Thursday, December 30, 2010


This is Bella.  She is a 6-month-old goldendoodle, or something like that - one of those eco-friendly hybrids.  I recently dogsat for Bella, and we became fast friends.  She has three favorite games:  Chase Me, Come Find Me Then I'll Pounce On You, and Fetch: The Two-Player Version.  They're all pretty self-explanatory, except for her version of fetch, which is the same version all dogs play when they haven't quite learned yet, or won't admit they know, that the whole point of the game is for the dog to run around, not the human.

Bella LOVES mischief.  The stairs to the basement at her house aren't carpeted and are a bit slick, so she's afraid to go down them.  Comet, a cockatiel, lives in his cage in the basement, so I carried Bella down the stairs a few times so that we could play and keep Comet company.  When I first met Bella her mom told me about the stairs, but I thought B. was only scared to go down them, not up them.  So after our first play session in the basement I went back upstairs, and Bella sat at the foot of the stairs and whined.  "Come on, Bella, you can do it."  Whine.  "Come on, girl!"  Whine.  Convinced that she just wanted a free ride, I decided to wait her out and puttered around upstairs.  She continued to whine, trying out a few variations to see if one was pitiful enough for me to come get her - then she was silent.  I looked, and she was no longer at the foot of the stairs.  Uh-oh - that got my attention.  I immediately headed down the stairs - "Bella?  What are you doing?  Okay, I'll carry you up.  Bella?  Bel-" as I walked past the pool table, she rushed out from under it and "attacked" me, and Game #2 was born.  I'd been out-smarted by a 6-month-old dog.  Little stinker.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

it's baaaaack...

My uncle (the one I now live with) gave me this necklace for Christmas years ago as a joke.  (It's very faux.)  Isn't it...unique?  Let's hope so.

The thing made a few rounds to various family members, including a male cousin, but I had blissfully forgotten about it for the last year or more.  Then last night, my aunt handed me a gift and said, "Here's your present," and I said, "Oh, thank you!  You didn't have to do that...AAAAAGGGGGHHHH!!!!"  Okay, I laughed, but it was horrifying.  Now I have a whole year to keep it, remember I have it, remember where I put it, and figure out a way to give it back.  Suggestions welcomed.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

could grandpa be spoiled?

Poor Grandpa.  He's extra chatty today and I'm trying to buy car insurance online.  I can barely do that with no distractions, much less the TV and chit chat.  But I want to be with him - we both like that - so I just keep saying "Huh?" and "What?" and Grandpa keeps repeating everything.  He's resting now - I think I wore him out.

He had plenty of energy to demand his dessert, though.  When he finished his soup he said, "I think I'll have some white on brown."  "Okay, just a minute," I said, as I - okay, at this point I was just waiting for a picture to load on Facebook.  Grandpa allowed a minute to go by, then started banging his soup cup on his TV tray.  "I'm coming, hang on!" I said, and he laughed.

After lunch he worked on a word search puzzle.  "Okay, now I'm looking for 'pinch.'"  "You need a pinch?" I said.  "Yes.  I mean NO!"  Later:  "I can't find 'howl'.  I need 'howl' and 'pinch'."
"Are you asking me for help or just talking?"
"I'm howling for help."
I looked for a bit and pointed to the H in 'howl'.  He circled the word then said, "Now 'pinch'."
I pinched him gently on the arm.  "Hey!  I didn't say pinch me!"
"You said 'pinch'!"
"Yeah, well you'd better watch out when I find it."

middle age is...

Middle age is when you have to yell to your Grandpa because he's hard of hearing, and he has to start yelling back.

Middle age is when you're young enough to play Twister with your niece and nephew, and you're old enough to feel it the next day.

(I'm the one with her rear in the air.  That's niece and nephew's mama on the right!)

Monday, December 20, 2010

stuff I saw that made me cringe

I was so proud of my fellow Wichita drivers the other night as we all drove, cautiously, through the flashing yellow lights instead of stopping at them - good job, everyone!  Then there were two sets of lights working normally, then there were two sets of flashing red lights, which about half of my fellow drivers drove straight through, and I couldn't blame them!  Are the EMTs bored?  Does the study have anything to do with who has the stupidest ideas in the city planning department?

Naturally, since the city's playing mind games, today we stopped again at all the yellow lights.  And even though I'm wearing my monkey slipper socks that my niece gave me because they make me happy, I lost it, threw my arms out, and shouted my wisdom to the universe, "IT'S YELLOW!  KEEP GOING!!!"

