Monday, August 11, 2014

RIP Robin Williams

I am just heartbroken to see the news that Robin Williams has not only died, but apparently has taken his own life due to depression. I know all too well what a demon depression is. :-( It saddens me that someone I admired so much was engaged in that painful battle, with which I am all too familiar. And it grieves me even more that he lost one of those battles, and in doing so, the war.

Depression sux. Trust me when I say that if you recognize the symptoms in yourself, the thing to do is go directly to your doctor. Treat it as a medical emergency, because it is one.

RIP Robin Williams. Thanks for a lot of great memories.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Progress! LOL

Captain was heading toward the kitchen. Baxter was heading out of the kitchen. They had to pass within inches of one another across the same real estate.

As they walked by one another, they had this converstaion:

Captain: "PFT!"
Baxter: "RF!"


Then they continued right on past one another and headed to their desired destinations.

Just one brief, perfunctory half-a-hiss, and just one "Well, I gotta grump back at you" half-a-bark. Progress! LOL

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

DUCKIES!!!! <3

DUCKIES!


Just as Baxter and I were a couple of houses from home, on our morning walk, we passed a raised garden that someone has on the pavement and suddenly, there was a fluttering. At first, I thought we had surprised a squirrel, since that has happened before on that very spot. (I also think the tree nearest to our house has a squirrel's nest in it.) 


But then I realized that what we were looking at was a female mallard duck. She started dragging one wing and limping, and I thought, "Oh no, an injured bird!"


That was when I noticed, belatedly, five or six fuzzy ducklings peeping away. (It occurred to me afterward that many mama birds will feign injury to lead predators away from their chicks.)


This surprised me, because while we are less than a mile away from some man-made lakes, mama and babies will have to traverse multiple blocks of city traffic in order to get there. I have no clue where that nest was, but this is not the place where I would have expected to see one.


Baxter, meanwhile, was hauling at the leash, but I wouldn't let him anywhere near the ducks. I actually think he wanted to herd them, being part Corgi, but I wasn't taking any chances.


At this point, another lady also appeared on the scene, and when the duck family started to cross the street, she accompanied them in order to control traffic. I told her that I would have liked to help with traffic control, but I didn't want the dog near the birds.


So, that was my adventure for the morning so far. The duck family got safely across the street, and were heading in the direction of those man-made lakes. I hope they get there safely.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Prepping for Deaf-Blind Camp

I've been getting things ready to pack for Deaf-Blind Camp. I'll be there next week while Mark stays home and holds down the fort.

But one thing I categorically DO NOT want to take with me is this freaking HEEL PAIN. The Achilles' tendon area on my right foot, the one I need in order to drive, is swollen and is killing me, for no discernable reason. I didn't fall or have any memorable sort of mishap that would lead me to think, "Well, when that happened, I must have hurt myself." I just have this mystery freaking PAIN, out of nowhere.

Well, wherever it came from, it needs to go back. Like, yesterday. This freakin' issue had better be G-O-N-E by the time I leave for camp. I have no pressing desire to drive or four hours with this foot in this condition.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Poor Mr. Squirrel

Aw, shoot.

There are two parts of my daily Walk With Baxter where we tend to encounter squirrels. One is right near our house, and in fact I suspect that there is a squirrel's nest in our tree. The other place is around the corner, and this morning, we saw Mr. Squirrel looking fit and healthy. And Baxter got his morning entertainment barking up a telephone pole, when the squirrel decided that the human and the dog had gotten too close for comfort, and climbed to safety.

Well, we just had our dinnertime walk, and the squirrel from around the corner is now climbing trees at the Rainbow Bridge. He must have had an unfortunate encounter with a car sometime during the afternoon, poor thing. Romp in the sun, Mr. Squirrel. I hope you know I never would've let Baxter close enough to do any harm.

The one bit of GOOD news is that as we made our way home, there was a squirrel bouncing around near our house. So THAT squirrel clearly is not the same one as we'd see around the corner. (Which was a concern of mine. I'd hate to see something happen to the critter who I think nests in our tree.) So at least we still might get to see squirrels during our daily walks.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Oh, dear

I believe I have just discovered that the side effect of flushing, caused by Niaspan, is in fact almost identical to a hot flash. I have suspected it was for a long time, but I did not have a basis for comparison until just now. However, the side effect is less severe.

Whew. 

Doggone. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Baxter and the Squirrel

I believe there is a squirrel's nest in the tree in front of our house. When the leaves dropped last fall, I saw that there was a nest in the tree. This year, before the leaves came back, I saw an adult squirrel poking around on the nest, and I wondered if s/he was readying it for another year of use.
Anyway, three times in the past two days, I have seen a squirrel in front of our house while walking Baxter.

Baxter thinks chasing squirrels is great sport, but THIS squirrel seems to be trying for a Darwin Award. I don't think he runs away anywhere near immediately enough when the dog starts barreling in his direction. He sits there and freezes for a few seconds, right in the middle of the sidewalk where there is zero cover.

