On the Cutting Edge of Shear Madness

There is a venerable phrase many of us have heard countless times in our lives:

Doveryai, no proveryai.

Or if your Russian is a little bit rusty, Trust, but verify.

It’s an old proverb American writer Suzanne Massie passed on to Ronald Reagan before he began traveling to Russia to discuss U.S. and Soviet relations during his presidency.

It became for him somewhat of a trademark phrase.

It became a lodestar for many of us, a crutch for a few, but sage advice for all.

A week ago, my hound, Haggis, had none of the typical skepticism that normally washes across his face unless spotting a jar of peanut butter, his leash, or the hind leg of a freshly shot deer in my hands. But this was because he could no longer spot anything.

Literally. His hair had grown to a length where it could serve as an emergency ladder should he be close to a second story window and we had a fire.

So, when he finally heard the hair-raising snippets of my hair-cutting scissors, that skepticism shifted straight into suspicion and finally parked itself at defiance.

I had never cut his locks before, and he believed it was best if we left it that way.

Today, we find a great swath of our population experiencing a crisis of trust.

And why is that? The reasons are many. Understanding them is paramount and will likely shift the way we think, plan, behave, and move forward.

Together, this globe is redefining what life upon this planet is like. We are forced to assess our work, our relationships, our lifestyles, and the unforeseen shape they will morph into down the road.

Over the next several days I employ great determination during my time of internationally urged self-isolation to convince myself and my great hairy hound that I can accomplish the Herculean task of carving through his shrubby mane in the same way most of my fellow humans try to muddle their way through the maze of subterfuge, pretext, and great gobs of misinformation clouding our sight of the truth.

Daily, I place him in an unnatural position and beg him to be still as I scissor away for the space of an hour. I listen to the news: the practitioners, pundits, the press, and the president—each one with a decreasing sense of belief.

I feel Haggis tremble beneath the sound of sharp shears, and I put the scissors down and soothe him with all the ridiculous cooing tones meant to bring forth some ease. But I echo his same tiny twitch of skin when I’ve nipped him with the tip, or when they broadcast some new tally.

Every day certain numbers shoot up, and others slide down. We are warned by some and encouraged by others. Who do we trust? Who should we trust?

With boastful reassurance, I tell Haggis that he’s going to look fine—don’t gaze in the mirror, don’t question my actions, don’t think about it too hard. Trust me.

Each afternoon I hear about people who have heeded and those who’ve just balked. About those who have saved lives and those who have risked them. I wonder if, when this is all over, and I’m face to face with strangers, will I look at them with a fresh question: can I trust you?

And each afternoon I stand from my work, look at the dog, take a deep breath, and exhale with despair.

Good lord, what a mess. I’ve never done this before. And clearly it shows.

I fill him with flattery and maudlin praise, hoping he can’t see through my bluster and swash. But he feels my inexperience. And he knows that whatever my actions, I’ll not feel them as keenly as he does. He discovers at some point—day four or day five—that I’m frustrated with this routine, I’m wishing it over, and I’m unhappy with the results.

But he also knows that there’s no turning back, and this is where his lack of trust in my skills begins to crystallize into disregard.

I am somewhat offended as each day he pulls away from me, refusing to hand me a hoof or his chin.

You’re going to slow.

You’ve made a right mess.

Look here, now I bleed.

I hear him.

I should have left this up to the professionals. Although this is not a choice. We work with what we have, and a large team of experts does not appear at my door.

Each day I scooch the hound outside, toward the mile-long stretch of road between us and the mailbox. I keep my fingers crossed, hoping no one sees as we walk along. Haggis is only mid-way through this pruning, sporting a thick Mohawk down the length of his back, a mop-head, and four legs that are shaved only three-quarters down, making it appear that he is a belligerent teen prancing about in dog-friendly Uggs.

A neighbor stops his truck and rolls his window down slowly. He eyes the two of us with suspicion.

Has he got the virus?

No, I answer. He’s in the middle of a haircut.

Looks like he’s got the virus.

It does my ego and my confidence no favors to receive yet more criticism, and I mope the rest of the way home.

But tomorrow comes, and after convincing Haggis to climb atop the coffee table/barber’s chair once more, I ask myself a critical self-esteem building question:

What would Vidal Sassoon do?

It’s true—it’s not particularly hashtag worthy, but it seemed relatively uplifting for the moment.

And when one is on one’s own, navigating uncharted waters and expecting choppy results, one will search for signs of inspiration, direction, and security wherever one may find it.

(I’m lookin’ at you Dr. Fauci …)

We muddle through and trudge along. We rise to the occasion and make a small difference.

We find places to put our faith: in facts, in evidence, in one another.

And until we emerge on the other side, knackered, shaggy, and injured, we offer kindness if not confidence.

A spoonful of peanut butter can go a long, long way.

Surely the Russians knew that.

~Shelley

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You Say Tomato, I Say, “Hey There, Bloody Mary”

Someone last week announced that I was particular.

But what I thought I’d heard was that I was peculiar.

Both are true.

At the time I assumed it was a simple observance—one like Oh, you have blue eyes or Your shirt is misbuttoned, or even Huh, I guess some people really do like lutefisk.

But in retrospect I think the statement was more like Huh, I guess some people really do like lutefisk—slathered with Limburger cheese sauce and perched atop a mound of kimchi.

Of course even I know where to draw the line because, Good Lord, no one in their right mind would serve dried cod in lye next to deeply salted and fermented red vegetables. The colors are just way off.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

But I should probably embrace one adjective more so than the other, except after giving it some deep-thought consideration while cleaning out the cat litter (an event that comes just behind sock-folding as far as pensive places for contemplation), I realized that both descriptions justify not simply tolerance, but support.

Maybe even celebration.

Merriam Webster (my three favorite people in the world—yes, three cuz there were two Merriam brothers) states that the word “particular” means: notably unusual, nice in taste, hard to please.

Obviously, that last one was added by mistake and surely the next edition will correct their error, but for the sake of full transparency, I’ve included it above.

The three then go one to define “peculiar” as: special, curious, odd.

Again, I feel as if I could be accused of cherry-picking here, but clearly this is not the case. Undoubtedly, as there are 58,876 words that begin with the letter P, and this day surely brought immeasurable stress and opportunity for the occasional blunder, I shall forgive the lexicographers for that last erroneous entry and dismiss it out of hand altogether.

I am neither hard to please, nor odd.

Except if doing a headcount of humans in my home. Then yes, odd in number I would be.

And I feel extraordinarily pleased to be the odd human at home as there is precious little time wasted instructing anyone but the cats as to the proper way to replace a toilet paper roll. Although they still quibble, with countless power point slideshows, as to the ease of reach for the “under” argument, I, as purchaser of said paper, have final say.

The dog has no opinion and believes it all tastes the same no matter the direction – over or under.

Regardless of one’s paper product preference, I still feel there is much to lionize when one comes across anything or anyone deemed “notably unusual” or “curious,” as these are two terms we have, in the past, sadly assigned negative connotation to.

Reviewing my grade school report cards, I note a handful of examples that reinforce this impression.

Shelley has a lot to say and may benefit from raising her hand less often is not what your Average Joe parent wishes to read on a quarterly bulletin summarizing academic progress.

Nor is If you continue to ask questions during CCD classes, you are risking an interpretation from The Almighty as one of little faith. Our catechism classes are spaces meant for quiet absorption.

My recollection was that neither myself nor any of my classmates were precocious enough at ten to question the four pillars of Christianity but simply wished to understand the definition of “catechism,” and therefore repeatedly drew straws to see which of us would get whacked with a ruler that afternoon.

I mean really, why were we here? This time slot was interfering with our ongoing science project of seeing what 3000 tons of freight train with a rail speed of 60 mph can do to a penny.

I’d say that kind of curiosity deserved to be commended.

To be fair, I feel I should attempt to put in a sympathetic word or two for the case of being determined “hard to please” or “odd.”

In some lights, one might benefit from a touch of hard to please-ness, such as when one has been convinced one’s mechanic has sufficiently fixed the brakes.

An attitude of As long as they’re going to halt the car eventually is likely one that will not serve you well for long. Best to adopt a posture of fastidiousness regardless of the inflated garage shop bill.

And when exploring the depth and breadth of the term “odd,” one must acknowledge that although, yes, it can denote something bizarre or mismatched, it can also highlight that last brownie in the pan which could not be divvied up equally among friends going home after tea, or that one Weimaraner puppy with crossed blue eyes, a paw in a cast, and one undescended testicle.

Q: Why the hell would you want this runty K-Mart blue light special, lady?

A: Why the hell would I not?

Clearly, this is not a case of being hard to please, rather seeing years’ worth of creative writing material.

It’s true—in essence, all of this is simply determined “in the eye of the beholder,” right? You can be picky or specific. You can be creepy or eccentric. It often comes down to how the term is delivered and how it is received.

For the sake of one’s self-esteem, I vote a regular bath among the tissue-thin pages of one’s dictionary where you can steep yourself within myriad meanings of every descriptor ever tacked upon your personhood.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

You will come out learned, enlightened, and smelling like a rose.

Which, for most people, is slightly better than smelling like lutefisk.

~Shelley

For the time being, the blog is closed to comments, but if you enjoyed it, maybe pass it on to someone else. Email it, Facebook it, or print it out and make new wallpaper for the bathroom. If it moves you, show it some love and share. Cheers!

Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all gossiped about down in the pub. Or check out last month’s post and catch up.

Reshaping Life Goals with a Reciprocating Saw

We’re occasionally faced with asking ourselves the question: What is the definition of home?

The answer I usually provide is: Wherever my collection of scotch resides.

But in truth, as we all know, it is more than that.

It’s: Wherever my collection of scotch and Glencairn glasses resides.

Because really, drinking straight from the bottle is just barbaric.

If I were forced to expand upon that description though, I would add that my furfaces—the hodgepodge of bewhiskered, keen of eyesight, and sharp of teeth domesticated companions—would, with great certainty, be found sprawled on some floor. Usually right beneath a bottle of whisky I’m trying to reach.

Also, my books. They would need to be included within that sphere. As books are the most practical of possessions. They educate, entertain, act as trivet and coaster, and in a desperate pinch, garden trowel.

And as most people could attest, one’s home often comes with an eclectic set of quirks—uniquely perplexing at first, but ultimately leaving one resigned to its presence.

When you first move into a freshly built home—one that comes with the architect’s telephone number temporarily affixed to a wall in each room for easy access to explain what this button does or to report this doohickey still doesn’t work, one also hopes that it comes equipped with a full staff to fix those pesky particulars.

