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.

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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.

This is a Public Service Announcement or You’re Doing It Wrong!

What is it with people today? Is everyone so self-absorbed that they don’t realize there is a world going on around them and they are not the center of the universe? Well news flash, the rest of the world doesn’t give two cents about your well-being. Today and only for today, I am climbing up on my soapbox to put this public service announcement out there for the general public.

Would you put yourself in harm’s way on purpose? Would you turn your back on a charging bull and believe that because you have opposable thumbs you are safe? Of course not! Who would turn their back on potential, impending danger and not do anything to keep themselves safe? So why is it every day I encounter some self-absorbed person walking, running or walking their dog on the wrong side of the road. These people are walking along with traffic, some with their nose in their phone, some not, but they are still oblivious to the fact that all it takes is one distracted driver or one trying to miss oncoming traffic to swerve a bit and they get slammed in the back. And I guarantee you that the person walking is going to lose in that moment.

I was taught a long time ago that walkers and runners go against traffic, which makes perfect sense, that way you at least have a fighting chance. If I can see danger coming at me, I have that split second to get out of the way or at the very least, if I live through being run down, I can give the police a description and license number.

So here it is, my public service announcement:

“You’re Doing It Wrong!” Cross the road and walk facing oncoming traffic, arrive alive!”

And as my mother used to say, “Don’t make me come other there and shake some sense into you!”

Yoga Stylin’

Let me preface this by saying I am not trying to make fun of anyone in particular, except maybe myself. I’m a very easy target and there is so much about me to laugh at, I don’t need to mock anyone else. In an effort to get in better shape, stronger and leaner, I have started taking yoga classes again. A noble quest, to get stronger, balanced and more at peace with myself. By now you’re saying to yourself, “Yeah right,” and you would be correct. Me balanced and at peace with myself? Not going to happen, ever. But I keep working at it. You know what they say, it’s the journey not the destination and for me a long journey.

As I was saying, I started taking a yoga class at a local yoga studio. I decided that I would start with one class a week for five weeks. This way I could get a feel for the class, instructor and if I could even keep up. Surprisingly, I kept up well with the movements and flow, moving into poses that I had forgotten I could do. I even tried my hardest not to look around at the other students, knowing if I did, my super competitive nature would take over and I would be challenging myself to do each move faster, higher or lower than anyone else. Even though yoga is not a game to win, but a lifestyle, I have to be mindful not to try and turn it into a competition.

I noticed that all the other participants seem to know each other and the instructor quite well. I was the odd man out so to speak. In order to not try and interject myself into everyone else, I would place my mat at the back all the way to the left so I could observe and stay somewhat separated from the others. Plus added bonus, I was closest to the door, so if I did something truly embarrassing, I could pick up my stuff and be out the door without walking past everyone else. You know, something like crashing into the next person, while trying to stand in tree pose or farting while in dead bug pose. It happens.

On my last class, we were going through a series of movements, from downward dog to plank, then back to downward dog when I looked up to see what the instructor wanted us to do next and instead I saw the rear end of the woman in front of me and to the right. Not trying to stare, but she just happened to be in the right position with her butt stuck up in the air and her yoga pants were stretched tight. Her black stretch pants were not very thick, instead quite thin letting me see that she had on white underwear under the pants. I could not look away fast enough. Now I had this visual I couldn’t shake, no matter how hard I tried. All I could think of was, “Oh god, does my butt look that bad? Don’t look again, no don’t look.”

For the rest of the class I tried to watch the instructor but not see the “see-through show” in front of me. I am sorry to say I didn’t say anything to the woman, but at the same time what would I have said? “Nice white underwear or I bet you didn’t get hot in class.” All I wanted was to get out of class, go home and look in the mirror.

Future yoga classes will see me in something very opaque, maybe leggings and sweats?

How I Spent My Spring Vacation – Or At Least I Didn’t go to the Emergency Room

Mother Nature finally came through for us. The weather here has been so damp and dank, with rain and unseasonably chilly temperatures for so long, I was beginning to fear that summer would never come. Our vacation was rapidly approaching and we had not made any plans yet, no destination in mind, we just knew that we did not want to stick around here for more misery. As the first vacation day approached, the weather forecast started looking a bit more promising with temperatures ranging in the eighties and lots of sunshine, so in the end we decided to stay here and go exploring locally.

