VW Vans and muddy paws…

On Saturdays and Sundays I like nothing more than sitting in my pajamas and watching “Bitchin Rides” on television. Of all the motorhead shows my husband watches, this one is my favorite. I think it’s because they actually like each other and don’t throw in all the made- for- tv drama of infighting and such. Plus I like the name “Kindigit Designs” and Kev Dog seems nice.

Anyway, we were watching “Bitchin Rides” and enjoying a second cup of coffee when they started fixing up an old VW van. It had two cabs, and was just so cool and in a half second I was transported to Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and North Carolina. I then took a mental drift to Death Valley. Cars can do that to you.

My parents had some interesting vehicles. None held a candle to the 1970-ish Volkswagen Camper Van. I think it was a 1970 because I looked up pictures and as soon as I saw that glorious brown plaid I knew. Some things just stick in your mind—you can’t unsee them. That brown vinyl on the seats and the plaid curtains..well let’s just say it defined my fashion sense and not in a good way.

Not our original van, but same color and year I think

When you entered the van via the sliding door, you saw the icebox/water supply to your right. The water was always warm, especially in Death Valley. My mom was rather fascinated with Death Valley and made us stop halfway through so she could grab some tumbleweeds. I don’t know if this was legal but they took up a lot of room and fell apart so she tossed them back out after a bit anyway. We drank the warm water while she wandered around trying to catch the tumbleweeds. At least we didn’t dehydrate.

Also not our original but check out the plaid…

The back couch of the van folded into a bed. We kids would lay in the bed and look out the back pretending that the cars behind us were after us. We had to duck down and hide or they would get us. But we didn’t sleep there, no that was the adult bed. The kids had other arrangements.

There are times when fate smiles on us, and I was blessed to be the oldest child. I got the pop up top. Oh my, I would sleep there every night. It was amazing and I’m not being sarcastic. The sides of the pop up were mesh, like a screen. I could look out and see everything in the moonlight. Once we stopped the van on the beach of the Everglades and slept. It was legal then I guess, I didn’t care. I got to sleep next to the ocean and not get bitten by the little gnats, the “no-see-ums” as my dad said.

My sister, well she wasn’t quite as lucky. There was this hammock that went across the driver and passenger seat. And the steering wheel, dashboard, and was just about long enough for her. Just about. It wasn’t particularly comfortable, but at least it was wide enough, just a little short and unpadded and the steering wheel didn’t help. My brother on the other hand…well there was a pad that went next to the little chair thing when the table flipped down. It was padded but narrow and too short. Nothing at all like my luxurious fresh air mecca of a pop-up. Meanwhile our parents slept in bliss on the vinyl covered brown mattress.

We kids loved that van! But we didn’t have to drive it. We were on the Blue Ridge Parkway and my mom was driving. The Blue Ridge Mountains aren’t Pike’s Peak but to the VW it must have seemed like they were. My mom had her foot to the floor to go about 25 miles/hour up the switchback. We could see the line of cars behind us…on and on and on. At least she was driving and not me. I was too young to drive but once my dad let me drive down our street. I got so frustrated I left the VW in the street and walked home.

This actually is our original van; we were fishing by the side of the road. The van may have broken down…sorry about the quality but it was a Brownie camera.

If I could get a retro car, that’s what I would get. Although… I always wanted a Jeep until I drove one. It was a purple/pink open Wrangler and it was so rough I thought I’d have a broken tailbone on the test drive. Plus it was cold. Now heat-wise the VW was fine in the front, but the back end where the kids were tended to be a little nippy at times. Our parents’ solution was to get a space heater. Unfortunately we took our new puppy on one of our trips and he peed on my sister. No problem (for me anyway) but my mom had her change her pants and put the pants over the heater to dry. No, they didn’t start a fire but the smell lasted for days. Potent stuff.

the back of our van

Speaking of puppies, Chester has been enjoying the Cleveland thaw. We have had 50 degree weather this weekend but it’s not real. It’s the Braxton-Hicks stage of Cleveland weather. We’ll go back to cold again for awhile until false spring labor begins again. Then the warm days will get closer together until we have a rare snow on Mother’s Day, then it will be done. I guess Mother’s Day is the birth. Sorry, folks, for being graphic but it’s true.

