Soft Landing

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Martha Dog on her first night here.

 

A woman I’d met in Boston Terrier rescue sent me the photo. Did I know how to contact anyone in American Foxhound rescue, she asked. I wrote back to her. There is no American Foxhound rescue.

American Foxhounds are one of the rarest breeds in the American Kennel Club. There are probably fewer that 20 of them being shown in the country right now. But truly the breed is not rare.

In the south, particularly, they are a popular hunting dog, used for trail hunting  on deer, coyote, foxes. It’s not that unusual to find them in pens of  ten, twenty, a hundred. The same in the mid-Atlantic region where they run in huge packs alongside horses and riders.

Even good hunting dogs get lost. The National Bench champion from three years go ran off with the rest when the hounds were “cast” during the final element of competition, and was never seen again.

Dogs who are troublesome are turned over to shelters, or simply turned loose. It takes an educated eye to distinguish an American Foxhound from its cousin, the Treeing Walker Coonhound and in fact, the popular tri-colored Foxhound is often referred to as the Running Walker.

This is a long way of getting to a short brutal fact: the southern pounds and shelters and rescues are full of tri-colored hounds, and there is no specific rescue to spring them. They are often not placed from shelters because they don’t do well with overstimulation and they tend to cower in the runs.

They can be a handful for first time dog owners– any hound can. They are the most independent of the dog breeds. They love to sing. They can scale fences and any hole they can get their heads through, their limber bodies soon follow.

I have a small pack of Foxhounds, retired show dogs who sleep on sofas and eat ice cream on their birthdays. It hurts my heart that there is no organized rescue for Foxhounds and truly, I just try not to think about it.

The woman wrote back. These two hounds were in the Johnson County Garage, because Johnson County, Kentucky doesn’t have a shelter. They’d made a few pens in the county garage and some  very dedicated and hardworking women labored tirelessly to place the dogs and cats that came in– because those that weren’t placed by Friday afternoon went to animal control the next town over, where they were killed.

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I looked at Johnson County on a map. There was a guy there who’d bred Foxhounds in a town there. He had the sire of one of my dogs and the grandsire of another. I looked at the picture of the dogs more closely. Was that a familiar profile I saw? Were these dogs family?

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There was a dog show in Lexington beginning on Thursday. I was going that far already. How much farther could Paintsville be?

Quite a bit farther as it turns out, more than 100 miles through the Appalachian mountains. We were pretty much broke. It took some careful finagling to get together the money to buy gas drive just to Lexington. Feeding two more hounds wasn’t really a move in the right direction.

I went anyway. Another Foxhound exhibitor gave me $40 to buy some extra dog food. I figured I’d get them home and place them. At least they wouldn’t be dead. Yeah, they seemed a little long in the tooth. And yeah, there’s not even much of a market for Foxhound show puppies, but maybe someone would step up.

A woman met me in the parking lot of Tractor Supply in Paintsville. The hounds were in crates in the back of her pick up. I opened up the back of the Jeep and she helped me load them. First the male, then the gyp. The male looked so old and tired, I wondered if he’d survive the trip home. My own Foxhound girl, clean and shiny for the show, seem to recoil in her crate.

One look told me what my head should have known anyway. These dogs weren’t related to our dogs. They were Foxhounds, certainly. From someone’s pen, no doubt.  But there was no way I could say no at that point. It was Thursday afternoon, they only had a few hours left.

I called my husband to tell him I was on my way home.

“Where are you?” he asked.

“I’m just leaving Paintsville.”

Paintsville!  You didn’t go and get those dogs did you?”

“What? I can’t hear you, must be a bad signal here. Call you later. Love you. Bye.”

I stopped at a gas station just outside the on-ramp to US 52 to put a bit more gas in the tank, get an iced tea, walk the dogs.

“Just wait a minute, Gracie. Let me walk these two first.” The old pair hopped out of the back and went along pretty happily on leashes with me through a vacant lot. Gracie howled her displeasure from the Jeep. With a deep sigh the male dog squatted and deposited a pile of turds as big as a cantaloupe. Within minutes, the other one too had left a steaming mountain — they must have been holding it in for a few days.

I came back with Gracie and some plastic bags to clean up after them. Gracie stood far away, with one delicate foot poised in the air, watching me bag the evidence.

When we got home, my husband was annoyed, but resigned. He knew what he signed up for when he married me. We put the old dogs in a run for the night, he was tender with them. I knew what I signed up for when I married him too. The dogs seemed quite happy.

“It’ll be okay,” I said. “I’m sure I can place them.”

We called them George and Martha, after the Washingtons. George Washington developed the American Foxhound by crossing French staghounds with the slower English Foxhound in order to create a dog that could give chase to the quick brown fox.

For a few weeks George and Martha lived happily in the kennel run– they had a dog house and seemed content. They’d been fed communally and even though we brought them separate dishes, they’d eat first out of one bowl and then out of the second. Neither wanted to come inside.

Then Martha came into season, and she had to be separated from George. Then the autumn chill came on, and George had to come in as well. It was quite an ordeal to get him into the kitchen as he seemed certain that his life would end in many a hideous fashion if he crossed the threshold.

It’s an unfortunate trend that people like to talk about what awful lives their rescued dogs must have had before they came to live with them, as if the worse it was the more virtuous that made the “adopter” or “rescuer.”  Shelters feed into this by embellishing or creating terrible life stories to go with each dog.

Were George and Martha abused? Probably not. They weren’t well socialized– they’d been hunting dogs. Maybe they’d had more rough handling than tenderness, but they still looked to people for affection.  Who’s to say how they came to be trotting down a highway in rural Kentucky one morning, but the only one who ever came for them was me.

I kept telling George and Martha when they arrived that this was just a way-station for them, just a stop on the journey to their forever homes, and they would look at me and smile and wag their tails as if they knew different.

I guess they knew different.

You can probably figure the rest of the story. Eighteen months later George and Martha are still here. I never did get around to even trying to network them. Occasionally my husband grouses about the extra mouths to feed, but they’re old dogs. They’re happy here. A commitment to the “rest of their lives” is no more than a year or two.

George spends most of his time hanging out with two of our other dogs. I would have said originally that George and Martha were a bonded pair, but really Martha has little patience for George. George is not the smartest of dogs– he’s easily confused. I believe now that he is quite profoundly deaf.

Martha sleeps in my study. If we move her bed she can’t find it, but she sees well enough to get around the house and mosey through the yard. She is always cheerful. She loves the sound of her name, a bowl of her own, cookies at bedtime, a soft landing.

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100 Days of Gratitude

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with apologies to Gabriel García Márquez

It started with one of those silly challenges on Facebook. At least it wasn’t the one with the bucket of ice water. “Post three things you are thankful for for seven days and nominate two new people each day.”  I nominated other people for two days and then stopped. Being irritated at people for not rising to the occasion did not help me to count my blessings. By the time I got to the seventh day, I didn’t want to stop. 21 things didn’t seem enough gratitude somehow. I kept going and finally on the 20th day (yesterday) I called it a wrap on Facebook. But still I am thankful for so many more things . . .  And I like the way this is making itself a habit in my life. So for the next 80 days, I’ll post here three things for which I am grateful, truly, deeply, madly grateful. In the end, on Wednesday, December 24, I will have marked a hundred days of gratitude.  They are in reverse chronological order, with the newest listed first.

Day 100: Wednesday, December 24.

Today is the 100th day. Tomorrow is Christmas. In the mail today, a surprise that left a lump in my throat. A package from a long-time friend in Wyoming, she’d made me a tote bag. We’re good friends, but we’ve never exchanged gifts before.

She’d written on the on the package “a little something to cheer you up!”  The tote bag is printed with photographs of  that which I love dearly. My son, my husband, my mother, my father, my dogs. Me.  And even if receiving this unexpected gift made me cry a bit, it did cheer me up.

It reminded me not only of those people and things (and dogs) I am most grateful for, but also how blessed I am to have friends like Tammi, and so many other wonderful people who cheer me up when I am down, who bring me back down to earth when I have floated too far, who tell me their stories, and share with me both their sorrows and their joys, who have never let me forget that I matter.

So finally, that is the lesson here, on this eve of the holiday of light, that the tie that binds us all together, that which is most essential,  the most important lesson in being thankful is love.

