Identity crises and scary turkeys…

Our neighborhood suffers from an identity crisis. I thought it was bad when the godawful election signs were up like pimples on a smooth cheek, upping each other in numbers and finally adding flags to the mix. Yes, some of our otherwise reasonable neighbors had flags supporting their candidate. They won the flag war, what else can I say? 

And now we have the weekend before Thanksgiving, a time that is usually 25 degrees and sleeting. Not this weekend however, we are at about …excuse me for a minute, Milo the cat just snozzed on my finger. I have to go wash my hands.

As I was saying before being so rudely interrupted by flying Milo snot, it’s a beautiful fall day here in Cleveland. It’s cool, maybe jacket weather, and by cool I mean about 45. If it was 50 or more it would be t-shirts, and 60 or more we break out the flip flops. This weather abnormality causes our neighbors to go into house-panic mode. Some are busy bagging leaves—I have not heard so many leaf blower motors at one time ever. I couldn’t even hear my husband when he said we needed to put all the patio stuff in the shed. Huh, what was that? I can’t hear you over the leaf blowers.. It didn’t work, we actually accomplished that, at least most of it. I threw a couple ears of corn in our yard for the squirrels hoping that they would take them next door at some point. At least before we have to mow again next year.

But back to the neighbors…they don’t know what to do with this weather. They are confused. Is it Thanksgiving or Christmas? We all can be forgiven for losing track of days and this doesn’t help. Some are blowing leaves with their pumpkins still out and others are blowing leaves and putting up the Christmas decorations. We have one house in its Thanksgiving happiness…and right next door, I swear you not is a house ready for St. Nick…

Still Thanksgiving
Moving on to Christmas

Then there are those who transition gradually or can’t make up their minds…

Something for everyone

I can relate to all of them.

We are still in Thanksgiving mode at our house but it’s a pretty sad Thanksgiving. I’m actually very down about this. Thanksgiving is my jam. Everyone comes to our house and as much as I love the meal, I love the company more. We have Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetable (like green bean only mixed veggies and cheddar cheese) casserole, sweet potato casserole with butter and marshmallows melted on top, pumpkin pie, apple pie brought by the kids, kielbasa made by my brother in law, wine brought by the alternate grandparent universe, and cranberry sauce two ways. One is what my brother brings that falls out of a can and shows the indentation of the can and jiggles and has absolutely no relationship to real cranberries. I’m sorry but real cranberries do not, and I repeat do NOT make that plop sound as they suction themselves out of the can and land on the plate like The Blob. There is also the right kind (I’m a cranberry snob) with orange zest, sugar and fresh, real cranberries that burst when you boil them. I notice that frequently the jiggly stuff disappears and my fresh cranberries are left. Some of my family has no taste.  Oh, and don’t forget the rolls. One year, I burned the rolls. I got so much grief for it that I didn’t make them the next year so my son did. Of course they were perfect. So now the question every Thanksgiving is, “did Jeff make the rolls?”

This year we aren’t having our Thanksgiving, at least not now. Nobody is comfortable when we are in the “purple zone” here, and other states don’t want us around them. I plan to send an invite for a date in June for Thanksgiving. We are going to make a meal, and will talk to everyone, but it’s not the same. And it makes me really sad.

However, that is no excuse to jump into Christmas. I keep telling myself that as the presents pile up. I find a certain solace in purchasing gifts. Shoot, I like buying stuff. It helps ease the Thanksgiving blues. But it’s just not time yet for Christmas lights. Are we giving up EVERY tradition we have? Putting up lights without frostbitten fingers is just unamerican. Or at least not worthy of any true Clevelander!

Don’t feel like I’m criticizing you if you aren’t a true Clevelander. It’s OK, really. Actually if I had to put up the lights by myself I might be doing it now also. But we (I am certainly speaking for my husband) have to draw the line somewhere.

Anyway, taking Chester for a walk today we observed the different decorations in the neighborhood. At one point he would not continue. He was afraid of the birds. By birds, I mean two giant inflatable turkeys on either side of the street. Here is a picture of one of them; they were too big to get them both.

I dragged him past them and they didn’t attack us but it was like walking a gauntlet. I pictured Tippi Hedren in The Birds, running with little Veronica Cartwright (later of Alien fame) while the birds pecked their hair. My hair looks so frizzy during the pandemic I can totally understand. But just imagine these two turkeys (the inflatables not Tippi and Veronica) coming at me and Chester. Scary stuff.

