Stuck in a Rut and Telemachus

I am in a rut. I’m not sure what a rut is but if this is being stuck in one I enjoy it. I know I am stuck because I am taking basically the same pictures of Chester over and over, mostly lying on the couch. Apparently he is stuck in a rut too. I don’t mind it, it’s a good rut.

I was listening to the radio on the way back from getting bagels and heard Carole King, “It’s Too Late” from the Tapestry album. I sang along with every word. How can I remember that but not where I put my keys? I guess it makes sense as this was the first album I owned and played it so many times I lost count. Growing up in 1971, when the album was released, there were not a lot of women role models in the music business. This album became one of the biggest sellers worldwide, winning 4 grammy awards and spending mega time on the Billboard charts. Not only that but it was one of the albums that defined women in pop music. I still love it!

Did you know this was her cat, named Telemachus? After digging a little I found this picture of Telemachus as a kitten.

In Greek mythology Telemachus was the son of the Greek hero Odysseus and his wife, Penelope. But there is another Telemachus, a monk. According to the church historian Theodoret, bishop ofCyrrhus in Syria, Telemachus had attended gladiator games.

Per Theodoret, “After gazing upon the combat from the amphitheatre, he descended into the arena, and tried to separate the gladiators. The sanguinary spectators, possessed by the demon who delights in the effusion of blood, were irritated at the interruption of their cruel sports, and stoned him who had occasioned the cessation. After being apprised of this circumstance, the admirable emperor numbered him with the victorious martyrs, and abolished these iniquitous spectacles.”

I don’t know which Telemachus the cat is named after but I’m going to try to find out. There are stories about the photo for the album cover but I haven’t found out much about his name. He’s a pretty famous cat. He even has his own t-shirt!

 Anyway, he’s a cute cat (looks a little like Milo) and I thank Carole King for helping me through the often disheartening early teen years. She made me realize that it’s OK to look “normal” (I had the natural long hair too) and take charge of her own music. Love you, Carole!!

So, we had a major breakthrough with our cats, or at least a stalemate. They are now free together overnight. They seem to just ignore each other and so far Chester hasn’t complained that he’s stuck in a bedroom. This is a breakthrough because in the past they would try to kill each other so we kept them separate. I don’t know if they are getting older or just used to each other but it’s a milestone for us!

and Milo….not quite together but coexisting!

We went to another park (here is the rut…a park and cute pics of Chester cute pics of Chester) and some of the spring flowers are just starting to bloom.

It’s early, it has to snow on the daffodils three times before it’s really spring. But it was nice to see. Of course this is what Chester saw on the walk…

Chester is totally hooked on pup cups. He got one at Biggby coffee after our walk, then went to CVS and got a beggin strip. They know him at Biggby now and say, “Hi baby, did you go for a walk? Do you want a pup cup?”  He practically crawls in my lap to give them the big starving eyes.

Pullling up to the Biggby drive through. Ready to give them a show!

They always give him two biscuits in his cup. I think that is more than they give other dogs. Does he look starved? Not hardly.

I’m working on Decibells, our new performance bell choir. We are working hard and planning a concert for 6/3 at 4:00. There is a lot of stuff to do….today I bought a cash box! Honestly, it seems like every fundraiser or show I participate in has that moment when someone wants to donate or pay and the cashbox person isn’t here yet. Right???? I decided that I want the cash box there early in case anyone has the immediate urge to donate. Plus it made me feel legit. I guess if I didn’t win the Powerball (I didn’t) I’ll have to rely on the bake sale. For that we need a cash box!

Enjoy the weekend!

Our Final Christmas (til next December!)

Christmas of 2022 was ridiculous! In a good way, but still…

We visited our kids in Brooklyn NY this past weekend for our third and final Christmas. Between illness and weather, they were not able to come back to Cleveland. It was wonderful to see them. We visited Chamber Street Wines, where our son works.

one of the best in the city!

We went to the Guggenheim Museum which was super cool. The building is in a spiral, and you walk the spiral to see the art.

inside the museum
Alex Katz exhibit…we remember these clothes and hair!
art by Nick Case

We also played Bananagram, a fun scrabble-like game with tiles that look like Chiclets. Of course no NYC trip would be complete without a parking ticket. I’m serious. I double dog dare you to try to drive in NYC and not get a ticket of some kind. It’s not humanly possible.

John was a hero…
The subway was much better!

But it was a nice trip nonetheless. I miss the kids. I don’t know if I will ever be not sad coming home from seeing them in person. They are happy there and I remember being that age and living my life. But I still miss them.  Ah well, whatcha gonna do?

Izzy and Tim at a sweet little cafe with amazing breakfasts

Chester got to spend a few nights at Camp Bow Wow. He does like it there but it sure tires him out. He basically passed out in the car driving home and slept for two days.

He’s getting back to normal, so I’ll take him for a walk later. The weather is not particularly cold…about 37 degrees, which is practically flip flop weather! We’ll go see the lake.

