Wednesday, March 30, 2022

In Which I Give March The Boot And Discuss Its Fallout

arch is blustering off, and I say Good Riddance. You were a bit of a bitch, March, and I didn't appreciate it. At all. About the best thing I can say for you is You Were Not February. Now get moving and don't even think about giving April any advice.

Over the weekend, we had two inches of heavy, wet snow dumped on us very unceremoniously. It was not the Dept.'s fault; we had our snow shovels prominently displayed next to the door as custom demands in NEO until mid-April at least. We know how this works. No, Dear Readers, I blame these people:

Taken on March 24th

Do you see the dead, deflated Christmas Thing there flanked by blooming daffodils? On March 24th? That is, right there, the reason we got hit with shitful snow last weekend--Climatological Confusion caused by Seasonal Dissonance. These individuals have a lot to answer for. A. Lot.

Because of that lousy snow, I forced myself to take the whole day Saturday (after shovelling) and complete some projects. One of those was The Dreaded Cat Brushing. The cats have become so belligerent about it that I now shut myself and one of them at a time in the small hallway. All the doors to the rooms are also shut. I sit on the floor and rotate like a child on a Sit 'n' Spin, wielding a brush, taking swipes as a cat deigns to pass. During a break in the action, I paused to take a photo of my new shoes--bought at Target on clearance for only nine bucks:

Remember when vegan leather was just vinyl?

I sent it to Jared and Sam, bragging about my bargain.
Me:  These are my 9$ shoes!
Jared: What a bargain!
Sam:  Why are you on the floor?

Now that I look at the picture, my ankles look terrible and hairy. They are not, honest. Just in need of lotion.

Finally, one last photo. March has been cruel, and my dear BFF Leanne in Maryland knows it. She decided to send me my birthday present very early, and I am so glad she did. My tears were happy and grateful ones when I opened it. It's a day late for Tiny Needle Tuesday, but she made me this beautiful sampler. We share its sentiment so very, very deeply:

Sorry it's skewed. It's so hard to photograph glass in any light.

It's not March's fault that my friends live so far away, but it did nothing to help it, either. So, screw you, March. Hit the road. You were even devastating for my fantasy basketball team (SIX players on the Injured Reserved at once! Steph Curry out. Damontas Sabonis out for five games in a row. I can't even go on.) 

Join me in saying So Long to March. Let's have High Hopes for April. Certainly more Christmas decorations will be gone...won't they? (Tell me what I want to hear in Comments.)

Thursday, March 10, 2022

How I Celebrated International Women's Day And Other Sundries

 Oh, hello. Welcome back to the Fabulous Life that I somehow lead. How to Sort It All Out for you and where to begin? Let's just jump in Anywhere and go.

~*~On Tuesday the 8th, I showed up at 9AM (what was I thinking?!) for my mammogram. I put on the requisite pink mammo-shirt and walked into the chamber--freezing, of course. The technician greeted me warmly and said, "What a great day for a mammogram! Happy International Women's Day! It's the perfect way to celebrate!" Luckily, I am a Tactful Person, born of years and years of teaching teenagers, and I was able to respond with, "And to think I had no idea when I made this appointment. What a terrific coincidence!" She was kind, professional, and even gave me a nice pink pen.

~*~Piper and Marlowe, the Resident Cats, turned twelve earlier this month. Our relationship has become...strained. Shall I blame it on The Pandemic? The old adage "Familiarity breeds Contempt"? They've gotten mouthy and demanding. They start staring at me and snarking for their meals at least an hour before time. Marlowe never, ever shuts up unless she's asleep. I cannot sit down without having Piper commandeer my lap. AND THE HAIR. Is there such a thing as an industrial strength vacuum that one can install at one end of the house and it just sucks really hard and pulls out ALL THE CAT HAIR AT ONCE? I need that. Pronto.

