Where’s my dog?

(Originally posted on Blipfillypicklepoo.blogspot.com on 1/9/2011 – when there was actually snow in winter.  As I edited the post for publication today, a small amount of ice/snow covers the neighborhood).

A little help

Last evening I was sitting in the living room enjoying the warmth of a new furnace and the good company of a friend when there was a knock at the door. Two rosy-cheeked, enterprising young boys – maybe 12 or 13 years old – snowsuits on, shovels in hands – offered to shovel my walk for $10 – $5 for each shoveler.  Snow had been coming down all day and, while I had earlier swept the first few inches off the stoop and front walk, another several were now on the ground and no end to the white stuff in sight.  My neighbor almost always includes me on his snow-blowing route and, as I was trying to come up with an answer for the boys, I saw him making his way down the sidewalk behind his souped-up snow removal machine.

The boys looked crestfallen as they told me they were trying to earn money so they could go tubing tomorrow at one of the county parks.  In spite of money not growing on trees (yet!), I realized that it would be helpful to have the walk to my garage and the alley-access driveway cleared off.  Their smiles alone were probably worth the 10 bucks.  They made quick work of it and even shoveled off my front steps which the neighbor’s snow blower doesn’t reach.  One of the boys expressed concern about the ice on the porch and front steps, asked if I had any ice melt and then quickly treated the treacherous area. I paid them, thanked them and…

… woke up the next morning to the loudness of utter silence. Almost three feet of new snow thickly blanketed my porch, the walk and everything else in sight muting even the most commonplace sounds of chirping birds and the city bus.  Nothing was moving outside. My phone rang and I picked up to hear my sister ask how I felt about my $10 investment – knowledge she gained when she called me while the boys were shoveling last night . Thinking of their smiling faces and the possibility of a legendary tubing experience for those boy, I told her I felt pretty darn good.

With that feeling, I peeled myself out of bed to let my dog out for her morning constitutional.  I opened the door to the backyard, saw that the snow was level with my back porch; the back yard is two deep steps down from the porch.  Then my dog disappeared – one second she was leaning out the back door to see what all the white was about, the next second – POOF – no dog.  I saw her nose poke out from the snow about 6 feet from the back steps and heard a hearty “ARROOOO!?” – her version of “What the heck is going on?” Her nose appeared in different spots in the yard, each time with an accompanying howl. It was probably funnier for me than it was for her. I ran to put on some jeans, a thick sweater and get my boots on so that I could dig her out before I lost her ’til spring.

I had to do a fair bit of digging to clear a space for her and to make some paths to safely get out of the  house if I needed to.  My dog wandered up and down the walk between the house and the garage trying to see over the walls of snow on either side.  Her normal routine is to exit the house, run to the very back of the lot and then patrol the yard and comment loudly to any other dogs in the neighborhood.  She looked caged in, haunted even, and was clearly not having any fun.  She made one courageous dive into a massive drift only to pop out again a moment later covered in flakes and shaking her head in consternation. Shoveling the yard to accommodate my dog left me wondering a little at the wisdom of having a dog (or living in a region famed for its “lake-effect snow machine”), but she seemed to appreciate it.

We got back in the house, soggy and cold from our efforts.  No dummy, she immediately walked to the heat vent in the living room, curled up in front of it and went to sleep. Snowbound, I spent the weekend being unforgivably lazy (with the exception of shoveling), watching movies, making unwise food choices and being very grateful for a home, good neighbors,  and a silly dog that makes me laugh – A LOT.

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The Hands that Hold Us

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The hands that held us are gone.

Hands that gently washed, dressed and fed lots of sweet babies.

Hands that held us, provided occasional righteous stings to little bottoms, applauded our triumphs and gave us a needed push.

Hands that cooled fevered brows and held back hair from the faces of children needing to give back their meals.