 

Day 99: Tuesday, December 23

31 years ago today I married for the first time, in City Hall in Cambridge, Massachusetts. On the way to work afterwards, I ran over a 100-year-old Chinese man with my car. (He lived.) I am grateful that Bob and I were able to extricate ourselves from this folly without many tears or much wreckage. Wherever he is out there, I wish him well, a Merry Christmas, a long life. I am grateful that the Chinese man did not die, at least not that day or in the days afterwards– and has taken a role in our family folklore as to how I came to marry–8 years later– another Chinese man  and bring forth a half-Chinese babe (penance, don’t you know) and I am grateful for the enduring love and friendship of Aline Carriere, who was with me on that day, who remains my dear pal today, and who is ever in my heart.

 

Day 98: Monday, December 22

1. Today the day is longer than yesterday and tomorrow will be longer than today. 2. I spent all morning on the phone. It could have been ghastly, but was instead, remarkably delightful. 3. I had warm cherry pie for breakfast.

Day 97: Sunday, December 21

I went to high school with the guy on the right, Ed MacMurdo. He and his husband Jerry and nephews Jakob and Jeremy were in Columbus for a hockey game. This is the first time we’d seen each other in 36 years. It felt like we’d seen each other last week. It was the best. (And the restaurant was great and the food was excellent and I loved Jerry and the nephews were angelic and they brought me a bottle of Chardonnay and a tin of maple syrup and honestly there must be a hundred things here to be thankful for. ) 10806202_10153421095399202_1546893439833494646_n

Day 96: Saturday, December 20

Solstice is tomorrow, but we celebrated today. We are blessed with the company of friends, a troop of penguins made from olives and cream cheese, red wine, music long into the night.

Day 95: Friday, December 19

E. and I are crabby with each other this morning. I almost wrote a post about how much it bugs me to be second-guessed all the time. Then I remembered my friend and high school classmate, Rhonda, whose husband died suddenly on Wednesday. She’d probably give anything to be second guessed by her husband right about now. Thinking of her with love in my heart this morning . . . and my cranky, grumpy husband too. I love you, Elmer.

Day 94: Thursday, December 18

Today I went to a meeting I dreaded. I am grateful that it didn’t go too badly. I am grateful that they served largely inedible pizza from a local chain so I didn’t have to worry too much about being poisoned.  I am grateful that this is all behind me now.

Day 93: Wednesday, December 17 111 years ago today, two brothers from Dayton achieved 12-seconds of powered, reasonably controlled flight. For some this might generate a sense of gratitude for being able to take a rocket to the moon, or a Cessna to the cabin in Alaska or a packed flight to Grandma’s in Peoria. And yes, I’m grateful for those things. But I am grateful that Orville and Wilbur were from here– two can-do boys from just down the block. I am  grateful because one day, driving down a hill in Dayton I thought “I should write a book about Orville Wright.” I don’t know why I thought this. I’d never thought about the Wrights with any particularly intense interest before. This came upon me like a kind of annunciation, a gift. There is a wealth of information here– diaries, photographs, letters, drawings, and a sense of Orville belonging to the community; this funny, inventive, ingenious man . . . and together, we are making a book.

Day 92: Tuesday, December 16

My husband reports to me this morning that a Consumuer Reports survey revealed that the 4 worst gifts to get were 1. Liquor 2. Home Decor 3. Flowers and 4. Books. Books! (I wonder what those ingrates think the best gifts are– gift cards? cash? iPads?) Let it be known that I am always grateful for books. And flowers. And a good bottle of scotch.

Day 91: Monday, December 15

Today we made lemonade out of the Jeep. Not that the Jeep was a lemon, it gave good service until the very end which was catastrophic. But one, the salvage people wanted it and two, the tow truck driver was kind and three, now we have enough money to not worry so much about the holiday.

Day 90: Sunday, December 14

I made the time today to finally answer an email from a former student of my father’s. It turned into this vignette of an essay. I am grateful to David Weinstock for reaching out across all those years to say what my father meant to him. I am grateful that my father was the sort of person that his students still remember 40 years later. I am grateful that I can think of my father, finally, and not be shattered by the fact of his death. Day 89: Saturday, December 13 I am happy for my friends Don and Kelly, today they had a wonderful win with their lovely foxhound, Glory. Glory is littermate to our Kismet.  Even better was the warm and happy telephone conversation we enjoyed after a time of being “out of touch.” I am very grateful that some dog show judges still know a good American Foxhound when they see one.

Day 88: Friday, December 12

When you’re injured, you shield the part of you that hurts. Today that’s what I feel like– as if I am still recuperating.  I am grateful for that luxury. I am grateful that the clerk at the post office is friendly. It’s very nice that my husband  is willing to entertain my silences.

Day 87: Thursday, December 11

Slept in.  Waffles.  Excellent pot of coffee. Still hanging in there, that’s a lot to be grateful for.

Day 86: Wednesday, December 10

Dark and tired. “Foxhunters on Facebook” has booted me off their forum. One of my favorite people in foxhounds is giving up and giving away all of his dogs.  A day with more problems than solutions and I am so very tired. Hope seems to have escaped my soul. Can I still feel thankful? Yes. I can’t name them, the fog is too thick. But I know they are there.

Day 85: Tuesday, December 9

Done with the Awards Dinner for Dayton Kennel Club. I love, love, love the Engineers’ Club and relish the rare opportunity to spend an evening there. Glad to be the subject of thoughtless gossip because we all got a good laugh out of it.  Somehow in the midst of making centerpieces and gift bags and getting ready I may have found a solution so that my mother might still be able to spend Christmas with us.

Day 84: Monday, December 8

A nice trip to the grocery late at night. The store is deserted. My twenty-year-old son is good company.

Day 83: Sunday, December 7

Floundering again, and trying hard to find reasons to feel grateful. I know that I am blessed in many ways. It’s just so hard to reach out and hold on to it sometimes.  My husband calls me in to sit on the sofa with him and watch the Simpsons. It’s the Christmas episode. I laugh. That’s three, isn’t it?

Day 82: Saturday, December 6

It stopped raining. I went with a friend to Pearson’s Restaurant and discovered the best corn fritters I’d ever eaten. And exquisite pie. The migraine headache stopped. Blessings all round.

Day 81: Friday, December 5

Thrift shop with my great friend Martha. Merino wool sweater. Antique Delft plate, beautiful shape. Commercial Cook Ware Heavy Aluminum Saucepan. Total outlay– six bucks. Fabulous outing on a rainy day.

Day 80: Thursday, December 4

I am thankful that my 20-year-old son wades in to the hard stuff when it’s really needed. I love his slightly arcane sense of humor. It gives me great pleasure that he’s grown up to be such an exceptional human being– and he gets full credit. Did I have a hand in it? Sure. But he is his own man, and a damn fine one.

Day 79: Wednesday, December 3

Among my blessings today are first and foremost the wonderful members of Fort St. Clair Kennel Club. Finally, a kennel club with More Cupcakes, less Drama! What a marvelous meal we shared tonight at Galo’s Italian Grille, where we rang in the holiday season with great style. What a great Yankee Swap we had and everyone went home happy. Who can ask for anything more?

Day 78: Tuesday, December 2

Today is my husband’s birthday, so it is only fitting that he be the object of my gratitude. I am grateful that he is a morning person, because I am not. I am grateful that we have spent much of our 22 years together laughing. I am deeply grateful for his good health and good genes– such that turning 71 should only still be the middling chapters with plenty of years left to go. I love you, darling.  (This is last year’s video, but it deserves a replay.)

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Day 77: Monday, December 1

Our friend Gary gave me a ride to Home Depot so that we’d have a way to bring the Christmas tree home — in his van, rather than tied to the top of the Mercedes. There was a wide selection of trees, including those leftover from their $20 tree promotion, so we found a beautiful tree and didn’t have to pay much for it . And because I didn’t have to pay a lot for the tree I was able to afford $5 for an exquisite white phalaenopsis orchid. And that was all before 2 p.m. So many things to be grateful for.

