LIFE'S BETTER IN THE MOUNTAINS

Friday, August 16, 2019

It Starts Early in Life

These days we talk a lot about prejudice.  It is an ugly wound in our history which has been reopened by the current POTUS and his adminstration.  And when we hear such hateful and hurtful rhetoric from our "leaders" we realize just how deep the wound is and how superficial the healing has been.

Children are born without prejudice.  It has been proven time and again that prejudice is a learned behavior.  And it is often learned when there is limited exposure to different types of people.  When I was in elementary school, the nearest people we had from other cultures were the very few Catholics, Yankees whose fathers moved to the South to manage a plant that located in our little town.  They went to the library during our weekly religion (read that Protestant) guest speakers.  When you were a child, how many people of other races and cultures were represented in your story books?  I can recall only two books about different races when I was a small child.  One was LITTLE BLACK SAMBO, and the other was THE FIVE CHINESE BROTHERS.  I admit that I loved both of those stories although they clearly stereotype the cultures and I would not want Violet to have them.  Oh, and I almost forgot Uncle Remus and his fables, the most famous being Br'er Rabbit and the Tar Baby.  Not good examples of the culture either.  Again, I loved them but would not want them for my granddaughter until she is at least a teenager.

I was absolutely delighted when Aunt Kathryn gave my little children a lovely book called OH, WHAT A BUSY DAY!  The illustrations by Gyo Fujikawa were enchanting and included children of different races and ethnic groups all playing together.  New Yorker Magazine recently did a lovely article that you might find interesting.  (Click here.)  The book, originally published in 1976 is still in print.  It's filled with short verses and is fun for children and adults alike.  I can highly recommend it.


Picture from the Internet
Violet now has our copy

Our Violet does have busy days.  She enjoys all sorts of creative play both indoors and out.  She is already loving dress-up and pretend.

Last week I posted a picture of her in a Darth Vader shirt.  Today I will show you the real Darth Violet, ready to take on anything with her light saber.  (Yes, she plays villians as well as heroes.)

 First you get the light saber at the ready




Then you get your frightening face to scare the opponent




And who is the opponent?  The same sweet giant giraffe Violet was hugging last week.  If you are Darth Violet you must take on the biggest opponent you can find.
A fierce attack

I love that Violet is exposed to children and adults of all races, cultures, and lifestyles.  No distinction is made among them.  She is too young to recognize stereotypes but her parents will guide her to dismiss them when she is old enough to understand.  I do believe Violet will grow up to be as accepting of others as one can be.  Her parents are exceptional role models.

I often wonder (and fear) just how the children of the supporters of the too-often heard hate speech will fare in tomorrow's world?  Will they become the minority?  Will they grow up and recognize how wrong their parents were?  Or will they grow up bitter and angry?  Time will tell.

The first quote of the week is from one of my heroes, Ruth Bader Gingsburg:
"America is known as a country that welcomes people to its shores.  All kinds of people.  The image of the Statue of Liberty with Emma Lazarus's famous poem.  She lifts her lamp and welcomes people to the golden shore where they will not experience prejudice because of the color of their skin or the religious faith they follow."
(PERSONAL NOTE:  Take THAT, Ken Cuccinelli!)

The next is from the late (and still missed) Molly Ivins:
"Old-fashioned anti-immigrant prejudice always brings out some old-fashioned racists."

And from the late (and still missed) Maya Angelou:
"Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible."

Is there hope for our Nation?  I do think there is.  For our sakes, but mostly for the sake of dear innocent Violet and all other children who will inherit the world we leave behind.


HAVE A GREAT WEEK, EVERYONE!

FIGHT PREJUDICE WHEREVER YOU SEE IT

WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER


Friday, August 9, 2019

A Very Busy Girl

Days in the life of a two-year-old are busy indeed and our Violet is always a busy girl.  Not much for frills and dresses, she doesn't mind getting a bit of dirt or scrapes on her knees.  She much prefers the outdoors and can always find an adventure.

Darth Vader peeks between the trees




Her father took her shopping for Mama's birthday gift at a nearby upscale mall.  He put the gift on the table, gave Violet a snack and turned around to get a cup of coffee.  Unfortunately she was more interested in the gift than the snack and quick as a wink tore off the trade-mark white bow.  (Did you know they give all employees lessons in how to tie those white bows?)

She seems quite excited and is just about to open the box




Our son put a long row of small plants near the deck railing.  So Violet now has chores to do.  She keeps the little plants watered and takes the job quite seriously.