When one moves into an older home, say a dwelling that has seen the birth and death cycle of a few families, one should expect the house will have accumulated a few peculiarities that no architect can explain away, and no butler can restore. It’s also likely the old house will have accumulated a dead relative or two who one of the previous families neglected to take with them.

I’m fairly sure I’ve got one of those.

And it’s no surprise to me, as I am used to the presence of old dead relatives and long ago acquiesced to the idea that my family was stocked with deceased witches, soothsayers, crystal gazers, and astrologists. Women who had a habit of making strange announcements suggesting you were just as weird as they, and that one day you’d all gather at some great Wiccan bonfire in the afterlife.

Until then, they would have to suffice with pestering you during your current one.

Seriously, yesterday I had a thirty minute conversation with a flickering light bulb.

Photo by Nayara Dinato on Pexels.com

I’ve called in an electrician, but I’ve done that before and not been surprised when the resulting diagnosis included the phrase, Hey, lady, this thing ain’t even plugged in.

This month I had a birthday, a fairly noteworthy one according to our culture, but birthdays have never held much weight for me other than to grasp the opportunity to sit down and recalibrate.

I like the feeling of biennial rhythm—a life cycle of two seasons from New Years to midsummer and midsummer to New Years—in order to see how six months of effortful work in some direction is fairing.

I usually scratch out on pen and paper new projects, new habits, soon-to-be discarded habits, and the odd lofty goal or two. I ask myself the age old question, Are your mindset and behaviors still serving you? And then proceed to block out any mental responses I find prickly or distinctively unattractive.

This year, I ratcheted up my level of earnestness and wrote a list revealing sharper resolutions coming from a more candid examination. Fruitless labor is out, accumulation of new skills is in.

When one lives on one’s own, there comes a time when you look around and discover that the architect is no longer returning your calls, and the butler left to become an Instagram celebrity. Therefore, purchasing a drill is at the top of the list.

As are things like nails, hammers, vises, and pliers. Bonus to the guy at the hardware store who convinced me that every girl should have a reciprocating saw that can cut through a person like butter. Best not to ask for a bag of fast acting lime to go on your tab straight after that though.

Feeling quite plucky and proud of myself, I set to work with a newfound sense of purpose fueled by my annually refreshed mission statement: Don’t waste my time, Life, I’ve got some serious shit to do.

And this would have all been fine save for the fact that I’m certain one of those ‘stayed behind specters’ was reading my list across my shoulder and then, cackling with great glee, called over her other residuum compatriots, and they all agreed I should reexamine my new motto.

Nothing was as uncomplicated as I believed it should be. Nothing as straightforward as I’d hoped.

Spending an hour spraying weeds on a hot sunny day is met with an ancestral titter of On your knees and pulling by the root is not fruitless labor, as one gains an appreciation for toiling effortfully.

And then the sky darkens with clouds and immediately washes away my insecticide.

Or … I finally break down and decide to purchase a washer and dryer. I travel fifty minutes to purchase said washer and dryer. Washer and dryer now on its way to my house. Bank calls and cancels payment of units, labeling the cost as “fraud alert behavior.” Washer and dryer not on its way to my house. I wrestle with bank. Washer and dryer again on its way to my house. Units arrive and delivery men discover no exhaust vent for dryer. I now own a fine washer and a large metal box that pointlessly sits on top of it. I saw through walls (thank you hardware store guy) and fashion an ‘inside the house’ vent. Metal box now operates as both clothes dryer and sauna generator. Mold grows on walls. Handyman and I soon discover after spelunking in the crawl space beneath the house that an actual dryer vent does exist, it’s just been linoleumed over.

*insert a great shrill of sniggering laughter here and an ethereal chorus of Perseverance is not superfluous exertion.

I get it. You’ve all made your point.

Perhaps I was a bit glib with my whole I can do anything charge into battle bit and must remember an old adage of my grandmother’s: the higher the price you pay for something, the dearer it becomes to you.

And yes, I think I’m willing to devote time and effort to a footpath with no poison ivy, and clean clothes with which to travel upon it.

Now I simply have to discover just how much an exorcism costs because no longer conversing with a chandelier is likely worth a pretty penny or two.

~Shelley

For the time being, the blog is closed to comments, but if you enjoyed it, maybe pass it on to someone else. Email it, Facebook it, or print it out and make new wallpaper for the bathroom. If it moves you, show it some love and share. Cheers!

Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all gossiped about down in the pub. Or check out last month’s post and catch up.

 

The Magical Tale of a Tail

The world is full of random flukes, right?

We’ve all experienced a flush of good timing, poetic justice, or quirky happenstance. Something we look back on and say, yeah, that was weird, but seriously, how cool.

As a writer of fiction, I know I can drizzle a bit of curious coincidence into my stories, but I treat it as though it was a ghost pepper hot sauce—a little goes a long, long way. And too much will kill my reader’s appetite for any more of my story.

I mention all of the above because my life would never be considered believable fiction.

My editor would toss it back and say it was filled with way too many unexplainable flukes. Events that appeared for no reason, simply to push the narrative arc along. It’s too farfetched, too fortuitous, too implausible.

And yet … this is the contents of my life.

I write about magic in some of my books. In one it is simply sprinkled about, in several others it is the main focus, widespread and thoroughly researched. As authors we are encouraged to write what we know. But I wouldn’t say I know magic per se, I’d instead phrase it as I experience magic—or what some would define as magic—nearly every day.

And I don’t mean magic in the sense of ‘wand-casting-turn-you-into-a-toad’ type magic, nor would I lessen it to the side of the spectrum which might be confused with abundant gratitude. As in the warm rush of excitement at seeing a rainbow, or a water funnel, or a squirrel escape unharmed from the opposite side of your moving vehicle as it dashed out in front of you.

No. My magic is more the serendipitous kind and mostly the unexplainable. Unexplainable, as far as science is concerned. And I do believe science will one day have an explanation for my wonky situations. That chapter just hasn’t been written yet.

I don’t have rational answers for why, when visiting religious sites, or landscapes of great historic relevance, I am overcome with a physical dis-ease so great it can send me to my knees. Someone theorized that perhaps the pseudo-science stating the correlation between ley lines and magnetic fields might be an influence—and my body simply has an abundance of iron that interferes.

*shrug*

I have no reasonable explanation as to why I am forever running into self-proclaimed witches, soothsayers, mystics, and wizards. This week alone the tally is already up to three.

Surely, you think I jest.

I certainly would.

And it’s not like I belong to any covens, Wiccan moots, or regularly visit Renaissance festivals. These individuals just find me. Or, as I have heard explained to me numerous times, I find them. But I take issue with this declaration, as the last one I “found” was literally fifteen minutes ago—someone who marched up to my front door to say hello as I’ve been working on this article.

*sigh*

I know. It’s supremely absurd.

I feel like erasing this entire confessional essay, except that I’m writing to tell you about one of my most beloved repeating serendipitous occurrences: meeting my favorite people.

(The reveal is coming up, so hang tight.)

I was recently away at a massive book festival in Tucson, Arizona. Over one hundred and thirty thousand people attend this three day event each year, and I was lucky enough to be invited to participate.

A bazillion flights, ubers, panels, and tacos later, I lug my bags across the threshold of my home, my luggage filled with the contact info of countless authors, publishing reps, moderators, and book sellers.

I toss it all up on the kitchen counter and glance out the porch door where movement catches my eye. A wretched face glances up at me, curled up upon my swinging rocker. Two large chocolate colored eyes effortlessly convey the message of I’m cold, I’m hungry, I’m lost.

Unlike the countless other things up on the mountain where I live, this animal has no desire to fight me back for territory taken, and only wishes for a quick solution to his mounting problems.

I rush out to greet the sweet and gangly-legged hound and usher him into the warmth where aid is in abundance. “Sammy,” as his tags indicate, is one of the most grateful tail wagers I’ve yet to lay eyes on.

He tells me, in a way that only animals can, how the water has never been so thirst-quenching, the food has never been so filling, and yes, please scratch right there until I tell you to stop. I adore animals and their gratitude for simple needs met. I wish more people were so.

I quickly make contact with Sammy’s owner—a doppelganger of me, had I been on the receiving end of the phone call: thrilled, desperate, relieved. She is on her way.

Sammy and I find the warmest, sunniest room in the house to await her arrival, and many attempts at my poor human-to-dog speak message of, “I promise, she’s rushing here to get you,” prove unsuccessful. His eyes still say, Make my two-leg appear, please.

And minutes later when she does, I can see in her eyes the same urgency as was in Sammy’s, and my “chatty Cathy” habit is getting in the way of reunification.

Paula is clearly a perfect match for her companion—warm, gentle, intelligent, personable. It’s almost as if she was a …

“What do you do for a living?” I ask her.

“I’m a school librarian.”

I drop all pretense of politeness and inhibition. I hug her.

“You are my favorite kind of people!” I look at her hard. “Did you somehow know that I run a campaign to erect monuments to all librarians? Because I write that on the jacket flap of all my books!”

She shakes her head. She did not know. And eyes the door.

I thrust three of my books into her hands. “For your school, if you want them.”

We will be friends. I’m sure of it. I will make it happen. And I will try to tone down that unnerving affection.

But it comes naturally when you’ve been surrounded by all this wonky magic your whole life. I may look askance at all the other lunacy that regularly shows up, but I will never question fate or the three siblings in charge of it.

And if Clotho, Lachesis, or Atropos—the three Sisters of Fate—should toss a librarian onto my front door’s welcome mat, I will treat her the same way I would any lost and loved puppy: with open arms and great goodwill.

Also a big spoonful of peanut butter.

~Shelley

Sammy was lost in the forest for two long winter days. And because of his perseverance and suffering, I suggest he receives a spot at Paula’s feet within the mold of her bronze cast—once her school raises enough money from bake sales. Come on, Western Albemarle High School. Get baking!

For the time being, the blog is closed to comments, but if you enjoyed it, maybe pass it on to someone else. Email it, Facebook it, or print it out and make new wallpaper for the bathroom. If it moves you, show it some love and share. Cheers!

Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all gossiped about down in the pub. Or check out last month’s post and catch up.

 

 

 

How One Dog’s Bladder Changed my Life Strategy

“Hurry up!” I shouted off toward the edge of the woods where my hound was having a pre-pee before getting in the car to go someplace he was going to unload his truck-like gas tank-sized bladder. “Why do you always have to pee before we go? The trail is literally a few minutes away.”

Haggis trotted back to me and the rover before easily leaping inside of it.