Hands that held “The Hobbit” in one hand, a white mug full of coffee with cream in the other, while keeping a passel of offspring— scattered across the living room floor cuddled in blankets— in Tolkien’s thrall.

Hands that kneaded dough for countless loaves – delivering warm slices of hearty bread soaked in butter to hungry mouths.

Hands that worked away from home – gone for days at a time – to financially support us.

Hands using chalk on a big blackboard to explain math or religious teaching – each equally mysterious.

Hands that knit afghans, washed a million diapers, ironed sheets and sometimes even boxer shorts.

Hands that quietly traced a cross on our foreheads at bedtime.

Hands used to shepherd children through the world’s challenges – crossing streets, maneuvering through crowds, learning to drive a manual transmission.

Hands that could tap out the rhythm to a recognizable tune on the table top.

Hands that signed permission slips and co-signed promissory notes – with trust and trepidation.

Hands that let go when we were ready to take steps – big and small – on our own.

Hands that waved to us … on our first day of school, from the audience during a dancing competition, as we left home to find our fortunes.

Hands that pulled us in close for a reassuring hug …when we were young… and, perhaps more importantly, when we were older.

Hands that grasped our own – squeezing when words were no longer possible – to say “Thank you!”, “I love you.” and “Goodbye”.

Four hands are gone, turned to ashes too soon.

Four hands that produced 16 more

…hands to hold us when they were gone.

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It was a dark and stormy night…

(Originally posted on Blipfillypicklepoo.blogspot.com on 12/11/2010 – edited for this posting)

LucyandSnoopy

                                                  Charles Schulz

The winds shrieked like a woman who has just learned her beloved is a germy cheat. The forecast had called for flurries, but looking at the white-out conditions from the dining room window, she was pretty sure someone on the “storm team” should be fired – or worse.  It felt decadent to be so cozy and warm, snuggled into the too-big sweater that was pulled out for all manner of occasions calling for comfort – feeling punky, getting over a heartbreak, not wanting to pay the gas bill for frivolously turning the thermostat to 68 degrees.  The slipper socks with the faux leather soles purchased at Kohl’s were a nod to her mother who used to knit slipper-socks rather like them for her to wear in cold weather. Sipping  a cup of hot cocoa  she looked around the dining room – at the papers scattered across the table, bills, to-do lists, requests for donations to find a cure for cancer, feed the hungry, stop violence, run crooked politicians out of office, etc….  Did anything ever really get done?  No matter how much she tried to keep this all in check, it seemed to multiply two-fold for each thing she actually got done.  Very discouraging.  She picked up one of the marshmallows sitting next to the cup of hot cocoa and popped it in her mouth.

A sharp rap on the front door brought her out the chair she was sitting in at the end of the table – one of the chair arms bit into her thigh as she moved toward the door.  She couldn’t imagine who it could be at this hour. She glanced up at the wall clock and saw it was only 7:30 p.m.  Reaching for the door handle, she was startled by a second hard rap on the door. She stepped back from the door, absentmindedly rubbing the sore spot on her leg.  There were windows in the door with glass that let in the light but distorted the view of what or who was on either side of it.  She hadn’t turned on the porch light when it started getting dark, but she could see there was someone or something very large standing on the other side.  The third knock was hard enough to rattle the glass and she finally just grabbed the doorknob and pulled open the door to find a large man holding a shovel and looking cold and miserable.

He looked a bit comical wrapped up like the mummy against the weather. “Can I …. ?” She could almost see the words being ripped out of the air by the punishing gusts of wind.  Huh?  “Can I shovel your walk?’ he said gruffly looking a little annoyed.  Is he kidding?  The blizzard was keeping most of the snow pressed nicely against the side of her house, the side of the car, the sides of everything.  The walk was surprisingly clear. The cold was cutting through her sweater and she wanted to slam the door to keep the house at it’s normal constant 64 degrees.  What was this guy thinking?  She started to say “Thanks, but no” when she noticed that in the space of time she had taken to determine she didn’t need this guys services, he had adjusted his stance and was now poised, shovel over his head appearing to look straight through her.  She yelped a pathetic sound and ducked, at the same time trying to shove the door closed with her slipper-shod foot, as she saw him begin to bring  the shovel down rapidly toward her head.  There was a thunderous sound as the shovel hit it’s mark….

