A place where I can share interesting ideas and maybe get a few things off my chest

Archive for January, 2014

There’s No Coffee???

Our Back-Up

Yesterday morning, my husband went into the kitchen to fill his travel mug, only to find that our coffee pot, while proudly beaming its little green light that normally proclaims “The coffee is ready!”, had not actually made any coffee at all. He had commented the morning before that the coffee tasted funny, and after no coffee at all on  Thursday, we surmised that our trusty morning servant must have been giving its last gasp to try to give us a fine pot of coffee on Wednesday morning, and expired during the process.

Fortunately, we have a back-up coffee pot in the garage, kept for just such an emergency. It’s not fancy, it doesn’t have a clock, a time-delay setting, or an automatic shut-off, but it does the job in a pinch. Morning was saved, even if the old coffee maker wasn’t.

Last night, we set out to find a replacement that would be our reasonably-priced, reliable (for about three years of daily use, anyway) Mr. Coffee #3. A quick trip to Target yielded success and we are now the relieved owners of a brand-new, all-white (because I can’t see what’s in the bottom of the all-black ones and it just makes me too nervous) steadfast morning companion.

Our New Morning Friend

A quick wash, a coffee-less run-through, and our new Mr. Coffee (Shouldn’t we be on first-name terms, now that we live together? Maybe we’ll call him Fred) was ready for set-up for the morning. Our back-up pot will go back into the garage, and be ready when called upon again in about three years’ time.

Since Mother had already gone to bed, I got her white board, wrote “Mom: This is the new coffee pot. Don’t push any buttons. Your coffee will be ready by 6:30 a.m. Love, Kay” in really big letters, and propped it up in front of the coffee maker so she’d be sure to see it. After I got up, she confirmed that her coffee was, indeed, ready by 6:30 and there was much rejoicing.

It is a fine, fine thing to live in a world where your coffee can be hot and ready for you right when you wake up.

Gracie Has Lost Her Mind

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Gracie’s mess


We’ve had Gracie since mid-June, when we drove to a Weekie-Wachee dog rescue in search of a border collie. It turned out that the only thing Gracie’s rat terrier self had in common with a border collie was her black and white coloring. But she was cute and energetic and charming and we brought her home. She’s been a very good dog, staying in the house during the day, not having any accidents, only chewing on the occasional should-not-have-been-in-her-reach plastic object and generally being a very good dog.

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Gracie behaving at Thanksgiving

Then we got Sophie, and Gracie began acting out and tearing things up. First, she got into the bag I had taken to work with Sophie, chewing through and totally destroying a Rubbermaid bowl that had held some dog food, and just tearing up the other stuff in the bag in general. A few days later, she got into another bag that had plastic water bottles in various levels of emptiness and all kinds of papers and random stuff and tore it all up all over the living room, biting through the plastic bottles so they dripped out and got all the papers wet.

We thought most of her acting out was because she was being left home alone while Sophie was going with me, but yesterday morning, I left them both home while taking Mother to a doctor’s appointment. I placed the wire kennel across the end of the hallway so they’d have access to the doggie door to go outside, but be confined to the back of the house. This was an experiment that failed miserably. Not only did they both meet me at the front door when we got home, having gotten past the wire kennel with it still in place, but before getting out of the den, Gracie managed to tear up one of the new doggie beds, a multi-CD case, one of Steve’s crocs, plastic sleeves out of a 3-ring binder and some of the papers that had been in the sleeves, a box containing a silver-polishing cloth, and a cloth book bag, and also to  knock the door of the wire kennel off its hinges so it fell fully inside onto its floor. Oh, and one of the dog toys was outside, having been drug through the dirt several times, along with pieces of a large plastic cup from Cuban Breezes we had been using to fill their water bowls.

Unfortunately for Sophie, who is just getting used to living here and really getting the whole idea of the doggie door, Gracie has sentenced them both to several hours locked in their kennels on the days Mom goes to the Senior Center.


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We recently added a new family member to our household. She is 5 years old, retiring from a breeder after having her requisite (for this breeder) three litters. She has never been anywhere but the breeder’s house and yard, so she’s taking a little while to get used to us, to her doggie-sibling, Gracie, and to the entire concept of harnesses and leashes.

