Artie

My first "selfie". It was to show how happy I was with Artie

My first “selfie”, December, 2004. It was to show how happy I was with Artie

Artie, the One Dog Party. The perfect description of this Artie.

I found Artie on the internet, I admit it was love at first sight. I had wanted a scottie since  my fourth grade report on FDR’s scottish terrier Fala. I had been on the Scottie Rescue list for a couple of years with no luck, so in 2004 I decided to try to expand my search. I found him from a Texas breeder who showed scottish terriers.  Artie, real name Double D Sir William, didn’t make the show dog cut due to a very skittish personality.

ArtieMy timing couldn’t have been worse; it was a terrible time to think of another dog. We already had one dog, she was a great dog and didn’t seem to be pining for company.

Not only that, we were going  through a lot with our family in 2004. My husband was traveling back and forth to his parents house every weekend, a three hour trip each way every weekend when I sprung, “I have found the perfect dog!” on him.

I remember his face when I tried to explain how much I already loved this “Artie” dog.  I could see he was tallying it up yet as yet another thing to do when he was beyond overloaded with family, job, house, travel, dog…now another dog?! We talked it over (through many tears on my part) and we agreed the time wasn’t right for another dog. But I continued to look at pictures of Artie and mope around about not having him. What really happened was that Dan contacted the owners in Texas and surprised me with Artie for my birthday.

Happy Birthday ArtieI can’t tell you how surprised I was, how happy I was, and now when I think of it, that I don’t deserve such a wonderful husband. Artie was the best birthday present. Ever. Then I lost Artie. Twice.

The first time was on the very first night we had him. He took off down the street when we let him out. Luckily two people saw him bolt into a neighbor’s yard, but it still took an hour of searching a dark yard in the middle of the night to find a little black dog who either didn’t know his name or his new owners.

The second time I lost him was two days after the first. I had taken him to the beach to experience the ocean for the first time. He was walking on the jetty when suddenly he disappeared between the rocks. I ran up to get him and I just couldn’t find him! It took another ten minutes of searching between every crevice in the jetty to finally pull him out. Honestly, I had my doubts that the dog would last a week.

Artie settled in

Artie settled in

He survived the first week without getting lost again. Then our first dog died unexpectedly which made him more skittish and I remember wondering how on earth this dog rationalized his new home? Either he was getting lost or the established pet died off when he showed up. Thankfully, he settled in, became my very favorite and the darling of my eyes.

photo 1

photo-1

He grew less skittish over time, and in looking over  all my photos, I see that Artie is everywhere. Vacations, ski trips, hikes, and bike rides.

photo 4

You see I had the above image of me on my bike with Artie in the basket. Yes, that’s what I saw in my mind and expected all sorts of wolf whistles when we hit the pavement. Sadly, all I got was the theme song of “Wicked witch of the West” when people saw Artie in the milk crate on the back of the bike.

This is what Artie looks like on the back of a bike

This is what Artie looks like on the back of a bike

We got a second terrier named Honey about five years ago to help bring Artie out of his shell. She quickly became alpha, a complete attention hound, which endeared Artie all the more to me. Despite their many differences, they seem good for each other.

Dogs in the window

Dogs in the window

Dogs with haircuts

Dogs with haircuts

Dogs lying down...okay, you get it.

Dogs lying down…okay, you get it.

We did a lot with the two terriers as well.

Hiking/camping in Maine

Hiking/camping in Maine

But there’s Artie, always my darling.

418669_4347864421809_69212031_nArtie died today. He was ten, not very old for a terrier but he had cancer and it was at the point that he was in pain all the time.

The hardest part about having a dog is that you outlive them. It’s just a harsh fact goes along with the territory. You have to say good bye in the saddest way, even when you think you know how much it will hurt, nothing really prepares you.

He was a great little dog and I’m grateful that he was able to share a good life with us.

photo-7

Posted in blogging, Dogs, internet, Observations, pets, photos, writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

2014 New Year’s Resolution? All Set!

Hot Pants are the new black in 2014!

Hot Pants are the New Black for the New Year! Yes, that’s the 2014 me!

Ahh, winding down on the close of the old year. Christmas is done and now is the time to look to the future. Resolutions and good intentions were my thoughts as I plunked myself in front of my computer. Lucky for me, my Facebook newsfeed cracked any  New Year’s resolution dilemmas I might face this year thanks to this:

Zaggora slimwear! Slimming Hot Pants that burn calories for you by using your body heat! Get 30% off today with coupon SLIM30!

Zaggora slimwear! Slimming Hot Pants that burn calories for you by using your body heat! Get 30% off today with coupon SLIM30!

Okay. Deep breath. Hot pants, burn calories and 30% off? Oh-my-God-oh-my-God-oh-my-God!!!! This is almost too good to be true! Could it be that Hot Pants are coming back and they are actually going to make me burn calories instead of shaming my stumpy thighs?

I think I fainted.