Vigilance, he said, settling down in the back. Anyone nosing around will note this place is well patrolled—and often.

I rolled my eyes, but put the rover in drive and started the two of us toward the four mile stretch of woodland path we regularly navigate about four times a week. It is a county park, but to me, it is a sanctuary.

Which is utterly ridiculous when I reflect on where I live, because where I live is as “sanctuary-like” as one can get and not actually inhabit an island, or live in the hut of a polar expedition, or within the capsule of a manned mission to Mars.

Yet, I feel this deep desire to go somewhere that isn’t home to do some serious pondering on all jumbled thoughts at the end of a day.

When I first discovered the trail, I was insanely excited—nearly matching the frenzy of joy Haggis expressed, as he too was beginning to mutter about the same dreadful slog up and down our homestead hillside, and craved the scent of other animals that hadn’t already been categorized into one of three tiresome classifications.

Hey, he’d say with a glance back toward me as he stood over a patch of tall grass. Newly discovered fresh death, or Meh … newly discovered old death, and lastly, Wherever this guy is, he’s about to keel over because I can smell death in his pee.

My excitement was generated more from the “new scenery” situation and although new scents were part of it, none of them, I assure you, emitted the odor of anyone’s demise.

The “Deep Creek Thinking” trail is a moniker given to my hikes of how I wish those treks were, but cannot truly claim to be representative of the actual experiences themselves.

In truth, the trail has proven to be a doppelganger topographical map of my life, and during the last four years, as I have governed a new straightaway section of independence, this trail repeatedly surprises me with its dead-on accuracy depicting all that I face, embrace, and fall flat with.

Yes, literally, a face full of dirt is a regular occurrence.

Like the landscape of my life, the terrain I was now exploring was not the proverbial “walk in the park” I was hopeful it might be—all philosophical and Walden-like. Tree roots leapt from the ground to snag at my feet continuously, new rocks were pushed to the surface of the trail in new places every day, and branches reached out to hinder hikers like an impatient toddler grasping at the pant leg of a parent, determined for attention.

It was impossible to look anywhere but down. Well, it was possible, it just wasn’t safe. I figured out that little pearl after my third sprawl.

“Hey!” I’d shouted farther up the trail, spitting out a mouthful of decomposing leaves still too crunchy to be called dirt. “Little help here, please?”

I waited and counted to thirty and focused on assessing any concerning bone or muscle damage as I lay with my cheek pressed against the earth.

A thin, eight inch femur landed inches from my nose. Look what I found, Haggis had said.

That was enough to have me leap up from my pity party position. “Eww, is that human?”

Haggis raised his brows to signal a shrug. You’d know better than me. Hurry up. I’ve cornered a rabbit and treed a coon. Time is of the essence.

Our early days were filled with these exchanges, and now, four years later, whenever I’ve taken a flying sprawl, they’re more representative of:

How did you not see that root? It’s been here for … Haggis would glance up to access the tree, sixty—seventy years?

“It was covered with leaves,” I’d barked back at him.

I have a mental map of the landscape. This never happens, he’d said with a roll of his eyes.

“Bully for you.”

Don’t you have a mental map by now?

“Don’t you have some dead deer’s carcass to roll in somewhere?”

But he was right. After four years, this trail remains just as challenging, as there seems to be something new continuously thrown into the mix that precludes me from getting too comfortable. For instance:

I’ve started running every uphill stretch because … ugh, exercise.

One day of solid rain turns the entire path into an exhaustive, cumbersome mud pit that will repeatedly suction my shoes right off my feet.

Fat trees with boundless branches fall upon the trail and need scrambling over, under, or sometimes the very long way around.

A swarm of thirty or forty bikers will suddenly come crashing around a curve, an unbroken swarm of brightly colored, helmeted bees relocating from one hive to the next, wholly unaware of the odd hiker and hound they’ve sent flying into the thorny bushes off the path.

The above obstacles on my footpath are perfectly mirrored by the impediments on my life’s path. They’re not unlike my grasp on healthcare—which is a never ending uphill marathon, or general home maintenance costs—which are exhaustive, cumbersome money pits that will suction the coins right out of my bank account. They’re nearly identical to all the hurdles that fall in front of me—testing to see if I have the meddle to maneuver my way around them. And are as stunning as the fast-paced, pitches and curve balls that send me diving for cover—usually one that can be identified as a quilt.

But as a result of a long ago developed mulish and stroppy mindset, I force myself to see the trail as an invaluable experience. The path is not so much a trail as it is a training ground.

I suppose as my “mental map” grows, I will stop playing offense and pick up more of a protective “I’ve got this under control” type of attitude like Haggis enjoys, peeing on vulnerable areas that need to be defended. And like it or not, anyway you look at it, his method somehow always provides relief.

~Shelley

For the time being, the blog is closed to comments, but if you enjoyed it, maybe pass it on to someone else. Email it, Facebook it, or print it out and make new wallpaper for the bathroom. If it moves you, show it some love and share. Cheers!

Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all gossiped about down in the pub. Or check out last month’s post and catch up.

The Best Worst Day of my Life

You know how you can have like … the best day of your life, and then suddenly the whole world just beams down on you with sunshine and flowers for days and days to follow, and you just bask in that glow?

Yeah, neither do I.

Except for the first part.

My child has finally finished school. The official kind. At least for a little bit. Seventeen years of schlepping to class nearly every day. She’s graduated. She’s now a fully-fledged rocket scientist and has permission from all her teachers to hurl stuff up into space.

I wish I understood what it is that she’s going to be doing. I only know it has to do with the subjugation of Mars, triumphantly wrestling that planet into servitude for us Earthlings who are apparently fed up with this planet and are ready to conquer another one.

Or maybe she just wants to plant flowers and make it less orange. I don’t know.

The point is, is that graduation day was a day where I thought my whole heart would burst with joy. She raced down the aisle, and I sped toward her too. I have never hugged someone so tightly before. I cried. And laughed. And sobbed. And explained to all the thirteen thousand other people around us that my child just graduated from college, in case they were wondering.

Then I went home.

And I brought her cat with me. Just for the summer.

I love this wily, scrappy, reckless cat. Except for when she is wily, scrappy, and reckless.

When she’s sleeping, she’s awesome.

First thing that morning following graduation, I opened the front door to grab a flower pot on the front porch and this streak of jet black fur flew past me and disappeared. I panicked. Like really really panicked. I was in charge of the care of this cat who did not belong to me—the tiny little champion that supported my child’s exhausted soul all through school—and now it had entered the on-location shoot of a National Geographic special about mountaintop birds of prey where she was likely going to be the tasty treat of one vulture shared by seven of his closest friends.

Oh, dear God, where was she?

For two hours I searched outside. Under porches, bushes, behind barrels, and up trees. For two hours my head raced with what I was certain would be the result: my child would ditch her dream of meddling with Mars because her cat died. How could I be responsible for this?

I was defeated. I had to make the call—let her know what had happened and how hard I’d tried.

I opened the front door and suddenly that brazen black streak blasted past me once more—straight into the house and under the first couch she found.

My heart refused to stop hammering against my ribcage for at least a full hour, and my brain could not think of anything apart from “that was too close a call to ever repeat.”

Which is why paying a tax bill directly afterward was a really bad idea.

When one’s body and mind are busy recalibrating its official duties, math does not appear anywhere on the Top Ten Most Important Things list. It’s nowhere close. In fact, it’s so far away, Math doesn’t even know that a Top Ten Most Important Things list is a running concern. Math is out there busy chewing the fat with its neglected neighbors: grouting tile and soap sculpting.

Math did not think to show up and shout, STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING AND DON’T PRESS THAT BUTTON! when I ended up mistakenly paying the IRS the equivalent of Lichtenstein’s GDP for 2017.

I’m pretty sure I heard the smack of a giant facepalm it made though once it heard what I accidentally did.

As it was Sunday, no accountant was going to come to my rescue. The accountant I’d hired to help me with my taxes was very good at math, and she made clear to me that she knew how to count hands on the clock. There were still twelve full hours of Sunday left, plus eight more after that before she was going to answer her phone.

But mine began ringing off the hook suddenly. My cell phone, my house phone, the radio, and my computer all simultaneously began belching out panic signals “Grab your children off their swing sets and flee to the root cellar!” A major storm was barreling down upon us.

Now normally I am quite capable of handling big booming, lightning filled thunderstorms up here on this big hill I perch upon, but this one was determined to be a record breaker—also a tree breaker, a window breaker, and a furniture taker. (That last one was close enough. Move on.)

One by one I saw the heavy iron patio furniture glide right off the deck and tumble across the lawn, the cushions becoming new nesting fodder for a local fox’s den or half of North America’s birds. The lightning strikes—spitting distance away—made my hair stand up on end and left the acrid whiff of soot and cinders. Likely it was the charred fragments of a few desperately needed synaptic connections still struggling for cognitive responsiveness housed within my head.

Hours later after clean up, the windows, doors, and roof leaks, the search and rescue for the outdoor furnishings, the weeping over losing every tomato, green bean, and budding cucumber, I told the hound we were taking a walk. We would breathe deeply, walk swiftly, and cry where no one could see or hear us. I mean me.

He agreed but refused to have more than two boxes of Kleenex strapped to his collar. He’s so fussy, as it hardly added to the five pound whisky keg he already had fastened to that spot.

We walked. It felt good. The rain having plunged the temperature down twenty full degrees. All that deep breathing was finally starting to bring my heart rate down to somewhere around “only mildly concerning.”

Until I heard the fearsome, high-pitched scream of an unholy banshee—or it could have been a baby fawn being stepped on.

And one would remember that very particular sound because believe it or not, I too, have stepped on a fawn.

They hide. Beneath the grasses. Because apparently for a few tedious hours after being born they struggle with actually walking. Damn them.

And the hound had come upon one in his sleuthy, ferretting way. He scared the bejeebies out of both of them simultaneously.

And upon hearing the baby banshee holler, her mother—freshly finished from birthing—came shrieking down the ridge from above us. Barreling her exhausted body like a freight train straight toward her baby’s clueless predators, this doe was sending the message that she had not spent the last umpteen hours pushing out this bag of gangling bones and four sharp hooves for nothing.

Deer are loud.

And fast, and big, and really scary when plowing straight for your head.

 

She lept from the side of the hill and landed on the driveway where, because of the rain, her hooves skittered right out from beneath her big bloated body, and she slid across the road just like all my heavy iron lawn chairs. Then she scrabbled her footing on the other side and raced back up to the top of the other ridge mirroring the first.