One random complaint about the weather…muddy paw prints. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

Milo and Zeus missed us; Milo decided I’m not allowed to stop petting him and is lying on my arm so I can’t type.

OK now on to the Super Bowl and an internal conflict. I like football. Actually, I like fantasy football, but I like to watch too. There is nothing like a Browns game on a Sunday afternoon to prompt a nice nap on the couch.

But it seems a little barbaric at the same time. Are we still watching the gladiators in the arena? I would not want my grandkids to play football. But I still want to watch it. While I watch the game and more importantly the usually underwhelming and over-hyped halftime show and commercials, a small voice in my head says football is not going to be part of our psyche at some point. Something will happen; something to change our viewpoint. I’m not trying to be dramatic, unlike the usually over-dramatic halftime show…just admitting that I’m a hypocrite when it comes to football. However….

NOT THE PUPPY BOWL! I love the puppy bowl and kittie halftime show. I love the corny jokes, the birds and other assorted critters who make guest appearances and the referee. Most of all I love the cause. Our shelters here in Cleveland are overwhelmed. If we could squeeze in one more pet we would, but our house is full up. In NYC everyone seems to have a dog; they were all out walking! Cats aren’t as lucky there, but our kids adopted two spoiled ones.

I understand that there is a bump in adoptions following the puppy bowl, so fingers crossed some of these guys (especially the adults) get a second chance. We are certainly glad we chose Chester (or he chose us) since he has been a great addition to our family. (minus the muddy paw prints!)

It wasn’t me!

Have a great week!

Groundhog Day revisited

I wrote this post in 2019. Believe me it seems like yesterday! Some things have changed…apparently Phil wrote a nice little poem to predict 6 more weeks of winter. And, he didn’t bite his handler. I was kind of rooting for that but Phil was on his best behavior. Anyway, I wrote this after the best Groundhog Day and sister trip to Punxsutawney, PA. If you’ve been a reader here for long, you may have seen it, but I added some pictures to spice it up. (no, not that way….) This is my way of telling my sister she’s loved no matter what shenanigans she gets me into! Enjoy!

Welcome to Punxsutawney!!

When I was two years and 19 days old my sister was born. From that day on it was my job to torment her. When we were teens, we fought over clothing, the phone, and everything else. I realized recently that the problem wasn’t that I didn’t like my sister, it’s that I wished I was more like her. She had all the traits in high school that I envied. She had friends that laughed, partied, and probably a lot more that I wouldn’t know about. She had cool clothes and long, curly hair. In college, when I talked her into going through sorority rush, she had the Pi Phis attention. The Pi Phis wouldn’t look at me. I was quieter, and not as confident. But we all grow and change. Somewhere in our metamorphosis into decent adults, the idea of Bucket List Adventures was born.

It all began a few years back, I think at Christmas, when my sister said she wanted to go to Groundhog Day in Punxsuatawney, PA. She said it was on her bucket list. I’m not sure why, but I wanted to go too.  We set the hotel alarm for 12:30am and drove to Punxsuatawney. That is quite a drive in the middle of the night, hilly, winding, and dark. We sat in the Walmart parking lot until the bus to Gobbler’s Knob came at 2:50am. We put on our groundhog hats, hopped on, and were right up front by 3:00.

3:00am and we are pumped!!

Keep in mind that Phil doesn’t come out and give his prediction until 7:20 or so.  We nailed a spot right next to the camera stand; with a perfect view of the dj and people dressed up like groundhogs giving high fives. For four hours and twenty minutes we stood in slight drizzle and listened to the band, cheered on the high school dance team, and groaned at bad jokes. We jumped up and down to “Wake Me Up” and yelled “Winner, winner chicken dinner” with the crowd. When at about 6am they started throwing around beach balls, the balls became covered in mud. We didn’t want to get muddy, so whenever a mudball would come at us we would stuff it under the camera stand. We put three or four out of commission that way.  We reached a feverish pitch when the fireworks exploded. Finally, with about 14,000 people behind us, it was time.  Phil emerged, with the assistance of a man who didn’t even seem to mind that he got bit.  Phil was lifted to the fireworks-hazy sky as a king. Right when he was about to make his prediction some stupid lady behind us fainted. People were calling for the medics and to stop the show. Ha! Silly people, nothing stops the groundhog. She should have toughed it out like we did. What a wimp. No matter. The top hat clad men of the inner circle put two scrolls on a surface about two feet apart, and Phil waddled to one of them, sniffing it. That’s how he made his prediction.

The blurry grey thing on the right is Phil. This was at 7:something AM mind you.