I am a child of the Seventies. Hot Pants were Hot. There wasn’t any such thing a Daisy Dukes (honestly, that woman was a hayseed who rolled out of  a barn loft while making out with her Uncle Cousin and landed on her head). No, no, no, Hot Pants were the rage. The ultimate contradiction because there was absolutely no pants to them at all! They were in  Teen Beat and Seventeen magazine, winter or summer. Cool girls wore them under frumpy skirts, ditched the skirt on the way to school and tried to not get sent to the principle’s office for wearing something barely legal in public. They were the subject of almost every joke on Laugh In, Flip Wilson, and Sonny and Cher. Nair’s “Who wears short-shorts” commercial came out in the 1970s. I can’t tell you how excited I am that my fashion dream is making a come-back and will help me burn calories. And save 30%!

So no dreary declarations of less chocolate, cookies and crap in 2014. I am looking forward to stepping out in ensembles like these. I will accessorize each outfit, especially if a drum majorette hat and baton are required:

Majorette Hot Pants--major babe I think!

Majorette Hot Pants–major babe I think!

I won’t even care if my hat looks like a perfectly popped Jiffy Pop popcorn pan because everything looks good with Hot Pants.

Horizontal stripes never looked so awesome.

Horizontal stripes never looked so awesome.

OF COURSE I will have the Hot Pants bicycle outfit. With suede boots. Note to self: Why have I never worn suede boots while riding my bike before??? No, I won’t forget that racy midi-top. Hmmm…those slimming hot pants better burn some major calories or I might have some trouble with this little number.

I am a hot pants, cool bicycle girl!

I am a hot pants, cool bicycle girl!

Now you must be aware that Hot Pants are more than just skimpy shorts. Most of the deal with wearing them is attitude. You can’t pull off Hot Pants (ooops!) unless you have Hot Pants Charisma.

I’ll bet you a paisley velvet pair that I’ll discover that I can’t walk around wearing them them unless I’m swinging my hair and snapping my fingers. It’s the Hot Pants allure.

Just walkin' in my Hot Pants and snappin' my fingers.

Just walkin’ in my Hot Pants and snappin’ my fingers.

It’s a kind of lifestyle that needs to be practiced otherwise it looks a bit awkward.

ooh, that's a little awkward.

ooh, that needs a little work.

I am so happy Hot Pants are making a big come-back in 2014. Part of their magic is they make all of you look really, really great.

Wow, who knew Hot Pants could make the rest of me look so DY-NO-MIIIIIIIITE!

Wow, who knew Hot Pants could make the rest of me look so DY-NO-MIIIIIIIITE!

Posted in Fashion, humor, Observations, photos, society | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

If there could be a best Christmas memory…

City Winter

City Winter

Of all the things that need doing right now, writing this takes priority over wrapping, cleaning, baking, sifting through the garbage to find my niece’s misplaced gift card…

Christmas has become so much of what has to be done: shop, shop, shop then wrap, wrap, wrap, run out of tape, run to the store and buy a dozen useless things but forget the tape. Decorate, make lists of things not to forget like something for our son’s music teacher, the mailman and garbage men–which just crossed my mind because that list is probably with the missing gift card.

Yes, I’m nostalgic for the Christmases of my childhood. I want to feel what I felt about Christmas without the obligation and anxiety. I want to say, “Merry Christmas” without wondering if that term is offensive. How do you feel excited about the season when it is rushed with decorated department stores at the end of September? Yet how can it be I let things go the very last minute? When did peace on earth, and good will toward others include a new Lexus or Jeep?

Our youngest son is sixteen and I assume it’s been years since he believed in Santa but this morning was the first time I asked him when he knew “About Santa”. He couldn’t recall but said it was more of an awareness that the Santa phenomena wasn’t true rather than a harsh serving of reality.

I had quite the opposite experience.

My birthday is in early December and just before my eighth birthday I decided to take a look under my parents bed. I swear I hit the jackpot! There were bags with stuffed animals, a Barbie kitchen carousel, ski sweaters and hats, board games and a macrame kit. I had no idea why my mother decided to make my eighth birthday my banner year. It never dawned on me that the amount of things under the bed was enough for five kids or that Christmas was also just around the corner. Therefore on the morning of my eighth birthday I was not only quite disappointed, I was also shocked. My parents were Santa Claus. And I got a Peace & Love sweatshirt despite my announcement that hippies scared me. It was NOT a banner year.

I wasn’t the only kid to “find out about Santa” that year. I went to a small neighborhood school and there were just two classes to each grade. We not only knew all about each other, we knew all about the extended families of our classmates.  In 2nd grade, one of the most asked question was, “Hey, do you know about Santa?” There were two answers to that question: 1. The Sad Yes or 2. The Wide-Eyed What? It was a rough time for kids who asked What? because they got a flat-out harsh dose of reality in either, “There is no Santa” or “You still believe in Santa?” I don’t know which was worse.