~*~I cannot believe that I have to say this on March 10th, but here it is:  CHRISTMAS IS OVER. TAKE DOWN YOUR OUTDOOR DECORATIONS. At this point, they are abusive. If you would like to keep Christmas in your heart and in your home, for whatever reason, please do. Keeping them outside to lower property values and everyone's spirits is selfish and lazy. Today on my walk, I had the jarring experience of witnessing a deflated Santa flanked by a shamrock wreath and an Easter egg tree. If there were a bar on my route, I'd have stopped in and had a stiff drink.

~*~Things are, however, Looking Up. We're getting longer stretches of decent weather between winter storms. The silver maples are full of bright red buds. The magnolia trees have soft little catkins all over their branches. My daffodils have emerged from the landscape beds about an inch or so--brave things! Robins, having arrived back in early February, are now everywhere and singing. My sage, chives, oregano, and thyme are already coming along in the herb garden. With the weather giving me safer sidewalks, I can walk far more often, so my moods are less gloomy and grey. I'm starting to believe that Spring May Come.

Tell me if our Worlds collide or anything about Your World in Comments.


Saturday, February 19, 2022


The other day Rick was looking outside and remarked, "Wow.  Look at those clouds. What an ominous sky."

I immediately smiled and corrected him, "It's pronounced om-nee-us. It's an omnious sky."

He chuckled.  "Right. Omnious. How could I forget?"

"Well, you can, but I can't. Ray said I'd never forget him, and that kid was right. Every single time I hear the word Ominous, I think of him, smile, and silently pronounce it Omnious. I loved that kid."

Ray was a student in my Creative Writing class many years ago. He was skinny, almost wraithlike, with platinum blonde hair that he wore just below his ears. His skin was pale and his eyes were large and blue behind his glasses. He had a sort of bug-like look about him, but in an endearing sort of way. His smile was large and easy, and he was thrilled to be in a Creative Writing class. When he found out that all the writing was to be read aloud, he was a bit leery, but upon hearing assurances that each writer first got a round of applause, then positive comments before one constructive critique, his concerns were settled.

As it usually happens in CW, the students formed partners or small groups among themselves. Most often, these turn out to be writing critique/help associations, and not based upon friendships. I individualized instruction in the form of one-on-one conferences at my desk during class time, so students found the groups/partnerships to be extremely valuable.

Ray, who was into Wicca and Native American spiritualism, and had recently come out (very difficult back in the 90s--he helped found our school's Gay Student Union), chose as his critique partner Nathan. I sat back and waited for...I don't know what. But something, certainly.

Nathan was joining our huge, diverse urban high school after being homeschooled for his entire life.  He was a fundamentalist Christian who always had his Bible with him. He was very quiet and from a big family. Creative Writing was already quite a jolt, I was sure, and Ray had to be a living, breathing Culture Shock for him. 

Those two, however, got along famously. Ray was so kind and gentle, and he was so accepting and tolerant that he could get along with anyone. He once confided in me that his father had no idea what to make of him, and that he had little in common with his own family; he loved school where he could be himself and be around all the people he really liked. 

One day Nathan admitted that it was difficult for him to work in CW class because it was often a bit chatty and he couldn't concentrate. Ray asked if we could have one day a week where we worked in silence, except for my conferences. I immediately said yes, and that we would even call it Nathan Day. And so we did.

Ray ended up truly enjoying reading his work aloud. He got quite good at it, and often became very dramatic. In CW2, which was the poetry semester, the students had to write a sonnet. When Ray came up to read his aloud, he took a moment at the lectern to compose himself, then made a sweeping gesture with his hand as he intoned in a deep and un-Ray voice :  The omnious horizon loomed ahead--

And I almost lost it. Almost. Omnious. Honestly, I can't remember if I corrected him later, during critique, or if I just corrected him on the paper or what, but bless his heart, I will never forget that as long as I live.

At the end of the year, Ray gave me his photo. On the back he wrote a great many nice things about me and our time together. At the bottom he wrote, "You'll never forget me." I remember when I read it, I chuckled at its confident assurance. I also thought it was just like Ray--most people would say, "I'll never forget you," but not Ray. Even now, I'm smiling and shaking my head.