Chester’s way of enjoying the thaw is to run around in the mud. He sees a squirrel or senses there may be one there and runs at full speed toward the back fence. I can hear the whap, whap of his feet as he flies through the puddles. Ugh. He does that so he can get some doggie crack/aka a Milk Bone biscuit since he was our protector from the squirrels. We have a Paw Plunger that looks like a car wash for his feet, and we do use that and a bunch of towels. We are a little tired of it though. Finally last night John said “how about we forgo going out and just give you a biscuit?” Chester was OK with that. He spent some time in the house sleeping instead.

The birds are back, and we saw a spot of snow where they had all walked. I thought it looked cool so took a picture. I also took a picture of the birds; they are the black dots in the tree. Chester doesn’t care about birds at all. It’s all about the squirrels, bout the squirrels and bunnies…Have a good week!

all the blobs are birds

House painting and point of view…

It was the best of times..it was the worst of time. If you have suffered through any home improvement project (and who hasn’t?) you understand. We are having the inside of our house painted. The painters are doing a great job and if anyone in the area needs to know who they are let me know and I can hook you up. Personality-wise, they are Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. This was one of my favorite movies because it captures how successful relationships seem to work. (Paul Newman and Robert Redford don’t hurt either…) One talks more and has the big ideas, and has a vision. The other is quieter and tends to the details, like excellent painting. Both need each other to balance. If you think about it, most duos work like this.  Both are good at what they do but when separate their greatness is incomplete. For a mental exercise in the 20-degree cold, think of other duos and see if this is true.

Anyway, Butch (not his real name of course) made a comment suggesting that my husband and I have lasted sooo looonng because we are like that. (these youngsters, heh heh) He’s right. We knew this when we read the book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” back in high school. If you aren’t familiar with the book, it explores the differences between what the author calls a “romantic” and “classic” view. The author seems to view himself as classic but he may have changed his view later in the book; I don’t know because it was a little boring and I haven’t read it for a very long time. To be honest,  I feel the same way about Monty Python, which my husband loves. I have never made it through Monty Python and the Holy Grail awake while he cracks up at the killer bunnies. On the other hand, he’s not as fond of watching Pride and Prejudice on endless loop. Regardless…my husband actually cares about how cars work. I want to get in, turn on the butt heat and go. I don’t even like scraping ice. I usually brush off the snow, scrape a hole I can see out of and crank up the defrost. By the time I get to the highway it’s clear. He cleans his windshield off completely. Both methods work, although some might argue his is safer. I’ll channel Scarlett O’Hara and think about that tomorrow.  

Not to criticize either philosophical bent– we complement each other.  Butch was right. This summer will be our 40 year anniversary and mostly happy. The times we were not happy was when one or the other did not respect the differences in outlook. But while we have different ideas, when we settle it the outcome is greater.

Back to the house painting. We are having the bottom of the chair rail section painted different than the top. The top is called “cultured pearl.” That is definite. But we are completely stuck between three greys for the bottom and the guys are coming back tomorrow to paint it. We are to the point where we are going to flip a coin; a Spanish doubloon John got from Santa.  Whatever the doubloon says is it. Or we could throw a dart at the wall blindfolded and see which one it lands on. We both see the beauty in all three. Decision, decision…the pressure is on.

By the way…did you hear about the three-legged dog who walked into a bar? He said, “I’m looking for the man who shot my paw.”

Sorry. Chester is just fine paw-wise. He must have lost his fool head going after the squirrel, threw caution to the wind, and stepped on something. He went to Camp Bow-Wow one day last week while the painters were here.  He made some friends at Camp; a black lab kept following him around and they were play-bowing, sniffing and jumping. We have been walking every day even in the bitter cold. We also went out to Lakeshore Reservation (where I made the video in the last post) with the grandkids. Chester is starting to cuddle more (he is probably cold), which is a mixed blessing as he is 70 pounds. A 70 pound lap dog is like a weighted (really weighted) blanket. Nice until you try to get up! Below are some pics from our outings, and a picture of the greys. What would you pick??

