Gandalf the Brave

Gandalf was the bravest dog I knew.

Once in my old house I heard a noise outside, probably deer or foxes or some other animal, and I opened the front door to peek. Gandalf charged past me and leapt off the porch into the darkness. There was no hesitation on his part and I stood there, stunned. I have a forever picture in my mind of his furry back end in mid-air, launching into the night.

He disappeared into the darkness and didn’t return.

“Gandalf…..?” No answer.

I closed the door and went back inside.

Fifteen minutes later I heard him on the porch and opened the door. He bustled past me into the house, all business and quite proud of himself. Thinking of the grin on his face still makes me smile.

He. Was. Fearless.

Three months ago, the clicking of Gandalf’s toenails as he paced woke me up in the middle of the night. I let him out into the dark yard and he stared at the back fence where I could hear the neighbor’s broken sprinkler head hissing. He made a loop around the yard, came in and we went back to sleep.

The following day started off normally but by lunchtime his pacing had resumed. Pippin stuck close to home and we all raked leaves in the bright autumn sun. I noticed Gandalf looking at our yard like he was trying to understand where he was. The first niggles of worry sprouted as the day wound down.

Bedtime arrived and as was my habit, I was reading in bed before I dozed off. The mattress bounced and I put my book down to see this: Gandalf had joined Pippin and me. The last time he had slept on the bed was the night I moved into my own apartment. The worry niggles that had sprouted earlier burst into bloom.

Damn.

All of us on the bed

We dozed off and all night I could feel Gandalf restless in his sleep. Occasionally he woke and paced on the bed, stepping on Pippin and waking me up, too. Then he would jump down, only to jump back up several minutes later. Doze, pace, down, up, repeat.

At 4 am I abandoned trying to sleep, got up and made a pot of coffee.

We settled in the living room; me on the carpet in front of the couch and Pippin curled up on the cushion at my shoulder. Gandalf sat beside me and I scratched his ears (his favorite spot) in between his bouts of pacing.

The knowledge that today was the day I would do the last best thing for my friend seeped into my brain and heart and leaked back out in a flood of tears. I cried until dawn.

Our vet’s office opened and we got an appointment at 11. I called the kids to tell them what had happened and William sent good thoughts from the east coast. Sarah changed her plans for the day, saying “I’m not leaving you alone to put your dog down” and Rebecca hopped the bus to my house.

Gandalf and I went for our last walk alone as Pippin had retreated to his cat perch, for once declining to accompany us. Some illogical part of my brain (or maybe it was my hoping heart) thought that being outside in the sun might restore Gandalf to himself.

He went to the end of the flexi-leash and stayed there as we headed to the open space, and he paced and searched for something familiar in this place where he knew every tree, bush and blade of grass. I had been dreading the arrival of the 11 o’clock appointment but now it couldn’t come soon enough. He was so clearly uncomfortable; his body was no longer his friend.

The Universe heard my prayer and when we arrived home, the girls were there waiting for us. Amidst tears and goodbyes we helped Gandalf into the car for the longest-shortest trip ever.

I love our vet. The clinic was ready for us and a sedative allowed Gandalf to finally stop pacing. The girls and I cried our love and thankfulness for him being in our lives, and his great soul was set free.

Rebecca, Sarah and I returned to our homes. I am not quite sure what I did for the remainder of the day. Pippin’s solution was to sleep. He had known Gandalf his entire life and they were great buds.

Gandalf and Pippin napping together

My sleep was marginal at best the first night without my pup. Listless and sad and tired I got up the next morning and sat on the couch with my coffee. Pippin was still in a coma in his cat perch. The house was so quiet.

Without much enthusiasm I flipped open my iPad to look at Words With Friends and the board burbled to life.

I put my coffee cup down and stared, dumbfounded, at the word that had been played for me during the night:

Words with Friends play spelling out "Be Brave"

Tears streamed down my face, and I looked up from the iPad to Gandalf’s photo beaming down at me from the china closet.

Gandalf the Brave

 

Yes, Gandalf.

Until we meet again, I will be brave.

How could I be otherwise with your paw prints on my heart?

After The Election You Still Have A Choice

Thank God this debacle is over.

The gutter brawl between the parties threatened to spill into my front room and had become so, so tiresome.

