Happy birthday to me…

So the big thing has happened. I am now officially old. I turned 60 which really doesn’t seem possible. I always thought 60 was old, and now I am. I’ve been trying to ignore it, but it came anyway. Just like the Grinch and Christmas, it came. You know what? It wasn’t all that bad. I took Chester to the Lake Erie pier near our house for a walk. I took the day off work. We went to Paninis that night for dinner. And, I got my new “compliant” driver’s license. Anyone who has not gotten theirs, take heed..if your name is different on your birth certificate and on your driver’s license, they will ask for a marriage certificate (if it’s due to marriage that is..) I had heard this, and was ready, so it was quick and easy. I look like a convict in the photo, but it’s a license not a billboard. So it was a nice day all around!

Here’s my thought on aging: I don’t like it. I don’t like not being able to do the things I used to because my older body can’t. I don’t like arthritis, or the myriad of other aging related annoyances. But it’s all OK. I’m glad and grateful to be alive and have more days. What good does it do to worry or dwell on it? I figure I have waaay too much to do. So happy birthday to me!

Lately there’s a thing that shows up on facebook or somewhere that says a person is asking you to donate for their birthday. I’m not going to do that; I don’t expect donations unless you want to donate a cookie. Then I’ll take it. What I would like for my birthday is for you to do something fun. I don’t care what, buy some M&M peanuts (my vice), go for a walk, pay something forward, or watch a favorite comedy or movie. Do it for yourself and do it in secret; whatever makes you happy. Start a puzzle, call a friend, buy something online, and then when you feel happy, just smile to yourself and I will psychically know that you are sending me good vibes.  Um… yes, you skeptics, I will!

The pictures i have included are three at the pier, and one of a fruit basket my husband got me. He calls it “fruit cake” Please note the “60” made out of pineapple…

Have a wonderful week!

City Dogs…

Today was the annual City Dog Reunion. City Dogs is a program that promotes and works with “bully breeds” who are frequently not adopted from kennels.  Let’s be honest, most are pit bulls. In Cleveland, as in many areas of the country, pit bulls are prevalent. Yet because they were, and unfortunately still are sometimes used in dog fighting, the breed is looked upon with trepidation. In addition, any injury by a pittie is going to get media attention. Some cities have a ban on pit bulls, others have rules on fence size and insurance.

The City Dog Reunion consisted of maybe 50 or so pit bulls. Some would think that it would be a melee of fighting dogs, but they were the most well behaved dogs I’ve ever seen. Truth is, pit bulls are great dogs, for those that look beyond the outer shell.

Anyway, Chester had a wonderful time at the reunion, and so did we. There were station/tents set up a good distance apart from each other, and a “passport” you could get initialed when you went to the tent. We got lots of freebies, bought some City Dog stuff, and Chester entered the “most expressive ears” and “best smile” contests. He didn’t enter the “biggest head” or “best trick” since his best trick is getting us to give him more treats. He got lots of loving from the people there, and there were multiple baby pools set up for the dogs to drink from or get in, whichever suited them. I did learn that many of the pit bulls love water; not just drinking but playing in it. Chester really doesn’t like to swim, but he drank and watched the others jump around. There were no fights, and it was a feel good kind of day. All of the dogs were exhausted at the end of the three hours judging from the facebook photos. I know Chester was! All in all, it was loads of fun and a super celebration of “pibbies.”  Yes, they played, yes, they sniffed each other’s butts, yes they ignored each other, yes they rolled in the grass, basically they were just like any other breed.

Chester is 25% pit bull and 25% boxer. The rest is a mix. This qualifies him as a City Dog, but he doesn’t look like the typical pit bull. At one point, a lady made a comment that she “forgets that they have other kinds of dogs than pit bulls” at the Cleveland city kennel. She was being nice, there was no offense taken, but it gave me pause. Truth is, I wondered if others thought we were interlopers, if we belonged. The adopters and other owners were very welcoming, don’t get me wrong. I just wonder in the back of their minds if they assume he is not a pit bull based on what he looks like.

