The Birthday Princess

Birthday dogThere is nothing that makes me smile more than my girl posing seriously for a birthday photo for the entertainment of her humans.  It is hard to believe she is three years old already.  Even more so when you consider that three is 27 in canine years and lately she has been working on a little limp.  That doesn’t dampen her spirit, though.  As her birthday card reads, “She still has all the energy and fun of a puppy.  She is such a joy to have in the group.  Everyone really loves her and she loves them all back.  She even gets the grumpy old men to love and play with her.”  That’s my girl!  Duck cigars for dinner, anyone?

Birthday Beau?

funny birthday dogs

Get your party on!

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A “Triple A” Kind of Day

After a hard work week and Friday night margaritas, there is nothing I enjoy more than sleeping in on a Saturday morning while the boyfriend makes a Starbucks run to get our coffee.  This Saturday is no exception…only it was. After the boyfriend’s usual early morning departure from the world’s coziest bed, I prepare to settle in for more luxurious slumber.  I toss and turn.  Something is amiss.  I don’t hear the engine of his car leave the drive.  Another fifteen minutes or passes.  No footsteps into the room leading with the aroma of a Grande Americano, light cream.  Something is not right with the world.

Feeling a little out of sorts, I don my pink robe and head down the stairs to find out the reason for the delay.  There is boyfriend, looking a little sheepish.  “The battery’s dead,” he says.  Granted, it was the original 2007 battery and it was a particularly frosty morning and he had noticed that start up was a little sluggish lately.

“Well, are you parked in front of the garage?” I ask, on to Plan B thinking coffee first is still not entirely out of the question.  He can always take my car.

“For the first time, yes.” It’s true.  He always parks on the side and never parks in front of the garage.  Except for this time; this morning.

Having run out of options, I relinquish all hopes of being a pampered princess and put my problem solving gears into motion.  Besides, we still have Christmas Blend French Press grounds.  From two Christmases ago.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Onto Plan C, I set the water to boil and begin looking for my Triple A card because it’s not in my wallet or glove compartment, of course.  Stalling, as I scramble to find the card, I say “I’ll call Triple A!  They have great batteries!”  I would know.  After accidentally leaving my keys partially engaged overnight and completely draining my battery a couple of years ago, I was in this very predicament. 

“Sweetheart,” he intones, drawing out the first syllable.  “They don’t make their own batteries, they just install them.”

“No, really,” I insist.  “The tow truck came out and installed a Triple A battery.  It starts right up even after I leave the dome light on!”

In short order, I find the card in a basket in the computer room and enter the 1.800 number.  Soon a chipper woman comes on the line and I tell her about my “guests” dilemma. 

“Well it’s a good thing you have AAA,” she gushes. 

“Yes, it is,”  I agree, emphatically.

“But first, are you in a safe place?” she asks, now sounding more urgent.

“Yes, we are–my home,”  I report, feeling like I just passed an important test.

“Well, good,” she says, feigning relief.  On to the information intake.  By this time, the boyfriend has retrieved his card–a member since 1984, mind you.   She enters his car make, year, and model into the data system.

I let her know that we might need a AAA battery for him, too.  “I love my AAA battery,” I confide.

At this the boyfriend just groans and puts his head in his hands.  After the phone call, he give me the “you’re adorable, but you know not what you say” look and explains again that AAA just provides the service, they don’t make batteries.  And then he holds me close and says, “You’re cute as a bug!  I love you, you know.”  I do and I do.

“Put your card back in your wallet,” he reminds me.  “I don’t want you to lose it because of me.”

Oh well, I thought for sure….And so I go upstairs to take a bath, sipping on my aged Christmas Blend coffee.

Several minutes go by and I am enjoying my nice hot soak almost as much as sleeping in.  Suddenly, I hear the boyfriend outside the bathroom door.  “You will not believe what the side of the tow truck in your driveway says,” he leads. 

“Smith Brothers Towing?”  I reply, knowing this was the company that had been summoned.

“Well, that, too,” he replies.

“What?” I ask.

“Triple A Batteries Delivered and Installed,” he states in amazement.

“Oh, oh, oh!”  I shout.  “Take a picture! Take a picture!”

And lickety-split, I hop out of the tub, wrap my hair in a towel, throw on some clothes and run down the stairs.  Grabbing my camera on the way out I dash into the driveway for a shot.  Yep, there it is.  Clearly the boyfriend has already eaten crow to the tow truck man, because he poses for me holding up a…..AAA BATTERY.

