I’ve been thinking seriously about getting a dog.  Since I’d be the primary caretaker of the dog, I get to pick the breed, and I just long for the dogs that speak to my heart, improbably enough: a Shetland Sheepdog.

In 1990, my step-dog, a mixed breed pit bull named Leo, died after a long, happy and adventurous life.  It seemed to me then that I had about six months to get the dog that I really wanted, and do something I’d longed to do for years:  show a dog in conformation or obedience, under AKC rules.  I went to many dog shows that fall and winter, watching the classes, checking out dogs that appealed to me, and the dogs that won my heart were the Shelties.  I bought books, pamphlets, books, combs, brushes, dishes, books, crates, leashes, collars, more books, pedigree lists and software – I was all in.

I bought the first Sheltie puppy I ever saw.  It doesn’t work out that way generally, but a local breeder had a new litter and she was considering placing one of the male puppies with a co-ownership contract to someone nearby.  So I was a Sheltie owner.  His call name was Duncan.  I adored him.

Seriously, I just loved that dog completely.  My kids thought I’d lost my mind; they called him their brother, not a dog.  I took him to training classes, which were much too rough for him – he upchucked on the way home after every class.  We regrouped.  I tried clicker training, book open in my left hand, clicker in my right.  He loved it, and so I loved it, and we had a lot of fun together with that.  He never was really precise in his obedience work, because precision didn’t matter to me – I was so thrilled he was doing it at all, and happily, that I didn’t have to heart to insist that his front paw be even with the seam on my jeans, or whatever the rules were then.  People suggested an electric collar to train the long down; I nodded politely and whispered to Duncan that we would never, never, ever do that, and we never, ever did.


I still miss him.  I still need that nose nudging me aside to see whatever I was doing.  I even miss the endless, incessant barking – well, he had opinions.   He wasn’t very snuggly – he slept in his crate, by choice, and when I would snore, he would walk up my body and stare into my face, so I would wake with a start to find two brown eyes looking into mine:  “You OK in there?”   He was a joy every day of his life.

I want me some more of that.

We need to fence a part of the yard before we get another dog, and that project is delayed since Hurricane Irma repairs take precedent, as they should.   But the decision is made:  a Sheltie is coming into our lives.  The very thought, the act of making the decision, makes me feel better:  younger, more hopeful, more relaxed, less grim and worried.   I feel more competent, less helpless.  The very idea makes me happy.

Well, of course it does.  So I’m dog dreaming, now.  It’s a nice feeling.  It’ll happen.  Not today, but it will.  I’ll be so, so happy when it does.

Posted in personal


Your penance, and this will not be easy for you, on your walk today, when you see something pleasing – a flower unfurling, a cloud going by, anything – I want you to imagine that you are the only person on this earth and God has created this beauty just for you.  Remember, it will hard for you.  Can you do this?

Come to the Edge, Christina Haag

Posted in personal


We’ve been back from the mountains for more than a week.  It’s been a mixed blessing, this year’s trip.

For starters, Bob fell the night before we left.  He tripped over his suitcase as he was wheeling it to the “loading zone” we usually establish near the front door.  Falling is about as big a deal as it gets around here; I don’t react well.  I was frantic, he was bleeding and frightened, and it took us a while to calm down.  I don’t think I ever did really calm down; I was on High Alert for the trip north and for a few days after we arrived.  He should have gone to the hospital to be sure he didn’t have a bleed somewhere, since he takes a blood thinner.  His hand was swollen and painful to the touch for the entire time we were gone.  He’s only now, almost three weeks later, really starting to recover.

We absolutely should have cancelled and stayed home.  But it was so important to Bob to be with his kid and grandkids; it was everything, and he knew they were counting the days.  So we packed up and went on with the plans we’d made.  It would have been impossible, not just complicated and difficult, without Krista to care for us both.  She drove, got us into and out of the motel with a minimum of drama, and got us safely to the mountain house and settled in.  The other kids and grandchildren arrived late Saturday; we’d done it.  With a lot of help, but we’d done it.

I was fine until Wednesday, when I took a walk down the steps to the street below, and then down the hill to the park.  It wasn’t a long walk, but it definitely was too hilly for me, and my knee went out of the socket twice.  (It pops out and then back in the next instant, before I can even holler.  That feels about like you think it would, and leaves me sore and very frightened.)   At that point, I lost the thread completely.  I basically went to bed and stayed there until we left, and since bed was upstairs and isolated, I squandered my time with my grandchildren.  I imposed on my children to do for Bob the things that I normally enjoy doing; I just sat there in that throne of a bed feeling very sorry for myself and reading myself into a stupor.