Day 76: Sunday, November 30

I am grateful that I am not a vegetarian. This is one of many reasons. vegetarian mock chicken I am grateful for leftovers, and not having to eat out of cans like the one above. But I am also grateful that my forays into Chinese groceries so that I have opportunity to feast my eyes on cans of fried gluten, giant winter melons, 50 pound bags of monosodium glutamate, and colorful fish laid out for dinner.

Day 75: Saturday, November 29

Three-quarters of the way through. I’ve been reading snippets here and there about how making an effort to be consciously grateful improves one’s life in a great many ways. It certainly does make you seek out the good, even on the most dismal of days. For instance, my husband is still in bed because he’s not feeling well. But I’m glad that’s it not ebola. I’m appreciating the silence in the house without the squawkbox in the background. (That would be the television, not my lovely husband. Though it seems he needs a steady diet of MSNBC to thrive.)  I am blessed that there is coffee in the cupboard and now I’m going to go make a pot of it.

Day 74: Friday, November 28

I am thankful to not be out among the throngs trying to score a new television. (I guess that’s the silver lining to being broke, because had I the means, I might be tempted. Or not.) I am grateful that everyday won’t be as cold and raw as today is. I am grateful that my poor dear husband, in bed with a cold, felt well enough to get up and eat our belated Thanksgiving dinner.

Day 73: Thursday, November 27

On this, Thanksgiving Day, how lucky I am that I can decide to just put off Thanksgiving dinner for another day, and everybody else just says “okay.” It’s not that they’re apathetic, but like me, the spirit hadn’t found them. Tomorrow will be better. I am also grateful that so many people have patience with me lately and my occasional cranky spells. I don’t mean to be cranky, but some days are like that. It’s been a remarkable year for me and there are so many people to whom I feel indebted, grateful, blessed by their friendship and love. Many thanks. xoxo 6a60a0da07b36be42de0f2b2cf134525

 

Day 72: Wednesday, November 26

Fettucine carbonara while watching the Peanuts’ Thanksgiving Special. A New York Strip Loin roast on sale, making it cheap enough to consider for tomorrow’s dinner. Finding Sweetzel’s Ginger Snaps in Ollie’s Bargain Outlet. All about food, because food is simple.

Day 71: Tuesday, November 25

I am grateful that the white hot rage that I felt over one more cop getting away, literally, with murder is starting to ease. I am grateful that I resisted the temptation to drink myself into oblivion last night, though I am enjoying a whiskey at my desk tonight. I am grateful that Thanksgiving will be simple this year, instead of fraught.

Day 70: Monday, November 24

A bad day, hard to find the silver linings. A cozy chat with the guy at the meat counter. A sense that the Rubicon is behind us.  The slimmest of an “atta girl”. Sometimes it doesn’t take much– a tiny pinpoint of light is easy to see in the inky darkness.

Day 69: Sunday, November 23

I am grateful for a box of cannoli and the affection that goes with them. I am grateful that the tire blow out was not dramatic and we came to rest gently at the side of the interstate. I am grateful that I am married to a man, who, when I say I think we should drive 200 miles each way to see friends and collect a box of Italian pastry simply says “Sure.”

Day 68: Saturday, November 22

It is a blessing to have friends who will call to tell you that the roads are icy and there are major pile-ups and the three interstates that I’d need to take for three hours to the dog show are closed. It is a blessing to have an unexpected day off. It is a blessing that the winds that blew in from the south (Chinooks we called those in Montana) drove the temperatures to a balmy 55 degrees, clearing the roads and giving us all a nice break from the icy winds of late Novembers.

Day 67: Friday, November 21

I am grateful that yesterday when I stood up in front of a group of people to tell them something extraordinary, that they looked back at me, nodding in agreement. I am grateful that the women in the neurologists office really seem to care if they can find me an appointment or not. It tickled me  to make the US Marshals at the Federal building grin

Day 66: Thursday, November 20

My parents bought an antique brass bed for me on Prince Edward Island when I was 15 years old. I slept in it for years and brought it with me to my marriage and this was our bed all our years in Montana. We started out here in Dayton in a different antique bed, which was fine, but it was not my nice old brass bed, which finally I retrieved from Montana in 2009. So the bed was here in Dayton, but it just ended up in the garage– we never got around to getting it in the house and the other one out.

Last night, I got ready for bed, brushed my teeth, put on my jammies and jumped into bed. And it was my old brass bed! Elmer and Julian had switched it out yesterday while I was out with Jill and then with Tracy. Such a great surprise! I slept better than I have in a long, long time. I am grateful to my parents for this wonderful bed, I am grateful to my wonderful husband for bringing it back into our lives, I am grateful for the wonderful deep and peaceful sleep I found there.

Day 65: Wednesday, November 19

1. That rare magic of friendships that seem to transcend the constraints of time and physics. 2. Donuts and coffee in a shop where time has stood still since 1970. Except for the prices. The prices moved forward. 3. Laughter, shared among friends: nothing better.

Day 64: Tuesday, November 18

I am grateful that my days are so full, even to the point of exasperation. I am grateful that the dog let me take the dead squirrel from her without offering to take my hand off in return. I am grateful to be sleeping in my own bed tonight.

Day 63: Monday, November 17

Nice surprises, even if it makes me want more nice surprises. Red wine in a jelly jar on a snowy evening in November. Sleeping dogs.

Day 62: Sunday, November 16

I am grateful to have a respite. I am grateful that we still have one working car. I am grateful that I’m about to eat a ham sandwich.

Day 61: Saturday, November 15

I am grateful that when my Macbook laptop slid out of the backseat and onto the pavement tonight that it was cushioned by the power cord that fell beneath it, and it was in its case and everything was fine. Fine. I was happy to take a loaf of purple wheat bread from a good friend in the early hours of the day.  I am grateful to have spent the day again in the company of week-old puppies.

Day 60: Friday, November 14 

i. A genuine offer of help, delivered.  ii. Cold, but sunny. iii. Egg tart at the Chinese restaurant.

Day 59: Thursday, November 13

There must be something. Tap tap tap. I don’t want to give in to platitudes, I am trying to make this exercise a habit in seeing the glass mostly full, and appreciating that. Some days are easier than others. Not that this was a bad day, just a kind of meh day. Things went differently than I expected them to. I couldn’t quite get the rhythm of it. People are snarky. I am a people. Thus, I am snarky. But still, there must be something. Or three somethings.  1. Italian majolica cream and sugar, with lid. No chips, no cracks, no breaks. Nestled in the mounds of detritus at the Goodwill outlet. 2. I am grateful that I was taught to be generous with other people, even when they least deserve it. 3. Strangers who smile, sing Christmas carols, drop trinkets in my palm, fill the air around me with laughter.

Day 58: Wednesday, November 12

It is always a wonderful surprise when people actually do what they say they are going to do. I am glad that I have had the necessary peace and quiet to hone my thoughts about a complex problem. I am grateful to be smiling.

Day 57: Tuesday, November 11

On this Veteran’s Day, I am grateful that my husband didn’t get himself killed in Vietnam even though he requested overseas duty. The Air Force somehow took pity on that Chinese-American boy and sent him to Alaska instead. On this Tuesday, I am grateful to spend the day watching puppies and daydreaming. And in the briskness of November, I am grateful that my friend Martha wanted to go out on a rainy night and how much fun we had sitting at Tank’s, drinking Guinness.

Day 56: Monday, November 10

This morning, at 4 a.m., a close friend received a phone call from police that her sister and brother-in-law had been seriously injured in a brutal home invasion. I am so grateful that Sue & Leo survived. I am relieved that the perpetrators– a young woman recently fired from Leo’s firm and her male companion have been arrested. And while it is small consolation, at least they have an answer to every victim’s first and most often unanswered question- “Why?” It’s a small thing, but a blessing nonetheless. Wishing the best of recoveries to them both.

Day 55: Sunday, November 9

I am grateful that it’s over. I am grateful for this wild ride. I am grateful for the strange intimacies that spring up in the course of such a project. It is funny to spend ten days in the company of acquaintance, and come out transformed on the other side.

Day 54: Saturday, November 8

It is a blessing that tomorrow is the last day of the Book Fair. Monday of course, will require my attention, but at 6 p.m. tomorrow, the last customers sail through with their bags of books and we are done until next year. I am glad that so many of my colleagues there are willing to consider changes not just outside of the box, but in the next county. I am glad that there is a fresh baguette and good butter for supper.

