I should have seen it coming. It is that time of the year. Sudden intense storms that blow out of nowhere, with little warning and leave vast destruction in its wake. Yesterday was one of those days. Beautiful morning, cool temperature partly cloudy skies and a nice breeze, a perfect day for yard work and a DIY home improvement project. We had the whole day planned out. Mitch would go rent a jack hammer to dig out holes in the shelf rock under one of the bedrooms on the old side of the house and I would go to the grocery store then come home and mow.
First off I misunderstood where he was going to rent the jack hammer. I thought he said Lowe’s, so I figured he could drop me off at Sam’s Club across the street rent the jack hammer then come back and get me, killing an extra trip for me. But no, he said Home Depot, not even close to where Sam’s is. Strike one against me for the morning. I caused him to have to drive farther out of his way to take me to Sam’s then on to Home Depot then back to pick me up. He didn’t bother to correct me until we were getting off the highway at the exit, so by then it was too late to correct the misunderstanding. It didn’t end up saving any time for either of us, because I had to wait about a half hour for him to come back and get me. The only upside was the looks on people’s faces walking past me standing in front of Sam’s with a cart full of food.
After coming home and unloading food and jack hammer I buzzed off to the grocery store leaving Mitch to attack rock to his heart’s content. I came home and unloaded groceries, made sure Mitch hadn’t jack hammered off one of his toes, changed my clothes and took the dogs outside to commence yard work. I dragged the mower out of the shed ducking for cover because of the growing wasp nest in the door. I keep forgetting that it’s there until I have to mow, then I’m rudely reminded of it when the wasps buzz bomb my head. I pushed the mower down to the driveway, grabbed the gas can and filled the mower. I pulled the cord and the mower started right off then promptly died. I pulled the cord again and again, now the mower wouldn’t even try to start. I thought great, not now, not today.
I was already hot and tired from cutting limbs from bushes and it was 11:30 so I thought it was a perfect time to take a break, eat some lunch then ask Mitch start the mower for me. I walked back in the house to see how much he had accomplished. He had punched out two holes each about a foot and a half square. It was slow going, Mitch had to break up the rock in big chunks, lift the large rocks out of the hole then use a shovel to scoop up the dirt and smaller rocks out of the holes and into a bucket. He then had to carry the bucket outside and down the steps to the trash dumpster. Hard heavy work and he still had many more holes to dig. I suggested breaking for lunch, but he said no he wasn’t ready. I said that I couldn’t get the mower to start and asked that he start it for me, but I was tired and wanted a diet coke and just sit for a minute. Strike number two, since I stopped to take a break, in essence I made him stop what he was doing too. He quickly reheated a leftover steak while I ate a salad and drank my diet coke.
When I was done, he followed me out to the mower. I pulled the cord just to check; it started right up, then died and wouldn’t start again. Mitch pulled and pulled but nothing happened. He told me to push it into the garage so he could work on it. I could tell by his expression, it wasn’t going well. Strike number three, I told him not to worry about the mower that I could do something else and he could go back to jack hammering. He looked at me with that look and I saw the first signs of “Mitch Fit Warning”. I offered again that he could stop taking the mower apart and I would do something else. That’s when I saw the “Mitch Fit Warning, Imminent”. The look that says “take cover things are about to starting flying or get broken”.
He looked at me and said very slowly, “Go find something else to do, right now.” Here it comes “Mitch Fit Imminent” is getting ready to strike and I didn’t want to be in the path of that storm. This had all signs of a major event. He had rented a jack hammer, paying an hourly rate to get grueling back breaking work down and I had just halted the process in order to fix the mower. This wasn’t going to be pretty at all.
So I grabbed the dogs and beat a hasty retreat. An hour later he walked into the house and said, “I got it running for now so go mow right now before it stops.” Thank god we had rocks he could break.
I’m not normally one of those conspiracy theorists, but in this case I’m willing to believe that some other hand is at work here. Every morning I walk the dogs in the predawn twilight. Everybody that knows me knows that. Because of the time of day and lack of light I am always on high alert especially when we get to certain areas that are more remote like the one stretch of road where there are no houses on either side and trees block out almost all of any light from the moon. For the most part, our morning walks are usually sedate, with multiple stops to sniff and pee, but for some reason this week almost every morning we have had close encounters with something. I say “something” because I have not seen what it is.