She was prepping for another go around.

I screamed for the hound. And the little banshee squealed. The doe barked or roared or boarked (it’s a weird sound). There was just so much noise.

The second pass from Bambi’s furious guardian was apparently enough to jar the hound out of his muddled state of mind as he hightailed it straight up the hill and out of sight.

Which still left one large angry doe careening down a mountainside with anger and physics on her side. I was the remaining target.

Dumbstruck, I had no plan of action. I had bear spray on my belt loop, but that was about as useful as telling a Mac truck at full speed that he’d better “hold up there, buddy, can’t you see I have some Q-tips in my back pocket?”

She hurtled past me, again leaping and splattering on the driveway to slide straight across it like an ice cube.

I closed my eyes and clicked my heels together three times real fast.

When I opened them, I realized three things:

  • If I made it home alive, I’d best cloak myself in bubble wrap for the rest of the day.
  • If I made it home alive, there should be no “rest of the day.” Go to bed.
  • If I made it home alive, realize that the universe does not like imbalance. For every high there is a low. And taxes. There are always taxes that somehow don’t count on the universe’s balance sheet.

I just really hope there won’t be taxes on Mars. Let’s not forget … I saved a cat that might be vital in allowing that to become a reality. Surely the universe will count that in my favor.

~Shelley

For the time being, the blog is closed to comments, but if you enjoyed it, maybe pass it on to someone else. Email it, Facebook it, or print it out and make new wallpaper for the bathroom. If it moves you, show it some love and share. Cheers!

Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all gossiped about down in the pub. Or check out last month’s post and catch up.

Let’s Talk, Turkey

Haggis, the great white hairy hound, ran into a wild turkey yesterday. And by ran into, I mean literally.

I was hiking down the mountain, en route to get the post and suddenly, in front of me, I saw a spray of pine needles, dead leaves, feathers, and an old empty bucket of vanilla ice cream.

Then I saw Haggis skedaddle out of the copse of trees, and run for the hills like the lily-livered, yellow-bellied beast that he is.

Chasing him out of the thicket was a monolithic, wholly indignant wild turkey—a wing-flapping, eye-popping, larynx-screeching pile of feathers.

Apparently, we had disturbed the monarch of the mountain, as one could nearly hear all the other animals in the forest take a giant step back and suck in a lungful of air.

The woods were filled with the whispered words, “I’m puttin’ fifty on the turkey.”

Or something like that. It could have just been the wind.

But this guy was a plumage-covered boulder of muscled meat that had made it through more Thanksgivings than Mother Nature normally allows. And he didn’t mind displaying the reason why.

Surely no gratitude could slip from the mouths of any ‘pack-as-much-poultry-in-your-gob’ feast-goer if that shindig had this brute on their platters. It’d be one forkful of anger right after another.

And anger tastes … well, not terribly optimistic about the future.

I think—and forgive me if I get this wrong, as there is little research on buzzard brains to delve into—he had a real twist in his knickers about winter.

As I could see it, it was the end of March, and his bones were aching, his feathers were waterlogged, the webbing between his toes were cracked, red, and itchy, and lastly, there was nothing to eat in this god-forsaken wretched house—err … forest.

All the good seeds were gone. Not a berry in site. Damn squirrels finished off the last of the beechnuts. And there hasn’t been a hatch of palatable pests in months.

Not that anything tasted good anymore anyway. His taste buds were nearly as old as the pilgrims he’d first started running from.

I felt for him—once I sussed out all possible escape routes, cuz he weren’t finished with his beef just yet.

I put my hands up and said, “You’re screechin’ to the choir, buddy. Remember yesterday? When you just sat from your lukewarm lair and watched me walk up and down this mountain three times? I had that book festival, and an authors’ panel? And because I would rather peel back my own toenails than ever be a no-show for work, the car had to be stationed at the bottom of the mountain—one big fat long mile away. Not even unplowed roads and eight inches of snow was going to be an impediment, remember?”

He looked at me blankly.

“Yeah, well, it was cancelled. And at the last minute. After I’d trekked through all that snow.”

His eyes narrowed, smoldering.

“You’re right, it should technically have only been two trips up and down the mountain, but the extra one was because of Haggis. Walking through snow is really noisy, and I had no idea he was following me until the very end, and of course had to march him back up the mountain because the Barnes & Noble folks are super prickly about which snow-clodden, fur-covered creatures get to drool over their stacks of bestsellers. But mostly, because I couldn’t trust that he could find his way back up to the house, as this guy can get lost in a paper bag.”

Even after that, old Testy Tom gave me the stink eye.

“Really? Still no sympathy?” I said, standing with arms akimbo. “How about two weeks before? Remember the three-day windstorm? The Nor’easter that felled twelve trees—each one across the damn driveway? That first day I was supposed to be one hundred miles from here, chatting to a bazillion beautiful fifth graders, being treated like the celebrity I’ve lead them to believe I am, but instead, I spent that day dragging logs.

“Not one of those trees asked me for my autograph. Or gave me a piece of warm, lint-filled butterscotch candy that had been sitting in its pocket since last Halloween. Not one of them bought my books. As in none.”

I glanced up around me at the trees. “Okay, there is a chance that’s because some of their ancestors are my books, but still. Not fair.”

Haggis peaked out at us from behind a large oak tree, far, far away.

“Coward!” I shouted.

The foul-mouthed fowl took one long step in my direction. I put up my hands. “Listen,” I said, “If the hairy hound over there interrupted your much needed afternoon kip, then I apologize on behalf of him. We’re still working on manners. And forming the words I’m sorry. Dog lips are tricky.”

The bird took another step toward me, and suddenly my mind was filled with images of the long, but surely award-winning documentary made by a group of New Englanders who’d advanced human knowledge and awareness on the dangers of engaging with belligerent wild turkeys.

It was two and one-half hours of watching these creatures savagely peck at the Subaru that always seemed to hold the camera man.

Yeah, at the time I laughed, but now I grew a measure of respect for their message.

“What is it you want?” I shouted at him. Well, not so much shouted as begged in a super high-pitched voice.

He said nothing. He just turned and walked slowly back toward the thicket of trees he’d flown out of, using one thick-sticked leg to bunt kick the ice cream bucket out of his way.

I stared until he was out of sight. Haggis came back and sniffed around the area of our standoff. I picked up the old ice cream bucket and read the label. Turkey Hill.

Related image

Clearly, like me, he just wanted a taste of summer.

~Shelley

For the time being, the blog is closed to comments, but if you enjoyed it, maybe pass it on to someone else. Email it, Facebook it, or print it out and make new wallpaper for the bathroom. If it moves you, show it some love and share. Cheers!

Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all gossiped about down in the pub. Or check out last month’s post and catch up.

 

Wait a Second–or a Lifetime by Accident

It has been said that if you step back and actually look, you’ll discover that pets and their owners are remarkably similar.

Image result for people who look like their pets

Sometimes they share the same personality. Combative and pugnacious people rarely pick out a limp puddle of fur to come home to. And folks who flinch at the militant sound of wind chimes seldom pair themselves with a set of finely edged fangs and three lungs to power some vocal chords.

Often there are similarities to personal appearance. I’ve seen bucketloads of folks who could easily be mistaken for a poodle or a basset hound, but that’s usually because my supermarket is right next door to a bargain basement hair salon and a dilapidated liquor store that has long park benches in front of it.

I might add that many of us are beginning to take on the features of an overwhelmed puckered up pug from too many months of listening to the academics of our communities attempt to interpret the world of Twitter.

Yeah, if a Chinese Shar-Pei was capable of doing a killer eye roll, we’d be an identical match.

But recently, I’ve noticed that my own fetching Fido and I have yet another similarity: we are waiters.

I’m not suggesting that we both have a shift at the local greasy spoon bussing tables, but rather that our lives have been arranged around events yet to come.

I’m pretty sure you know where I’m going with this one, as no matter how old you are—if you are still inhaling breathable gases from a westward zephyr, you will likely have uttered something like this:

When I turn eight, I finally get to jump off the diving board.

Once I’m in college, I’ll open an IRA.

After I retire, I’m going to build an art studio.

I’ve got three years left in the slammer and then (or … you know … something similar).

Now although my trusty rusty trail tracker may not have as extensive a list of to-dos put on pause (paws?) as his human counterparts, there are undoubtedly enough things in his life that are worthy of comparison.

He’s always waiting for food. Not being blessed with opposable thumbs, he is dependent upon the memory of others to know that when the sun makes a certain shadow on the floor, kibble must appear in a bowl. I caught him once staring longingly at a possum sniffing around on the back porch—not because around here we consider possum to be the other other white meat, but because the creature had finely crafted digits that—if directed to do so—could pop the beer tab off a can of hash in under a minute.

The hairy hound is also forever waiting for someone to open the door. Any door. I think, during the last few years, that I’ve come to understand that his desire is not simply to go out, or come in, as he is fully aware of the fact that he has a dog door and uses it successfully and repeatedly. No … he’s too intelligent to have “forgotten” that he has free access. And he’s not making me get up out of my chair dozens of times a day to let him in or out just to be spiteful—or make sure I’m getting enough exercise.

I rather believe it’s due to his level of sensitivity. His inner Zen master bubbling up to the surface. I’m nearly convinced that, to him, a door is a blockage of Feng shui. Certainly this would explain the poster of Chinese Metaphysics on the back wall above his bed.

It’s probably just a phase.

But the thing that baffles me most about this perplexing pooch is the daily routine he puts himself through where he is waiting for his close of day constitutional. The long walk to the post.

We both go. Together.

Except the weird thing is, is that he doesn’t have to wait.

He can go. On his own. At any time.

There are no fences keeping him bound. No lead that needs to be strapped to his collar. No commands that have been drilled into him that indicate permission given to leave the premises.

Nothing.

And yet, every day, he waits.

He could take this walk a dozen times a day if his paw pads could withstand the demand. But instead, he paces the floor, nudges my elbow, and slyly glances at the clock upon the wall—which he has repeatedly requested be replaced with a sun dial as he argues them to be more accurate.

I look at him each day and ask the question, “What are you waiting for?”

And like each one of us—with all of the things we’ve hesitated to do, suspended until later, or sidelined until our plate has cleared—he’s got no answer.

Yes, part of that is because we’ve not spent as much time on speech as we have hands on the clock or really reaching into the corners with the vacuum to get a good clean—and he is making great progress in those departments. But mostly, it’s because there really is no good answer.

