mice in a nearby field.

We also have a very industrious mama squirrel living nearby. The first time we saw her was last fall, as she was gathering and eating acorns from the same oak tree. She allowed me to take a few pictures of her, and I was close enough to see that she was indeed a mama, and had been nursing babies. As I spoke softly to her, she twitched her tail as if to say that I sounded all right, but she was keeping an eye on me. When we saw her this spring, it seemed pretty obvious that mama squirrel was ready to have another litter. It made both of us very happy. To me, there's something about having squirrels around that makes an area seem more homey and settled. You won't see them unless there are well-established trees for food and nesting.

When I see squirrels, and especially prairie dogs, I am reminded of a young man I worked with many years ago, and tried to be friends with. I think that my brief friendship with him taught me something I might have taken years to find out had I not known him. The way we view nature seems to reflect our attitude about life and the world. I was bound and determined to live fully, and fight against any and all of my ailments. This person, on the other hand, had a rather angry and victimized view of life. There was nothing wrong with him; he had not been an abused child, and hadn't fought any potentially life-threatening diseases. But he took everything too personally, and was angry about it. If a female that he was interested in didn't feel the same way about him, there was something wrong with her, and he would refer to her with unkind language. When things didn't go his way, he would say that he was going to commit suicide. I'd spend the weekend worrying since he had no phone, and he would show up to work on Monday in a good humor.

As I said, I tried to be friends with him, but it didn't last long. It was a very one-sided and soul-bashing experience. One of the things he and I would argue about was definitely a sign of his negativity. He lived in an older, downtown area with lots of huge old trees. And squirrels. We all know that squirrels (and prairie dogs!) have poor judgement at times about crossing streets. It still makes me sad to see one deceased in the street, because I am a softy, and I love animals. Not this person. He was convinced that squirrels who were hit by cars were committing suicide. I tried many times to tell him that he was trying to credit them with a level of learning that was beyond them, but he wouldn't have it. He just knew that they had seen enough other squirrels killed by cars, and that they knew better. They had learned the street was dangerous, so if they died in the streets it was because they were suicidal.

Eventually, I subjected the friendship to suicide. I hope my former friend learned to love life, and love himself and others. I've never forgotten what he said about suicidal squirrels. I shared this with Trent the first time we encountered a squashed rodent on the road. He agreed that this person was a wee bit wacky. But I will admit this...to soften the blow when we see an unfortunate road-killed beast, we do sometimes say it is yet another sad case of suicide...


Friday, July 5, 2013

American English, Fractured

I believe that a lot of people have moments when their mouths betray them. Gram used to say, "Your tongue got twisted around your eye teeth and couldn't see where it was going." A good example of this would be Gram talking about the sale price of bacon at a certain store, and that "everypelse ace" it cost a good bit more. This kind of mishap is often called a spoonerism in honor of Reverend William Archibald Spooner, who apparently had this happen all of the time.

The other type of mistake can be very entertaining because we often don't hear things correctly, and end up saying things that may seem just a bit odd. Of course, that is the one I really want to talk about. I think we have all heard our friends, heck, even ourselves, mangle and garble song lyrics. I freely admit to singing The Boys of Wrecker Town instead of The Boys Are Back in Town. And I did it for years. Boy, was I surprised. And pleased, because back in town really made much more sense than wrecker town. But I never questioned it, maybe because it came out in the seventies. After all, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida meant something! Maybe wrecker town meant something too, but I just wasn't cool enough to get it. And I sure wasn't going to ask anybody! How humiliating to admit that you don't know what the cool-kids slang means!

Then there's the variation where someone may be talking about an object or location and really get it wrong. It took me months to live down the spectacle I made of myself in high school Advanced-Placement Literature by excitedly answering a question, "Oh! I know! It's The Leaning Tower of Pisa!" Only I pronounced it "pizza." I was doubly humiliated because I was one of only two sophomores in the class. The older students immediately thought we were stupid, and for them, this just about confirmed it.