By third grade, it was a given that we all “found out about Santa”. We were jaded little people and our shock-talk moved into the Mystery of Where Babies Came From. Until the day we were waiting for our music teacher to show up. The music and art teachers traveled from school to school so there was a standing rule if the teacher was late, we were supposed to sit quietly in our seats. Which never happened. We group gossiped instead because music and art was the only time our two classes were in the same room at the same time. The gossip that morning was that Kenny still believed in Santa.

Kenny was a regular classmate, but absent that fateful day. He was good at math. He had a paper route. He was usually picked second or third for kickball at gym. There was nothing special about him until the music gossip revealed that he still believed in Santa. We, as a class, decided we should help Kenny keep believing in Santa. I remember Carl Oliver, the biggest kid in class (probably because he was at least two years older than the rest of us) announcing, “Nobody tells Kenny about Santa!”

We didn’t. It wasn’t exactly a campaign, it was more like protecting your little brother or sister from finding out. It gave back some of the magic of Christmas to keep Kenny believing. Kenny’s best friend, Michael Jeska, was designated as his protector from the truth. Nobody messed with Michael. Even in 3rd grade, he was a square block of Polish muscle.

We managed to “Keep Kenny Believing” in 4th grade as well. Word circulated just after Thanksgiving that Kenny still believed. I remember watching him deliver papers in the afternoon, thinking he was so lucky yet tragic because he still believed.

It fell apart in 5th grade. We were at indoor gym and we played dodge ball. Hard-core dodge ball with the red ball that made a boink sound when it peened off your head and felt like a slap if you got it in the back. Darryl Denson was the best at dodge ball. He always either caught it no matter how hard it was thrown or managed to make tremendously athletic leaps and pirouettes to just miss a hit. That day Kenny got Darryl. It would have been noted as The Day Darryl Denson Got Beat at Dodge Ball if the following never happened: Kenny threw a straight shot that Darryl tried to catch but dropped. Kenny started whooping and running around the gym. Then we all started whooping and running around Darryl who was sitting on the ground sulking. Mr. Kyle stopped our nonsense by getting us to line up at the door. We were supposed to be quiet before we left the gym but everyone was pounding Kenny on the back and laughing. It was a really big deal until Darryl turned on Kenny and shouted, “Who cares? You’re so stupid, you still believe in Santa Claus!”

The gym went silent. Kenny looked confused then his face dropped when he saw the looks on all of our faces. Carl Oliver shouted, “Shut up Darryl!” which confirmed it for Kenny. It was a crushing blow for all of us.

I remember many of us trying to get Kenny to believe again. We told him Darryl was wrong and mean and to forget about him but it was useless. I also remember our teacher commenting at how quiet we were that afternoon, “What’s the matter with you all?” she asked the class.

It didn’t strike me until much later how we all acted in a selfless, protective manner, without adult guidance, to keep something special for one of our own. And it was a way to keep something special we all once had but grew out of. It was remarkable. I am certain if a parent or teacher told us to make sure Kenny kept believing in Santa, we’d have run over each other to be the first to blow it for him.

I know this because I revisited that protective desire with our sons many years later. And the wonder of how long we had to make something extraordinary and delightful in a season where consumerism reigns.

Posted in blogging, christmas, essay, family, humor, Observations, society, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Apollo 1, Honey 0

Boston Red Sox fan here, full of stupefaction and short on sleep. Forgive me if I make no sense.

Game 3 had this:

Will Middlebrooks obstuction play that cost the game. Boston Globe

The Will Middlebrooks Obstuction play that ended Game 3. Boston Globe 10/26/13

Followed by Game 4 with this:

napoli-big-16432

Kolten Wang picked off 1st to end Game 4. Boston Globe 10/27/13

Which makes for anything but a boring series.

Yet life continues despite my baseball obsession, lack of sleep and wide-ranging emotions. There is a sixteen year old son to feed because he is still running cross country, considering college and preparing for SATs among other things. There is a wonderful husband to badger about things flit across my consciousness like “I changed my mind, we do need a shelf in the bathroom and do you really think Middlebooks purposefully obstructed Allen Craig?”

Finally there are two spoiled rotten terriers that have absolutely NO consideration for my current fixation of the moment and act up to pull me right out of the things I should me concentrating on…like will Stephen Drew get a hit in this series?

It is because I am distracted and sleep deprived that I’ve been taking short cuts. It’s had little impact on Dan and Charlie…but the terriers…cutting corners with two pampered pooches…there is a price to pay for that. 

Especially with this one:

Honey. Don't be fooled, at times she is pure evil.

Honey. Don’t be fooled, at times she is pure evil.

You don’t bend the rules with Honey. You don’t turn your back for a minute, you don’t say, “Oh, just this one time…” because this little dog has been sprayed by a skunk four times. In the face. She tries to attack Pit Bulls, Rottweilers and German Shepherds every time we go for a walk…she believes she’d  take them all at once given the chance. She lunges at dump trucks and delivery vans. It’s a her daily goal to bite an old person. She would take a chomp out of a baby stroller if we didn’t keep her on a tight leash. She had to get a stuffed animal monkey head cut out of her small intestine because that stuffed monkey was going to be eaten no matter what. In a nutshell, Honey is a heart attack.