I’ve got a million things I wish to do, want to do, and long to do, but the waiting game is a familiar routine whose grooved path is so deep it’s nearly impossible to scale out of. The waiting game even has a waiting room filled with distractions that float across my field of vision with false urgency. It’s a cozy place that serves an endless hot cup of tea, countless food porn pics, and the head-spinning flush of dopamine text alerts.

There are so many things hijacking life that life is getting in the way of living.

That walk is the most important thing to my mollycoddled mongrelized mutt. He waits and waits and waits and never gives himself permission to make it happen of his own accord.

It’s frustrating that I can’t seem to communicate that message to him yet. Maybe he needs to watch the Wizard of Oz just one more time

Image result for good witch of the north

—to see Glinda burble up the phrase You don’t need to be helped any longer. You’ve always had the power to go back to Kansas—er the mailbox.

Or maybe … because we’re so very much alike, he simply needs to see me mirror that behavior.

Maybe … he’s really just waiting on me.

~Shelley

 

For the time being, the blog is closed to comments, but if you enjoyed it, maybe pass it on to someone else. Email it, Facebook it, or print it out and make new wallpaper for the bathroom. If it moves you, show it some love and share. Cheers!

Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all gossiped about down in the pub. Or check out last month’s post and catch up.

 

Uncivilized Wildlife: One Big Bloody Battle

I’m a creature of habit.

A couple of them I like and have come to depend upon—like sleeping, eating, and general brain function reliability.

One or two have stuck around that I’m not terribly fond of—like hitting the hay too late, forgetting where I’ve parked the car, and stalking Neil deGrasse Tyson in hopes that he’ll change his mind and finally decide to co-author a scientific paper with me on the plausible objectives of time travel through human-sized, uncooked rigatoni noodles.

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I think he’s afraid he’ll have to do most of the authoring. But I’ve assured him I will pull my weight. I will keep our coffee cups filled. I will keep all the pencils sharpened. And I will do my best to man our Twitter page and keep it filled to the brim with pithy, clever snippets that reflect our opinions on all things hyperspace bypass related.

This bad habit could turn into a big bonus for the both of us.

My creatures are creatures of habit too.

The cat is awake to eat.

And then isn’t.

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My hound has a slightly more varied routine, but he too keeps a predictable schedule, which is why at around 11:30 last night I was surprised to see him wander into my bathroom while I was finishing my evening ablutions.

“Shouldn’t you be outside making your last security rounds?” I asked him with a mouthful of toothpaste.

Ran into a tiny snag.

“Why are you bleeding all over my bathroom floor?”

The tiny snag had teeth.

“This does not bode well for my precious Italian faux marble tiling,” I said, wondering if the pooling blood would stain.

A little help here?

I sighed. “Go get me a bucket of bleach and a wire brush.”

A Band-Aid would suffice.

“And if I go into that housekeeping cupboard tomorrow and notice you’ve stolen all my camphor moth balls again, there’ll be a reckoning.”

I had a stuffy nose.

“Use the Neti Pot!”

And so it went.

I cleaned him up and noted the two deep puncture wounds on one side of his hind leg and the graze of teeth marks on the opposite side.

“Who did this to you?”

I didn’t catch his name.

“No. I mean what animal did this to you?”

Something massive that obviously hadn’t had dinner yet.

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“Well, it’s bedtime. No more prowling about tonight—got it?”

The look I got in return was one that suggested I had an IQ equal to that of tapioca pudding. We shuffled off to bed. But sadly not to sleep.

As is wont to happen round about this time of year, the whippoorwills make their annual appearance and settle in around the woods and meadows surrounding the house. From far away, they offer a dreamy, somnolent tune, echoing through the cool spring nights.

Sitting beneath your window, they are shrill, piercing, and an aberration of nature–as anyone would attest they surely have three lungs.

For thirty minutes I did my level best to ignore the siren song which was truly much more of an honest to God siren and less so a beautiful, mythical sea creature calling me out to the crashing waves and hidden jagged rocks.

I got up, opened the porch door and encouraged it to take its evening serenade elsewhere. “For the love of all things holy, I’m begging you, PLEASE BE QUIET!

I soon gathered that the bird balladeer and I did not speak the same language, or perhaps he interpreted my hand clapping as applause. He simply relocated to the space beneath another window.

The following thirty minutes was difficult to breathe through as I had my head beneath two pillows.

It was clear this bird was hoping to make it onto the Avian Olympic team and that his training facility was any perchable place within 12-24 inches of my house walls. The incessant aria, the rigorous, methodical whooping warble was worthy of a gold medal for effort. And a twelve gauge for the likeability factor.

I got up, went to the window and gave it a couple of good solid thumps. When this achieved nothing, I opened it and began shouting into the night. “I know where you live! I will not be fooled into looking skyward! I know you’re all ground nesting birds!

Silence.

I looked at the dog who was still tending to his wounds. “You’re wel—”

WHIPPOORWILL, WHIPPOORWILL, WHIPPOORWILL!

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And then there were three.

This bird had called in for backup. The flock now positioned themselves on all sides of the bedroom walls that faced nature. It was a trio of torturous, ill-timed tunes.

I groaned and found a pair of previously owned earplugs. I shoved them in so far they practically met behind my nose. I burrowed down beneath two pillows and a quilt. I hummed. I made ocean-like white noise.

After ten minutes, I got up and called for the dog. His head was firmly wedged beneath the bed.

“Okay, I’ve changed my mind. Go gettem, tiger.”

No, thank you, he said, glancing at the fang imprints he now sported.

We both spent the rest of the night being miserable and met up in the kitchen at breakfast—me fresh from a shower and him coming in from outside.

So, this might be of interest. He dropped a greeting card in my lap.

“What does it say?”

He snorted. You know I don’t read. But it was right outside my dog door.

I read it aloud for the both of us.

Hey, bud. Sorry about the bite. I thought you were a whippoorwill. Those things are driving me crazy.’

I looked up from the note. “Well, apparently some of Mother Nature’s brood has manners.”

~Shelley

*ROBIN GOTT’S BONUS CARTOON* (click)

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is No Laughing “Matter”

Two weeks later there are seventeen staples.

That’s the punch line of this joke. Except, it ended up being much more of a punch in the gut, than a good giggle. Still, as with every adventure I experience, there is a constant narrative running in my mind. I cannot stop it.

I share it with you.

~~~~~~~~

“Come on, buddy. Dinner time.”

Um, no thanks.

“Suit yourself, but the bowl stays down for only about fifteen minutes. Then I’m giving your table reservation to the next handsome hound that walks through my kitchen door.”

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~~~~~~~

“Alrighty. Take two, my prized pooch. Dinner is served.”

Think I’ll pass.

“What? Is it my cooking? Gone off my culinary craft?”

*shrug*

~~~~~~~

“Round three, my finicky fussbudget. Surely your point has been made. Tonight, I even warmed up your dinner with my best chafing dish.”

Something is wrong.

“Did you break a tooth? Swallow a toad? Has the cat been casting black magic spells in preparation for her shift on Halloween?”

Something is wrong.

“My pride in preparation says there’s a lack of gratitude, but my gut instinct says it’s time to call for a second opinion. Hold on, bud. Let me get the phone and make an appointment.”

~~~~~~~

“What seems to be the problem here, Shelley?”

“Well, Doc, the first is my wholly insufficient knowledge base in veterinary care. The second is the plummeting communication skills of my hound.”

“Dogs cannot articulate beyond their most basic needs.”

“Ordinarily, I would agree. I have raised many animals that have mistaken their brethren for tree stumps, and have made a lifetime goal of achieving the title ‘Most enthusiastic pooper scooper.’ This guy is different. And he has gone radio silent.”

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“Hmm … And his symptoms?”

I sigh. “Refusing my food. He’s become one of my kids.”

“Might he have eaten something other than your food? A sock? Household poison, perhaps?”

“No. The only way he would have eaten a sock is if I gave him permission to do so, and the only way he would have been poisoned is if the cat had done it. And I’ve not caught her mixing elixirs in her lab for months. The fumes make her eyes water, plus she’s taken up online chess.”

The vet looked at me, as all vets do, wondering if I’d actually stopped off at the wrong clinic. “Okay, well, how bout I bring Haggis back with me and give him a thorough going over.”

“I doubt violence will make him talk, Doc.”

“I meant I’ll examine him in the back.”

“Examine him in the front too. The tube runs from one end to the other. Plus, you guys charge a fortune. I’d like to get my money’s worth.”

Something is wrong.

“I know, buddy. We’ll sort it out. Be brave. I’ll see you soon.”

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~~~~~~~~

“We’d like to do some x-rays.”

I look up from my spot in the waiting room, twisting the hound’s plaid leash through my hands. “Is that coming from you, or did he ask for that? Not having eaten for three days can make him impolite and cranky.”

“All me.”

“Okay then. Remind him to hold his breath. We’ve practiced that all summer in the lake.”

~~~~~~~

“Well, it appears he’s got some matter in his stomach.”

“Is that a vet term for ‘something-the-matter’ with his stomach? Because that’s the diagnosis I gave you when we first arrived without the aid of x-rays.”

“Nope. Something’s in there and it’s not moving.”

“I hope it’s not the cat. They do fight something awful occasionally.”

“I think we’ll keep the dog here with us. You should go home and I’ll repeat the films in the morning. Then we’ll know if we have to operate.”

“Maybe you should do it now in case it is the cat.”

“Go home.”

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~~~~~~~~~

“He did just fine. He’s resting and sedated. I’ll show you what we pulled out of his stomach.” The vet puts a Ziplock bag on the exam table.

“That does not look like the cat.”

“It’s grass.”

“Could it be Italian parsley? I sometimes garnish with that.”

“It’s grass.”

“I would never garnish with grass.”

“He’s been eating grass.”

“I have always said he looks more like a sheep than a dog. Could we do a genetic test? That might be the issue.”

“You can take him home tomorrow.”

~~~~~~~~

Something is wrong.

“You bet your grassy ass there is, bud. It’s called lack of sleep. I have a medical regimen assigned to me that would give an entire hospital ward a run for their money. I’ve got alarm clocks set to wake me nearly on the hour to coax some pretty pill down your gullet. I’m zonked.”

Something is wrong.

“If I come over there and your breath gives off the slightest whiff of fine fescue, it’s curtains, got it?”

~~~~~~~~

“This time we’ll do an ultrasound.”

“Will it cost less if it’s done ultra quick?”

“Go home.”

~~~~~~~~

“Okay, Shelley, let’s try this again. Here are some more meds. Try to get him to eat.”

“Do the meds count as eating?”

“Good luck.”