Yesterday the morning walk was going very well, we had just crossed the intersection where three streets meet and were heading down the long dark stretch of road when Orso almost stood straight up and started barking his head off. This encouraged Charlie to follow in kind. I couldn’t see anything, nothing moved in the shadows and dark spots ahead, there was no sound, nothing. I hushed the dogs and kept walking on down the road. Yes I know, maybe not the brightest move, but I figured what’s the worst that could happen? An axe murderer waiting for me to get closer, not likely since axe murderers are usually asleep at 4:30 in the morning. A werewolf waiting for me in the shadows probably not, because it wasn’t a full moon yesterday morning. Some critter that was holding really still in the dark, that was the most logical scenario I could come up with, so I tightened my grip on the leashes and off we went.
Charlie was all puffed up sniffing the air and the ground jerking back and forth trying to follow the scent of whatever it was that had them both so spooked. Both dogs were walking with their ears perked listening intently trying to locate “it”. As we walked farther down the lonely stretch of road the dogs became more and more agitated. Charlie either caught the scent or heard something and started barking loudly and very throaty which set Orso off too. I couldn’t see anything but decided that maybe we really should turn back and not tempt fate. All the way back home both dogs kept straining at their leashes sniffing and ranging back and forth.
This morning the walk started off with the dogs on alert, ears up and searching the dark landscape for any movement. Of course when they are on high alert, I’m on high alert too, I’ve been jerked around and pulled off my feet too many times when I haven’t been paying attention. They settled down about the time we rounded the first curve and headed up the hill. Just as we started down the hill something fairly large jumped up and bolted away from us on the other side of a stand of thick bushes. I couldn’t see what it was only that it was large enough to make a lot of racket when it bolted. That startled both the dogs and me, thinking, oh goodie here we go again. We quickly walked down the hill and headed off toward the long dark stretch of road. We made it down the long lonely stretch of road and back without incident and I thought we were home free.
Wrong. We retraced our steps back up the hill, around the curve and were only four houses away from our home when Orso jerked around and lunged at something in the dark barking away. This caused Charlie to jerk back to search for the unseen threat. They yanked me back and I came really close to losing my balance, my adrenaline shot through the roof, thinking this was it, “they’re going to find my dead mangled body and think there was a yeti or something running around.” Nothing was there. I looked around and didn’t see anything at all, nothing. Whatever “it” is it’s creepy.
Now I’m wondering what is going on is there something out there or is it someone jacking with me or what? Maybe it’s my hairdresser, maybe she thinks I need to color my hair more often, by scaring the bejesus out me and making my hair grayer. Maybe it’s my doctor maybe she wants to go on vacation and if I have a heart attack, the insurance claim would be more than enough to subsidize a nice little trip somewhere. Or maybe it’s Mother Nature, trying to tell me she controls the night and I better be more careful.
Every morning I head out on the morning walk with the dogs around 4:30 give or take ten minutes. It’s always dark, with some mornings darker than others depending on the time of year, starry skies or cloud cover. We’re usually alone except for the occasional critter of the night still out foraging, raccoons, possums and deer. When we run across any or all of these critters the morning walk gets very interesting, usually with me hanging on for dear life and yelling “NO NO NO!” The main purpose of the morning walk is to burn off energy and the morning poop, the dogs not me, so the dogs can make it until we get home for lunch to let them out. It’s not a very long walk, about twenty minutes tops.
I am always on high alert walking in the dark, watching and listening for any unusual movement or noise that doesn’t belong there. I’ve been surprised too many times with wild animals, people that are not normally out that early (and are drunk) and a naked man (not a pretty sight). This morning the dogs and I had gone to the distance limit of the walk and turned around to head back so I can jump in the shower and get ready for work. Then I noticed the quiet. I stopped and stood still for a few minutes and just listened. Nothing, no sound at all. The birds hadn’t started their morning calls; there was absolutely no wind not one leaf was moving, no traffic noise, nothing, for that moment in time there was just absolute silence.