Last spring we moved away from a fenced-in yard which means the dogs have to be taken out on the leash first thing every morning–gone is the convenience of shoving them out the back door. What a pain.

We also now live across the street from two yappy Corgis called Nike and Apollo. Odd names for Welsh Corgis, especially since Nike is really fat and Apollo is, to put it simply, morbidly obese. Nike and Apollo derive their exercise from eating and barking. I think we’re good for them though. Since we moved back, Nike and Apollo have really upped their barking which is good for their cardiovascular health… but bad for nearly everyone else. They love to bark at Honey because of the great reaction. Their barking makes Honey absolutely insane. It’s quite a scene when Artie, Honey, Nike and Apollo are out at the same time. And I wonder why the neighbors aren’t friendly?

I try to time our walks to avoid Nike and Apollo. Thankfully they don’t just bark at Honey, they bark at everything so it’s not difficult to figure out when they are outside.

Yesterday morning I was tired, really tired. The game ended after midnight yet our spoiled dogs still had to start their day at the usual time: 5:30 a.m, regardless of a late bedtime. Lack of sleep clouded my judgement. It was dark and very quiet at 5:30, no one was up or out. I decided to just let them loose in the back yard because the main reason they get up so early is to for food, not terrorized–that’s what I told myself anyway.

Fat Apollo. Ready for anything.

Fat Apollo. Ready for anything.

The second Honey was out of my reach, Nike and Apollo started barking and she took off. I yelled, “Honey! No! Come back!” only to see her make a bee-line for Apollo, the fattest Corgi, and in my estimation, the easy target. I could see it all in slow motion and began to calculate how much this would cost us. It crossed my mind that we might even have to get rid of her as she sprinted toward the mini-sofa with a dog face. Apollo pivoted on his big fat belly and braced himself for the hit by trying to dig his feet into the sidewalk–quite a task I’m sure. The street erupted with barking and then there was a high-pitched shriek. A second later Honey came tearing back down the driveway and ran up the back steps.

I jogged over to the corgis who continued to shatter the early morning quiet with their screechy barks while their owner glared at me from his front porch. Neither Nike nor Apollo looked injured, in fact, they waddled around on their sidewalk with a little more swagger than I’d ever seen.  I called out, “Sorry!” and retreated to our house.

Honey was huddled in a heap on the back porch, shaking and cowering–which is something she does when she’s been REALLY bad. I started to yell at her then I noticed some blood on her face just beneath her left eye:

Corgi bite on Honey's face

Corgi bite on Honey’s face

Apollo got her! My fear of getting sued evaporated, I became dumbstruck at Apollo’s gutsy move in the heat of a full-on attack. Thankfully he missed her eye but he managed to get a good chunk of skin and hair just beneath it. That will heal. The worst of her injuries right now is her pride. And her feelings are hurt, very hurt. There’s quite a bit of drama that implies she will never get over this.

This is not Honey as we know her!

Cowering behind Artie? This is not Honey as we know her!

This could have been a major dog disaster.  She was aiming to plow into Apollo as if she was diving into a vat of butter. I have to give the Dread Apollo credit–as enormous as he is–he just planted himself for the onslaught, ready and waiting, and he emerged victorious.

Today has been quiet. She is managing to choke down her meals but she is subdued on our walks. She has been hiding behind Artie, sighing at my feet or cowering under blankets.

Beaten by Apollo...oh the horror and humiliation!

Beaten by Apollo…oh the horror and humiliation!

We shall use this brief hiatus of peace and quiet to think about tonight’s game.

Posted in baseball, blogging, Boston, Boston Red Sox, Dogs, family, humor, writing | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Do’s and Don’t’s of Propolis

I say, what’s this? A rare post? These are becoming as elusive as the Dryococolis australis (one of the world’s rarest insects), although not nearly as precious and hopefully, not as gross. Well, as long as we’re on the topic of insects…

Rare but really, really gross.

Dryococelas australis. Rare but really, really gross.

In the spirit of keeping my beloved blog on life support, we’ll visit a talking point from the title. Bees, baseball and bicycles were my inspirations in starting this blog and today’s topic is that of the honey bee–specifically OUR honey bees. It is fall and according to all resources and my favorite beekeeping poster, fall is the time to feed, medicate and inspect.

  • Feed: check! They are taking plenty of sugar syrup.
  • Medicate: check! They’ve been medicated for dysentery and mites.
  • Inspect: check! Last Sunday I pulled apart the hive to gage their honey store (plenty), kill moths–those dreadful larva eaters! (Thankfully there were no moths, strong hives usually kill off all invaders) and look for anything else that seems out of the ordinary.

The bees look great, they are strong, numerous and feisty when disturbed–all good signs for lasting through the winter. One of the characteristics of this particular hive is they make a lot of propolis. What the heck is propolis? you ask. It is made by the bees using sap, bee spit and magic. It is bee glue which they use to seal off cracks, reduce vibration and secure the comb. The amount of propolis bees make varies among species and individual hives.

