Monthly Archives: October 2009

Adventure of Ike the rescue dog

A few weeks ago, we adopted a rescue dog – an almost-two-year-old miniature Schnauzer. Our first decision revolved around choosing a new name. Pepper was his given name. Given his pepper-colored coat, it was apropos but for us, just too blasé. We ran through a litany of male names when “Ike” came to mind. Somehow, it just seemed to fit and then we realized he could be a mascot for our online news source, the Bluffton Icon. Ike the Icon – yeah, sounds sort of corny, eh?

We’d been told he’d “had a flea problem”, which apparently accounted for the buzz cut but didn’t explain why he’d been given no flea meds since June. It was time for Ike’s first trip to our vet.

Fleas. Yes, fleas. This is like being told your child has lice. Eeek. The vet assured us every dog she’d seen that day had had fleas. Small comfort. So we administered the flea meds as instructed – comforted by the vet’s reassurance that the fleas would be dead within hours. Still, we went into a cleaning frenzy. Washed linens and throw rugs, shampooed the carpet in the family room (the rest of the house has wood floors), scrubbed upholstery – spring cleaning…except it was fall. Sure enough…by morning the fleas were gone and Ike had quit scratching thanks to a round of prednisone.

I mentioned this to a coworker who also has a rescue dog. His comment? “Rescue dogs sometimes come with baggage.”

I should have taken this as a warning. A few days later while doing doggy doo doo duty, I noticed something white and it was….moving??? Ugh. Worms. Another call to the vet – they just laughed and said we could pick up the quickie fix – little bone-shaped pills. Ike, who usually refuses treats of any sort, chewed both and looked up for more. Go figure.

Two days later…no more worms. By this time, the poor little guy is convinced he’s been consigned to the house of torture and is no longer sure he trusts us.

This became ever so apparent when, a few days ago, my husband called to say he was on his way to pick me up from work. Silly me. I went down to the parking lot, discovered it was raining, and foolishly began heading toward home, assuming he would be there soon. When it became obvious that wasn’t going to happen, I took shelter under the porch overhang of our PR office. Still no Fred. I called. BIG mistake.

“I’m chasing YOUR ##** dog!” was his response – about 100 decibels louder than usual. He showed up 30 minutes later, disheveled, soaked to the skin, and oh so NOT happy. Apparently, Ike had seen an open door, shot through and rain down our street, up Kibler to Main, crossed Main and he (with the help of two other men) caught him about a mile from home on Railroad Street.

Man and dog didn’t speak for about 24 hours. Eventually, they made up. Literally. I learned later from the aforementioned coworker that taking off like this is typical behavior of rescue pets. Ike hasn’t yet accepted our house as “home”.

Oh, but that wasn’t the last trip to the vet.  The worst was yet to come, probably sufficient evidence for him to remain skeptical of us. Two days after his escape, he got to spend the day with the vet. This one was scheduled, thanks to another faux pas of his previous owners. Nearly two and he’d never been neutered. One testicle had never descended after birth, so he was at higher risk for cancer. Additionally, his dew claws were loose and needed to be removed.

So…..under the knife (er, laser) went Ike. The husband, having fetched Ike from the vet, reported by phone that he was just standing there, stunned and staring. No steps or walking (or running away from home) for two weeks. Pain pills had been administered. When I arrived home, there he half sat/half stood on his footstool, looking stunned.

I imagined that he felt like I did after my C-sections, shivering from the pain pills or from the pain. Stitches in the abdomen just are not comfortable. Oddly, though he refused his usual food, he downed half of a jar of Peaches’ cat treats. I half expected him to meow.

He and I sat on the rocking chair for an hour, his head resting on the chair arm so he could watch the trick or treaters as they posed for photos in our outdoor studio. We both fell asleep, exhausted from our collective days.

I assume he slept all night – no yips filtered up the stairs even when we got up to walk. This morning, he agreed to one slow lap around the house to relieve himself, sniff noses with Thor, the giant black lab next door, tolerate one “welcome home” swat from Peaches, and back in to chug down another pain pill and sleep away the day.

As someone said, the result of this will be one of two things – either he’ll realize this is now home or he’ll be convinced it IS the house of torture and lie in wait for the nearest open door. If you see a tiny miniature Schnauzer with a Mohawk running down the street, grab him! And please, please don’t mention the upcoming teeth cleaning.

