Chester and reality…

Last summer there was a dead rabbit in our yard and Chester was carrying it around. I told myself that it had died of natural causes and he just found it. I guess I have to rethink that theory because unfortunately, he killed another. It’s the downside of dog ownership; I know these things happen. But it’s sad. I love the bunnies. The truth is,  bunnies have been Chester’s arch-nemeses since we brought him home. He is halfhearted now about squirrels, but something about a bunny sets him off. How could he not love little furry cute bunnies? Because the Reality is, Chester is a dog.

He had no regret for his misdeed. He was pretty proud of himself and looked mighty happy. He went out the next morning and revisited the scene of the crime, sniffing around at who knows what (I know what, just don’t want to think about what) The cats have killed mice, voles, and taken the tail off of a chipmunk. The chipmunk was perfectly fine, just tail-less. I found the tail in the basement. Chester is bigger, but it’s still the food chain. He had to survive the mean streets of Cleveland somehow. It’s not warm and fuzzy, but it’s the reality of being a dog.

At work we have to do some mental exercises that may help in alleviating stress. Each day we are to apply certain strategies to manage a stressful situation. The task this week was to take a negative situation and try to reframe it to make it positive. Like making lemonade out of lemons. It irritates me to no end because I think it focuses on the wrong thing. The cause of the stress isn’t the situation. The real problem is in expectations. We use the word “should” like it’s the norm. I think that word should (😊) be banned. Why do we think we are so special that we should be happy and that it’s all about us? It’s not about should, it’s about is. It is what it is. If we always think people are only good, and we deserve only good, and people should be good to us, then we aren’t looking at reality.

Reality is facing the world head on with clear vision. We are all animals, good and bad, we pick on each other, we fly off the handle, kill each other, make mistakes and hurt each other just because we are not perfect. We are part of the food chain too. But, and this is a big but (I like big buts and I cannot lie…but I digress), if we accept this, it’s less stressful because there is no expectation or entitlement. Instead of “why me” it’s “why not me”. Not to say it isn’t difficult, but asking with these words is not as personal, it’s more about the inevitability of the situation due to being human. I don’t want to make the situation positive– It’s not. That fails to acknowledge that it happened. I want to say it is what it is. It may never be better but it happened because we are all perfectly imperfect. We have ups and downs. I’m not going to reframe the negative situation to try to make it positive–that’s not honest.

Back to Chester…is it weird that I don’t want him to lick me? Ew. I’m considering a loose muzzle for the springtime morning and evening backyard excursions. Enough is enough. I want to be able to feed the birds and enjoy the bunnies and squirrels. If he wants to chase them, he can go for it, but no more of this food chain stuff in my backyard. We spend way too much on dog food for that. So, I’ll be braving the pet store with the grandsons, which pretty much doubles my purchases. They like to get treats for Chester and the cats, decorations for the aquarium and an occasional tennis ball for themselves. We have a delightful outing and I enjoy their enthusiasm and questions. This is reality too. Knowing both realities make the sweet ones so much better.  

Chester monitoring the perimeter for bunnies.

Bagels, spring, and Elvis Costello…

Last Thursday morning I needed to mail some cards at the post office, so I drove to Painesville via the side roads. I was apprehensive, since we were in the middle of the third or fourth “blizzard of the century” according to the weather people. The schools were closed so I thought I’d be slipping and sliding. BUT

Some days things go my way! There was very little snow on the road, and I dropped the cards into the box, then realized that Dunkin Donuts was on the way to the highway. (I kind of planned this, let’s be honest)  Guess what? There was nobody in line at the drive through! It’s normally a wait, so  I decided to celebrate and live a little. I got a large iced coffee with cream instead of a medium, and a toasted sesame bagel with…get this….garden veggie cream cheese instead of regular! I was a risk-taking daredevil! I made a couple discoveries

1) A large coffee is a lot of coffee

2) Garden veggie cream cheese is tasty but messier than regular cream cheese

3) It’s kind of disconcerting to feel a chunk of something solid in your mouth when you’re eating cream cheese.

