Thursday, September 14, 2017

Waiting for the Fog to Lift

The fog has blanketed the city of Saint Charles these last two mornings. Yesterday, it felt like a dark, grey fog had settled in my soul. The puppies seemed to sense my sadness, and they took several naps with me. 

When I feel like this, I tend to return to old habits which include grazing my way through the day. I have eaten too many cookies, and too much ice cream these last couple of weeks. Rather than address what's bothering me, I eat until I feel numb. Then I sleep. 

This morning Chuck was at the breakfast table, reading from his iPad while he ate. The steam from the crumbled sausage rose to my cheeks, mingling with my hot tears. I wiped my eyes, and tried to focus on the sweet, maple-scented sausage. I was afraid if I spoke, the dam would break, and I wouldn't be able to stop crying.

Today I will fly "back home;" only I won't even see my house. All of the kids have places of their own, and we are congregating in Saint George for my long weekend in Utah. I've always felt like I was "going home," whether I was flying to Utah or Illinois, but this time, there will be no time at home; not mine, anyway.

I looked up from the sausage, glancing at Chuck. Would he understand my attachment to a building? Would I burden him with my inevitable tears? 

"Honey, I think the thing that bothers me about going home this time is I am not actually going home. I won't see the house at all." That's when the tears really began to fall. Chuck pushed his chair back, and wrapped me in his arms. He knows he can't make everything better, but he can listen to me, and hold me. 

You see, the little house that got me through two divorces, and welcomed Chuck into its coziness when we met in the fall of 2014, is standing vacant right now. I am 1,400 miles away from my home of healing. I love The Cozy Cottage for everything that it was, and what I hoped it would be, our retirement home. What it is right now is empty. Very, very empty.

There are no loaves of home-baked bread cooling on the counter. There are no silly conversations taking place at the kitchen table. There are no suitcases and duffle bags in the bedrooms. There are no dogs or cats on the couch. It is just the shell of the home it once was.

When my daughter needed a place to live, Chuck and I offered the cottage to her. It proved to be a place of refuge for her, too, until she was ready to spread her wings and fly again.

After Chuck left for work this morning, he called to let me know the fog was offering beautiful photo opportunities this morning. He reminded me all of my little chores could wait. I didn't have to be told twice. For one thing, I was glad to postpone dealing with all of these feelings ricocheting around in my heart. I left as soon as I was dressed.

My photography session went from walking around the city by myself, to driving out to a bird sanctuary with my friend Susan. I'm lucky that Chuck and Susan are both good listeners, and they both let me cry when I need to do that. Taking pictures, especially while outdoors, calms my spirit.

By the time I got home, I was calmer. My oldest son called me, and I told him how I was feeling. He offered to take me to my house this weekend; it would be a quick round trip so we could be with everyone in Saint George. I realized how silly I sounded, and thanked him sincerely for his offer. Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and we will go home for our Thanksmas. And that will be just fine. I'm going to be okay.

When I got home, I took the last of the ice cream, and filled the carton full of water and emptied it into the sink. I ate an apple while I edited my pictures. Letting the tears fall and my words find a voice has soothed my soul. I feel so much better, even though nothing has changed. The fog is finally lifting. 

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Git 'Er Done

Click-bait. Sorry. This post isn't really about Bristol at all.

After a couple of weeks of laziness and procrastination, things got real yesterday, and I decided I better get busy. It was time to "git 'er done," as Larry the Cable Guy would say. I checked things off my list right and left, and didn't even stop for a nap. What??? I know; I shocked myself.

Post-bath nap. Bristol was shivering; hence, the blanky.

The vacuuming I've been avoiding? Done. The puppy baths I didn't want to do? Check. Contending with the drawer in which a mouse wreaked havoc? Sanitized! The dust bunnies that have been multiplying like rabbits? Removed! The two extra dog crates that have been hanging around in the living room for a couple of weeks? Put away! That mowing I've been putting off? Done and done; sorta. (Confession: I only did the front yard. HAH! But hey, at least we have a little curb appeal again, and our neighbors don't have to look at our overgrown yard any more.)

