Category Archives: dog love

Look what emerged!

Okay, if anybody’s yard is going to spit up a sewing machine foot, it would be a quilter’s, but really? How did it get outside and when?

After putting up with a pounded dirt backyard for three years, we got quotes to re-sod it. I’m not a committed suburban lawn grower — there are the sustainability issues, the possibility of poisonous treatments, not to mention the huge cost of weekly yard crews. But the mud is untenable. It’s not just ugly, it’s super inconvenient (think: four muddy paws at the back door ten times a rainy day). And that’s where I draw the line. My convenience.

The quotes were astronomical, so even with tree-insurance money, we’ve decided to do it ourselves. What else is new? I get it: two or three guys, a batch of hours, plus the cost of the loam and sod (and — pretty sure — a hefty mark up for a Newton address). Ugh. What’s a couple of grueling days to us?

Even with paying for the sod to be delivered and renting a tiller, we’ll come in at $1,000 cheaper than the lowest bid, which was itself $1,000 less than the next lowest bid.

While we’re at it, we’ll reduce the size of the north bed (and straighten it) and extend the bed at the back southwest corner. The plan is to plant some fairly mature scotch pines in the corner too — both to keep Finn from going nose to nose with another dog-reactive dog and to screen the lot line where three large trees have come down recently.

After a stretch of relentless insistence on ball play, I’m happy to report that Finn finally understood that he doesn’t run the show out back. After a while, he gave it up and relaxed in the sun. Meanwhile out front some marsh mallows (is that their name?) that I never planted are thriving. I love it when that happens.

A mini-clothes line nearby affords good back light for viewing a nearly finished Village Quilt. I’m pleased with the translucent quality of the gauze backing (90 weight), but need to figure out how to better integrate the two layers next time. There was some bubbling that I’m pretty sure could have been tamed with a traditional batting/cotton backing layering. Any suggestions? Maybe an all over invisible baste first (a la Jude/spiritcloth)?

Have a nice weekend all!

Maybe by the next post, we’ll have a back lawn (but my sister will not be unpacked. That is certain). Talking abut grueling days — Thursday, Move Day, was a total grunt — even WITH a crew of three movers and her PCA present for three hours.

Back light and self pity

It’s a little funny to me that just beyond this serene house quilt is the huge mess associated with tree clean up.

Happily, my brother in law came to help yesterday, otherwise we’d really be behind the eight ball.

It’s still a bit daunting. For one thing, on closer inspection, we noticed that the tree did hit the house, so I’ll need to get an insurance adjuster out here as soon as possible (after two back to back nor’easters, I imagine they’re very busy!) More snow coming Tuesday, P.S.

With the ladder leaning on an about-to-be-cut branch, there were plenty of Wily E. Coyote jokes.

We tried to broker a meeting between Finn and his dog cousin, Ziggy, and did everything right up to a point — (starting in neutral territory, keeping a good distance, then closing the distance, then a break apart) after which it did not go well. It turned into a minor disaster, actually, because when Finn went apeshit, I slipped in the snow and let go the leash. Ziggy seems to be fine, but it didn’t prevent one of my self-pitying laments about difficult dependents.

Speaking of which, after eight years on the wait list and three application updates, my sister has gotten subsidized housing. This is the best possible news for her (and secondarily for my brother, whose financial burden will be greatly reduced). For me, it is a giant chore with no real benefit (did I mention self pity about difficult dependents?) I am happy for her, don’t get me wrong. I just wish there was someone else to orchestrate the move.

Meanwhile, these are my last few weeks to prep for Newton Open Studios. We will pay rent for my sister’s current apartment through the end of April, which hopefully will make the transition manageable.

(Just so you know, we moved all her belongings into storage in 2009, out of storage in 2010, and then had to assist with near complete possession pack up during the bed bug ordeal last year. These were the same years that we moved our sons a total of seven times).

Anxious Dog, Bad Shopper

I’m bad about putting goods back where they belong when shopping. If I’ve got regular carrots in my cart, for instance, and then find some tri-coloreds across the way, I have no problem leaving my first selection where they don’t belong and continuing on my merry way.

I’ve been known to stuff a loaf of bread in with the canned goods or to leave chips in with the baking supplies. On occasion, impatience dictates that I abandon the venture altogether. That might mean dumping four or five items in the clementine display before walking out of the building.

I know — I’m bad! I’m not so terrible that if a garment slides off its hangar I’ll leave it on the floor, but close. I certainly have no compunction about stowing a medium in with the larges and judging by the near-random sorting of sizes in places like Marshall’s, clearly I’m not the only one.

(Just so you know — I’m an excellent tipper).