For some people this might have been very disconcerting, the feeling of being all alone, but for me it was perfect, the most peaceful moment in time. Just the dogs and me all alone in the dark standing in the middle of the road, soaking up the quiet. In this crazy hectic rush world where everyone wants something to happen instantaneously, hearing nothing was very relaxing and calming. All of my rush mode was gone for a moment, I even forgot what day it was. Then a rabbit ran across the road and I became the boat anchor I was meant to be trying to slow down two dogs, weighing in at one hundred seventy eight pounds and definitely with much more muscle mass than me.
Now I remember, it’s Monday!
I was playing with my camera and took some quick photos trying to get as close as I could to some blooms and plants with just my 18-55mm lens and came up with a few pretty nice shots. One of these days I want to get a macro lens and really play.
Could someone please explain something to me? What on earth could possibly be the benefit of poison ivy? It grows prolifically, withstands floods and extreme drought and can live despite me spraying it with even the most concentrated herbicide I can find on the base of the plant for five minutes. I find this noxious weed all over my yard every time I turn around. I will be weeding away and reach down to pull a weed and there it is, suddenly visible waggling its leaves at me, taunting me, saying “Come on grab hold, I got something for you. I have a really bad rash just waiting for you. Come on pull me.”
As you might have guessed I am one of the eighty-five percent of people out there that has allergic reactions to urushiol, the clear liquid sap in the plant. I even get the rash from the dogs after they’ve run through the miserable plant. Poison ivy doesn’t bother the dogs, just lays a urushiol sappy coating on their coats, waiting for me to pet them and spread it all over me. I went online to research poison ivy, to try and determine what possible benefit there is to the plant and could only find a brief reference to “some animals eat the leaves and some birds eat the berries”. Come on what self-respecting animal would eat the leaves or bird would eat the berries? I know better, no one knows what purpose poison ivy serves, but they can’t put “I don’t have a clue as to why this plant is on this earth” so the vague catch phrase “some animals eat the leaves and some birds eat the berries” is inserted. Probably because I am the only dummy to ask what purpose does this vicious plant serves?
Look at all of the other creatures and plants, large and small, out there. They all serve a purpose; big fish eat smaller fish and so on. Some are pretty gross such as maggots. Maggots are fly larvae that eat decaying flesh so the world isn’t a stinky rotting mess, even as gross as they are maggots do serve a purpose. The thorns on a blackberry bramble are super unpleasant but the thorns keep a creature from stripping the plant of its fruit in one sitting, leaving fruit for other animals. But what purpose does poison ivy serve?
Could poison ivy be the invention of the Calamine Lotion people? Maybe that’s it, somebody sitting in a marketing meeting comes up with the idea, “What if we invent a plant that makes people itch? Then we advertise that Calamine Lotion is great for relieving the itch from poison ivy.” Then the little lab people go invent poison ivy and use a crop duster to spread the seeds. Pure genius. That has to be it; it’s the only plausible explanation. Why on earth would Mother Nature make such an evil nasty plant? Mother Nature is the great keeper of natural order. Surely she wouldn’t play such a cruel joke on the human race.
Maybe that’s it; it was a joke that got out of hand. I don’t know, but I know one thing for sure, poison ivy is out to get me. It’s stalking me, everywhere I go, there it is growing away happy and healthy, laughing at me when I walk the dogs, tempting them to come and rub up against the leaves.
Maybe I should buy stock in Calamine Lotion.
Living the good life
A large home
A new car
A closet overflowing
Jewels and gold.
A demanding job
Working more to have more
A soulless life.
A deep yearning
To shed the shackles
To lift the spirit
To free the body
To be whole again.
Back in April I wrote about “The House that Nobody Loves”, an abandoned house that sits overgrown with weeds and tree saplings growing out of the gutters. Bushes are growing up the side of the house and working their way under the shingles. The house has fallen in disrepair waiting lonely for someone to love it again. Well today as I drove past it, I noticed something new in the front yard. A giant backhoe was parked waiting patiently for someone to come and start it up. Next to the backhoe sits an equally large dump bucket, according to Mitch, but I think it looks like a giant pair of grabbers. Grabbers with huge fingers ready to rip through the failing roof and rip it apart.