Make it warm mom!
Chester watching for the painters
the middle isn’t as dark as it looks and the “background” is the cultured pearl. ???
Watching the ice at Lakeshore Reservation

Video Stardom and Bigfoot in the driveway…

I’ve been walking around the house today singing a song from “Funny Girl.” If you aren’t familiar with Funny Girl or Barbra Streisand, it goes like this…

“I’m the greatest star, I am by far but no one knows it..”

Why am I the greatest star? Why am I dodging paparazzi (and where did they get those cool red and blue lights?) Because my very first you tube video has posted!

I have mentioned Ian’s Legacy, the foundation for which I coordinated a talent show last year to raise money. We do it to remember a spectacular young man who lost his life after a struggle with substance use disorder. We are remembering him and raising money in the best way we know how, with music and art. We couldn’t have a live talent show this year so we asked performers to submit videos for a virtual show. I decided to do a cello video for some reason. It wasn’t as easy as thought it would be…

See the source image
Ian Minnick

First, I haven’t played for about a year. My cello friends will cringe but they are nice so they won’t say anything. I tried, I practiced a lot for the last month but I am not the cellist I used to be.  Never mind, I recorded it. Adding reverb can work wonders.

I had a vision. I chose a lovely song, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” I was going to play in the park among these awesome statues with snow gently drifting down. Problem is, we didn’t have any snow. The video was due January 15th and NO SNOW. Can you believe it? I was losing hope and starting to practice something else when miracle of all miracles, on January 17th it snowed! We were off work for Martin Luther King Day which just couldn’t have been more perfect. This was going to be a blessed event, obviously!

John and I trudged out to Lakeshore Reservation with my cello and set up shop among the statues. I tried to play. My fingers got a little chilly and it didn’t sound that good, but the jogger running by said it was nice. Then a dog walker came into focus. The dog squatted and they stared at us. We waited. We filmed for a few minutes but John realized the camera was seeing my cello case and we wanted to try again. At that moment the snow plow decided to drive by and shovel the snow (a whole ½ inch I think) around the statues. (sigh) We waited. We filmed a couple more minutes and the dog walker came back. This time they stopped closer and we just had to pet the dog. I mean, come on, it’s a dog. They moved on, and we finished up. By then I have to say we were both cold but happy.

John, my husband, is the bomb. He made it look good. You won’t see the squatting dog or the jogger or the snow plow, just the quiet woods, the lake, and me. And the sound, while admittedly a little out of tune, was not awful. Next year I’ll practice more and not wait til a month before filming. (yep I will)

So grab the popcorn people! I want my 4 minutes of fame! The link is at the bottom of this blog. I hope you will watch more than just me, there are some insanely talented people who are all creative and amazing. John and I are going to have a talent show premiere night and watch them all as if we were sitting at the Riverside Auditorium. What else is there to do on a Monday night, don’t you need a pick me up? Also, check out the art and bid using virtual tickets. All the information is on the link or at Ianslegacy.com. You may have to copy and paste. It’d be nice if you could help us out, but if you can’t you can still watch the show!


Chester hurt himself today. He ran after a squirrel and I heard him cry out. He started limping slightly, not bleeding but favoring one paw. I don’t see any injury but if it continues we will take him in. Here is a photo of him enjoying the snow. Second couple photos are cool snow type pics. The first I have titled “Bigfoot in the Driveway”. Doesn’t it look like a huge foot? My foot is right behind it for comparison. The second is leaves that were buried in the street salt, then blew away. Sometimes beauty comes from unexpected sources. Have a wonderful week!

Bigfoot in the Driveway
Leaves in the Salt

First jobs and a doggie poem…

For Christmas my son and his family got me a story making program that sends me prompts each week for a year. At the end of the year it creates a book. Cool, right?? The question this week was “How did you get your first job?” I morphed it in my mind to “What was your first job?”  That’s a good one! I had plenty of teenage jobs, did you? Were you good at any of them? If so, you were lucky. I was not exactly a stellar success at my “young me” jobs. For example:

Babysitting of course. Thousands of teen-age girls’ first jobs, including mine. We made about three dollars an hour. I was a terrible babysitter. Once I babysat a two year old and had to change his diaper. I had never changed a diaper. I called my best friend who had younger siblings and she tried to guide me through it. Unfortunately the little worm squiggled away and peed on the floor. I put a paper bag over it. I wasn’t asked back. Another time I wanted to go to Youth Group so I left the kiddo with my mom and took off. It figures that the parents would come home early. I was whittling down the neighborhood babysitting prospects one by one.