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Demolished!?!

Note to MMH — you can demolish my shed, but you can’t demolish a single memory from my childhood.

On my morning run today, I took a side trip down the lane of my childhood home. Since it was dark, it took me a few seconds to realize that something was different. Straw spread over a large square space…OH NO! They’d demolished “The Shed”, the home of so many childhood experiences. My first thought was “Why?” After that, so many memories came rushing back that I had to stop for a minute to catch my breath and stop the tears.

After all, in most person’s eyes, it was just a building, a shack that perhaps was in the way. But for me, my brothers, my parents, many of the kids who grew up in the neighborhood, and even my children and nieces and nephews, the shed was the place to hang out, to play, to learn the fine art of woodcrafting.  We all spent hours out there watching Dad work in his shop — the one place he could unwind from teaching. He taught us all to use the equipment, from making our first little boats to more complicated projects.

It was home to all of our camping gear — the tents, the “camp kitchen” — and all those other things for which our house had no room. For awhile it held a ping pong table that kept us entertained on rainy days, warmed by a wood stove. There was a corner devoted to playing “house”, a favorite pasttime of my girlfriends and me — an old wooden crib with a built-in cupboard, held dolls, clothes, pots and pans, and whatever else we needed for pretend play.

Along the way, my dad built shelves along the back wall, on which we stowed treasures we couldn’t part with, seasonal items, and underneath the bottom shelf were several old trunks. A wooden one was filled to the brim with Halloween costumes. As kids, we didn’t buy new costumes each year. Instead, we trooped to the shed to decide who would wear the wolf costume or be a ghost, or whatever we could create out of old fabric, funny masks and hats. There was a tiny compartment that held little masks that might otherwise get lost in the junk.

I can still conjure up the smell of the shed — a combination of sawdust and the mustiness one associates with an old building holding even older items. It was a nostalgic smell — one that held a sense of excitement every time we walked in the door — it was locked in later years but early on, anyone could have walked in.

In the summer of 1971 or1972, my dad and my brother, John, created a tiny bedroom in one corner. John and his wife, Rachel, spent the summer after their college graduation and wedding, living in the shed. For the first time in my life, I had a real sister, someone who was there every day to listen to my troubles, give me advice, and to watch tv game shows with. I knew better than to bother them when they were in their “home”, but with the shed in the backyard — I was bound to see them sooner or later. For years after they’d moved on, I would hide in that room, reading or dreaming of my own future.

Oddly — and somewhat ironically — those dreams never included the one that came true. Little did I know that down the street another family had its own “shed” — known to them as the “shop”. A little boy who grew up creating his own memories of that shop is now my husband. So today when I told him that the shed had been demolished, I know that he knew exactly how I felt.

From now on, when I pass that spot where the shed stood, a little white square building will appear ghostlike as a lifetime of memories flood my mind.

FIRED!

Note: This blog is simply a reflection on what has occurred in our own family. It is not meant to be anything but a reflection. Life goes on. We’ve gone on with our lives.

Okay, so to be honest, I’ve never been fired from a job. Never been asked to leave a job. But I am an intimate acquaintance of one who has personal experience with this situation, and it is — simply put — not pretty.
When one’s salary is cut drastically, the first feeling is panic, followed by questions of why, followed by anger, and finally, acceptance. Unlike so many in the world, there is still a job.
But when, in the middle of the day, one is handed a letter stating that one’s parttime job is in conflict of interest with one’s main job — and requesting that one resign from one of the two positions by the end of the day…confusion reigns. Confusion, indignation, anger, and finally, refusal. Then, a quick consult with two attorneys and an HR expert determine the best response.
The end result? Fired.
While I can’t pretend to know exactly how it feels to be fired, I do know that the “fire-ee” felt confused, insulted, hurt, angry, failure, embarrassed, and at a certain point, completely drained. Oddly, though, there existed an overriding sense of relief. No more waking up on Monday mornings with an acute sense of dread.
Then reality sets in.  How to break this to one’s children? Parents? Siblings? The responses were diverse — from anger to indignance to confusion to — my favorite — “GOOD! Now you can focus on what you enjoy.”
Support from the community was immediate and amazing. Stunning, in fact. The reverberations are still being felt. 
So…what does one do upon being fired? Naturally, the first step is to carefully consider the financial concerns. In our case, we were fortunate. House and cars — paid off. Children — through college with no loans. Still, there was that upcoming wedding — yet we managed that without any problems. So in a way, we were very lucky despite the emotional heartbreak.
But after just a few weeks, the freelance jobs began pouring in, a fun and challenging job came through, and life began to resettle. The “fire-ee” was smiling more than ever, happier, more sure of himself. A long-time dream of creating an online product allows us to do journalism the way we love. The response to this has truly been amazing — the support we’ve received from not just the community but from individuals all over the U.S. and internationally, has proven that hard work does lead to success.
Which brings us to the present…”we” have weathered this storm together, just as we weathered my recent health crisis together. After nearly 30 years together, we are truly a we. We continue to plan for a future that includes all the things we love.
In retrospect, it hasn’t been an easy year, but essentially it has been a good one. I often think I should write a thank you note — perhaps there were other forces involved in this — but what was initially a shock has turned into the best thing that has happened in years. There are no hard feelings on our parts.
Proof again that the oft-quoted axiom by Nietsche is right. “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.