Day 53: Friday, November 7

I am grateful that although I started out the day feeling angry, I allowed myself to be soothed. I am grateful that I have multiple pairs of shoes to get through long days on concrete. I am grateful to have good company in some of life’s shittiest travails.

Day 52: Thursday, November 6

After the reception I endured tonight, I am glad that “gluten-free sweetened vegan rice balls” are not a regular part of my diet. I am glad today is finished. I am grateful that I can go to bed now.

Day 51: Wednesday, November 5

Well, I’m sure not grateful for the election results. But I’m grateful to my long-time friend Pam for saying I’m welcome to come back to Canada. I’m grateful for dinner at our favorite Chinese restaurant. I am grateful to feel so thoroughly alive, even if that means I wake up in the morning feeling like I’ve been beaten with sticks.

Day 50: Tuesday, November 4

Am I grateful? I don’t know. I’m trying to be. It is election day and that is a struggle. I am tired: physically, mentally, emotionally. It is raining. Tomorrow promises more of the same. But surely I can find three things that make me feel blessed.  I am grateful for small victories, for simple pleasures. I am grateful that Canada remains an option if it all gets too fucking awful.

Day 49: Monday, November 3

Today could have been fraught. It wasn’t. That is a blessing beyond measure. I am exhausted, but happily so. That makes two. Today I was surprised to find myself laughing. This is a good thing. A very good thing.  

Day 48: Sunday, November 2

I am grateful for the extra hour, for the sleeping hounds, for a sweet episode of the Simpsons.

Day 47: Saturday, November 1

It’s the Day of the Dead. I wake up thinking about my dear friend from high school, Jeanne MacKenzie. I am grateful that she has made it through the funeral of her mother yesterday. I am grateful that Emma Maillet is at peace now. I will be more grateful when we have an effective treatment, nay– a cure– for Alzheimer’s Disease. Godspeed.

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Donnie and Emma Maillet, Mavillette Beach, NS.

 

Day 46: Friday, October 31

I am glad to be done with Halloween. I don’t mean that I’m glad that all the kiddies have gone home and we’re sitting on the sofa eating leftover Snickers bars. We haven’t had trick or treaters in years. Finally we just stopped trying. It’s a relief finally to let go. I am glad to find a bag of MaryJanes at the grocery store. They’re not the classic yellow brick banded in red, (robed in orange and black for the holiday) but they are wonderfully nostalgic all the same. I am grateful to have a bushel of green tomatoes on the kitchen island.

Day 45: Thursday, October 30

I haven’t been grateful. Losing the dog took it out of me, and I stopped thinking about gratitude . I thought about putting one foot in front of the other. I thought about getting my head above the deep and choppy grief. This has happened to me before: I stumble over something and then I can’t quite get it together. But the last days have been better. I’ve accomplished a laundry list of things. And I’ve started to think again about what it means to count my blessings. I’ll keep it simple: the last tomatoes of the season, old books, autumn leaves. Tomorrow I’ll be more ambitious. And this project spirals out to December 24th– a gift to myself.

Day 44: Sunday, October 19

I am grateful today for the love of my family. It was wonderful to spend the evening with my aunt, uncle and cousins– revisiting family lore, restoring old connections, renewing years of great affection. I am grateful that the Fort St. Clair Kennel Club puppy match went so well this afternoon, even if it was lightly attended– and for all the people who made it so much fun. And I am glad that I have a soft bed to fall in to, because I am very, very tired.

Day 43: Saturday, October 18

This evening, I made 72 cupcakes, six at a time, in our toaster oven. I am grateful to my husband for being such a helpful part of that assembly line. I am grateful that I usually get to enjoy our fabulous and crochety Wolf Range, even if it is not cooperating right now. I am happy to be ready, more-or-less, for tomorrow’s puppy match, even if there are not enough hours left to get adequate sleep.

Day 42: Friday, October 17

This is my mother’s birthday. She is 29. Or whatever age she chooses for today. I am grateful that she’s my mother. She’s not very conventional, and her unique and brilliant and quirky facets have made me what I am. But it’s not just that: how lucky I am to have her company, her insights, her observations. And I am deeply thankful that what she wants from me for her birthday is the first ten pages of the book I’m working on that. She may have asked for the pages, but she’s the one giving the gift.

Day 41: Thursday, October 16

Today I struggled forth to spend a couple of hours at a volunteer gig, even though leaving I felt like I would rather do anything else. Perhaps curl up in bed. But I’m glad I went out, because nearly as soon as I turned my attention to the tasks at hand, I felt the burden of my sadness lift. I am so grateful to my great friend Martha, who wouldn’t take no for an answer and convinced me to come with her to the Goodwill Outlet, one of our mutual favorite places. I am grateful to see the light at the end of the grief’s tunnel. It’s not that I am without grief, or that I will ever stop missing this wonderful dog. It’s that I am beginning to find a place where that grief can live.

Day 40: Wednesday, October 15

I am grateful that the sun comes up in the morning. I am grateful to have the luxury of just dropping out for a bit. I am grateful to still have hounds to play with in the yard. They too seem sad.

Day 39: Tuesday, October 14

Yesterday we said goodbye to Jazz, our oldest Foxhound, our beloved companion, a character in her own right. A big thanks to the friends we met through Jazzy’s adventures– Donald and Kelly Leonard, Tammi Stidham-Lindskov, Bill and Odebt Massey, Susan Lowder, Kathryn Baxter, Jaye Wright, Lynda Anderson Marsh, Rose McCurdy, Dennis Pincheck, Judy and Kelly Rea, and Nancy Punches. I’ve probably forgotten someone– I’m sorry. No way to properly thank Fran Menley, who gave me this beautiful girl more than ten years ago. We are so grateful to our friends at Indian Ripple Veterinary Clinic, Tracy Leonard and Gina Bono and Becky Blansett who eased us through one of the hardest things ever. It should be easier to let them go after a long and glorious life. It isn’t. Give your old dogs a hug tonight. Ch. Indian Creek Jazzy, one of the last puppies of the great Final Answer. July 15, 2001- October 13, 2014.

Day 38: Monday, October 13

I am grateful for the comfort of friends. I am grateful that my dog was so splendid through her dotage, right up until the very last days. I am blessed to know that grief will ease in time.

Day 37: Sunday, October 12

Monday is the Canadian Thanksgiving, but many celebrated today.  This seems only appropriate then to count a few things Canadian that I am so grateful for. I am grateful that I went to school in Canada– because it afforded me a kinder, more inclusive, less centric view of the world. (Also there were many fewer “mean girls”.)  I am grateful to have Come From Away– because at least I got there.  I am so deeply grateful to my Canadian friends– from sea to sea– hands down some of the very finest people I’ve had the privilege to know. Thank you for being such marvelous friends, and wishing you all a blessed Thanksgiving.

Day 36: Saturday, October 11

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free ‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be.

Day 35: Friday, October 10

This gets more difficult each day. It isn’t that I’m not grateful, or that I don’t stop to be appreciative of the good things about my life. Or that this little exercise hasn’t taught this old dog a few new tricks for finding the silver lining.  Maybe it’s just the change in the weather, but the last two days have found me feeling so cranky. And I can’t even put my finger on exactly why. But I am grateful that I have the luxury of not going out. Not just not going out, but staying home to make a proper cup of tea and being mindless for just a bit. Tomorrow, and I am grateful that I expect there will be a tomorrow, perhaps I will feel more cheerful.

Day 34: Thursday, October 9

I am grateful to live in a place where I can buy a dozen beautiful long-stemmed roses for five bucks. I am grateful that my husband likes to cook. And I like to cook. So we get to eat. Regularly. I am grateful to have a stack of books waiting to be read.

Day 33: Wednesday, October 8.