It was then that my sister lost it. She is a naturalist and thought there was more scientific process behind the Phil pick. There was no sunlight to see his shadow; it was still dark, and with the firework haze nothing could shine through anyway. She was crushed and appalled that it was so random. We and the crowd of 14,000 walked through the mud that would take us to the buses that would take us back down the hill to the town. We walked our muddy selves to the Walmart parking lot and drove away looking for coffee. Keep in mind that we had not had coffee that morning because we wouldn’t be able to go to the bathroom and it was raining. We were cold and wet. My sister was still peeved about the lack of reputable weather skill exhibited by the great Phil. I was just tired. We needed coffee. By the way, he predicted 6 more weeks of winter which is actually a no-brainer around here. I could have predicted that and I’m not even a groundhog.

We arrived at some Denny’s like restaurant and were seated, then ignored. I noticed that table after table got coffee and we didn’t. Finally our waitress made the rounds. She stopped at the table next to us and made a comment about “these groundhog people” making it slow. Now I was both tired and peeved. When she came to us, I loudly told her that we ARE those groundhog people, and if she didn’t want us there we would leave. I even started to stand up. Of course she backpedaled, apologized and got us the coffee. Damn right. My sister stared at me like I grew three heads. What she doesn’t know is that I will always stand up for her. Nobody is going to deny my sister coffee just because she is a groundhog person. She is my little sister after all, and I love her. I can torment her the rest of the year.

Happy Birthday Chester!

Today is Chester’s birthday. According to the information we received when we adopted him, he was born on 1/27.

He is 10 years old today! He will be getting a treat of kong stuffing, which is dog food, peanut butter, cheddar cheese and ham. Oh yes, it is disgusting but not to him.

Ten years old is getting old in dog years. We have had him for about 5 years of his life. When we got him we didn’t know what he would be like. The vet at the kennel said he was a “nice gentleman.” After climbing over the fence the second day we had him we became aware that squirrels were not a commodity to be taken for granted. They were new and unusual to Chester and must be pursued to the ends of the earth.

Picture by the amazing Brittaney. We were both working so she would come over and walk him during the day. He’s so skinny!

We realized that we would have to get to know him, and we’d all have some edges to sand in order to merge as a family.

We learned that he would tear apart boxes, stuffed animals and anything that squeaked. He didn’t eat them, just tore them up. We learned to watch that he didn’t eat the squeaker.

Did I do that??

We learned that he loves to eat. Period.

Please drop something!

We learned that he will go into an active period right before bed, going in and outside in the eternal quest for treats, until he finally crashes.

We learned that we can trust him completely with our grandkids. He loves kids in general.

We learned that while he gets along with most dogs, his mortal enemy is Enzo. Even Enzo lookalikes get the hackles raised. He’s also afraid of some dogs and will want to go the other direction. On the other hand, he wants to go by Zoe’s house every day just to catch a glimpse of her. Cue the music… “on the street where you live…..”

Chester and his friend, Buckley

His excitement for the day is his walk and protecting us from the Amazon, UPS and mail carriers.

I know I heard one of those evil trucks.

In the spring he revels in the mud, and in the winter, the snow.

Always on the lookout for raccoons or cats, he is a sentinel monitoring our backyard.

Keeping the interlopers out of our backyard.

A bunny sends him into a fit of tail wagging and jumping in circles until we let him out (very noisily to let the bunny get away!)

You let me have this blue bunny…but not the brown ones???

Now he is in a routine, just like we are. He sleeps on the couch more but so do I! Chester is such a good dog. We are lucky to have him. I tell him so every day.

We love this old boy and he loves us. He’s funny, quirky, expressive, and smart. I’m so grateful he is still going strong. We are appreciative of each day with our walking partner. Nice gentleman indeed! Happy birthday, sweet buddy.

Getting lost and UT

Yesterday I took my grandson to a parking lot to ride his bike. Today it’s snowing. Ah, well, Cleveland weather. We saw some interesting things around the parking lot and it was nice to get outside.

I just don’t know…

Chester and I went to a park not long ago and got lost. Those who know me are aware of my propensity for lostness. Was it a new park? Nope. Same one we usually go to. In my defense there are two we usually go to, and in both you can park in one parking lot and hike to a second lot. We did this, seeing some cool (literally) waves and ice like this picture.

If you look closely it is ice that looks like broken glass. I’m not sure how it broke into such even pieces. Or if it just formed that way. We hiked to the observation tower but had to hike back to get to the car. This was where I made my crucial mistake. I thought that (like the other park) you could walk back on the road and get to the other parking lot. Sadly I was mistaken. When the road curved around some fields of who knows what and I heard the sweet sounds of dueling banjos in my head, I began to suspect that we were not exactly on point. I could see part of the trail down a steep embankment and thought about bushwhacking but since there was a creek down there somewhere I decided to just retrace our footsteps and catch the trail at the second parking lot. We were fine, but Chester was really tired! When he got home he just crashed on the floor and couch.

Here he is giving me his “quit taking pictures and let me sleep” look.

Ah well, just another day in the life. I did get him a pup cup on the way home so he can’t complain too much!

Speaking of getting lost, we visited the University of Toledo last weekend.

