Friday, July 30, 2010

Fridays are Golden

Lucy developed a "hot spot." Common in Golden Retrievers, hot spots are areas of dermatitis that can result from an insect bite or other irritants. They are more common in hot weather.

We've been fortunate that neither of our dogs has ever gotten a hot spot, but early this week we noticed Lucy continually licking an area on her right hip. Close examination revealed a quarter-sized reddened area which was warm to the touch. Because these areas can spread rapidly, my husband took her in to see our veterinarian.

The tech took Lucy back to shave the area so the extent of the redness would be visible. When she returned to the exam room, Lucy was frantic. The tech had accidentally cut the skin in two places!!! So now we were dealing with a painful open wound as well as the cellulitis.

When my husband returned home with Lucy and I saw the area I was absolutely furious. I told him I hoped he had really let them have it. I should have known better. My very wise husband reminded me that yelling would have accomplished nothing except to make the tech (who already felt terrible) feel even worse. One of his many fine traits is that he is able to accept things that cannot be undone and move on. Of course, he is absolutely right.

Now Lucy is taking prednisone and an antibiotic. She is delighted that once again, she is getting little sandwiches. Our dogs have no idea why they are suddenly given "people food" but they feel blessed with good fortune.

To give pills, I cut bread into small pieces. Then I smear the bread with Laughing Cow cheese spread.

The pill goes into the center of a piece of bread.

And folded over into a tiny sandwich. Why so many of them, you might ask? And why are three of them smaller and not folded? The answer is simple. Ellie gets a fake pill sandwich as well.

The laughing dog waits for the Laughing Cow sammich. (They are Wisconsin dogs and that's how "sandwich" is pronounced there.)

She swallows the pill sandwich and waits for more.

Somehow I think Ellie knows Lucy got more bread and cheese than she did.

Lucy's hot spot is healing nicely. I still cringe when I look at the unnecessary open areas and try to follow my dear husband's example. It's done, it was an accident and there's no use fretting about it.

Here, during this last week of July we are still unseasonably hot in the mountains. We don't have our normal cool-down at night and we are staying indoors far more than we would like. It seems that hardly anyone is having good weather and we are more fortunate than most.

Let's try to improve our impulsive attitudes. Let's all try to move forward when bad things (both big and small) happen. Let's try to think before we speak in anger and decide exactly what will be accomplished by our harsh words. Silence, like Fridays, can be golden.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

We may be close to Heaven, but the Devil is here too

For those of us who live here, the NC mountains are close to heaven. We often stand in complete awe of the majesty here. In all seasons the mountains touch our lives and uplift our spirits.

However, there are many places in our mountains where the Devil himself makes his presence known. One such place is a rock formation in Chimney Rock State Park.

As you climb above Chimney Rock itself, the formation comes into view.

A closer look gives the details of the Devil's face, looking out over the mountain.
Folklore tells us that the Devil is there to remind us of his continuing presence and influence in our lives. Geologists tell a slightly different story. They say the rock is part of a very large rock slide with this boulder landing on the ledge. Because of the nature of the rock, some areas eroded away, leaving the outline of the head and facial features.

The Blue Ridge Parkway passes around another famous rock formation known as the Devil's Courthouse. Folklore tells us that the devil held court there.

Cherokee legend tells us that a huge giant named Tsul'kalu' used a cave within this mountain for a ballroom and danced there. The slanty-eyed giant who stepped across the mountains, scratching and carving the stones, is now called Judaculla. (Like so many other names, settlers felt the need to make Cherokee and other Native American names easier to pronounce.)

I understand the scientific explanations for our rock formations. And yet there is a part of me that clings to the legends. Don't get me started on the Indian princess(es) who leapt from the waterfall(s).

Monday, July 26, 2010

Serene and Peaceful

Cleaning up some folders, I came across some photographs taken and forgotten. One folder held some pictures of St. John in the Wilderness Episcopal Church.

When my daughter visited us in May, she and I took day trips to nearby areas. Both of us adore old graveyards and old churches with their cemeteries. It's not surprising that we would visit this church. St. John is a lovely, quiet, and serene place in nearby Flat Rock. Originally built in 1833 as a private chapel, the church is rich in history.

The church was racially integrated from the beginning with families and "servants" sitting together. In fact, the very first wedding ceremony performed at the church was between two slaves.

The cemetery surrounding the church is a wonderful place to roam and ponder. Three signers of the Declaration of Independence are buried here, and many fallen soldiers of all our wars.