My most recent delinquency occurred on Friday in Walgreen’s and had everything to do with my anxious dog. He was waiting in the car while I was waiting (and waiting) for a flu shot.

Even though it’s mid-January, I decided to get this done. There was a line at the pharmacy and only one cashier open. When finally my turn, there were the usual delays inputting insurance info. And then there were two people ahead of me waiting for shots.

None of that got to me. But when I noticed that the shot-giver disappeared for inexplicably long periods after administering each vaccine, I decided to hold it against her.

The woman immediately ahead of me had lots of questions, tugging her germ mask down to ask. She needed instruction on how to expose her shoulder.

“Wait,” said the pharmacy worker. “Have you already gotten a flu shot?” Well, yes she had. It was supposed that a second shot couldn’t hurt but it couldn’t be stated with any certainty that it’d afford additional protection, either. Ms. Two Shots was making me wait? I knew Finn was on high-alert out in the parking lot, probably drooling all over the back seat. I paced a polite distance away, occasionally wandering down the head of an aisle — never far enough away to lose my place in line. I selected a pill box (having determined that my improvised chocolate box insert was problematic) and a sporty new headband (god forbid I should spring for a haircut).

The folding screen was wrapped around the two of them but it didn’t stop me from hearing everything. It also didn’t stop a clueless shopper from peeking around one panel to ask where the hair dryers were. She was probably four foot ten (giving her the dubious distinction of being definitely shorter than I) and Russian.

“Look with the hair products,” said the shot-giver. That wasn’t enough. Where were the hair products? “I’m with someone right now,” the white-coated woman sniped. I didn’t blame her, what with pains in the asses on both sides of the screen and a third woman pacing in circles nearby.

I directed the woman to the proper aisle. “There they are,” I said pointing to the bottom shelf. She still didn’t see them. Was it a vision or a language problem? She certainly was close enough to the ground for a good vantage of the lower shelves (hey — I’m allowed!). Since I’ve been blind even when being helped, I added, “Bottom shelf. Pink and blue boxes.” Yes, okay, now she saw.

The folding screen was flapped open, the shot-giver disappeared again and the woman with the mask trundled off. I sat down and pulled my sweater down over one shoulder. No instruction needed for this shot-getter!

Two middle school girls wandered around in a state of bored contempt. It was an odd throwback. I mean, when I was in eighth grade, everybody did this sort of thing: riding your bike to Friendly’s and hanging out; haunting the Goodwill on North Street; looking at cosmetics at England Brothers with no intention of buying any. But here, in 2018? They were so very retro by not being at gymnastics, or studying for their Bat Mitzvahs, or getting better at trig with a tutor. Their gaze made me uncomfortable, as I’m sure it was meant to. I felt both middle-aged and very relieved (not for the first time) at not having daughters.

Finally, Ms. Pony Tail in the white coat re-emerged after presumably doing nothing that could possibly have taken up that much time. For some reason, she flapped the privacy screen more open instead of closed. The middle school girls looked again. I wanted privacy, but wanted to get out of there quickly even more.

I mentioned the waiting dog. She earned points for having two herself, one of them a puppy and also anxious. We bonded over this, as dog-people will, until she went all vegan on me. I had just laughed about puppy training, asserting I’d never adopt a puppy again. “There’s so many good middle-aged ones out there,” I added. Was this also a signal to the snide attitude coming at me from two eighth grade girls? No, I’m not that clever.

The shot was given and the pharmacy worker said, “Well, ours were rescues.” First of all: totally non-responsive. Did she think mine wasn’t? Why? And why would she assume I didn’t also want privacy? Second of all, there was that tone — you know the one — the superior sounding one employed by some to let you know that they don’t touch meat, cheese or processed foods.

She disappeared into the back again, toting her big red plastic needle disposal bin. With the hope that it would inconvenience her just a little, I laid my pill box and sporty headband on the table and walked out.

Dog brag

Two posts in a day? What can I say — we’ve got an epic storm unfolding outside and I’ve got a magnificent dog.

During the first blocks of our walk, Finn was rubbing his muzzle in the snow and it was fun and novel and exciting. But then we cut behind the VFW building and emerged out into the wind tunnel that is Langley Road. Whew! Here was a bit of “the bomb”. I could hardly see, even with glasses on my face. Finn got more subdued.

Once we headed down a wooded road toward the Upper Field, I fumbled with one glove and a zippered pocket to get out my camera. Nearly pulled out and dropped a credit card. Nearly dropped the phone. DID drop the leash.

But here’s the brag: a sharp “COME” and Finn turned and came right back to me. Please note: we were less than a block from an off leash field. What can I say? He’s not this responsive all the time, but how great was that? How great is he?

