Midnight… Dream

Call me weird, but I love a good Zoom book club. I left video off (and am always on mute) until I finished my late lunch, and there were no fewer than three dogs and perhaps one cat present at one point or another. Gretchen and Knox can sometimes tolerate each other, but it didn’t matter, because… Zoom. And while I’d NEVER go to a “live” book club immediately post-workout, I did just that with Zoom. My hair was pulled back, I probably stink, but I got to see four of my favorites and “meet” a couple of friends of a friend, the discussion flowed well, and thanks to the click of the host’s finger, no one stayed too long.

(If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll add you to the group on Facebook.)

Our first read was The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. I highly recommend it. It’s a quick read, but I wouldn’t call it light. It caused us all to think, and was great for discussions on regrets, choices and more. Out of respect to the times we live in, I will offer the warning the book did not and share that suicide is a key part of the book. Book two hasn’t been announced yet.

My second book of the year wasn’t fluffy either, but it was a pleasant read. It Began with a Dream by Dr. Glady B. West is an autobiography about a local (ish) hidden figure. I learned of the book from my aunt, whose life intersected with Dr. West’s because their children attended the same schools. It’s sobering to realize that when my mother (and her sister, and Dr. West) was born, society was segregated. Women didn’t necessarily pursue higher education (but those three did), and pay – opportunities for advancement and more – was far from equal when the women did work in their chosen fields. I am blessed that I was raised in a home where racial and gender equality were the norm, and I marvel at how ignorant I was of the world around me. I stand in awe of women like Dr. West who broke those barriers with grace and poise, but there is still so much work to do. And let’s be honest; I admire anyone who works in STEM, because those are not my strengths. I did okay in math and science, but there’s more than a little irony in those fire science classes on my college transcripts.

I’m currently reading a very fluffy cozy called Peach Pies and Alibis by Ellery Adams, with the most darling Jack Russell named Charleston Chew on the cover. Sometimes I need a change of pace, and a little paperback that fits in my handbag.

What are you reading? Do you mix it up or do you tend to stick with one genre?

For the record, I’m not much on peach pies, or any fruit pie. I do love pies, but my favorites are pumpkin, pecan, chocolate chess… Full disclosure? I just don’t eat a lot of fruit. I can manage a bit of chopped apple in my oatmeal or some sliced banana on my peanut butter sandwich, but I go for veggies over fruit just about every time.

Where do you stand on pies and fruit? I’d love some ideas on how to sneak more fruit into my daily diet.

Soar

This is at least the third time I’ve sat down to get this post… posted.

Who knew how appropriate Resilient was as my word of the year last year when I chose it?! Honestly, 2020 wasn’t the worst year for me. I’m an introvert (really – there’s a whole class of us who present as extroverts, but I am truly content without groups) with a stable, “essential” job, and my work family is amazing. My work family includes some of my besties, and we have gotten even closer and better about supporting each other this year.

The worst of it for me was not being able to take Gretchen into the vet’s when she was sick, but again, my vets and their staff are also the best. Baby girl and I both lived through it, she got better, and we’ve added a urinary tract supplement to her pharmacopeia. My work family was remarkable through that little mess too.

I missed a lot. I hate to even mention that I didn’t pay off my debt as planned, but my financial planner laughed at me and said not adding to my debt was a win for 2020. I miss heavy lifting and running, but my body isn’t feeling either activity right now. I’m annoyed that I didn’t get Christmas cards out again in 2020, and that I didn’t make big strides in my decluttering (until this past week), but compared to what some have missed, I can’t complain.

So with a hopeful heart, my word for 2021 is soar. I don’t really have a great explanation. It’s on my heart and came up when I did the My Intent quiz. I’m already doing two things I know I need to do to move onward and upward; I’m writing (here and now) and reading. I finished The Midnight Library for my book club, and now I’m reading It Began With A Dream.

Do you have resolutions? A word for the year? Hopes? Dreams? Right now, I know hope is driving the bus for me. Current events are pretty intense, and while I love my job, I’m ready for some smooth sailing without all of the challenges and curve balls we’ve had thrown our way.

What makes it Christmas?

It’s beginning to feel a bit like Christmas…

This year, a lot of holiday traditions (and routine life things!) are out the window, so I’m focusing on what makes it feel like Christmas for me. I whittled my gift-giving and card sending lists down several years ago, and the divorce cropped them even more. In fact, there are precious few folks I *HAVE* to give to, and the ones I choose to give to are very much the type of folks who appreciate thoughtful, personal gifts.