Of course since my mind then takes everything to the next step, I thought about how much we all make assumptions based on appearance. I speak with a lot of people on the phone daily, and many I have not met in person. Our company just added photos to the staff directory and it’s freaking me out a little. The first thing I did was go through and look at the pictures of people I talk to a lot. They don’t look anything like I imagined. I had to pause. Does it matter? I know who is kind, who is a good worker, who is quick to respond, who has a wicked sense of humor and who is frankly, not easy to deal with. Does it matter if the guy I speak with has a beard that would rival ZZ Top? What do they think of me? Did they think I was younger, prettier, more composed, or just the opposite?

Part of the problem is time. To build a good relationship, I was taught there are five “must haves”—time, space, positive tone and words, living in another’s shoes, and being connected. (The Good Life)  I want to think on time for a moment; how much time do we give people? Do we have time to get to know them? Or do we make assumptions based on first impression, then move on. Just like people glance at a pit bull and move on. The inside person may be just like me, but I’ll never know unless I make an effort over time.

This world is fast paced. I get it, my job involves quick thinking and analysis of a situation. I listen to calls to an incident hotline and determine if the situation needs investigation based on the rule and a quick assessment. But the investigators I assign the case to–they spend 45 days with the incident. They will know the person much better than I do. In fact when I go back at the end and read how it turned out, I’m often surprised. I don’t have the gift of time. Yet I think that the world would be a much better place, and I would be a better person, if the visual first impression was just that, a first impression. The thing about first impressions is that often there are no second or thirds. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone had a second chance? Had time to know you and you, them?

We own a part pit bull. But he’s not like any other doggie, he’s simply Chester. He’s treat motivated, hates bunnies, loves digging squeekers out of toys, likes other dogs, chases cats, and sometimes goes into wild dog mode where he runs through the house at top speed. He’s one of a kind just like you and I are. It’s been a year since we adopted him and it took every bit of that year to get to know him. There are people who we can get to know too, if we take time and have an open mind.

The pictures are Chester at the reunion…he’s tired but happy!  😊


Tattoos and memories…

This has been an interesting weekend. Last Wednesday night I got the tattoo I was thinking about. Then Sunday was the Nightingale (my mom’s family) reunion. I stocked up on Advil. FOR THE TATTOO …come on now😊 So how it all began..

When I see dead animals on the side of the road, I become incredibly sad. It’s overwhelming in a way. The problem is, I drive 35 minutes to work, and there are a few guarantees in Cleveland: orange cones/construction, a slow down around MLK Boulevard and Dead Man’s Curve, and dead animals at the side of the road. Like with sad movies (I will NOT be seeing the Art of Racing in the Rain, although the book was excellent) I have to limit what I take in, so I try not to look. One day I was driving and noticed a dead bird. I started to feel bad when it hit me…the bird didn’t know it was going to die. Birds live their lives completely in the moment. That bird was flying along probably at full speed, then boom, gone. There’s no worry or anxious thought about the future. There’s no regret of a lost past. In the moment. That bird made every moment count because the moment is all it had. I knew then I wanted birds in my tattoo to remind me to live the moment. Don’t worry about tomorrow, live today.

The second part of the tattoo is the four seasons. Living in Ohio, we have the most amazing change of seasons. We can go from 92 degrees in summer, to 10 in six months. And in between, we revel in the beauty of spring and fall. I could draw a parallel to our lives, moving in and out of seasons. I want to be like my birds, flying through and over the seasons, experiencing each one. I want to remember the seasons too, because they always change. John F. Kennedy said that there is no present, only the past rushing into the future. To hold on is to be left behind. I agree, but would add that there is only the present, because the rest is past rushing into the future. Live in the moment.

At the Nightingale family reunion, a lot of memories were shared. It was fun to learn about our history. It was also fun to see those we grew up with, and to realize how much they really do mean in our lives.

I always looked up to my cousin, Wes. He was older, and I remember being about 12 years old, at a wedding, and sitting watching the older people dance. I was too shy, and back then, people weren’t as free to just dance alone (I’m so glad that changed!) Wes asked me to dance, and I felt included. I appreciate that gesture, it shows how much little things matter.

His family visited my mom when she was dying. I didn’t know she was dying, or I probably would have been a nicer daughter. I wasn’t awful, just a teenager. But she was really happy when they visited. She glowed. Aunt Florence, her sister, and Wes’ wife at the time visited her hospital room when I was there and gave her two cookbooks. She cherished them, planning the gourmet dishes she would cook when she got better.  I still have them.