It's a good thing that I have no desire to see what would happen if Baxter actually CAUGHT a squirrel, because at least two out of those three times, the only reason Baxter didn't get the squirrel outright was because I was hanging onto the leash full-force. The third time, Baxter spotted him from so far away and started barking, that a SNAIL would have had plenty of advance warning to take cover, lol.
Anyway, Baxter is teaching the squirrel (I hope!) how not to become a victim of natural selection.

Monday, May 12, 2014

*whack* *RUR RUR RURF!*

LOL. My critters are nuts.

So there I was, coming down from the second floor, when I heard a commotion in the dining room. I walked in to find Captain under a dining room chair, hissing at the barking dog.

I put one hand on each of Baxter's flanks and steered him toward the living room. "OK, you, that's enough. Leave your brother alone." Baxter stopped barking and walked into the living room.

Suddenly, a big orange BLUR came zooming out from under the dining room chair, ran up behind the dog, whacked his backside with the Paw of Doom, and then ran into the cellarway with the now-barking dog chasing him.

By this point, I was laughing too hard to reprimand either one of them. It's ineffective to scold a critter while you're laughing your face off. :-D

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Newspaper Taxis


Clever canterpieces!

We are about to see a Beatles cover band called The Newspaper Taxis. How cool are these centerpieces? :-)

Old Pine St. Church famous gravesite




Well, poop. No flea market this year

Well, shiznit. 

My friends and I have gone to the annual flea market at Old Pine Street Church every year since the 80s or early 90s. So I have had it as an annual event in my calendar for eons. We used to go with Joan, and after she passed in 1995, we would go and reminisce. 

So I took the bus up here, as I always do. I thought it odd to see no outdoor tables, so I went in their community center. I thought maybe it was all moved indoors due to the threat of rain. But a lady volunteering for what appears to be a meal for seniors said there's no flea market this year. According to the lady, it's a lot of work and they were not making any money on it.

Poop. I guess we should call ahead before going next year. It'll be a shame if our annual tradition has died. 

Laughing Gull

There is at least one Laughing Gull flying around over the Pathmark parking lot

As they are normally considered salt-water birds, I checked my link for the Delaware River Salt Line. (Check it here: http://www.state.nj.us/drbc/hydrological/river/salt/ ) It's nowhere near Philly, nor should it be. In fact, it's a good 15 miles south of its normal location at this time of year, thanks to all the recent rain. 

The first time I saw a Laughing Gull here, years ago, I called the local Audobon Society to report it. I am not sure she believed me, due to that whole salt-water-only thing. But I know what I saw, and I'm seeing it again now. 

Thursday, May 08, 2014

New Hope, PA

There was a celebration yesterday in New Hope, PA. It was the 25th anniversary of one of the employers for which I do freelance work, and the day involved a photo shoot and video, and a picnic. 

My appointment time was 10:30. So I asked Mark to wake me when he got up, since sometimes I sleep through the alarm. Well, he forgot AND I slept through the alarm, resulting in my sleeping till 8:45. I walked the dog, fed the critters, took my meds, and flew out the door. I proceeded to treat the speed limit like a polite suggestion, but I made it to New Hope in 64 minutes, arriving with 9 minutes to spare. 

The day itself was great. The photo and video shoots were interesting, the food was terrific, and I went to the nearby outlets and shopped. All in all, a productive day. :-)

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Sometimes, it hits out of nowhere

During that gap in posting, there was one particularly bad five-week period when I heard from no one. And as Forrest Gump would say, "That's all I have to say about that."

Except to say that the time period did some internal damage that is still not entirely... repaired? Healed? What word would work here? I don't know.

To the point where I can spend a good day with everybody who I didn't hear from in all that time, like today, and still feel blue, left out, and disconnected within hours of the get-together ending. Like tonight.

I lost a lot more faith in people than I'd realized. I guess that, given that it took five weeks for the internal damage to develop, it's not going to just go away like flipping a switch. When a forest has been clearcut, it's not going to sprout back up into a big forest again overnight. I am going to have to let my ability to have faith in people start growing from the ground up.

I gave my business card out

I gave my business card to the local handmade-items consignment shop.

We shall see where this goes. :)


Monday, May 05, 2014

So, how do you like the new format?

So I decided that after 11 years, it was time to update the blog template to include all the New Cool Features that didn't exist back before Google bought the Blogger service from its original developers.

Now I can post my links to Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, as needed.

Emerald Green plus a Flower of Life pattern in the background is a perfect combination for me. But HOLY LINKFEST, Batman, did it ever take me time to copy over all those zillions of links that you see on the right-hand side. The good news is, all that work is done now, so I can go back to adding individual links as the mood strikes.

We had an interesting walk with Baxter tonight. The normal route takes us across the street from a diner, and lo and behold -- who was coming out just as I went by, but my parents. So we got to chat, and they got to dote on Baxter. (Till my dad tried to hold the dog, which upset Baxter and then they both had to Ignore The Dog for a while till he relaxed.)

