Woefully Unprepared

Summer in the Pacific Northwest is as close to perfect as you can get. Sun, sun and more sun, the days are sunny and clear, humidity is almost non-existent, daytime highs are in the eighties, to low nineties and lows are in the high fifties, to low sixties. This year we are trying to coordinate our schedules to get more time for outings, hiking, kayaking and searching out my dream vistas.

Thursday the plan was to rent kayaks at a lake that was close to us and do some paddling around. After a convoluted call to the rental shop, the guy at the shop said that the owner called in to say he wasn’t feeling well and wasn’t going to open the store that day so he was going to have to call all of the people that had already reserved kayaks and paddle boards to let them know the store was not going to open. I thought wow what a way to run a business and figured it was probably for the best that we didn’t try and use one of their kayaks.

We decided to go hiking instead. I searched around for a hike that wasn’t too far away, since we were going with plan B and getting a late start. I found a hike south about thirty miles away, a forty-five-minute drive that was reported to have three waterfalls. We thought the dogs would enjoy tagging along so we added extra water for them too and headed out. I should have packed some snacks but didn’t think about it. (Poor planning on my part)

Following the directions to Little Mashel Falls, we arrived at an access point on the side of the road that looked really sketchy, with a couple of cars parked that looked like someone lived in them and were not mobile. There was no marked trailhead, so I got out of the car (really smart idea) and walked along the edge of the woods to see if there was a path. I found a narrow path leading off into the woods and walked in a few feet to check out the trail. It looked feasible, but there was a lot of trash around, like a bunch of slobs had been through. I walked back to the car, leashed up the dogs and we headed off down the creepy trail.

We hiked in about fifty feet when we came up on a steep path down to a train trestle. There was even a rope tied to a tree as a hand hold to get down the path without face planting at the bottom. Mitch and Royal headed off down the steep embankment, and I looked at Orso and thought there was no way we would be able to get the dogs back up that path if it was the only way in and out. I wasn’t even too sure I would be able to get myself back up let alone going down without filing an Aflac claim. I called to Mitch and told him that this was not a good idea and let’s look for a better trail down. He and Royal made it back up with some effort and we headed out looking for a better descent trail. We came up one a man just standing on the trail looking off into the distance and said without turning around, “The next trail over has a better access.” Creepy, where did he come from?

We turned around and headed back to where the car was parked and looked for a better access point. Right by the van that was parked there and looked like it was not mobile, was a sign that said, NO TRESPASSING! Property of the Railroad. Too bad we didn’t see that sign first. We loaded the dogs back up in the car and put in a different description in my phone, hoping for a better spot.

We found a better access point, actually a park with a real parking lot and a gravel path and markers with real directions. Imagine that. What a difference a better description makes in my phone. We headed off down the trail noting the sign that said 4.8 miles. We hoped that meant round trip. The sun was shining, and the day was warming up. And we forgot the water, it was still in the cooler in the back of the car, (really stupid). We thought that once we got there, the dogs cold get in the water and cool off.

At the halfway point, we realized the 4.8-mile sign was one-way and the dogs were getting too hot. Orso was panting and struggling, I was even getting tired, lugging my camera backpack. So, we decided we had not planned well at all, and were stupid pet owners. We turned back and headed back to the car. No waterfalls today.

Next time I promise to do a better job planning and packing for a day hike. I will even read all of the trail description, not just the highlights.

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Jet Lag

I’m going with jet lag, otherwise the alternative is more depressing. Last week I had to travel for work and spend five days at the main office. I travel alone frequently for work, but this time Mitch traveled with me. While I toiled away at the office, attending meetings and helping coworkers, Mitch slept late, ate a really nice buffet breakfast and hung out at the local tobacco shop smoking his pipe in peace. While we were out of town, we had the dogs kenneled, not our favorite option, but out here we don’t know anybody well enough that we could impose on to dog sit.

Flying home, we found out at the airport after we had checked our bags that our flight was delayed about an hour and a half. Yay, now not only we will feel like it is two hours later than it is, but now it will be two hours later when we get home. Talk about major energy drain. We finally landed and by the time I recovered the bags and Mitch retrieved our car it was almost nine o’clock. The drive home takes almost an hour, so tack that on, add in unpacking and getting settled in for the night, so you could say we were well past tired.

The next day we went to the kennel to get our dogs out of hock, who were very happy to see us. After we got home and parked the car, Mitch went around to the back of the station wagon, to let the dogs out. Instead of just opening the tailgate and releasing the hounds, Mitch decided to take off Royal’s harness. All well and good if he had just voiced any command, but no Mitch didn’t say anything to the dogs who were super excited to be home. Without waiting for the tailgate to be opened and the normal invitation to get out, Royal leaped out of the open section, then Orso followed landing badly. Keep in mind that both dogs are large, over a hundred pounds each, and old. Orso is almost twelve years old and Royal will be ten in April. When Orso landed I was for sure he had blown out his shoulder, then his hips collapsed, and I thought, “Oh no now what?” But like a true Labrador, he got up limped a bit, then was off sniffing everything he missed for a week. I looked and Mitch and told him he dodged a bullet and what was he thinking. Standing there and not saying anything with an open access sort of, was like an invitation to the dogs.