John and I graduated from UT (back then it was TU, they decided UT sounded better I guess). UT has grown a lot since we went there! We wandered around the main area, remembering but not remembering.

There were lots of comments like, “I think the engineering building was there” and “Was that the little building where we (you) had to pay parking fines?” We had a nice day and enjoyed our walk but a lot has changed. University Hall reminded me of a literature prof who broke her leg and would sit and read Chaucer to us. Not my favorite way to spend a summer.

John remembered and identified the jogging path through a neighborhood we used to run. We took a recreation class together; he was a lot faster than I was but it was a good memory.

We debated if the student union was the same until we walked from it to the library. It was so weird, muscle memory took over and our years at UT just flooded back, walking to the library to study and sitting at the student union. Our feet automatically took us to the library. What a warm feeling. It was like coming home.

It’s funny; the years at UT were not dramatic or traumatic or any other tic. I hadn’t thought of them for a long time. But my body, old as it is, remembered and all of a sudden I was back there again. The years there were happy. It seems that we remember the tic years but not the sweet ones. We had another happy day at UT, nothing exciting, just walking around together. We did find the engineering building but wow, the program must have grown because there were several engineering buildings moved across the street. Either that or they figured that engineers were in a league of their own and exiled them! The jury is out. We ended our walk at the bookstore. Believe it or not they do still have used textbooks for sale. The clerk said many of the texts are online now, so they will be revamping the store to reflect the need for fewer books. I remember complaining that we’d spend $50 on a book then return it and get something like $7. I wanted to buy a textbook just to read another person’s notes in the margins but I opted for a shirt instead. Go Rockets!

I started a puzzle I got for Christmas and got the border done so far. I’m thinking that working on it would be a good idea instead of going outside in the windy, snowy, sleety day. Take care and have a nice warm weekend!

The Bobber Cooler

Every Christmas my sister, brother and their families and us gather at one of our houses for the family Christmas. We used to congregate at my dad’s house, but when he died years ago we started a new tradition. The tradition was tweaked over the years, especially during the pandemic, but I think I can say at this point it is what it is.

Chester is not too happy with the cold weather. Plus I made him wait while I took a picture.

Have you ever played the game where you place a wrapped gift somewhere (usually under a tree or on a table) and someone can pick it? Then you can trade back and forth until finally everybody is all traded out. Theoretically everyone goes home happy. We do that but with the stipulation that the gift should be one our father would likely have purchased.

Dad was a quirky gentleman who bought quirky gifts. He would get pounds and pounds of catalogs (before online shopping) and at one point the mailperson complained. It didn’t matter, he just ordered more. He would keep notes on what he ordered. The problem was (depending on if you think it is a problem) he couldn’t stop. He would see just one more thing for someone and had to purchase it. Then he’d have to purchase something else, and stuff for stockings. Yes, he put up stockings for everyone, and if the gifts overflowed, he would place a paper bag on the hearth and call it the “annex.” His tree was a live one, but small, and stood on a card table with all the gifts underneath.

My dad had good taste, but he enjoyed humorous gifts too. Usually it was appreciated except maybe the egg separator that looked like a nose. The egg whites came out the nostrils. I never used it…I just couldn’t. But we are even—we once got him a little wooden boy that would pee into dad’s pond when you attached the hose just right. He never put it outside. Really? He didn’t mind the snotty egg but drew the line at pee boy? Anyway, when we started our sibs Christmas, we agreed that the gift we purchased should be anonymous, around $30-40, and remind us of Dad.

Dad loved to fish. I have written about his fishing obsession; the fish are breathing/gilling easier now that he’s no longer around to outsmart them (whether he ever was is up for debate).

The great fisherman in younger years, contemplating his prize.

During the winter he would examine his tackle and name the red and white round bobbers…”whatta bobber”, “ali bobber” for example, and write these names on his bobbers with a sharpie.

One of the originals
and sometimes they had faces…

Imagine my delight when I found the perfect Dad gift at Best Buy! It was a cooler that looked like a bobber! I wrapped it up knowing that someone would love this rather large memento. They did, it was a roaring success!

There are quite a few available on ebay for some reason.

The next year, a family member decided to continue the happiness and bought another bobber cooler. Now there were two in the family! How delightful! The next year, I believe someone bought one and filled it up with beer or something, which (hard to believe) actually increased the trading value. At this point there were mumbles coming from the family that the bobber cooler may have possibly outlived it’s appeal. The next few years people actually predicted and avoided the large bobber cooler packages, since everybody (almost) had one. Yes, almost, because I did not have one.

This year, I chose a large package because frankly I’m getting old and forgetful and I had forgotten about the bobber cooler possibility. My brother brought it to the party and he picks…interesting gifts like the cat going Godzilla on the gnomes that I got a couple years ago.

I opened it and to my surprise it was a bobber cooler!

I don’t know if he is concerned about the cooler or what is inside but he isn’t having it.