My dad's got a dented rear fender, which he will have repaired later in the month. He was trying to back up and apparently a fire hydrant leaped into his path. He has a backup camera in the car, which is a great feature, but unfortunately, it doesn't spot obstacles that are beside the car. Oh, well -- the main thing is, nobody got hurt and the damage is easily fixed. Car repairs are painful to the wallet, but once they're fixed, you're good to go - unlike physical injuries, for which you might need some combination of surgery, stitches, a cast, and physical therapy, and even THEN you might not be 100% recovered afterward. We definitely prefer NO mishap, but if there's gonna be a mishap, fixing a damaged car is a lot less involved than fixing a damaged person.

And now, to celebrate my new format, I shall not only publish this post, but share it with Facebook. :-)

Happy Blogday to Me! :)

Hey, all! Happy 11th Blogday to me! Yes, this is the 11th anniversary of my starting this blog. No, I have most definitely not forgotten about my blog. I just haven't had too much in the way of major events to report.

But I will have some interesting things coming up. For one, I have been accepted as an SSP (Support Service Provider, or interpreter/guide) at the Deaf-Blind Camp of MD in June. I just got the email a few days ago. This camp has taken off hugely in popularity over the years, resulting in campers and volunteers applying to attend from all over the country. So I hope to have some blog posts to share from that event, certainly.

And interestingly, I have chosen to celebrate having a blog for 11 years by... purchasng a fancy journal so I can record some musings on paper. One thing I am not going to fall victim to is the kind of over-sharing online that leads people into embarrassment. We've all seen it happen. Perhaps someone vented their spleen in words that then caused offense or hurt feelings, or shared something that would have better been kept offline, lest too many uncaring people find out about it and cause backlash. Rest assured that I am not going to be that person. I'm more than happy to share the things that are fit for public consumption on here, or on Facebook and Twitter. That's fine. But the things that would be better kept offline are most assuredly going to remain offline.

Yet, that doesn't mean I shouldn't process those things at all. So hello, paper journal. Welcome to the household.  288 sheets, or 576 pages. Lookin' good! :)
I particularly like the kanji character combination lock on it. :) Yes, it is possible to memorize a combination that's in another language's alphabet.

I have not yet made my inaugural post in said book, but I will.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Critter progress

I came home from my job to find Captain and Baxter napping together (about a foot from one another) on the loveseat. :-) Clearly, Captain has learned not to apply the Paw of Doom for no reason, and Baxter does not view Captain merely as something fun to chase.

Baxter the Smiley SO wants to play with his kitty brothers. I thought he and Stanley were going to have a play session right after I got home, but Stanley is still not sure what to make of the dog's attention. So it wound up as a session of I Sniff Your Nose.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Baxter's Big Day

Baxter spent most of the day at PAWS, getting the Big Snip. I am happy to report that Baxter is HOME. :-) And he is sound asleep on my lap. He ate his food (1/2 the normal meal, per the vet's instructions) and has been given his pain med. He and I both take Tramadol, at least for the next 7-10 days. The neuter went well, and he is now microchipped.

He was NOT a Happy Camper while he was at PAWS, which I expected. He's very attached to his Mom, to put it mildly.

When I went to pick him up, I had a little surprise. I observed that another doggie in the waiting room looked a LOT like Baxter, and that's when I learned it was Pinky, Baxter's brother. OMG, they weren't kidding when they said he looks just like Baxter, only smaller! He looks like Baxter, but shrunk down to Mini-size (about half Baxter's size, in other words). I was disappointed to see that the doggies didn't recognize one another -- Baxter was too out-of-it from the anesthesia to pay attention, and Pinky didn't recognize Baxter because he's full of unfamiliar scents. Pinky's original foster was transferring him to a new foster mama, because she has four cats who weren't pleased at the addition of a pint-sized dog to the fold. She loved Pinky, though, and cried a bit at the transfer. :-( If not for the kitties' reaction, she'd have gladly adopted him. The NEW foster mama looked pretty enthused to be bringing him home, though, so here's hoping that this turns into a "failed foster" (an adoption)! :-)

Where Baxter is concerned, the Tramadol is not the only thing he's going to need for 7-10 days. They sent us home with a Cone of Shame. There are two problems with that. First, this freakin' thing is HUGE. Second, he had no trouble dragging it off. This resulted in my making a beeline to the PetSmart and picking up an inflatable e-collar, which he is leaving alone. I hope he keeps right on leaving it alone once the rest of the anesthesia wears off.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Well, that was quick! The first half-century

I am scheduling this post for the actual birthdate, but I'm writing it a few days after the fact because my weekend was so busy. I celebrated my 50th birthday on Friday with a big dinner at a nearby restaurant with my parents and a whole lot of friends. God bless Mark, he did a great job of hosting the dinner. We were a party of 13 in all.