He was right, of course. I've never forgotten him. I've no idea where he is now or what he's doing (of course, I hope he's writing), but I bet he's remembered fondly by many, many more people than just his Creative Writing teacher. 



Saturday, February 05, 2022

Z Is For Zydrunas

 Meet Zydrunas, my granddog.

Zydrunas's name is pronounced zih-DROO-niss, but you can call him Z. As is usual in our family, he has a lot of nicknames, too:  BrownDog, Brown, Best Brown Dog, Bubba, and Big Brown are just a few of them. There is not a single person or pet that exists in our family who doesn't have a dozen or so nicknames. Your family may be the same.

His name comes from the Cleveland Cavaliers All Star center, now retired, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who both of my sons greatly admire. 

Jared and Sam, who lived together in 2014, adopted him from the Cleveland kennel. They told them that he was already a year old, had been found wandering around a chemical plant, and was in very good health. Sam and Jared specifically chose a dog from the city kennel because they euthanize dogs after they've been there too long. 

Here's a photo of Zydrunas on his Rescue Day.

 That smile was the first of many in his new life. There cannot be a more joyful, more exuberant, more completely happy dog than this Big Brown Dog. Here he is right now, just so darn happy to be alive and with the people he loves.

When the boys stopped living together, Jared took full custody of Zydrunas. Then when Jared moved in with his new family, Sam took full custody. Throughout it all, they have co-parented Z and shared the costs associated with his care. Jared comes for visitation frequently, and Z can barely handle it. The zoomies are cataclysmic; nothing is safe.

Like many big and strong dogs, Zydrunas has no idea of his size, and he often climbs onto me for a Visit and a Cuddle. He is a 70-pound dog, and when on his hind legs, he is only about a foot shorter than I am. Still, when he wants Nance Time, he must have it. And because I am so completely and crazy in love with this dog, I am more than happy to oblige.

For Christmas this year, I got Sam an Embark Dog DNA kit (which he has yet to use) so that he can finally find out exactly what kind of dog Zydrunas is. We think he's probably part pitbull and part boxer. We don't really care; we're just curious. We love this dog no matter what he is.

Wouldn't you?

(Other posts about Zydrunas's early days are here, and here.)

Zydrunas wraps up the Alphabet Posts for me. We hope you have a restful week ahead.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Y Is For Yes


It's dreadfully cold here in Northeast Ohio (aka NEO), and there's nothing I want to do less than leave my home where it's warm, comfy, and everything I need is easily within my reach. I'm wearing leggings, a fleece zip-up, and behind my back is my heating pad--on High. I'm hoping that This Is It for me for the rest of the day and night; however, if, say, Sam called and invited us down to his house, or our friends sent a text and invited us to see their new home, I'd say Yes.

My Campaign Of Yes began some time ago, when I retired. It was inspired in no small part by a quote in the book The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. In it, a countess is trying to flee her brutish foreign husband and seek comfort back in her American home and family.  Society is unkind, and she is confused by its coldness to her. She ignores Society and does what she wants. "I must go where I am invited, or I should be too lonely," she tells a friend. 

I certainly didn't have the countess's problems, but I decided that I'd take her advice and go wherever and whenever I was invited so that I would fill my days. And I did--to movies, to lunches, to shopping trips, to various outings and visits--as often as I could, saying Yes as much as I was able. 

After a time, those things naturally faded as retirees started to spend more time with their families or travel or find other things to do. And I did the same things, too. But it was fun while it lasted.

I still continue with my Campaign Of Yes, however, and I highly recommend it. Of course it's easier to say No and stay home with a cat on my lap and read or play Words With Friends. But I have almost always been happier that I went to Wherever It Was. This morning, Rick had to go to the lakehouse and troubleshoot the Nest thermostat, which we had lost connectivity with almost two weeks ago. It was a bone-chilling five degrees when he asked me if I was going along. My face must have been a mix of horror and panic because he immediately said, "You don't have to! I just thought I'd ask." I admit that I did struggle for a moment or two, but stuck to my Campaign. "Yes," I said. "Of course I'll go."