We used to buy tanks and chicken fireworks that you would light and put on the ground and have wars with. Whichever one caught on fire was the loser. It was great fun if you didn’t stand too close. These turkeys looked like they were going to start spitting sparks out of their beaks at each other. We walked a little quicker but we did make it through unscathed.

When Chester doesn’t want to walk somewhere, he just stops. He is over 70 pounds and gives me a look that says “go ahead and try but I’m not moving.” And he doesn’t. We go where he wants to go. Below is a picture of that look. My husband lets him go wherever he wants to go. He figures the walk is for Chester, so he should have some choice. I do not. Phooey on choice. Chester and I go the same way almost every time. I am boring. This time though, he was not having it and no matter how much I tried to drag him, I couldn’t do it. I appreciated his spirit. Only a doting dog owner would take a picture of their doggie engaged in civil disobedience and think it’s cute. But it is! We stood there awhile and then went where he wanted to go.

I hope you have a good Thanksgiving. I plan to get my Christmas letter and cards out. If you would like one, email me and let me know (for those that don’t already get one) otherwise you will be spared. Enjoy your feasts or traditions and do whatever makes you happy. Touch base with someone you love. And let’s be thankful to be alive and well. Take care!

Drinking, Packo’s and yet another bunny…

Well, I missed my Friday post. What happened is that my husband made me drink a holiday ale from Great Lakes Brewing. I’m not sure if it was Octoberfest or a Christmas ale but it was good enough to drink way too quickly. Now two things can happen when I drink just about any alcohol; I fall asleep or I get a headache. Whichever happens first is 50/50. Friday night was the headache. I can do some things while waiting for the Tylenol/Aleve/Advil to take effect but posting a blog isn’t one of them. Going to bed however, is.

Did you notice I said “just about any” alcohol? There is one drink I happened upon years ago that doesn’t give me a headache, make me tired, or really have much of an effect at all, and that is Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey. We went to Lynchburg, Tennessee to a Jack Daniels tour of the distillery. It was fascinating, and it’s a beautiful area. At the end of the tour the guide told us to put one hand on the barrel and raise the other and vow never to drink anything else, and not to add stuff to the whiskey. We all chuckled and took the vow but a vow is a vow and I have never mixed it. Lynchburg is in a dry county, so we couldn’t buy Jack there, but just outside of the county is a liquor store. We stocked up and went to the next stop. That night we drank some whiskey and played poker with our kids in the hotel room. I found that I felt simply fine, no headache, no sleepiness, nothing. Ever since then, Jack has been my go-to at weddings, funerals, church, all staff meetings, and other events where I should not fall asleep. (I’m kidding about the all-staff meetings, really!!) 😊

I have not kept my vow completely. I drink Amaretto, beer, Bailey’s, and a little wine. Only white wine though because red wine makes my feet itch. That is truly miserable. The doctor said it was the tannins in red wine, so if you have that problem, there you go.  I can’t drink much anymore because my stomach is way more sensitive than it used to be. But now and again I’ll try a cocktail at a restaurant or have a small amount.

I have never had a problem with overusing alcohol, except maybe a couple times on New Year’s Eve, but things were different growing up. My parents loved to go to this little place in Toledo called “Tony Packo’s”. It’s somewhat famous because Jamie Farr was from there. For anyone young, Jamie Farr was on a show called “MASH”. At Packo’s, celebrities signed hot dog buns and they put them on the wall. They must have sprayed something on them because the same ones were there for years and never got moldy. Of course, Twinkies never get moldy either (Zombieland is proof). They can stick around forever. When I think about what must go into a Twinkie I wonder. If you ever want to stop eating forever, watch some of the videos about how food is made. The first one I ever saw was on Mr. Rogers at the graham cracker factory and I did not eat graham crackers for a good bit of time.   

Saturday night was when the Cakewalkin’ Jass Band would play Packo’s. My dad loved the music but there was a fair amount of beer flowing as well. They still play in Toledo as far as I know. The highlight of the night was when they would play “When the Saints Go Marching In” and they would parade into the women’s restroom. That was usually late in the night and everybody was feeling rather rowdy. We looked forward to it and knew not to go in there no matter how much we had to pee. The point is, we kids didn’t drink (I did get a Shirley Temple and pretended I was drinking a cocktail) but we probably could have gotten the real thing back then. Times were different. I remember going out after play rehearsal one day and got a pitcher of beer. None of us were even 18 then, but nobody cared. I poured the beer and remember one of the guys’ admiration because I knew how to pour it. All that studious observation at Tony Packo’s came through!

