Monday, April 20, 2015

no one is perfect



It's a wonder that I've lasted this long. And that our two children managed to reach adulthood without being malnourished because their mother hates to cook and will do almost anything to avoid that odious (and in her case, odorous) chore. It's also been beneficial that I enjoy cooking and am even a pretty good cook, if I do say so myself. So I think it's fair to say that I may have saved the lives of those two children by cooking as often as my schedule allowed. 
Everyone has something, some chore or responsibility that they would rather not have to do. But they do it anyway despite sometimes having an intense dislike, or even abhorrence, for that task. Mary, my dear sweet, loving, and otherwise nurturing Mary, would rather clean the bathrooms in a men's locker room after a pissing contest. And she'd be smiling the whole time if that meant she wouldn't have to put a meal together instead. 
Our family lore is rife with stories about Mary's cooking or, should I say her attempts to do so.  
There was the time the recipe called for separating the eggs, so she put the white ones in one bowl and the brown ones in another. Then there was the time she meant to drain the spaghetti by dumping it down the drain with the water it was cooked in. Both kids still complain about the summer sausage with ketchup sandwiches she put in their school lunches.  Whenever family or friends get together for a meal, Mary surprises no one by bringing the bag of chips. If it's a really special occasion, she'll bring two bags. And if it is a superduper extra special get together, the two bags will be different.

At our old house, we went so far as to build an addition on the house so that she could get out of the house without having to pass through the kitchen. That, I think, saved her unknown amounts of angst and made her life, and consequently, ours, much happier. 
Yes, we do eat out a lot when neither of us feels like cooking. Or we get something and bring it home. But even then, Mary's fetish like avoidance of anything cooking related comes into play. Take today as an illustration of that fetish. I told her I would run out to Culvers for a couple of hamburgers for supper. She said to be sure they put everything on them. I replied that we could put our own ketchup and mustard on them, no big deal. She said, no way, I'm not cooking tonight.
You have to admit that anyone who equates opening a can or spreading mustard on a sandwich, with cooking, would have a serious problem if some genius hadn't invented the can opener and the butter knife.

best laid plans



I certainly didn't plan on my day going south as it did. I was going to spend most of the day in my workshop. Finally. I realized the other day that I haven't produced any new work at all for the past year. I found a couple of bowls on the display shelf that were the last objects I turned last Spring before all the hoopla involved in selling a house, buying a condo, and moving took over our lives and any time I might have spent on creative endeavors. So I promised myself a day in my version of a man cave to jump back into it with both feet.
That was before the dog started acting weird. Sonny seemed to be favoring his left leg and whining in pain any time he tried to get comfortable in his bed. And he even snapped at me when I tried to put his leash on to take him outside. That was very uncharacteristic of such a gentle and well mannered pup. So something was obviously wrong in doggie land.

The prospects of finding a vet on a Saturday morning who wasn't booked up, and even overbooked, didn't appear to be likely, but we lucked out when the good folks at the Mukwonago Animal Hospital said bring him in and we will make room for him. And they did.
I only waited a few minutes after getting Sonny and myself into the waiting room before the vet took us into an examination room. Sonny allowed the Dr. to do whatever he felt was necessary to figure out what the problem was.  Did I mention how trusting and cooperative Sonny can be? After doing some blood panels on him, the Dr. found that Sonny had a strong positive reaction to a certain tick borne disease that is very rare around here but quite common down south where Sonny came from. So a round of antibiotics was in order. The vet speculated that Sonny's aching hind quarters were due to a possible soft tissue injury, like a sprain, or possibly a side effect of the infection in his body.

After a couple hours at home the poor dog started puking all over the kitchen. A reaction to the antibiotic? We won't know what caused the dog to make such a mess until we get another dose or two of medicine in him. In the meantime he just looks so miserable. I wish there was something I could do relieve his suffering, but unfortunately my healing powers are insufficient in this case. 

To add to the stress of the day, Mary has been more in bed than out, battling a dose of the flu or some other exotic malady that has laid her low for the past couple days. I know she was hurting because she didn't go with me to the vet. Any other time and she would have taken over and made certain that everything possible was being done for her loved ones. That she was willing to allow me to take over this morning tells me that she either trusts me, or she was way too sick to help. 