It was not just a bobber cooler but a bobber cooler full of pork rinds, sweet potato chips, churro chips and pistachios.

My husband has been working on the pistachios and I finished the churro chips already. Not sure what’s going to become of the pork rinds. Chester kind of likes them, as does my husband…but that’s a lot of pork rinds even for a hound. Another surprise was that nobody stole it from me!? I tried to hide it by surreptitiously keeping it in the bag and scooting it behind my legs but nobody even looked my way. Their loss.

At the end we reveal what we purchased so we can thank the person (I wasn’t supposed to know that it was my brother’s but I saw him come in with it so…can’t fool a former investigator!) My sister-in-law exclaimed to my brother, “Did you give away our bobber cooler?” and “I can’t believe you gave away our bobber cooler!” Somebody is in the doghouse…but we are going to take it back for a visit this summer when they host the first official Bobber Cooler Day at their pool. This may be at the end of the “Donut Trail” outing, a trip you can take in Ohio where you visit bakeries and donut shops. Did you ever go to a Krispy Kreme donut shop and watch the glazed donuts go down the assembly ramp? They used to give us a free one and it was still warm. Did you ever want to lay on a Krispy Kreme roller and be coated with glaze? But I digress….Kentucky has their Bourbon Trail, Ohio does donuts!

Hope your New Year is starting off swimmingly! Chester and the cats are all fine and Chester met a new girlfriend, Zoe, a puppy in the neighborhood. I love it when he makes friends! Have a good week!

Zoe tired him out!

Life fantastic and Christmas on hold

Every year some string of outdoor lights doesn’t work. I’m not sure why…they literally sit in the garage all year without moving. Our weather is not extreme usually so what the heck? But every year it happens. This year it was the lights to the little pine tree next to the garage. We put up the rest and I figured I’d run to the store and get a short string. Sadly, neither CVS nor Dollar General had any lights. I decided to order some online. I ordered a 70 light set of bright pink lights. Why not? When they came, this is the box.

Yes, I did not simply get bright pink lights. I got lights that illuminate my life fantastic! They are LED fairy string lights too! On the back of the box, it says “ These lights will last a long time and you no need to keep on buying new ones year after year. These lights will not overheat and you can leave them on for days.” Wait, days? Despite the dubious reassurance that they won’t burn the house down, and the grammatical error suggesting a job opportunity for a proofreader or interpreter, I am intrigued by the promise that I shall not need to keep buying new ones. That would indeed be a Christmas miracle! They do look beautiful on the little tree!

Unfortunately, here east of Cleveland, Mother Nature decided to give us a white Christmas.

It was just overkill on the white. Our kids were going to drive back from NYC Friday, but since the weather forecast was for the storm of the century and we weren’t feeling well anyway, they decided not to. For once the usually way-too-dramatic weather anchors were spot on. The Ohio turnpike closed for crying out loud and that never happens. We got a fair amount of snow but it was more the blowing and cold that caused whiteout conditions. With being sick and snowed in, we watched Christmas movies and specials.

One of the specials was an “Old Time Radio Christmas.” Oh my gosh it was so bad. How bad was it? Well let me tell you…there was a bad guy named Uncle Barnaby. Alan and Jane were trying to figure out something and Jane sang a song about “I can’t do the sums” where she couldn’t do math. She was quite cheery about it. Ummm…STEM anyone??? No wonder. There was also a girl named Contrary Mary who sang about being contrary. Alan asked her if she would be contrary if he married her. She said yes. You go girl! Might as well lay it out there. They went on some adventure that I honestly couldn’t describe if you paid me. Uncle Barnaby attempted to drown them. There was a commercial about puffed wheat shot from guns. They sang “Toyland.” I think this was actually “Babes in Toyland” because they met Bo Peep along the way. Then we turned it off. I am still confused. I’m not sure what happened to Alan and Jane or Mary, they could be wandering the forest still. Uncle Barnaby went on to greater villain things I’m sure.

The snow also buried two out of three of my solar powered Christmas chickens. But one is blazing away! Chester did not go for walks for a couple days, but he had a great Christmas. He has eaten so many treats I had to loosen his harness.

Zeus and Milo got a pretty plaid blanket to curl up in, and Zeus took it over. They got treats too though and Milo is treat motivated. He is motivated to get more treats.

We haven’t’ had our Christmas yet with the kids and aren’t sure when it will happen. Truth is there are two ways of looking at Christmas. If Christmas for you is about Jesus’ birth, there is one meaningful Christmas Day. This is reassuring because no matter what happens with our family customs or weather (things we can’t control) like they say in The Grinch, couldn’t stop Christmas from coming, it came all the same. No matter where we are or what we are doing, like Mary and Joseph, Jesus’ birth gives pause. (I realize that the actual historical day may not really be on December 25, but that’s when we celebrate it so…)  But, if Christmas to you is about family and friends and goodwill, then Christmas can happen any time, and should probably not have an expiration date. Christmas day may be consistent but the Christmas spirit can roll on as long as you want it to. If Christmas is not something you celebrate, then disregard this last paragraph, it’s just what I am thinking about. I need to get out with Chester more to have deep and random thoughts while attempting not to wipe out in front of the neighbors.