Our first day was a trip to Woodinville, for a day of wine tasting. Hey, I have my priorities. And yes, we tasted many nice wines and bought a few bottles. Our second day we included the dogs on our day trip. We drove over to Point Defiance on Puget Sound and let the dogs run around and play in the ocean. One day we did some yard work and finished our newly built and planted raised beds. We drove down to Olympia and went to Tumwater Falls Park. It was a bit of a disappointment, I was hoping for bigger falls and a longer hike, but that was not the reality. The falls were small and the trek around them was short, maybe a mile at most.

We took a longer day trip with the dogs to the Green River Nature Area O’Grady Trail and had a longer hike. The trail was partially a road access that could handle cars and trucks with offshoot trails that were dirt paths wide enough for a horse or single file hikers. The trails had nice carved wooden signs that not only showed where the trail went but also had a “you are here” notation on each so we could place ourselves on the trail and where in the area we wanted to go. We found a homemade Tic Tac Toe Board carved into a stump complete with rocks for markers. We hiked down to the Green River, saw how fast it was running and decided it was not a good idea to let the dogs go in. We would have to drive to Puget Sound to save them.

To finish off our vacation, we decided to go kayaking. The dilemma was where? We thought about Point Defiance Park and go kayaking in Puget Sound, but common sense won out. I had only been kayaking once before, on a nice calm lake where the boats had to have a motor no larger than fifteen horse power and Mitch has never been kayaking. Out here the sky is the limit, plus there is the tides to consider. We talked it out and decided a lake would be safer and a better first time experience. We checked on kayak rentals around Lake Washington and found one in Bellevue. We got there before the rental office opened, about thirty minutes early and found a line had already formed. We rented two single kayaks so we could each experience paddling and maneuvering our own kayak, plus I watched other people in double kayaks and most weren’t paddling in unison, one paddle would be up and one paddle would be down, the kayak going nowhere.

The water was still very chilly, around sixty degrees or so, but the sky was clear no clouds for as far as the eye could see. We set off heading north crossing under the I-90 bridge to run along the coast gawking at houses on the shore. Most were very large and new, but there were some older smaller homes tucked in between the larger estate homes. We watched the boats go up and down the main channel, a few smaller boats but most were larger vessels, suitable for the ocean and felt the wake of each one. I was glad we chose a lake to start on first. After about forty-five minutes we turned around and headed in the opposite direction to see what was on the other side of the bridge and farther south. We headed into the back of the cove and gawked at some more houses.

We decided to call it a day and head back to the boat launch. We talked about how much we enjoyed this and as I headed toward the launch I made a comment about shopping for a kayak online. I got no response, so I looked around and couldn’t find Mitch. He was right there and then he was gone. I slowed my kayak and turned around to look for him and saw in the water about three hundred feet or so, his kayak flipped upside down. I looked next to his kayak and there was his head bobbing beside it. I paddled as fast I could and as I got closer, I could see him hanging on, so at least he was conscious. As I got close enough to talk to him, I asked what he did. He answered he didn’t know, not that succinctly but with more descriptive adjectives and adverbs. I asked if he was okay, but was not sure how I could help get the kayak righted without rolling myself, and not being that selfless, I didn’t offer to help right it. That’s what you get when you’re dealing with amateurs, dumb and dumber. Two guys and a little girl in a canoe came and offered help, but Mitch declined, saying he could make it to the launch. Another couple came up and offered assistance and again Mitch declined, I don’t know what he was thinking, that maybe AAA was going to show, or maybe he was suffering hypothermia. Probably not, his teeth weren’t chattering.

Finally, a man paddled over on a paddleboard that knew what he was doing and grabbed Mitch’s kayak and pulled it up on his paddleboard to steady it, then righted it and held it still for Mitch to climb back into the seat. Just like the Lone Ranger, after saving the town he paddled off to save the next unlucky soul. I think all in all, Mitch was a bit embarrassed that he rolled it and I didn’t. I contained myself and followed him in to the launch, but the whole time I kept saying over and over, “It wasn’t me, I didn’t roll it, it wasn’t me. Woo Hoo!”