Now we know and I am not wasting any more energy on this election. There are people to be taken care of, runs to be run, tests to be taken, dogs to be petted and choices to be made.

We have the choice to be better or bitter. There is no staying the same.

We can choose to live with courage and heart here and now.

We can choose to be a source of calm and strength and honor in whatever happens next. For every person you see gloating or wringing their hands or just being a twit about this state of affairs, do something kind.

Choose to be goodness in the world.

The people in Washington won’t notice, but our families and friends and neighbors will. That’s what makes these choices so much more important than the ones we made on November 8.

 

Clouds and sun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Unexpected Owl

We were getting ready to leave work one night and heard the unexpected sound of raindrops pelting the windows. We lined up at the glass, watching the weather blow in.

Ferocious wind drove the rain in around the door seals while the lightning strobe-lighted the parking lot. Waves of rain swept across the asphalt as the wind whipped tree branches wildly and a large plastic grocery bag blew out of the sky.

Wait…what? A plastic grocery bag?

The lightning was straight out of a Hollywood horror movie and we could see the grocery bag was actually an owl, spit out by the storm. It fluffed its feathers and hopped over to the parked cars to get its bearings.

The wind lessened and one by one we made a dash for our vehicles while watching for the owl. I scooted out the door and ran for my car in a commando-crouch, scanning for it under the cars.

Nothing.

Good. It must have gone over to the shrubs.

I made a beeline for the driver’s door and nearly stepped on it as I came around the back of the car.

The owl jumped up, flapping its wings.

I jumped up, squealing like a girl.

My co-workers, safe in their cars, laughed at us both.

The owl and I recovered our dignity and parted ways; me into my car and the owl over to the bushes. As I drove away I couldn’t help but wonder why this barn owl was out in such disagreeable weather.

It reminded me of something the Weasley’s Great Grey owl Errol might do, losing its way delivering a post.

And we were the lucky Muggles who got to see it.

barn owl by Aaron Campbell

photo credit Aaron Campbell

 

 

 

 

And I Think to Myself…What the…???

OK I just find this interesting. Some say I am easily entertained.

It is true.

 

sea saltSea salt is not a natural source of iodine.

 

However, the shellfish that live in the sea contain significant levels of the element.

shellfish market

And this:

You can get Vitamin D from sunlight.

farmer enjoying sunshine

 

Mushrooms, which grow in places without much sunlight, are a great source of Vitamin D.  small_mushrooms_200614

 

Isn’t that curious?

Now you can wow people at dinner parties.

You’re welcome. 😉

The Best Gift

Lately I seem to be surrounded by a fair number of people who have found happy romantic relationships the second, third, even fourth time around. Everywhere I look people are showing wedding photos, talking about just-the-two-of-us vacations and date nights, while I hang out with the two furry loves of my life, Gandalf and Pippin.

My phone is filled with photos of Pippin doing cat yoga and the three of us going for walks.

advanced cat yoga

 

Gandalf, Pippin and me on a walk

cat yoga

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not that I am bored or unhappy or want to start dating again, mind you. I didn’t like dating the first time around and am even less enthusiastic about it now. I have been almost asked out twice in the last couple of years and I basically hyperventilated and fled on each occasion.

Let’s just say I have trust issues.

So maybe it was also because Spring was in the air that I found myself in a Princess Bride state of mind, wondering: Is there really Twoo Wuv? Is there truly someone for everyone? And if so, how many frogs does one have to kiss, for Pete’s sake??

Whatever the reason, I was feeling a teensy bit sorry for myself and my moodiness increased as the day wore on. Night came and as nothing looks good when I’m tired we turned in: Pippin to his apartment on the patio, Gandalf to the cool tile floor and me to bed.

Ten hours later, it seems that all I needed was a good sleep. The cloud of pity from the day before had dissipated as I slept and I made plans for the day over coffee. Gandalf and I headed out for our morning walk and stepping through the front door I nearly threw a hip out attempting to avoid the tiny inert body on my door mat.

Dead mouse, courtesy of Pippin.

I stuck the landing (scored a 9.5), collected my chapstick and keys which had gone flying and stood there in the sun, overcome with wonder. Not at the mouse, but by what it represented.

Love.

Not just from Pippin, who was weaving around my legs and meowing with pride, or from Gandalf, waiting patiently.