The end of the Upper Field was barely visible from the cul de sac. Compare the snowy picture with the one I took yesterday.

With a dog-reactive dog, the storm imposed both good and bad conditions. On the plus side, no one else was likely to be out. On the negative side, I sure wouldn’t see them coming!

Stay warm Northeastern friends!

Fairy day at Tower Hill

Tower Hill Botanic Garden is only 45 minutes from here out by Worcester, but somehow today was my first visit. It was so worth it! There happened to be a fairy hut-making workshop this morning which meant we were enchanted by charming little structures everywhere we looked.


We encountered a few fairies as well.

The woods had a yellow cast to them that was also somewhat magical. The wonder of it reminded me that the Japanese have a word for this:

Shinrinyoku” (“forest bathing”) is to go deep into the woods where everything is silent and peaceful for a relaxation.

While looking that word up, I discovered this one — “Komorebi”. It means sunlight that filters through the leaves of trees.


There was also a wonderful outdoor art installation: THE WILD RUMPUS, A Stickwork Sculpture by Patrick Dougherty (better pix at garden’s website, linked above).

Finn had a good time once he settled down. Fortunately, we only saw one other dog.


I chatted up two women winding red lights on the branches of one of the trees near the visitor center (how like me — er, not!) and learned that Tower Hill does it up for Christmas. I plan to go back before another 25 years pass — maybe even in 2017!

Once back at the manse, perhaps inspired by the thought of that Garden done up for the holiday, I finished a Santa hat for one of my little critters. I’ll show you her tomorrow. She’s really quite special.

PS before the light faded too much I made my own fairy hut with whatever materials I could grab from nearby.

Forms of distress

hipstamaticphoto-508700880.644213
img_0641img_0668img_0760img_0640
img_0781Ruin porn is a thing, you know. I learned the term after Season One of “True Detective” which was set in Louisiana and featured one ruined landscape after another. This post’s photos were taken at the Aiken-Rhett House in Charleston, SC. It’s a site dedicated to preservation rather than restoration, meaning a tour affords a gorgeous array of distressed surfaces. Evidence of life, sorrow, styles, labor, wealth, oppression, and the passage of time are made plain on every surface. I love history speaking this way. I find the peeling paint, scraped up wall paper, splintered wood, and decaying furnishings so evocative. I know it would make you swoon, too.

But here’s the thing: distress of the soul does not enamor me. It most certainly does not make me swoon. It is NOT where I want to start, thank you very much Pema Chodron.

After a morning of being told how unsympathetic I am, hearing my sister’s reports of ongoing (possibly life threatening?) diarrhea, and making multiple calls to arrange the dissembling of one hospital bed and the delivery of another (there is such a long and fraught story there), I’m on to ordering sheets and mattress covers and protectors, with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I just want that feeling to go away.

And then, there’s how the dog lunged at people this weekend! It’s discouraging, hard not to blame myself, or feel a stab of self-pity — (“Couldn’t I have gotten ONE easy dependent,” goes the whine). I’m watching Cesar Milan and adopting his interventions but worry they won’t work because I lack inner calm and confidence. (“My dog makes ME anxious not the other way around!” goes the defense). Finn’s distress might be partly physical, too — oh how he itches lately! He’s always been allergic, but that too has worsened. So far efforts to identify an allergen have failed.

Writing’s hard and sometimes (truthfully — OFTEN) I just hate it. Love it. Hate it.

There’s a new house renovation four doors up the street, meaning the summer of ’17 now rolls into its ninth or tenth week of jack hammering. On Friday I just couldn’t take it anymore and fled the house as if my pants were on fire. Writing in a coffee shop turned out to be a good thing, but still…

Then there’s the absence of compensatory external rewards, like you know, a paycheck or communicative children.

Image result for monty python it could always be worse

from “The Holy Grail”

I DO KNOW it could be worse, because it could always be worse. (Think: Monty Python’s crucified characters singing: “always look on the bright side of life!”).

For instance, I just read about a father who traveled to Texas last week with his family so his son could have brain surgery. The parents were stranded at the hotel, unable to visit their hospitalized boy on account of the flooding. The poor man said, “It’s bad enough that my son has to have brain surgery without also having to deal with a hurricane.”

So yeah. I have a lot to be grateful for. Today? The sun, the cool air, the time to write, the financial support to write, a stocked fridge, noise-cancelling headphones, tons of state-sponsored care for my sister, an upcoming trip to see Son #2, the coming of fall, friends, ice cream.

Ta-da! What’s on your gratitude or complaint list today?