So my plans to get a taste of my workshop went the way of the Dodo. Instead, I messed around the kitchen (I didn't want to leave Sonny unattended) and eventually ended up making 4 dozen chocolate chip cookies. I got my creative jones back. What I think I will do is put those cookies in those two bowls I finished last year to help make the transition back to the right side of my brain.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Sonny vs me



I know my feelings are irrational. How can a grown man, seemingly intelligent and well balanced most of the time, be jealous of a dog? I mean, the critter has only been here in MY house for three full days. And in those three days he has managed to seduce my wife with his overabundant cuteness and has usurped my number two position in MY household. We all agree that SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed) is in charge regardless of what you might think or wish for. I'm ok with that. It's worked to well for us for nearly 46 years, so I only have to protect my #2 spot in the household hierarchy. I've never had a problem maintaining that position through a succession of several dogs and a haughty cat (is that redundant?) The other dogs that have enjoyed my hospitality during their stay (some long, some short) with us never even engaged in the competition for #2. They were either too stupid to realize they had the opportunity, or just didn't care, being content to wallow away their lives as moochers at the family trough.  But this one is different. I knew he was special the minute I laid eyes on him. He was different than the other dogs he was penned with, wanting only to observe the doggie doings, remaining above the fray. I figured he was just a bit shy, or maybe preferred hanging out in the corner so he wouldn't have to participate in the mayhem of a dozen dogs of various sizes and shapes all barking and carrying on, trying to get the attention of would be adopters. I believe it was a calculated plan on his part to wait for just the right person to come along that he felt reasonably sure that he could handle in a battle for position in a nice comfy home. And then he saw me and put his plan into action.
That plan is an insidious breech of the human/canine interaction we are all so familiar with and expect. Man= master. Dog= pet. Master says jump and the dog immediately starts to jump without asking "how high." Master says go out and "do your job" and the dog squats in the usual place and kills some more grass. Master feeds the dog a wholesome diet of kibble with an occasional enhancer such as a bite or two of some actual meat. The dog wolfs down whatever is put in his food dish quickly so he doesn't have to taste whatever the master thinks is good for him. It has always been such: the master feeds, waters, provides shelter, and commands. The dog in return gets a nice cozy place to ply his trade (being a pet), enough "food" to keep him alive, and enough training to satisfy the master's sense of superiority.
Sonny, as you all know by now, is the new kid on the block. It would be helpful to understand him and his motives if you think of him as more Sonny Corleone than Sonny Bono. I think it was his plan all along to be super cute and obedient and quiet so as to ingratiate himself with SWMBO and undermine my position. And it's working. Every time she passes him she can't resist reaching down to pet his ears and coo lovingly at him. That used to be me getting that attention. She would pass by me and pat me on the head and coo "I love you." Now when she passes by me she lowers her shoulder to nudge me out of her way, mumbling something about old men and their bad habits. And now he has delivered what I'm sure he considers the coup d grace to my position; when she gets near enough to pet him, he rolls over onto his back, raises his legs up into the air revealing his underside in an act of pure submissiveness, so that she can give him a "belly rub." All he has to do is play the cute card and she babbles sweet words like love, cute, adorable, precious, and special, with a lot of "good boy" finding its way into the conversation. 
I don't have any "cute" cards to play, unless you consider short gray stubble on both head and face cute. If I want a belly rub, I have to do something extraordinary to get her to even consider the prospect. And then all I get are vague promises about some time in the future, if she feels like it. Whenever I roll onto my back exposing my belly and sometimes other "decorations" her reaction is to cover me up quickly lest I traumatize the peeping toms staring in our window. But, cute as he is , there is one thing (or should I say two things) that he can't match in this contest. When I'm on my back begging for a belly rub, I can toss in a couple of extras for her to rub. He doesn't have those anymore. So, Sonny boy, the score in this little contest you thought would be so easy to win starts out in my favor, 2 to nothing. I think I got you beat, cute or not.  The moral of this little story? When starting a contest be sure you have the right ammo.

Monday, April 13, 2015

there really is a DOG

Lately I've been feeling like that dyslexic agnostic insomniac who stays awake all night wondering if there really is a DOG. Well, as it turns out, all my doubting and worrying was for naught. There really was a dog for me (us) after all. He was just sitting there patiently waiting for us to find him at the dog rescue sight in an industrial park not far from downtown Mukwonago. Sonny was his name there, and Sonny it still is now that we fell in love with him the second we laid eyes on him. 