And so we come to the one-third point . . . .99 things to be thankful for. I am thankful that the kennel club is such a convivial group of people. Every meeting is a real pleasure. “Dog People” come in every stripe imaginable, but there’s no group more fun that the folks at Fort St. Clair Kennel Club While I have some chronic illness to face, I am grateful that none of it is too likely to claim my life in the next weeks or months or years. I still have so much to do. It is a true blessing to see everyday that people survive. They survive accidents, they survive illnesses, they survive the loss of those they love. And still, they find a means to smile, to laugh, to go on living.Where there is breath there is hope. And one extra, to make a tidy hundred: Most of my days are happy ones. How lucky can a girl get?

from the shrine to Guadalupe in New Orleans

from the shrine to Guadalupe in New Orleans

Day 32: Tuesday, October 7

So this is how it works. This was a tough day. Not in a profound way, which can be a gift in itself. But instead it was an aggravating, mean-spirited, the insolence of downright-stupid kind of people day. Also I felt terribly unappreciated– and when no one thanks you for the things you do, the end result is that it’s hard to find anything much to be grateful for. And I didn’t. I found salve in a memory of my father revived in my own behavior. But I’m not sure it’s behavior I want to emulate, though truth be told there is a “Take No Prisoners” component to my personality too. I wrote all that. And posted it. But it didn’t feel right. It seemed like I had my shirt on inside out or a bit of stone in my shoe. An eyelash astray. It’s easy to be grateful on days when the blessings roll down on you like spring rain. Days like today are the work. 1. I am grateful that I have reached a place where I recognize that running out of patience and lighting my own fuse not only creates misery around me but only makes more of the same for me. 2. I am blessed that my dinner plate was full of French toast and bacon. It’s a plate full of comfort. 3. And I’m grateful for this. 

Day 31: Monday, October 6

I am grateful that the episode that brought me to my knees- unexpectedly- this evening was temporary.  I am grateful that although I was frightened for a moment, I was not afraid. Instead I was calm and just a little aggravated at being out and about and having to soldier on when I really just wanted to lie down. I am glad I have a physician’s appointment next Monday.

Day 30: Sunday, October 5

On this autumn day: wool, roast meat, small-batch bourbon.

Day 29: Saturday, October 4

Blessings for Saturday ~ my friend Denice is home from the hospital after her heart attack. The incident was mild, she will make a good recovery. The silver lining is that she can be pro-active in staying healthy for the next 35 years or so. Grateful too for small things today: a fresh pot of coffee, a funny video of a baby elephant my husband saved to show me, 24-hour copying service. Glad to wake up, always, on the right side of the grass.

Day 28: Friday, October 3

I am grateful for my instincts. They  have sheltered me from evil, they have brought me untold happiness (and a few riches), they have guided me through times both dark and joyous. Some pleasure is mine that people are starting to catch on to the terrible phenomenon that is pink-washing. We are all more than aware of breast-cancer. The companies that sell you pink stuff this month are exploiting cancer patients to pad their bottom line. Cancer can’t be cured by shopping. More on that here. Truly I am grateful that there are not enough hours in the day. When I think of my grandmother, mostly blind and quite deaf, sitting in her room at the nursing home waiting to die, I am humbled that I am so busy. And yet, she too, was a very busy woman when she was my age. Each Tuesday and Thursday I volunteer with a group whose median age is about 70. Plenty of them are over 90. They give me hope that, if I’m lucky, there are still many years of bright future in front of me.

Day 27: Thursday, October 2

1. I am glad to have my half-grown wild boy home again. 2. It is a blessing to have learned at last not to leap to judgment. Even with the most exasperating people. Sometimes just being still and quiet brings its own rewards. 3. I am grateful to be learning, oh 50 years in, to find validation within instead of looking for it in others.

Day 26: Wednesday, October 1

1. I am grateful for October. My favorite month? Maybe. Close. 2. My husband is retired, I am working on a book. We are on a shoestring budget. But at least we have that– enough to get by and days to fill as we see fit. 3. I am grateful that our dogs sing: a melodic chorus every time they hear the call of a siren. It is beautiful. I am very glad to know that the neighbors thing its beautiful too.

Day 25: Tuesday, September 30

I’m grateful that they didn’t kill off Director Leon Vance on NCIS. Sometimes it’s the little things. There was an unexpected blessing in volunteering to wash the dishes. This is the 23rd anniversary of the day I arrived in Livingston, Montana. I’m grateful we found the wherewithal to leave, even if it took many years. It’s a wonderful thing to know we never have to face another Livingston winter.

Day 24: Monday, September 29

1. I’m glad that I decided to count these blessings here. Because it’s public, it keeps me honest. Because it’s not for an audience per se (like Facebook) it keeps me honest. Yes, I realize that’s a paradox. 2. I am glad that when I went to the Goodwill Outlet today (79 cents a pound for whatever it is) that I found a 55-pound slab of marble. And they charged me two bucks for it. 3. I am blessed by the fullness of my hours.

Day 23: Sunday, September 28

1. Out of a disagreement with a neighbor sprang a spiteful exchange and after an hour or two, a detente and reconciliation. I have found a way to be grateful for the guy across the street and the garden he’s making. It feels good. 2. I’m glad that I resisted the impulse to disown my stepdaughter because she makes choices that are unfathomable to me. It bothers me to see her associate with people who hold her in utter contempt, but there is nothing we can say to make it different. So I found a way to just let go of my own expectations. 3. I am observant, by training and by nature. This has been a great blessing for me in so many ways. I’ve seen stories others didn’t, I found treasures others passed by, I’ve saved my own neck from time to time.

Day 22: Saturday, September 27

Again, another day where I’ve hardly been able to find three things to be grateful for. I know they’re there, but it has been difficult. Still, I will try. 1. I am grateful that if I had to be flattened by a severe migraine, that I was at home. That I had the leisure to crawl back into my bed and know that someone else would tend of all of those things that needed to be tended. I am grateful to have had medication to take to make the pain stop even if, in doing so, it extracted every ounce of energy I had . 2. I am grateful to my friend Shortwest Rick, a man who lives ten blocks from me. I’ve never met him, and yet he has never failed to be anything less than a splendid friend. He has been supportive in so many ways, and his friendship is dear to me. He founded a chapter of NextDoor for our mutual neighborhoods (which used to be joined by a bridge) and helps us connect the dots in the neighborhood. 3. I’m glad I ran across this phrase. (It seems to have had an active life on Twitter, though I’d never seen it before; a friend posted it in honor of her wedding anniversary.) “I know I’m a handful, that’s what you’ve got two hands for.” It made me laugh. It feels good to laugh. I’m grateful that even on mediocre days I can still be amused.

Day 21: Friday, September 26

Sometimes it is very difficult to stop and be quiet long enough to truly focus on that which makes me grateful. There’s too much television news. There’s too much injustice in the world. People are so angry and afraid. So let me sit and think for a minute. 1. I am grateful for our pile of bricks: a sturdy brick house, 100 years old, in a big overgrown yard just steps from the river. Some people are frightened of my neighborhood. I am grateful for it, and for the interesting, lively, and kind people who populate it. 2. I am grateful that I can get water out of my refrigerator door. I am grateful because I’ve always wanted to have a refrigerator door with an ice-water dispenser, and to have one makes me feel all grown up. At 52. But also I am aware that more than a billion (yes, billion, with a “B”) people in the world, 1 in 7 of the world’s population, don’t have ready access to water. We are so very lucky. 3. I am glad that the Yankees game didn’t get rained out.  Derek Jeter got a magical exit from his stellar career.

Day 20: Thursday, September 25

On the twentieth day, I am grateful for the company of friends. Always. I am grateful that pork loin is on sale again, it’s good to be able to afford meat. I am very, very grateful that the lost sheltie Noah has been reunited with his owner after a 19-day absence. I remember that kind of euphoria, and even in just remembering, there is joy.

Day 19: Wednesday, September 24

On the 19th day of counting my blessings, I am making decisions. I woke from a bad dream this morning and was grateful that it was only a dream, and also for the opportunity to address a variety of things that were quietly brewing anxiety in my soul. I am grateful to spend half an hour in the garden, hunting tomatoes hidden in the lush growth. We are coming to the end of the harvest, and it has been bountiful. You will be grateful that tomorrow is the last day for this for me on Facebook. It is a useful exercise, especially when I have to think about it and not just give lip service to That Which For Which We Ought to Be Grateful. I think I will go on writing quietly on the blog about giving thanks for the next 80 days– 100 Days of Gratitude– (with apologies to Gabriel Garcia Marquez) which would end after Thanksgiving and before Christmas. The biggest surprise is how much happier counting my blessings has made me feel, and for that I am truly grateful.