So back to Friday night…I can usually handle one beer unless I’m in Canada, then I can drink like a lumberjack. But Fridays are my “tied up in knots from the week” days, and it was Friday the 13th. If there had been a full moon it would have been worse. Anyway, I apologize for the late entry.

Chester….oh that dog. He was on a roll this week. Thursday morning, he chased a bunny in the back yard. There were leaves covering the usual Great Bunny Escape Hole in the fence and the bunny didn’t have time to stop and shuffle through leaves, so it ran under the shed. This is ideal for bunny but frustrating for Chester. He spent literally a half hour running around the shed trying to get the bunny who was probably sitting right in the middle smoking a cigarette. When Chester started to bark, I decided to try to get him in; it was 6:30am and the neighbors like Chester, but not that much. I shook the Milk Bones box, no success. I went out and tried to grab him, and he would just run around the corner of the shed with a gleam in his eye. My husband and I both had to go into work and were ready to go, so we went out together to tag team him. The first couple times he just put his head down and barreled past us, knocking us out of the way like bowling pins. Finally we blocked him in and my husband grabbed him. He was so happy about his escapade. Not too muddy either for once unlike my poor work shoes. The bunny left the shed at some point. Chester, I’m sure, slept all day dreaming of bunnies. His legs were probably twitching.

Below is a picture of a nice sunset Chester and I saw while walking. At least I saw it, Chester usually has his head down to smell the other dogs smells. I wish the colors came out better, but you will get the idea. Also is a pic of Chester and his new bunny or what’s left of it. He didn’t get the outside one, but he has made a mess with the inside one. This is not the Halloween bunny, this is a new one and this mess was made in one day! Everybody has a talent I guess. The cat food cans are his treasure. He gets to lick them. Have a wonderful week, stay warm if you’re here in northern Ohio. Go Browns!

Sunset at the end of our street
Chester’s latest bunny destruction

Waiting to be cast and patience…

I saw a post on facebook that says anyone who doesn’t know what it’s like to wait never waited for a cast list to be put up for a high school musical. So true! I have been on both sides of casting and neither is easy. There is a knot inside and I have honestly peeked at the list with my eyes squinted, almost shut. I have devised a strategy that works for me.

First I audition for anything I can. Or at least I did before COVID. There aren’t many roles for older women to begin with. At least a mask would hide wrinkles, but theater is dark right now. But my thought is that if the odds are not in my favor, I’m going to use the auditions as my means to perform. I have an audience that has to listen to me, right? And they can’t say anything terrible to my face. So I go in and sing my heart out. It makes me strangely happy that they have to listen no matter how bad it is. Now don’t think “oh, I’m sure it was great” because believe me it isn’t. But I do it anyway.

Once I’m done, I tell myself I did not get cast. In all honesty you can sometimes feel it. There was one time I don’t think the pianist was even playing the same song (blame the pianist..). But sometimes you can’t tell. If I was really able to, I wouldn’t think about it but that’s not the way it works. You can’t help but start to think about how you would make the role/person come to life. How would I stand/sit/move to make the person real. Then inevitably, if it’s a decent theater, there is a phone call. If they want you, it’s the best feeling in the world and you won’t sleep; you’ll be busy looking at videos of your part. If you are not cast, they always say or send an email saying thanks and please audition again. I am of course disappointed, but it is amusing that they think they have to encourage me to audition again when I know they are wishing this old lady would just dry up and blow awy. But like the cat, I come back. Again and again and again. It s the stubborn streak in me I guess, I never give up hope. No matter how awful, there is hope.

I think the two candidates for President are standing at this point. One will be elated. One will be profoundly disappointed. One will be cast as the lead in a four year long drama. When the initial feeling wears off, he will have an awful lot of work to do. The idea of being president, like the idea of multiple shows, is daunting. The other will determine whether he has grace and maturity, as will the party leadership. Either way, it’s going to be awhile before the list is posted, and we are going to have to wait.

