Perfect Moments

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In the sixties, when I used to sit down cross-legged on the floor to watch the escapades of the Starship Enterprise and her crew, I was a fan of Captain James T. Kirk.  We raised Doberman Pinschers and William Shatner had Doberman Pinschers and he was a charismatic figure.

Mr. Spock inspired less feeling for me. He always seemed something of a cold fish, and since I was a girl of many passionate opinions, I just didn’t care that much for unflappable logic of the half-Vulcan half-human man with the pointy ears.

So I never became a Trekkie (or “Trekker” as apparently they prefer) but I did, in time, get to be a huge fan of Leonard Nimoy. That started at a party, where someone had a copy of The New World of Leonard Nimoy, which contains gems like “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” and “Proud Mary,” “I Walk the Line” and “Let It Be Me.”

Nimoy was clearly a man of many gifts. Singing wasn’t one of them. This record was dreadful. And it wasn’t his first, he’d had at least three others before this one, I was told. We didn’t know if he was so tone-deaf that he didn’t know that he couldn’t sing, or if he just didn’t care. There was something appealing about that. Clearly, he enjoyed making records, his ego didn’t need for them to be good records.

Each time I saw Leonard Nimoy doing something other than Star Trek, I was charmed. He was an educated, intelligent, gracious man. He had a strange relationship with Mr. Spock, evidenced by the title of his 1975 memoir “I Am Not Spock” and also by his second one twenty years later “I Am Spock.”

Nimoy was a kind of Renaissance man for Hollywood. He wrote books of poetry, was an avid and accomplished photographer, recorded those awful records, and did film and television work that had nothing to do with Vulcans.

Like a television movie about Golda Meir. And he directed Tom Selleck in Three Men and a Baby and Diane Keaton in The Good Mother. He wrote and starred in a one man play about Vincent Van Gogh. He appeared in a mini-series of The Sun Also Rises. (As Count Mippipopolous. He was versatile, but Jake Barnes might have been a stretch.)

He was not a one-trick pony, certainly, but that one defining role was the one he was never able to shake.

Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock eat pie.

Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock eat pie.

 

He was gentle with his Star Trek fans though, and made frequent appearances in regards to the beloved character. He often appeared with his old friend, William Shatner, including a few cameos on Shatner’s gig for Priceline. There were talk shows, conventions, the role reprised on both television and the large screen.

He provided voice-overs for “Spock” on the Simpsons, Futurama, Big Bang Theory. When Leonard Nimoy’s death was announced this morning someone wrote “Who will tell Sheldon?”

Leonard Nimoy’s stepson signed Bruno Mars to the Warner Brothers. That might have been the extent of it, but no, there’s Leonard playing an fictive self in a ratty bathrobe in an alternate version to “The Lazy Song.” The character is really pretty scurrilous– what Leonard Nimoy might have been if he was bitter and lonely and living in the San Fernando Valley. It’s amazing he was able to keep a straight face, but I guess he had practice.

Because of course, he was neither bitter nor lonely.

In a taped interview included in the New York Times obituary, he explained how the Vulcan Salute came to be. It turns out the that the now iconic gesture– with which almost everyone greeted Leonard Nimoy (including President Obama) was one he observed during a Kohanic blessing at temple when he was a child in Boston.

Though his father instructed him to turn away, to avert his eyes, he peeked. He saw the Jewish priests’ outstretched hands in blessing and he thought it “magical.” He suggested the V-shape hand signal (it is actually the sign for the Hebrew Shin)  to Gene Roddenberry many years later, and a chapter in popular culture was born. But watch the video at the link. To hear him tell the story is lovely.

Just over a year ago, Leonard Nimoy was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It’s a ghastly way to die.

“I quit smoking 30 yrs ago,” he tweeted to his fans. “Not soon enough. I have COPD. Grandpa says, quit now!! LLAP.”

LLAP. “Live Long and Prosper. ”

“Smokers, please understand,” the messages continued. “If you quit after you’re diagnosed with lung damage it’s too late. Grandpa says learn my lesson. Quit now. LLAP. I’m doing OK. Just can’t walk distances. Love my life, family, friends and followers.”