We had a great time and have decided to get our own kayaks, but I think some lessons might be prudent. How could you ask for a better vacation, wine, hiking, kayaking and watching someone else crash and burn and for once it wasn’t you?

Oh Come on Now – Enough is Enough!

Mother Nature is having a huge laugh at our expense and I’ve had enough. It is the middle of May for god’s sake and I’m still wearing an insulated jacket when I walk the dogs. Oh and did I mention the jacket has a hood, because we are having the wettest spring on record. That matched our winter, which was the wettest on record, too. Yada, yada, yada. Tomorrow is Mother’s Day and in the Midwest, that is the date to plant your hot weather vegetables and tomatoes. Here, I’m still hardening off my tomatoes so they don’t wither and die at night when the temperatures dip into the forties.

Well enough is enough! I am so ready for some warmer weather, not asking for nineties, I don’t want that, but some seventy degree days are desperately needed and sunshine. I need some sunshine! I would even settle for the mid-sixties if I could have the sun out too. I have so much yardwork to do, but every time I get ready to head out, I look outside and it’s raining, again. All the native Washingtonians tell me that this is so unusual and they are getting tired of all the chilly wet weather too.

Well Mother Nature, enough is enough, come on, you’ve had a good laugh and have reminded us all you are in control, not us. It’s time to move on, go inland, go out to sea, I don’t care, just go play your pranks someplace else. I have eight raised beds and all I have planted so far is a bed of strawberries and a bed with three blueberry bushes. I have green beans, zucchini and cucumber seeds I need to get in the ground, not to mention the tomatoes.

And I’m haven’t even mentioned mowing yet. I could mow my yard twice a week, if I was so inclined. All my neighbors mow their lawns one to two times a week, but not me, I don’t care that much about it. I like my grass a bit taller than everyone else around here. If you were to compare our yards to a golf course, my neighbors’ yards look like the putting green and my yard looks like the rough. It hides the weeds.

It’s enough to make me drink, oh wait, I already drink.

One Month In

Royal has now been here for a month and it’s like he has been with us forever. He is completely ensconced in our home and lives. He and Orso get along almost like they had been litter mates. Both are consummate couch potatoes with short bursts of energy, running side by side full steam nipping at each other, then dropping on the grass rolling around on their backs settling on their stomachs to watch what I’m doing. There are no fights or tension, it is so pleasant, just two dogs that have the same temperament. A real breath of fresh air.

Not to pretend Royal is perfect, he is not. He has no sense of personal space, getting right in my face wanting to lick me all over (yuck). I’ve seen what they put in their mouths. Try putting your shoes on and playing dodge ball with your head in an attempt to avoid dog kisses. I can bob and weave like a pro boxer now. He walks crooked, partly because of his hip dysplasia, which is quite annoying on our walks. He must walk on my right, won’t walk on the left, so I’m left to walking in the middle of these two buffoons and Royal walks into my right leg pushing me into Orso. Then he crosses in front of me to go sniff and pee. After he is done sniffing and peeing, he crosses back to my right, but this time he crosses behind me. So I’m constantly circling the leash around my head like a lasso. I am pretty sure the neighbors think I’m nuts. What else is new?

We were told Royal gets along well with cats, but I’m not so sure about that. He has gone ballistic barking and growling at the neighbor’s cat walking across the back fence. He chased that cat the length of the yard along the fence line and I don’t think it was to introduce himself to the neighborhood. He also has no fondness for squirrels. He wants one badly and I fear the day he and Orso outsmart one. Not that I love squirrels, I just don’t want to watch the bloodletting and subsequent visit to the vet.

Bedtime means all of us in our bed. We lost that battle three dogs ago. Now we just accept the cramped sleeping space and constant dog hair. I keep the bed and pillows swathed in sheets to keep our faces free of dog hair and other dog parts. The top of the bed is no-man’s land, but under the comforter the sheets are dog free. Of course the added bodies make the bed hotter, so I keep a fan blowing on me year round. Poor Mitch has to sleep in his shorts, sweatpants, t-shirt and sweatshirt, plus in the winter he has two comforters on him, even with the dog body heat.