This is what they look like when you follow THE RECIPE

Not only did I get laundry and dishes done, I baked a double batch of my fail-proof BEST EVER chocolate chip cookies. Except I managed to botch the batches yesterday. 

But Denise, they're fail-proof. I know what you're thinking. They are fail-proof when we follow the directions. I was in a hurry, and forgot one little detail. The recipe doesn't call for three cups of flour; it calls for three and a HALF. Oh, well. The cookies are still delicious; they just aren't perfect. (Recipe right HERE. Trust me. You want this recipe. Just remember to read the ingredient list carefully. It DOES make a difference.)

Made me laugh. Wouldn't hiring a maid service be awesome?
But then I think of what I'd have to do before they came. Nah...

My stepmom called me mid-frenzy and I told her what I was getting done. She teased, saying she only does that when company's coming. That's the thing, y'all. Company is coming! 

Last night we had our oldest son and his wife over for Giordano's pizza and Lord of the Rings, and Sunday we have friends coming to dinner. We plan to be gone all day today, so my only chance to whip the house into shape was yesterday. 

Did I learn any important lessons about procrastination? No. It's too late, you guys. I have always been a "wait until the last minute" kind of gal. I'm retired now. There are no schedules, no deadlines, no pressure. Life is sweet. I like to linger in the sweetness as long as possible, and then I dive in and get things done when they have to be done. I've been this way all my life. We're not changing this horse's colors this late in the race.

My husband is realizing that our house goes through an amazing transformation whenever we have friends and family coming over. I guess the one lesson I've learned about myself is having folks over is very motivating to me. Maybe we should have people visit on a regular basis. I'd "git 'er done" much more often.

Gratuitous picture of our pretty girl Sami.

Thursday, September 7, 2017


The very first time Chuck took me to the Bristol Renaissance Faire, I was so excited. While we were waiting for the gates of Bristol to "open wide," there was a cheer offered by one of the noble ladies of court.

"Hip! Hip!" she began expectantly.

My lone voice said, "Hooray!" and the crowd drowned me out with, "HUZZAH!"

Huzzah, huh? Well, I learned something new. Huzzah is an exclamation used to express approval or delight. It's just not a word I ever hear outside the gates of Bristol.

Did you know HUZZAH can be a verb? Huzzahing is to cry huzzah.

I huzzah.
You huzzah.
She huzzahs.

We huzzah.You huzzah.They huzzah.

There's a whole lot of huzzahing going on at the faire.

"Tip! Tip! Huz-ZAH for the tip-per!" the vendors yell, and they ring a bell any time a patron leaves them a tip.

"Hip! Hip! Huzzah!" for the Queen.

"Hip! Hip! Huzzah!" during the parade.

Sometimes huzzahs are exuberant and hearty.

And sometimes huzzahs are less than enthusiastic and a little half-hearted. 

Huzzahs can be upside down and right side up. 

Huzzah is just a very fun way to say HURRAH or HOORAY! I'm going to see if I can start to work it into my every day conversations. Want to join me? 

Get Your Chores Done!

"Get your chores done!"

Could someone tell me to get my chores done? It's not working for me to make a to-do list. I just keep making new lists each week, and add the chores to the list that I didn't do last week.

I'm 56 years old, and I am still not keen on this adulting thing. One day, I hope I will be mature enough to say to myself, "This is a chore you need to get done," and then I will get said chore done. But that day is not today, and yesterday was not that day either.

I guess I still need my mom to remind me that Thursday is chore day, so I can play guilt-free all weekend. Maybe I need a chore chart and an incentive dangling like a carrot in front of my nose so I will get things done. As it is, I procrastinate things like vacuuming, dusting, and lawn mowing until the house or yard becomes an embarrassment. (Sorry, Chuck. Sorry, neighbors.)

Yesterday I avoided mowing the lawn by doing some serious research with Nutella. The teacher in me loves doing experiments. I had a hypothesis, and it was this: Nutella could make nearly all of my favorite snack foods taste better. 