But from...everywhere and everything.

I was not only loved, I was beloved, and I belonged in this house, this time, this life.

I was home, I was good, I was…keeping Gandalf and Pippin waiting.

Am I overly sentimental?

Possibly.

Am I one of the luckiest people in the world?

Absofreakinglutely.

 

Gandalf and Pippin snoozing together

Yoga Not

I should be at yoga.

That is what is on the calendar for today, in a very tightly scheduled three weeks but I kind of just…didn’t go.

Most Sunday mornings I find it refreshing but today the quiet of my little house was what I needed most.

So here I am, melted into the peace.

This week marks a year since my ex-husband stalked me (a protective order really is just a piece of paper) and I feel illogically successful that it passed without a repeat appearance. Or maybe it’s just relief.

Whatever it is, I’ll take it.

I am making a huge job change and this is my last week in my old position. I know I chose well because the morning after deciding I woke up feeling like the weight of the world was off my shoulders.

In spite of that certainty, goodbyes are hard and I am very sad to leave a this great group of nurses. They have been my work family constant in the last five years and are smart, funny and dedicated. We will keep in touch, but still…it will be different.

Today is Palm Sunday which for some reason has always been a favorite of mine. Not sure why because in the liturgy the story of the triumphal procession into Jerusalem spins rapidly into the events leading up to Good Friday. Kind of gloom and doom, actually.

But maybe I like it because I know the end of the story…Easter is coming.

Spring. Hope. Peeps.

My new job will give me more time for writing, painting, music, exercise. More time to spend with my kids (human and furry). Just. More. Time.

What a gift.

For this I am grateful beyond words so I think I will celebrate by taking Gandalf for a long walk, then head over to church.

After that Sarah and I are going to the opera to see Aida. Live opera is on my bucket list and I really don’t know what to expect. Will I be Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman? (I wish I had that dress!) Or just “meh”?

I am glad I took the time to be home this morning. It was just what I needed to re-charge.

Don’t be afraid to opt-out of your schedule of shoulds.

You are worth it.

Enjoy the First Day of Spring from Google and me.

https://www.google.com

 

 

 

Holy Cats! I Won?

We all know someone who seems to win stuff all the time, right? 768x506xSplitShire-0450-768x506.jpg.pagespeed.ic.hAA5KLr8ds

I am not one of those people.

Maybe this has changed now. Maybe not, but in the meantime I am honored to be among these other writers in this contest:

16 Posts That’ll Make You Excited to Be a Writer in 2016

That’s me…the 10th one down!

I have spent the first days of 2016 cleaning out my email inbox (5K plus. Oy.) and reading the other contest winners and I think you would like them, too.

I enjoyed them all differently and learned something from each. Talented people who linked to other talented people. Delicious.

Happy reading! (And here is your chance to learn how to Moonwalk)

How I Found the Perfect Tattoo

I recently read a post where a woman explained that she didn’t have a tattoo because “Why would you put a bumper sticker on a Ferrari?”

While this is clever and noble and high-minded, it is not why I have waffled about getting my own tattoo.

No….my reasons are far more mundane and un-glamorous.

I simply can’t decide what I want and where I want it.

Many years ago this indecision saved me from venturing into the seedier parts of town where “tattoo parlors” existed.

Back in the day, tattoos were a peculiar oddity and aside from the blurry blue shapes on war veterans, were only seen when the circus came to town.

Tattoo parlor.

The phrase conjured up visions of smoky back rooms populated by worldly, avaricious, jaded men and women who sported designs on body parts not generally spoken of in mixed company.

“Nice” people did not have anything to do with tattoos.

And then there was the ink quality and skill issue of tattoo artists back then: a few years ago I started an IV on a WWII vet whose anchor and ribbon had morphed into something that looked like a duck; discerning the original design was like trying to find shapes in clouds.

Thank heaven for indecision or I could now be sporting my own blue smudge.

Fast forward to today: Times (and hopefully ink and technique) have changed.

Tattoos are now known as “body art” or by the friendlier terms “tat” and “ink”,  and artists ply their trade in the bright light of day, are featured in TV series, hold huge conventions and of course have FaceBook pages.

There are gorgeous tats out there, along with spectacular flops. I don’t want to find my tat on the “tattoo fail” page, ya know?

