Sunday, November 9, 2014

Chocolate and Dogs Don't Mix

      No sirree, and we knew that. Nor avocados coffee (caffeine), garlic, grapes, onions, raisins, walnuts, antifreeze, dryer sheets, and a whole host of other food and non-food items. It’s hard to believe this stat too: “In 2012, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) in Urbana, Illinois, handled more than 180,000 cases about pets exposed to possibly poisonous substances.”[1] That’s one city in a single year! And no, this doesn't make me feel better in light of our own dog's chocolate overdose.
      Our saga revealed itself after dinner this past Thursday night. I mean, accidents happen. What we don’t hear much about is the treatment of a pet who swallowed a toxic substance. It’s an eye opener and it will hurt your heart when you know the details. 

       Caesar was resting on Tim’s lap when I went over to love him up. That was around 7:30 p.m. Just a few minutes earlier I'd taken him outside to do his business, but he’s a love sponge and we cannot help ourselves when it comes to the mushy business of pet loving. As I stepped away from Tim’s chair, something caught my eye on the rug, nearly hidden under the sofa. Odd, I thought: it’s the gold foil from the chocolate bar I’d eaten earlier. Only I had left it, at least half of it, on the tall counter. Long story in itself.
      OhmiGod! Alarms clanged in my head. I grabbed my never-used-before poison info, taped inside a cupboard door. “Make dog vomit immediately, using hydrogen peroxide in the amount shown in the following weight chart.” Except we figured Caesar had ingested the stuff about two hours earlier. And it was dark chocolate, more toxic than milk chocolate. And damn: it had currants in it too, which are as bad as raisins for dogs. I dialed the Veterinarian’s office. “Bring him right over. He’ll be spending the night.” Forget that the assistant was duty bound to inform me of the minimum cost. What a waste of time. Of course we’d pay. Our baby was about to die and I’m going to quibble over cost?

      Now, I don’t mean to berate these savvy vets. They did a super job, and one that they would not have faced had we been more vigilant. I’m just saying it helps (but makes me sad at the same time) to understand the protocol for averting death in such cases.

      Wrenched from the arms of his loving peeps, Caesar was thrust into the frightening physiology of forced vomiting and intubation for charcoal glutting. Only they don’t mention, until they review the bill, that a tube was used to pump enormous quantities of charcoal into his tummy. They must tell you though, lest you be shocked by the resulting stool over the next several hours….it’s essentially lumps of coal. Like the ones we ought to get in our Christmas stocking.

And before they return him to your waiting arms from behind closed doors, they mention you ought not be frightened by the sight of his eye, which is red—as in maroon red, like one of those sci‑fi dinosaurs with murderous intent, clearly expressed in its eyeballs—piercing fire ball red; they tell you his eyes will soon be perfectly normal. How did they get so red, you might wonder? They drip a powerful emetic called apomorphine right onto your dog’s eyeball, which induces vomiting, acting almost immediately as it hits the optic nerve. Copious vomiting. Not sure if he was over-dosed, but somewhere around midnight he had to endure a shot of antidote to stop that process.

      And they don’t tell you until you call the next morning that your precious companion must stay another night for observation. But, yes, if you really want to, you could bring his lambie and a favorite blanket. Which we did. Of course we did.

At last, on 2 p.m. Saturday, Caesar came home. Sadly, his ordeal didn't end there. Liver tests showed signs of another unrelated condition, Cushing's disease. Consequently, he needs more testing. We can only pray for a good outcome on his diagnosis and prognosis. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime if any of you are dealing with Cushing's, I'd be grateful to hear your tale. 

And I promise to write of more upbeat happenings next time....thanks for visiting.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Through the Looking Glass

During my hiatus from blogging, I've felt as though I should have posted some small note, like: "Pardon the absence during reconstruction of this blogger's attitude"!

Sometimes retirement leads to too many choices, like a smorgasbord enticing one to over-indulge. By this summer, the third in my retirement, I'd become busy. Too busy, according to my hubby. So, I suppose it was a huge mistake for me to travel to Minnesota in July, on so many levels. I'd just gained some momentum on this (my first) blog, and become interested in photography and blogging as a way to channel some creative energy. 