On the 23rd of February, his last tweet was posted.

A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP.

He probably didn’t come up with his last message on Monday. He’s had a little time to think about how to say goodbye to all those people who loved him and his character so much. It doesn’t matter when he came up with it, it is his last, most beautiful, gift to his fans.

My friend David Weinstock wrote today  “Hail Spock, who made the 1970s a better place for Jewish boys with strange ears.”

It must be a very difficult time for Leonard Nimoy’s family and for his friends and for his colleagues and all of the people who knew him so well and enjoyed him so much. I know this to be true because of how his death this morning, at the age of 83, has affected the rest of us.

I admit it, I have wept.

Highly illogical.

 

 

 

 

 

Shoe Bliss

Buster-Brown-Comic It’s a stereotype that women love shoes, and like so many stereotypes, there’s a kernel of truth in there somewhere. It isn’t just Imelda Marcos. We’ve all seen those episodes of House Hunters, where she either has a room dedicated to shoes. Or she need a room in which to put her collection of shoes. There’s usually a  smiling, indulgent-looking man in the mix somewhere. When a box of shoes arrives in the mail for me at my house my husband gets that look too. “More shoes?” They’re not Manolo Blahniks. No Jimmy Choos in my closet. I have a tendency to twist my ankle when walking, even in bare feet. I don’t have any clothes that go with that sort of shoe. I sure don’t have the body to wear them naked anymore. But if you love Christian Louboutin, if that’s your shoe groove, all the more power to you. They’re works of art, those shoes. So beautiful. Just not on my feet. Yes, I am the girl of the sensible shoes. I started out in Buster Browns. Once when I was 13, I traded a family heirloom for a second-hand pair of red platform shoes, like something out of  Aladdin Sane. (Weirdly, the other shoes I remember from the closet of my early adolescence  were Earth shoes, blue Adidas court shoes and riding boots.) Mostly my shoes are solid. Save one pair of kitten heels for grown-up occasions, I could sprint after a dog in every pair of shoes I own. il_570xN.331660452 Physical therapists like my shoes. Now, don’t go away thinking my shoes are boring. In my closet, at one time or another, you could find flocked floral black and white Dr. Martens. Pale-pink leather lace-up paddock boots. Black Mary Janes with purple flowers. Yellow clogs with ladybugs. Cobalt blue Beatle boots. At least six pairs of Dr. Marten’s combat boots– and I still want the ones with the Union Jack toe. Not a fan of running shoes, (or running) though I did get a pair of Merrells the last time I went on a fitness thing. I loved them. They were black, modern, sleek, almost elegant. They were designed for “natural running.” They nearly ruined my feet and left me with a year-long misery of plantar fasciitis. Right now as I sit at my desk in my jammies, my feet are toasty and warm in Stegmann boiled wool clogs. Sexy? Ooo-whee, let me tell you. One afternoon I went into a shoe store in Santa Cruz with my friend, Christy. Christy is not just my wonderful friend, she’s my astral twin, my sister from another mother. We walked into this shoe store and our mouths dropped. We clutched each other’s arms. “Look at those shoes!” she whispered. It was a whole store full of our favorite sort of shoe: fun, sensible, playful, comfortable, zany shoes. Cute shoes you could wear running after a dog. Thank God they weren’t having a sale. The right shoe makes you feel like anything is possible. You can slay dragons, talk people off ledges, catch the thief, land the contract, get the guy, get the girl, grab the brass ring. (And this is true whether the right shoe is a five-inch stiletto or a Bass Weejun.) The wrong shoe is as bad as the wrong foot. Best not to even start. I get a new pair of shoes and I fall in love. I hate to wear anything else. I wear those shoes until the seams are falling apart. (Like that last pair of crimson red Naots. God those were great shoes.) Then I’m heartbroken and I have to go shoe shopping again. But shoe shopping for me is a bit complicated– they just don’t have my shoes at Payless or Shoebilee, or Shoe Carnival. My shoes make themselves the object of a quest. And when they arrive, finally, at last, generally through the mail, all is bliss at our house for awhile. This is my perfect shoe. I really appreciate a good black Mary Jane (named after Buster Brown’s sister, did you know that?) and I’ve had lots and I hope I have many more pairs of comfortable, sturdy, sensible black Mary Janes in my life ahead. Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 12.04.41 AM But a red Mary Jane. That is something else altogether. Hans Christian Andersen’s grim tale notwithstanding, that is the shoe that speaks to me. I never had red Mary Janes as a child. My mother was sensible and bought me the brown ones. I’m making up for that now.