In my years of working in banking, I encountered all kinds of people, both customers and fellow employees. When I worked at a drive-through bank as a commercial teller, I was in a one-person freestanding unit, and became friends with my fellow teller in the next unit. We sometimes visited each other on breaks or chatted on the phone, because it can get lonely. Even though you have customers, there's no deep conversation. And not much light conversation, for that matter. So we'd chat whenever we could, sharing war stories and blowing off steam. It was also nice to have a friendly ear to complain to. One day, she was dealing with some congestion, and told me that her noes were stuffed. Apparently she has a right and a left noe, and the pair of them are noes. I am proud to say that I never reacted with disrespect when she told me her noes were stuffed, I just advised her on how to deal with it. Although she did discover that her noes bothered her less on the cold days if she wore her ear muffins. I adored her, so it didn't bother me a bit.

There was another coworker, a young woman, who used her fellow employees as a sounding board for her house-hunting frustrations. She and her husband were trying to buy their first house, and were dealing with trying to find something that they liked and could still afford. One day she was talking about finding a house that they rather liked. It was located on a culty sack. In the course of the conversation, I tried to gently use the phrase cul-de-sac in the hopes that she would pick it up, but no such luck. When I got home and told Gram about it, we got a few chuckles out of it. We tried to figure out what kind of people would live on that block. Were they all members of some strange cult who carried bags around all day? Yes, sometimes we were bad, and we would have admitted it freely. Oh, wait, I think I am right now.

I do think one of my all-time favorites has to do with a degenerative eye disease, macular degeneration. My boss was catching me up on the condition of her elderly parents who lived in another state. They had been convinced to retire somewhere warmer than their native Minnesota, but instead of coming to Colorado to be with their daughter, they moved to Arizona. J was telling me that she really wished that her parents lived closer to her. It would be easier, and she would worry so much less. Especially since her father, who refused to give up driving, had recently been diagnosed with immaculate degeneration. Trent really loved that one. "I thought only ex-nuns experienced immaculate degeneration; isn't J a Lutheran?" Ba-dum-pum. Or however it's supposed to be...

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Mike, Part Two

On May 31, I wrote about my friend, and the son of my friend Julie, Mike. I was remembering Mike fondly and expressing how terribly he has been missed since his passing in April. One of the reasons I wrote about him at that particular time, I believe, was because I had been thinking that his birthday was coming up. I knew that everyone who loved him, but most especially his mother, would be missing him greatly on that day. I knew that I would miss him, and miss sending him a goofy text to wish him a happy day.

After I published my blog post, it occurred to me that my cell phone would be giving me a reminder of his birthday the next week. My phone is not a smart phone. I like to refer to it as a phone of average intelligence. I've had it for more than four years, and it still fills my needs, especially since I have a tablet. My average-intelligence phone will give me a reminder of a birthday two days before it happens. This makes sense; if I should decide to mail a card (yeah, right, it would get in the mail about six months later!) or do something special, I have a couple of days to get things in order.

So after I had written the post, I decided to delete Mikey's birthday from my phone's calendar. I knew I wouldn't forget his birthday - D-Day, June 6th, is not that forgettable, after all. But I was worried that getting the reminder would make me even sadder than the date rolling around on the calendar. So I picked up the phone after the tears from writing about Mike had subsided a bit, and deleted his birthday from my phone. I'm one of those people who tends to double-check things like this. When I opened the calendar on the phone, I was certain that the birthday was erased.

Tuesday morning, June 4th, I was awakened by my cell phone. "Who in the world is calling me so stinking early?" I growled. I picked up my phone and the screen said that I had a calendar reminder. I could feel my breathing speed up as I saw that it was a reminder for Mike's birthday. I was irritated that I had gotten it screwed up - obviously, I hadn't completed the deletion of his birthday when I did it a few days before. "Well," I thought, "I'll just make sure it doesn't happen again next year." I opened the calendar on my cell phone to make the deletion. And found that Mike's birthday was no longer in the phone.

I chuckled and said aloud, "Okay, Mike, I get the joke. I wasn't going to forget your birthday, you knucklehead!" Interpret this happening however you wish. But the way I reacted to it when it happened makes me happy. I felt like Mike was reaching out to me from wherever he is, saying that everything's all right. It fits in with his sense of humor, too. Thanks for keeping me smiling, Mike!