Sunday, February 7, 2016

The magic of family

Today, my family was here for dinner, including my great granddaughter Natalie.  Her mom and dad, Bethany and Bob were here, and we celebrated Bob's birthday.  In addition since Bob's job meant they couldn't be with us for Christmas, we gave them some belated Christmas gifts.

And what a feast we had!  Turkey, dressing, scalloped oysters, mashed potatoes & gravy, salad, and homemade French bread.  I made an apple pie, and Joe made this fantastic cheesecake concoction surrounded by graham crackers and chocolate chip cookies. 

We took a long walk, since my new dog Figgy needs to be walked often.  He is still not quite housebroken.  So it was an excuse, and we enjoyed the walks.

Kate, Andrea, Figgy , Val & Tashi taking another walk

The weather was quite nice -- no sunshine but really almost balmy.  Natalie got to sit in grass for the first time, and she was a bit puzzled by it, but she got with the program.

Natalie crawling in grass for the first time

Natalie - "What is this thing?"

My son Jim (Bob's dad and Natalie's grandfather) was here, as well as Joe and Kate, Bob's siblings.  Abby, Bob's other sister, was on duty in the emergency room this weekend, so she couldn't be here.  Kate enjoyed holding Natalie.  Here are a couple of my favorite pics of the day.

Grandpa and Natalie

Aunt Kate and Natalie

 My daughter Val and her youngest daughter Sarah made it, too.  Val's husband Mike had to work, and two of her daughters were away.  Kate's special friend Andrea joined us as well.  He regaled us with stories of his experiences here in the USA.  He is from Italy and of course brings a different perspective to our conversations.

Andrea and Val in deep conversation

Anyway, just about everyone made it, and we had a lovely and very noisy time.  I'm not often blessed with their presence here; it's much easier for me to go their way than for them to come mine.  However, as the kids are growing up and on their own, we are so spread out that it really doesn't matter so much where we meet anymore.  I am hoping that they find their way here again soon.

Figgy was a great hit, and I made sure he didn't go home in the pocket of one of their coats.  He was very much in demand.  Kate and Val pretty much fought over who got to hold him all day.  Spoiled little boy he is!

Val & Figgy.  No, Val, you cannot take him home!
You can't, either, Kate.

Well, that is what happened today at the river house.  It's awfully quiet this evening, but the memory of their laughter and chatter is hanging in the air.  One more load of dishes into the dishwasher, and then we are heading to bed, a nice finish to a great day.

Friday, February 5, 2016

SPIRAL celebration of Imbolc tonight

SPIRAL is a part of  the First Unitarian Church of South Bend (click on the link for more about us), and we celebrate the eight Sabbats, sometimes at my house on the St. Joe River, and sometimes at the church.  Tonight we celebrate Imbolc here on the river, gathering at 6:00 pm.  (By the way, I just found out that it is pronounced ee' molc.  Who knew?  It took me forever to learn to say Sow' en at Samhain, now I have another one to re-learn.)

I am making chili for tonight's potluck, and have plenty of kefir .  So the chili represents fire (it's pretty hot), and the kefir represents dairy, two thing associated with Imbolc.  

I'm cleaning now.  Pets make a lot of work.  Just finished doing a complete take-apart-wash-everything bird cage cleaning. Changing the paper in the bottom tray only works so long, and then it has to be the big one.  Figgy had to do a time-out while I did it because birds have been known to escape while taking the cage apart. He was unhappy!  But it is unwise to have a loose terrier and loose parakeets in the same room.

Now down to the basement to clean up the dog and cat footprints from their door with backyard access all the way to (and including) the stair steps to the kitchen.  My maid is nowhere to be found, so off to the basement as soon as I post this.

I cleaned up the poop from the backyard yesterday, will take another swipe this afternoon so that everyone can get to the fire unscathed when we go down to the river for our Imbolc ritual.   But looking down as you walk is still advised!  