Oh I used to be disgusted And now I try to be amused. But since their wings have got rusted, You know, the angels wanna wear my red shoes. But when they told me ’bout their side of the bargain, That’s when I knew that I could not refuse. And I won’t get any older, now the angels wanna wear my red shoes.

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.

Scenic Route 53


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“A great alternative way to reach Grants from Gallup is via Scenic Route 53, which runs parallel to, and south of, I-40. It takes a full day to really experience this out-of-this-world landscape of lava tubes and red arches, volcanic craters and ice caves, as well as unique historical attractions and traditional New Mexican towns.”  

-Lonely Planet

On Friday, I turned 53. I’m not particularly bothered by it. I happened to be online around 1 a.m. and commented that I’d been 53 for 53 minutes, to which my mother (the next day) said “Not exactly.” Which is true, I wasn’t born until 6:40 in the evening. My father had gone home to make a sandwich.

And it was one time zone over, so I guess I wasn’t truly 53 years old until twenty minutes of eight on Friday. But that’s not what this is about. I could be turning 39 or 57 or 10.

This is about expectations.

Like everybody, I’ve had good birthdays and crappy ones. I’ve had full-blown week-long celebrations and birthdays that passed with little notice. Oh wait, that last part’s not true.  I’ve never had a birthday that passed without notice.

But lately I’ve started to realize that the enjoyment I found in a celebration had direct correlation to what I expected from it– but not having any expectations is not only not realistic, it’s not the answer.  The answer is this: make your own fun.

One of the very best things about my birthday is that the weather, which has been a socked-in-solid deep freeze for the last several weeks began to thaw. I know it isn’t spring, this is still January. But it was forty something, and the air felt soft. I went out into the world wearing a velvet coat.

It starts with a swim at the Y, a brand new luxury for me. The day before my husband went with me to sign up for a membership and bought a parking pass for good measure. Then we went out to buy shoes.

“Shoes?” you query. “Who needs shoes to swim in a pool?” Well, that’s true. I don’t need shoes to swim in a pool. But I might need them to sneak a little walking or racquetball or some other exercise disguised as fun. This is a very delicate arrangement, I don’t want to frighten my good intentions.  These are the shoes, they’re far more gaudy than any pair of shoes I’ve ever bought in my life, my footwear exists in the spectrum from Doc Martens to sensible Mary Janes.

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After swimming, it was off to the kind of meeting that makes you wish you were having a root canal instead. For two hours. Lord help me. Save us from people who refuse to be reassured and offer nothing in the way of solution or support.

And I didn’t even get paid for those two hours lost forever from my life, on my birthday no less– it was all part of a volunteer gig. On the other hand I was the youngest person in the room. That gives me faith that 53 is not all that old, and that there are still plenty of years ahead for me to make trouble.

After the meeting, a late lunch with a friend. The white tablecloth restaurant where we hoped to go had closed for lunch, so we ended up at Panera, but that was alright, I had a favorite salad and it was delicious. My friend gave me this wonderful birthday card, one of the best I’ve ever seen. Inside it says “You’re just a few clicks past thirty.”

 

bostonbdayI would have lingered longer but I had to go pick up my son.

At home, there were birthday cards– one, from my father’s widow, had a generous check enclosed. There was an odd shaped package from my mother, which turned out to be a tall object resembling an umbrella stand.  We don’t think it truly is an umbrella stand, but it has found a place in the hallway and I like it.

Earlier, on our way to the closed restaurant, I passed by the windows of a shop I had only seen from the car. I’d always thought it was a high end gift shop– you know, home of the $40 paperweight. But walking by the window I saw on a shelf a figure of a dog, but I hadn’t had time to check it out before going home. So, it’s my birthday, right, I’ll indulge myself a little.