Luckily my best friend Suzie knew somebody and asked me to join her on my first non-babysitting job: selling bar tickets at the Toledo Yacht Club on weekends. I sat at a table and watched all the old, rich people drink and smoke. I was pretty good at that actually. But it was only a few weekends in the summer when they had events. Not sustainable for my Archie comic purchases.

I rode the 70s fashion craze and got a job at Spencer Gifts: think bright pink beads, peace signs, tie dye and shag carpeting. That was my bedroom…and Spencer Gifts pre-sluttiness and dark lighting. It was a new store at the time, so none of us knew what we were doing. The third or fourth week a woman brought her little kid in to have her ears pierced. By me? HA! When I got off the floor from laughing so hard, the manager told us to look at a card and follow the directions. That was the training. It started out with how to load the ear piercing gun. I was never good at following directions so I refused. Job over.

Otto’s Variety Store: Otto’s was a family run store I worked at for awhile. Big takeaway was that they sold Penthouse, Playboy and Hustler behind the counter with black/grey covers on them. Who knew? Certainly not me, I mean Otto’s sold literally everything so I shouldn’t be surprised but I was. It was my first experience with that kind of magazine, so of course I peeked. Hmm. “Old Mr. Otto” (as opposed to “Young Mr. Otto”) was about 80 years old and would sit on the corner of the counter with his shotgun. Probably so nobody would steal the penny candy in the open display shelves. Or to keep people from peeking at Hustlers. I didn’t actually get fired from this one, I was pretty busy and the hours didn’t work out. It was a Trilby area landmark though and probably the first job I cared about.

True confession; when I was a preteen before working at Otto’s my best friend and I went behind the library and smoked cigarette butts that people had dropped there. Only once, mind you. I was going home and my breath smelled bad so (hang my head) I stole a piece of penny bubble gum from Ottos. I felt so guilty that years later when I worked there I paid back the money. It had gone up in price to 5 cents but it was worth it. In all honesty this was the only thing I ever stole on purpose. I took a hanger from a hotel once by mistake but that’s it. Oh, and I accidentally picked up the Marriott information folder when I was on a work business trip and put a bunch of notebooks on it. That’s really it. But I digress…

Chester and I have been walking regularly in the cold, rainy, Cleveland area January weather. If we stayed in for bad weather we’d never get out. Once we get out it isn’t that bad. We sing songs and make up (drum roll please….) Doggie Limericks! Yes, Chester and I made up a doggie limerick, or I did while he was drinking out of a mud puddle. It goes like this:

There once was a doggie named Chester,

when we ate our food he would pester.

We told him to stop,

He grabbed his laptop,

And got a job as a food tester.

Yay me! The picture below is Chester walking in the cold. He does this thing where he shakes his head and a white string of drool flips over on his face. I caught him in all his glory before wiping it with a sacrificial poop bag. I now carry tissues for this task. Have a wonderful week, keep walking!

The wonderfully random world and the Huron River…

I have not been in a good place to write lately. I am not the type to be stressed. I’m usually calm and have coping strategies. But I have had to stop and breathe now and again. 2021 has thrown me a little. I am not going to discuss it with you, because I’m afraid the bitterness will spill out of me and that’s not fair to dump on you. That’s like vomiting; it doesn’t make anyone happy and you have to clean it up yourself while I go vomit elsewhere.  It reminds me of this picture:

A lot of people have been vomiting words. In my favorite movie “Amadeus” the Emperor praises Mozart but adds a comment. He says, “Too many notes.” Yep, we have had waay too many verbal notes and I have mentally suffered from the incessant voices and drama. But just when I think all is not right with the world, something comes along to knock me back into a better place. This week it was, of all things, an oil change.