We decided to go on a walk to burn off some pent-up energy. We put on their leashes and our jackets and walked outside. I had both leashes in my hands and was showing Mitch some things I wanted to move in the front garden, when we heard a voice calling, “Rocky, no. Rocky stay, Rocky no.” I looked up at see a large black dog heading our way to check us out and say hi. I was standing there, trying hold back two hundred plus pounds of excited muscle mass, keep a strange dog at bay and hoping that everyone would play nice. All the while, Mitch was standing there with his hands in his jacket pockets and a goofy smile on his face saying, “Hi Rocky, hi Rocky, how’s it going?” Just like a ten-year-old boy.

I looked over at him and said, “Take a dog, what are you doing?” Royal was not as giddy about meeting Rocky as Orso was and all I could think of, was that this was going to leave a mark. I could not believe that after almost twelve years of Charlie, Mitch would forget how careful we needed to be when meeting unknown dogs.

I’m chalking it up to jet lag, because otherwise I’m stuck with the ten-year-old boy.

Let’s Not Do It Again and Say We Did

I had the dubious honor of receiving a summons to report for jury duty. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the judicial system, and I would have loved to get to be on a jury back in my old state. In fact, I was never called for jury duty in Missouri for the fifty plus voting years I lived there. I move here and in less than three years, they find me. It’s just that here I don’t know where anything is and how to get there. I have gotten to be a real hermit, more than happy to stay home and order most everything online. Yeah, I know, not the healthiest attitude.

On Sunday before my first day of jury duty, we took a road trip checking out the best route for me to get to the Superior Courthouse. My summons also warned me to be early because parking was limited and only a few free parking spaces are available for the jury pool. We scoured the area and found the allotted free parking lot and the closer lot that charges fifteen dollars a day. Of course, Mitch said, that for ease of finding a parking space I should just park in the closer lot. I added up fifteen dollars times five days and decided that I was too cheap for that.

I was to report Monday morning at eight am, and based on our road trip, the trip should take about a half hour, nothing is fast around here. So to be on the safe side, get there by eight and still get a free parking spot, I left the house at six thirty in the morning. Shaking your head now right? So was I, but I was so nervous about driving in morning rush hour traffic, getting there on time and finding free parking, I left fifteen minutes earlier than I had planned. My stomach was in a knot and my head was hammering away.

I found my free parking lot, along with other early birds who were also afraid of not getting a parking space. I parked the car, put my jury pass in the window and headed down the hill to the courthouse. I was one of the first to get there and walked up to the door. The door was locked and the lettering on the door said the doors would not open to the potential jury pool until seven thirty, twenty minutes to stand there in the cold with my nose running and coughing from the dregs of my cold. Woohoo. A line formed behind me with others. As soon as I coughed or blew my nose, everyone took a step back. Perfect, now everyone thinks I have leprosy, oh well, maybe I’ll get excused.

When the doors finally opened a man came out and addressed the group telling us what we needed to get in the door and what we couldn’t take in the building. After going through the metal detectors and getting scanned, we headed off to the jury assembly room. There were between two hundred and three hundred other potential jurors called in to maybe be assigned to a court. Lucky me, I was selected to go with the first group, a total of fifty in our group. Another group had fifty-five and a third group had sixty potential jurors in it. We were ushered into a courtroom to watch a video about what to expect and what was expected of us.

After the video, we were ushered back out into the hallway to wait. There wasn’t enough seating so we stood, for days. We couldn’t leave, had to stay on the first floor, couldn’t sit in any of the courtrooms, smokers had to go outside to smoke and come back through security. Makes me glad I don’t smoke. Afternoon came, and we were told to return our color coded badge and go home. We were to call or check the website after five pm for instructions on our group for Tuesday. Tuesday was a go to work day for our group, do not go to court, we were directed to check in again that evening for Wednesday. Wednesday was also another go to work day and not go to court day for our group. This was totally wreaking havoc on my psyche, not being able to plan my week.

Wednesday evening came and the words of doom on the website greeted me. Be at the courthouse by eight-thirty on Thursday morning. Eight-thirty meant I had to leave the house by six forty-five in order to get one of few coveted free parking places. Eight-thirty meant I had to stand in the cold for twenty minutes waiting for the doors to open so I could go through the metal detector. Eight-thirty meant that after I got through the screening process I would wait for another half hour in the hall outside of the jury assembly room until someone showed up and to unlock the door to the jury room. And lastly, eight-thirty meant my stomach would be in a knot until I was either attached to a trial or released, whichever came first.