Much later, cousin Wes wrote a book. He was a pediatrician, so there was doctor humor in it…get it? Humor? Don’t worry, he will get it. Some verses I laughed at, some elicited groans. Then he wrote another. And another. One was purchased for a television show. That was a novel about his dad, who I remember as a quiet, kind man. It is quite good, and is interesting on its own, even if you didn’t know my uncle.

Wes has ALS. He is not able to write physically and communicates with effort. These books were written before, during and after he became diagnosed. ALS is a roadblock, but only that. He lives in the moment. He was able to write books, for God’s sake, with ALS. What if he had said, “Oh woe is me, I can’t write any more because I can’t type.” At what point did he give up and say, “Oh, I can’t communicate any more so I’m just going to quit? “ Right, he didn’t. He lives for the moment. I’m sure he is writing more as I speak. None of us know how much time we have, whether we have ALS or not. How dare I put off living until tomorrow? I don’t.

It was great to see him and my other cousins and assorted relatives at the reunion. I included a picture because I’m really proud of this wonderful group of people. Each one has a story. Like my birds, they live to the fullest. Nightingales don’t quit. One teaches Zumba, one leads a grief counseling group, one helped design Harry Potter World at Universal, one works at inner city schools as a nurse, one is “the trombone guy”, one owns his own business, one is a very well respected dentist, one is over 90 years old and a pickleball champion, one is a pastor, one is a senior naturalist in a fantastic park system, one is a wrestler, and one has his own albums on spotify. That’s just a few of them, there are so many more! (there were 8 children in my mom’s family, so there’s a lot going on!)

Live your life like the birds. Don’t worry about tomorrow, it will take care of itself. Remember, the seasons come and go. If you are in winter, spring will arrive. Enjoy the beauty of the day!


Psychics and love…

Let me first say I don’t know if there is a heaven. I don’t believe there is in the traditional sense, although I have seen my dog on the other side. That’s another story. Some believe that we are reincarnated and I hope this is true.  I am getting older and have not experienced everything this world has to offer. I want to do it again. Plus, I have learned so much, and I feel like I could be better next time. Be that as it may, I honestly don’t think about it that much, I have enough to think about while I’m alive  Really, what’s the point?

Having said that, I have seen several psychics and mediums with varying outcomes. I don’t know if any or all were graced with this ability, or were just good performers. I am, after all, an investigator at heart, and I believe half of what I see and none of what I hear. Still I want to believe…some of it at least!

The very first psychic reader I saw was in Salem, Massachusetts. She is well known and always holding a dog. I was terrified; I think I was afraid that she would be able to see inside me, and I am not particularly comfortable with that. She invited me in to the back room, and her doggie was on the ornate couch, a fluffy white cute thing (the dog, not the couch). I said, “hello puppy” and reached out to pet the cutie while she was getting things ready. The fluff ball bit me. I jumped back, and she, hearing the growl said “no, no.” She didn’t see him bite me, and he didn’t break the skin, but that wasn’t the best start. I had been nervous, now I was so on edge a puff of air would have blown me over. And, the puff of air came. She laid out the cards and began reading. She said I have two children (I have three) and my husband was going to die soon. He didn’t. (I never told him that, I didn’t want to upset him, and it might freak him out, so hey, John, yeah, news flash). That kind of bothered me, but in all honesty we are all going to die, and who is to say what “soon” means? It’s been about 6 years so I think we’re past the limit. Then she asked me about the cats and I completely lost it. We had just dropped Milo off at our daughter’s and I was beyone sad. I totally broke down, full sobbing fit. Not a pretty sight. She looked at me as if I had three heads. She was probably thinking she needed to get this crazy woman out of there. I was definitely upsetting the vibe. She said Milo was my familiar, and he would be fine, then moved on to how I should try to destress and she gave me some lavender in a sachet. I learned two things about myself during that experience. One, I was probably a cat in my former life, and Two, don’t go to a psychic if you are not emotionally stable.