That was Thursday. Today is Sunday, March 1st. What a difference three days makes! It’s 47 degrees, aka flip-flop weather in Cleveland. Chester and I went to Lake Erie Bluffs for a long walk. Of course the snow had melted, and it was pretty muddy. So we went around the meadow trail—still muddy but a little higher ground. Below are some pictures. I discovered that mud, while not good for my tennies, is great for heel spurs. My foot didn’t hurt at all, so I had lots of time to think. This time, I thought about Elvis Costello.

When he was in high school, almost 20 years ago, my son created a portrait of Elvis Costello using round circles. I always liked Elvis Costello when I was younger. I thought he was the essence of honest cool. I did find out that he was born 5 years and 5 days before me, a meaningless but interesting fact. I thought, and still do, that he puts his heart in his music. Of course my theme song is “Watching the Detectives” since that’s basically what I do. So I thought about the Elvis Costello artwork and decided I should frame it and hang it up.

Why is it that some things on our to-do lists that seem so small are harder than they should be? I was happy that it was already matted. But Milo the cat had sneezed snot all over the matting, not so much the picture. I had a frame, and thought, hey why not just take off the matte and frame it? Sigh. The picture just didn’t look the same. So I tried a bigger frame, a different matte, and so on and so on. It’s still crooked. ARGH! Elvis is watching me type and looking like he’s disappointed in me. Not hung up yet but framed.

I have a long list of things like this that I want to do but each one takes forever. Maybe that is what retirement will be…all the little things. I let go of the little things when I am busy. But often the little things are what matter. I do like Elvis. I’m going to get some wire, and fix the matte so it’s not crooked, and hang it up. That should only take me another day, or year. Then I’ll move on to the next project. Have a good week, and if you are lucky enough, enjoy the spring weather. Chester and I did😊

Chester enjoying the high road
Lake Erie Bluffs
Elvis, almost ready.

Ballet and heel spurs…

I just realized I have not written in February and I’m almost out of time! What on earth happened to February? For me, it has been kind of a mess of random issues. I’m not going to talk about all my ailments, aches and pains because that’s boring. But I do have some news on the health front:

  1. I don’t have dementia
  2. I do have heel spurs (more to come) and
  3. I was able to get rid of most stomach issues with the fodmap diet and eliminating dairy.

OK, number 2….my heel started to feel like a poker was..poking through my heel. Every step was painful. Now those of you who have experienced this, stop nodding your heads you know-it-alls. I didn’t know what it was and thought maybe amputation would be a good idea. But no, after x-rays I found out I have a heel spur. I have to wear more supportive shoes which means two things: I can’t wear heels like I used to, and I am limiting my walks with Chester.

OH NO you say? Yes, you should say that because since the walks are shorter, I am having incomplete thoughts. For example, I thought of a doggie song. It went like this:

It’s a hard bone life…for   yep that was it, because the walk was over.

Knock knock. Who’s there?   Oh, shoot, my heel hurts, that’s all you get.

Did you hear the one about ? Oops, home again.

So, you may get some shorter posts which I’m sure you won’t mind. The problem is I have flat feet. I knew that when I was little but who cares when you’re little? I learned this nugget of information from two sources—our jogging instructor at University of Toledo (yes it was a class) and my ballet teacher.

My sister and I started taking ballet lessons when we were pretty little..maybe 5-6 years old. We would hop skip and jump across the Michigan border to Styles Dance Studio. Karen and Sandy Styles were the instructors. Sandy had poufy blond hair.  I can’t speak for my sister, but I loved it. We took ballet and later baton. The high point of our baton mastery was when Kimmy dropped/tossed it into the audience during a performance. That was pretty cool. I still pretend my handbell mallets are batons sometimes. We got to wear make up and costumes and have parties. We danced a little too. I had a ballet record (still do) that I wrote “Martha, mod teacher” on and drew pictures of my svelte self in a tutu doing an arabesque. But as we got older, they recommended that we go to the Toledo Ballet School. So…we did.