Propolis is believed to have medicinal properties among some naturalists. It has been used by various cultures as an anti inflammatory, as an anti infective and in salves for skin infections and burns. My first bee mentor was actually collecting propolis to send to Mass General Hospital for a research project that was studying its effects on mega-resistant bacterial skin infections. He also informed me that he chews propolis whenever he gets a sore throat and he hasn’t had a cold since he started the practice.

Wouldn’t you know I had a sore throat last Sunday? It wasn’t bad, in fact, I barely noticed it until I started prying apart the hive and happened upon the abundance propolis our bees made to glue EVERYTHING together. I was able to scrape up quite a good sized wad, bigger than a walnut from the inner cover and top frames. As I got into the second box and started a second walnut-sized propolis ball, I decided to test the sore throat theory. I undid my bee veil and popped the propolis ball into my mouth.

There are times in life when you know you’ve made a bad decision. Sometimes it takes years, other times it takes a bit of thought and self reflection and sometimes you instantly know.

Popping that propolis ball was an action of Instant Regret.

I expected it to be sweet and flowery, like summer time. It wasn’t. Propolis is bitter and sharp, almost anesthetizing. It tastes like pine tree sap mixed with dental lidocaine and crushed aspirin. Propolis is the industrial-strength equivalent of bitter.

I decided to spit it out and that is when I discovered the magic.

That propolis wasn’t going anywhere. In a matter of nanoseconds, the gluey ball was stuck to my teeth, gums and the roof of my mouth. I tried to scrape the wad out with my gloved hand which only pushed the propolis ball further back, onto my back teeth. Once I realized what I had done, my mouth instantly filled with thin pre-vomit saliva which, if I did vomit, was sure to make a bad situation a lot worse.

There I was: in full beekeeping regalia with a hive pulled apart, the smoker puffing away, angry bees pinging off me, and drool running down my chin as I tried to talk myself out of throwing up. I had to reassembled the hive while the left side of my mouth started going numb before I could run inside to assess the damage.

The view of the mess in my mouth was pretty bad. It looked like I had chewed an entire bottle of carpenter’s glue. I had effectively and efficiently caulked every tooth gap and crevice on the left side of my mouth. It was stuck to my gums and the roof of my mouth. I was looking at a dental horror in the mirror.

Now I will tell you removes propolis if you ever find yourself in this unfortunate situation. By process of elimination, I can attest it’s not toothpaste! I went through all my toothbrushes–my regular good toothbrush, the crappy travel one and several cheap-o’s I got from the dentist, only to have them look like mushed Q-tips after a few seconds of brushing with NO effect on the propolis. Sadly, mouth wash doesn’t work either! Mouth wash seemed to thin the stuff but didn’t take it off. Flossing? Forget it! Floss just got stuck in the goop. The secret is CRACKERS!

The wretched bitterness in my mouth became intolerable after what seemed like hours of brushing, flossing and mouthwash. I felt like I was developing a chemical burn under the propolis. I was ready to call my dentist and have every tooth in my head yanked out. It really seemed like the only solution. But I need sustenance as well as something that could possibly stop my mouth from gluing itself shut as I had to make myself understood to my dentist. I went for the saltines–and crammed about half a sleeve. To my tremendous astonishment and relief, the scummy propolis came off my teeth, gums and the roof of my mouth and formed a disgusting cracker/propolis clump that I was able to spit out. I made a special mental note to myself to leave the propolis for the bees.

Now wouldn’t you know that my sore throat has disappeared entirely? I am going to chalk this up to yet another valuable lesson in beekeeping.

Keep the propolis to yourself, honey bee.

Keep the propolis to yourself, honey bee.

Posted in blogging, cautionary tales, essay, humor, Observations, writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A little of Summer 2013

My goodness, where did this summer go? The last time I wrote for this poor, neglected blog, it was cold and damp and we were living in the basement. Now it is balmy with a soft breeze. The Red Sox are on the radio and there is a constant chirp of crickets. Living above ground really has its perks.

Yes, we are really out of the basement. There have been a few ironies in this beleaguered and protracted move I keep dwelling upon–like it’s the greatest accomplishment of my life–which I think it might be (my novel is still only 2/3 finished). I admit now that I was a tad overzealous in the downsizing. I think I overestimated the delta between what we had vs. what we needed and in that frenzy of trying to minimize I overdid it. Slightly. As in our living room is empty. That’s not an overstatement.

I am totally fine with an empty living room. It is a little like having a private yoga studio if I actually got in there and did some yoga. I have no doubt it will be furnished soon and I will dedicate four entries to how I pine for some empty space.

The bees had a busy summer. They swarmed at least twice which means ZERO honey for this year because all the honey production stops with a swarm for two weeks (the time it takes to establish a new queen). Two swarms means four weeks of no honey production. I am feeding them sugar water to help them build up their winter stores so they can hopefully last through the winter.