One of the next times was in New Orleans, at a little table in the French Quarter. She read both my husband (still alive, thank you) and me. She told John he was going to live to be 98. I was going to live to be 102. I am going to party in those four years, let me tell you. She also said he was going to get a new job (he didn’t) and some other stuff that didn’t happen. But I believe her life span prediction, because I want to!

I went to a séance with my sister. This was kind of a mini bucket list for me, and she was game. This gentleman is a medium, and makes it clear that no black magic or bad spirits will be present. He protects the room first and calls on St. Michael. In the séance, with about 15 other people around a table, spirits come and bring messages. Many people had relatives come, and many messages were given, most uplifting. Who did I have? Well, he asked if anyone had a lot of pets buried in the backyard. I tentatively raised my hand. He asked if I felt them around my legs. I did actually feel a small something. He then asked, “How many animals do you have back there?” somewhat in disbelief. I asked if he wants me to count the guinea pigs, fish, rats, hamsters, or just the dogs and cats. He didn’t answer, and they weren’t giving me any message that he could understand.  I think they were probably telling him they wanted Milk Bones, Fancy Feast, carrots, basically a “FEED ME” consensus. That was about it for me that time.

I went back, but it a spirit circle, by the same gentleman, this time with my husband. He said I should pay attention to a cameo pin I have. I said I didn’t think there was anything special about it, but apparently someone in my family said there was. He said some other spirits were there, and had messages, but I don’t remember them. I do remember going to Arabica afterward and eating a brownie thing with my husband.

The most recent time I went alone. The first thing he said was that my parents were there. He said they don’t approve of my plan to get a tattoo next week. He also said they don’t think it’s good that I have so many animals, and I don’t take care of myself. They were concerned because I looked tired. Well, I am old and past getting yelled at by my parents, so I’m not going to give them the chance again until after I get the tattoo. I mean, parents, you know? I say that while I’m twirling my hair and chewing gum and texting. (not really, I don’t have any gum)

I do enjoy going to the spirit circles, because each time it comforted me for some reason. I have some, but very little, ability to feel things, and receive messages, so I do believe in his gift. I feel good afterward, knowing that the people I love are still in my life. Is it real? I don’t know. It works for me. I go and just take it in, trying to remain open. I like to think that what I feel is love coming through. I don’t care so much about any message, just that they are still with me in some way. As for the psychic sessions, I took a Tarot class, and know the basic meanings, but I’d never read for anyone else. I would only give good news and I can do that anyway. I mean who says your husband is going to die soon? Sheesh.

Have a good week.  I will post a picture of the tattoo when I get it. Meanwhile, here’s a picture of Chester having an out of body experience with the sheets while i was trying to change them.😊



Milo, Zeus, and relative peace…

We have two cats. They hate each other. Chester tries to eat both of them; he is a non-discriminatory chaser. They hate him too. We got a five year old dog so that he would be calm and mellow. I think I was looking for one like my beagle. She would sit down in the middle of the street if she was tired. I’d carry her home because what else could I do? Anyway, Chester was with the cat at the shelter for a minute or two and did fine, or at least restrained himself. Not so much with our cats. I was naïve; Abbey got along fine with cats (she just sat on the couch) so I thought all dogs did. He’s five years old for crying out loud! So what does five years old look like to you? To Chester, it means climbing over the couch and onto the kitchen counter to get my husband’s bag of coffee beans. It means standing on his hind legs and pulling the cast iron skillet onto the floor so he can lick it. It means tearing up toilet paper and stuffed animals.  When he tore up the toilet paper, it didn’t matter. I was less than thrilled. But we pick our battles and toilet paper is not high on the list. Right now he is outside the door whining because he can’t come in.

Why can’t he come in? Like I said, we have two cats. At this moment, they are BOTH sitting in the office with me. Yes friends and family, you read that correctly! For at least 6 years we have had cats at war. We are experienced cat owners but nothing prepared us for the cat war of all wars. I update everyone annually in my Christmas letter, and I only have to say, they still hate each other. And now they are looking at each other without hissing or biting! I can’t believe it!