Anti-stress cookies

The Food Network has its flu fighter cookies…I have my own version, but mine ward off stress and fill your body with good stuff!

My friend, Amy, and I tasted these cookies during one of our Friday lunches at a local restaurant. They were excellent, but we both agreed we’d alter the recipe. Of course, I alter every recipe I ever use because usually I’m missing something but also often because I’ve discovered some healthier alternatives. So here’s my version of this cookie.

1½ c. all-purpose flour
¾ c. whole wheat flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
¾ teaspoon salt
½ stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 c. olive or canola oil
1 c. packed dark brown sugar (I actually used closer to 3/4 c.)
1 large egg
2 egg whites
¼ cup molasses
¼ cup nonfat plain yogurt
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
½ cup oats
1 ¼ cups Monukka raisins
1 ¼ cups dried cranberries or dried cherries
1 ¼ c. DARK chocolate chips (i.e. Ghirardelli)
1 ¼ cups chopped walnuts
Directions
Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt in a medium bowl.
Beat the butter, oil and brown sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and egg whites  Add the molasses, yogurt, ginger and lemon zest and beat until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the flour mixture to make a sticky batter (do not overmix). Fold in the oats, raisins, cranberries or cherries, chocolate chips and walnuts.
Chill dough for at least 30 minutes. Drop heaping tablespoonfuls of batter onto prepared baking sheets. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Bake the cookies until dark golden but still soft, 10 to 12 minutes; cool on a rack. Store in an airtight container for up to one week. May also be frozen (I like my cookies hard!).

Massage, PT and meditation

Today a friend asked how my shoulder feels. I knew he was serious and was asking for a truthful answer. After a week of being prodded, pulled, stretched, kneaded and pushed beyond my comfort level, my answer came quickly — “Remarkably well, thanks”.

As he continued talking, my mind was racing. Did I really say that? Did it really feel that okay? Oddly, yes, it does. But I’m not sure that the pain has really lessened so much as I’ve finally discovered the tools for dealing with chronic pain.

As anyone with chronic pain knows, it can be debilitating, frustrating, irritating, and unfailingly constant. And when one’s pain is caused by several physical ailments, it is — at times — easy to just give in.

This is where it pays to be stubborn. I refuse to let pain rule my life; instead, I look at all the ways to ease it. Hence, my return to regular physical therapy, massage therapy, and mental therapy. The three combine with spiritual therapy not so much to ease the pain, but to allow one to accept the pain and move beyond that.

I’m just beginning to understand the reality of rotator cuff arthropathy and fibromyalgia. Both can be excruciating, and knowing the pain is not likely to go away, is frightening and depressing…yet I’m not willing to let that take over my future. So it’s one day at a time.

A good massage therapist and physical therapist know the right ways to stretch me, thus increasing ease of movement.

Equally important though, is meditation and mindfulness. Understanding the connection between the mind and body is essential in management of chronic pain. An excellent clinical therapist helps me focus on what I can do as opposed to “why can’t I do what I’ve always done?” That, of course, varies with each person. In my case, it’s a matter of learning not to push through everything — as has been my rule for 52 years. Knowing my own limitations and accepting that that doesn’t make me weak or a “quitter”, but instead makes me stronger.