My city-born and bred second husband made fun of me for always walking with my head down.  One night after visiting my folks on their farm, he complained that someone must have poop on their shoes because it sure stunk in the car.  I and my two children, all being farm-born and bred, are pretty careful.  My daughter suggested he check his own shoes.  Hah!  There it was, a pile of it filling in the space between the heel and the foot of one of his shoes.  We laughed.  We shouldn't have.  He didn't have much of a sense of humor, especially when my daughter called him out!  But he did quit telling me to keep my eyes up when walking.  LOL  

Back to the business at hand - tonight's celebration.  Catherine and Antonette have been working on our Imbolc (ee' molc, just a little reminder) ritual.  Brigid will be called upon, and they say that she will be bringing a wishing well.  Are you going to be here to drop your wish into the wishing well?

Right now, the weather is spectacular!  Hope it holds for this evening.  Imbolc is such an important Sabbat.  For the Pagans of old, it marked the end of eating the meat that got hung at Third Harvest, Samhain, to get them through the winter.  Now, at Imbolc, there would be spring lambs and fresh milk.  Yay!

Whatever you bring to the potluck will be welcome.  It is always good.  We love to eat, and there will be a bounteous feast as usual, I'm sure.  See you tonight!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Why are my machines always pickin' on me? And I'm not Charlie Brown . . .

Everything is breaking around here! I make my own distilled water, have used the same Waterwise unit for over 20 years. Yesterday morning, the cord from the top unit burst into flames where it plugs into the water tank, burning through the laminate on my new counter top in the soap room.  What a mess to clean up!  Soot eveywhere, in about a foot circle around the site of the mishap.  Thank goodness for built-in safeguards.  Surrounding damage was minimal, as it immediately shut down, but phew, it stinks!!
A new one is ordered, but it's not here yet. I still have one gallon of distilled water on hand, but I hope the new machine gets here soon! Not only is distilling at home cheaper, but I use at least three gallons of distilled water a week, and I don't want to have to haul it from the store.

And then, my scale that measures down to 0.1 ounce died within an hour of the fire. I've resurrected it twice, but this time all efforts were for naught. New scale ordered, still haven't even gotten a shipping notice. It is the scale I use to fill boxes of Trail Mix, one box at a time to make sure that the ingredients are evenly distributed.  Fortunately I just filled a bunch of boxes, so I'm probably good for a week or so.  

The bluetooth keyboard for my smart phone died.  I bought a warranty, but I found out that Staples doesn't handle the warranty.  I had to contact the warranty company direct, then found out that it was still under manufacturer's warranty, so I had to go to them.  It got sent back this week, and hopefully a new one will be forthcoming.  I do not do well typing with my thumbs on my phone, and I just love that keyboard!

In addition to the scale I have ordered, I have one that measures to 0.1 gram and 0.01 ounce, which I need for my essential oil business.  Well, it works fine - if I put new batteries in it every time I use it.  The auto shut-off works, but it is always dead the next time I get it out.  I guess I could have been pulling the batteries out after each use, but that is not what I bargained for when I bought it.  Same problem, the vendor I got it from doesn't do the warranty.  They were good enough to send me a copy of the receipt and the warranty (I had no idea what I had done with them), and it too went into the mail to the manufacturer this week.

Sigh - why are my machines always pickin' on me?  I really do feel like Charlie Brown today.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

If I hadn't lost my grocery list . . .

As many of you know, I have been looking for another dog since I lost my dear Ayn Chee.  At first I thought, "No, no more dogs."  But both Tashi and I were suffering from the loss.  I know my depression was adding to hers.  She is very sensitive to my feelings.

I finally decided to get another dog.  There are a lot of dogs out there than need a home, right?  Well, yes, but . . .

My friend Zae works with Heartland Small Animal Rescue and told me about a hoarding situation, in which 166 dogs were found in deplorable conditions.  Zae is fostering one named Millicent, and I thought that might work.  There was a second one from that group, Yoda, that I was interested in as well.  In the meantime, I was looking through Pet Finder.  I found several terriers, but every time I tried to get in line for one, it was gone.  I decided that since the terriers all went so fast, I would concentrate on these bigger dogs from the hoarder that might be harder to find homes for.

Last Wednesday, we met Yoda.  Tashi let her know what she thought of her - she growled and lunged.  We did take a walk, with her foster parent keeping her a good ten feet away.  But any closer than that, and Tashi had her teeth bared.

