Birthday, bells and a blizzard…

Hello on this beautiful March 31st! Today would have been my father’s 88th birthday. He was a prankster and liked a good (or really, really bad) joke. He would have enjoyed today. Happy Birthday, Dudley.

I did not walk Chester this morning. Best intentions don’t mean a hill of beans to Mother Nature. Unlike most areas of the country, or even Cleveland proper, those of us to the east received three plus inches of snow last night.

Yesterday and Friday I was at the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers’ Spring (haha) Festival in Dayton. Our partial choir joined 400 other ringers for an intense whirlwind of rehearsals, classes and friendship culminating in a concert at 5:00pm last night. After the concert, we were impressively efficient in packing our bells and gear, mostly since Cracker Barrel was waiting for us. All was well until I jinxed us by saying “It’s only 6:15” when we were pulling out of the parking area and heading to the yellow and brown beacon of the chicken fried steak, turnips and greens, and fried apples. Oh, and the apple butter, biscuits, hashbrown casserole..need I go on? Dinner (and shopping of course) were successful, although i’m still not sure why Cracker Barrel has so much beach glass stuff. Anyway, we hopped or waddled (depending if you had the fried apples) back into the vans to head back to Perry. Then the snow hit.

Hours later, after two tired but very brave drivers peered into the snow globe or galaxy far far away and tried to follow the tire tracks made by some unknown driver (who may or may not have gone into a ditch) we made it back. We unloaded and skidded our way home after midnight.

Now I love living by Lake Erie but lake effect snow is another thing. It continued to snow all night. It’s April Fool’s Day tomorrow people! I’m not laughing! Enough already! The last time it snowed, I fell while walking Chester. One minute I was up, then I was down. I always wondered what Chester would do if I fell. Would he run home and alert John? Would he stay by my side, knowing something bad happened? Would he be like Lassie and bark for help?  The answer is none of the above. When I fell, he thought I was playing and started jumping around like a manic kangaroo on top of me. That helped a lot, let me tell you.  I struggled up, with him licking my face and biting the leash, and limped home. Some rescue dog.

Chester and I are taking today off. We are going to cuddle on the couch, eat milk bones (him) and drink tea (me). We are going to turn on the fireplace and watch the snow blow around in the back. We will rejuvenate. Tomorrow, it’s back to our morning routine. The snow can’t last forever. It makes spring all the more of a miracle. The flowers will come up, the trees will bud, the ice will break. We just have to wait a little longer.



The sky yesterday morning was incredible. The moon was a crescent, and there was an extremely bright star on the right. I later looked up a website on stars and discovered that the bright star was really Jupiter. I tried to take a picture but I didn’t do Jupiter any favors. I take awful pictures. Brittany, the dog walker, gets these pictures of Chester that make him look respectable. Me? I get a blurry vision of his head tearing up a paper towel.  It made me think about superpowers. If you had a superpower what would it be? For me, it would be to be able to take a picture of something by blinking my eye. It would be clear and deep and as massive as the sky. Somehow I’d have to be able to share it which would be the other part of the superpower.  That might be a little more difficult.

 I check the stars daily while walking Chester. It’s the best part of an early morning walk. Sometimes the sky is hazy. Since the time change it is more of a deep navy black, and sometimes white wispy clouds spread out across the moon. I can never remember the constellations, except for one; Orion’s belt. I always look for Orion’s belt. Orion’s belt reminds me of “Men in Black,” which I like more each time I watch it. My favorite “Men in Black” pieces and parts are:

  1. Weekly World News….I have the very last one, with Bat Boy on the cover. I miss that paper with all the real news, as opposed to fake news.
  2. The cat Orion. You go kitty!
  3. Vincent D’Onofrio as Edgar (the bug).  Quite possibly my favorite villain ever.

When I look at the sky I am overwhelmed with how small we are. We are not important to the universe. I’m not saying that to be morose. On the contrary, it’s reassuring to think we are next to nothing. We don’t have to try so hard to get ahead, or make a difference, because ultimately we won’t. So we do what we can, and that’s OK. Little steps, little graces. We’re good enough for each other.