Acknowledging that is very embarrassing.  I failed Vacation 101.  Again.  I took advantage of my daughter’s good nature, and left to her things that were – are – my responsibility.  Facing that, accepting that I did that, didn’t help the depression I’ve been struggling with for months.  I got myself all worked up about poor little me, saddest lady who ever was, which never helps.  It was hard.  I made it harder than it had to be.

So.  When we got home, I started on a new regimen of anti-depressants that I’d put off until vacation was over, on the theory that changing one thing at a time is probably better than the scatter-gun approach I generally employ.  And that’s working.  The tunnel is opening up a bit.  I can look back at the vacation and not be proud of myself, but not feel like The Worst Person On Earth, either.

Wish I had it to do over again.  But then again, if I had it to do over again, I probably wouldn’t.  I think our traveling days are over, not because Bob’s health demands that, but because my need to take care of him demands it.  I barely was holding things together here, at home, where I know where everything is and how to take care of him in ways we  both are comfortable with.  Add travel into the mix, and I just fall apart at the first hiccough.

Wish it were different.  Wish I was different.



Posted in personal

Third day in the mountains

For the last few years, since our grandchildren were born, we have rented a house in Western North Carolina for a week or two every summer.  Bob was raised here.  His grandfather and his family came here for the entire summer, with all nine of their grandchildren.  (I feel the need to add, at this point, that Bob’s grandparents had Staff – cooks and drivers – which I assume reduced the chaos.)  Some of Bob’s fondest memories are of Montreat, and the children’s clubs, and the rules for the Sabbath:  no movies in town, no playing cards, no rough housing, and reciting the Westminster Shorter Catechism every Sunday afternoon.

This year we rented the House of Houses – a joy of houses, a celebration of a house, a huge six-bedroom behemoth with endless places for hide-and-seek and a glorious, enormous kitchen.  Problem is, this house is not Bob-friendly – there are stairs everywhere you look, and some places you may forget to look.  He’s settled himself in a recliner in a part of the living room on the first floor, near a tiny half-bath, and is in the middle of the action when the grandchildren play Nintendo games on the television.  He’s the cheering section.

I’ve noticed a rhythm to the week, when we have only a week to spend.  We pick up the keys on Saturday (after 4:00 PM, thank you) and fiddle around a lot with room assignments and trips to Ingles.

Day One (Sunday) is a species of recovery from Saturday’s 10-hour drive.  We (Bob and I) took two days for the trip up, but everyone else did it in one marathon session, so everyone needed a little alone time, out of a car and, for most, in front of their various screens.  On Day One, the week stretches out endlessly.  Bob gathers up the gatherable and goes to see his brother (age 85) and the two of them reenact their version of Mel Brooks’ 2000 Year Old Man routine.

“You think YOU were constipated?!  I was constipated.  I felt like I was dying, I was so constipated.  I would have give $100 for a decent poop.  $100 easy.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about.  Constipated!  I felt like I was giving birth to a rope, I was so constipated.  If a gallon of prune juice fixed you up, you don’t know anything ABOUT being constipated.”

One granddaughter told me, wide-eyed, that watching them whoop and fuss and laugh until they cried was surreal.

Day Two (Monday) is settling in, planning trips to waterfalls and the ubiquitous Farmer’s Market in Hendersonville.  No one actually buys anything at the Farmer’s Market that is useful or that can be found only there.  Purchases run high to sausage and cheese, both of which can be found in Publix at home.  But, you know, tradition.

And then there’s Day Three.  Today, plans made on Sunday and Monday are being enacted.  One family has embarked on the Farmer’s Market pilgrimage (an hour’s drive one way).  Another has set off for Linville Falls, which, I think, involves hiking plus a long drive one way.  I think bribery about shopping in Asheville was involved.  Someone has dropped Bob off at his brother’s, so they can visit and yell at one another (they’re both hard of hearing, but that’s not why they yell) and have a good time together.  Ideally, Bob’s brother will not let him fall over or otherwise do something that I might have prevented if I’d been there.  Because I’m here, in this house, alone.  All.  Alone.

Oxygen.  Food.  Books.  Solitude.

Posted in personal


I knew I would fail at the part of holidailies that strongly suggest that you write daily for the month of December.  We had plans to be away from the computer during the ACC Tournament weekend, and although it’s theoretically possible to post from a hand-held device, I can’t imagine the swearing and localized hysteria that would result from my attempt to do so.