Thursday morning once settled in the jury assembly room, waiting for everyone to get checked in I did what I love to do, people watch. One thing I can say about the jury selection process, is that all different demographics were called in. Some I wondered if they had mirrors in their homes and even bothered to look before walking out the door. Others came that were clearly put out about the whole ordeal, you could tell that they were much too important to be bothered by due process. One man sat in the room with his back turned to the room and talked on his cell phone the entire time, during our videos and even when our coordinator was explaining how the jury pool selections would be made. She finally had to ask him to leave the room until his conversation was done. Another man walked into the room, right passed our coordinator who kept addressing him, wandered around then turned and walked out of the room, ignoring her repeated attempts to talk to him.

Again, I was selected for the first group. We were told that we had enough time to go to the bathroom before we would be escorted up to the courtroom for a trial. Oh yay, that meant if I was selected then next week or longer I would be ensconced in a trial. We were told that we could take our belongings with us, but no food or gum was allowed in the courtroom. No coffee cups, cans or cold drink glasses, the only thing we were allowed to take with us was a clear bottle of water. After going to the bathroom, I stopped at the way overpriced coffee bar and bought a very expensive bottle of water.

This time though, there were seats available in the hallway, so I was able to sit and wait to be led to court. After sitting in the hall for another half hour, our group was called back in the jury assembly room and told that the attorneys for our trial had asked for a continuance, so we were to turn in our badges and go home. I raised my hand and asked if that meant we were done-done and did not have to come back. Jury duty here is for one week or one trial, whichever comes first and there is no jury on Fridays. Fridays are for motions. Our coordinator repeated my question to the room and asked the room what they wanted to do. Of course everyone said done and she concurred. We turned in our badges and almost all sprinted toward the door, just incase someone said, no wait.

Walking back to the car I noticed others walking so fast, it might have been a timed race, there even some that could barely walk in the courthouse damn near running toward the parking lot. I wanted to tell them all that they should thank me for their good fortune. If I hadn’t paid for the overpriced bottle of water, we would be stuck in a trial. Karma.

We Really Need to get out More

I’ve never been one to go out and wander the shopping malls, even before moving to the Pacific Northwest. Now I venture out even less, not being very familiar with the area. Plus, traffic sucks, no matter what time of day or day of the week. Amazon is my new best friend for almost everything. I still go to the grocery store, but I don’t just go out for a day of shopping. Sad, huh?

Today I needed to go to a certain store for some Christmas shopping, can’t say where because it’s Christmas, but I will say it is in a mall. Mitch and I drove over to the closest mall and through google on my phone, I located the approximate location of the specific store, but not being very familiar with the layout of the mall, we weren’t sure where to park. We drove around looking for a likely entrance. Being creatures of habit, we parked by one of the Macy’s entrances and walked into the store.

We wandered through Macy’s looking for the exit out into the mall, but couldn’t find any exit. We walked the entire circumference of the store and there was no exit. We didn’t dare ask for help and look like total morons, so we kept walking and looking in every corner for a way out. We finally decided to take the escalator down a floor in hopes of a way out into the mall on that level. One floor down and we started circling the lower level, reading the signs hanging from the ceiling and finally found the sign that said, “exit to mall”.

I was never so glad to leave a store in my life. I thought for sure, we had been teleported to the “Bermuda Triangle” of Shopping Malls. Once out in the mall, we started walking toward the middle of the mall, (we hoped). At one point, Mitch said he was ready to read the mall store finder to see where we needed to go. And I answered, “Sure, but I haven’t seen one of those signs, yet either.” We turned to the left for fun and wonder of wonders, the store we were in search of was up ahead on the left.

We laughed so hard at ourselves, and decided that we really do need to get out more.

Ticklish

You know, when you scratch that “sweet” spot on a dog and his leg will scratch involuntarily along with you. That’s what I call ticklish on a dog. I think every dog has at least one spot where he is ticklish. Do dogs get more ticklish as they get older? Well lately it seems Orso has gotten more ticklish spots on him. It fact almost his whole body is one giant ticklish spot.

He will be lying on the floor and rub his chin on the rug then his back leg will go spastic scratching at the rug. Even when he scratches himself and hits a ticklish spot, his leg will get going and twitch nonstop. His throat is very ticklish and when I scratch anywhere around his collar his leg gets going. His belly, his back and hips are all on the ticklish list now. I think the only spot on him that does not get his motor running is his ears.

When his back leg gets going you want to make sure your hand is nowhere near his paw. He has great big nails on his huge paws and he scratches with great zeal. I’ve come away with a bloody hand more than once.