It looks like the end of the little abandoned house is eminent. I understand the need to tear down the little house because it now looks like a blight on the street overgrown with weeds and broken shingles, but a part of me is a little sad for the house and the memories it holds. I think about the ghosts that walk the floorboards from room to room, retracing the steps of children running through the house playing tag. Memories of a mother and a father hugging and loving the children, making them eat their vegetables and tucking them in bed at night. I can only imagine the love and tenderness that once flowed through the walls of the house.
Maybe I’m way off base, maybe there was no love in the house and that’s why it sits empty. Maybe, but I would rather like to think that the house was loved and that someone besides me will shed a tear when it is finally torn down.
What happened to Wednesday? I woke up Wednesday morning and could have sworn it was Monday by the days’ events. We woke up to thunderstorms and heavy rain, a good thing for us but our “water dogs” don’t like getting their heads wet making the morning walk more of a morning “drag”. After I took Mitch to work the rain had stopped so I thought the walk would be a breeze. Wrong.
As the dogs and I rounded a curve in the road I noticed the road ahead didn’t look quite right in the dark, then I realized that two very large limbs of a tree had broken in the storm and were laying across the power lines overhead causing the power lines to sag almost to the ground. I stood there looking at the distance between the power lines and tree limbs wondering if we should turn around and change direction or walk under the sagging power lines and tree limbs to continue on our route. The power lines hadn’t broken yet and there was no snapping or crackling so I decided to take the plunge. Yes I know that walking under the limbs and power lines is not a wise decision and there was a chance that the tree limbs could completely break off and crush us or the power lines could come loose and electrocute us, but turning back and changing directions meant I would have to walk past the neighborhood nudist’s house. So I considered the lesser of two evils and decided that being crushed to death or electrocuted was more appealing. I ducked and ran the dogs under the low hanging canopy of leaves and branches. Once on the other side I figured I shouldn’t tempt fate again by walking back through on our return which meant now I had to walk past the neighborhood nudist’s house on the way home. Oh joy. The nudist is a man who one summer came out every morning I walked the dogs in the predawn, nude to water his flowers or get his paper. Believe me it was not a pretty site.
We walked down the hill and turned the corner to continue on our walk toward “perv lane” when I noticed there was something small and white in the road ahead of us. The dogs immediately went on high alert and I tightened my hold on the leashes. Then the little white object stood up and started walking, but not away from us, no, the little animal was coming straight at us. It was a tiny white kitten left out in the storm and he wanted somebody to save him. My heart went out to the little guy and under different circumstances I would have snatched him up and taken him home, but there I was trying to hold one hundred and seventy pounds of teeth back from an early morning snack. I stood in the middle of the street saying, NO to both the dogs and the tiny kitten. No to the dogs telling them they couldn’t have fun with it and no to the kitten telling him to please walk away and live another day. For once in their lives both dogs actually listened to me and just stood very still and watched the kitten walk toward us. I think they couldn’t believe that the tiny animal had the audacity to come so close.
The kitten stopped about four feet away and just looked at us, then sort of side stepped giving me enough room to walk around him dragging the dogs with me. Orso kept looking back as I tried to put some distance between us and the poor little guy. I looked back and saw him start to follow us. My heart started to sink thinking that this was not going to turn out well. After a few steps the kitten turned around. Whew, I figured we dodged a bullet and headed toward the last leg of our walk, “perv lane”.
I fervently hoped that the storms had kept the nudist inside as we got closer to his house. Luckily no nudist but I did see the cable line hanging from the pole to the ground in front of his house. That explained why we had no cable television that morning. Finally arriving home all three of us intact I figured we were pretty lucky. I didn’t get us crushed or electrocuted, a kitten didn’t get eaten and I didn’t have to have my eyes burned out of my head seeing a very unattractive naked man. Bonus.
We knew the dogs would be excited to see us when we picked them up from the pet spa on Saturday after we returned from vacation, but we were somewhat disconcerted when we noticed Charlie was not his normal happy psycho dog self. He seemed a little off, more subdued than normal, there was no one thing that we could point at and say that is what is wrong. So we watched him and his behavior trying to figure out if he was getting better or worse. I thought that maybe he was depressed and then thought can a dog get depressed and why would he be depressed? Life inside a cool air conditioned house, good food and our soft bed, what is there to be depressed about? The only clue at first was his sad face.