You see, the trip interrupted a good flow I had going, in my sewing room, in writing my cookbook, in my swimming schedule, in pursuing things I'd waited to do all those years I worked. It was a tough decision to leave this groove behind and accompany my husband to his childhood haunts, but I knew I must. It would be the first time he had the heart to step foot back there after his Mom died, after he'd spent three months doing what he could to ease her through the nightmare of health care obstacles, to which she succumbed. 

I must say the first and most positive encounter on that trip happened right at the Minneapolis Airport. A friend and author I met through an online writing challenge, Peggy McAloon (Elle Burton and the Reflective Portals), arranged to drive hours to arrive when our 7 a.m. flight landed, just to meet me in person! And I won't even get into the sacrifices she made to do so. Peggy is like so many of you: a writer at heart, a writer with heart, and an inspirational soul. I felt I'd known her my whole life. For years I felt sure that Minnesota has the most friendly, polite people in the country. 

Ours was to be a 10-day sojourn to one of the family cabins on beautiful Lake Vermilion, about four hours north of Minneapolis, not far from the Boundary Waters. Although I had a gut feeling it wasn't going to be the easiest visit, I remain gobsmacked at just how badly it went. It wasn't any one thing, but many smaller changes observed and felt, and we even endured some dramatic emotional sucker-punches. We may not live there, but from our weekly phone contact over the past five years, we were shocked that family dynamics devolved the way they had, and felt the sting of coldness from people who'd at least shown us warmth during past visits. 

I couldn't possibly bore anyone with the sordid details. I will say only that people change, lives move on. In their defense, my husband's four brothers and their families are good people, and intelligent. So why does it feel as if a whole limb of our family tree has died? In retrospect, I believe it has everything to do with the loss of their Mom; Margery was an incredibly warm and generous person, interested in every friend and relative. She was a wonderful cook and baker, and I still mourn her loss. All camaraderie and grace are gone, and I believe they died with Margery. I don't think I would have believed it had I not experienced it, and it's the only explanation I have. 

No, "Minnesota polite" isn't all that I thought it was. Yet, instead of sharing this burdensome tale with anyone, I turned quiet. Another big mistake. Neither did spa pampering or a new haircut chase my doldrums.  

Maybe the most heartening lesson has been to learn what a phenomenal group you bloggers are. I am grateful to everyone who reached out with notes and gestures of support and to those who got in touch with blogger friends to check on me. Thank you especially to Writing Straight From The Heart, Elephant's Child, Becky, and ALL of my former remain a powerful inspiration and the reason I think it's worth picking up where I left off. I'll likely get into the swing of blogging again, but perhaps on a weekly basis. I have enjoyed all of your photos, stories, and comments so much.

By way of catching up slowly, I'll share that during my hiatus from blogging and sewing, I've done a great deal of reflecting and reading, most notably Becky Llewellyn Povich's memoir (From Pigtails to Chin Hairs...)a wonderful detour that brought back many memories from my own childhood, Turn Right at Machu Piccu, The School of Essential Ingredients; The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee; among others. I've taken on the Leviathan task of de-cluttering my basement, attic, and my mind of all negative thinking. 

Hubby and I have been stressing about the onset of winter, especially since our little Caesar struggled so last year here in New England. Finally we decided to become snowbirds from now on, trying new places until we find a location that entices us year round. This year we're heading to the last place we thought we'd ever vacation, Florida. But serendipity dropped an opportunity in our laps and so, we'll begin our serious research there. We've added North Carolina and South Carolina to our list for other seasons. Wish us luck! Send us ideas!

We've begun selecting what to fit in our SUV for the two month stay in Florida, which has changed my perspective on a few things. As I focus on the goal of a smooth vacation, there are fewer distractions for me to fuss over, which makes me happier. There are even bigger benefits. I've wanted to leave New England winters behind for such a long time the reality and anticipation of doing just that thrills me. Plus, as I am forced to focus my actions on such preparation, I've had time to think about my real passions. Just as a cat wants out when she is in or in when she is out, I long to be at my sewing machine instead! Perhaps writing is not far behind. And so, by trial and error, I'm learning what matters most and replenishing my essential ingredients. 

I hope you'll be back and I will also see you on your blogs as often as I can. 



Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Retirement is busier than I realized it would be...

Hi Everyone,

Whew, I have been under the mistaken impression that retirement is a liesurely time of one's life. Don't believe it for a minute. 

The good news is that no matter how busy or crazy things get, I wake up to new iris blooms daily - gosh, how I hate this season to end. Here are some shots from yesterday. 