Day 18: Tuesday, September 23

Day 18. I am grateful that I was blessed with an adventurer’s heart. I am humbled that when I ask where I can bring my brown dog to swim I get so many wonderful suggestions. Thank you! And I am so pleased that I decided to just meander through Baltimore yesterday morning (instead of circumventing it on the interstate) and saw this tacked to a tree at an intersection on W. Franklin St.

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Day 17: Monday, September 22

1. Home 2. Dinner on the table. 3. My own bed.

Day 16: Sunday, September 21

Day 16 of Things to Be Grateful For. I am grateful to have left “Amish country”, for so many reasons. Enough to write an essay, which is coming. Crossing over the Susquehanna, I felt anxiety lift like fog. It was a delight to find WXPN on the radio dial. That’s the public radio station from the University of Pennsylvania, and it came in loud and clear the whole time I was in Lancaster and again today. It’s fun to get in the car and hear something you like. I am a compulsive station-changer most of the time, so this was really something to have listened to one station for the last four days. Like most, they stream on the inter-webs, so perhaps I can continue listening in Dayton. And this. I am so grateful for this. His exuberance and joy in the water made me cry with happiness. 10689754_10204517842727352_5147441612090849798_n

Day 15: Saturday, September 20

On the 15th day of counting my blessings: I am so glad that I was able to come out to Pennsylvania for the Chessie National. Not just for Ransom’s win yesterday, though that was such a wonderful surprise, but because it is lovely to see everyone again. It feels good to get reconnected. And I even got to meet a couple of wonderful women who I’ve previously known only through Facebook. Because I am in Pennsylvania, I am thrilled that tomorrow’s breakfast will be served at Jennie’s Diner, an honest-to-God stainless steel sided diner just down the road in Ronks, PA. And I am grateful that tomorrow Ransom and I will go down to the sea to swim.

Day 14: Friday, September 19

14: Yes, that was yesterday. I was soexhausted by the excitement of the day, that it was all I could do to fall into bed. I am grateful to have had the luxury of doing so. When the judge pointed to Ransom, a great “whoop!” went up from some folks at ringside. Friends, of course, and probably some people with schadenfreude happy to see the upset. That whoop! was so wonderful. It is a great thing to win, but it is even better when others feel joy for you– and to say I am grateful for that is an understatement. I am grateful to have this journey with this dog. Eleven years of adventure. It’s been a great run.

Day 13: Thursday, September 18

Day 13 (written in the wee small hours of Day 14, so it goes) First and foremost, I am very grateful to have arrived safe and sound in Lancaster, PA– 9+ hours and 500 miles from home. Second, I’m really glad that the Pennsylvania Turnpike makes the tolls so ridiculous ($21.00? Seriously?) that I decided to find an alternate route across the state. (Like it’s not enough that the pike is skinny and potholed and jammed with trucks.) Third, and this one was so unexpected– US Route 30 across Pennsylvania is wonderful. The Lincoln Highway is incredibly beautiful, lightly traveled (at least on a Thursday in September) and fascinating. I will come back another time when I can mosey rather than zip. I’m so glad I came that way. It took longer, but it was worth it.

Day 12: Wednesday, September 17

On the 12th day, this gratitude business is harder. I’m stressed out, I’m hours and hours behind where I should be and other people are sleeping, the television is blaring. No one is helping. So here goes. A deep breath. I am grateful that even though the tension makes my lower back twinge and spasm, I have a wonderful Aeron chair in which to sit to gather my wits. I am grateful that I don’t actually NEED anyone to help me. I am smart enough, and strong enough and have stamina enough to do it myself. I am blessed that my problems are only problems of such a modest magnitude.

Day 11: Tuesday, September 16

With not enough hours left in this the 11th day of gratitude, I am grateful that the dog I have to wash still tonight enjoys having baths and will enthusiastically leap into the tub. I am blessed that he is still going strong at 11+ and it is a real delight that on Thursday morning we will head out on one more adventure together.

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Day 10: Monday, September 15

On the tenth day of counting my blessings: I am grateful that I did not always get what I thought I wanted. I am glad that I know what it is to be frightened and hungry and cold and broke– because I think that makes me more compassionate. I am lucky to have experienced pain, even excrutiating pain, because coming out the other side of that makes me so glad to be alive

Day 9: Sunday, September 14

Day 9 ( or the ten minutes that’s left of it ) — As much as I have enjoyed looking after my friend Sandy’s fearsome foursome this week, tonight I am grateful to be tucked up in my own bed. I am grateful for to dear Elmer, who has held down the fort and taken such good care of our thundering herd this week. I am grateful there was leftover birthday cake for dinner.

Day 8: Saturday, September 13

Last week I was challenged to name three things a day that I am grateful for. I should be done. However, it feels like a mere 21 things is not enough. A couple of years ago my friend Susann Saarel, a fantastic photographer, did 365 days of gratitude with a photo for each day. While I have no hope of clearing that bar, I think I’d like to ruminate some more on that which I am thankful for. Counting my lucky stars makes me feel happy. On the 8th Day: How lucky I am that my stepfather taught me how to cook. My mother will cook, my father would make sandwiches. But HCB loved to create stuff in the kitchen and from him I learned both technique and a sense of adventure. And I am so happy that I have a Wolf Range to cook on (even if the #$@&%*! igniter needs to be replaced) –it was in the house, and truly– it is more fun to cook on than your ordinary kitchen range. And I am oh-so-grateful for the tomatoes that keep filling baskets and windowsills and the kitchen island set forth by the three little plants we bought at the grocery store. It is a gracious plenty.

Day 7: Friday, September 12

Today, day seven, I am grateful for my extraordinary son. I am grateful that he has made it to twenty in good order. I am grateful that he is a kind, articulate, interesting person. I am so proud that we are related. Happy Birthday, Julian, you’re the best. Love, Mom.

Day 6: Thursday, September 11

Uh oh, only 46 minutes left of this, Day 6. What am I grateful for? Today I am grateful that no extremists decided to underscore the anniversary of 9.11 . I am grateful that I know so many people, octogenarians and more, who are still going strong. They give me hope that the future is not just for the young. And I am grateful to have a bowl of ice cream waiting for me.

Day 5: Wednesday, September 10

On this, the 5th day of counting my blessings, I am reminded how happy we are to have moved to Ohio. How grateful I am for the many mysterious and arcane facets of this place. How delighted I am that we are not facing a winter storm warning today. (I hope our friends in Montana are hunkered down.)

Day 4: Tuesday, September 9

This morning I am grateful that my friend Susann’s husband made it through the night in ICU in Montana and lives to see another day. I am grateful that, in Indiana, young Allison made it through her emergency appendectomy with flying colors. I am grateful.

Day 3: Monday, September 8

On the third day of Being Grateful . . . 1. I am so very thankful that I am still able to find Brown Cow yogurt at the grocery store. They are down to carrying one flavor, maple, but that’s my favorite so I can live with that. It is full cream, full fat, only sweetened with maple syrup and I could survive on it if I had to. 2. It delights me that I was able to find a new purple dress on eBay for twenty bucks to wear to the Chessie National specialty. Brown dog and black dress is the very picture of drab, so I needed to add a little color. 3. I am grateful that I can still call my mother on the telephone. And I think I will do that right now.

Day 2: Sunday, September 7

Day Two in a series of Being Grateful: 1. I am grateful to my dear friend Jeanne Maillet MacKenzie who reached out over an enormous gulf to find me from high school and in doing so made it possible for me to reconnect with my life on Prince Edward Island and the folks there, and for the remarkable friendship that she and her wonderful husband Daibhidh Uilleam MacCoinneach have extended to us. (And guess what, they’re tagged to share with us what makes them grateful, if they so choose. xoxo, Jeanne and Dave.) 2. I am grateful that all my arms and legs and fingers and toes still work reasonably well. My brain is sometimes a little quirky and one pinky has a hitch in its git-a-long, but for the most part, the old girl is still running smooth. Thank God. 3. I am very grateful that my DH, Elmer Lieu, is a morning person and that it is his beaming face that the doggies get to see first thing every single day.Thank you, honey! (And now you can share what makes you feel grateful too.)