“I’ll never hear the end of this,” says the boyfriend in  commiseration with nice tow truck man who nods, knowingly.

Oh, the taste of victory.  And, a Grande Americano, light cream, please and thank you very much.

Tuesday

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Eyeshadow

The following is a 10 minute free write, idea from Nick Rolynd at 30 Minute Fiction.  

The trouble with looking through old memorabilia to find something is that you also stumble across pictures of yourself.  In your twenties.  Fresh-faced.  Whole word ahead.  Whole lot younger.  Whole lots of eyeshadow.

I remember that girl.  I remember those eyes.  And I remember Scott, the handsome older pot head, who her told her, “The way you do your eyeshadow, you could get any guy you want.”  She didn’t know if that was a compliment, if he was hitting on her, or neither, but it made her think.  “Hmmm…..any guy I want.” 

Thing is, she didn’t.  To be noticed, yes.  But to actually get a guy?  What would she do?  What would that mean?  What no one saw behind those eyes was a deathly shy girl  who, although she had learned how engage in small talk with the opposite sex (duh! just pretend they’re your brother, she finally realized in high school), she didn’t know the first thing about what to do next. 

In addition to being terribly shy, she grew up in a conservative family that kept to their own kind.  She also reached her full height early on, which well-surpassed most boys, if not men.  When asked out by a church member whom she went to school with, she declined without pause.  There was no way she was going out with him after he humiliated her with a comment about bishops being polygamist (her father was a bishop, but was not a polygamist) in science class right in front of the boy she had a terrible crush on. 

“No,” she said.  “My grandmother is coming over and I have to wash my hair.”  It was the truth, but later she would hear the “have to wash my hair” excuse used in sitcoms, clearly intended as a lame excuse. 

All these years later, this same boy now man tried to friend her on Facebook and she declined.  The only grudge she has ever held.

Tuesday

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Growing Pains

It does a mother good to see her growing son put down a home cooked meal, in this case breakfast.  It is 12:30 PM on a Sunday and the man-boy is still asleep.  Tulip  has been checking in for signs of stirring the past half-hour.  Unable to wait any longer, she bolts to the top of stairs and bounces onto his bed.  I hear her snort and roll in the covers as she tries to get in face licks.  He giggles and so I turn on the oven and get ready to cook my son a hot breakfast. 

I begin to cut butter into his favorite organic sage biscuit.  No buttermilk for the recipe, but no worries.  My favorite substitution trick of cider vinegar and half and half works just fine.  Placing the ball of dough on the floured area of the countertop, I pat and fold, pat and fold, and pat and fold again before cutting four triangle scones and setting them softly on a hot stone in the oven. 

Next, four slices of Canadian bacon are set to sizzle in the frying pan.  When each side is golden I add a little olive oil to soak up the bacon flavor and fry two brown eggs, making sure to crack the yolks.  Local organic gouda gets shredded on top of the eggs and the circles of bacon layered back on.  The scones are done and I melt butter over and in the middle of the largest two. 

Right on cue, the man-boy comes down the stairs.

“Honey or blueberry jam on your scones?”

“Blueberry jam sounds good.”

I spread on spoonfuls of dark purple goodness and add the scones to a warmed plated where they join the eggs and bacon.  I pour milk and juice and sit next to my son at the table with scones of my own and a cup of coffee. 

Taking sideway glances, I watch as the man-boy eats.  I almost don’t recognize him, he has changed so.  Just yesterday I was looking at pictures from years gone by.  The blond toddler, making faces for the camera, laughing out loud.  Gone is the chubby 10-year-old.  In his place is a quiet, tall, lanky teen with angular bones, looking handsome in his Levi jeans and chin length hair. 

I feel a twinge of sadness.  I wish I could get more homemade meals into him.  I wish I could cook for him more than just on weekends.  I wish….  He downs the last of his milk and I look at his plate, satisfied to see that only crumbs remain.  There.  I’ve done something for him.  I have filled him with a warm, hearty breakfast and right now it is all I can do.  I let out a sigh, shake my head and think, “It does a mother good.”

Tuesday

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Remembering Pete

“He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader.   He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart.”  — Author Unknown

Our first family pet was Pete, a beautiful blond Russian Wolfhound.  Pete was born into a family that professionally bred Borzois for show, except that Pete was also born with a heart condition which prevented him from competing.   My father knew the breeders through work, and they agreed to give Pete to our family.  I can still remember, in my three-year old mind’s eye, going to the large home of the breeders’ estate to meet Pete. Beautiful and elegant with long silky blonde hair, Pete stood 33″ at the shoulder.  He fit right into our family with his leggy stride and slender physique.  