Carefully pouring water into each little pot




She loves pizza as a special treat.  This is her method for eating pizza:  first you take off and eat the pepperoni pieces and other toppings.  Next you peel off and eat the cheese.  Then you lick the sauce off with your tongue.  Finally you eat the soggy crust.  It's a bit messy but definitely the best way.

Licking off the marinara sauce




It is important to hug your animals, even the giant ones.
  Violet hugs her giraffe before calling it a day.

I think of this very fortunate little girl, surrounded by the love of family and friends.  Living without fears or anxiety about her safety and security.  Assuming the best of things will happen every day.  And it breaks my heart that the same cannot be said for so very many children living in the United States and around the world.

The first of today's quotes is from Nelson Mandela:
"History will judge us by the difference we make in the everyday lives of children."

And from Oliver Wendell Holmes:
"Pretty much all of the honest truth telling there is in the world is done by children."

And from Frederick Douglas:
"It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men."

And an anonymous quote aimed at all those who interact with small children:
"Children seldom misquote.  In fact, they usually repeat word for word what you should not have said."



HAVE A WONDERFUL WEEK, EVERYONE!

HELP THE CHILDREN WHERE YOU CAN

IT DOES TAKE A VILLAGE



Friday, August 2, 2019

Golden Memories

We have been reading about different breed characteristics and considering what kind of dog we may want in the future.  That automatically triggers happy memories of our Ellie and Lucy.  We even reflect on our two dogs who preceded them, both of them Springer Spaniels.  We loved all of them, but I honestly believe there is no sweeter, more loving and loyal dog than a Golden Retriever.  (And of those Golden Retrievers there was no sweeter, more loving and loyal one than Dichi Sirius Eleanor Rose (Ellie).)  Dogs have been members of our family continuously since my husband and I were married.
Our Ellie just after we brought her home.



Lucy on her first day with us.  She was a tiny little bit of fluff.



Ellie carried two tennis balls around much of the time.
I sent a picture to our breeder who mentioned that her father did the same.



She may not have been as fast, but no dog ran with more enthusiasm than Lucy



And memories always include the two dogs cuddled in one bed.



This picture is the most poignant one.  It is the last photograph we have of Ellie, taken shortly before her untimely death from an angiosarcoma.  It was a gorgeous Autumn day and the Golden Girls had been romping through the leaves.  We forced them to sit and rest after having a drink of cool water.


We still have not determined what kind of dog we want.  We will certainly get a shelter or rescue dog who is older.  Our house is not well-suited for training a puppy.  As much as we would love another Golden, we are not physically up to providing the running activities they require.  And while I think they are adorable, I do not want a little ten-pound dog.  So we will think, and look, and then put our names in for another dog.

The first of our quotes today comes from American author Dean Koontz:
"Once you have had a wonderful dog, a life without one is a life diminished."

The next quote is from Khalil Gibran:
"When you are sorrowful look again at your heart,
And you will see in truth
That you are weeping for that which has been your delight."

All of our four dogs have been our delights.  And while we have periods of sorrow, we mostly cling to the happy memories our dogs have provided.  Tipsy Pudding, our first Springer shared our lives for 16 years.  Penny Lane, our second Springer was with us for almost 16.  Eleanor Rose, our first Golden was with us for almost 9 years.  We brought home Lemonade Lucy when Ellie was 1.  She lived almost 14 years, dying four days short of her 14th birthday.

And still we follow the advice of that great sage, Dr. Seuss and we smile because it happened.


HAVE A WONDERFUL WEEK, EVERYONE!

FORGET POLITICS FOR A WHILE

Friday, July 26, 2019

Baby Birds

I mentioned in a previous post that we had received a large order from chewy.com days before Lucy died.  We had been ordering from them on a regular basis for years, even before Ellie's untimely death.  They are such a good company, I didn't want them to think we had suddenly starting using another provider.  And quite selfishly, I didn't want to be bombarded with emails asking if we had been dissatisfied with their service or offering promotions to regain our business.  So I wrote a short email to tell them we had been very pleased over the years but that we would not be ordering for a while.  I went on to say that our dog had died but that we planned to get another in the future.  And that when we did, we would definitely resume service with Chewy.  Imagine my surprise when I received a note of sympathy, along with a statement that they would be refunding our credit card with the amount of the last order.  I was really surprised.  You don't find that sort of customer service every day.

I decided to share some photographs of baby birds in our back yard.  We have an ultimate viewing spot for the birds.  Our house is built on a slope (we are in the mountains after all) so our deck is on a second story, above the screened porch.  And the porch is above a 12-foot space under the house.  So the deck is parallel to the middle of the trees.  We hang the bird feeders (five of them) on extended bars that hang several feet away from the deck railing.  As a result, we can easily observe the birds, even while sitting on the deck.  And I rarely sit there without having my camera at the ready.