He is a one year old terrier mix (Jack Russell and Rat Terrier would be my guess) with a little bit of Beagle stirred into the mix. So far he seems to exhibit atypical terrier behavior--I haven't heard him bark or make any kind of sound yet, he hasn't jumped up on me or tried to hump the table leg, he is very laid back and has made himself right at home. He answers to his name when you talk to him, although he seems to do so just to be polite and not appear ungrateful for our taking him into our home and feeding him, providing a nice comfy bed to lounge on, and all the doting praise we lavish on his cute little ass. 
As cute as he is , and as calm and laid back as The Dude in the Big Labowski (I wanted to name him Dude), the real reason I connected with him was the eerily mirroring of our health circumstances over the past year. Some kind of trauma or illness that no Vet was able to diagnose caused him to lose a lot of weight, leaving him looking emaciated, starved and not likely to survive until his next birthday. The people who rescued him say he was acting depressed and uninterested, lethargic and weak, but was beginning to show improvement lately. I, too, had such a year. No doctor, and I saw a lot of them, was able to come up with a plausible explanation for my loss of 32 pounds over the past 9-10 months. Losing nearly 20% of my body weight should have been considered life-threatening. But no one knew what to do about it. I was looking like a refugee from a zombie movie. I was weak and lethargic and depressed, too. But now we both are on special diets that are supposed to help us gain back those lost pounds and muscle. We are both getting stronger. And we are both gaining back an interest in living awhile longer. 
Maybe there really is a DOG that put us together. I look at Sonny and I am inspired by that little dog's toughness. We have a lot of similarities and by seeing him survive and improve, I know that I, too, can do it. But I promise not to hump the table leg no matter how well I'm feeling.

much ado



It didn't cost much, but that isn't why we bought it. It was just a thing that would add a little bit of convenience to the TV room. But no one told me it would be such a problem installing it. They never warn you about the difficulty you can expect when you naively buy something you have
every reason to believe will be a snap to set up. 
If you're a carpenter you know the old adage: 
Measure twice, cut once. If you're not a carpenter, the meaning will be the same no matter what your line of work: prepare properly and every thing will turn out properly. So as I prepared to drill the first hole, I hesitated for a second and then, just to be sure, I measured once more. Now you're expecting me to say I almost screwed up, but, no, I had measured the position of the hole properly and was right on.
Hole? Why was I going to drill a hole? You know those wires that come out of electrical appliances with the three pronged plug-in thingy at the end? I figured that it would look neater if that plug-in thingy coming out of the back of the little new microwave we decided we needed when we saw it in the store, would be out of sight so as not to look messy on the shelf it sits on. To accomplish this neat look, I determined that what I really needed was two holes. 
You see, the new little microwave sits on a shelf that is raised 4" from the top of the counter. That 4" is hollow space that the plug (that's the abbreviated version of plug-in thingy) must pass through to complete the installation of our new little microwave. Two holes means twice the preparation; measuring 4 times to cut, or in this case, drill, twice. Now this is getting complicated. 
Luckily I have easy access to the underside of the counter where the second hole would be located.
The little refrigerator that occupies the space is easily removed, allowing me to take its place.
So I was all set. Then the fun began. What I failed to realize was that the support of the shelf that the microwave would sit on was a 2x4 that,of course, sat right where the hole would be drilled. In moving the location of the hole to accommodate that 2x4 I broke the "measure twice, cut once" rule in favor of expediency. I assumed I could guess closely enough to get away with it. Such arrogance is rarely rewarded.
It will usually drive you deeper into the hole you've dug for yourself. The hole I drilled was to the side of the 2x4. The wrong side. The hole drilled from the underside was on the other side of the 2x4. They did not line up, which made feeding the wire through them an irritating and frustrating task. I spent an inordinate amount of time getting that wire in place. For some reason the gods of DIY were out to get me. By the time I finished pulling that wire I had jammed myself into that space under the counter in contortions that would do the Rubberbandman proud. And to top it off, the wire was too short to reach the outlet. An extension cord fixed that, but it was another instance mismeasurement. 
I manage to turn a simple plug-in into a 40 minute ordeal fueled by ineptitude. One thing learned, I will never buy another microwave.

to be or not

To be, or not to be: that is the question: 
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to sufferThe slings and arrows of outrageous lack,Or to take arms against the house’s shortage of pets,And by opposing end the outcasted dogs denial.To die: to sleep; will no more dogs will crossThe threshold of this esteemed domicile.And by sleep we say twill mend the heartache and theThousand natural shocks that flesh is heir toWhen no dog companion has breeched the redoubt. To die, to sleep; to sleep perchance to dream. Ay, there’s the rub. For in that sleep what dreams may come of Puppies grown to stalwart companions, of unfathomed Love granted us as we shuffle off this mortal coil, mustGive us pause. Though we reason endlessly andEmotionally, both yea and nay, we have yet to defeat The stabbing thrusts of doubt. The question asked of usAnd Hamlet remains unanswered: to be or not to be a pet owner; that is the question. (with apologies to Wm Shakespeare)