My mother, deathly afraid of dogs, having been bitten as a child, took a perch on the top of the couch with me in her arms when Pete first entered our home.   Within a short time though, Pete became attached to us and us to him.  He was happy to let me use him as a pillow as he lay on his side.  He licked my dad’s wounds to make them better–something about dog’s saliva having healing factors, my dad said.  The paradox of how healing factors could override germs, never really clear to me.  

For Pete’s first family outing, we took to the rolling hills of Rocky Gap in Cumberland, Maryland to visit Aunt Ruth’s and Uncle Wade’s farm.  Here, Pete could run and run and run and stretch his long legs to his heart’s desire.  A trip to Aunt Ruth’s also meant a lunch of my favorite, savory scrapple and mustard sandwiches.  I can still see Aunt Ruth in her kitchen, thinly slicing a loaf of “everything but the squeal” pulled from the freezer earlier in the day.  The slices of scrapple sizzled and browned in a cast iron skillet, filling the air with a sagey scent.   After lunch, it was time to head over to the beautiful red barn filled with hay and piles of dried corn cobs.  Years later, my brother joined me on these visits to the country. We loved the novelty of putting the corn through the grinder, separating cob from kernels, and feeding the golden nuggets to the chickens.  Corn kernels strewn on the ground meant mice and mice meant that barn cats were a welcome addition to any farm.

And so, looking forward to the bucolic day ahead and to showing off Pete, our little family drove up the last bit of windy dirt road, parked under the giant maple shade tree in front of the farm-house and stepped out to stretch our legs.  Little did we know, Pete was planning an exit of his own.  As the first car door open, he bolted past us like lightning, making a beeline to the barn cat, who had leisurely observed our approach.   We could do nothing but watch in horror as Pete flew by the cat, grabbing its neck on the way and whipping it high into the air without ever breaking stride, just as his ancestors were trained to do with wolves.  The cat was dead from broken neck before it even landed on the ground.

Pete also a kept a close eye on others who interacted with me, and by now, my younger brother.  He became protective and possessive.  One day, my Uncle Buddy stopped by to deliver some farm fresh eggs.  Amazed by how I had grown, Uncle Buddy reached out to pick me up but never had a chance.  Pete sprang up off his hind legs and bit Uncle Buddy in the face, leaving a wound that bled profusely. 

Soon it was impossible to have my friend and neighbor, Sally, over to play without Pete baring his teeth and growling.  Even when she was in her own backyard, Pete would bark ferociously at her from the other side of the fence.  My parents began to fear for our safety as well as for others, and sadly, we knew that Pete had to be put down.  I know that losing Pete this way was particularly hard on my dad.

My father recalls times where Pete would literally fly around the backyard, running at full speed up the hill, past the railroad ties, and down again.  On one such descent from the hill into the house, Pete forgot that the sliding glass door was closed.  My father marvels that Pete didn’t hurt himself.  While we only had Pete for about two years, he will always be a part of our family.  He was meant to be free and to fly with the wind.

Tuesday

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Fish and Chips Here We Come!

 
English: Fish and chips traditionally wrapped ...

English Fish and Chips traditionally wrapped in white paper for hygiene and then newspaper. Photo: Wikipedia

The boyfriend has talked about needing to go on a trip.  Our last “out of the USA” trip was about four years ago to Rome and Firenze.  He’s panicking that I’m visiting family in summer, which pretty much eats up that season as a travel option.  Tossing around ideas last weekend, we came up with London. 

Yea, London!  Maybe we will make that our next destination.  Christmas in London?  Time to save up, although the boyfriend is better at saving than me.  London sounds nice and civil and contained.  Not too much stress trying to figure out the days.  Different, but not so different that we would be out of our travel experience domain.  India and Turkey, for example, are.  Even Rick Steves says those destinations are for the more experienced travel.  London sounds just right.

Flash forward five whole days. It’s early evening and we have our nightly chat.  We cover all the little details of the day, bits of news, and plans for the week.  Soon, he’s tired and off to bed.  I’m wide awake and staying up (one reason that two households work well for us) and I go about my evening.