Back to the shop, and it is chock full of interesting stuff, shiny baubles and costume jewelry and beautiful French wrapping paper. The dog figure is only ten dollars, but it looks like the head of a mastiff on the body of a hound, so I pass on that, but pause over a number of bracelets, inspect some marked down Christmas ornaments and buy some French wrapping paper. It’s a place I’ll go back to, I’m only sorry it took me so long to go in the first time.

From there to the weird hum of the Goodwill outlet, where I found a blue plaid wool blanket, a poster from a Grand Funk Railroad tour, a first edition of LeRoy Neiman’s Art and Lifestyle, an interesting Melmac tray and a Magnajector. This is a Magnajector.

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From Goodwill to the grocery store, and flush with the unexpected birthday check, I splurge on steaks for us. And a ganache-covered torte to serve as birthday cake.

Birthday dinner, then was sublime. More relaxed than any restaurant and you could go back for seconds. No candles on the torte and no singing (that may have been a misstep) but the cake was awesome.

It was nearly midnight before I sat down to check the computer. There were emails. A couple of texts. Some Facebook messages . . . and more than 150 posts wishing me a happy birthday. Some of them so perfect as to be gifts all in themselves.

Like this one.

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And this one from my friend, Terri, quoting Byron.

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And this one from my pal Mark, noting my return to the water.

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What gift could be better than messages like those from friends like that?

And then I found out all kinds of interesting things about the number 53.

  • It’s the number of an incredible scenic highway in New Mexico.
  • 53 is a prime number.
  • It’s the code for direct-dial calls to Cuba, a place I desperately want to visit.
  • 53 is the racing number for Herbie the Love Bug.
  • The Daily Mail says that 53 is when middle age begins.
  • At 53, Ludwig van Beethoven completed his Ninth Symphony
  • Sidney Sheldon began writing his first novel at 53.
  • Robert E. Peary reached the North Pole at age 53, and that’s how old Walter Hunt was when he invented the safety pin.
  • 53-year-old playwright Vaclav Havel became president of Czechoslovakia.
  • Sue Monk Kidd published her first novel, The Secret Life of Bees, at– yep, 53.
  • The atomic number of Iodine is 53. In it’s gaseous state, it’s violet, like the cardigan I’m wearing in the photo above, taken on my 53rd birthday. It is present in ocean water, as I too, would so like to be. But the Egyptian-inspired pool at the Y will have to be a close second.
  • The character of the Grinch (who stole Christmas) is 53.

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As is Dewey Largo, who in the episode of The Simpsons that I just happened to watch on the night of my 53rd birthday, sings “My country ’tis of thee, my job is misery. Life disappointed me, I’m 53 . . . .”

(I think I aged better than Mr. Largo.)

 

Here’s what I know: you are responsible for your own happiness. I had a wonderful happy birthday, because I decided that I would have a wonderful happy birthday. Many, many people, friends and family alike, helped make it even happier. But from the time I got up in the morning I decided to celebrate the day like the present it was.

Today I am still eating birthday cake. Lucky girl.

A Second Cup of Tea

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Last year, I decided that I wanted something different for the new year– not resolutions which seemed doomed to failure and designed to inspire self-loathing– but something else, a kind of “to do” list. Not a bucket list, with its solemn life-changing scope, something smaller. What I came up with was a “tea-cup list“.

On the original list, there were 15 items. I achieved 7 of them:  I did renew my passport and I did leave the country. I bought a kitchen torch, I took Ransom to the beach, I spent more time with friends. I threw away my old tired undies, I explored more, I kissed more.

But the living room ceiling is still without gilt, I didn’t get to Kitty Hawk, I haven’t been riding, though I did take a carriage in Central Park.  I didn’t take the train to the Library of Congress, and I didn’t find a place to swim.  The fireplace still needs tile, and I haven’t learned to make a pie crust– though I found a restaurant in West Milton, Ohio that makes the most wonderful pie, so maybe I can cross that off instead. I am not writing five days a week and that does vex me.