So, cards, sending and receiving, are a big part of the season for me. I don’t do a year in review letter, and it’s been years since I’ve done a truly reflective year-end blog post too, but I love getting them from my friends. Not everyone is on Facebook, and even those who are, well… things get missed and it’s nice to catch up.

I like to look at lights, but don’t do much at my own house outside. Most years I do a fresh wreath on both doors, but so far that hasn’t happened either.

I bake. And I bake. Friends and family expect fudge and know that other things might show up, and some make requests. I enjoy it. I don’t eat 99% of what I make, but the feedback suggests that my lack of taste-testing is hardly a problem.

But my favorite Christmas routine and what makes it really feel special is my tree. Most of my ornaments are old and have history. I cry, I remember and I love every minute of decorating the tree. I wish I could have a fresh tree, but the former firefighter in me just can’t do it; it’s such a fire hazards!

Maybe I’ll pop in throughout the month and share some of my favorite ornaments and recipes. We can start with the decadent German Chocolate Cupcakes I made yesterday… They are a bit time consuming, with three separate components, but I’ve made them twice and my co-workers offer high praise. In fact, one whose last day was Friday reminded me that his birthday is next week… (No. That’s not how this works, but I’m flattered that he enjoyed them that much.) I’m a good baker, but I’m no decorator, and my usual crowd doesn’t care what they look like!

What are your favorite Christmas traditions? Recipes?

Small Business Sundries

Small Business Saturday was yesterday, but it’s never too late to shout out for great small businesses. Here are some of my favorites:

photo cred Backporch Vineyard

Backporch Vineyard – This is Virginia’s best new winery! Yes, I’m biased, but I’m also quite familiar with lots of great Virginia wines and vineyards, and my amazing cousin and her business partners knocked it out of the park. They have a wine for everyone, and I thought I had a favorite, but the more I drink… I love them all, truly. However, I’m going to shout out to the chardonnay, because Andrea’s Flock supports ALS research. Please click over and learn more, and follow Backporch on Facebook too for their foodtruck schedule and more.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I’ve found my apron again, as in my Pampered Chef Consultant’s apron! You can shop my personal website here, or follow my Facebook business page here. The air fryer is my current favorite, new item. As usual, I’m late to the party, but wow! Hand-cut sweet potato fries are my jam, but I want to know what your favorite air fryer recipes are.

photo cred Pampered Chef

Oh – and dishwasher-safe cast iron is pretty awesome, and pretty too. Clean-up is my least favorite part of cooking, so being able to just shove it in the dishwasher is a huge plus!

Perhaps my all-time favorite small business is Erin McDermott Jewelry. Erin makes each piece by hand, and I can’t even count how many pieces I have! I have earrings galore, necklaces in every type she makes, bracelets…

Can you imagine running a bed and breakfast during a pandemic? My dear friend and her husband are doing just that. Please follow them on Facebook for recipe ideas and more, and consider snagging a gift certificate if you aren’t traveling right now. I’m going to see if there’s still time for her to whip up a few Christmas masks for me too; she’s not only an innkeeper, but she’s quite a seamstress too!

What are your favorite small businesses?

Always the fur-girls

There are just some blocks on the calendar that are bittersweet, and no matter how I plan to focus on the sweet, it’s tough.

On October 24, Missy Sissy, Queenie, DIVA and so much more, would have been 13 years old. Gretchen and I have lived more than two years without her, and they have been challenging, rewarding, well-lived days. Neither of us are spring chickens, but we’re still going and growing!

The day before that, we celebrated Gg’s Gotcha’ day. For twelve years, that cute little imp and I have been together. She’s a curious mix of courage and anxiety, clingy and independent, and I love watching her continue to evolve and enjoy life. We can’t remember Gretchen’s arrival without honoring her remarkable big sister, who didn’t mind at all that her first birthday present was a puppy.

Yes, I would have loved more time with Sissy, but she lived the life she had with a gusto I still can’t begin to reproduce. Life was a party. She loved big, and never let anything slow her down… until the very end. Even when she hurt and just living was hard, she made sure her pack knew how deeply she loved us.

Somehow, she loved little Gg so well that when we were certain she wouldn’t make it without Sissy, the little one came into her own and is happier, sassier and yappier than ever before. Thank you, Sis-ma.

It’s more than ironic that the day after the 13th anniversary of her birth, I had my first above average eye pressure readings. After multiple re-checks, they settled down, but I can honestly say I was never worried; after almost 8 years with Sissy and her glaucoma routine, I know it’s manageable if it becomes an issue.

Thank you Sissy, for everything you taught me. You were such a strong spirit, and you loved as you lived, with no regrets, no fears. Gretchen and I are better, stronger, kinder, wiser, because you loved us.