Before we went to pick her up, I told Mother about her, and that her name was Fiona. Since Mother mostly reads lips, and she evidently has never heard this name before, she looked at me funny and said “Veeoga?” After I wrote it down, she said it correctly, but still looked quite puzzled. By the time we had had Fiona a couple of days, Mother had asked her name several times and mispronounced it in several unique ways. At one point, I looked down at the little dog, and the name “Sophie” popped in my head. Doggie telepathy, maybe? Anyway, it seemed closed enough to “Fiona” to not be too confusing for her, and perhaps a name Mother could better remember. When I told Mom the dog’s name was now going to be Sophie, she said, “Well, that’s better than Fie-ona.” And so it is. A couple of days later, Steve was scanning our bill of sale and noticed that the breeder spelled “Fiona” as “Phonia”. She said her daughters named the dogs after Disney princesses. I guess Mom wasn’t the only one to have never encountered that name in real life.

So, now, Sophie has been fixed (the breeder refunded us almost half her cost upon proof of spaying), had her teeth cleaned, got a few bad teeth pulled, got her jingle jewelry (county registration/rabies tag), and is almost fully recuperated. After being pushed in and out through the doggie door several times, she has managed to let herself into the house through it, but hasn’t felt a strong enough desire to use it to go out, so I’m still trying to monitor her closely enough to save myself from having to clean up tiny doggie messes.

Gracie has gotten over her severe jealousy and now is only playing the normal version of “don’t pet her, pet me”, rather than the spastic, shed-all-my-hair-and-drool-on-you version. She has also tried to get Sophie to play a few times, but Sophie is still very skittish with all of us. She follows me around, but won’t come to me. The best she’ll do is stop a few feet away, and then not immediately run away as I approach her. And that’s not consistent. The breeder said she was a cuddler, so I’m hoping it won’t take her too much longer to get used to us and actually try to get us to hold and pet her. I’m ready for my new lap dog to actually want to sit in my lap.


Mousie & Me

Mousie & Me

I know it’s been at least 10 years, but the actual date is lost in the Big-Pool-of-Before that is my memory. I was looking to add a small dog to our household and stopped in at the Dallas Animal Shelter. Entering the door ahead of me was what appeared to be a college student with a small, shivering, obviously scared to death little dog clinging to her shoulder. If I had thought quickly enough, I could have saved myself the $100-ish adoption fee, but I waited in line behind her until she had surrendered the pitiful little thing – “I just don’t have time for her” -, stepped up, and said, “I want that one!”.

The clerk said they had to do all the routine check-in stuff for/to her, but I would be able to come back for her that evening. After my teenagers were home from school, we all went back over there to retrieve our new family member. While we were finalizing the paperwork, my daughter held the dog in her lap – until the dog jumped and landed on her head on the floor. Somehow, she blamed Janette for this painful event. When the shelter employee removed the paper collar, some of the sticky side pulled the dog’s hair. She yelped, and since Janette was still holding her, also blamed that pain and suffering on my innocent daughter. It took about three days for Janette to be forgiven those initial insults.

I decided on the name “Mouse” because this tiny dog was very small and gray. My then-husband and son teased me by calling her “Rat”, but they ended up falling in love with her, too. We had recently acquired a rather large guinea pig (Bob – named sort-of for the new Taco Bueno BOB – Big Ol’ Burrito, because Bob was a “Big Ol’ Boy”) and Mouse and Bob were neck-and-neck with weight gain, both starting at about 3.5 pounds. Mouse eventually won, topping out a pound over Bob’s four pound maximum.

On the way home, we stopped for fast food, and as we were working on that evening’s chapter of our read-aloud book, I lay on my stomach, Mouse sat on my butt, and my kids proceeded to feed her as many french fries as she could hold. Until she threw up on my back. We learned right away that Mousie had no self-control when it came to tasty food, something that almost killed her a couple of years later when she stole a sub sandwich off the coffee table and ate all the salami out if it.