Day 1: Saturday, September 6

1. I am grateful to have been given this opportunity to publicly reflect on all the things that make my life better, so thank you Tai. 2. I am grateful that it’s this challenge and not the one to dump ice water on my head. (Those of you who think “Aha!” don’t bother, I wouldn’t do it, even if I am grateful that it’s brought in millions of dollars for a deserving charity.) 3. I am grateful that we have a late summer day in Ohio without high humidity. Maybe I’ll make some meringues.

Restaurant Impossible

Restaurant Impossible is one of my guilty pleasures. One day this spring I was under the weather and watched about six of them in a row. Sometimes I think the decorating results lean a little too heavy on the “done on the fly on the cheap” schtick, but still, it generally looks better than the (usually) filthy mess they start with.

Today I ate lunch at a restaurant that could use a bit of that sleight of hand magic.

But first I taped a very brief interview, as a dog expert (truly) for television news. The friend I was meeting for lunch is a public servant in an adjacent small town, and he asked if I would be willing to comment on a terrible mauling there on Saturday. An elderly woman was killed by her own two pet dogs. No, they weren’t pit bulls. I’m not saying what they were, the breed does not matter.

The reporter asked me “Isn’t it unusual for a dog to attack its owner” and I said “Well, not as much as you might think,” and went on to explain that particularly in a pack situation, canine responses can be unpredictable. We talked about dog behavior for a few minutes and then I went off with my friend in his truck, worrying about all the ways that interview could be edited to make what I said seem idiotic, and wishing I’d worn more makeup.

We got to lunch at a brand new restaurant in Trotwood, Jerseyz Grille. It’s been open less than a month, and I understand that they are trying hard to get a liquor license that will allow them to serve all alcohol (instead of just beer) on Sunday afternoon. Sadly, they seem not to realize that this is the least of their problems.

Met at the door with a warm greeting, we were seated quickly by a friendly member of the staff. The restaurant smelled odd: like bad breath at a slight distance. (It was not my luncheon companion or me or our server– the odor was constant and never varied for the extended time that we were there.) Our waiter brought menus (but never took them away) and quickly brought us the glasses of water that we asked for. The glasses themselves were lovely– much nicer than typical restaurant ware, and they had a very small lemon slice. (Half a lemon, quarter-inch wide, not really worth bothering at that size.)

It was the last quick thing that happened.

We ordered a turkey club on sourdough and a salmon wrap. About 20 minutes after the order went in our waiter came back to say that “the truck hasn’t come this morning, they are out of sourdough.” Rye was substituted. Another fifteen minutes or so passes. The restaurant has fewer than ten other patrons, and a front house staff of about four, it seems. Our waiter is back again. Apparently the salmon was on the same “truck” as the sourdough, and I choose a chicken caesar wrap instead. I’m patient, but my friend is now looking at his watch with some regularity. Considerably later, the waiter comes back a third time and I’m sorry to say that it is not with our food.

“Would sweet potato fries be okay?” The potatoes, it appears, were also “on the truck.” Sure, fine, whatever. Here’s the thing: it is very rare for food service trucks to just not show up. To guests with any restaurant savvy, this indicates that maybe there are unpaid bills or some other impediment. But more to the point, if you don’t have these basic ingredients in your restaurant for whatever reason, send someone across the street to Cub foods or up to Wal-Mart to buy the sourdough, salmon, and potatoes that you need.

Finally, the “club” sandwich (not quartered) arrives with sweet potato fries. Remember what I ordered? A wrap. When it finally arrives, my friend has finished his lunch. There are no fries, but the waiter– who was really a very nice guy– assures me that they are coming out any minute. The wrap is delicious, but it is very modest in size. Okay, so I’m dieting, maybe I should not complain about portion size, which usually errs on the too large.

This was essentially one leaf of romaine, approximately three ounces of grilled chicken breast and some caesar dressing rolled up in an 8-inch tomato-red tortilla. It was delicious. But it was very small, so much so that my friend is compelled to note that the salmon wrap he’d had here previously was “much bigger.” One can’t help  but wonder if this “skimpiness” is also indicative of money problems.

The sweet potato fries arrive, they are not bad, but it is clear that they are not freshly made, but just food service frozen, heat-and-serve. I brought the leftover fries home to my husband and he ate them, but noted that they had not been salted out of the fryer. Even if you serve sweet potato fries with brown sugar and cinnamon– they still need salt.

We are not offered dessert.

Apparently the bill was adjusted. I was the guest, so I didn’t inquire too closely. But still. You cannot have a restaurant without plentiful food. This kind of performance within a month of opening does not bode well for their future. Which is too bad, because I’d like for them to succeed. I’m a big fan of the independent restaurant, it’s a tough act to compete against the chains. Jerseyz has an interesting and appealing menu. They’ve taken an empty shell of a chain restaurant and made a very tasteful job of redecorating. It seems scrupulously clean. But you can’t eat ambience.

It would be useful for the owner to go up the street a quarter mile to the New Asian, where they serve the Best Chinese Food in Dayton. That restaurant has a staff of two– a man and his wife– and no one waits an hour and a half for lunch. Between the two of them they cook and serve (and sometimes leave to make a delivery!) from ten in the morning until ten at night, six days a week. They know what it means to hustle. They are never out of food. Their place isn’t glamorous, but the food is excellent, the portions are generous and the service is fast and friendly.

While we were waiting for the check, we figured out how long we’d been there. We walked in at 12:30. We were served lunch at 2:10 p.m. If Jersey Grillz wants to survive, they have to do better.

As for the interview, it was fine as it turned out. The two statements they excerpted were good ones, sympathetic to the victims, and insightful to the nature of dogs. While my expression is laughable, at least I did not look as fat as I might have.

Target today 70 (again) Steps 2821

Breakfast: Yogurt with granola. Lunch: small chicken caesar wrap, half a dozen sweet potato fries. Special treat  much later in the day: chocolate croissant and coffee Dinner: two cups of watermelon. 

This is Not Goodbye.

 

This is not goodbye. I’m not quitting. It’s not even “I’ll be back in a little while.” It’s more like “Excuse me for a minute while I go to take a pee.”

Yesterday’s post– about it being time for recess– was met with questions, assumptions, howls of protest, and many queries, public and private. Hey, kids, you made me feel all warm and fuzzy, thank you.

I am not quitting.

In fact, yesterday’s post was to assuage concerns that my lackadaisical approach did not mean that I was going to quietly drop off the face of the blogosphere. I realize I have not  been as focused on the diet and exercise facets, and I know that I have written that I’m not sure exactly how I’m going to continue this.

But honey, if you want to be, you’re definitely along for the ride.

Here are a few examples of the conundrums that stare at me like a flock of blinking sheep under the bed. I set out to lose 80 pounds. I’ve lost 25. But really, I think I’d rather lose 100 pounds. If we all go through this together and arrive at 80 pounds, will I want to start over for twenty more?

What if it takes longer than Twelve Moons– a year? Does that matter? Should I change the blog’s name then to Twelve More Moons? Can I make the writing more interesting? Can I make the exercise more interesting? I’m sick of the whole step thing, I tell you. When people tell me, oh so blase, that they walk an average of 10,000 steps a day it sets my BS alarm off. 10,000 steps a day is a lot.

If you have a job where you sit in a chair most of the day– unless you are going to incredible efforts outside of work, you’re not logging five miles a day. You’re just not. (Nurses, teachers, some retail folks, people in agriculture, letter carriers– yeah, I can see that you are walking that many and more– but even when that’s the case, so many of you are still so plump– so what gives?) Sex burns more calories than walking 10,000 steps and it’s more efficient but that only really works if you and your partner are awake at the same time.

There is still all that other stuff: the Y, cycling, the pool, showing dogs, etc. And I will get to that, but along the way, I am going to have to do a more reasonable job with time management. There’s an ad on television lately with supposed Olympic athletes saying things like “I haven’t watched TV since last summer” and “That great book everyone’s talking about? I haven’t read it.”  “A day off? I don’t remember the last time I took a morning off.” Maybe I need to take a leaf from that.

I need to tell the story I need to tell. I need to improve my health and fitness. I need to take better care of my responsibilities to my household: husband, son, dogs, the house itself. That horribly long to-do list from last week is not much shorter, but I have lined through a few things.