The bees did, however, travel. Our fair city decided to spray mosquitos in July due to the confirmed presence of West Nile Virus. The mosquito spraying is minimally effective against mosquitos and devastating to honey bees. I know this because we lost our hive last fall after they did a late mosquito spraying. It is shattering–one day your bees are flying in and out of the hive, the next day there are thousands of dead bees on the bottom board. My parents graciously took our hive into their back yard. I think they were a little nervous at first–two people over seventy who have never really been around bees before suddenly had a busy hive in their back yard–I do admire their bravery. It went well, the bees behaved and they actually enjoyed watching them throughout the day. We picked them up a few nights ago. I called my mother to thank her again and she said, “There were about five or six stragglers flying around today. Do you think they’ll be all right?Should I put anything out there for them?” Now you know where I get this devotion.

The Red Sox are doing so much better than expected after the dismal season of 2012. They are playing well and have an unprecedented thirty come-from-behind wins this season–a season many believed they’d be lucky to win 30 games. I had the good fortune to be at the August 2nd game in terrific seats with wonderful friends. It was a mini high school reunion: the four of us hadn’t been together since 1981 so it didn’t matter a great deal that the Red Sox were losing by 5 runs going into the 8th inning. What made a wonderful time and absolutely unbelievable night was the 9th inning. Hit after hit, smart base running and one true believer who said, “You know, they could win this.” It was the best game I’ve ever been to. Reconnecting with great friends after thirty years made it amazing.

Our youngest son Charlie traveled to China for nearly a month as part of a student ambassador program. I missed him terribly but the time did fly by, especially when my beloved and I took a vacation to Prague–which I will write about in another post–hopefully before I turn 60.

 

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Cozy, cozy quarters

Life has settled in the smaller dwelling. We certainly have adjusted to…cozier accommodations and less space. The rapid shift from a big space to a compact one is still an overall relief, although some of the subtle logistics of the move endure.

We decided to paint and re-sand the wood floors before moving in. No better time than when the apartment is empty, right? I mean why move everything out from where it’s stored only to pile it up or cover it with drop cloths and sawdust? And that is why we are enjoying month two of life as the Cellar Dwellers.

It’s still an adventure. Yes, there is quite a bit of, “I have no idea where that could be” in reference to the can opener and/or the set of keys to the garage because everything is so artfully stored away. I’ve learned to cook with just two pots–on the rare occasion that we eat in. I really miss our wall calendar because we all used to write what we were all up to and somehow the phone calendar just isn’t a good replacement. Still life goes on.

photo-3

Living room/bedroom/kitchen.

As you can see, it’s really quite nice and livable (I admit I cleaned up for this picture). You might notice that there’s a dog on the back of the couch and you might even wonder what she’s looking at. Look again; she’s invading our bedroom space–with absolutely no respect for my reading time or the imaginary walls!

Honey invading our bedroom space by hanging on the Living Room wall

Honey invading our bedroom space by hanging on the Living Room wall

That’s the other side of the dog from my perspective. Let me just remind you, it is very cozy.

I believe both dogs adjusted to all this beautifully. They are, in fact, in dog heaven as they are, in fact, the Center of the Universe and get walked about four times a day. They are into everything because their universe magically adjusted to the perfect size for two spoiled terriers.

Artie helping Charlie with homework

Artie helping Charlie with homework–again no respect for imaginary walls!

The new plan for returning to the earth’s bright surface is a week…or two…hopefully…

More has happened besides contemplating our smaller living space. The bees moved to the new back yard with us. The neighbors like them or don’t care. They have been doing their bee-thing in muggy, rainy weather : Swarm. Living through a few swarms over the years has made me a little less paranoid although it is unnerving to know that our bees have congregated in someone else’s tree. Which is exactly what they are doing as I write.

I heard the loud buzzing and looked out to see the back yard to see it FULL of flying bees. They took off for the neighbors tree. Evidently the six trees surrounding our the yard are boring and there’s nothing like hanging 50 feet off the ground over the neighbor’s roof. We set up an empty hive with comb and honey to entice them. Unfortunately the weather forecast for the next week is full of wind and thunderstorms and if they don’t find the empty hive, they are goners. That’s the exact term Vinnie the Beekeeper used when I called to find out what I should do.

I want to save them but can’t risk breaking my neck in a 50 foot fall, not even for bees.

Bee Hive after the swarm.

Bee Hive after the swarm.

Charlie, our youngest son just left for a month in China. It is exciting but hard. The painful reality of how fast he’s growing up is upon me. He’s driving (learner’s permit–white knuckle mother cracking walnuts in her jaw to keep from screeching in the passenger seat), finished his sophomore year of high school and is now off to China. It is such a good thing but takes my breath away when I think how fast it is happening. With our parental blessings and the leap of faith that he will be safe, learn much, meet good people and come home with knowledge and insights that will make him ready to navigate more of the world and life away from us. I know that’s what life should be but it doesn’t make it any easier to let him go.