Groundhog Day…

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. 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.

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.


It’s all about the trash…

Chester’s mortal enemies are bunnies. Oh he hates squirrels, possums and cats, but bunnies send him to another level. Their very existence offends him.  His daily walk consists of patrolling the neighborhood for bunnies who have dared to show their fuzzy little tails. When one does, he points at it until it moves, then he lunges and pulls me halfway to Lake Erie. It’s a daily ritual…except on Fridays, aka garbage day. That’s when he’s distracted by the smell of diapers, moldy fruit, and rotten meat. A bunny could tap dance on the head if he was smelling garbage. So Chester and I made up a song about Fridays. See if you can identify the melody…many apologies to the original artist/writer:

It’s all about the trash, bout the trash, no bunnies.

It’s all about the trash, bout the trash, no bunnies.

It’s all about the trash, bout the trash, no bunnies.

Today…it’s all about the trash.

Below is Chester becoming inspired:


I have worked at my job for over a year. This is way too long to not know someone’s name that you see every day. I don’t want to ask them; that would be really tacky. “Excuse me, I have said hello to you every day for a year but what is your name?”  I would like to ask someone else, but then they would have to be in the same area so I could show them who I’m talking about.

Yesterday I was in the bathroom stall and realized there was no toilet paper. There was one other person in the bathroom, washing her hands. I could have sworn it was Lea. It was not. So when I asked “Lea?” there was silence. A minute later she said “what?” I said I was out of toilet paper and could she please hand me some. She said “it’s Samantha but sure.” She saved me from disaster, so I should have known her name.  I’m awful.  Thanks, Samantha.

Steps to nowhere…

A long time ago I read a book called “House of Leaves.” It is a book that you have to hold in your hand to read for a lot of reasons; don’t get it through a tablet. The concept involves a house that is bigger on the inside than outside. People are so much like this; there is so much more to each of us than meets the eye.  Like peeling an onion, we are only known by a few words or images: mom, quiet, librarian. When we get older, we are compartmentalized even further.  But there is a complete mansion inside us.

We visited the Winchester House in San Jose.  Sarah Winchester was the owner. She began a continual renovation and remodeling project that lasted to her death. One legend has it that she thought that if she kept building, she wouldn’t die. I don’t know if she really thought that, only Sarah knows.. But as a result, there are some strange constructions; steps leading to nowhere, doors, etc. If we keep building our internal houses we are still going to die. But imagine how big your house will be if you keep learning, experiencing, growing, and dreaming.   It’s ok if it takes you nowhere.

Major events…

I am facing a major event.  I am turning 60 years old this summer. I am terrified.  When I turned 59 I realized that I had one year to do everything I thought would make my life complete. So how did I handle this increasing sense of doom? We got a dog. Saving this kennel pup was going to help me achieve absolution for all the undone good deeds in my life.  So we went to a high volume shelter that mostly houses pit bulls and strays. Go big or go home, right?  We left with a mixed breed 54 pound dog. He seemed to acknowledge that we were there while he was running around in the enclosed area, peeing on the little house they have, so we said, “yep that’s the one for us.”  He was supposed to be 5 years old so we thought “calm”. The description said shepherd mix. As it turns out he has a total of zero shepherd in him. Zero.  And as for calm…well, you can judge. But we had a shepherd before and he was a great dog, so we were sold. We named him Chester, although I have a nephew with a cat named Chester, which I should have thought of before we named him because now we have to call him Chester Too. Anyway, Chester came home.

We decided that not knowing him or his habits, we would walk him a lot. I took the morning walk, which starts about 5:45am. Now at 5:45am there aren’t many people around, and it’s dark. We walk, and I think. I think about life, about music, about the world, about Chester’s poop, and about whatever interests me at that particular moment. So, as part of my good deed atonement plan I decided to write the world changing thoughts down. I’ll include the wonderfully complex songs Chester and I make up. Keep in mind he is a dog. So he has some trouble with the high notes.