Joe J. had a shirt made for me that reads "ARF" in the manual alphabet on one side, and 50 on the back. :) We are both insane and we bark at one another, and when we aren't actually barking out loud, I will spell "arf" into his hand (he's deaf-blind and communicates via tactile sign language). I think the shirt is hilarious and I can't wait to wear it.

Another classic gift I got was the tiara I'd been looking at and drooling over when Joe M., John, and I were at the RenFaire several weeks ago. :-) I came this-close to declaring the entire weekend My Birthday and wearing it the rest of the weekend. :-) But any time I plan to be Queen for a Day, that tiara is going on.

We had an unexpected visit from The Other Donna. While I was happy to see her, I was not too happy as to the underlying reason for her visit. Unfortunately, she was down here to attend the funeral of a longtime friend. :-( He was only 50 and died unexpectedly of a brain aneurysm. Sigh. It was not lost on me that while I was celebrating a 50th birthday, 50 years was all he got to live, period. So you won't see ME griping over this landmark. It's a privilege, not a burden, to keep adding to the total.

So anyway, they say that the first half-century is the hardest. We'll see about that. Bring on the next half-century!

Monday, November 04, 2013

We had a great walk! Let me tell you about it! Yip! Whine!

Baxter was all kinds of happy after we took a long walk around the neighborhood. He came in and wanted to tell the cats all about it. He went and whined and yipped at Stanley, who Ignored him. Then he stood under the window where Captain was sitting, and yipped. More Ignoring ensued. Finally, he decided he was tuckered out after all that activity, and he's snoring on my lap. :-)

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Baxter vs. Captain and the Paw of Doom

Captain was lounging next to me on the sofa. Baxter, who had been wandering around the living room, decided it was time to come back to sit with Mom, and approached the sofa.

When he stood on his hind legs to look at the kitty, the sudden appearance of his head right in front of Captain's face, like a little doggy Jack-in-the-box, did not go unnoticed. Captain applied the Paw of Doom two or three times in rapid succession -- no claws, just the bopping paw. The dog withdrew, then jumped up on the sofa at the far end of the couch, well away from bopping Paws of Doom.

Now Baxter had a dilemma. The cat was stretched out on the sofa, right between him and me, and he wanted to sit with me. What to do? A tentative "Rrrff!" in Captain's direction had no measurable effect, and the dog stood there, perplexed.

Finally, I coached him a little, but he got the idea. He leaped up to the sofa back, and in that way, walked the length of the sofa to me without coming near the cat or the Paw of Doom. I hoisted him down and bingo. He's now sitting with me. And the cat is Ignoring him. :)

Intruder! Intruder! Oh, wait, it's just Dad!

We just had ourselves a little bark-fest in the living room. Mark was kneeling by the drum table at the front window, updating the lamp's timer for EST. Baxter woke from napping beside me, did not immediately recognize Mark as the person who was kneeling on the floor, and had a barking fit. He didn't stop until Mark came over and let Baxter sniff his hand. Baxter dropped his ears and stopped barking the moment he realized it was just Dad after all.

Captain remained curled up at the other end of the couch throughout all this, though he was giving the dog a "You've gone totally bananas" look. So I'm thinking that Captain is not particularly unnerved by the dog. :-)

As one of my FB friends puts it, "Intruder! Intruder! Oh, wait, it's just Dad." Yeah, that about sums it up. LOL.

So, what is a Chihuahua/Corgi mix called?

I have been googling a bit for photos of Chihuahua/Corgi mix dogs, just to see if my instincts regarding Baxter's heritage are correct. Yes, some of the pictures I have found have resembled him quite a lot.

I have also discovered that there are multiple names for this particular cross-breed. My personal favorite is Chorgi. I have also seen Corchi, and the most popular one appears to be Chigi. I think I'll stick with Chorgi, lol.

I am not happy that the designer craze has taken over the dog-breeding world. However, I say that if you really want a designer dog, make a beeline for your nearest shelter or rescue, and find one there. Not only did I get Baxter from a rescue, but Karla got a Puggle (pug/beagle) from a local shelter, as well. Adopt, don't shop.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Baxter is making progress

Watching Baxter start to gain confidence that he is really HOME, is like watching a curtain slowly draw back from his Real Personality. When we go on walks, his tail is normally up and waving now. And these last two times, instead of being reluctant to leave the house, he's been speedily walking and sniffing everything in sight. :-)

He follows me around like a little shadow now. Wherever I go, he goes. When I sit on the sofa or loveseat, He hops up next to me. We had a moment tonight when I was watching the Phantoms online, and he was clearly bored of sitting on the sofa... and yet he wouldn't leave the sofa while I was sitting there.

He is such a great little dog, and very well-mannered. Someone clearly spent a lot of effort training him properly.

Oh, and tonight, we had the first couple of encounters with Captain. He and Captain sniffed noses right next to me, and Captain was OK with that. Later, Captain was facing the other way and Baxter sniffed his rump. He studiously Ignored this, though I could tell he wasn't particularly enamored of the canine greeting. Stanley responds similarly -- he is OK with sniffing noses, but he'd rather not have similar attentions paid to his opposite end.