Charlie leaving for China

Charlie leaving for China

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The 3 D’s of The Big, Huge, Enormous…etc. part deux

Desire, Discipline and Determination.

The Three D’s of Success according to somebody who likes to put large groups of people in conference halls to motivate them to reach life goals. Last summer I channeled those three intentions  to galvanize the biggest downsize we’ve ever grappled. My first choice was to have applied The Four M’s: Motivation, Money and More Money (to get people to do my bidding) but I was lacking the last three M‘s so I went with the D‘s.

We’ve moved 5 times in our happy union 0f twenty years. Each relocation afforded the great opportunity to offload a bunch of unwanted junk that accumulated the instant we got keys to the new place. Isn’t it funny how something so darling and invaluable becomes a piece of crap when you might have to transport it from one locale to another?

The inspirations for this move were multifactorial but the driving force was the rapid approach of our Impending Empty Nest. I thought I was prepared for every next phase my sons grew into but that notion caught me off guard. The arrival of college catalogues and brochures for our youngest son screamed we were soon going to be just two people rattling around in a very large, lonely house. I dreaded the emptiness and began missing our old apartment.

Then a buzz began to trickle in about a preference for smaller more efficient, less expensive houses. Big houses are Out. Small, energy efficient houses are In. America was going Economy. How on earth were we going to sell a 12 room, 3 story house if every news broadcaster kept reminding their viewing public that they wanted to move into smaller homes?

I began a ceaseless yammering of those facts and gloomy predictions to mobilize our plan to put the house on the market in early spring. You see, I was sure I had all this under control and began even predicting with absolute certainty that it would take the entire summer to sell. Why? “BECAUSE THAT’S WHEN FAMILIES WITH MANY CHILDREN BEGIN LOOKING AROUND FOR BIG HOUSEs, THAT’S WHY!” Dear God, how does my husband put up with me?

Here is my advice for selling your house after all this fun escapade: don’t put it on the market unless you’re ready to move.

Reality slap: Houses are selling fast around here–big, small, you name it. Somehow I completely ignored any reports and articles about how the market has been depressed because there simply weren’t many houses for SALE! Now that prices are inching up again, sales are recovering, but the sluggishness is due to the lack of houses to sell. The past few months have shown a sharp decrease in the amount of time a house for sale spends on the market–from about 3 months to a little under 3 days.

And that was where I didn’t exactly have true insight because our house sold right after it went onto the market. AWESOME!!!!  High fives all around!!! Yay for us!!! Then came the dawning realization that we weren’t going to be sitting on a huge house that won’t sell, we had about 4 weeks empty it and clear out.  Hey, high five me–don’t leave me hanging…. Oh yes, there was a second little chink in the armor: the beloved apartment I missed so much had tenants with a lease signed through June first. Awwwesome,  yeeahhh, um, just frigging awesome.

No worries, we had a Plan B which was more like Plan Z because I never thought we’d resort to it: Move into the finished basement of our apartment, which was essentially to move from 12 rooms down to 2.

Those Three D’s kicked into high gear. There is no motivator like a time limit to give me major Desire, Discipline and Determination to unload every bit of junky furniture, family cast-offs, piles of clothes I think I might be able to squeeze into again. We started selling on Ebay and donated or trashed  every piece of clutter that was at one time a great thing to fill up empty rooms. Limited space and a time crunch makes a person a sharp judge of what’s worthy and what isn’t. In the aftermath of how much we unloaded, I am astounded at what made the “worthy” cut when space was abundant.

It’s really quite liberating to be unburdened of stuff. I think it’s what keeps us sane in the cozy accommodations we’ve been living for the past five weeks.

Honey invading our bedroom space by hanging on the Living Room wall

Honey invading our bedroom space by hanging on the Living Room wall

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The Big, Huge, Enormous, Gargantuan and Mighty Downsize

603687_3My darling husband and I have embarked on quite possibly the most daunting and challenging mission of our nearly quarter-century together. We are selling our house.

I admit that I am the galvanizing force in this adventure. I have been dropping subtle hints about downsizing and moving into a smaller place for a bit. Our oldest son James graduated from college, spent a year in Korea, and now is living at his own place. Our youngest son, Charlie is a sophomore in high school and began receiving college brochures for a couple of years. It was the summer before Charlie’s freshman year when he was away at camp and James was in Korea that I realized we were in a huge house that would too-soon be inhabited by just me, my husband and our two crazy terriers.

I believe I announced the night of my realization as I held a tear-stained Bard brochure that we had to move to a smaller place…and I can’t tell you how many times I get the Oh-my-God-she’s-insane look when I make my announcements.

We bought that magnificent house about 5 years ago. It was on the market for a while thanks to the housing market downturn, and the price was right. We had been living in apartments for our entire lives together (with the exception of a winter cottage rental-and that’s a whole different story). Our living situation didn’t prompt the us–the apartment is beautiful, we were the landlords and lived there quite happily for over seven years.