I went to the Subaru dealer for an oil change after nine months of being overdue. This has been weighing on me since I squinted at the sticker and realized that not only the date was long past, but the miles were too. How did that happen? I haven’t exactly been driving. But although I really wanted to get an oil change (NOT) I waited until I thought the pandemic would be over. Still waiting. Finally feeling guilty every time I drove to Redi Go for a lottery ticket and having my car stare at me, resigned, made me want to change my bad car ownership habit. So I shuffled off to the Subaru dealer.

The Subaru dealer has two waiting rooms–count them– two totally separate rooms. Nobody was in either one. I sat down in the one with the air purifier (confession time; I thought it was a heater then figured I already contaminated the chair so I had to stay there). After about 10 minutes of playing Gummy Drop on my phone, an elderly (even older than me) lady entered the room. There were four seats, and a whole nother waiting room but she had to sit down next to me. Sigh. I pulled my mask around my face and shifted my weight to the other side. That’s when she started hacking up a lung. I swear I thought she was going to keel over right there. I was tharn, like a rabbit in the headlights, unable to move. I pulled my mask so tight that I think I cut off circulation to my brain which is probably why I stayed sitting there.

Next, she made a phone call. On speaker phone of course. She had to leave a message wanting to meet her friend/relative/I’m an investigator but feel like a failure because I couldn’t figure it out/person for lunch at Yours Truly. The last time I was at Yours Truly it was about 100 degrees inside. Kind of like a Denny’s but a little better and hotter. I mentally questioned her choice but apparently it was the friend’s birthday and she had a gift to give. She left a nice loud message then hung up. She had piqued my curiosity but what happened next…well some things…

She hung up, and a loud blast came from the phone. She pushed some buttons and the blast changed.  Blaring from the phone at rock and roll head-banging volume  was “A Horse With No Name.” She glanced over and asked “Do you mind?” I shook my head weakly. We sat and listened to “A Horse With No Name” at full blast in the waiting room of the Subaru dealer. Finally they called her name, and she stood up, said “I like your coat,” I said “thank you, my son picked it out” and that was that.

In that instant I remembered why I chose a people profession. People can be hateful. They can also be random, the kind of random that makes me shrug my shoulders and smile. Who was she? Who was the friend? What on God’s green earth made her need to hear “A Horse with No Name?” Some things are unknowable. But I needed that kick of randomness to knock me back into my reality. Kind of like a string quartet playing “A Horse with No Name” on the Titanic. That would be awesome.  We are OK, friends. Go ahead and breathe…

Now lest you think I forgot about Chester, we had a superb walk in Huron. We had the family Christmas, and had arranged a meeting point between Cleveland and Toledo to swap gifts. We chose a park that sounded great, so planned to take a walk. It was a bird sanctuary. Some of you in the know are nodding wisely…you guessed it, we arrived to see a big old “No Pets Allowed” sign. Really? I get it, the birds would be scared of Chester. I did wonder what other pets they are referring to…goats? Maybe horses, or alpacas? Anyway, we arranged to meet at the Shell station on Rye Beach Road and see if Google knew of another park. My husband’s British accent lady voice took us through what probably used to be a vacation cottage town and found a very nice park. A very nice PRIVATE park as the sign said. Remember the song “Signs”? The best part of that song was the “ugh” which I totally get now. I too am done with signs!

Back to the British accent lady voice. The third and final park was the jackpot. Huron River Park was just lovely, with a nice walking path and ice in a pond. I guess it may have been the Huron River actually since it’s called the Huron River Park. That just came to me…The ice kept cracking loudly. We freaked out at first thinking it was a Squatch in them there woods. But no, just ice… I think…I hope. That’s what my sister said, and she would know. We walked a couple miles, exchanged the gifts and I am now the proud owner of a cat eating a bunch of gnomes figurine.

Chester was so exhausted he slept in the car and all that night. He was so tired! I am including a couple pictures of him enjoying the day. It was great to get out. Between that and the oil change lady I’m feeling right with the world. It’s a beautiful place!

Chester looking for Bigfoot