I love all the birds, but I particularly love the fledglings.  The parents will bring them to trees near the deck and feed them until they learn to fly to the feeders by themselves.  And those first flights are entertaining indeed.

A little Downy Woodpecker sits perplexed on a branch.  For the first time, the parent flew to the suet, grabbed a mouthful and then flew deep into the woods, leaving the fledgling all alone.  It was time for the little bird to make its way to the suet.

"Where did mama go?"





The Red-bellied Woodpecker brings the fledgling to a tree to prepare for a feeding.  Notice that there is no red on the head of the little one (on the right) and how well it is camouflaged against the tree.

It's a bit difficult to tell from this picture, but I think the parent is female.
The red on the head seems broken by a streak of white.




For obvious reasongs, we do not have Barn Swallows in our woods.  However, our community has four lakes, the largest of which is near our house.  And where you have lakes and bridges or other structures you will usually find Barn Swallows.  I love to watch them skimming the lake surface for insects.  And I also love their muddy nests and the little clown-faced nestlings.  So I go down to check on their progress often.

Not a great picture, but they a skittish when people are around.



And what would a bird post be without our favorite birds, the Pileated Woodpeckers.  We have several nesting pairs in our woods despite the fact that they are said to be territorial.  And we are delighted to see them being fed.  We can tell when they have eggs or nestlings because we see the adults come to the feeder and eat, then grab a chunk of suet to take to the nest.  At first the fledglings are fed deep in the woods.  Gradually they bring them closer to the bird feeders to feed them.  The "little" ones are the same size as the parents when they are brought to the feeders.


Mother bird is at the top with the bad-hair-day fledgling below

These represent only a few of the baby birds we see several times a year.  We have always been bird watchers so this deck has been a special place to us.

There are so many wonderful quotes about birds, it is difficult to choose which to post.  So I will post two of them.

The first is from another of my heroes, David Attenborough:
"Everyone likes birds.  What wild creature is more accessible to our eyes and ears, as close to us and everyone in the world, as universal as a bird?"
(BTW:  If you have never seen his PBS documentary on eggs, it is worth a search.  Amazing and well-done.  I promise you will learn a lot.)

The second quote comes from Victor Hugo:
"Be as a bird perched on a fragile branch that she feels bending beneath her.
Still she sings away all the same, knowing she has wings."


HAVE A MOST WONDERFUL WEEK, EVERYONE

PAUSE AND LISTEN TO THE BIRDS

AND SING EVEN ON A FRAGILE BRANCH


Friday, July 19, 2019

Packing Golden Stuff

It's been slow going, but work continues on cleaning and packing away a lot of dog items to donate to the local shelter.  In case you are wondering...YES, we do plan to have another dog.  But not too soon.  This time we won't be getting a puppy but more likely an adult from the shelter or rescue.  And we will be down-sizing.  We no longer have the fitness and energy to keep up with a large active dog.  I'm not certain what kind of dog I would like, but I am confident that I will be able to look into the dog's eyes and we will know if we are meant to be together.

When we built our house, we made a tiled dog room for our two young Golden Retrievers.  They slept in crates at night and we had a special shower/grooming table built for them.  A large utility sink and lots of shelves completed the room.

Here is the progress thus far:
A box of toys and several beds are on top of the shower.  We will keep the two large beds and there are several more to add to the pile.



More toys, recently scrubbed by my dear husband are ready to be added to the boxes with the others.



The grooming items and supplies will be sorted and donated.  We will keep the towels for the next dog.


This blue tug was always the favorite toy for both dogs.  When Lucy wanted to play she would grab the toy and keep flapping it against Ellie's nose until she grabbed it.  It once had a center piece for stability but that was long gone.  Our daughter bought them a new tug, exactly like this one except that it was red.  They would have nothing to do with it.


Other favorite toys were the puzzle ones containing treats.  It was a lot of fun to watch them.  Invariably Ellie took charge of the puzzle and figured out how to obtain the treats.  Lucy followed right on her neck and snatched the treat almost every time.  Lucy never wanted to "solve" the puzzles herself and after Ellie died, Lucy didn't care for any of them.

Both dogs loved tennis balls but Ellie was the master.  Neither of them understood the word "retriever" and while they loved catching the balls, they rarely brought them back.  They simply dropped them and waited expectantly for the next one.

Tired after a round of playing, they collapsed together in one bed, the tug still lying there.