Things I’m *NOT* Doing

This trying to get back in the habit of writing/blogging regularly isn’t going so well. Thankfully, there are always Sunday Sundries, so I can just throw mud at the wall and see what sticks. Here’s a quick update with the theme of things I’m NOT doing:

  • Cruising the aisles in the grocery store – They could charge me an arm and a leg and I’d still opt in. I have always hated grocery shopping, and now, I don’t have to! My time is valuable, and never again will I have to lose my temper at self-checkout. I first tried it on a hot summer day when I couldn’t leave THE GIRL in the car, but didn’t want to have to take her home and come back to town. I’m hooked. My substitutions have been less than one per order, and honestly, they pick better meat and produce than I do.
  • Traditional shampoo/conditioner haircare – I’ve been a fan of “co-wash” since I first tried Wen, way back. (Thanks, Ruth!) My hair prefers a different brand, but at least once a week, sometimes twice, I reach for the conditioning wash rather than traditional shampoo. After a frizzy summer, I’m researching and dabbling with the Curly Girl Method and letting my waves run wild. (My hair has been described as surly – not straight, not curly – and that’s accurate. It can lean in either direction, but the only thing I can count on is my hair will do what it wants.)
  • Not going to the gym – As with pre-ordering my groceries and having them almost magically appear in my car, this wasn’t planned, but COVID played its part. Gyms closed, and while they have re-opened, I haven’t gone back. I hit ladies group when I can on Saturdays, but otherwise, I’m doing my own thing. It feels safer on so many levels, and while I miss barbells and a huge selection of dumbbells and kettlebells, I’m doing just fine with my very limited offerings at home.
  • Reading – This one needs to change. I miss reading, but can’t seem to pick up any of the dozens of books waiting to be read. I’ve managed a few here and there, but can’t seem to get back in the habit.

What are YOU not doing? Any tips for me on online grocery procurement, making peace with my wild hair, or how to re-connect with my lifelong reading habit?

Face your fears

Gretchen’s battle with anxiety inspires me almost daily, but this post is about my fear, specifically the one I’ve named since the day our vets were exposed to Covid 19 and had to change the way they do business. They are still not allowing non-staff into the building, and I knew that would be a challenge for Gg when she had to go visit.

What I didn’t know is that an unbreakable, pain induced, six hour long anxiety attack would get us there. Turns out she was yelping and trying to get me to take her somewhere (to the vet??) because she had another raging urinary tract infection, but it was an all-day diagnosis, because she’s very modest about the whole sample thing.

Happier hour Saturday afternoon

She lived through it. I lived through it, and if it was possible to respect and adore my vets and their staff more, I do. It appears she is back to being afraid of nighttime, but she has had a no-symptoms of the UTI pain day, and I’m delighted.

Valium is NOT her friend. We had tried it before, years ago when she was an awful (read: makes a mad cat look easy to pill) patient, and Friday night, I had to coax her to take it, hidden in her favorite pill pocket. Last night, she was already in full panic mode, so I’m shocked it went down even in the pill pocket, smeared with her favorite egg and cheese.

She panted and shook for three hours after that before exhausting herself. Tonight I’m going to take the Valium (kidding!) and give her more melatonin, which she doesn’t mind as long as we don’t stay heavy too many nights in a row.

Current situation with mild tremors

I’m sitting with her on the deck now, and feel we need to change things up with her sitter. SOMETHING (loneliness? a poorly timed bee sting?) sets her off about this time nightly. It isn’t even dusk yet, so I welcome any and all ideas. She prefers to be outside, and we often find her on the back deck when we get home, regardless of the weather, or amount of light left in the day.

Not being able to protect her from her fears is my greatest fear. What is yours?

12 or 64?

Yesterday was Lady Gretchen Greer’s 12th birthday. According to two different internet sources, that makes her roughly 64.

That chart gives me more hope that we have many years together yet to come. It also means I’m less inclined to let her dictate the pace and distance of our runs. Yeah, she’s a senior, but the girl isn’t ready for a doggy rocking chair yet!

Hanging with the ladies on a Saturday weighted vest walk. Credit Toni J

It’s been a rather unremarkable year and that makes it very special. Her meds didn’t change, other than varying her nightly melatonin dose according to her current state. Her thyroid is properly supported, and so is her emotional well-being. We’ve dodged the contactless Covid operations at our local vet thus far, and there have been no injuries or issues other than her dental surgery, immediately pre-Covid. (That was basically her first cleaning with a known broken tooth to complicate things; it was all but a non-event.)