Charlie continued to do all of the normal things we do every day; he had a healthy appetite eating everything put in front of him, walked at his normal fast “I have to be first” pace and jumped into bed with us to annoy us at night. He just didn’t have his happy face. But on Wednesday things went downhill fast.
Mitch called me at work that afternoon and said, “Something is wrong with the little brown dog.”
I asked what and he said, “At first he was walking around in circles with his head down and like he wanted to throw up, but he didn’t throw up. Then he started shaking, after that he wouldn’t put any weight on his left hind leg and it started to spasm uncontrollably. I have him lying down next to me, but something definitely wrong with Charlie.”
I called our vet and made an appointment to take Charlie in and finally figure out what was going on. I thought maybe he’d had a stroke or cancer. Mitch came by and picked me up so we could both go to the vet. The vet took one look at Charlie and said that the shaking was from pain. Charlie was in a great deal of pain and we couldn’t read the signs. All I could think of was that we suck as pet owners. He said that first thing to do was pain management and he would give him some morphine, then do some blood work and take some x-rays. He took Charlie and told us to come back in an hour.
Bracing ourselves for the worst, an hour later we walked back in the vet’s office and were ushered into an examination room. Charlie was standing there happy to see us, still pretty wobbly, but definitely in a little better shape than when we dropped him off, must have been the morphine. The vet brought in lots of x-rays to show us (that was going to cost us, I thought). He said that the blood work came back normal so that was a good thing. But he found something on the last x-ray he took, isn’t that always the case, never on the first x-ray. The x-ray was of Charlie lying on his side and about midway between his shoulders and hips there was a spot where it showed a spinal injury to one of his vertebrae. Our vet said that it looked like an old injury, but maybe being at the pet spa and playing with the other dogs, he may have re-injured it and that may be causing the pain and his inability to put any weight on the back leg. Plus he said that Charlie had a high fever running a temperature of a hundred and four. He said he gave Charlie a shot of antibiotics.
Our vet handed me two bottles of prescriptions, one was an antibiotic and one was pain medication. He also said we were in for a rough night. I didn’t think too much of what he said just thinking Charlie wasn’t going to die and this was going to be very expensive. We walked out to settle up with the receptionist and just about turned around to give Charlie back when she smiled and said that the bill was seven hundred thirty three dollars. That and the two hundred ninety nine dollars we paid the pet spa to keep the dogs while we were on vacation almost made me regret taking a vacation in the first place. Oh I know it’s nobody’s fault Charlie got hurt and sick, the same thing happens to children at daycare centers and we dearly love our vet and trust him implicitly with the dogs, it was just the shock of the amount. Why can’t I just add them both to my health insurance, pay my ten dollar co-pay and be done? Technically they are sort of like dependents, they depend upon me to feed them and walk them, so in the broadest sense of the word, they could be considered dependents. Too bad the insurance company doesn’t see it that way.
Oh well, I guess the next vacation will be a “staycation”.
We took a much needed vacation last week. I have cheated Mitch out of a proper vacation on the last three out of four vacations we had scheduled. All three vacations I had scheduled surgeries. One bunionectomy so I would look good in shoes, a bilateral mastectomy because I got stupid breast cancer and the reconstruction of the mastectomy so I would look somewhat normal in clothes again. So I decided that regardless of anything else, I was going to take Mitch on vacation, anywhere he wanted to go. He and I deserved that.
We had decided that we would drive to Washington State and go wine tasting in the Yakima Valley. Well fate has a sense of humor. The week before we were to leave, Murphy decided to come and stay as a houseguest for a few days. That Monday afternoon Mitch called me at work to inform me that the microwave went out. The really nice three year old microwave died. Yippee! Thursday Mitch called me again at work to relate the story on how the outside faucet disintegrated when he started hooking up the really cool soaker hose system he made. I am going to have to stop answering my phone at work. Sunday was the final blow. I took Mitch to work as usual, came back did my usual Sunday morning stuff and waited for Mitch to call for his ride home. I loaded up the dogs in the station wagon, climbed in and put the key in the ignition and turned the key. Nothing, nada, zilch. The car was dead as a door nail. This meant that I had to unload the dogs, take them back in the house, fix them kongs stuffed with carrots to keep them occupied and jump in the firebird to go get Mitch. Mitch diagnosed the car and determined that we needed a new starter. Someone was trying to tell me something.