We had a portrait done when Lucy was about five months old and Ellie was a year and a half.  The photographer took them in the woods for most of the shots.  If you look closely, you can make out the "ghost dogs" in the trees.

We bought our first dog the year we got married and we have had a dog since then, except for brief periods like this one when we were mourning a loss.  Our first dog was a mellow Springer Spaniel who lived for 16 years.  She was followed by another Springer who was much more active and taught us what the breed was really like.  She also lived almost 16 years.  When she died we decided to get a Golden Retriever.  We were on a wait list from the breeder we heard was the best in the state.  I believe it.  We had to fill out several papers and go in for an appointment before we were approved to buy a puppy.  Finally our turn came up and we drove home with little Ellie, my forever heart dog.  She was such a great dog and we were within a year of retirement, so we decided to get another Golden from the same breeder.  That's when we brought home Lucy.  When we moved here to our home in the mountains, Ellie was two and Lucy was one.  They were perfect companions hiking on the mountain trails.  Lucy's death was (and is) still painful and for me, it brought renewed grieving for Ellie as well.  But such is the nature of dog ownership.  And we will have another dog and go through it all again.

Today's quote is from one of my heroes, Jane Goodall:
"You cannot share your life with a dog...or a cat and not know perfectly well that animals have personalities and minds and feelings."

I believe that so strongly that I hesitated to use the word "bought" to describe bringing these wonderful dogs into our lives.



HAVE A GREAT WEEK, EVERYONE!
BE KIND TO ANIMALS
AND YOUR NEIGHBORS SHARING THE PLANET.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Update as Promised

My latest scans showed no detectable cancer!!!  That means for right now no more chemotherapy treatments.  I will go in monthly for blood work and to have my infusion port flushed and every other month to see the oncologist.  My life has been so busy with doctor visits and chemo that I am really going to enjoy my free time.  I do need to have an another endoscopy but that is a piece of cake compared to many other procedures.

So just call me Ms. Optimism but with a touch (just a touch) of Ms. Pragmatism.  I had an unbelievably good response to the chemotherapy.  But given the extent of my cancer when it was diagnosed, cancer cells almost certainly remain in my abdomen.  They are isolated and cannot be identified on scans or in the blood markers.  They may be dormant for years.  Or they may suddenly wake up and start to grow.  But for now, for right now, I am considered in remission.  I choose to consider this a chronic illness to be monitored and nothing more for now.  I have not let cancer define my life no matter how much of my time it consumed.  I can now put it on the back burner.

Our son and d-i-l brought our dear granddaughter for a nice visit over the Independence Day holidays.  So why is this photograph of my son?  And one taken so long ago?  There is a little story here.  My mother obtained this Campbell's Soup tee shirt for our son when he was three or four.  He loved this shirt more than anything he ever owned and wore it all the time except when it was in the washing machine.  He wore it over a long-sleeved shirt in cooler weather and he wore it until it was really too small for him.  I saved the shirt along with his blankie and favorite stuffed toy and gave the shirt to his wife some years ago.  The blanket and stuffed toy I sent when Violet was born.

Our son proudly wearing his shirt


Fast forward to the present.  The family arrived here for the holidays.  What should Violet be wearing but her Daddy's favorite shirt!!!  It will never be pure white again, but it is in surprisingly good shape considering the number of washings it endured decades ago.  Our daughter was totally amazed when I sent her a photograph.  She responded, "That cannot be the same shirt!"

It's not surprising that Violet has no attachment to the shirt whatsoever.  But you cannot imagine the flood of wonderful memories that ran though my mind when I saw it.  Memories of a very sweet and loving little boy who once played in the woods in our house on the lake.  Who was gentle but strong-willed.  And the fact that he grew up to be an amazing man, husband, and father.

Violet decided to try out the dolly stroller.  She found that it didn't work very well.  But that's how toddlers learn, isn't?  How do you know whether or not something will work if you don't try?

Violet and the famous tee shirt

We had so much fun with this active little sprite.  She is happy-so-lucky and is constantly on the move.  Yet she will sit and draw or color for quite a while.  She loves bubbles and can dip the wand and blow them herself.  But she prefers to have her Daddy use the thing that makes giant ones she can pop with a foot.  She is learning manners and has such a sweet little voice that can get amazingly loud when she calls out for her daddy or mama.

She went downtown to help celebrate the festivities.  She loves being a people watcher, especially if she is on a bench eating gelato.  She hates to wear hats but fortunately she will wear sunglasses so her eyes are protected.

The bookstore owner gave her a little flag


The next day, she got to go to everyone's favorite store, O. P. Taylor's Toy Store.  It is packed full of every toy or game you can imagine.  It is such a fun place with wonderful staff and several hands-on areas where children can actually play with toys.  She was most impressed (as we all are) with the Lego roller coaster.

