Sunday, August 27, 2017

Just say YES

After I lost Charlie, my basset mix, I enumerated all the reasons I shouldn't get another dog. A friend who had also recently lost her dog listened to my reasoning, then stated firmly that she had thought those same thoughts, but decided she didn't care. She went on to get TWO dogs, while I adopted Betsy Beagle who was destined to become the doggy love of my life.

A little over two years ago, Betsy went to doggy heaven. I still tear up thinking about her final days. A lot was happening back then: my father passed, I retired, etc. Eventually, I felt ready for another dog, and along came Watson.

My goal was to get a dog who wanted to go for walks but didn't need to go. That criteria turned out not to match Watson at all. He is a bundle of energy, always on high alert. We walk 2-3 miles a day and he still needs more.

Meet Clio. She is a yellow lab/pitbull mix, adopted from the Fort Wayne Pitbull Coalition. Before my daughter adopted a pit mix, I would not have considered the so-called breed, but Maybell is such a sweetheart! Clio has a similar temperament, despite coming from less than ideal circumstances.

Before Watson, I had considered getting a yellow lab but decided they were too big. Clio weighs the same as Watson, but is much leggier. She is 8 or 9 months old, so while I don't expect her to get much taller, she will probably fill out a bit. I'm hoping not too much.

Since she is so tall, I forget that she is still a puppy, needs puppy food and puppy naps. She also needs some lessons on where to pee (NOT IN THE HOUSE PLEASE) and other training. So far, she responds well to treats and has learned to sit on command already.

Watson has certainly met his match energy-wise. They play well 95% of the time, still sorting out who top dog is. Watson is older and male, but Clio can straddle him which he finds frustrating. He was acting submissive yesterday but is trying to turn the tables today.I can't wait for the mutual humping and genital licking to subside.

I know people who, after losing a pet, swear off animals forever. I can't believe they would sacrifice years of happiness for a little sadness. Unwanted pets is not the problem it used to be around here, thanks to spaying and neutering programs and alternatives to euthanasia, especially for stray cats. Adult dogs and cats usually come housebroken and ready to love someone new. Even senior pets can provide years of loyalty and affection.

Please, please check out the animals in your local shelter. Say YES to love. You can save a life... and some little furball just might save yours.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Another way to eat

If you are like me, you are eternally searching for a healthy way to eat. In the past, I tended toward the high-protein, low-carb diets for weight loss, but found them unsustainable. Similarly, I like the idea of being vegetarian but could not get it to work for me, particularly the emphasis on soy products (ugh).

Then my ex had not one but two heart attacks recently. Now I'm more concerned about overall health rather than just weight loss. Coincidentally, my neighbor across the street turned me onto How Not To Die, by Dr. Michael Greger, and his Daily Dozen (available as an app).

For the past month or so, I have been migrating toward Dr. Greger's plant based way of eating. It hasn't been that hard, as I like fruits and vegetables (and they are all in season right now) and nuts and beans. Not one to throw out food, I have been gradually clearing the cupboards of foods not on the list.

One thing I like about Dr. Greger's approach is he promotes what to eat instead of what not to eat. For example, if the only way you will eat salad greens is if they are topped with Bacon Bits, go for it, because eating the greens is more important than not eating the Bacon Bits. For me, I can't seem to live without dairy.

One thing I do not like about the Daily Dozen is it is WAY too much fiber for my system. I find it more doable if I alternate bean days with salad days, and choose Cheerios over oatmeal. Also, I cut some of the high fiber portions by half.

A surprising side effect of eating this way is my craving for carbs has begun to fade away. I like to eat something salty followed by something sweet. Now instead of chips and a Snickers bar, popcorn (with butter and nutritional yeast) and then a piece of fruit usually suffice.

I'm not 100% compliant, but then that is not the point. I no longer buy meat to cook at home, but when eating out I usually have some kind of animal protein (bacon still tastes wonderful but other meats now seem rather meh). I still enjoy ice cream but add fruit and nuts to my sundaes.

So far, I am finding this an enjoyable way to eat. I haven't lost any weight (see ice cream above) but I feel more self-righteous. We'll see if it affects my cholesterol numbers in six months.

Monday, July 17, 2017

It's only money

I used to joke that it is easier to buy a new car than new tires. This year I did both. The plan was to trade in the car before it needed tires, but I procrastinated a bit too long, then didn't want to feel rushed into a car-buying decision. (In Fort Wayne, Tire Barn is the place to get tires - fast and friendly.)

I test drove both a Honda CR-V and a Subaru Forester. Either car would have made me happy, but I went with the CR-V because it was familiar, the dealership is familiar, the salesman is familiar, and the car itself felt fresher than the Forester. Ordinarily, I steer clear of extended warranties, but this time purchased one because of all the fancy new electronics.