So what’s an art-loving, indecisive girl like me to do?

Enter……Henna.

Henna, or Mehndi, has been around for centuries (http://hennaartconnection.com/history-of-henna) and booths for this body art are now very popular at festivals and faires.

The lines are always long and I think this is because deep down, humans secretly crave art and beauty more than we realize.

Henna designs on their own are gorgeous and now they have been taken one step farther: color and sparkle are added to the paste to delight the eye as the design sets.

It’s a twofer!

With these things in mind, Sarah and I got in line at a local arts fest figuring we would have enough time to decide what to get. She knew exactly.

Me, not so much.

I dithered and considered the same questions that have always haunted me: what and where?

In the end I gave up and told the artist my price range and that she had to decide for me. The only thing I knew for sure was that I wanted purple sparkles in the paste.

Fifteen minutes later, I was the proud owner of this:

henna w sparkles

The paste dried and came off a few hours later and I sadly said goodbye to the glitter. I enjoyed my design for another week or so, knowing I could do it all again. A renewable resource.

Simple and elegant.

Sparkly.

Mine, but not permanently so.

In short, the perfect tat.

If you need me, I will be in line at the henna booth.

 

 

 

 

My Very First Guest Post!

It’s been forever since I posted anything here, but that’s not because I haven’t been busy.

Au contraire…I enrolled in Jon Morrow’s Guest Blogging course and in my spare time have been writing and re-writing…and re-writing some more.

Liz, Cate and Robert are the editors who have encouraged, corrected, suggested, directed and helped me to say what I mean, and today it all came together.

(I jokingly said once that I was working on version 27 and the final tally is probably not far from that. They get a medal for hanging in there with me).

So today I am pleased to introduce you to Peter Clemens and The Change Blog and my first guest post. If you haven’t found Peter’s blog yet, I can help with that. He publishes some great pieces and I am honored to now be among them.

Without further ado, here is your link. Enjoy!

http://www.thechangeblog.com/invisible-woman-stage-performer-dared-live-courageously/

(And if you are interested in becoming a guest blogger, here is the link to Jon Morrow’s course):

http://guestblogging.com/quit-blogging/

And now I am going to make a cup of tea, watch the wind blow the rest of the leaves off the trees, and think about my next post.

Cheers!

IMG_3064

Some people’s kids

StarsI was at work when the tragedy in France unfolded and did not understand why my friend was posting that she was “Charlie” (No…no, I am pretty sure you are Beryl….) until I read the news that night. I found it ironic to remember that while the shootings were going down in Paris, a Muslim woman and I were hugging as we celebrated her last chemotherapy; we had found much common ground in spite of dissimilar upbringings.

The magnitude of this horror sank in as the days wore on and Boston came to mind; neighborhoods on lockdown, police searching and innocent people dead and wounded. All in the name of the prophet of a Higher Power. Dear Lord. What is wrong with these people?

My heart broke after Boston and I did the only thing I could think of……I ran. After Charlie Hebdo I dragged out my Julia Child French Cookbook and I cooked. I made haricots verts and sent an email to the local French consulate, never expecting a reply but wanting to send some good out into a world where there are people who use the name of God as an excuse for their mean and rotten and hateful behavior:

Dear Madame,

Please know your country is in my thoughts and prayers. In honor of those involved I will make the small gesture of cooking something French today. Kind of silly but a way of holding the French in my heart. 

Vive La France!

 

Imagine my surprise when I received this several days later:

 

Thank you for you prayers and  wishes!
What you write is so moving and not silly at all.
Merci!
Marie-Helene Glon

 

Hate and murder and death make the news all the time; drama and heartbreak sell. While the bullets and bombs are real enough and we need to have situational awareness, it does not mean that when events shove us through the door of the house of fear and hate we have to unpack and live there.

Unplug the media when the re-hashing begins and come back to your reality. Take Mr. Rogers’ advice and look for the helpers. Run. Breathe. Paint. Cook. Write. Do something nice, no matter how small, for someone. None of this will make the news but sending beauty and good into the world is never wasted effort and warms your soul like a cozy fireplace.

We all know there is plenty of badness out there; so be safe, be strong, be a force for good.

And enjoy these haricots verts, with my warmest regards.

Julia Child Green Beans

IMG_2144