Friday, December 17, 2010

stuff I saw yesterday that made me think

A very thin man with a long-ish white beard walking and pulling a small oxygen tank.  I've seen him pass by Mom & Dad's house before when I'm here with Grandpa.  Yesterday he stopped and spent some time blowing his nose and wiping his face with a few handkerchiefs or large Kleenexes.  I wondered how old he was.  What is his story?  Does he have AIDS?  Cancer?  I admired his strength and persistence in taking regular walks, especially in cold weather.

One of those big flashing traffic signs that finally explained why some stoplights had been flashing for a few days:  "TRAFFIC LIGHTS...FLASHING YELLOW...FOR STUDY."  Good, I thought, I hope they're studying the people in front of me who keep stopping at them!  Since when did Wichita become a city full of overly-cautious drivers?

On the trial cable channel, a teenage boy (the defendant? a friend of the boy who was killed?), lower lip quivering as he listened to the prosecutor give his closing argument in the murder trial, sitting directly in front of a man, head back, sleeping with his mouth open.  So near to each other, yet at that moment, so far apart.

A swan sitting in the grass along a city street between the curb and a sidewalk.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

a few new "boys"

I've been so thankful to have a few new "boys" to play with and cuddle since losing my own.  My cousins have 2 boys (3 if you count the human).  Once in a while the dogs come play over here.  Diesel is a toy fox terrier who loves to fetch.  Or maybe he feels compelled to fetch.  Aren't most terriers Type A?


I bought that toy for my own dogs - they loved squeaky toys, but you have to push hard to make this one squeak, so they decided it wasn't worth the trouble.  I'm glad it's finally getting some love!

Axl is a doberman with a heart that is about ten times bigger than his brain, I think - which is why I like him so much.  His favorite game appears to be catch the shadow.

When we first met, I couldn't for the life of me figure out why the dog kept staring at the ground.  Then I threw the toy for Diesel and saw Axl move out of the corner of my eye.  I moved again, and he pounced.

After he pounces, Axl tries to bite the shadow - keeps slamming his nose into the ground - then digs at it.  A couple of times I was having so much fun watching him "attack" and dig that I didn't notice the hole he was creating.  That's a big no-no.  I stopped him, checked to see if anyone was looking, then shoved some of the dirt and grass back.  If my uncle asks, it was a giant squirrel.

Axl is smart enough to figure out where I live, though, which happens to be a former sun room at the back of the house.  So when I stop playing and come inside, Axl comes to the window and watches what I'm doing and whines for me to come back out and play.  Of course, I love it.

To see more of Diesel and Axl, and the most ridiculously cute baby I've ever seen - oops, I mean one of the most; your baby was cute, too - visit 

Bronco is a mastiff who belongs to a student's family.  I will never forget meeting him; they live out in the "country" and the dogs roam freely.  I arrived for our first tutoring session, parked my car, leaned down to get some stuff from the floor on the passenger side, sat back up, and found a dog standing right outside my car door, staring me straight in the eye.  Having a huge dog suddenly appear at eye level can be a bit of a shock, so I sat there for a few stunned moments until I heard N's mom yell to his brother to go rescue me.  But the only danger I was in was getting slobbered on.  Bronco is extremely mellow - he just oozes good vibrations, man....  He's also very loveable, and hard to resist.  He likes to shove his head into your lap and against your chest so that you'll pet him.  He's done this a few times while I've been working with N. at the table, and I respond as if I have the attention span of a two-year-old: "The first thing we're going to do today, N, is-....Look, a doggy!"

And here's a couple of self-portraits of another favorite boy of mine, my student N.

He's smarter than he looks.

more "fun" with grandpa

Apparently my relationship with Grandpa has progressed (digressed? regressed?) to the point that we no longer need to greet each other with pleasantries.  Yesterday he greeted me with "ugh," today when I said hello he looked up at me, smiled, and belched.

Monday, December 6, 2010

"fun" with grandpa

This morning as I walked in behind Grandpa, Dad said to him, "Somebody's here!"  Grandpa said something that sounded suspiciously like "ugh," and I raised my eyebrows in an "excuse me?" look.  Dad said, "You'd better be nice to her!" and Grandpa said to me with enthusiasm, "Why hello!  You look natural!  You must be from Wichita!"  I spent a few moments trying to figure that out.  In appearance, I am very natural when I'm with Gpa - no makeup, don't bother much with my hair, etc.  (I do wear clothes.)  I thought maybe this was Gpa's way of saying, "Good morning!  You look like crap!"  But I couldn't figure out the Wichita connection.

"Huh?" I said.

"You look natural!  I've seen you someplace before!"

"Oh, you mean familiar?  Yeah, you look familiar, too," I said in a pretend disappointed, I'm-tired-of-looking-at-you tone.