Meditation and mindfulness (don’t think “cult” here) teach one to focus on breathing and relaxing. To better understand this, I’ve turned to Jon Kabat-Zinn’s “Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness” and a related series of guided meditations on CD.

Zabat-Kinn’s aim is to make “mindfulness and meditation understandable and commonsensical for regular people, all of us really, because all of us, having mind and bodies, suffer inevitably from one aspect or another of the human condition.”

As the author says, “More and more people are adopting this simple route toward greater sanity and well-being for themselves.”

If the picture you have now is of me sitting cross-legged and humming “OMMMMMMmmmm”, think again. Think relaxing on a couch or soft mat, stretched full length, breathing deeply and doing a slow scan of my entire body, beginning with the toes. Or sitting quietly and, tuning out the world around me, focusing on my breathing.

Yes, it might sound too simple to be true, but try it — especially if you’re suffering from any measure of stress, illness or injury.

And if you see me riding my recumbent bicycle, understand that a few months ago, this would not have been possible. In fact, there are days when it’s all I can do to get out of bed, but once I’m out…breathing deeply and stretching slowly — the pain seems more tolerable and I can look forward to a day of adventure.

Grove Street cathouse

I hate cats. Well, actually, that isn’t true; I hate some cats. I like cute, little fluffy kittens that curl up with their siblings — all tiny ears and pink tongues. I do not like gigantic cats that rub against my legs and make the furniture look like it’s growing hair. Hence my long-standing rule of no cats in the house. That’s mostly because of the fact that I can’t breathe when they’re around.

In fact, it’s probably the breathing problem that makes me hate — no, that’s too strong a word — dislike cats. Our girls know that. It’s been an ongoing argument since they were little. Somehow, we always ended up with a cat — outdoors. Most of them ran away, got lost, were stolen, died, or simply disappeared into thin air.

Not Peaches. She never left. She moved in shortly after we moved to our present house. Well, to be precise, she showed up and Lindsay — softhearted Lindsay — decided to give her a dish of milk. I distinctly remember warning her in my ominous mom-knows-best tone that if she fed it, it would move in. Silly me. Naturally, that meant she’d feed it more.
And stay it — she — did. And stay. And stay. That was 1991. It’s now 2009, which means that Peaches is more than 18 years old. She shows no signs of planning to join the pet cemetery in the back yard.

At 18, she’s the queen of the homestead. She will tolerate no other cats. If one shows up to say hi, her tail puffs up, she sits rigidly upright, a disdainful look in her eyes as she silently dares the offending feline to venture closer. Most of them slink off the property without a second look, but lately the neighbor’s cat — either too stupid to understand or oblivious to the orange queen — strolls onto the patio looking for some attention from a sympathetic human. Won’t be me.

Anne — in an attempt to encourage Peaches to “make friends” — picked up Peaches and thrust her toward a lazy visitor. Out came the claws, the teeth, the hisses. Nice try, Anne. Funny thing was the visitor opened a lazy eye, squirmed around, scratching her back on the rough sidewalk all the while ignoring Peaches. Disgusted, the queen swept herself off to her latest hidden throne under the front porch.

Somewhere over the years, I’ve learned to tolerate Peaches. No, maybe not just tolerate, maybe “like” is a better word. She’s the kind of cat I like — hides outside most of the time, stays her distance from me except if I happen to be near her empty food dish.

Unfortunately, in her old age, she has developed what I can only describe as “anxious cat syndrome”. The vet says it might be senility, might be anxiety, so prescribed Kitty Prozac. It worked the three out of 10 times we were successful in fooling her into taking it. That worked great for about four months but she’s begun her annoying howl again.

She’s loud. So loud the entire neighborhood thinks we must be torturing her. Which we’re not. Of course, now we can’t find the remaining pills and need to hit up the vet for some more. In the meantime, we’re wearing earplugs and might have to supply the whole neighborhood.

I thought when she hit 18 that maybe she was headed for the great cat heaven. In fact, I was pretty sure she couldn’t live a whole lot longer. Until Anne and I — waiting for her Penny to have some blood drawn — read a cat magazine that feature cats who have lived 30 years. The hair on my arms stood straight up. Anne’s words were something like, “How cool! Peaches could live a lot longer.”

My solution? I’m shipping the cat off to Kent to join the dear child who first encouraged the darn cat to stay. Get ready, Lindsay. Your brood of two is about to expand to three.