Boring colors to choose from. This is Sandstorm Metallic.

Speaking of which, some of those electronic features are not working out like I expected. Android Auto is a disappointment, rarely works without rebooting my phone, and then craps out unexpectedly. The Bluetooth hands-free mode is better but still sometimes requires a phone reboot to connect. And one time the display screen went completely blank; I had to stop and restart the car to get it back, something I'm not likely to do on the highway.

For everyday driving, the car is fine, smooth and zippy, and I like the safety features... mostly. Sometimes when the car beeps at me because it thinks I should be braking, I get annoyed. But I am growing fond of the blind spot indicators on the exterior rear view mirrors, as well as the backup camera, when I remember to look at them.

Then there are the buttons. There is a button to start the car, several to open and close the hatch, three to train (one opens my garage door). The moon roof switch works like the window switches, with auto open/close. Locking the car involves touching ridges on the door handle, unlocking is accomplished by just grabbing the door handle.

There are some features I executed during the test drive but have not had the opportunity to try on my own, like the adaptive cruise control with low speed follow and the road departure mitigation. Tomorrow my SO and I are taking a mini road trip, though, so there's my chance.

I'm geeky enough to be turned on by all the new technology, but sometimes the CR-V feels like too much car for me, too fancy. Some days I have to remind myself that learning new things is good for my brain. I also really loved my old CR-V; it was hard to let it go. This one won't be the automotive love-of-my-life, but it'll do. And my granddaughter is really impressed by it - that counts for something!

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Invisible Woman

I'm the kind of person that, in general, other people don't see and don't remember. I'm guessing I fly under their radar because most women don't find me a threat, most men don't find me attractive. I'm not ugly; I just don't stand out. This city was settled by Germans, and being mostly of northern European extraction myself (although I self-identify as Danish), I blend right in. Just another Hoosier.

Case in point: At the sixth of eight dog training classes, when the instructor took attendance, she commented, "Nice to see Watson is back." Yes, she recognized the dog, but didn't realize we had not missed any classes. In fact, after the previous class, I had stopped to discuss one-on-one a particular problem I have with Watson. Apparently, looking me in the eye for five minutes was not enough to earn a position on the stack of her short term memory.

It is also not unusual for me to be mistaken for someone else, sometimes someone I actually know, but to my knowledge never does the reverse happen. For example, the parents of one woman I'm frequently mistaken for moved nearby; when I mentioned to them that I was often mistaken for their daughter, they looked at me as though I were crazy. Or maybe they were just horrified.

One disconcerting experience of mistaken identity has been with the medical community. Someone with the same name as mine must be a real bitch because I have been treated oddly and sometimes rather rudely by a variety of nurses (one yelled at me over the phone, so I know it wasn't my looks) and a dermatologist once tried to examine me from across the room. I have changed doctors enough in the past few years that this particular issue seems to be resolved. Or maybe the other woman died. Or moved to Florida. (Which is worse?)

Sometimes I have fun with my invisibility. While attending a fiber arts festival, I spotted a member of the local spinning guild. I confess I myself am not good with names and faces, but this time I not only recognized the face, I remembered the name. I called out to her and chatted her up a bit, but I could tell she had no idea who I was even though I sat next to her during several meetings when she served as the guild president. I decided not to help her out.

I've learned not to throw my arms around old friends and former co-workers I have not seen for a while, just in case they don't recognize me. A different hair style and new eyeglass frames can really throw people, not to mention the aging thing. Being older has actually raised my visibility to strangers, though, I guess because it's considered a blessing to help the "elderly" (I'm 64). Unfortunately, my profile has also been raised with those Medicare supplement call centers that keep phoning. And they don't even know what I look like.

Sunday, April 23, 2017


My last post must have jinxed me, as things have NOT settled down. I should point out that the bad stuff is not happening to ME but to those around me. I'm fine, just in constant support mode and vaguely unsettled much of the time.

I don't want to tell stories that really belong to others, but one recent event was my ex had a heart attack. It could have been The Big One - in fact, it was The Big One, the doctors were surprised he survived - but through the miracle of modern medicine, he not only is alive but should be kicking, for a while at least.

My ex is not the first of my "cohorts" to have a health crisis, but he is the closest. The natural reaction is to try to pinpoint why HIM and not ME (easy, he's a smoker). Another reaction is, What if I were still married to him? (Thank goodness I don't have to be his caretaker through this.) And of course, there is the reminder that everything can change in a heartbeat, literally.

I try to prepare for the worst while also hoping for the best. What is "the best" at this stage of life, though? How do I want to live going forward, knowing there is only so much forward to go toward?

I have lived in this house over twenty years. When I retired, it was with the expectation I would remain in this house for another twenty. I joke that I cannot move until Finn, my indoor/outdoor cat, gives up his roaming ways. Most days I like my house, but there are times when I don't want a house or a yard or even a car anymore.