We did get out today since it hit 51 degrees here! A lot of the snow is melting which sends Chester into mega sniff mode. We joked that he is receiving all sorts of messages from his girlfriends. They were buried under the snow, just like my sheet music is buried at the post office. It was a nice walk and the ice on Lake Erie was cool literally. It will likely melt a bit as we are supposed to reach 60 next week! Go figure.

Whatever your holiday traditions I hope you are doing well what with the craziness and weather and illness around. Let’s ring in a new year with hope. Happy New Year!! Be safe!

Children’s Wonderland and Mold-a-Rama delight

Growing up in Toledo, Ohio and being only 3 hours away by car, we would try to get back once a month or so, and definitely at Christmas. When we were first married, we would alternate where we would spend the night between my husband’s family home and mine. They were very different, primarily because my family had three dogs. The first two were good dogs, the third peed in our open suitcase. And on my husband.

Anyway, once we had children, we wanted to take them somewhere and learned that “Children’s Wonderland” was at the rec center. Children’s Wonderland was (and still is I believe) an animatronic and moving figures fake snow glitter blinking lights Christmas destination. There were pretend skaters, raccoons around a campfire, Santa’s house, and for real Santa!

Visiting Wonderland quickly became an annual tradition even when the kids were a little old for it.

Why did we keep going you ask? Well, the holy grail of grails was at the end of the dream adventure into wonderland. The exit lead us into a cafeteria. They had two-dollar hot dogs and chips and pop. As good as the two-dollar hot dogs were after steaming on a moving steamer for a couple hours, that alone would not have lured us into the transformed rec center with teenagers (I think I enjoyed it more than they did but they had to go with us even though they probably would have rather watched “The Price is Right” with Grandma.) No, there were treasures in that cafeteria that put the two-dollar hot dogs to shame. You see, against the walls were about ten “Mold-a-Rama” injection molding machines. For only a dollar (or so) you, yes you, could have a plastic memento of Christmas!

This was accomplished by putting money into the machine of your choice to get either the reindeer, the angel, a snowman, Santa, a train or some other Christmas symbol. Sadly (or not) none of the machines formed a baby Jesus into a plastic tchotchke.

Apparently the Mold-a-Rama machines are found at zoos and other “tourist attractions” like Children’s Wonderland. I looked into it a bit and found this alligator wrestler one at Gatorland in Florida.

The best thing about the machines is that when the item dropped out, it was HOT. And it smelled like burnt plastic. Well, duh, how did you think they made them? Christmas magic? We would toss the plastic hot potato back and forth in our hands until it cooled. If we dropped them a dent may form in the angel’s wing or omething. Then we took them home, hoping that they would hold up. One year we tried to paint them but when we put the Christmas stuff in the attic the paint all cracked. It was too much, and we never again messed with the naked beauty of injection molded cheesiness.

Similar to the crushed penny machines, these machines needed maintenance now and again. One year we happened to arrive when the owner/maintenance/injection molding cheerleader and self-appointed crusader was working on a machine. He told us all about the life of an owner/maintenance etc person and how much fun Mold-a-Rama injection machines were. Apparently his father did it before him so he grew up in the business and took it pretty seriously. He told us that he services from Ohio to Florida. He then invited us out to his van to see something.

Don’t worry! This was back in the 80s, and he didn’t offer us candy so it was OK! He opened his van where he had random injection molds representing the various nuances of Christmas in other states. One such mold was a stingray from a Florida machine.

He gave the boys the blue stingray so they could experience diverse Christmas culture because apparently stingrays pull the sled in Florida. We never saw him again, but we knew that we could rely on the very best in injection molding support. Our family continued to go to Children’s Wonderland until they closed for a few years. Now they are open with limited hours.   I noticed they have a new machine…a polar bear! I might have to make a quick trip to Toledo!

I feel the need to mention the ugly sweater parties and such…I have just spent six hundred or so words being snarky. But I never snark about sweaters. I just feel like when we make fun of what people wear we are not being kind. All sweaters are beautiful in the eyes of the wearer so far be it for me to criticize what anyone wear. If someone’s vision of beauty is a little over the top for me to wear, who cares? OK I’m off the soapbox.

As for Chester, he is happy even though there is no snow yet. I’ve been giving him these fish oil and other mysterious stuff tablets designed to fight stiffness. He’s just a little stiff now, groans a little, kind of like we do when we try to get up out of a chair or off the floor after putting water in the Christmas tree stand. He still enjoys his walks and trips to Bigby’s coffee drive through where they gave him a pup cup of whipped cream.

Honestly, spoiled rotten. Have a good week and may injection mold machines pop up in your neck of the woods!