Critters. :-) Endless entertainment.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Piecing together Baxter's story

I finally had the chance to read over the paperwork with Baxter's history, or what little there is of it.

Seems "Baxter" was a name assigned to him at PAWS, which explains why he occasionally seems to take a moment to respond to it.

He was brought in as a stray to ACCT, the city shelter, on 10/7. I am taking a guess that he was found with the other dog that PAWS said was his brother, because of the names the two dogs have. PAWS told me that Baxter's brother was named Pinky. Well, Baxter's intake paperwork at ACCT calls him "Brain". As in, "Pinky and the Brain". I am extrapolating some details, but my guess is that PAWS left Pinky's name the same, but changed Baxter's name, when they pulled the two of them out of the city shelter.

So I don't exactly know WHAT name my little guy grew up with. But he recognizes Baxter well enough that I'll keep that name. Not only has he been stressed enough already in the past 22 days, without having to learn a new name, I now THINK of him as "Baxter". So Baxter he will remain.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Spoiled already. That was fast. :-)

Is there, like, a world speed record for spoiling a critter?

We have discovered that Baxter only wants to eat his dog food if there is a slice of turkey lunchmeat shredded up and mixed in with it. This was determined on Friday.

So, we dutifully mixed in a slice of turkey lunchmeat on Saturday's and Sunday's dog food. This morning, I thought, "Let's see if he'll eat less of the turkey." I only shredded up HALF a slice of turkey.

Baxter ate half the food, then came over to give me Sad Eyes. He persisted in Not Eating, so I broke down and shredded the other half of the turkey slice into the remaining dog food.

Me: "Is this more to His Highness's liking?"

Baxter: NOM NOM NOM NOM.

His breakfast is now fully eaten, and he is parked next to me on the sofa with his head on my lap. He has barely been here four days, and we are already catering to his whims. Pampered pup. :)

Oh, and His Royal Smileyness has discovered the joys of rolling in the grass. :)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Finally, some HAPPY news to report :)

On October 19, PAWS, the rescue from which I got Mini, had their annual big fundraiser, the Mutt Strut. I walked it in honor of Mini's memory. I asked Mark to go, too, but he had made arrangements to start cleaning out his mom's house with his sister. I warned him that he was leaving me unattended among a bunch of adoptable PAWS dogs, and that I wasn't responsible for the consequences. :-)

After visiting all the vendor booths and walking the course, I stopped by the tent where the adoptable dogs were returning. I loved them all, of course. And then I saw this little smiley face.

I was trying to get a picture of his widdle smile, but the photo doesn't really do it justice. His name is Baxter, he is a 6-year-old Chihuahua mix, and every time someone paid him attention or petted him, he had a happy little doggy smile on his face. I was hooked. I filled out the adoption application on the spot. Then came the agonizing wait to be approved.

When I got home, I called Mark and let him know that I had, in fact, met a dog that I wanted to adopt. He wasn't looking to add a dog to the family, especially not so soon after Mini, but he agreed to let it happen.

PAWS called me on Tuesday and we made an appointment for Thursday, October 24, for me to see Baxter. At least, that's how they phrased it. So I was more than a little surprised that they were about to let me take Baxter home on the spot. If I'd known, I'd have had a carrier ready for him. I would have had a leash, too; fortunately, PAWS has leashes and collars coming out their ears, so they were able to give me one. As it was, he wanted to sit in my lap while I was driving home. Oh, dear, lol. See, this is WHY I insist on using a carrier to transport pets in cars. I kept shifting him to the side when he started climbing in my lap. Eventually, he parked himself between the two front seats and rested his head on my leg, and that's how we drove the rest of the way home. :-)

Captain and Stanley were wary, when they saw a new dog come in the door, but not hostile. This is the two of them taking a look at the dog (out of the frame and on a leash). Captain (orange) has got his Kitty Glare firmly in place. Baxter has respected The Glare, and has not tried to interact with Captain yet at all. This is good, because I'm 99.999% sure that The Glare is a big bluff and Captain is a big wimp. Baxter, however, doesn't have to know that. ;-)

Baxter did sniff noses with Stanley, at which time I discovered what PAWS meant when they said he was "rude" with cats during his cat-compatibility test. Baxter sniffed a few times, then got over-exuberant and shoved his whole face into Stanley's face. Stanley responded by doling out one bop upside the dog's head, and Baxter immediately backed up. The next time he went to sniff Stanley, a few hours later, he stood somewhat back and s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d his neck way forward to reach the cat. He wasn't going to risk getting too close again, lol! They've sniffed noses a few more times in the ensuing three days, and there have been no more bops, nor any need for bops.