We will be out and about over the coming weeks, but I promise to return as soon as possible; and I haven't forgotten the post to explain the exquisite hand-written letter in that wonderful study that I posted last week.   

Friday, July 4, 2014

Fourth of July

Let freedom ring...

How I wish Dad were here to celebrate with us we enjoy the very freedoms for which he risked his life serving in the U.S. Navy aboard the U.S.S. Intrepid, back in 1942 and '43. How grateful I am for his steadfast belief in our country's values.

Ah, gratitude! Can't have too much of that, either, Today I am celebrating with neighbors and friends, remembering our loved ones who are no longer with us; and my virtual friends, who may be wondering who won my drawing...

The winner is... (I know it's a bit late in the morning, but it's dark as a dungeon here as it's been raining for hours, which is why my hubby slept in)... Michele, at Finch Rest. Congratulations, Michele!     

Michele, Please could you email me at to provide your mailing address?

What are you grateful for today?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Can we talk?

Hi everyone,

Yesterday my dear friend Susan (Writing Straight from the Heart) posted a promise involving me. Yes, it's true, if you leave me a comment that you want to win a copy of my memoir, AND if you are a follower, I will enter your name in a drawing (ends at midnight EST). 

I mention this because a few people left comments who are not among my blog followers. I'd really like to make my husband work when he pulls the winning name from his hat tomorrow please check to make sure you qualify if you'd like a chance to win a copy of Water's Edge: Growing up in the Heart of a New England Village.

Now, here's a photo to give you just a hint of the topic I'll be sharing in the coming days.

Good luck in the drawing! 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Return of Old Friends

"Do you like it?" "How do you like, it?" Michael Conforti's words greeted visitors on the terrace, like those of any quintessential host sampling guests' reactions.  He is the Director of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, a jewel of a museum in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

Yesterday, Michael graciously greeted guests arriving in droves to preview the long-awaited new wing and transformed outdoor setting. The museum's permanent collection has not only returned from touring the world while its home was renovated and expanded, it is on display once again! 

Yesterday, Tim and I invited our dear neighbor, Tom, to join us as we enjoyed this exclusive preview.

Here are some photos of the new reflecting pool built in the rear of the building (where a parking lot used to be) along with a sampling of my favorite works of art.

New building at end of reflecting pool

Tim and Tom enjoying the view

Another view of the reflecting pool

Keeping with the summer theme, I hope you enjoy some of my favorites from among the Clark's gems.

Woman with a Fan, Pierre-Auguste Renoir

 Neapolitan Children Bathing, John Singer Sargent

Woman with a Picnic Basket, Raimundo de Madrazo y Garreta

It did my heart good to reaquaint myself with my former friends; they are surprisingly bright under the new lighting system, so much so that I asked if they'd all been cleaned. "No, it's just the new lighting," Michael replied! "Do you like it?" 

I kept my husband's customary and cheeky answer to this question to myself (I don't like it. I love it.) and simply answerd: "We loved it."

You might enjoy checking out the Clark Art Museum's website here. If you are in the region, their Gala Opening is July 4th!

Also, my dear blogger friend, Susan, posted an interview with me on her blog today; hope you'll check it out and see how to qualify for a chance to win a copy of my memoir, Water's Edge: Growing Up in the Heart of a New England Village. Read her blog post at Writing Straight from the Heart.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Blog Tour Trifecta

Last week Patti at Magnolia Cottage invited me to participate in her blog tour. She featured my blog among two others on her post, and today it’s my turn to spread the goodwill. 

Here’s the format: share three blogs I love, briefly introduce myself by answering four questions, share a photo or two, and invite the people whose blogs I feature to repeat the process in a week. Each tour runs from Monday to Monday. The goal? Simply to introduce a few blogs to promote their discovery and your delight.

However I must confess I don’t follow rules terribly well and today is no exception. You see, as difficult as it was to narrow my choices to three blogs, it was impossible to find three bloggers willing to take part! Time and circumstance allowed me to send my plea far and wide, but one blogger is on holiday in Europe with intermittent Internet, another had to travel and declined Friday evening, two others had been featured too recently, and finally one is hosting several visitors from Japan and is simply too busy. However, the two I am inviting you to tour offer a variety of posts and are packed with great photos.