~~~~~~~~

“Here. Try this, Haggis. It’s peanut butter.”

It’s pills wrapped in peanut butter.

“How bout this? Big beautiful red tomato?”

Tomato hiding pills.

“Alright, fine. Oooh, this looks yummy.”

Smells like pills.

“Look at this, buddy. Even my mouth is watering. I bet’ll taste like chicken.”

Pills.

“Ugh.”

Something is wrong.

~~~~~~~~~

“I’ve called in an internal specialist. She should be here soon.”

“Are you telling me there’s something more internal than his stomach?”

“We’re running some more tests. There’s some swelling, fever, gastroparesis … we’ll know by morning if we need to operate again.”

“Any chance we can get one on the house? After all, we are frequent flyers.”

“Go home.”

“Coupon card? Customer loyalty discount?”

~~~~~~~~

“Okay, call us if you have any concerns, and here’s one more medication he needs to take.”

“On top of the other eight?”

“Five.”

“Feels like eight.”

“Good luck.”

~~~~~~~~

Something is wrong.

“What? Seriously. Could you not have spoken up while we were still on the premises with the giant red cross on the window?”

Look at me. I don’t look like me. Something is wrong.

“Of course you don’t look like you. You’ve had a procedure to vacuum out your insides. One to sew your stomach to the lining of your abdominal wall, four sets of x-rays, two ultrasounds and a partridge shoved up your pear tree more times than I’ve had hot dinners.”

I look like a poodle.

“Yes, well four sets of IVs require some creative shaving.”

I’m missing half my body hair.

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“Yep, you know how your appetite can plummet just from getting hair in your food? Getting hair into one’s body cavity has the same effect times ten.”

And the seventeen staples? Why not stitches?”

“That was my request. I wanted to discourage anyone from heading back inside again.”

I’m hungry.

“You’re back! God, I missed you, buddy.”

Where’s the cat?

“Leave her alone. She’s upstairs online with the Russians.”

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Not for long.

*sigh* “It’s good to have you home.”

~Shelley

 

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

Related articles

 

 

Getting a Peace of My Mind

Over the last few years, one of the big differences I noticed between myself and my kids was the way we worked. And by work I mean inviting and finding success with brain function, not our skill level with bow and arrow, or our ability to use a circular saw.

Those rougher, physical arts I still claim top spot in, but our intake and processing of information is apples to oranges. Or maybe even apples to orangutans. Not even remotely close.

Somewhere along the way from infancy to young adulthood, their gray matter grew partitions and looks somewhat like the inside of a fifty story office building with each floor holding hundreds of worker bee cubicles. They all function independently separate and together. Those little parts work for the giant godhead of global function. It is a hive of ongoing mental stimulation.

My brain is more like a gelatinous fish egg sack someone hauls over the side and onto the floor of a boat. It’s filled with potential, and it’s interesting enough to have folks peer at it with wonder, but no one really wants to go near it.

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My attention cannot be divided from the one project I assign it. One brain, no partitions, solitary job. Biologically, that’s as far as it goes. I’ve attempted multitasking before, but without the necessary hardware—the partitions—it’s like trying to build a concrete foundation with black strap molasses and prop it up with toothpicks.

Brain wandering is a specialty of mine, but I’ve spent years developing that talent because it’s a necessary skill in writing fiction. And if you’ve read or watched any version of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, you’ll have the barebones structure of how I go about my business. Multiple times a day, I see a waving hand before my face, or hear the repeated snapping of impatient fingers trying to get my attention.

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Thus, I’ve found that sharing the same air space with either one of my progeny while attempting to accomplish anything cerebral is wasted effort. Well, let me rephrase that. They can work just fine. I cannot organize enough thought energy to remember how one is supposed to write sentences, or calculate figures, or blink. I am annoyingly DISTRACTED.

I am sidetracked by their music—which usually has a tempo that calls out a challenge to my heartbeat. Sadly, this pace is one that most physicians would use after they’ve placed you on a treadmill for a stress test and are trying to ascertain the uppermost level of strain they can place upon your blood pumping internal organ before you pass out and break your nose on the handlebars.

My attention is diverted by the pinging of all their technological devices, the vibrating of their phones, the trips to the fridge, the video chatting with their friends, and the clinking of ice in their glasses.

Hell, there are even times when I lose focus because I heard someone swallow. And although I can bark at them to turn down their music or shut off their phones, I can’t ask them to stop any involuntary muscle movement. Well, I can, and I have, but I don’t think they’re really trying.

So I’ve decided to do something about it. I’m going all Jedi on my bodhi. Well, maybe it’s more like going rodeo on my consciousness. I’m learning how to reclaim it and reel it in when it starts leaking out my ears.

And I’m doing this by practicing a little bit of simple meditation every day.

I discovered a few good apps and narrowed it down to two that I found would work with my temperament and schedule. I started with an iTunes search that churned up an oceanic pot full of them, but then I cut out all the ones that didn’t require a credit card or ask that you rise at three a.m. for optimal results. Free and do it when you please fit my criteria.

A prerequisite for finding success when you’re first starting off on the meditation merry go round is a QUIET PLACE. This obviously means a place where neither of my kids has a physical presence. I go to my bedroom, and shut the door. But in my house, a closed door is like a magnet for knocking hands.

“Mom? What are you doing?”

“Go away.”

“When’s dinner?”

“Go away.”

“There’s no water coming out of the faucets.”

Three a.m. is looking more attractive every minute.

Even if I’m alone in the house, I’m not alone in the house. My fur-faced affiliates see me on the floor as part invitation, part challenge.

There is a lap, and I belong in it.

There is a lap, a ball belongs in it.

The minute I close my eyes and “focus on my breath,” I become uncomfortably aware of the fact that two others are focusing on my face. I can feel their breath on my face as they stare at it and mentally converse with one another, asking why I’m attempting to sleep sitting up. Then I hear the beginnings of a beleaguering brawl: a grand event ending in a fierce game of “If you do that again I will make hashtags on your eyeballs.” After tossing them both out the bedroom and closing the door, they become lab partners and endeavor to regain access. But their engineering feats lack imagination, skill, and opposable thumbs. Their efforts would bring about the same amount of praise as hiring an architect to build you a house out of triply ply toilet paper.

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Nothing these two do makes sense.

The constant pawing at the door. The constant pawing beneath the door.  The constant pausing I must do in order to open the door, shout and close the door again.

It is a process, this finding a quiet space in order to quiet my mind. It is also apparent that I must first train my family before I can begin training me.

I’m pretty sure the only way I will find success at this point is to secure a little help by my side. So now when I sit down to meditate, I make sure I have my bow and arrow on one side, and the circular saw on the other.

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With this minor adjustment, all great minds think alike.

~Shelley

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

Related articles

Bug Off!

Three nights ago something crawled into my bed that did not belong there. It was invisible and had fangs. Well, it felt like fangs, but because they were invisible teeth, I couldn’t be sure.

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Half a dozen times I flipped back the covers, flicked on the lights and scoured the bed.

The cat gazed at me like a therapist stares at his patient—the kind of assessment that lets you know they’re actually going through the latest chapters of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in their head to see where you fit in.

The dog raised his head and blinked at me, continually wondering if it was time for breakfast.

“Something is biting me,” I explained to them both, “and since neither one of you are within teeth reach, it must be beneath the duvet.”

I looked at my skin: my stomach, my legs, my arms—nothing. I must have been dreaming. I squinted hard at the mattress and the sheets. Empty.

Just to be on the safe side, I rootled around in one of the bathroom cupboards and came up with some mosquito repellant. This would be like camping, I told myself.

Now smelling like I’d accidentally fallen into a vat of DEET, I crawled back into bed and flipped the light switch. But with each passing hour, my eyes flew open immediately after I felt a pinprick of pain. I leapt up and repeated the same tiresome routine until exhausted from trying to get some sleep, I gave up and got up.

It wasn’t until that afternoon that I noticed I was beginning to itch—absentmindedly at first. And then, because I was in a meeting with other people who were over the age of four and would notice one of us lifting up her shirt to scratch uncontrollably at an itch that refused to be satisfied, I had to be surreptitious. Except that it’s hard to be sly when you are desperate to rip off your clothes and tear off your skin. That takes stealth. Or a room full of blind people.

It was not a good night. After showering, I noticed that it looked like my entire torso had sprouted polka dots. I looked like an early Jackson Pollock painting—like really early—probably the time period when he was still in a highchair and figured out how to whip cranberry sauce from his spoon to splatter onto the kitchen wall—that early. Nothing artistic about it. And I highly doubt any of his artwork requested he give it a good solid scratch in a hard to reach place.

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I covered myself in outdated hydrocortisone cream and crawled wearily into bed after first checking to make sure that the clean sheets hadn’t somehow become infested with last night’s fang festival fellows. I saw nothing.

But I felt creepy crawly.

It was as if something was under my skin.

I slept with the covers off. Okay, I lied. The covers were off, but there was no sleeping. Just noticing of the constant urge to itch.

Chicken pox? Nope – I felt fine.

Poison ivy? Nuh uh – the spots were too spaced out, and not in the right places.

Fleas? Bed bugs? Chiggers? Small as those fellas are, you can still see them, and I found NOTHING.

We were back to invisible fangs.

The next day I worked, sat, walked, talked and drove about, but all I thought about was how badly I wanted to scratch. And the problem with scratching in one place is that it stirs up the histamine response to activate all the other parts of your body that up until then were somewhat silent, and encouraged them to scream, “ME TOO, ME TOO!”

Since we don’t live close to town, and I’m stubbornly stoic, I was thrilled to hear my daughter was heading out to pick up a few things and would I like her to stop at the pharmacy? Would I? Oh boy, I would.

I sent her in with a list of everything known to man and medicine that might alleviate the desire to make a crosshatch of scars over my body. She came back with soaps, and creams, ointments and oils—even the words to a magic mantra one has to chant that she purchased from the local health food store. She had come at just the right time. These bites were rising to a fevered pitch of a frenzy.

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Every hour I showered, dried off and tried something that came out of the magic pharmacy bag. Relief was subtle, but even subtle was a miracle. Looking in the mirror, I reminded myself of a Dr. Seuss character, but I’m fairly certain that I’d frighten even pint-sized fans of The Cat in the Hat if I showed up at a public beach. Swim suit season was over for me. Well, truth be told, I never held a parade for the opening day either, so it was no real loss.