Now, I had never bought Nutella before yesterday, so I couldn't be certain this was true, so I set out to see if it were. It turns out, that Nutella does, in fact, make many of my favorite snack foods taste better. Notice the qualifier, "favorite snack" foods. I don't think Nutella would make potato chips or watermelon taste better, but it made a noticeable improvement in the foods I tried. 

Do you know what does taste better with Nutella? Strawberries. Oh, my gosh, those were amazing. Bananas are great with Nutella, too. Pretzel sticks are yumbo with Nutella. This will be an ongoing experiment. 

Today I had to take a break from sugar, as I overdid things yesterday, but I am looking forward to resuming my research soon. I would think waffles, pancakes, cookies, and ice cream could all benefit from a little dollop of Nutella.

So yesterday scientific research distracted me from my mowing task. Today I am hiding behind a headache to avoid cutting the grass. Thank goodness the weather has turned cooler; our lawn's grass growth has slowed considerably, and I am using that to my advantage.

I finally was able to capture a cardinal in a photograph. This is my favorite shot.

While today was not a good day for me to mow, it was a great day for Coffee and Cameras with Susan. A little headache wasn't going to keep me home; I'd have to be pretty sick to miss one of those days.  It was a good day for listening to country music. It was a good day for a long nap with the puppies, too. It has been a wonderful day for burning candles with delicious-sounding names like Pecan Pumpkin Cake and Pumpkin Frosting. 

Maybe tomorrow will be a good day for mowing, but today is for easing this headache with self-indulgence and lots of liquids. I think I'll look into chore charts for adults. Does anyone know where I can buy some gold foil stars? 

* * * 
Some shots from today's Coffee and Cameras Day at Willowbrook Wildlife Center.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Family Bed

Night two of the puppies sleeping on the bedroom floor went very well until three o'clock this morning when I got up to go to the bathroom. When I came back, there was a big, black puppy snuggled up against the back of Chuck's legs. "Oh, well, if he doesn't mind, I don't mind," I thought. 

The big grey puppy noticed where the big, black puppy was, and within moments had his front paws up on the mattress. Well, why not? "Come here, Bristol," I whispered. With one big clumsy leap, he was halfway on the bed, with his big haunches hanging over the side. I pulled him the rest of the way up, and he stretched out beside me along the edge of the bed. Chuck was beside me; Sami was behind my legs, and Bristol was against my tummy. I draped my arm across Bristol, and he let out a big, satisfied sigh, and went to sleep. I smiled. The family bed. What a sweet feeling.

By 3:30, I decided I was ready for coffee and books, so I headed downstairs with my canine companion. Chuck and Sami joined us much later. 

"Somebody jumped in bed when you went to the bathroom," Chuck said as he came in the kitchen. 

"I know. I was surprised to see her there, but I figured you were okay with it."

He said, "I thought you would push her off when you came back to bed." I smiled into my coffee cup.

Poor Chuck. My sweet husband knows me better than anyone else, but there are some things he doesn't understand about me. The way I saw it, we just had one family member missing. There was only one thing to do, so I did it.

I love our little pack.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Battle for the Bed

We are entering a new chapter in our lives. Ever since February, when we welcomed Bristol and Sami into our home, our house has been turned upside down in some respects. With the purchase of four dog crates, trying to get the right size for our quickly growing pups, and discovering the value of the two-doored style, our house has seemed overrun with crates. There have been dog toys and blankets covering every floor surface. 

Wanting to block the puppies' access to certain furniture and rooms, we have creatively, but not artistically, blockaded sofa surfaces and room openings with other furniture and large boxes and totes. In an effort to hear the puppies when they needed to go out (or in Bristol's case, needed to be covered with a blanket in the middle of the night), we set up an air mattress in the family room so we could sleep downstairs near the fur babies. Basically, our house has been a wreck. Yes, Our House Had Gone to the Dogs

Slowly but surely, we are taking back the house, and making it into less of a dog house, and more of a home for a family consisting of two humans and two canines. 

Last night we moved back upstairs to our bedroom, and invited the puppies to come; no crates this time. They would have free range in our bedroom. We hung a set of bells on our closed door, in case either one needed to go outdoors.