The other confession is that I’m going to keep the question and answer part of this very short (compared to several tours I viewed in apprehension preparation of this post. You can always visit my blog to learn more about me if you like. Without further ado, I urge you to visit the following blogs, if you haven’t already done so: 

Elephant's ChildIs a gem from down under. EC’s photography gives us a glimpse of Nature in Canberra, Australia. Although she classifies herself more as a reader than a writer, her writing shows a keen wit. Would it be impolite to share her latest rant: “I am wishing painful hemorrhoids on the blogger boffins who are neither fixing the problem nor talking to us…”?

EC’s posts sometimes include her two black rescue cats—Jazz and Jewel, and often reveal her “...passion for biographies/autobiographies/diaries and letters - but it doesn't stop there.” She writes great book reviews too. Next Monday EC's blog tour will include a more personal glimpse of the woman behind the swimming tiger (her gravitar).    

Spot on Cedar Pond—meet a shepherdess and wool crafter who spins yarn from her Jacob sheep (yes, it's for sale) and amuses readers with photographs and tales of other family members, including Hawk, the Visla; Blizzard the cat; hens and chicks; and Sebastopol geese. You might just wish you lived nearby!  


1.  What am I working on?

My number one priority as a retiree is to strike a balance between keeping up with the mundane demands of daily living and ensuring my life is regret-free. For me this means seizing opportunities to garden; quilt; travel; nurture family; honor friendships; and naturally, to read, reflect, and write. Oh yeah, and market my memoir!
2.  How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Perhaps the biggest difference is that I am not famous! Who wrote this question anyway?

Seriously, I could leave it at that, and you may wish that I had. It’s a tough question, one that nagged me all week. In the first place, what I think about my work is not necessarily what readers may think.

In the second place, I’m not even sure this question is applicable to memoir writers whose topic is life experiences—something as unique as their fingerprints. Although memoirists can be selective about the time span they cover as well as the specific events in that chosen period, and handle voice, tone, and all the literary devices they employ in creative ways, they simply don’t have the same latitude as fiction writers who make up characters and experiences.

What sets one memoirist apart from another for me boils down to their intent, or purpose for writing their life story, which in turn colors the tone of the book. My idea of an engaging author is one who reveals his or her thoughts and feelings in the scenarios shared in such a way that readers identify with them as the story unfolds. I’m less inclined to finish memoirs in which an author merely chronicles events (and not necessarily traumatic ones) without provoking thought as to their origin.

Examples of what I consider stellar memoirs are: Jeannette Walls’ Glass Castle and Catherine Gildener’s two memoirs, Too Close to the Falls and After the Falls (I can’t wait to read her third, Coming Ashore). They come from very different backgrounds and they both humble me with their ability to pull me into their thoughts.
3.  Why do I write/create what I do?

I didn’t start out with the intention of writing a memoir, or a blog for that matter. As to the memoir, at first it was my way to capture childhood memories; if my longing to know more about my ancestors was any indication, I thought my son might someday appreciate my stories. But a funny thing happened during this casual approach: I realized that certain memories were tenacious beyond explanation. Curiosity is what hooked me into exploring why this might be so. Now I find myself encouraging others to write their life stories.

As for blogging? It bridges the gap between the solitary act of writing and intermittent urges to socialize. I enjoy connecting with like-minded people and sharing their virtual smorgasbord of talent.

4.  How does your writing/creating process work?

Usually some memory or encounter—with Nature, art, or a person—pleases or puzzles me and sparks exploration through writing. Sometimes I enjoy sharing the results.

Today’s photos mirror my purpose for writing, which is to reflect.

The first photo is of a large watercolor that is in our reading nook, one that inspires me to contemplate often, usually when I ought to be doing chores. Although it depicts an autumn scene, it offers food for thought year round.

Reflections, by Kirk Pedersen, 1985
Note: we are trying to contact the artist to ask what he titled this piece)
The second photo is courtesy of a brilliant gentleman, Elliot Fenander, who graciously agreed I could post it. Mr. Fenander taught some scintillating English classes at my high school, and if it weren't for Facebook, I may not have reconnected with him. His photography is first rate.

Reflection, Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris, July 2010
Photograph courtesy of Elliot Fenander

I hope you've enjoyed my reflections on writing, I won't make predictions, but I feel as though I've hit a blogosphere trifecta, even though just two bloggers agreed to participate. I hope you'll check them out next week. 

Thanks again to Patti, at Magnolia Cottage for sending you to my blog. 

Happy blog tour Monday.