I pick up the laptop and do a little writing, watch a little TV, and munch on leftover spaghetti.  A couple of hours later, I check my email.  Wait–there’s an email about a flight to London.  Is this real or is this a potential itinerary? I look closely.  Its says confirmation.  Confirmation?  It’s hard to register. And, there’s a message from the boyfriend.  I read it and read it again: “Forgot if you have United miles, but we can add that later.” Add that later?!?  OMG we are going to London!  And that stinker didn’t say a word!  I could never keep a secret like that!  I’d be dropping hints like, “Have you checked your email tonight?”  “I think you should check your email.”  “Check your email before you go to bed.”

London!!!  Pubs, fish and chips, tartans (oh wait, that’s Scotland), Big Ben, fish and chips, pubs, fish and chips…you get the idea.  That’s all I really know about London, except that it’s where the Queen of England lives, and I don’t really have a desire to see Buckingham Palace or the changing of the guard.   It’s late and I’m tired now, but I have to do some Googling first.  And that is how I learn that people don’t seem to go to London to stay in London very long.  Instead, they use London as a hub and take advantage of the tube–that’s “London” for really fast train.  Travel websites advertise “Best day trips from London,” “London and Back,” “Sightseeing in England and Beyond from London.”  There’s a smorgasbord (pardon the mixed metaphor) of trip offerings from Stonehenge and Paris, Bath and Brighton Beach, to Oxford and Windsor.  And Richmond.  Something about the description of Richmond sweeps me away.  

“It’s rare that foreign visitors venture this far out,” the travel author  says, and then, “Big mistake–this is one of the loveliest parts of England.”  I read the description of the green, “a gorgeous area edged with towering broadleaf trees, beautiful old mansions, picturesque townhouses and characteristically English pubs” and imagine walks along the River Thames with “a sprinkling of pubs helping to break up the journey.”  Pubs seem to be a theme in any town description.  Then there is Richmond Park, which “abounds with gentle rolling hills, lakes, woodland and hordes of rambling wild deer.”  I’m there.

What I would really like to know though, is whether anyone else out there has been to London.  If so, what day trips, lodging, and pubs would you recommend?

Fish, Chips and Mushy Peas

Image by EEPaul via Flickr

Fish and Chips–here I come!

Tuesday

 

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The Turnaround

Dear Ms. March,

I am writing to bring a serious safety issue to your attention.  Your lower parking is unsafe as parent drivers who are impatient to wait in the turnaround area, are backing out and exiting via the entrance lane.  Yesterday afternoon I almost got hit when a parent was pulling out just as I was pulling in.  I shudder to think of what could happen to students crossing the lot when drivers are acting recklessly.   I hope that you will do something about this before someone gets hurt.

Sincerely,

A Concerned Parent

 

Dear Head of Maintenance,

We have been receiving complaints from parents that our lower parking lot is unsafe and parents are exiting the wrong way. We would appreciate it if you would please check out the signage to see if we might better mark the area and draw attention to the fact that the turnaround is, indeed, a one way loop.

Thank you!

Ms. March

 

Dear Ms. March,

People have complained about this for years.  No one has ever been hurt, nor has there ever been one accident.  I’m coming over tomorrow anyway so will take a look.

HofM

 

Dear Supervising Staff,

In lieu of concerns over parents driving the wrong way in the turnaround, could one of you please station yourselves in that space to ensure that traffic is flowing in the correct direction?  Other ideas?  Thank you for your efforts!

Ms. March

 

Dear Ms. March,

I have an idea that I think will work.  I will station myself at the bottom of the stairs and hold students at that area until their driver pulls forward.  This way students won’t dart between cars as they cross the lot and drivers will need to use the loop and exit in the correct direction.

Sincerely,

Your Amazing Supervising Staff

 

Dear Amazing Supervising Staff,

Great idea!  We will announce this change in practice over the intercom for the next week and also put a notice in our weekly newsletter explaining how the new procedure will improve student/driver safety .

Ms. March

 

Dear Ms. March,

Today we implemented the new lower parking lot procedure.   I held the students as we planned.  The kids were great when I explained to them that their parents needed to use the turnaround for their safety and to follow the correct traffic flow.  Their parents, however, honked their horns and motioned for their students to cross the lot.  I motioned for the parents to come around to the pickup zone but they dug in their heels and would not comply.  Some parents actually left their cars from the other side of the lot, walked up to their students and grabbed them by the arm, took them back to their cars, and proceeded to backed out and exit the wrong way.  While they didn’t say anything to me when they approached they were pretty put out.  I thought you should know because you might get complaints from some  angry parents.

Feeling a bit run over,

Your Supervising Staff

 

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