I still want to get to all of those things, but they won’t make this year’s list.  Oh, perhaps you will catch a glimpse of one or two here or there.  But it is a new year and I have new things, and new-old things I want to try. And as with last year’s, I post these not because I think you have any particular interest in how I plan to make my year, but in hope that it may inspire you to make plans for some fun of your own.

 

Tea for 2015

1.  Two finished chapters by March 1.

I’ve been spinning my wheels on this long enough. The research is always fun, but the weight of what I need to do has begun to tax me. It’s time to get those chapters written, the outline polished, the pitch made perfect. In March I want to begin to sell the book.  (And while this sounds a bit like a resolution and I am resolved to make it happen, it is finally, a gift to myself to move forward.) 

 

2.  French doors to the study.

There are two sets of vintage French doors in the garage. And a five-foot wide opening into my study through which sail dogs, husband, children and the like. I love my family, truly, but if I can’t close the door, they interrupt, and if they interrupt I don’t get any work done. See item 1. 

 

3.  Detroit Institute of Arts

The Detroit Institute of Arts is safe, thank God. I had planned to go and visit when it was in danger of being raffled off to cure the city’s bankruptcy.  The imminent threat has been abated, but I still want to get to the Motor City to explore restaurants and make photographs of another great American city and poke around the art museum and see my friends Ed and Jerry over there in Windsor. 

 

4.  A few nights at the Elizabeth City Bed & Breakfast

When the Wrights went to the Outer Banks to try their Flyer, the train took them to Elizabeth City, North Carolina. They stayed in the Southern Hotel there while waiting for the weekly freight boat to Kitty Hawk. The Southern is long gone, but the quaint and charming Elizabeth City B & B is in an old inn that was the Southern’s contemporary. I think there’s a pillow there with a mint on it for me. 

 

5.  Chincoteague

I want to go and see the ponies. It’s not so far. 

 

6.  Finish early

This one is even more like a resolution, but my relationship with deadlines is a toxic one. It makes me anxious and cranky, and I could just be a lot kinder to myself by not letting it go so long. I will try. 

 

7.  Swim nearly every day.

What a luxury, and one within the realm of possibility. I would not have modified it to “nearly”, and could have planned to swim every day but I know my own life well enough that my best hope is four or five days a week. 

 

8.  Hang every picture in the house. On freshly painted walls.

I have many wonderful paintings and photographs and the like that are stacked in closets and up against walls and packed in boxes. It’s time to hang them so I can enjoy them. Some of the walls need a new coat of paint first. I’ve got the paint, I just need to set aside the time to make it happen.

 

9.  Rookwood Pottery. A single tile. 

Rookwood Pottery is functioning again. I told my husband I’d like a bear for my birthday. Perhaps I’ll get my wish. But really I’d like to go and look at tiles and see them made and perhaps buy just one, and use that one splendid tile for the focus of the surround that the living room fireplace has needed since we moved in. Eight years ago. 

 

10.  Go to the zoo and visit the lions.

I love the lions at the Cincinnati Zoo. There are new cubs. It’s not so far, nor so expensive. I just like to sit quietly and watch, it’s good for the soul.  I’ve never been sorry to spend an afternoon there. 

 

11.  Have a lobster roll.

My most favorite food. I don’t know where I’ll get this lobster roll. It doesn’t seem all that likely I’ll get to the Maritimes two summers running. But maybe. Revere Beach is closer. And if it comes down to brass tacks, I’ll make one for myself. 

 

12.  Resurrect the Suburban.

Poor Suburban, our work truck, gasping for fuel, the front passenger seat torn asunder where the dog lost his mind one afternoon. There’s a spot on the roof with a bit of rust. It’s sat in the driveway so long now that the remote won’t work. But it wouldn’t take so much to put it all to right, and once again have a rig that will carry sheet rock, plywood, garden soil, straw bales, dog crates, storage tubs and furniture. I miss it, I miss sitting a bit higher than the rest of the traffic. I miss its limousine qualities. It’s a worthwhile endeavor to bring it back. 