I’m glad we took the chance and brought him home, he is the perfect match for Orso. And I do get a kick out of walking two dogs that weigh right at a hundred pounds. You should see the faces of the people I walk by with their five pound dogs barking up a storm and mine are actually behaving. (Of course when they don’t I look like a boat anchor dragging behind them).

Just to show you I am not making it up, I have a picture of the two laying in the yard.

Taking the Leap

Well call us crazy or not, we took the leap and jumped off the cliff. After we received the reprieve from the woman asking for two weeks to try and work something out with her landlord, we breathed a sigh of relief. We told each other that it was for a reason that we didn’t get the dog. That maybe later on in the future, we would start looking for a dog. Guess what? Two weeks to the day, we received an email, asking if we were still interested in meeting Royal. We said yes, but now due to prior commitments, we couldn’t take him for another two weeks. We also said we would understand if they couldn’t wait for us.

Oh no, was the response, they would be more than happy to keep him for another 2 weeks. They just wanted to make sure he had a good home. I wasn’t sure how she “knew” we would be a good home, since we had only traded emails to date. We agreed to meet Royal the following Sunday, and see how he would get along with Orso. All week, I kept going back and forth, are we doing the right thing for Orso? If we take Royal, would that be the right thing for him? Talk about making myself crazy, I must have waffled back forth enough to have worn a groove in my brain.

Sunday morning, we loaded Orso up and headed out to meet Royal. We got there early and wandered around the school grounds that we had agreed to introduce the two on. Neutral territory, that way no one felt threatened or possessive of the space. A car pulled into the far side of the parking lot and watched as a man got out with a large dark brown dog. Nope, not Royal, we thought, because it was a Doberman and we were expecting a lab/mastiff mix. The man and the dog headed off in the opposite direction so we were pretty sure, they were just out for a stroll in the drizzle.

Another car pulled in and parked. A woman and a teenage girl got out of the car and the woman turned and opened the back door of the car. Out hopped a fawn colored dog with blackish brown ears. Royal came trotting over to us, quite unafraid and eager to meet us and Orso. He was as tall as Orso and a little bigger in the chest than Orso, maybe about five to ten pounds overweight. He was super friendly and just wanted to be petted. He was also a leaner.

After introductions, we watched the two get to know each other, sniffing butts, peeing on top of the other’s pee spot and running around the grass. Orso tried to jump on his back a couple of times and each time Royal would turn and give a warning bark growl, but never showed teeth. I was quite impressed with the dog, and ready to jump over the ledge. Mitch asked a few questions, did he have any ailments, eating issues, were his shots up to date, etc. All of our questions were answered quite positively, and I couldn’t help but wonder about his owner. It would take dire circumstances for me to even consider having to find a home for Orso and not keep him.

We asked if any others had responded to the ad and the woman said yes, she had gotten eight offers but only took one other offer seriously. After meeting the couple, she told them no they couldn’t have Royal. It seems the couple had a pair of pit bulls with them that were quite beat up and kept asking her what the mastiff side was capable of. She told us that she felt uneasy and worried about Royal’s safety.

I took the first leap, looked at Mitch and said that we would love to take him, but because family was coming into town, we couldn’t take him until the following Saturday. That seemed to be quite workable, so we said good-bye, loaded up Orso and headed home. Saturday morning, we picked up Royal and brought him home. We left Orso home for the pick up so that there was no tension in cramped spaces. As soon as we pulled into the driveway, I jumped out and leashed up Orso and the four of us went for a nice long walk.

We are now a week into back being a two-dog family and so far, so good. Maybe it’s because both dogs are older, Orso will be eleven and Royal is almost six, both are very calm sedate dogs, pretty much couch potatoes most of the time.

So for now, life is good, just a little more cramped on the couch, but quite relaxed. I’m sure once Royal gets comfortable and realizes the once he crossed the threshold, he was here to stay, things will get back to my normal chaotic life.