Parades and OSU/Michigan

Something weird happened on Thanksgiving. We have our traditions—we clean like crazy and cook a lot on Wednesday then finish cooking and cleaning on Thursday, then have about 11-12 people over for dinner. All of that went swimmingly but I am not sure who actually did it. I don’t think it was me. I think a clone has taken over.

One of the traditions is to watch the Thanksgiving Macy’s Parade. Usually we watch it for about five minutes then groan a few times about the cheesy singing and lip synching (we grew up in the 70s where that was frowned upon) and wait hopefully for a balloon to fly into a lamp post or attack the crowd. The parade started out like always, with a Broadway number. Suddenly out of my snarky lips came “Wow it’s Lea Michele” and I ran into the family room to watch it. I liked it! I liked the Rockettes, the giant Spirit of America crowd dancing to “Run Rudolph, Run”, the women with their heads literally inside of presents, the Lego robots, and the band that played the 1812 Overture.

After each one was another balloon…some of the characters were unknown to me, but “Bluey!!” escaped my lips as my husband shook his head and mopped the floor. What happened? I couldn’t think of a single sarcastic thing to say. I watched the whole freakin parade. Pikachu!!! The singing Christmas tree!!! Delightful!!

So who was this person? In The Addams Family musical there is a song where Wednesday mulls over finding bunnies and birdies “impossibly cute.” That’s what happened! All of a sudden it was like I was replaced with this happy, enthusiastic sugary cookie. Sheesh.

I didn’t care. The replacement me continued on gamely, not concerned about the food being cold (well maybe a little), or forgetting something (I put sticky notes on the table to remind myself of each dish…). I was happy well into the next day.

Chester was being a pain in the butt though, he was in his crate and every time our dear brother stood up he would pitch a barking fit. Honestly, I told him he was going to camp next year. My husband took him for a long walk before dinner and we put his Kong in his crate, but he was determined to make brother’s life miserable. He was fine when brother was sitting but as soon as he got up Chester became Cujo. Good grief.

Now it’s Saturday. Time to put away happy me and get my game face on. You see, today is the Ohio State/Michigan game. We are pariahs in Cleveland. We are…(drum roll please)…Michigan fans. We grew up in Toledo and just like every other child of a certain age, we declared our allegiance. John and I joined the Michigan alliance. It’s a good thing, because we wouldn’t have been able to marry each other if we were of warring factions.

Toledo is split fairly evenly. Supposedly this was due to the ”Toledo War.” From Wikipedia: “The Toledo War (1835–36), also known as the Michigan–Ohio War or the Ohio–Michigan War, was an almost bloodless boundary dispute between the U.S. state of Ohio and the adjoining territory of Michigan over what is now known as the Toledo Strip. Control of the mouth of the Maumee River and the inland shipping opportunities it represented, and the good farmland to the west were seen by both parties as valuable economic assets.”

Basically, Ohio and Michigan both wanted Toledo. I can see why, it’s a great place to live, and I’m not being sarcastic. The Metroparks are fantastic, the restaurant scene is great, and people are moving downtown. We lived about a mile or less from Michigan, which was interesting when in the 1970s the Michigan drinking age was lowered to 18 for a few years while Ohio stayed at 21. No, I didn’t take advantage. Anyway, that is neither here nor there, but to say that the Michigan/Ohio State rivalry was intense in Toledo.

Our son married outside the faith. He married a girl from an Ohio State family. Here in Cleveland, most people are Ohio State fans. In fact, I only know two other Michigan fans which is a pretty sad state of affairs. Her family is delightful but everyone has a few faults. Still, when the grandkids were born, we all agreed not to try to influence them. It’s sometimes like the “no turkey” scene in a Christmas Story…no baby Michigan onesies, no Ohio State burp rags, no Michigan stocking caps, no Ohio State diapers. We decided they can make their choice when they are older at a lavish ceremony. That doesn’t stop us from betting on the game with the in-laws! We decided to bet that whoever loses has to display an ornament of the other’s team on their Christmas tree. Last year the Michigan ornament hung proudly from the in-law tree. What a beautiful tree it was! This year we look to repeat the glory. The war of the ornaments will commence at noon today. I hope to have some positive news for my annual Christmas letter since my Fantasy Football team has yet to win a game. The Killer Tomatoes are dismal.

On to Christmas! The weather is beautiful here today so we are going to take advantage and put up our outdoor Christmas lights. There is no roof climbing or anything, and it looks nice. I’ve been listening to Christmas music for about a month. Again, who is this person who took over my body? I usually forbid Christmas music until after Thanksgiving. There is a lot of really bad Christmas music out there but I’m happily letting Sirius get it out there hoping the good stuff is yet to come. I’m sure it is, there’s no such thing as bad Christmas music. I didn’t just type that, my clone did.

Enjoy this nice weekend!

Go Michigan!