Since Thursday, we have been reaching landmarks gradually. I have been able to leave Baxter and one/both cats unattended on the sofa when I have had to use the Smallest Room in the House. No growls, hisses, nor hostilities have ensued; they have all ignored one another. Yesterday, Baxter went on a walk with his tail horizontal, instead of drooping down; tonight, that tail was up and waving like a banner. SomeDoggy is getting happier. I also got the first full-fledged belly display a little while ago.

And of course, there are the little smiles that made me melt into a puddle of mush in the first place. We are starting to see those, more and more. And that makes ME smile.

So as you can see, we finally have got GOOD things to report, after having multiple losses in a row (Mark's mom and Mini on 9/22, and three weeks later, Mark's aunt, who was my MIL's older sister). No one can replace those loved ones. But happy events can help turn our attention toward LIFE instead of bereavement. So Baxter, in his own little way, is providing some much-needed therapy. We're all good for each other. He gets a new home and lots of doting to make up for the loss of his brother (who was surrendered along with him but was adopted by someone else), and he makes us smile. Winning. And I will gladly take those WINs any way we can get them.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Tough Morning, Improved Commute, and Government

Monday morning was the first "normal" day that we had since my mother-in-law and Mini passed away. All last week, Mark was off from work and we were doing funeral-related things, so our regular schedule was entirely disrupted.

But this morning, when I got up and Mark was at work, it was the first time that I had to confront the changes to my normal routine. Ordinarily, I'd have started my day by getting up, walking the dog, feeding the dog and the cats, and then eating breakfast. As such, I was really feeling Mini's absence, and I greatly missed the fact that I won't be walking and feeding her anymore. My little Munchkin Pup. I really miss her a lot.

Later on Monday, I drove to Chalfont for a sign language lesson. I am tutoring a blind couple, one of whom is also suffering from hearing loss, in sign language. As a result, I rediscovered the fact that the *fastest* route suggested by the GPS is not necessarily also the *shortest* route. The GPS's suggested route involves using the Blue Route, the PA Turnpike, and Rt. 309. It's about 38 miles to go that way. But because we were using Rt. 309 on Friday, for an entirely different reason (driving from the cemetery to the funeral luncheon), it occurred to me that I might be able to make an adjustment to my Chalfont commute. On my way home, I decided to use Rt. 309 to get all the way into the city, eliminating the use of the PA Turnpike and Blue Route entirely. Well, what do you know? Using Rt. 309 all the way into Philly cut 7 miles off the distance. It did take about 8 minutes longer, but I ran into a little bit of slow traffic on the way home. I would be willing to bet that if I hadn't encountered that one stretch of congested road, the time differential would've been negligible or even come out in favor of the Rt. 309-oriented commute.

So basically, using Rt. 309 means a shorter distance, no Turnpike tolls, no dreadful traffic patterns at the Turnpike entrance and exit, and NO excruciating off-ramp going from the Turnpike to the Blue Route. That has got to be the worst freaking exit ramp I have ever encountered in my life, and I deal with PennDOT's handiwork on a regular freaking basis. Yeah, methinks Rt. 309 and I are about to become very good friends, lol.

Finally, here is what I have to say about the governmental shutdown:
"But I fear that in every assembly members will obtain an influence by noise rather than sense, by meanness rather than greatness, and by ignorance and not learning, by contracted hearts and not large souls. There is one thing, that must be attempted and most sacredly observed, or we are all undone. There must be decency and respect and veneration introduced for persons of every rank, or we are undone. In a popular government, this is our only way.” -- John Adams

Sunday, September 29, 2013

It has been a really dreadful week

It's taken me a week to work up enough energy to write this post. Even then, I still feel so blindsided by life that I am copying, pasting, and editing something that I wrote to one of the mailing lists a few days ago.

The long and short of it is that a week ago today, both my mother-in-law and my dog passed away. We had our hearts broken twice in the space of one hour. Here is the timeline.

On Friday, 9/20, we got a call from my sister-in-law (my husband Mark's sister). My mother-in-law's health, which previously had been pretty stable, was suddenly failing acutely. Hospice, which is a service dedicated to end-of-life care, had been consulted and a hospital bed was being delivered to my MIL's house that afternoon. This all started happening so abruptly, everyone was blindsided, even my sister-in-law who lived nearby and saw her daily.

During the course of the same week, my little elderly Chihuahua, Mini, started showing signs of a reduced appetite. But until Friday, every time she seemed uninterested in food, I found something different that she WOULD eat.

Friday night was the time that I couldn't get Mini to eat anything but some nutrient gel from a feeding syringe. So it was time to see the vet.

We visited my mother-in-law on Friday night, and she was lucid enough to know everyone who visited. If we spoke to her, her responses were clear and made perfect sense. But her breathing was terribly labored and she was incredibly weak. It was clear something major was wrong.

On Saturday, 9/21, I took Mini to the vet. He diagnosed an infection and gave me meds, plus an even more potent nutrient gel to feed her. Then we went to see my mother-in-law; she slept through most of the visit thanks to the meds she was on. They'd had to provide morphine as she was getting extremely agitated and increasingly confused, trying to get out of bed even though she hasn't been able to stand unassisted in about seven years. She couldn't get comfortable and she was really having a hard time, so the meds were a necessity, but sadly that meant we couldn't really interact with her anymore.