She did have sore toe a few weeks ago that was easily fixed by her new friend at DogTopia. Our vet isn’t doing weekend hours right now, and none of the local groomers I’ve used before (or had positive recommendations for from a trusted source) answered their phones or had any availability the Saturday morning in question, so I rang up that new place near work, and my hot mess, doesn’t like to leave my side girl didn’t even look back when her new friend met us at the car. Before I could order from my Dunkin’ app, they were back. I may never cut her nails again; for $10 and a very generous tip, Gg made a new friend and the “jammed because it was too long” nail and its friends were all cut back without incident.

Here’s to another 12 years together, sweet girl. You’re high maintenance and it took me 10 years to figure out your stressors, but I love helping you live your best life.

Scrambler

Remember the word association game? Someone says a word and you say the first word that comes to mind. Today’s word is Scrambler. The “game” started yesterday at work, and to be fair, the first two people knew they were on the same page.

Let’s stop right there. What do YOU see/think when I say scrambler?

Third person confessed he was confused; context made it clear he wasn’t on the right page. He KNEW there was no carnival ride in the parking lot. Google Images to the rescue; there are a HOST of Jeep Scramblers there.

I kinda’ feel life is just a big ol’ scramble for a lot of us right now, with the confusion of a game of telephone mixed with the word association game too. Almost everything is more complicated than it should be, and that adds stress.

For me, I’m managing that stress with sweat. No… I’m still not going to the gym, but I am working out at home. It’s still too hot for running most of the time, but that’s okay because my running partner is currently napping. We worked yesterday, and a long, full workday leaves her exhausted for at least the next day. Before I blame it on her age, she did also pitch in and help cut grass yesterday evening when we got home, so it’s not as though she’s slowing down!

I also have a phenomenal support system. We all need people in our lives who have our backs, make us laugh and build us up. Everyone needs work colleagues who know what your coffee order is, who draw smiley faces on paperwork, etc. We should all have a friend or two who sends well-timed memes, even in a work email.

On that note, let’s lighten it up. Here’s a list of sundries based on my work world:

  • Dunkin’ over Starbucks. Large iced, 2 whole milk, 2 flavor swirls.
  • Blue gel ink, not fine point.
  • All the pink “clickable” highlighters, with a green or two in reserve.
  • Chrome, even when a website says it may perform better something else.
  • Don’t give me papers; share it in Google Docs or if you’re old school, send a digital file.
  • Salty over sweet, but please Covid, bring the popcorn machine back!
  • Filtered water, but if it has to be a soda, make it Dr. Pepper.
  • ALL the post-its. Baby notes for brief comments, traditional (UNLINED!!) squares for most, but sometimes a message requires the double-sized version.

What are your not so secret keys to a happy desk life?

August Already?

I was shocked to see I haven’t posted since July 12. I’ve thought about writing more than that, but it’s hardly routine or even a hopeful habit to be at this point. Crazy as life is right now, I suppose it is a blessing time is marching on at a brisk pace.

Life is still messy. Or is it always a juggling act, and we just have nothing to hide behind right now? I don’t know… in many ways, my life is barely disturbed by the global pandemic. I go to work 5-6 days a week, I cook, I work out, I do what Gretchen wants to do… repeat. But in other ways I don’t like to dwell upon, life is so very different and it’s tough.

Because I work at an essential business, I feel quite responsible for being responsible. I don’t go to church, I don’t do big group things, and while I do sneak in a Saturday Ladies Group at the gym once in a while, I don’t feel comfortable doing it, and 99% of my workouts happen at home. My home gym needs its own space… but that’s for another day/post.

I’m a hugger who can’t hug. I still hug and touch more people than I probably should, but when former co-workers come in, I can’t squeeze them, and I truly have lost count of the friends with new babies, husbands, engagements, etc. that I haven’t been able to congratulate/meet, etc. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a small sacrifice, but … it’s a forced change in behavior and that’s not easy.

Thankfully, I have a robust work family. We are taking care of each other. I bake for birthdays and make silly cards for the folks in my department. We take turns buying breakfast and/or mid-morning coffees, and we become more of an extended family every day.

It’s hard to believe some families are doing back to school already. I am relieved that I don’t have to make such decisions, either personally or professionally. Yes, some work colleagues need training we can’t schedule, and others are trying to do “hands on classes” virtually, but despite some mild annoyance and a few unknowns (when WILL that class be available?!), it’s not stressful. My heart goes out to those of you with children, and those of you in education.

How are you doing? Do you have a place to vent without judgement or repercussions? If not, please bend my ear or blow up my email; I have no answers at all, but I’m a good listener.