Friday we met Millicent, this time on common ground in a park near Zae's home.  We walked on different sides of the street to the park, then entered the park together.  Same story - Tashi lunged, growled, bared her teeth.  We walked them for a bit, keeping some distance between them.  But it was no go.  I tended to agree with Zae that Tashi didn't really need a dog.

I gave it one more try, taking Tashi into the backyard and having my neighbors Georgia and Mike bring over their Aussie.  Tashi met Boogeloo when he was a pup just to make sure there would be no problem, given Tashi is an alpha, if he wandered into the yard in the future.  All went well when they met.  So how would she react to nearly full-grown Boo?  Is it ALL dogs, or just these two from the hoarders? Answer - after some initial friendliness, again Tashi growled and lunged.  Message received - no more dogs here.  Sigh . . .

I had made an appointment a couple of days ago to have Tashi meet a terrier, Figgy Pudding, at Pet Refuge on Sunday.  But given what had happened with the other three dogs, it seemed prudent to cancel it.  I had written the volunteer's personal cell phone number on a piece of paper so I could call her if I had to cancel for any reason.

Where was that paper?  Wasn't it written on the back of the grocery list?  Gone, gone, gone.  And so I packed Tashi in the car, went to Pet Refuge and went in to explain to Molly, the volunteer, that Tashi wasn't accepting any dogs.  I apologized for losing her number, told her I had Tashi in the car but I thought it was no-go.

Molly introduced me to Kristen.  She said Kristen had a way with animals, was very good at "meet and greets," and she had asked her to join us since I had told her that Tashi was an alpha dog when I first went there.  So I decided to give it a shot, although my hopes were not high.

First Kristen took Tashi in a room where she couldn't see me.  Then Molly joined her with Figgy, both dogs on a leash.  There was no excitement (that's a good thing!), and after a few minutes, they brought both dogs into the room where I was.  Then they handed Tashi over to me and we took a walk through the cat room.  One minor growl from Tashi when Figgy tried to get too personal on the first date, and he backed off.  No fighting.  Then we went outside.  After five or so minutes, we switched leashes and I walked Figgy while Kristen walked Tashi.  Still no problem.  Then we went into a large pen and we dropped Tashi's leash.  No problem.  Then we dropped Figgy's leash.  No problem.  Then they met and sniffed and peed on top of each other's spots.  No problem!  Then I picked up Figgy right in front of Tashi to see her reaction.  No problem!!  Tashi and I had a dog!!!!!

They are getting along beautifully.  We took a nice long walk with the two of them walking side by side, just like Ayn Chee and Tashi used to.

If I hadn't lost the grocery list, I would have called Molly and cancelled the appointment.  And I wouldn't have a dog.  You just never know where happenstance is going to lead you.  This time it led me to a very good place indeed!

Tashi and I have a dog!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

I'm looking for a dog . . .

I miss Ayn Chee so much, and so does Tashi.  Not sure which of us needs a new pup more.  I have found several at various animal refuge places.  A friend has one dog from a rescue of 166 animals from a hoarder.  Good grief!  Why do people do that?  She works with Heartland, and they are taking 10 of the 166,  More are coming and in that 10, there might be the perfect dog for me and Tashi.

In the meantime, I am continuing to look.  I really liked one little guy who is at Pet Refuge, but I think someone beat me to him.  I am waiting to hear from them on TJ.  I liked his story, same as Ayn Chee's, being shuffled from place to place, wondering why no one wants him.  That really touched me.  No one wanted Ayn Chee, either.  But I did.

Last night, I took another e-tour through Pet Finder, and there was a new pic of a small older dog who could be Ayn Chee's twin.  He is at the Humane Society right here in Mishawaka.  He looks so much like her that it is uncanny.  The family he who brought him there has a new baby who is allergic to him.  His name is Brady.

I am going to go to see him as soon as possible, knowing there is some danger in getting a "replacement" dog.  No animal could truly replace Ayn Chee, but I also know that the Humane Society does not keep animals long, and he is in danger of being euthanized quickly.  I know from experience.