She jumped almost out of her skin as the shovel crashed down on a spot just to the left of where she was standing. She tried to swear at the mummy man, but it was hard to get even a word past her pounding heart currently lodged in her throat.  On the floor, under the blade of the shovel, was a small, spreading pool of what looked like blood – very grisly.  Looking up the handle of the shovel, up past the big hands that held it and the arms the hands were attached to, she locked eyes with the would-be sidewalk clearer. He looked expectant – perhaps waiting for a thank you.  With comically raised eyebrows she asked, without words, what the heck had just happened.  He raised the shovel off the floor and dunked it into the snow at the side of the porch.

Just inside the door there was now a puddle of goo and unidentifiable material.  What was it?  The man no longer appeared menacing and was standing looking at the floor too.  Her lips pulled back in disgust, she slowly bent down to get a better look.  Her knees crackled as she got down to a squat and she had to put a hand on the door jamb to steady herself.  Peering at the floor she suddenly burst out laughing.   The victim of the shovel attack was the toy she had bought for her cat a while back.  It was a big rat on wheels – wheels hidden so that when the thing moved across the floor it had an eerie life-like quality.  It had scared the cat and he would only deign the interact with it long enough to knock it away from him – which he must have done tonight in the midst of the goings on at the front door, sending the toy boldly into the line of fire and to it’s doom. The unexpected guest at her door had acted the hero.

Now looking at the carnage, she became aware that the still spreading puddle was some sort of dark, thickish fluid filling in the toy that made it all soft and rodenty  She laughed again. Her laughter appeared to have an impact on the man on the porch.  He looked perturbed and unappreciated.  She stood up, crackling and popping,  explained her mirth and thanked him for his gallantry.  His face, previously pinched with irritation, broke into a warm smile and he let out a great gust of laughter that was quickly cut off by another intense blast of wintry air. After a moment’s consideration, she invited him to step inside for a cup of hot cocoa and to warm up a bit before continuing his evening.  He accepted and as she started toward the kitchen to get something to clean up the mess, she rubbed the sore spot on her thigh, turned briefly and said, “Leave the shovel outside!”

Is it hot in here or is it just me?

embarrassed (2)Will I ever NOT be plagued by the involuntary “flush” response embarrassment causes?  More importantly, will I ever stop being embarrassed about taking up space in the world?  Incredibly and positively, “I’m sorry!” is no longer my most common utterance in any given 24-hour period.  I’m the kid in school who, when asked to go up to the board to solve a problem, would darn near expire making my way up there – face beet red, sweat beading my brow, the roar of several oceans deafening me to any teacher instructions (but not to other kids in the class saying “Oh my gosh.  Look how red she is!”.) Being praised would evoke a similar heart thudding, perspiring blush – not because I was unhappy with the recognition – I just didn’t want anyone to think I was calling attention to myself.

I was shocked to discover in my youth that I could even be intensely embarrassed by/around my family who, I am pretty sure, love me and think I’m a good egg.  One afternoon when I was about 8 years old, my older brother (whose attention and approval I craved and whose good opinion I still hope for) laid some new knowledge on me and one of my little sisters.   He told us that the phrase “cut the cheese” was another way of referring to “breaking wind”. As we didn’t have a TV and were strongly encouraged to use our God-given imagination and intellect, of course my sister and I found this information revelatory, delightfully wicked and hilarious.