My Father's House by Will Barnet ca. 1972

My Father’s House by Will Barnet ca. 1992

I think we were ready to live in our own home but in truth, the timing was way off. Many memories of our boys growing-up were at our apartment. We bought the big house when both my husband and I were working full-time in very demanding jobs and I felt like we shifted all our stuff into a much larger place and went but were barely home. Our weekends were occupied with house projects, yard work, beekeeping and most notably, filling up the empty rooms.

Indeed, nature hates a vacuum. And my nature apparently couldn’t abide by any space with very little crap in it therefore in 5 short years, all of our earthly possessions that adequately filled six rooms doubled to top off twelve.

January 2013. We decided it was time. Make that my constant yammering, sighs, random announcements both day and night, conversation openers and conversation enders and quite possibly some sleep deprivation tactics brought us to the decision to sell. It was a joyful moment…for about a moment. Then the reality hit: we had much to do to sell this house.

We’ve been packing, donating, selling, tossing and giving away for almost five months. When we met with our real estate agent in February with the goal to put it on the market in March, we discussed staging for the Open House. He believed April or May was more realistic. As I was delirious at that time, I was absolutely certain the only month we should put our giant house on the market was March. It had to be March, it couldn’t be later –it had taken the previous owners almost three years to sell it. We couldn’t wait!

I hadn’t considered the drought of available houses since the real estate downturn. I was certain it would take months to sell a huge house–June or July when families with kids were done with school and ready to move. Our open house was March 17th–and who goes to an open house on St. Patrick’s Day in this area? Evidently over thirty people. People who made offers and it was under agreement on March 18th.

The relief of actually selling when I was so certain it would take months was incredible. The rapidity of the sale made me giddy. It was an enormous weight removed. We did it, we’re heading back to our old place, who cares if it’s an apartment, it’s home.

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My Early College Memoirs…

Thirty years ago I was at college. It was a fun four years because I made great friends, enjoyed a painless course load and found my absolute favorite job in the world after I graduated: picture framing. I wasn’t really motivated to actually conquer the world or blaze a trail into business and industry in my very early twenties so I took the path less demanding and rigorous. The blessing of being an unmotivated and aimless college co-ed majoring in something of a fluffy field was the tuition at state college was blessedly affordable and my student loan was manageable even on a picture framer’s salary.

My friends were a lot like me. We enjoyed our classes but the bulk of our concentration focused on weekend activities which typically started on Thursday night. In the early 1980′s we knew every bar and club that had 2-for-1 Thursday and free (salty) appetizers with a pitcher of Miller beer. We could buy bleacher seats for Red Sox games for about 5 dollars after the game started and took Chinese bus from Boston to New York round trip for about $20. It was a blast.

Oh yes, I was a good student. I didn’t skip class, not even for a monster hangover because we never had tests on Fridays. My friends didn’t skip either, we all suffered the same plight. Good company to my misery, followed by better company for the hair of the dog remedy that afternoon. Wow, I really hope my sons don’t read this blog.

We did a lot of group work, even most of our term papers were a group effort. I managed to get through my junior and senior year without buying a text book. Honestly! I’m actually kind of annoyed with my younger self that I accepted this superficial experience as high academia and borrowed money to be a part of it.

I knew there would be some sort of back lash for my frivolity. A great deal of my upbringing had to do with giving maximum effort, looking for challenges and the benefit of hard work. I had older sisters who majored in journalism and engineering. They studied over spring break and talked of grueling exams and massive research papers. Not me though, I was beating the system, I was in college and having the time of my life…until my Group Facilitating class.

Don’t ask me why I was taking Group Facilitating, it was probably an elective and it was fun. I had a couple of buddies, we huddled together, group facilitated, wrote our group papers and planned our group Thursday night activities until the professor discovered our modus operandi and mixed things up a little. He sent our happy little trio into separate “work groups” and ordered the class to talk about a difficult topic in our lives.

My group was made up of two other women, neither of whom I’d ever spoken to before although they seemed to know each other. Eager to be friendly and break the ice, I plunged right in to my difficult topic. It was a personal conflict, something you’d talk over with a close friend, not two strangers but the object of the lesson was for the group to facilitate a reasonable solution to a difficult topic.

As I was divulging, I could see my two goup-mates found a lot of humor in my plight. They glanced at each other and tried not to smile. Instead of shutting up, I went on for another five minutes–I think I was trying to impress them or win them over. I did neither and their Group Facilitated Solution for me was that I probably needed a therapist.

As if it wasn’t horrifying enough for two strangers with mile-high hair to decide I was deranged and needed psychoanalysis, group facilitating their problems made me realize what an ass I was to reveal personal information to two snarks. Their problems were 1. Work or volunteer after college? Her fiancee made so much money that if she worked, it would put them in a higher tax bracket and 2. Join her boyfriend’s sailing team or stay with the team she’s been on since high school? Somehow my suggesting they both needed psychiatric treatment for their dilemmas didn’t carry the same bite as when they handed me the phone book opened to the mental health assistance.

Oh My Go-od, you are like, sooo weird!

Oh My Go-od, you are like, sooo weird!

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