The Toledo Ballet School was in the old Toledo Cricket West plaza, upstairs. Only the serious ballerinas went there. They didn’t have “shows” like we did at Styles but they had the biggest, baddest, show in town…The Nutcracker. Everyone tried out for The Nutcracker, including us. We didn’t make it, but I felt like I was close to being a soldier just by auditioning with all the other potential soldier wannabes. Fact—The Toledo Ballet holds the longest running Nutcracker in the nation. I kid you not. But I digress…

My ballet teacher was Madame Velta Chernonok, a small Latvian lady with a heavy accent. She was terrifying and amazing. She was a marvelous ballerina. I absolutely glowed when she clapped for me when I made it all the way across the floor on pointe, something I had been struggling with. You see, ballerinas then (maybe now, not sure) only put a little lambs wool in their toe shoes. I just had a hard time without some padding. Madame Velta supported us but was honest to a fault. Once, when I was getting older, she told my mom that I was welcome to go on in ballet, but would probably not get any better. When my mom asked why, she looked us straight on and said, “she has flat feet.” Huh. There it is. That was the end of my ballet career right there. I loved ballet, but there comes a point when you have to decide if you work twice or three times harder, if it would help at all. Ballet and flat feet don’t mix.

Now? Flat feet and heel spurs. I have to do exercises and limit the walking on pavement a little. No more pretty heels. I guess I will have to learn to think great thoughts more quickly since our walks will be shorter. And, I plan to post more often. Below is a photo of Madame Velta who has my complete respect. She passed in 2009 but left a legacy of ballerinas like me.

Madame Chernonok
Image preview

Winter Wonderland and MacArthur Park…

We made it back! Our trip to Arnstein was beautiful. We didn’t freeze like a bunch of Elsas and Olafs. We snowshoed, hiked in the snow, walked across the lake, played Euchre and Hearts, and ate Oreos. Well, I ate Oreos. My sister and niece ate healthy food. My brother did OK too with healthy food. Me, I ate Oreos. We bought a bunch of Canadian craft beers and had “flights” where we sampled them. All in all it was a relaxing, joyous trip.

I just wish I could remember my niece’s name. Who is this girl? She isn’t the same as the niece I had before. She is a competent and delightful person with a great head on her shoulders. I just can’t remember…let’s see….my nephews are Nick and Matt and Stephen, but who is she? I’ll think about it.  It’s interesting–there is some land we found out about that may be for sale in the spring. My niece expressed interest in it. My brother, sister and I love this land.  it’s where many good memories are. Now I see the same feelings in Nick, Matt, Mike, Jeff, Izzy, and the niece. I hope they find as many moments of peace there with their families as we did.

So change of thoughtwave..this morning I heard MacArthur Park on the 60s channel. I can’t believe how many songs are famous as covers. There does not seem to be anything new in this world. Three of the songs I heard were done again as covers more recently and with success.  MacArthur Park is the one sticking with me. This was sung by Richard Harris, in 1968. I was more familiar with the 1978 version by Donna Summer. This version was like the trippy Bohemian Rhapsody of 1968. It started like the typical MacArthur Park, then went into a slow, string filled section, then burst into the head banging rock part. Then back to normal. Mr. Harris doesn’t have the same voice as Donna Summer, but who does? (and that’s a big not me folks) I then heard Aretha Franklin singing The Weight (take a load off fanny…etc), and another one that I forgot (just like the niece’s name). I think most original music is not on the radio or listening channels, they should just have a cover channel. But I digress.