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This, the third day of purgatory, has me looking back over the last seventy-two hours and attempting to tally up the total amount of water used in boiling all sheets, clothing and any furniture I could stuff into the washing machine. Then I computed the amount of money I handed over to the pharmacist for each promised cure. And lastly, I added up how much it’s going to cost for a full torso skin graft. I’m working out a deal with a plastic surgeon tomorrow. I may have to sell a few things. Like any extra internal organs not pulling their weight.

Yeah, I know, call me crazy.

But it’s okay, the cat already does.

~Shelley

August Gotta Have a Gott 

In January, Rob and I announced that his sketches will be available toward the end of the year in the form of a 2015 calendar! And our readers would get to be the judges and voters for which doodles they’d like to see selected for each month. We’ll reveal the winners one by one, and come November, If you’ve Gotta have a GOTT, you can place your order. See the cartoons in competition and to cast your vote.

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

Related articles

Making your mark with indelible stink.

It all began with Brussels sprouts. As some adventures do.

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This one though, took an unexpected turn, a pungent hard left.

It was dinner time. I’d fed the hair-covered creatures and gleefully realized I had the house to myself for the evening. I’d been fighting a hankering for Brussels sprouts the whole week long and finally found an opportunity to indulge with abandon. One whole pounds worth if I found myself determined.

And I was.

The prepared bowlful in my lap, I surfed with the remote to find something mindless and mind-numbing to watch for an hour before heading back to work at my desk. It didn’t matter what: Modern Family, Outdated Family, All in the Family—anything that allowed somebody else to do the thinking for a few minutes. At that point, the Weather Channel would have sufficed.

The cat leapt up onto the couch and put a paw on my arm. “Sorry, sweets, you’re an obligate carnivore and tonight is ‘Veg Nite.’ I popped her down onto the floor.

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She leapt back up and re-positioned her paw, this time with newly sharpened claws getting a firm grip. “Ahem.” She glared at me.

“Hey, a little dining courtesy would be appreciated—and oh my godfathers, what is that smell?”

That cat rolled her eyes.

“Wait a second. It isn’t me. I haven’t even eaten any of these yet.” But within two seconds of saying that, there was no need to ask for further clarification. The smell was unmistakable, and it wasn’t Eau de Brussels sprouts.

I narrowed my eyes and looked at the cat. “Where is he?”

“I imagine he is stupidly attempting to run from the odor.” She began cleaning one of her mitts.

I put down my bowl and got up to search for the hound. With every step I took, no matter the direction, the pungent odor increased tenfold. I opened the kitchen door to the back porch and whistled into the blackened night. Nothing. I went to the front door and did the same. Nothing. I crossed the house to the laundry room, the room he’s been given access to with his own private entrance. I stepped outside, reeled back from the landslide of reeking air, and blew a piercing whistle.

“Right here.”

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I turned to see the dog in the corner of the porch, doing his utmost to disappear in the shadows.

“What have you done?” This was a stupid question which we both knew the answer to. My eyes were beginning to water.

“I was trying to make friends.”

“With whom?” I demanded.

“It looked like the cat.”

“But it wasn’t the cat, was it? Wasn’t even close to the cat.”

“Uh … yep.”

“Were you not given any warning?”

“It was dark.”

“Go sit in the shower. I’ll be there in a minute.”

Pepé Le Pew slunk off toward my bathroom and I ran to my computer, hoping I had whatever household ingredients necessary to create a deskunkifying poultice. And at that moment, fortune shined upon me.

It may be true that I have a teenage son who can bring me to my knees on a daily basis due to his typical teenage boy curiosities, but he has one particular saving grace which repeatedly saves his tuchus from being thrown into the giant abyss of THOU SHALT NOT COME OUT OF YOUR BEDROOM UNTIL YOU ARE TWENTY-FIVE AND RELIABLY PAYING TAXES:

He is kind.

And I don’t mean, “Hey mom, thanks for buying chocolate milk,” kind. I mean help the elderly cross the street, fold someone else’s laundry and asks how was your day every day kind of kind.

And just when I needed an act of kindness, he walked through the door.

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There are not a lot of people who will be willing jump in the shower with an animal who can make your nose turn inside out from the stench, and show uncommon compassion for what that animal is going through by ignoring their own discomfort, but this fellah is to be counted among that lot.

I owe him my thanks, and try to remember to say it in between the variety of vehement and vociferous tongue lashings he regularly receives.

Once the lengthy shower had finished—one that included more baking soda than a kindergarten room’s art cupboards full of Play-Doh—I thanked my son and turned to the dog who sat looking quite miserable, dripping on the bathroom mat.

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“And now we raid my cologne closet, to see what miracles my friends Chanel, Christian and Calvin can do with your … situation.”

I made a perfume soup and then threw in a dollop of two floral and one pine scented room sprays. It was an aroma nightmare, but slightly better than the assault we’d been experiencing pre-evening-ablutions.

The dog looked at me sourly, “This is awful.”

“Beggars can’t be choosers,” I said, wagging a finger.

“Okay, but can beggars have some Brussels sprouts if you’re not going to finish them?”

I suddenly felt really bad for the poor fellah. “You bet, buddy. Tonight of all nights, I don’t think anyone is going to notice.”

~Shelley

April Gotta Have a Gott winner

In January, Rob and I announced that his sketches will be available toward the end of the year in the form of a 2015 calendar! And our readers would get to be the judges and voters for which doodles they’d like to see selected for each month. We’ll reveal the winners one by one, and come November, If you’ve Gotta have a GOTT, you can place your order. Jump on over to see the cartoon winner for April!

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

Related articles

 

Purrrly Whites

The cat and I share very few similarities other than we both like to have food available to us 24/7, and we want everyone to leave us alone.

Today, we had another similitude.

We both had dentist appointments.

With different dentists, mind you.

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I remember when we first plucked this lionhearted kitten out of a mass of squirming furballs at the animal shelter. She was less than thrilled at being disturbed from her nap amid her breathing blanket, and upon making eye contact with me, swiftly assessed I was less than qualified wearing my new hat of ‘caretaker.’

I could see her point. I’d broken the cardinal rule we both share:

Unless I come to you, don’t come to me.

She breaks our cardinal rule far more often than I do. She brings me a dead leaf approximately the size of a mouse in exchange for one of those doodads in the treat jar on the counter. A dozen times a day. In her mind, gluttony is justification for her behavior.

Plus, rules are for schmucks.

Brushing a cat’s teeth is not a job for anyone hoping to retain either their hypothetical friendship with their cat, or the same amount of blood they possessed in their body before starting the procedure. It is an adventure one goes into with the understanding that it will be pleasant for no one and likely fairly fruitless.

Chances are it would make an entertaining YouTube video that may have better than average odds at going viral.

Three years ago, upon securing this peevish puss, my daughter also amassed a collection of references in order to aid her on her journey of surrogate motherhood. The cat was “hers”—a birthday gift long awaited and finally realized. The gift also came with a few caveats that were not so gifty.

– Feed her

– Amuse her

– And dispose of her deposits.

PS. You get to brush her teeth. Good luck. Love mom. And remember pretty is on the inside.

The scratches didn’t leave scars, thank God, but we did figure out that a glass of wine helped to make the whole job easier. We also figured out that the cat preferred bourbon, so I took over with the glass of wine. Brushing the feline’s canines was clearly a two man job. My daughter wrestled the cat into submission while I sipped my way into oblivion.

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It was a win win.

Eventually, our bicuspid brushing bash trickled down from our twice a week joint shout of “SHOWTIME!” to my daughter’s “Yeah, I’ll get around to it,” and settled firmly at the bottom of my vet’s “Now, I’m not suggesting braces—you can decide that later after you’ve had a chance to discuss it at home—but your cat would surely benefit from scraping the three pounds of tartar off her teeth.”

Well, at least she’ll only be two pounds overweight once they’ve finished the job. Bonus.

It’s often said that it’s an easy slip to let the cat out of the bag, but getting the cat INTO the bag is usually more of my problem. Some cats do not see the appeal of a bag no matter how many pieces of dried chicken strips and dead mouse toys you throw into it. But I am not one to wither and give up. Plus, I really didn’t need that second eye anyway.

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Getting my teeth cleaned is not such an anxiety-ridden affair any longer, but stopping the whole procedure to answer my cell phone can be tricky. Talking to anyone with a mouthful of foam, a suctioning tube hissing away from the side of your mouth and a tartar pick embedded in the side of your cheek can be extra tricky. Telling your dentist to back off and give you a second can be trickiest of all—especially since he’s still within reach of all the sharp, gleaming surgical instruments and is running behind by thirty minutes. One must be delicate.

It turns out that the vet was calling to let me know a few quick things:

Firstly, the cat voiced an immediate complaint about her new lodgings and was not the warm fuzzy wuzzy widdle kitten you said she was upon dropping her off. A note has been made in her chart. And if you’re aware of anyone with even the minimum amount of experience and training, would you please pass on the word that the office is now short and in need of a kennel technician and receptionist.

Secondly, one must pay extra for anesthesia when the staff must employ the tranquilizer gun.

Thirdly, no more sugar for the cat—no matter how much she gazes longingly at the supersized bag of Sour Patch Kids.

Finally, why don’t we give her a few more hours before you come by to pick her up? Just to be safe.

Why so long? Surely her meds have started to wear off by now, I say.

At the moment we’re just waiting for her to stop hissing and spitting at everybody.

What? I thought you said she’d received anesthesia.

Well, to be honest, we’re not entirely sure that it ever kicked in.

Did you have to remove any teeth?

‘Have to’ is a relative term. We voted and decided that in all likelihood, any tooth that we originally had our eye on is bound to come out sooner or later of its own accord.

So the cat is back home, more pissed off than ever, partly because we’re back to the old tiny teeth brushing routine, and partly because I ran out of her favorite brand of bourbon. But after nearly choking on the bill presented by the vet, I announced she was just going to have to get used to generic.

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Here kitty kitty …

“SHOWTIME!”

~Shelley

**Gotta Have a Gott**

Last week, Rob and I announced that his sketches will be available toward the end of the year in the form of a 2015 calendar! And our readers would get to be the judges and voters for which doodles they’d like to see selected for each month. We’ll reveal the winners one by one, and come November, If you’ve Gotta have a GOTT, you can place your order. Click here to see the cartoons in competition and to cast your vote.

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery (here) and what we all talked about down in the pub (here). And to see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone–click here.

Related articles

O Brother, where art thou brain?