On Sunday morning, I got up to find that my dog had taken an abrupt downturn. But I was able to get food and medicine into her. We went to Mass. Upon coming home, we saw that Mini was even worse, so we headed to the University of Pennsylvania emergency vet clinic.

At about 2:05 PM I was in a consultation room discussing Mini's condition with the vet, wile Mark remained in the waiting room. She said an emergency bloodwork showed Mini was in acute renal failure, and there was no real hope for Mini to have any more quality of life. As this news was being broken to me, Mark appeared in the doorway, and I gestured for him to come in. He said "Mom died." His sister had just called; my mother-in-law had just passed away at 2 PM. So of course we hugged as I reacted to this sad news.

Then I gave the vet a quick explanation of the fact that we actually had TWO family crises simultaneously: my mother-in-law's failing health and the dog's extreme sickness. I swear, I thought the vet was going to burst into tears right in front of me. Here she was, most likely doing the hardest part of her job (telling a pet owner their beloved pet has no hope), and suddenly she was witnessing the pet owners getting a massive amount of OTHER bad news right at the same time. God bless that nice vet -- it was clear that she cares a lot about both the pets and the people who come through the emergency clinic.

But the fact remained that there were no medical answers for what Mini was going through. So we made the merciful decision to have her put to sleep. Mark and I were with her right through till the end.

But between 2 and 3 PM on 9.22, the world lost my mother-in-law, a sweet, kind, loving woman, someone whose devout faith made her en even NICER person. And the world also lost a tiny little bundle of pure affection. I don't think I know which end is "up" right now.

Mark made me smile, though, when he said, "I bet Mini waited until Mom went first, so she would have a lap to sit in." I just bet she did. My mother-in-law loved people and animals, and Mini took her calling as a lap dog VERY seriously.

Anyway, do please send some prayers my family's way. We could all use it.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

A Brace for Everything, and Everything in its Brace

I have amassed quite the collection of medical supplies over the years. Knee injuries have inspired me to procure some knee braces (with open patella, thank you very much) in the event that either the knee is hurting, or I've aggravated it severely in some way. I've had a couple of near-redislocations over the years since the first, disastrous injury; when that happens, the knee is sore as sin for several days thereafter. Anyway, I have a couple of kinds of knee brace as a result of this.

Then there are the carpal tunnel symptoms. Result: two wrist braces for when THAT acts up.

I had some serious repetitive-stress injury pain in my elbow about three years ago. I STILL don't know what was causing it, but in the weeks before it finally cleared up, an elbow brace proved to be helpful.

I *still* have serious pain some days in my thumb area (the region between the wrist and the first thumb joint, in both hands. Hello, thumb splints. That seems to help.

Finally, I have been experiencing chronic ankle pain in the past few months. It's actually a part of the reason that I went back to the gym, as I was concerned that the extra poundage was the source of the ankle pain. Well, some of that poundage is gone, and all the walking I've been doing has surely strengthened the muscles somewhat by now. But both ankles do have an extensive injury history, so I've come to the conclusion that this soreness might require a bit more effort to resolve than merely losing weight (which I'll continue to do anyway). So now I have invested in two neoprene ankle braces. I'll wear THOSE on the treadmill and on painful days, and see if that helps matters any. Can't hurt, might help.

But the long and short of it is, I have more freaking braces in this house than the nearby pharmacy. Good grief, lol.

NASA TV, Dark Tower, and Teaching

Tech rocks. I was just able to watch NASA's latest launch online with their app. The rocket might have been visible in the SE sky, but light pollution like we have in the city leaves me thinking that we'd have been hard-pressed to see it, at best. So I figured that I *really* wanted to see the launch, heading to the Internet was my best bet.

In other news, I have finally gotten around to reading Stephen King's The Dark Tower series. I started the fourth book last night. I am kicking myself for coming so late to the party, starting the series ten years after SK completed writing it. On the other hand, I was very glad indeed to be able to *instantly* start reading the fourth book, upon reaching the stupendous cliffhanger that ended the third book. Fans who read the third book at the time of its publication, and then had to wait in suspense for the next installment, must have been tearing their collective hair out. I had no such issues, as all I needed to do was tap a couple of Nook menus. Bingo! Instant book. (Which I was then up into the wee hours reading, because I was DARNED if I was going to be able to sleep until I saw how the story played out.)

Still more news: I am a sign language teacher again! My previous student, a deaf-blind lady, had to put her lessons on hold because of other things going on in her life. But I recently became aware that a local couple (a deaf-blind lady and her hearing blind husband) were about to lose their sign language teacher because of things going on in HIS life. I offered to pick up the lessons where he left off, so now I have a pair of students. It's a heck of a long drive, but I don't mind. I think this can be a benefit to all three of us. 