Puddles Pity Party and ketchup

I am generally a pretty happy person. I enjoy life and am positive. But every so often a cloud will form and I end up down in the dumps. Last week I had a couple days like that…little things kept adding up, like my prescription being messed up, McDonalds not giving us ketchup, being sick with some stupid viral thing, and the bell choir really needing ringers which I was not delivering. All of these are manageable, but sometimes I end up in a mode where I look at everything with a glass half empty view. That’s depression.

There’s a line in a song called “Settle for Satin” by Alkaline Trio that says “It’s not so much a storm but just a cloud that lingers over me, it doesn’t scare so easily but when it wakes it goes the distance.” I think that is one of the best lines to describe depression. It’s hard to pull out of . I have been on antidepressants for more than 20 years and am aware of what to expect when I start to spiral down. I can do things to try to halt it early. What I’ve learned is that I have to recognize and address it. My strategy? When I start to feel sad, I listen to sad songs.

Doesn’t make sense? It does, because I have to acknowledge the cloud before I can put it to rest and move on. This is in no way a recommendation for you, but it works for me. Luckily, my awesome husband discovered Puddles Pity Party in the nick of time!

My husband has become a connoisseur of you tube videos. I think he started watching them while working on an old hit and miss engine that theoretically will make ice cream. He says we will have ice cream next summer. The neighbors are holding him to it. I think we’ll need a music box that plays one of the inane ice cream truck songs over and over and over. When the ice cream truck stops it reminds me of when our boat in the “Small World” Disney ride got stopped for about 10 minutes. It was delightful to hear that song repeated and see the happy little animatrons merrily cavorting, everybody singing together even if we are all strapped in a boat with no chance of escaping the infernal happiness. I think a song like that will encourage the children on the street to partake of the frozen delights. I’ll have to run that past him. He has put a couple videos of his engine on You Tube, a feat which impresses the heck out of me. I can’t even take a good picture of Chester.

Anyway, we watch mostly funny pets and kids, or the “First We Feast” hot sauce interviews. But sometimes he finds things that are a little… off. I’m not sure what prompted him to click on “America’s Got Talent” Puddles Pity Party. I looked up from reading the latest Andy Carpenter mystery and there was my new hero. Puddles Pity Party is a sad clown. He doesn’t talk. Simon was giving his snarky half-smirk, etc, when Puddles came onstage. Puddles sang a song, “Chandelier” by Sia and I was hooked.

I get Puddles. Apparently a lot of other people did too, and what rock have I been under that I didn’t know about him until now?? The show was in 2017. So in my downward slide, I became immersed in Puddles songs. I watched videos of “I Want to Know What Love Is”, “All by Myself” and gosh, about 5 more, even a Pink Floyd one until finally wallowing in “Everybody Hurts.” Guess what? It worked. Something about Puddles got through. So any of you who also are clawing your way back out of a valley or just enjoy something unique, check it out! Honestly, it’s not a parody, I think he really cares about people. If not, it’s a good act and I don’t mind.

Now let’s just talk about McDonald’s for a minute, shall we? Every Thursday I take the grandkid to Adrenaline Monkey so he can become an American Ninja Warrior or at least work off some energy. Littler grandkid goes too so that mommy and daddy can breathe for a hot minute. Littler grandkid and I have a tradition of going to McDonald’s while bigger grandkid is in Adrenaline Monkey running up warped walls and flying from ring to ring. Who do you think has the better deal..? Anyway, this must be the world’s worst McDonald’s. We have gone there for about 6 weeks and every single week we ask for extra ketchup. The grandkids want nothing but ketchup on their food. They order cheeseburgers with only ketchup, and large fries with ketchup, and chicken nuggets with “no sauce, only ketchup.” I picture the workers laughing when we say this because for 5 out of 6 weeks we get…NO KETCHUP. NOT A SINGLE FREAKIN PACKET!! We are lucky to get the apple slices in the happy meal, we are batting about 500 there. One week I was driving and bigger grandson started to gag and cough. I panicked, asking him if he was OK, and all he could choke out was “a pickle.” So apparently they do have pickles because they put one on his burger. But ketchup? Nada. Why do we still go there? As Tevye says, “Tradition!”

Tonight is another McDonald’s night. This time I am ready for them. I was putting flyers up for Decibells and the Convenient store was packed with Powerball players. They were busy so I wandered around, and seeing no bulletin board I started toward the door when I noticed bins with packets of ketchup, mustard, and mayo. God help my soul, but I grabbed a handful of the ketchups and ran for the door. Chester and I floored the Subaru and I am now ready to shake a handful of the packets at the McDonald’s window and laugh maniacally. I can’t wait.

I didn’t include much about Chester today, but it has been absolutely beautiful here. It could stay like this forever and I’d be OK. We have noticed that there is a plethora of acorns and giant leaves this year.

The acorns are pretty aggressive too, you could be seriously injured by some of the big ones! Here are some of our highlights! Take care and hang in there!