When in the anti-house mood, I declutter. Sometimes I apply Marie Kondo's methodology (keep what gives me joy), sometimes I simply wander through the house, looking for things to get rid of. I also rearrange what remains, to suit ME. These changes are prioritizing my possessions. Theoretically, when I do decide to downsize (or the decision is made for me), figuring out what to take may be easier than it might otherwise be.

I'm also trying to simplify the yard and garden chores. This summer I purchased a riding mower. My yard is not quite large enough to justify it, but it preserves my energy for the more fun aspects of yardening. And now mowing is FUN. In fact, I wish my lawn were larger. And that is happening somewhat, as I decrease the garden's footprint. I'm losing interest in growing food.

Until those jet packs become available, it looks like I am going to have to replace my Honda CRV. Soon. It has over 100k miles on it, and while it is still going strong, I am hesitant to take it out of town. A couple of days ago, I test drove the 2017 Honda CRV, and oh-my-goodness, the thing practically drives itself. Maybe all new cars are like this now - I'll have to test drive a couple more to see - but the technology has really advanced in the last 12 years. So even though I would like to magically be transported hither and yon, just as TV is more enjoyable with Netflix and Amazon Prime, driving may be more fun with a new vehicle.

Hanging onto old stuff mindlessly is actually stressful in a backwards sort of way. Yes, car shopping is stressful, but a new car would make my day-to-day life less so. Yes, learning to drive a zero-turn mower is challenging, but it is worth the time and energy saved. Yes, I may throw out something I later wish I hadn't, but I'm fortunate to be in a position financially where I can replace it if need be, so why worry about it?

Just as stuff gets prioritized, activities are dropped and added on an as-needed basis. Do I like doing X? If not, perhaps it should go. What about Y? Maybe I'll try it and see. Oh, gotta do Z, it's important to ME.

It's not that I don't still struggle with the SHOULDs that rattle around in the back of my brain. Sometimes I don't know if I truly like doing something or if I am just doing it because I always have or believe I have no other options. The events of the past year have driven home the truth that there is very little under our control. We still need to make wise choices, but after that, life is a crap shoot. So get rid of the crap.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Spending my children's inheritance

Wow. It has been a while since I posted here. The past year or so has been crazy-making challenging, but I am cautiously optimistic things will settle down a bit in the personal realm. To paraphrase someone, life is meaningless, but here we are, so we might as well make the best of it.

About two years ago, Betsy Beagle went to doggy heaven. I still get teary eyed missing her, but decided to wait a while before finding a replacement. Well, recently I found that the time had come.

This is Watson, former resident of Fort Wayne Animal Care and Control. I picked him out from the pix they post online, he was still available when I arrived at the shelter a day or two later, and I was able to bring him home right away. There was an adoption fee, but since I am a "senior", the lifetime registration with the city was only $5.

I had given my daughter most of the doggy things left over from Betsy, but I was able to get some back, including the crate. Multiple trips to Pet Supplies Plus and Petco resulted in the purchase of new dishes, a new leash-collar set, a waterproof cover for the backseat (which prevented my newly detailed car from suffering the indignities of dog pee and dog vomit), a fleece coat (for the dog, not me), poop bags, etc. I eyeballed the toys, but fortunately Watson likes the resident cat toys.

Speaking of the resident cats, they are not amused. Although Watson was described as an English pointer-beagle mix, I have yet to see him point at anything. Instead, he wants to chase. Finn is smart enough to not run, but Beau totally freaks out. Consequently, I bought a tall gate and installed it between the kitchen and the mudroom, converting the den and laundry into a "safe room" for the cats.

As a shelter dog, Watson received a complimentary vet check. Unfortunately, the shots, nail trim, anal sac expression, and heartworm meds were not complimentary. Yes, I have another dog with anal sac issues. I'm trying a grain-free, double-the-cost dog food to help mitigate that. Also, coconut.

My last two dogs were pretty laid back, but Watson is on high alert and barks a fair amount, usually at nothing. My SO's home was burgled recently, so I don't discourage the barking, especially when directed at Jehovah Witnesses. There have been other behavior issues, though, so I invested in a Mini Educator eCollar. Also, we just started obedience school.

I didn't intend to get a dog that needed a lot of exercise, but I did. It is easy for me to talk myself out of outdoor activity, especially when the weather is icky, but now I am greeted each day by an enthusiastic walking companion. Our routine is two poop walks a day (less poop to pick up in my own yard), covering between two-to-three miles total, on a hard surface (eliminating the need for nail trimming). The activity keeps both of us healthy and sane. Theoretically, that will save money in the long run, right?

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Obsessed with fungi

At Metea County Park this time.

(See the slug?)

And a white hickory tussock caterpillar (poisonous!)