I could linger for hours in cemeteries, reading the epitaphs and admiring the art gracing the tombstones. This cemetery calls me back again and again and there are still areas I haven't walked.
I've never given a thought to the wording on my tombstone, but wouldn't it be wonderful to be remembered as "exceedingly beloved?"

Friday, July 23, 2010

Fridays are Golden

When we built our house, we designed a room for the dogs, complete with an elevated tub/shower so we could bathe them. We did all of their grooming and bathing ourselves.

Two years ago my husband injured his leg, and while I could certainly have done both dogs myself, it would have been a two-day job. So we found a local groomer. Oh, were we surprised! She did a marvelous job and charged us ONLY TWENTY-FIVE DOLLARS per dog. We did some quick calculations. On the one hand, we could take the time to trim their nails, clip their pawpads, trim inside their ears, bathe and dry each dog, wash a load of towels and our wet clothing, and clean up the room. On the other hand, we could take them downtown for a morning, pay fifty dollars plus tip, and bring home two clean dogs. We still use the shower to cleanse dirty feet, but we no longer bathe the dogs ourselves.

The morning at the groomer's is exhausting for both of them. They are not very active at all for the remainder of the day.

Lucy lies between a chair and the sofa, her head under the end table. (Jeez, I just dusted under there. I'm sure of it.)

Or she plops over and lies with Ellie on one of the beds upstairs.

That evening, Ellie lies in the corner of her large bed.

She seems to be moping about having been to the groomer.

Lucy stretches out, using her bed and part of Ellie's.

Suddenly Lucy gets a spurt of energy and grabs the blue tug. "Hey, Ellie, want to play?"

"Not a chance, you silly thing."

They don't mind going to the groomer. After all, she gives them lots of treats and seems to really like them. But they are all done-in on bath day.

This weekend has brought severe weather across our country. Milwaukee, where we lived for twenty years was inundated with a stalled weather system that dumped 8-11 inches of rain on the city and surrounding suburbs. We ask you to send positive vibes to our friends, former neighbors, and all the residents living there. Our daughter is fine and for that we are extremely grateful.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

An Evening by the Lake

The lake near our house is usually quiet. No loud motors, no jet skiis. Just kayaks, pontoons, canoes smoothly gliding through the water. The other side of the lake is louder, with a large park and a swimming area. The sounds of children playing and swimming echo over the lake.

But our end of the lake is almost always serene, and never more so than at dawn or dusk. I especially love the lake when the mist is rising.

I sit there, letting my mind go blank and momentarily forgetting about anything I might be worried about.

A little swallow takes in the last rays of sunshine.

The trees turn black as the sun sets behind them.
As I leave the darkening lake, I always feel calm and refreshed. I would love to see the lake awakening at sunrise. I am definitely a night person but perhaps I'll make it one of these mornings.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Words Divide the Indivisible

The Letters to the Editor sections of the newspapers around here are full of vitriolic exchanges among fellow Americans. It all began when a few large billboards appeared along the highways in the western North Carolina mountains. Patriotic in appearance with the colors of our flag, the signs read: "One Nation Indivisible." Since we proclaim ourselves to be indivisible, you might not imagine such a billboard would be the subject of intense debate.

The reason for the debate of course, is that our Pledge of Allegiance has similar words. In fact, until 1954 the Pledge of Allegiance had exactly those words.

The wording of the Pledge of Allegiance has been changed four times since it was written in 1892. The most recent change occurred in 1954, when the words "under God" were added to follow "one nation" and to precede "indivisible." Because of this latest change, many people feel that the billboards, by saying "One Nation Indivisible" are in effect "leaving out God."

No coincidence that the name of the sponsor of these billboards is displayed prominently. It is the North Carolina Secular Society. While we all know that secular means "apart" from religion, many of our citizens believe secular means "hating God."

Therefore, these citizens have begun to place billboards of their own along our highways. These billboards feature the Amerian Eagle proclaiming, or protecting the words, "One Nation Under God." These billboards also prominently display the name of the sponsors. In this case it is an organization called "We Still Pray."

As these billboards spread across NC, they will no doubt spill over into neighboring states. Vandals are hard at work, especially painting "Under God" on the first ones. So far, none of the "under God" billboards have been vandalized.

I do not understand the depths of concern these billboards are causing. Does anyone acually disagree that we should be one nation indivisible?

Reading the Letters to the Editor section gives me laughter and grief. Some of the people think one nation under God is in the Constitution. Others insist that we have no right to blaspheme the "original" Pledge of Allegiance. Of course there is always the point that even our money says "In God We Trust." Many call for the "God-haters" to leave if they don't like it here. I suspect some of the letters are too scathing to print.