So, I’m not going anywhere. There may not be one of these every day, but there will be a post more days than not. Until I figure out exactly how I’m going to re-shape the program to capture my interest again, I won’t be reporting on the target numbers, steps taken, or what I’ve had to eat. Not because I’m cheating– the changes I’ve made in those areas have stuck– I eat better, I feel better, I am more fit– those are lifestyle changes and I feel good about them. I’m not reporting those things because until I figure out the path to meet the goal, there is nothing to report.

See you tomorrow.

The List

In response to yesterday’s post, my friend Donna offered her own suggestion from getting out from under being overwhelmed: make a list and start checking things off. It’s a good solution and it has worked for me before– not always because I get the things checked off but because it helps me to at least organize my thoughts about the debris fields of my life.

You are not expected to read this list. You certainly may, if you want to– after all I’ve published it. But I don’t expect the minutiae of my life to have much interest for others. Suggestions are always welcome. If I can figure out how to do it, I’ll try to come back and cross them off.

1.  Orville

a. Email WSU for a parking pass for the rare book room for next week.

b. Unearth and re-organize the Wright material.

c.Further develop the outline for the book.

d.I need a title for the book.

e.Develop a proposal for publishers

f. Go to Dayton History and just sit with the plane awhile.

2. House

a. sort out and organize study

b. paint the livingroom

c. paint the hall closet

d. paint the winter bedroom

e. buy new shower curtains

f. sort out clothes and other stuff for Goodwill

g. organize closets and clothing and shoes

h. build shelves in closet for shoes

i. hang shelf over bed

j. hang pictures

k. deal with the clutter everywhere

l. make peach pie

3. Dogs

a. train puppy every day

b. make arrangements for upcoming shows- hotels, entries, cars.

c. contact fence contractor

d. draw plans for shed

e. zoning permit for shed

f. call Kelly Leonard

g. Blue  :’-(

h. Sign up for agility with Holly the Boston terrorist

i. Follow up on paperwork for Grace

j. Work Rowan

k. Monthly flea treatments for dogs and cats, again.

4. Habits

a. limit Facebook to one hour a day.

b. do something active every day.

c. organize food for the house instead of eating out so much

d. Go to bed earlier.

5. Health and Fitness

a. Join the YMCA

b. Go to the YMCA at least twice a week

c. Find a doctor for E.

d. Review health insurance changes

e. Find a health fair for blood work.

f. Buy a U-lock for the bike.

g. Get out in a kayak

h. Back to the pool with Martha

6. Loose Ends

a. Go to Montana to sort out storage units there.

b. Ohio Driver’s License

c. Julian’s WSU application

d. See about the Indiana tax refund

e. cell phone

7. Finances

a. Cancel Netflix and other subscriptions (Highbeam, yousendit) not being used.

b. Crank up eBay sales again.

c. Develop resume

d. Look for a job.

8. Kennel Clubs

a. FSCKC

i Send meeting notices for August picnic

ii. Make judging assignments

iii Send contracts to judges

iv Contact AKC about loose ends and sanctioned match

v. Match paperwork

vi. Membership roster

b. Dayton Kennel Club

i. Produce and mail August Newsletter

Social

a. Edit and post Dachshund pictures

b. Dinner with Rahn and Gina

c. Get up to Montpelier to see Grannie

d. Spend more time with friends

e. End of summer party?

f. Letter to Sherrod Brown.

Target today 54. Steps today (though its early still) 3618. Breakfast: two hardboiled egg, peach, packet of trail mix. Lunch: chicken salad sandwich and yes, a maple frosted donut. Dinner: two tortillas with leftover grilled chicken, shrimp, chorizo plus avocado and a little cheese. Two peaches, diced.

Stand

Yesterday we were up at 5:30 to go to Lima, 75 miles north, to ring steward at a dog show. I couldn’t write before we left and when we came home I went straight to bed, totally exhausted. I didn’t even take off my clothes.

The job of a ring steward is to assist the judge, and to some extent, exhibitors. We hand out armbands, answer questions, pull ribbons, help people get their armbands on, fish cold drinks out of the cooler below the table, bellow for missing dogs, and keep track of the results in a steward’s book. All the while not leaving an area about three foot square. Judges at least get to walk around in the ring looking at the dogs. No wonder  prominent judge “Broadway” Joe Gregory dances in the ring.

It was very hot and I did stand around from 8 am until 4 p.m. But I was curious as to why we are so exhausted when we stand all day. Museum goers know that it’s incredibly taxing– but why? It’s not like we’re running laps around the galleries.

I found the most succinct answer on an Indiana Public Radio site:

It lies exactly in the fact that while you ARE standing, you AREN’T moving your legs. Although this seems like an easy thing to do, it isn’t at all the same thing as resting.

Think of it this way: when we walk at a steady pace, we are constantly changing the pressure on each foot. At no point do you have both feet flat on the ground.

That alternation of stress and relaxation has two effects. First, it gives your foot a little rest before having to exert a force again, each time you step. Add all those little rests together and you’ll see you spend roughly half your walking time off your feet. Not bad.

The other effect is that walking helps circulate the blood. It’s the increased difficulty in circulation when you are standing still that causes blood to pool a little in your feet. When not enough fresh blood reaches those muscles, they tend to become uncomfortable.

But in my quest for the answer, I also found a thread on “My Fitness Pal” that I found intensely disturbing. If you’re not familiar with “My Fitness Pal” it is an online community of people tracking their food intake and exercise in order to lose weight and get more fit. You’d think, given the circumstances that it would be a supportive group. You’d think wrong.

A woman wrote to ask how to track “standing.”  The snarky comments verged on abuse. “.0000001 calorie, now go have a donut,” and “the same for lying down, fatty.”  Not only were those people (using the term loosely) rude, they were also wrong. Numerous sites, including Livestrong document the stress, strain and calories burned of standing.  On the Health Status calculator,  you can track the number of calories burned for nearly any activity, including brushing your teeth for three minutes (14 calories), walking on crutches (305 calories) foreplay (84) and talking on the phone  for half an hour (60). You can even figure out doing these things all at the same time.

Someone who stands for half an hour, who weighs what I do, will burn 69 calories. More than talking on the phone, less than foreplay. This is in addition to your Basal Metabolic Rate– you know the calories you burn just by being alive. Standing for eight hours, as I did yesterday, burns nearly 1100 calories.  (I was there for 9+ hours, but towards the end of the day, I did find opportunity to sit.)

Let me tell you folks, this more than makes up for the steps I missed. (A mile of moderate walking burns about 170 calories.)

The dog pictured, an exquisite example of  something “standing” is GCH. Protocol’s Vedi Veni Vici or “Fifi” to her friends. She is yesterday’s very deserving winner of Best in Show.

Today’s Target Number 54. Steps walked 2830. For breakfast: blueberries with yogurt and granola, lunch: cheese and tomato sandwich, a cup of fruit salad, a glass of lemonade.  Dinner: lobster tail, five scallops, five shrimp, steamed broccoli, small baked potato, two biscuits.

Changing Times

This would usually be the day that I make an accounting of how the former week has gone– and take an unflinching look at the progress I’ve made, or as has been the case lately, not made.

In the meantime, I’ve been staying up ridiculous hours because I have a tendency to noodle around on the computer at night. I cruise around on Facebook. I read the news. I am easily distracted. But I’m having to wait until the end of the day in order to fully credit the proper number of steps.  Or the food I’ve eaten, or whatever. There are some nights I don’t go to bed until four or five in the morning.

Given my various neurological twitches, I know how essential it is to get enough sleep, so I get enough sleep. But this means that I don’t wake up until noon some days. Or 1 p.m. Or two. Because of that, I’m not even tired when conventional bedtime rolls around.

This has got to stop.

So tomorrow, we are starting something new. I’ll be posting in the morning, recounting the activities and food consumed of the day before. I will be back to counting and accounting next Monday morning.

I have a new notebook to keep track of what I’ve eaten, and other things that might be of interest or import. I have a fresh new start tomorrow. Even though I’ll be writing about today, in which I did little more than sleep. I took a Benadryl and that made me such a sleepyhead. I’d let this project kind of unspiral, and because of that I felt untidy and uninspired. But I love a blank page, and that’s what tomorrow is.

Oh, and I named the new puppy.

Bliss.

That’s her name and also how I feel about finally naming her.