We had Zeus, a beautiful tuxedo cat, since he was a kitten. He got along fine with our older cat, Max, and our older cat got along with everyone. I was leaving a handbell rehearsal in January, and talking with the bell choir director, and a cat appeared, rubbing up against us. It was cold, the wind was blowing, and there was snow. The director picked up the cat and held him close. He said “Something’s wrong with his eye.” Turns out he doesn’t have one. The director said “He stinks too.” When I say the cat smelled awful, I’m talking worse than when you forget about one onion in the back of the cupboard until it begins to leak and assaults you awful. We were the only two people still there, freezing, but handbell talk is riveting. We looked at each other, both with the same thought. The director immediately said he had dogs, and couldn’t take a cat. Pretty quick thinking, like calling shotgun first. I called my husband, who said “sure, it’s a big house”. He’s a prince, he had no idea what we were in for, but neither did I. I put the cat in the back of the Rav and headed home. We kept him in the garage at first, because he was sneezing a lot and we didn’t want to spread illness. I took him to the vet and after a week we moved him into the guest room. He stopped smelling bad when he ate good food, and once he was on antibiotics he got better. It took a couple rounds because until he yawned and I saw inside his mouth, none of us knew he also has a cleft palate. That means everything he eats or drinks may slip into his nose, and he sneezes all the time. Our house is covered with kittie snot. But, he got better, so after a couple weeks, we introduced him to Max and Zeus.  It didn’t go exactly as planned.

Max, the lover, fought back. He was old and too entrenched on the couch to move for some upstart. Zeus on the other hand, was terrified. Milo, the street cat with one eye, a cleft palate, and about two thirds of Zeus’ size, became the great hunter. He would run after Zeus, who became prey. They would fight like cats and ….cats. The only time I got bit by a cat was trying to pull Milo off Zeus. Milo didn’t realize it was me and clamped down on my hand. I carried him, teeth in hand, up two floors and back into the bedroom. It became infected later, and Milo now has a record at the Lake County Health District because the doctor ratted him out. I had to send in his proof of a rabies vaccine.

Most people would kick Milo to the curb. I couldn’t do it. Milo adored me. He would follow me around and at night, he put one paw on either side of my neck like he was hugging me. Some people believe in familiars; animal spirits who guide you. He was mine. I know because a psychic told me so (and that’s a whole other story). But I knew anyway. I don’t know who sent him but he came to me when I needed him. I don’t even remember why but it was a bad period as far as depression for me. The thing about depression is that there isn’t always a particular reason. Off topic, one of the best songs describing depression is “Settle for Satin” by the Alkeline Trio. Very accurate. In this case, I think it had to do with our daughter going to college, and me feeling kind of useless. Plus it was January in Cleveland. I cried a lot. Milo would lick tears away and purr. But it was rough closing off part of the house and worrying that they would hurt each other. It wasn’t fair to Zeus.

We tried to send him to NYC to live with Izzy, our daughter. She offered, and her roommates liked him, but it didn’t work out well. Milo is high maintenance. She really tried, but we learned that in addition to the cleft palate and one eye, he was allergic to NYC dust mites. He licked literally half of himself bare. So after a few months, the cat came back…and we took him to an animal dermatologist.

John built a gate across the top of our steps out of the white criss-cross plastic sections you put under a porch. He velcroed it and we kept them apart. Max was a trooper, hanging out with either one until he died. But Zeus and Milo could not be in the same room, it was that intense. I used to have dreams that they could.  But I’d wake up sad that it would never be. When we got Chester, someone said maybe they would like each other, like misery loves company. I don’t think it’s because of Chester, when I wasn’t paying attention, when I had given up, something happened. John had accidentally put them in the same room and left for the day. When we got home, they were both still there. I thought it would be two piles of fur, but no, they seemed OK, if not particularly happy. I thought I would build on the experience of not getting killed, and have been slowly bringing them together to visit.

It’s not perfect yet. Yes, they fight, but not viciously. They stop on their own, and nobody gets hurt. Milo is annoying to Zeus, so we don’t leave them alone together yet (on purpose). But I have hope. In another 6 years maybe Chester can be in the same room too. It’s kind of like erosion on the shore of Lake Erie, time wears us all down. Hate takes a lot of energy. I guess they don’t have it any more. Milo and Zeus have bigger, browner, and doggier fish to fry. Celebrate with me, this is a victory! We’re going out for ice cream! Love, or at least tolerance, wins out in time.😊

Maxwell the lover
John and Chester discussing the toilet paper incident.