Last night I was awakened from a sound sleep with something shaking me. At first I thought, “So this is what an earthquake feels like.” But no, Orso was trying to scratch an itch that was on a ticklish spot, and his back leg was thumping away pushing his hips into my back shaking away at me. First I was relieved that the house wasn’t going to collapse around me, then I was irritated that now I’m wide awake at three-thirty am.

What a way to start the day.

Adding to My Wellbeing

Well, maybe not so much. All the wisdom out there is that pets add to your wellbeing. Our pets are treated like family members, they eat premium dog food, carrots are their treats, along with homemade frozen yogurt pumpkin pops. I walk them at least three times a day, every day, rain or shine. I am the one out walking the dogs, in gale force winds, pouring rain and frigid temperatures. I’m the one everyone looks out their windows laughing at while they are warm or cool snug in their homes. The dogs even sleep in our bed with us, taking up the lion share of the king size bed.

But I’ve noticed a trend, maybe even a sinister bend by the dogs. I think they may be plotting against me. Lately on our walks, Royal has started walking in on me, forcing me to either move to the left or tripping over his legs. Royal keeps a watchful eye out for squirrels and will either stop or move in the direction of the squirrel with an abruptness that leaves my right shoulder in an odd angle. Orso is always lagging behind with me dragging him along a full six feet behind me. The only time he gets excited is if another dog shows up and then he tries to drag me over to the dog and its’ terrified owner. I am then tasked with the thoroughly enjoyable job of stopping two hundred pounds of dogs moving away from me – one short woman that has a lot less muscle mass than them.

Just yesterday, we had just come back from our afternoon walk and was standing in the driveway, when I noticed the black lab that lives down the street walk out of his driveway and as I took a step backward to see if he was on his way over to our house, Royal stepped behind me and as I almost stepped on him, I jerked away, yes you know it, I fell backwards hard on my rear end. I came really close to whacking the back of my head on the driveway, not that it would have caused much damage, I have a hard head. But it was jarring, none the less. Mitch turned around and looked at me sitting on the ground and asked why I was down there. I just turned and looked at Royal who was standing there with a slight smile on his face. I swear I saw a smile, I think he did that on purpose.

Oh yes, our pets enrich our lives and add to our wellbeing, and because I am enrolled in Aflac, I get rewarded every time they send me to the emergency room.

I’ve Learned My Lesson

I’ve always loved gardening, planting plants and seeds then watching them grow. Playing in the dirt is relaxing and hard work at the same time. Dirt and plants don’t talk out loud to you, don’t ask questions or care how you look and are just content to have you pay attention to them. Since moving to the Pacific Northwest from the Midwest, I’ve learned a lot about the way plants grow here. I’ve read books and talked to Master Gardeners. I’ve paid attention to the weather patterns, discovering that while everyone believes it rains every day here, it doesn’t. Our late falls, winters and springs are wet and rainy, but come summer and the tap turns off, this year with a vengeance. At present counting, we are at fifty-six days with no rain, a new record. I decided to plant a huge raised bed garden for vegetables and fruits.

I drew up plan for a large garden area with eight raised beds, four – five foot by ten foot raised beds and four – five-foot square raised beds and Mitch built them. Pretty ambitious I know, but I hadn’t had a garden in two years and was itching to play in the dirt. Well I got my wish and boy did I ever get things to grow. I was warned by experienced gardeners to be very careful when planting, because everything grows well here.

I planted one of the small beds with cucumber seeds and at first, I was disappointed at the small spindly little plants. Silly me, I just needed to be patient. The raised bed is overflowing with a tangled web of cucumber vines, hiding cucumbers that seem to grow over night.

I planted one of the large beds with strawberry plants, almost all came from my neighbor, and now I must go out every day and stick the runners back in the bed, because they’ve covered the bed and are trying to colonize my other beds. I planted three rows of green bean seeds and have already picked four buckets full of green beans and more are growing.

I bought a seed packet of zucchini seeds and a packet of summer squash seeds. Growing success is a gross understatement, because I have one five foot by ten foot raised bed covered from end to end with three and a half foot tall plants and am picking five and six zucchini a day, that doesn’t include the six to eight squash I find hiding under the giant leaves every day.

I have been scouring Pinterest and Facebook for zucchini recipes. I have been thinking of writing a cookbook and now I can write a whole chapter on just zucchini and squash recipes. I’ve frozen six bags of zucchini and squash, have learned to make zucchini spaghetti, zucchini tots and zucchini fries. I swear my hair is getting a green tint to it.

I’ve given so much zucchini and squash away to my neighbors that now if they see me coming with or without anything in my hands, they run inside and close the curtains, until I go by.

I’ve learned my lesson, next year I will buy two zucchini plants and maybe one squash plant. You don’t have to hit me over the head with a zucchini.