We are not a nation that likes to wait. We want everything now. When a crime is committed we want to know right away who did it. We aren’t happy with “black Friday” we need to go shopping on Thanksgiving. Patience may be a virtue elsewhere but it takes a certain understanding to be patient and we don’t have time for understanding. We want sound bites, we want everything now. We want a show. Waiting can be agonizing. As I write this someone is “calling” the race. I’m sure everyone wants to be first. I’m not going to celebrate yet; I think I’ll just be patient. I know the gentle good spirit would try to be kind in victory (once determined) but there was a lot of hate in this election. No, I am not the gentle good spirit right now. I want to be and will be in the future. I do think tonight I’ll thaw out some mini cheesecake bites we got from the grandson’s fundraiser and have a private moment of hope and wait for the final cast list.

Meanwhile, here are some photos of my husband’s birthday cake—after Chester pulled it off the counter. I came into the kitchen and he was standing there with his hound snoot buried in the cake. You never saw a happier dog until I took it away. We had a one layer cake instead of two but it was just fine. Honestly.

The doomed cake
Chester’s Halloween Bunny
Chester’s Halloween Bunny post-Halloween

Becoming our parents and mid-century modern…

There is a Geico commercial about becoming our parents. I think their commercials are a cut above, and this one makes me laugh each time. In the commercial the actors, who are about 35-40 years old, go to a hardware store, put throw pillows on the couch (if you can’t sit down it’s too many) and oversee someone else fixing the under sink plumbing. I found this commercial funny initially because I saw my parents in it….but then like the ice bucket challenge of a cold bucket of water, I realized that the parents were actually me, and the “kids” are my kids.

OK, I use throw pillows. My husband hates them but Chester loves them. When he gets on the couch he rearranges them to his liking. Usually he will push one off, and lay on the other. He then watches television or looks out the back door into the yard until he falls asleep. Hmm….sounds familiar. It got me thinking of other parent-isms that our kids probably roll their eyes at but are turning into.

When she was in high school our daughter wrote an essay on how she really wasn’t a cat person. She said that she advocates for animals but doesn’t really want to own one. She now has 2 rescue kitties, and had a third. Yes, that’s my girl!

Our oldest son and my husband took the grandson camping during the summer. On the way back they stopped at Grandpa’s Cheesebarn. They then made a detour (I’m hearing Dueling Banjos here) and came home with two very large metal Shell gasoline signs which are proudly hanging on ours and our son’s garages. Why? It’s unknowable. Probably from generations on both sides; my dad was an oil/gas/map collector as well. Enarco motor oil and White Rose Gasoline were his favorites. One Christmas we got pencils that said “use white rose gasoline and En-ar-co motor oil.” Who knew that Santa is a motorhead also? This fact is belied by the reindeer and sleigh get up. I mean if he can make reindeer fly why not a Dodge charger? Or a nice Model A sport coupe? But I digress…

The second son seems to have escaped the auto or cat genetic predisposition. He drives my old car; a Toyata Rav 4 with about 300,000 miles on it. Duck tape is holding it together, literally. He has lived and used it in Brooklyn for years and it hasn’t gotten stolen. That says something, right? Recently though I saw a glimmer of hope that we did pass something on. He asked me about this orange chair my parents had. It was vinyl, had no arms, and was bright orange. The back and seat were puffy. I wish I had a picture. The son wanted it, but we had given it away. He called it “mid century modern.”

Mid-century modern…which if you do the math is when I grew up. Our whole house was mid-century modern! We had the hexagonal end tables, the television with legs that you had to (gasp) get up and turn the channel (but there were only 3 channels anyway). We had “princess phones” and avocado cabinets. We had lavender (the color) and white tiles in the bathroom. We had the orange chair. Two of them in fact. Well apparently mid-century modern is in style again. Who knew? My husband said things go through the in style phase, then the ugly phase, then what survives is in style again.

We have been looking for something for the small foyer in our home to put Chester’s leash and poop bags on. We went to the Antique Coop (not to be confused with the Junk and Treasure Barn) and wandered around until a “telephone table” caught our attention. It’s perfect! We bought it for only $75 and took it home. I love it! When I looked it up I found out it was…you guessed it, mid-century modern. Not sure how modern it is but it fits! It feels good to recycle. I may do a lot of my shopping down at the Antique Coop or its rival the ever popular “Antique Barn” but never the “Junk and Treasure Barn”.