Tashi was a runaway (or was dumped) who showed up on the doorstep of a friend of a friend.  She already had two large dogs and didn't want her.  Being a dog groomer, she cleaned her up and took her to the Humane Society in Plymouth. The mutual friend had already tried to get me to take her, and I refused.  At the time, I had two dogs, two cats and a parakeet and didn't need another animal to care for.  According to the mutual friend who brought her to me (after illegally adopting her from the Humane Society knowing he wouldn't keep her and knowing I would probably bend when confronted with her impending death), they were going to euthanize her after only three days there.  That seems a pretty short time to try to find a home. And of course, I bent, and Tashi came into my life.  Here is a pic of her right after I got her, in October of 2007.  Vet thought her to be about a year old, which means she will be turning 10 soon.

Tashi is sleeping at my feet right now, snoring softly.  She rarely leaves me since Ayn Chee crossed the Rainbow Bridge.  She is lonesome.  Last night, she again slept with her head on my shoulder for part of the night.  This is new behavior, just since Ayn Chee is gone.  Before that, she slept on the floor beside the bed, or sometimes on the foot of the bed.  She needs to be very close to me now.

There are so many dogs that need homes. I can only take one.  Wish I could take them all.  It is so heartbreaking to think of all of these unwanted dogs in the world.  All they need is love.  If you have room in your home and your heart, think about taking one in.

Monday, January 18, 2016

An experiment

Most people who know me know that I am on a ketogenic diet.  In a nutshell, this means that I eat so few carbohydrates that my body uses fat for energy, putting the body in ketosis, at which time the body will throw off ketones (which can be measured).  This is what makes the Atkins diet work - and why I eat an unbelievable amount of fat and remain at a normal weight.  If you are interested in getting to the real nuts and bolts of why it works, try this book.  The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living by Phillips and Volek is thorough and has plenty of footnotes to follow in case you doubt.
This month, I am celebrating six years in ketosis, and five and a half years without the med that prompted me to try a keto diet. While I am very happy not to have to take lamotrigine anymore, the book's in-depth explanations of how our brain functions when in ketosis gave me food for thought. Could there be another added bonus, other than the weight loss that I initially experienced?
I'm doing Pimsleur to learn French, will graduate to level 3 in a couple of days. I do a half hour lesson most days. Some days it comes pretty easily, others I am backing up so often that I spend an hour getting through that 30 minute lesson. After reading the details of our brains on carbs in said book, I decided to start tracking my keto reading (which measures my carb intake from the previous day) against the time it takes me to do a lesson. Obviously there is a lot of backing up and replaying on a bad day, so the time it takes me to complete the lesson is an approximate indication of how easy it was for me. Does my brain work better when the keto stick reads 45 rather than when it reads 5?
Starting today, I am making a chart with my keto reading, and the French lesson start and stop times.  I figured that using the minutes was objective, whereas writing down whether lesson was easy, hard or in-between leaves too much room for subjectivity.  I already know that I feel considerably better (and more focused) on days when the keto reading hits at least 15.  And I know that I feel pretty rotten if I drop totally out of ketosis.  So this is an opportunity to have a fairly objective measure of how my brain is working day today.  How many minutes does it take me to finish my lesson on a 45 day?  a 15 day? a 5 day? 

It will be interesting to see where this goes.  I am already finding it easier to turn away from a carb laden treat when I think that eating it might make that French lesson a real pain the next morning.

Just an aside - I have been trying to learn to speak French since 1984.  I had two years in college, went to Alliance Francaise, took a course at Berlitz, had a private tutor and have many books and CDs on my shelf.  Wouldn't it be something if eating butter, the national food of France, helped me to finally learn this language? 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

It's so quiet . . .

Tonight marks one week since Ayn Chee crossed the Rainbow Bridge.  I miss her.  It is so quiet around here.  She certainly made herself known.

Tashi is doing okay, but I can tell she misses her.  Tashi has never snuggled with me, but last night she got up close to me and laid her head on my shoulder.  That is just where Ayn Chee slept before she got sick.  It felt good to have her head resting there, to smell that sweet doggy smell.  It is helping both of us to heal, this new found closeness.

I invited the neighbors over for dinner.  Randy dug the hole in my rose garden for her burial.  So this is in part sort of a thanks for helping out, but also to have company in the house so that I can forget this brutal silence.