My opinion of billboards has changed dramatically since I grew up. When I was a youngster, I loved them. Keep in mind that in those days there were no electronic games, no DVDs, hardly anything to keep children occupied on long car rides in hot cars with no air conditioning. [And wouldn't you know...reading in the car made me carsick!] So as I sat in the back seat (with my brother ALWAYS trying to cross the imaginary dividing line), I loved reading all the billboards and imagining myself visiting all those places.

But in these days of comfort I think billboards are distracting nuisances. Surely with GPS, smart phones, etc., no one needs directions from billboards. So as much as I loved them when I was a child, I hate them now. Given my preferences, there would be no billboards anywhere.

Organizations can spend however money they wish to purchase billboard advertising. Let them go ahead. But isn't there a better use for all that money? Do they really change anyone's mind about an issue?

Be on the lookout for the "Battle of the Billboards." I suspect they will soon come to an area near you. Do you have an opinion about these billboards? This is an open-minded blog so nothing you say will be criticized. I'd just like to know what you think about the issue. Or even, as in my case, if you see it as a non-issue.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Fridays are Golden

Ellie and Lucy often play together. Sometimes only one of them wants to play. If Ellie wants to play and Lucy does not, then Ellie will poke a toy at Lucy until she gives in. On the other hand, if Ellie does not want to play nothing will convince her to join a game.

They have a basket full of toys but play with very few of them. Lucy's favorite by far is an old blue tug. Ellie likes the tug as well, but her favorites are tennis balls. She is rarely seen without one.

Ellie is snoozing and not interested in playing. Lucy picks up the tug.

She takes it to my husband so he will toss it behind the sofa for her to fetch. Our den is quite large with a sectional sofa and lots of room behind it. It makes for a perfect run for the girls and Lucy loves to run circles around the sofa, with or without a toy.

Here she comes on the final turn.

Ellie observes, moving only her eyes. She seems to be thinking, "What a silly dog Lucy is."

Occasionally the tug will get looped around Lucy's neck like a giant blue necklace.

She knows exactly what to do. She goes over to her bed and lies down, then scoots back until the tug is removed.

She is so proud of herself when she gets free of the tug. I swear she is so happy and full of fun that she is actually laughing.

Let's all pool our wishes that the cap on the oil rig holds. And let's think positive thoughts about the people with whom we share this planet.
Have a great weekend. I hope that at least a few times this weekend you find yourself as happy as our Lucy.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

There's Always A Swallow

I often wish PBS would do the "News Hour" at a different time. Watching the reports of news around the world often makes me a bit uneasy in the evenings. I find the in-depth reporting disturbing as I learn more and more components to big business and political madness. So afterwards I try to find ways of relaxing my brain and soothing my troubled spirit.

Many evenings I go down to a nearby lake and just sit and watch the swallows. I love the way they dip and zip and skim over the water snatching insects. Watching them is especially nice this time of year because they have nests full of little ones.

There are about six nests in this shelter so there is plenty of action. Watching the swallows go about their work is somehow soothing to me. It affirms that perhaps things may be all right after all. In a very short time, this spot will be filled with fluttering fledglings and what a sight that will be. It's comforting to know that year after year the swallows return to nest here and provide an evening's entertainment.

As I turned to leave the lakeshore, I stop to admire the Rose of Sharon. Not a rose at all, it is nonetheless a lovely bush that flowers all summer long.

So while I can't stop watching the news, I can still find peace at the lake and let my mind drift away from the troubling news of the day.

Monday, July 12, 2010

FROG Jam, TOE Jam and Southern Hospitality

Several components of hospitality are alive and well in the South despite having fallen by the wayside in other parts of the country. The ubiquitous hostess gift is one of them.

There are no established rules regarding hostess gifts; just some generalizations. The longer the stay the more expensive the gift. When invited to a dinner party a small hostess gift is in order assuming you did not prepare something for the meal. But it cannot be TOO extravagant or expensive.

Hostess gifts, much like stocking stuffers often say a lot about the giver. Many of them are clearly "re-gifts," some are totally useless, some are tacky, some are tasteful, but all of them are received graciously by the hostess. The hostess is gracious even when she may be asking herself, "What WERE these people thinking?"

Cocktail napkins, votives or other candles, tea towels, gourmet coffees, baked goods, jams and jellies, wine stoppers, or wine (if you are SURE they are not Southern Baptist or alcoholics) are frequently given as hostess gifts. Except for the flavored coffee, I actually enjoy hostess gifts.

