Squirrel Shenanigans and a Great Dane Adventure..

Never rest your head on throw pillows

The squirrels are up to no good. You know I like squirrels and you know Chester does not. They have decided in their small-brain wisdom that it’s fun to play in our backyard. We started knocking on the door before letting him out, but they are getting bold and don’t even care. Especially when I have just put out a cylinder in the bird feeder. Note I said bird, not squirrel feeder.

In my quest to support small businesses I go to the Willoughby Wild Bird store. I buy these cylinders of bird food. Because I am physically and spiritually unable go into a store and come out with only what I went in for, I have obtained a bag of peanuts and ears of corn. The peanuts are for the blue jays who literally sit outside the window and squawk until I throw some out. The corn cobs are for the squirrels. I don’t understand why they ravish the cobs but ignore the already removed corn on the patio. I guess they don’t like that the corn has touched some other bird food. Like my grandkids.

this has been there at least a week

Anyway, I toss out an ear of corn and one minute it’s there, the next it isn’t. Where do the cobs go? My husband has found a couple while mowing the lawn, but I blame the neighbor’s squirrels. I suspect the neighbors pay them. A couple days ago I tossed one out and it was gone in an hour. I thought maybe a fox or racoon took it, but then I saw something in the tree. I couldn’t figure it out. It was yellow. Guess what?

Yep, somebody put the corn in the tree. I guess sharing is not a concept squirrels embrace.

Chester and I had quite the adventure! We were enjoying the nice day on our usual walk when I heard a kid yelling. I couldn’t figure out what it was, but when we walked by the Great Danes’ house I saw one of the Danes out in the yard jumping around. When you have dogs, your house is known as  “the grey dog’s house” or “Jackson and Brutus’ House” or “Macy’s House” or “Chester’s House.”   The Great Dane’s live on our usual route. I stopped because something seemed off. They are usually extremely well behaved. Then I realized the Dane had a racoon trapped and I went into action mode. You know the fight or flight reflex? And moms lifting cars off of kids? I get it! I have never met the two Great Danes in person, but a dog is a dog. I took Chester up on the patio and asked the kid if he needed help. He explained that the Great Dane, Ozzie, had slipped out of his collar in his quest for the racoon.  I called Ozzie, thinking he’d want to see Chester. He didn’t care about Chester. Chester was too busy sniffing their grill to be much help. I got excited and in my best “oh boy isn’t this great” voice, like Flounder in Animal House I started calling Ozzie and clapping.

The racoon was hissing and spitting. Ozzie looked up like he was interested, came toward me, but when the racoon tried to leave he decided it would be more fun to chase it. He was play bowing, lunging and happily dancing around. The poor racoon couldn’t catch a break. The kid asked me “should I get treats?” and I responded “YES.” Meanwhile Chester was enjoying the patio smells.

When the racoon decided to play dead for a minute, I called Ozzie in my mom voice. You know the one. He didn’t have a choice when he heard that. “Ozzie, come.” He came, tongue hanging out and I swear he was smiling. He looked so happy to have played with the fluffy thing. He glanced at Chester who was still mesmerized by the grill. I kind of laid across Ozzie and held on. I didn’t have to bend over much. The kid opened the door and offered treats, wisely backing into the house with each one. Apparently Ozzie is food motivated like Chester because he didn’t hesitate. It was like Hansel and Gretl dropping pieces of bread.  Ozzie couldn’t resist. Once the door was shut, Chester and I left, Chester oblivious to the racoon. As we started home, I watched the racoon for a minute to make sure it was OK. (what was I going to do if it wasn’t? sheesh) It seemed ok, just scared, and kind of shocked. I felt bad but Chester and I continued our walk. Now whenever we walk by there he slows down to see what’s going on. So far, nothing else, but I really want to know what they grilled! It must have been spectacular!

Before any of you dear people lecture me on dangers, I am a grown-ass woman (as my friend says) and I know the risks. But when an animal is likely to get hurt, I just automatically act. Internally I knew what to do, I mean I didn’t grab the racoon!  It comes from years of dog ownership. You would have done the same thing.

It’s funny, my husband has quick reflexes, much quicker than mine. Once we were somewhere with the boys when they were little, maybe 3 and 5. They started to get up in this fake covered wagon. My husband leapt up the step and grabbed them, pulling them out. There were wasps inside the wagon. I didn’t even see them and stood there like a log while he was a hero. I don’t have quick reflexes but I guess I’m better at it than I thought at least when it comes to dogs.

ready to go!

I haven’t seen Ozzie since, but I’d like to, he was a nice boy. Chester was a wonderful boy! He thought it was an adventure too, new smells galore. We are going to take him to a new (for him) park today and let him explore the Grand River. No grill to sniff but maybe he’ll catch a fish! Have a great week!

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!