The first time I heard MacArthur Park was at a high school halftime show when I was about 11. The Whitmer marching band played it. It was homecoming. I was not in high school but my dad was a teacher there, so we sat with him and mom in the teacher seats. Every year he would buy my sister and me a corsage for homecoming. They were yellow carnations with a black and glittery gold “W”. What a great memory that was! I never was asked to a homecoming dance, so these flowers remained the special homecoming tradition in my mind, not that a homecoming dance would have replaced them anyway. Remember, back then we didn’t go as “friend groups” or alone, instead it was no date, no go. Kind of stupid. Anyway, when I first heard MacArthur Park, I remembered the name because I fell head over heels in love with it. I had no idea what the words were, since it was a marching band, and that would be expecting alot to have them sing and play at the same time. See we didn’t have you tube or music on demand. I had to try to listen to it on WIOT or CKLW. I guess I could have bought the record, but I didn’t know who sang it, and just didn’t. It would be another 10 years until I heard it again as a Donna Summer song, but I remembered every note.

There are experiences that stay with us, inside our core beings, waiting to be dusted off and brought to the forefront. It has been a few years since I was in Arnstein. It was like I never left. I see this in my siblings but also the next generation. Some of it will change, like MacArthur Park went from the Harris version to Donna and disco. It was still good, the core remained. I was so happy to see that my niece (what on earth is her name??) loves it as much as we do. I’m glad we were able to make it up there again. And I’m glad I heard MacArthur Park today.

PS: Alyssa, just kidding. Her name is Alyssa Rae and she is my favorite niece ever. She reads this blog and was whining, I mean commenting that I hadn’t mentioned her name. Here you go Alyssa!  You rock!

Image of birch tree in Canadian winter
Andy and Alyssa 🙂
The beauty of Clear Lake

Coming and going…

Last night was the first Ian Minnick Memorial Scholarship Art and Talent Showcase. Ian passed away last March at the age of 22. His mom and I used to coordinate the Riverside Community Talent Shows 5 years ago. So, we upclassed it a little, including professional acts mixed in with kids, bands, dancers, and brought it back. We also included an art raffle, with 40 pieces made by or donated by community members. Some of us felt like Ian was there, and I think he would have approved. It went swimmingly well, and it kicked my butt.

Age creeps up on you. Five years ago i could bounce around the stage, totally on top of things, moving the piano, handling the acts and was with it every step of the way. Last night I realized that there’s a reason older people aren’t as prevalent in theater. My biggest issue was with my feet hurting. But my biggest worry is my brain. I made some errors that there was no reason for, and I shouldn’t have made. I didn’t know i was making them. I don’t know why I made them. I have found that I don’t remember things like I used to, and while this is fairly normal, I don’t trust myself any more. I need a system to follow and people to rely on. Luckily I had both last night. I tell myself I am fearless but I have to confess to being scared of this. I had a MRI recently, so it’s nothing cancerous or visible, all looked fine. My plan is to keep record of these lapses, and see if there is a pattern. Maybe it was just overload but I’m going to try to figure it out.

Meanwhile, I’m going to Arnstein, Ontario next weekend. My little brother wanted to go, and since he was a kid, nobody could say no to Andy. His wife and my husband, of sound mind and body, decided they weren’t really interested in going to Canada in January. So we are going, along with my sister and a few other brave souls. Why? I don’t know. But when something overwhelms me, or I am afraid, all it takes is a minute at Clear Lake, frozen or not, to bolster me. I just want to put my hands on the birch trees and feel my roots. I will take three days to breathe the air, build a snowman, kneel on the frozen lake. When I come back I will be focused and fearless again.

I didn’t walk Chester today. That usually helps clear my mind. But like I said, my feet hurt! So…I am working on step one of pet integration: cat to cat. We are all sitting in the same room, two cats and me. Only one hiss so far. They are staring at each other, but not particularly on guard. Just staring. As long as neither one moves, we’re all happy.

Have a spectacular week! Tell someone you love them. You might be the person someone else needs to hold on to. Wish us luck that the ice holds. And that I remember my passport. Not kidding. Do me a favor and comment about Wednesday to remember my passport ok? Hey, we all need someone to rely on!