Chuck had been concerned from the get-go about having the puppies sleep upstairs without being in crates. I spend most of every day with those two, and I was quite confident once they fell asleep, they wouldn't be a problem. I watch them sleep nearly all day long; once they are asleep, they are absolute angels. 

Neatly folded stacks of fleece blankets were available for the dogs on the floor, but as we got ready for bed, there was a big misunderstanding. We ended up having a three-ring circus when Sami and Bristol showed how excited they were that we were generously providing a queen-sized bed for them to sleep on. 

While I got ready, Chuck kept telling them to get off the bed. As Chuck was brushing his teeth, I repeatedly pushed the puppies to the edge of the bed, and had them slide to the floor. It was a futile fight, so I just let Sami lie on Chuck's side of the bed, and Bristol sat behind me, licking my shoulder, until Chuck could help me battle the insurgents. 

Finally, we took back the bed from the canine occupation, and each of the puppies stretched out on the floor. We turned out the light, and within a couple of minutes, Bristol and Sam found a place to sleep, and except for Bristol's changing locations on the floor a couple of times while we slept, we had an uneventful night.

This morning I let all of the air out of the spare bed in the family room, and removed it from the room. I folded all of the blankets, and washed the bed linens. We are going to have a family room again.

Whew. I was beginning to wonder if this day would ever come. With each passing month, we are getting closer to our dream of having two calm dogs to share our home with us. Dinner time is much more pleasant these days, and we enjoy having their company in the office with us when we are editing pictures. And now we are sharing our bedroom with them, and I think once the lights are off, they will stay where they're supposed to stay. We're making progress, my friends!

Monday, August 28, 2017

We Got Us Some BIG Dogs, Y'all!

June 8, 2017

Just for fun, I thought I would weigh the puppies this afternoon. Bristol is coming up on his (let me count on my fingers...) ninth month Saturday, and Sami will be 9 1/2 months old.

April 4, 2016
Yeah, I thought weighing them would be fun for me; I love seeing how big they've grown. I forgot that the less fun part of figuring out their weights is I have to step on the scale first to get the number to subtract from the weight of the puppy plus me on the scale. DANG. That number was bigger than I wanted to see.

May 6, 2017

Depressing moment aside, I can't tell you how happy I am that we have such big lovable mutts. Bristol weighs 70.4, and Sami weighs 59.6. Holy moly!

Remember when I wrote Growing Like a Weed (or Two), and I shared the maybe-not-so-scientifically-proven-mathematical-formula for predicting a dog's weight when full-grown? If we were to believe the formula, which is to double the puppy's weight at four months, Sami should weigh 44 pounds, and Bristol, 65 pounds when they are adults. 

June 2017
Guess what folks? These are not going to be little doggies. And I couldn't be happier! I'm the kind of dog lover who thinks "the bigger, the better." I just adore Mastiffs, Saint Bernards, and Cane Corsos. Since Chuck is more of a mid-size dog person, I knew I couldn't search for a big dog outright, but no one said I couldn't choose the biggest pup of the litter.

April 15, 2017

When I saw the size of Bristol's huge, honkin' paws the first time I held him at Anderson Animal Shelter, I knew he was going to be a whopper. He is not going to let me down.

And that beautiful Sami girl has been growing right along behind him, getting longer and taller every month. Bristol is shorter than Sam at the shoulders, but certainly outweighs her!

Here is a size reference for how long Sami is. In the picture below she is lying on the box that encased Bristol's crate we just replaced. She is LONG. (Bristol slept in it curled up in a ball, trying to keep warm; we weren't being cruel! Sami stretches out as much as possible.)

I love big mutts and I cannot lie. How fun! How exciting! The Puppy Tails Adventures continue. I can't WAIT to see what they weigh in another month or two. But I think I'll let Chuck do the heavy lifting, and he can use HIS body weight on the scale next time! Yeah, that's a really good idea.

Photo taken four days before today's weigh-in. Big dogs, I tell ya. Really big dogs.