We drove to Rock Hill on Friday, into Charlotte for the game on Saturday, and then back to the beach on Sunday.  Home to Florida on Monday, and it will be a long, long time before I willingly get back into a car for a trip longer than 30 minutes.

Plus, the packing and re-packing and subsets of packing.  I had many flashbacks to George Carlin’s riff on stuff:

I have stuff at home, I had stuff at the beach, and a subset of stuff in Charlotte.  Most of the stuff I had in Charlotte was orange, including an orange sweater that I wore to go visit one of Bob’s dear cousins who said, sweetly, “Orange quite becomes you.”   Oh, if only it did.

My pared down, Charlotte essential stuff turns out to be: money, keys, brushes (2), wallet, cell phone, cell phone chargers (one for the house, one for the car), vitamins, prescription medication, makeup (never used, but my intentions were good), and the Kindle.

I’m one of those people who goes into an existential fugue the moment I go away from home for any length of time – if I am not at home, do I exist?  It’s as if I spin out my astral self, leaving webs in each of the places I’m supposed to be, and gather myself back as I retrace my steps until I’m safely at home again.  So I’ve spent most of the two days we’ve been home paying bills, rearranging things, planning to do the laundry, and walking from room to room.  Nothing useful as yet – no grocery shopping, no Christmas decorating or shopping – just rearranging my astral body into its accustomed shape.  It’s a lot like petting a cat, only without the cat.


Posted in personal


One big problem with being retired is that there is no structure to the day.  I’m big on structure.  You’d think, at my advanced age, I could supply my own structure, but it doesn’t seem to work out that way.  Today was a day without structure of any kind.

Oh, I started out with high hopes.  I took a shower, and got dressed.  I made the bed; I wandered around.  I read a little bit.  I “did” my pills – vitamins, mostly – by sorting them into little plastic bags so that I have them when we leave for Charlotte.  I mourned the lack of coffee.  I finished the Starbucks coffee drink from the grocery store that I like very much, but that is too much sugar for me, and I tossed the container.  (You get that, right?  Tossing the container is a line item in my day.)  I felt guilty that I have no spiritual practice.  I tried to acquire a spiritual practice, which was annoying, so I took a nap.  I watched TV.  I took another nap.

And so on.

I need a nanny, I swear.  Someone to say, “Well, now, let’s mop the floor, shall we?”  And then leave me to swear, pout, procrastinate, and then mop the floor.  Left on my own, mopping the floor occurs to me at around 1:00 AM, after I’ve tossed and turned and fluffed pillows for hours (naps don’t help you achieve restful sleep at 1:00 AM) and I’m finished with all the TV a reasonable human being should be able to watch and it’s too late to read Stephen King and besides, the lighting in the this room sucks and … well, yeah.  Being retired isn’t all it should be.

I’m having a crisis of “old” at the moment, too.  I’d love to get a dog, for example, mostly to get my ass moving (defined as not napping, not running a marathon) but that’s like having a baby so that you sleep less.  If the problem isn’t dog-related, a dog isn’t the solution.  (There’s a problem with that logic – what sort of problem would be dog-related, anyway?  Lack of fleas?  Using up all the dog food you unexpectedly buy?  But there’s a flicker of logical thought in there somewhere.)

Anyway: old.  We’re too old to have a dog – two breeders and my husband have told me so.  There’s an expiration date on dog ownership?  I grant you, we’d probably do best with a basset hound – an elderly basset hound with narcolepsy – but still: too old for a dog.  It’s just sad.

Maybe my problem is dog-related, after all.  I need a dog nanny, preferably one that is slightly less than housebroken.  At least the floors would get washed.

Holidailies, eh?  It’s going to be a long, long month.

Posted in holidailies


Today I am …

Wearing – Jeans, warm shoes (no flip-flops, even in South Carolina, not today), and an oversize t-shirt that is longer than the dresses I used to wear in the 60s.

Smelling – There’s something not quite right about the plumbing in this house.

Hearing – My husband chomping through his breakfast (at 1 PM, so he’s early today):  fresh fruit and jalapeno pimento cheese.

Reading – I just finished A Banquet of Consequences, which I enjoyed despite the red herrings, and have moved on to the new Stephen King.  Most of the books I brought with me are non-fiction, and I’m not in the mood for actual thinking.

Watching – As little as I can manage.  The best I can say is that the television is not on right this second.

Wanting – To turn off the stupid snowflakes on this site.  Why, o why, did I ever, ever …. oh, never mind.  I’d join Holidailies if only I could turn off the snowflakes.  Snowflakes are embarrassing.

(Format blatantly stolen from ladyloo.)

Posted in personal