I try to select hostess gifts based on the individuals we are visiting and I pick up little gifts all year long to have on hand. Sometimes we give a gift for purely selfish reasons. One of our neighbors serves cheap wine. Not just cheap wine...but OLD cheap wine that may have been opened months ago. The first time we visited there, the neighbor asked my husband to taste the wine to see if it was still good since she couldn't remember how long it had been opened. And it was not re-sealed with a vacuum stopper...she just popped the original cork back into the bottle. Since then we have always taken a bottle of wine which (to my husband's delight) they open and serve.

Last week, our guests brought us jam and preserves from Hillside Orchard Farms in GA. I've ordered their products before and they are delicious. Our friends had no idea we knew about the orchard, but were blown away by the name of two of the jams.

T.O.E. Jam is made from tangerines, oranges, and elderberries. It has a unique taste and is wonderful on your morning toast.

FROG Jam is made from figs, raspberries, oranges and a bit of fresh ginger. Also wonderful in a variety of ways.

By far, my favorite is the peach preserves. They add pecans and it's so wonderful...almost like eating peach pie for breakfast.
This is one hostess gift I will put to good use. I'll not share with anyone. OK, I'll share with my husband, but he is not as crazy about jams, preserves, and honey as I am. So he can have his bagels with cream cheese and I'll scoop out the jam for my toast.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Fridays are Golden

Just like the fireworks...colorful, fun, and entertaining. Appropriate that our Lucy was born on the Fourth of July! Last Sunday was Lucy's fifth birthday.

Frankly, I did not see the need for a second dog. After all, we already had the best dog in the world. But my husband's dream was to have two Golden Retrievers when he retired. Since retirement was planned in 2006, it seemed reasonable to get a puppy in 2005. I jokingly told him that if we got another dog then I would have to quit work. To my surprise he said, "That's a great idea!" So Lucy was the catalyst for my retirement.

We had planned to name the new puppy Abigail in honor of my second favorite First Lady, Abigail Adams. We quickly determined that "Abby" and "Ellie" sounded too much alike. In addition, this little fuzz ball just looked like a "Lucy." So Lucy received her name from a First Lady...not because she was so much admired but because her name was Lucy.

Lucy Hayes was called "Lemonade Lucy" because she rid the White House of alcoholic beverages and served lemonade to guests. She was the first First Lady to have a college degree. A devout Methodist, Lucy also banned card playing and even dancing. Alcohol was served at the White House only on a single occasion. In 1877 a group of Russians came to visit and the staff felt that they would be insulted if they were not served vodka.

Today's extreme sector of the right would love Lucy Hayes. During the term of Rutherford B. Hayes the White House held daily prayer sessions, Bible readings along with hymn singing. No card playing. No dancing. No pool. (The Billiard Room became a room for Lucy's plants.)

But enough about the other Lemonade Lucy. Let's get on with celebrating our own Lucy.

Here she is, already smiling and comfortable in her new home. Lucy's first thought when in a new situation is, "What do these people need to do in order to get along with me?"

Such a tiny little thing, she already had the "show dog strut" when she walked.

For size she is parallel with two-year-old Ellie.

She loved to play with Ellie from the beginning. At first we didn't allow Ellie to interact much because Lucy was so little and could have been accidentally injured. The happiest day of Ellie's life came when the veterinarian said Lucy was big enough for them to play. Imagine Lucy's surprise when she ran to jump on Ellie, only to find herself flipped over. The shocked look on her face was priceless. Even today, when they rough house, Ellie is the victor.

Lucy didn't care as much for soft cuddly toys. Her favorite was a hard ball which she would push and tumble all over the place.

Even as a young puppy, Lucy always found a good place to sleep.

That aspect hasn't changed in the last five years. She still can sleep better than any dog I know.

Lucy has brought a new dimension of joy to our lives. She may be the smartest dog I've ever seen. She was not as easy to train as Ellie was. When we trained Ellie, she quickly learned the response and was consistent in performing it. Lucy, on the other hand had a lot of questions about every command. For the simple command "sit" Lucy wanted to know, "Oh, you mean NOW?" "Oh, you mean HERE?" "Oh, you mean I should stay sitting?" "How long do I have to sit?" "Oh, this command applies no matter where we are?"

Lucy is a wonderful dog and very loving. In spite of her impish ways, she really hates to be scolded. She has hilarious expressions and a great sense of humor. She observes every little thing and given opposable thumbs, she could assemble a swing set. She is a perfect compliment to our Ellie and I cannot imagine one without the other.

How is the summer passing by so quickly? Like most of the southeast and eastern seaboard we are having really hot weather. Needless to say, it's early morning and late evening walks for the Golden Girls.

Have a wonderful and safe weekend. Remember: the most important things in life are not things.