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

A reality program I actually LIKE

I actually found a reality show I like: I ran across Extreme Weight Loss a few weeks ago. No backbiting or drama -- just a person working hard to take back their health. I feel like if THEY can accomplish the things that THEY are doing, then I can certainly reach MY goal.

I even caught myself tonight using an expression that someone used on the show recently. A local guy from Voorhess, NJ was doing a stress test, to determine if he was going to even be able to take part in the program, and he said, "It doesn't matter WHAT they set this machine on, because I'm gonna KILL this thing." Tonight, when I started getting a little muscle tighness while on the treadmill, I said the same thing: "I'm gonna KILL this thing!" and I completed the session.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Stepping it up

I finally resumed going to the gym in June. It was the day after Father's Day when I decided that enough was enough, and it was time to return to the healthy habits that were successful for me a few years ago. The excess pounds need to go, ASAP.

Today, after successfully keeping up a workout regimen 4-5 days a week, I have decided that it's time to go one better. The gym where I go has two levels of membership; currently, I have the lower-level membership. It lets me use their equipment any time I want, but that's it. Tomorrow, I am going to upgrade so I can have access to their trainers. It's not like I plan to train for the Olympics or anything, but my intent is to get fit, and it's not going to happen by sitting on my rump.

Good-freaking-bye to excess pounds. Out they go!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

My life as a Nook owner.

I am the happy owner of a first-generation Nook ereader device. I opted to purchase a Nook, back when they first came out, because I already owned a few dozen books from ereader.com, a site that was owned by Barnes and Noble and whose books could be read on the Nook.

In order to read my ereader.com content on the Nook, I had to transfer my ereader.com books onto a micro-SD card and install that into the Nook. Done, and done. I can now read said books on my first-generation Nook.

In recent weeks, however, I have had some issues with the charging port of the Nook. It's long past its warranty date, and I saw a back-to-school sale on the Nook SimpleTouch with Glowlight. So I thought I'd better procure a backup device, and I went for it.

My new device arrived today. It's lovely and portable, and of course all my B&N books came right up when I logged into my B&N account. However, I discovered a few things that will ensure that I keep my first-gen device as well.

1. First-gen devices have a daily free article, as well as a link to a free weekly ebook on Free Fridays. There is no evidence that the newer device has access to that content. (It's probably available on the Nook tablet, but I already have an iPad so I didn't spring for the tablet.) And even though the newer device has a microSD slot, it isn't able to read my ereader.com content off the card I already have.

So I will now proceed to make use of the features on BOTH devices: the touchscreen, integrated light, greater portability and reliable charge port on the newer Nook, and the free daily/weekly content and the ereader.com accessibility on my first-gen Nook (whose third-party cover has a built-in light). I shall call this a WIN on both counts.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The latest

It's been a relatively quiet few weeks. We did get some concerning news concerning my mom's eyes -- she was diagnosed with the early stages of an eye issue for which there really isn't a treatment at this time. However, God willing, it will be a stable condition or at least will progress at a snail's pace. She's had eye issues her whole life. She doesn't need this now. :(

Fortunately, we have a couple of relatives who are also dealing with said eye issue. One, we knew about. The other reached out with advice after seeing me post something on Facebook about "a relative" (not specifying that it was my mom). We hadn't even known he had the same diagnosis, so that was a surprise. It was also good to hear from him. This family is small enough already -- we don't need it to get smaller by a lack of communication between people.

Starting on the day after Father's Day, I've resumed the regimen of exercise and calorie counting that I had success with three years ago. Meanwhile, three of my friends joined Weight Watchers not long after that, so now the four of us are acting as a mutual admiration society. I think we ALL have the capacity to knock off the unwanted pounds, plus improve various bloodwork numbers, as needed. I'll have to make sure and report progress as it happens. :-)

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Red-Tailed Hawks are here!

Well, South Philly officially has red-tailed hawks. I confirmed this today while I was out walking the dog.

The first thing I noticed was an unfamiliar rasping songbird call. It sounded like the combination of "reeee, reeee" and running one's fingers along the teeth of a comb. I can ID a lot of birdcalls, but this one was new to me so it caught my attention. Then I realized there were NO OTHER birdcalls nearby. At all. That's VERY uncharacteristic for that intersection. The closest normal birdcalls I could hear seemed to be coming from at least half a block to a block away.

So I looked up and saw a hawk on a lightpole. I had to zoom the iPhone camera to get a recognizable image, so sorry about visual noise.




Shortly after I took the first images, I saw the bird that had been making the rasping call. An irate mockingbird started buzzing the hawk. I think they have a nest in one of the nearby trees, as it alternated between rasping in the trees and flying at the hawk.





When I turned my attention away from this interaction, and toward picking up after the dog, the hawk flew away. I didn't see what direction it took. But I will be on the alert from now on for absence of songbird calls (except for hostile calls), since that was my first clue that something was going on. If I notice that again, I'm going to start looking around to see if a hawk is around.