Toot & Puddle I spend a lot of time looking outside the windows. The views are truly spectacular: mountains, trees, silos, cows, woodland creatures, fairies and llamas.

Okay, I took it too far. Everyone knows we don’t have llamas, we’ve got sheep.

Funny enough, the windows I’m most drawn to are the ones that look over the sheep pasture. I’m so curious to know what keeps those mammoth woollies busy all day long. Occasionally, I’ll try to sneak up on them, to catch them by surprise. They never seem surprised. They’ve got the Art of Zen down pat. They even blink in slow motion, although it might be the arctic temperatures that are slowing down that bodily function.

Stamp owned by Swollib

They’re brothers, even though they look nothing alike. But heck, I’ve got three siblings and none of us resemble one another. However, there was a high turnover rate of postmen on our lonely stretch of road while I grew up.

Our sheep, Toot and Puddle—named after two fairy tale pigs—refuse to be farther than a three hoof stride from one another. They wander the meadow, chew grass, get caught up in the search for better tasting grass, raise their heads and snap back together in some strangely choreographed rubber band dance.

At times, I see them both with heads high, still as statues, staring in the same direction. I crack the window and listen. Wile E. Coyote? Bumbling bear? Livestock snatching Scotsman? I am regularly left with no answer and they simply both return to the heads bowed position. Perhaps it’s sheep yoga. The stretching of tired neck muscles.

And that brings me to their favorite pastime. Ramming. Talk about needing beefy necks. Or would that be lamby necks?

Whatever the terminology, it remains unfathomable to my brain that they continue to sustain this brutal level of continuous impact, a collision so violent I’m left hearing birds tweeting carousel-style. But as is customary, they both seem to agree that the best thing they can do after a good head bashing is … repeat the experience.

Ad nauseam.

Ram speed ahead!The sound alone is volatile enough to crush the tiny bones of my inner ear. It is a thudded clunk, a muffled wallop, a thwack that only the crunch of bone jarring against bone can create. But to them, it is akin to the tinkling tones of the ice cream truck coming up the street, for it sends them leaping into the air with glee, bouncing with legs like springs.

I’m guessing the only thing saving their brains— what little they do possess—from spilling out of their ears, is the giant cloud of wool they are encased in. I suppose it’s a little like taking two large cement blocks, wrapping them in pillows and forcing them to merge at breakneck velocity. Or magic. It’s the only other explanation.

But it is quite the show. And I think it’s my squeals of protest and elevated anguish that ratchets up their fun factor. They’re showing off. By having a pillow fight with their heads.

The other thing I find unendingly fascinating is that one of them refuses to talk anymore. Now, lest you think I’ve been joining the ramming riot, I’m not suggesting these yahoos can string a sentence together and quote Shakespeare. They hate the bard. Especially Leonardo’s version of Romeo and Juliet when we showed it on Movie Nite last week.

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No, what I mean is that Toot used to be vocal, and being the bigger brute of the two, we thought he’d be raucous and unruly, an intemperate bulldozer.

But as we’ve come to realize, size isn’t everything.

He ended up sounding like Mike Tyson with a case of croup. Raspy, high-pitched attempts to communicate generated uncontrollable laughter from the crowds we sold tickets to. And herein may lie our mistake. We may have overscheduled him with shows.

I thought he possessed more confidence, but I’m guessing he took much of our mirth to heart. I feel terrible. So I’ve decided to start a rehabilitation fund with the proceeds. Of course, we first had to pay for the overhead, because bleachers and popcorn vendors don’t just build themselves, but everything remaining thereafter went straight into his account. Mostly.

I’m determined to make it up to him. And to the folks I’m refusing a refund.

Regardless, the sheep have taught me a lot over the last couple of years and in no particular order:

–        Once hay has fallen out of the hay rack and touched the floor, it is inedible. They’re worse than me with the ten second rule.

–        Everything is a scratching post. Fences, trees, the bookcase that holds all of their favorite poetry … everything.

–        Wool is waterproof, soundproof and nearly bulletproof. And I mean nearly. It’s super close to being there.Bullet_proof_wool_200213 (800x543)

–        Sheep hold a grudge. Forget to feed them for one measly week and they stop talking to you. Won’t even get up to greet you at the paddock door.

–        There is no lamb language for, “Excuse me.” Head butting gets the message across super quick and you don’t even have to stop chewing whatever’s in your mouth to communicate this.

–        I would like pajamas made entirely out of sheep lips. Seriously, it’s like a new fabric made of jelly and velvet.Sheep_lips_200213 (800x636)

–        Sheep have no teeth in the front part of the upper jaw, which for the first year I found incredibly upsetting and thought was a result of the barnyard brawling, but apparently, this is considered normal.

–        Sheep refuse to fetch.

In closing this week, I leave you with an old bit of farmer wisdom, handed down through many a family: Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. And always drink upstream from the herd.

~Shelley

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Don’t forget to check out what was cookin’ in the Scullery (here) and what we all talked about down in the pub (here). And to see more of Robin Gott’s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone–click here.

Haggis; hairy hound, clever canine

I have been part owner of a dog for most of my life. Rare was the year I did not have daily canine company. The breeds have varied, the temperaments true to type. Some have been as thick as a brick, but luckily capable of putting on a good show.Others were intelligent, but unwilling to allow us to think we held top spot in the pecking order.

The dog who currently resides at my feet is by far the best hound I’ve ever shared a home with. I can’t claim to own him, because who can really own a friend?

And I truly do consider him a friend. He surpasses the definition on all fronts. Except I was recently forced to pause and question my interpretation after hearing someone recite a poem about a dead dog, returning to his owner with a message from the beyond.

If you’ve not come across Billy CollinsUnited States Poet Laureate, this is a fine place to get acquainted. His poem, The Revenant, is one every dog lover should read.

And consider.

And maybe commit to memory.

The Revenant 

I am the dog you put to sleep,
as you like to call the needle of oblivion,
come back to tell you this simple thing:
I never liked you–not one bit.

When I licked your face,
I thought of biting off your nose.
When I watched you toweling yourself dry,
I wanted to leap and unman you with a snap.

I resented the way you moved,
your lack of animal grace,
the way you would sit in a chair and eat,
a napkin on your lap, knife in your hand.

I would have run away,
but I was too weak, a trick you taught me
while I was learning to sit and heel,
and–greatest of insults–shake hands without a hand.

I admit the sight of the leash
would excite me
but only because it meant I was about
to smell things you had never touched.

You do not want to believe this,
but I have no reason to lie.
I hated the car, the rubber toys,
disliked your friends and, worse, your relatives.

The jingling of my tags drove me mad.
You always scratched me in the wrong place.
All I ever wanted from you
was food and fresh water in my metal bowls.

While you slept, I watched you breathe
as the moon rose in the sky.
It took all my strength
not to raise my head and howl.

Now I am free of the collar,
the yellow raincoat, monogrammed sweater,
the absurdity of your lawn,
and that is all you need to know about this place

except what you already supposed
and are glad it did not happen sooner–
that everyone here can read and write,
the dogs in poetry, the cats and the others in prose.

******

I am now forced to second guess my every move, his every thought, and the motivation behind his actions. I would have been happier being blissfully ignorant.

Maybe.

Maybe I still have a chance to make it all up to him.

Maybe I’ll write him some poetry.

~Shelley

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Don’t forget to check out what’s cooking this week in the Scullery (here) and what folks are talkin’ bout down at the pub (here)!

Sheep; The long and short of shearing.

His Secretary

Well, it’s near the end of April. And you all know what that means: Administrative Professional’s Day. It used to be called Secretary’s Day.

I’ll tell you what else happens during April. Sheep shearing. It used to be called Make Your Farm Animals Hate You Day, but that was a lot to fit into the little calendar squares, so it was changed.

Now guess what else has changed? The way my sheep look at me.

Peter, our Welshman sheep shearer, gave me fair warning. But I didn’t listen to him. I was too busy snapping over 300 photos of what was happening to Toot & Puddle, our wide-eyed woolly lambs.

It took Peter 3 minutes and 29 seconds to undress each shaggy form, an eternity in sheep shearing standards, but these fellahs were the first two of his season. He normally whips them out a mutton a minute.

It wasn’t until I scanned through all the uploaded photos on my computer that I realized what really took place, what Peter attempted to communicate.

To our sheep, I was provider of food, water, shelter and a good nightly noggin scratch. The perfect shepherdess. After Peter had them spread, splayed and speechless, trust left their eyes as the fleece fell away. They stumbled back to the meadow, not recognizing each other nor understanding why I stood three feet away and did nothing but document the entire assault.

Peter said I’d likely never catch them again, that they have a memory like an elephant, and I think we all have seen how well most elephants remember our birthdays.

I’ve never seen sheep suffer from depression before, and for two weeks following what I’m betting they’re now considering the attack, I have been subtly shunned from their little flock. Hearing sheep sigh can kill you, just a little bit each day.

If you have never witnessed a shearing, I encourage you to pack a picnic and send out feelers to find out where you might be able to watch such an event. As displeased as my two little fellows were over the sordid ordeal, I think it was more than amazing and expect the pair of them will come to their senses in a few short weeks when the temperatures soar and the shade is nothing more than a variance in ground color.

Seeing a sheep get placed into what farmers refer to as the chair hold will make small children fall into fits of giggles and most adults sympathize with what it must feel like to have four stomachs and all of them stuffed right after a Thanksgiving dinner. It’s just … unnatural.

As soon as Peter had one of the guys in position, it was easy to see the animal register a few things in double quick time.

Not only was he unnerved and unprotected, but he also found out he was … unendowed. He looked at his barn mate and belched out a collection of sounds that I translated to, “I knew something didn’t feel right down there.”

He then turned to me with a look that said, “I’m assuming this was another one of your ideas?”

They must have thought I was hiding behind the camera, refusing to make eye contact or take ownership of what they clearly believed needed nothing short of an apology in triplicate, if not recompense.

After the Barber of Shearville left, I spent the next couple of weeks keeping tabs on the woebegone woolies. They either stood, with heads bent, barely touching each other’s foreheads, or sleeping their sorrows away in the barn.

Maybe it was their bulk that gave them bounce and vitality, their commanding identity. It appears I have stripped them of their Superman suits and revealed a couple of Clark Kents.  They are not impressed and want their capes back.

It’s a good thing their clumsy hooves cannot manage Peter’s shaving gear, for given the opportunity and shifty glint in their eyes, I’d not be surprised if they’d attempt to wrestle me into a chair hold and give me the exact hairstyle of who they really see me as …

LEX LUTHOR

Luthor in Superman: The Animated Series

Luthor in Superman: The Animated Series (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery this week (here) and what we’re all talkin’ about down in the pub (here).