Mitch installed the new microwave, a much cheaper not as nice microwave without a hitch. Something went right for once. The new faucet took three trips to the hardware store and one afternoon to install. The starter for the car took two trips to the auto parts store (one to buy the starter and one to take it back) and an online order to get the right starter for our old station wagon. It seems our vintage car also has special vintage general motors parts. After I added up the costs of the new “fun” stuff, I decided that we should stay a little closer to home for our vacation.
Second choice was a trip to Texas. We drove to San Antonio for the River Walk and the Alamo. We both have been there, but it was decades ago and decided that it would be a nice place to go in the spring. The River Walk was beautiful and peaceful even with all of the people there. Down along the River Walk, there were cool breezes and shade, making the stroll very pleasant. Dinner was at a very nice restaurant. Very nice, meaning the steaks started at thirty five dollars and the wine list started at sixty dollars a bottle. I kept a straight face while the steward pointed out the better selections at three hundred and fifty dollars and up. I was pretty proud of Mitch and myself for not dropping our jaws and saying something totally inappropriate. We settled on a nice half bottle of wine saying that we couldn’t drink a whole bottle. The steaks were done to perfection and the wine was very good. A wonderful dinner and one we won’t be repeating anytime soon.
After spending two days at San Antonio playing total tourists, we headed up to Fredericksburg, Texas, the heart of the Texas hill country wine area. You know me I am not going to pass up wine tasting if at all possible. We found out Texas is number five after California, New York, Oregon and Washington in wine production and sales. Plus because of the size of Texas there are so many microclimates and soil types that the same grape planted in one area will taste totally different in a different region.
It’s a good thing that Mitch was the designated driver and adult because I was like a kid in a candy store. I wanted to stop at every one of the wineries I saw. Mitch being the adult and not totally feeding my wine habit stopped at a few. I tasted many wines and even brought a few bottles home.
I got to find my vice, wine tasting, so next up was feeding Mitch’s vice, history. There is a National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg and Mitch wanted to go so we did. I should have paid more attention when the nice lady explained that the tickets were good for two days and that we could come and go in the museum multiple times. The tickets also included the Admiral Nimitz Museum, Pacific Combat Zone, Japanese Garden of Peace Memorial Courtyard and Plaza of the Presidents. The first museum, George H.W. Bush Gallery was huge. I had no idea how much time, effort and money had gone into the museum. There was so much detail and photos throughout; there were even planes and a jeep in the museum. It was Mitch’s turn to be the kid in the candy store. I wandered around and looked at the photos, read some of the stories, but he was totally enthralled absorbing everything he could.
Three hours into the museum and only about two thirds of the way through, I was getting a bit antsy. I wanted to be outside in the fresh air, taking pictures and people watching, but I controlled myself and acted like an adult. I kept reminding myself this was also Mitch’s vacation and I had my turn, now it was his turn. Sometimes it sucks to be grownup. It took us four and a half hours to get through the first museum. I felt like I was back in school. I couldn’t wait to get outside. Poor Mitch, by the end of the tour I almost dragged him out.
On our way back north we wanted to stop at this huge outlet mall in Gainesville that Mitch had gone to about twenty five years ago. The mall he remembered was huge with so many stores and the parking lot was filled with cars making it difficult finding a parking spot. So we stopped in Gainesville and checked into a hotel for the night, planning on doing some serious shopping in the morning. After breakfast I asked the front desk clerk if there was a map of the outlet mall so we could chart our shopping trip for expediency. She looked at me and said that almost all of the store fronts were empty that there were only about six shops still open. We couldn’t believe it so we walked over ourselves, just to see. It was like a ghost town, store after store front empty. This would be a great place to shoot a zombie apocalypse movie. What a disappointment. There was nothing left to do but hop in the car and head home.
After we got home, the really fun stuff started, unloading the car, getting the dogs out of hock, washing all of the clothes we wore and putting everything back on hangers that we didn’t wear, because I am a firm believer in over packing. Of course the yard has gone to seed and needs to be mowed and the weeds are planning a coup on tomato plants. I wonder why we came back.