 

13.  Winnow

Like everybody, I’ve got too much stuff. Some of this stuff I don’t even really like. It’s time to pitch it. Ditto the spices I’ve been carrying around since I was a sophomore in college. The shoes I will never ever wear again. Some of the ways I squander my time. Friends who aren’t friends. Clothes that make me feel self-conscious. Books that I haven’t read and won’t read or those I’ve read once and won’t ever read again. Music I don’t like. VHS tapes.

 

14.   Go to the movies.

I like the movies. There’s a first run cinema here where you can see them for five dollars a pop on Wednesdays. I just need to make a point to go. I don’t remember the last time I saw a movie in a theater. It might have been a decade ago.

 

15.  Keep being grateful.

This autumn I made a point to count my blessings– three a day for a hundred days. I’ve finished that exercise and it was a good one. I’m so very glad I did it, even though I’m –um– grateful that I no longer have to do it such a formal fashion. But it did change me in a profound way. I learned to look for the silver lining, to note the things that made me feel happy or joyous or content instead of just letting those slide.  The glass is more beautiful when it is half full.

 

 

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.

Writing for Lent

typewriter

I’m not Catholic. I almost wrote that I am “not particularly religious,” when I realized how that statement somehow lacks a basic truth.  There have been times that I’ve believed in God, and times that I have not.  It’s not so much that I doubt, it’s that I have simply come to the conclusion that I don’t know, and I am open to whatever the answer turns out to be.  (Except for hellfire and damnation. Even when I did go to church, I went to the Lutheran church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America does not do hellfire and damnation. I understand that even the Pope in Rome is starting to let go of such ideas.) This little essay, then, is not about religion; though it may settle for awhile in a pew, contemplating ritual.

Today is Ash Wednesday. Yesterday, in the throes of Shrove Tuesday, different friends mused about what they would give up for Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter. Quite a few of them chose chocolate, and that is apparently quite a popular thing to give up for Lent. It used to be that many people gave up eating meat. Some people give up television, or beer, or Facebook. I thought about giving up argument.  This would be a tough one for me. I have a natural tendency to teach; and a very shallow tolerance for ignorance.

But then I did a little research and I discovered something about Lent that I never knew before. (Remember, I didn’t grow up in the church.) The notion of Lent is not just one of penitence, but also one of contributing to the greater good. The whole point of giving up chocolate, or meat, or beer is not just one of self-denial, but is also supposed to  enable you to give those things (or the money you’ve saved from not buying them) to someone in greater need.  Perhaps the question then, for all of us, ought to be not “What are you giving up for Lent?” but “What are you giving for Lent?” In an essay, by the Scottish Vicar Rev. Canon Gordon Reid, he suggests that instead of giving up something for Lent, one can take on something extra, and it too should serve the greater good.

Like the little drummer boy, I have no gold to give. Or meat. Or chocolate for that matter. I have only my song, the drumbeat of my fingers across the keys, the tales of my people, the thoughts in my head and those in my heart. So I am Writing for Lent.

And apparently there is a tradition for writing for Lent. People write daily devotions, they write prayers, they keep special Lenten journals. There is a long-standing custom for people to write letters to those for whom they wanted to mend a difference, often a letter a day to the same person. (Frankly, I can see how that last one might go badly awry.) In each of these instances, the church recommends reflection and repentance. But borrowing a leaf from the Reverend Canon, it seems that my own reflection and repentance is less of a gift to the world than love in all of its myriad forms.

In that spirit, I am going to write a different short essay every day for 40 days, and while I am writing I will try to keep in mind that these are supposed to be for the benefit of others. That is, itself, the greater test. Because certainly there is a selfish component to this as well: I have a much larger project that is overflowing the “in” box, and I have had a very difficult time getting down to it. Sometimes just getting back in the habit of writing every day every day every day can help you find your way to that which truly requires your full attention and best efforts. God only knows I’ve had plenty of excuses for my indolence.

I don’t imagine that I will be able to fulfill the true mission of this every single day. There will be days when I write about things that benefit no one, or perhaps I will write something because I am angry and upset. I am human, and like all the rest of us, I sometimes have feet of clay. But I will try, and in that effort is my humble gift.