Mouse was very bossy right from the start. Her first week at home, I was reading in my bedroom when she came in, “erf”ed at me, and set off down the hallway to the front of the house. “What is it, Mouse? Timmy in the well?” I followed her into the living room where she had sat herself down in the middle of the floor. Perplexed, I sat down on the couch, whereupon she immediately jumped up and settled herself into my lap, mission accomplished. And she eventually orchestrated the movements of the other dogs in the household, reigning from the back of the couch, the prime spot for watching out the window for cars and pedestrians. Although she rarely ran outside herself, she would bark to let the other dogs know they needed to rush out the doggie door to confront perceived trespassers. And so they did.

Mousie has been gone several years, eventually succumbing to kidney failure, even over the valiant efforts of my ex, who took her to the vet for near-daily subcutaneous fluid treatments. She wasn’t very old, but the vet said that as small as she was, her kidneys might never have formed properly to begin with. Or who knows. I still miss her.

And, I’ve said all that to say this: Tonight, I will be going to meet Fiona, a 5-year-old yorkie who has weaned her third litter and is now ready for doggie retirement. There’s going to be a yorkie at our house!

Highlands Hammock State Park

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Highland Hammocks State Park


Since we got our trailer, we’ve been taking one weekend a month to explore the Florida State Parks system. Each park has its specific attractions, and I was excited to read about Highland Hammocks and its museum dedicated to the Civilian Conservation Corps. The author of one of the blogs I read daily, TYWKIWDBI, has a special interest in the stonework done by the CCC and has written several posts with pictures from different parks in the northeast. I was quite eager to get a close-up look at some myself, and promised him photos. What I didn’t consider is the fact that the CCC stonework was always done with local stone and in Florida, well, there’s just not that much, and it’s just not that pretty. They did do quite a nice job with what they had, though, with master builders and stoneworkers supervising young men in learning construction skills while helping to expand the country’s park systems.

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Highland Hammocks CCC stonework bridge

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Outside the museum building

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Fireplace inside the museum building

So, while there wasn’t much stonework, and the stones they had to work with weren’t quite as beautiful as the photos I’ve seen from other parts of the country, I did enjoy the museum and learning more about the CCC. The young men came from all over the country, living in barracks and earning $5 per week, most of which was sent home to their families at the end of each month.

CCC logo

CCC logo

Tribute to CCC workers

Tribute to CCC workers

CCC barracks

CCC barracks

And the museum did a nice job of combining physical objects with photos for enhanced presentation.

Full-sized photo placed in 3-D diorama

Full-sized photo placed in 3-D diorama

What really surprised us, though, was the extent of the parks built by the CCC, which essentially kick-started park systems across the nation.

CCC sites across the U.S.

CCC sites across the U.S.

The Americorps program, started in 1994, could be said to be the CCC’s legacy, although it is much smaller in scope.

I have thought that programs like the CCC would be a good plan for young people now, with so many of them unemployed and without skills, but then I realized that most of the young men at that time had come off the farms and were used to hard work and little comfort, much less luxury. I wonder how today’s population would fare if put into those same conditions.



Well, Maybe One Resolution, Then

Jeff Goins has a blog and newsletter about writing and has issued a 500-Words a day for 31 days challenge.

This seems a lot more sane than NaNoWriMo, not to mention more attainable. And I think this is a good example of a “closer to the mountain”  activity.



Obligatory New Year’s Post – 2014 Edition

I don’t really make New Year’s Resolutions. I resolve to do different things throughout the year as they seem appropriate and I feel ready. A few weeks ago I resolved to make regular blog posts as part of my writing practice. I believe this will be post #93 (or #94?) on a blog that is over six years old; nineteen of those 93 posts were made in this past month.

Above is a video of Neil Gaiman addressing the University of the Arts graduating class of 2012. I’m not sure just when I stumbled across it, but his metaphor of a mountain representing his main goal in life really resonated with me, and evidently with a lot of people, based on how many times I’ve seen this video shared. I still find it moving, and I continue to ask myself as I go through my days and weeks, “Are today’s choices moving me closer to the mountain?”

I don’t know if I’m making “good art” yet, but it feels like I’m at least approaching the foothills.

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