Violet takes off her shades and looks in wonder at the displays

Our quote for the day comes from  the great Native American Shawnee, Tecumseh:

"When you rise in the morning give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength.
Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living.
If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself."

It is impossible for me to make a list of all the things for which I am thankful.  But I am thankful for them every single day.  It sounds trite, but since my diagnosis I have awakened and said aloud, "Thanks for another day."  I'm not sure for whom it is intended, but it makes me feel better to acknowledge my extremely good fortune.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention our Lucy on a Friday.  We miss her greatly but now we can laugh about the fact that we had just gotten an order from Chewy days before she died.  A big bag of her prescription kibble and 36 cans of her prescription diet.  We are washing bed covers and toys and those, along with the food will be most welcome at our local shelter.  Lucy will be helping a lot of shelter dogs even now.

HAVE A WONDERFUL WEEK, EVERYONE

STAY THANKFUL

Monday, July 1, 2019

Rest in Peace, Lucy

It is with a very heavy heart that I share with you that our dear sweet Lucy died yesterday.  As most of you know, she had been lame in one leg for quite a while.  Our veterinarian had told us six months or more ago that she suspected a brain tumor because of an atrophied muscle in her eye.  She advised us not to put her through the necessary tests to confirm and we agreed.

She adapted well to the lameness as we made a lot of changes in the house to facilitate her needs.  Yesterday morning she seemed fine.  She ate breakfast and did her usual business outside.  About 11:00, she tried to get up and simply could not.  She was quite anxious and seemed scared that she could not arise.  We used the lifter we have to help her at times but when we got her up she could not stand at all.  Her rear legs seemed paralyzed and her front legs weak and  trembling.  I called the animal hospital and told them we were bringing her in.

We got her in our SUV and she calmed down immediately.  She clearly did not have any pain since she did not whimper or moan as we lifted her into the car.  I rode in the backseat with her and she was calm on our drive to the emergency hospital about 45 minutes away.  Once there she was still calm which indicates she was not fully alert.  Typically she is very nervous at the veterinarian office.

They had Lucy on a stretcher and put us in a room together for a while, then took her to put in an IV and give her a pre-medication.  When she came back she was a bit groggy, but the instant she saw my husband and me, she raised her head, smiled at us and wagged her tail.  She did not make any attempt to get off the stretcher.  We loved on her for some time and in fact, she fell asleep before the veterinarian came in with the anesthetic.  It was a smooth and peaceful passing.  The staff could not have been nicer and when we left we noticed a sign beside a burning candle.  It said that someone was saying good-bye to a dear friend and asked that the waiting room be kept quiet as long as the candle was burning.

We are obviously so so sad but we are grateful for so many things.  Lucy had 12 and a half years of being a puppy and still ran zoomies when she turned 13.  She adapted well to the lame leg and still lived a happy life until the day she died, peacefully and in no pain.

She loved her big bed



She was totally devoted to my husband just as Ellie was devoted to me.  Both loved each of us, but Ellie felt like "my" dog and Lucy like my husband's.  After Ellie died Lucy was even more attached to my husband.

Nurse Lucy stayed by my husband's side while he recovered from surgery.


Ellie was a year old when Lucy came to live with us, so Lucy had never known a life without her until Ellie died.  She sought out my husband more and more after that and was never far from his side.

The two dogs were very close and they loved to run.  In open areas Ellie was by far faster.  So fast that it was difficult to get both of them in the frame.  But in the woods Lucy always won.  She could pivot and maneuver ever so much better.

Lucy and Ellie running free.  Ellie was loping along and Lucy was putting her all into it.


We had large dog beds all over the house, at least two in every room in which they were allowed.  Invariably they shared the same bed or even snoozed together on the floor.

Sleeping in the sun

Ellie was our first Golden Retriever and she was so great that we decided to get another.  They were one and two years old when we came here to the mountains and we had tons of fun hiking with them, watching them run with their fluffy hair blowing in the breeze, playing with them on the floor and simply loving them.

I prefer to believe in the Rainbow Bridge.  My belief won't change whether it actually exists or not, so why not believe that Lucy made her way yesterday and Ellie rejoiced to greet her.  They are running free and then resting side-by-side.

God speed dear sweet Lucy.  You gave us so much pleasure and you will always have a special place in our hearts.  We will toast you on your birthday Thursday when you would have been fourteen.

A quote from Dr. Seuss always gives me peace:
"Don't cry because it's over,
Smile because it happened."