If something is good, why not pass it on? Just like becoming out parents…if throw pillows are useful why not? The traits we pass from generation to generation, whether inadvertently or advertently (is that a word?) are what make our family unique. I didn’t try to be like my parents but certain traits keep showing up. What’s wrong with that?

What traits did you pass on or receive? Ask your kids or parents what they think. For us, I’d have to give it some thought, which I fully intend to do while walking Chester. Have a good week and a Happy Halloween! Below is a photo of our new mid-century modern telephone bench, an amazingly wonderful Halloween candy chute made by the other grandparents, Joe and Kathy, and the Shell sign in our garage. And of course Chester and his throw pillows…

Ready to watch tv

Bob Ross trees and cheeky squirrels…

The rain has been steady here which is expected I guess for the cold, rainy season aka fall. Tuesday morning (it was still dark) Chester saw a bunny in the yard and chased it under the shed. The bunny was perfectly safe under there, in fact the bunny, unlike the hound, was out of the rain. Chester, possibly thinking he could facilitate bonding with bunny, did his best to crawl under the shed from all four sides. He wasn’t satisfied to go around one time, no he spent minimally 15-20 minutes out there running around to the different sides, belly crawling and pushing his snoot under the shed. He looked like a soldier going under barbed wire in basic training. Now stop and think for a minute…about a dog attempting to crawl under a shed when it had rained for awhile and under the shed is mostly mud.

I cannot describe the mud and the smell of the mud that emerged from his little escapade. He stood patiently while I used two beach towels and a bath towel on him. It didn’t work. He still was muddy, smelly and happy as could be. Nothing existed in his world except the joy of the bunny chase. He was really tired too. I tried to redirect him (if you are in social services you know that means drag him into another room while telling him he wants to go there) but he jumped on the bed anyway. Those bunnies exhaust him. They are just the highlight of his day/week/year.

The squirrels on the other hand are somewhat entertaining but do not intrigue him at the same level. Our neighbor feeds them and they are fat, mostly friendly squirrels. Running away from Chester is the only exercise they get. They go halfway up the tree and cluck at him while he bounces around below. They seem to know just how high he can jump. The neighbor brought over a giant sunflower head for the squirrels. I know what she’s up to…she’s trying to get them to bother us instead of them. The squirrels actually go into their garage and try to open the squirrel feed containers.  They are getting a little cheeky; there is a fat one who’s pretty aggressive. That one’s the ringleader. I picture them in little black leather jackets.

During a break in the rain I was walking Chester, and the color in the leaves was just overwhelming. It occurred to me that it was like Joseph’s amazing technicolor dreamcoat spread out over the land. We performed that musical three times and I still remember the song, red and yellow and green and gold and ochre and peach and ruby and violet and…etc. If these leaves are what the coat was made of, I see why the brothers were jealous!  One of the homes has two significant trees; a maple and a blue spruce. I call them my “Bob Ross Trees”. There’s something about the colors that makes me picture Bob Ross painting them. They do seem to be happy little trees. The pine is blue and when the maple is green it’s nice, and when the leaves are gone it’s OK, but when the leaves are orange/red the blue just pops.

While I am sitting here typing and trying to find words my cat is eating the plant. He will probably puke shortly. But I digress…

When the weather is grey I feel like my eyes are deprived. When I see beautiful colors I just stare to fill them up again. It’s like when we go to the art museum, I feel like I need to fill up on beauty. I stare at the paintings and feel the joy coming in. My ears feel like that too. Sometimes in the fall I listen to fantasy football radio more than usual to try to find the sleeper of the century, and then I turn on music and my ears have to fill up. There’s only so much fantasy I can take when my team, The Killer Tomatoes, is so dreadfully awful. How bad is it? It’s as bad as this joke:

Why don’t helicopters fly in the morning? Twirly.

 I feel myself rambling today and talking about basically nothing. COVID, politics, natural disasters, crime are all swirling around me and I’m talking about squirrels and leaves. I feel like I am in the eye of the hurricane with my mud puppy. It’s calm in my world, at least. Unfocused but calm.  I hope you can feel  peaceful vibes coming your way covered in leaves, smelling better than mud, and as beautiful as Monet. Fill up and have a good weekend!

The sunflower head
just nice color
the Bob Ross trees