Grandpa laughed.

males and females

The Bald Eagles have returned to the Twin Lakes area. This past week the pair returned and started working on their nest. (Dec 4, 2010)

From today's Wichita paper, re: a pair of eagles nesting here: 

"Griffin said he has seen the male eagle carrying sticks to the nest, some as long as 8 feet and two inches in diameter.

"'It's like he is taking a roof beam in, he has to fit it just right,' Griffin said.  'It may take him 15 minutes to get it just so.  Sometimes he will whack her (female eagle) with it in the process.  And, after he leaves, she picks the stick up and puts it in another place.'"

One reader commented, "I think my wife moves my sticks, too."

Sunday, December 5, 2010

random act of kindness

Made my daily pop run to McD's today.  When I paid, the cashier looked at the quarter for a few seconds before getting my change.  I realized, oh no, that's the quarter with the national park on the back that I was going to give to Grandpa!  I only discovered the other day that they started doing nat'l park quarters this year.  Grandpa avidly collected the 50 state quarters, so I think he'll like this.  The guy handed me my change on top of the receipt, and I crumpled it all into a ball and tried to hand the guy a dollar and said, "I just gave you a quarter with a picture on it - I've been saving it to give someone.  Can I-"  He smiled and said, "Yeah, I know - I gave it back."  And he had - in addition to the change!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

movement in grief: state of being, part 2

I've been missing the dogs more lately.  The extra focus on family that comes with this time of year has me hurting for the loss of my "own" family, Chester and Oliver.  Come to think of it, God, I miss my job, too.  Teaching those children, some with severe/multiple disabilities and some who struggled to read, was more than a job; it was a vocation.  And a way to define myself.  As long as we're on this topic, I miss my house and my yard, too.  Sure, I grumbled about taking care of them, but you know I was glad to have them.

I guess the anger that comes with grief has arrived.  I didn't realize it until, while driving to Mom and Dad's on Thanksgiving and thinking of other relatives, I began to cry and yelled, "I want MY family!"  Thank you for that, by the way.  It released tension and made me more aware of how I was feeling, what I was going through.  Sometimes I wish I were less aware of myself, but in this case it helped.  In a strange way it helped me release more of my self.

Sometimes I wish I were so different from the way I am, so not different from "normal" people who are married, have kids, have jobs, and own houses...oh yeah...a lot of people don't have those things...those things are gifts, not things we're entitled to...and the loss or absence of them can be a gift, too, when you, or even just the possibility of you, fills up the space.

"Being Trees in Autumn"
by Steve Garnaas-Holmes

These trees in Buddhist saffron robes,
renouncing everything,
becoming naked without fear,
in wind that is a part of them,
disclose a beauty in this death,
become new shapes, interior.

To live they cannot hoard;
this losing, too, is growth.
New shapes emerge, new vision clears.
Surrender strengthens in the soul
another song.

This emptying is confidence
in spring, but more—a faithing
in the growth that’s come before,
a counting of the gifts
and then releasing one by one,
so as to give again,
knowing growth is not a season,
but is in the root of things.

This is no losing,
but a becoming.
Coveting such openness
of limb and heart and hand,
such bareness in the singing,
I only now discover that I want
this wind, blowing where it will,

state of being

Had a blessed few minutes this morning of being unself-conscious.  Of being unself.  Of being.  I wasn't doing centering prayer or anything to get to that state.  I just sat down in my "prayer space" and I was there - one with God, no worries, no self talk that usually runs in the back of my mind (I don't pray enough, I don't exercise enough, etc. etc.).  It was a tremendous gift, but the gratitude for it didn't last long.  Pretty soon I was getting down on myself again because I'm not unself-conscious more often.  And that takes you right back to self-consciousness and ego worship.  Aaahhh, I'm back.  I'm familiar with this place.  But I hate it.  And that feeds it.  Ever tried to make yourself not think about yourself?  Yeah, it's a mess.

Which is the point - I can't make myself do/be anything.  Take being centered and unself-conscious, for example: I can participate in the prayer, relaxing, etc. but it also depends upon God's participation, his gift of that time and space.  His grace.  I grew up as and in some cases still am a white, Protestant, American from the midwest.  It's in my blood to try to achieve something, by myself, by working hard.  It's difficult to let my self go.  I've put that burden, that yoke, down a gazillion times, but I keep tripping over it, so it's faster and easier to just carry it and walk, without looking where to place every step, and move on to the next task that must get done and must have my help.  :/  And right there is an example of how writing is so helpful to me - I didn't realize, or I see in a new way, how I've been doing that just-carry-the-burden-and-get-the-job-done thing until I wrote it.  Time to let my self go again and watch where I walk.

By the way, my definition of "self" here is very different from what it used to be.  But I don't feel like writing about that right now.