What are the odds that, on that very night, the dinner table would be graced with a big block of cheese on a board?  After prayers were said, Dad said to Mom, “Would you like to cut the cheese?”  My sister and I started giggling uncontrollably, looking at each other knowingly.  When I looked across the table at my brother, his face was impassive.  Laughter was not frowned upon during meals, but usually it was a shared experience.  A reckoning was coming.  My giggling ebbed as I began to panic, mentally running through possible explanations for my lapse in good manners. I couldn’t throw my brother under the bus and certainly could not inform Dad what he really said at the dinner table.  Childhood logic expended, when Dad asked “What’s so funny?”, I took the path of least resistance, blurted “I don’t know.” and started crying.

As my sister and I stood on either side of Dad’s chair at the head of the table doing a halting, “sing-songy” rendition of the phrase  “cut the cheese”, I occasionally looked up through tears of embarrassment to see some of my siblings looking at me with a mixture of enjoyment, sympathy and relief that they were not me. There was a real physical pain associated with that moment; being on the  “outside”, especially relative to family, hurts. This early encounter with semi-public humiliation cemented in me an almost pathological dislike for being the center of attention, good or bad, and heightened my sensitivity to and avoidance of any potential rake lying tines-up in my path.

A large white billboard with the word Oops alerting you to a public mistake, gaffe, blunder or blooper that is causing embarrassment for the wrong person or business

photo by iqoncept

Interspersed with long stretches of blessed invisibility over the years,  I have had my share of awkward moments – spinach in my teeth on a date,  the butt seam of my slacks secretly giving way while I was in public feeling pretty good about myself, crossing my legs in a job interview only to have a  dryer sheet fall out one of my pant legs…  That I survive these catastrophes and continue to leave the house is a testament to the human spirit – sort of.  It may not be the brightest strategy to engage in self-talk that includes phrases like “it can’t get worse that this.” I fear that statement may be proven wrong the next time my vigilance wavers.

Important people

scrabblefriendI am frequently puzzled by people exclaiming about how important people are to them –  their “besties” (lots of them), Facebook friends that “mean the world” to them and various and sundry other folks that seem to be only tangentially connected to them (e.g. the waiter at a favorite restaurant, everyone they went to high school with).  How many best friends/important people can one have in one’s life?  I remember having two friends from my dancing class when I was a kid; I thought they would be in my life forever. There were also the girls in elementary school who would include me in birthday party and sleepover invites.  The sleepovers always ended up with me calling my parents for one of two reasons (fear of wetting a bed or floor at a school mates house or fear that the seances performed during the sleepover fun would actually have called President Lincoln or Bloody Mary back to the realm of the living).  After my parents divorced I didn’t really see those any of these people much and somehow my life continued.  Through junior high and high school I kept pretty much to myself – I liked some of the folks but didn’t have a best friend.  Same with college.  It seemed like some of the friends I made there who I thought would be lifelong important people to me had other agendas that precluded living in the same city with them, let alone ongoing friendship.  It may be worth noting that I was pretty exercised when I found out that my mom had given my contact info to the secretary of my graduating class and I started receiving calls and mailings regarding reunions.

REUNIONS!!!?  In all honesty, people are categorized as follows in my small world:

1) People I like/love (FAMILY which includes the few friends I have managed to make and keep over many years).

2) Everyone else.

I will likely never attend a high school or college reunion which is probably a condemnation of me and my crappy personality.  Primary education was a necessary evil for me. College was an expensive surprise (as neither my high school guidance counselor or any of my teachers ever talked to me about attending).  I did have some fun and enjoyed the company of some very nice people during this time BUT I have had nothing to do with them since my graduations.  I guess I just don’t understand and have outed myself as a NOT POPULAR person in school.

On the other hand, I do and likely always will make every effort to be present for all family functions because those people are IMPORTANT to me. They see me at my best and worst. They have helped me and let me be of help in their need – they’ve seen my ugly crying and have tolerated my inappropriate levity related to bodily functions.  They KNOW me and like/love me in spite of and, hopefully at least sometimes, because of this.

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Ultimately I guess everyone is important people to someone.