We have been arguing (In a nice way) for the past month or so whether we should add a dog to our household. We’ve gone so far as to contact breeders of Goldendoodles, our first choice of canine companionship, and visited the Humane Society to look for likely candidates, but have so far come up still unsure if this is the right thing to do. The arguments go something like this: 

AMe: “A dog is a huge responsibility”
Her: “They’re so cute.”
Me: “it will have to be trained.”
Her: “They’re so cute.”
Me: “ They have to be fed and exercised.”
Her: “Aren’t they cute?”
Me: “ And don’t forget the mess they can make in the house.”
Her: “There’s a really cute one.”
Me: “Who’s going t clean up all the dog shit in the yard.”
Her: “ Cute, cute, cute.”
nd etc.,etc.,etc. So it goes.

easter questions




I have always been confused about the role that the rodent, known as the Easter Bunny, plays during the Easter season. Who invented this creature? What is his purpose? What is the correlation between that mythical rodent and chicken eggs that have been colored? Is the Easter Bunny benign or is that a disguise to hide a sinister charlatan bent on doing no good? Or is he (she) just a warm and fuzzy icon who wants all his worshipers to be overfed on eggs and chocolate?
These questions have haunted me ever since my first Easter as a child old enough to ask those questions. Being born and raised in the Catholic Church and attending Catholic grade school, I was well indoctrinated by the nuns, who ruled my small world and were the final authority on all things holy, in the religious significance of Easter. So it was thoroughly confusing when the existence of a rabbit, who scattered (now we would say littered. Back then ecologists and environmentalists hadn't yet come into vogue) colored eggs and chocolate candy around the house and yard, suddenly appeared on the scene.

Don't get me wrong. I loved the chocolate candy and the jelly beans that were everywhere at that time. I willingly participated in the pagan ritual of dying eggs. I was as eager to grab my share, and more, of the goodies that abounded. I just couldn't figure out where all this largess came from. The notion that some bunny was behind all this hooha seemed preposterous.

I know there is precedent for holiday icons and mascots. Just look at Christmas. There is an abundance of Christmas traditions that on the surface seem silly. The difference between those Christmas traditions and the Easter incongruities is that all those Christmas traditions can be traced directly back to early Christian beliefs and activities that evolved into the Christmas we all know and love.


Not so much Easter. I have no idea where that Easter Bunny, as a symbol at the center of our Easter celebration, originated. None of it makes sense. Somehow the Easter season turned into a free-for-all of bunnies, colored chicken eggs( with the life cooked out of them), and little baskets stuffed with teeth rotting candies. I simply cannot reconcile all that nonsense with any Christian belief dating back to Christianity's earliest days. Easter has become the most secular of religious holy days. I'd be wiling to bet that if you stopped 10 people at random on the street that not one would be able to tell you what the religious significance of Easter is. Somehow that depresses me even in my state of lapsed Catholicism.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

senior eating





We just finished lunch at one of our favorite restaurants. We like the place because it caters to the geriatric demographic of which we are intrenched members. Hard to admit, but the gray hair and beard are a dead give away. This is the kind of restaurant that on Fryday, when it has its all you can eat fish fry, the line to get a table stretches out the door and causes walker pile ups at the curb and cane fights in the parking lot. And that's at 4:00 PM, the usual dinner hour for an aged clientele. By 6:00 PM the place is nearly deserted. The only ones left are the youngsters who haven't quite gotten the scedule ingrained into their DNA yet. 
We've been coming here for ages, even before we qualified for the senior discount and have the system down pat. But, of course, none of that matters right now because we were there for lunch. 
The most important attribute a restaurant such as this can have, and this is essential to the continued success of any restaurant, but especially to one that caters to seniors who know the value of a buck, is portion size. There has to be enough left over on your plate so that you can take home enough for lunch the next day. And you always have to have a way to smuggle the little jelly and sugar packets out of there so you'll have enough to last you until your next visit. 
There is one problem that arises all too frequently however. The clientel being seniors means there are a miltitude of senior moments that can thwart the best of plans. The only way you'll have lunch tomorrow is if you remember to take your doggy bag along with you when you leave the restaurant. 
Looks like we'll be eating peanut butter and jelly tomorrow.