We hadn't been to the lake in a month or so. The community is shrouded in snow and quiet. From the driveway, we could see the lake, silent and frozen. Here and there in our yard were pawprints from rabbits and squirrels. I knew that if we went out and looked down at the lakeside, we might see hoofprints from deer. As we looked farther out towards the southern end, we could see several people ice fishing. The sun broke through the clouds and revealed a brilliant blue sky.

As always, being at the lakehouse was relaxing and brought back such happy memories. The place is a Haven Of Yes--everyone is encouraged to do what they want. If you want to swim, fine. If you want to fish, do it. If you want to just lie on a chaise longue and enjoy the day, do that. If you want to stay inside and watch TV, then Yes you can. 

I said Yes, and again I was glad I did. It was good to get out, go for a drive, and get things sorted out at the lakehouse. It was lovely to gaze out at the frozen lake and appreciate its sleeping beauty. One small and simple word gave me all of that. Yes.

Do you have your own Campaign Of Yes? If not, how do you feel about trying it out?


Wednesday, January 05, 2022

X Is For eXhausted, eXasperated, And The X Factor


As you can see, I'm Creatively Forcing It for letter X. I don't have a lot to give these days, but I wanted to pop in here, wish you all a Happy New Year, and tell you that in addition to some really thoughtful and wonderful Christmas gifts, I also got COVID.

Like you, I am fully vaccinated and boosted, and so are all of my family, yet by the time this exposure ran its course, ten of us tested positive, including my 91-year old mother.  And there was never a time when all ten of us were in any place together. 

Also perhaps like you, I mask up anytime I'm in public--the grocery store, the pet food store, the pharmacy--and as soon as I get in my car, I use hand sanitizer, even before I take off my mask. I'm religious about handwashing, about social distancing, about wiping the handles of carts with the disinfecting wipes at the stores. It's eXhausting, but I never wanted to get sick.

The thing is, not everyone does that. Ohio's corrupt and gerrymandered republican legislature has gutted all COVID safeguards. Many people, even those who are vaXXed and boosted, are eXhausted by this pandemic and don't even wear masks at work or in stores. And when Omicron arrived, that behaviour did not change, sadly. And here we are. 

My symptoms began the day after Christmas with a slightly scratchy throat, which I shrugged off. Jared and Sam had both been fighting a cold for a day or two, and Jared had already tested negative for COVID. By that Monday, Sam had been sent home from work with a positive test result, and Rick and I were scrambling to find an at-home test. Quite simply, there are absolutely none in Ohio, period. 

A friend with a stockpile of tests gave us two, and we tested positive. Each day last week, our symptoms worsened. I felt like I had a head cold with the flu. The fatigue and muscle weakness were almost debilitating for me. I never got a fever, but I lost my sense of taste and smell. I've only today regained a bit of them both, and not consistently. I'm still weak and tire easily. Rick is still coughing and weak. He never lost his sense of taste or smell and never fevered up, but the coughing takes a lot out of him. He is working from home until he has a negative test. 

(A quick aside--my mother is great. She largely had cold symptoms, and under the fine care of my brother, she not only recovered, but continued her daily exercise regimen as well. She's a marvel.)

 I am finding All Of This incredibly eXasperating. I did everything right. I worked so hard to Be Safe. And for so long! Why are we still fighting this virus, one that we have vaccines for? Why are we in Year THREE of this pandemic? 

What in the hell is going on?!

I'm sick of all of it and sick of being sick. I thought I'd be able to toss my masks by now, yet I read that I have to go looking for new ones, that N95 are the only ones that will keep me Safe now. If there is such a thing as Being Safe.

That Safety is an Illusion, really. In the end, we're only as Safe as the people around us allow us to be. Other People will always be the X Factor. That's a Tough Reality, but that's the Way It Is, especially with Omicron out there now, and the monitoring of yet another variant in France. All we can do is our best to Be Safe, but we have to know that, ultimately, it's not completely in our control. Other People never are.

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