air…give me air…although…

That seems to be my dog Mocha’s daily plea. Wish there was a spot of yard for her to roam unattended, like she does when visiting with our friends Sylvia and Jim and their dachschund, Gretchen. Living in a retirement community, they have a charming, enclosed backyard where the dogs can relax on the patio, luxuriating in the outdoors unchaperoned. When they’re indoors and want to “go potty,” all they need is a helping hand to open and close the door.

I must admit when I exited our yard a short while ago, heading out into the neighborhood, Mocha pulling ahead on her leash, it felt good to breathe in the great outdoors. Viewing the lush foliage everywhere as a result of our area’s penchant for rain, Mother Nature never fails to overwhelm me with wondrous awe. Towering evergreens, hence Washington’s other name, The Evergreen State, dwarf the homes that peak out from verdant landscapes, some neat and orderly, others wild and overgrown. Mine is somewhere in-between. I’ve been going for the English garden look, not always with success.

Mocha pays no heed to anything above ground level, maintaining her focus at what’s at the end of her nose or under her paw. None of which satsfies my aesthetics, except that whatever makes Mocha happy, makes me happy. Well…not everything.

I’m definitely against her desire to chase down dogs taller and heftier than her, or small ones with teeth as sharp as razors. I’ve had to pick Mocha up once or twice, transporting her, and me, away from the snarling grins of unleashed dogs who looked ready for their next meal. In such situations my heart is pounding looking to escape its confines, while my brain is willing me not to move a muscle for fear that I’ll become mincemeat in seconds. More often than not, a yell emanates from deep within, finally tumbling forth from my mouth with a venomous “Get away! Shoo! Get out of here!” As if our transgressor could care less, staring me down without so much as flinching a muscle.

Scared? Me, scared? You bet your life I’m petrified of untethered dogs wandering about. I can’t tell whether they’re friendly or not. Nor is it obvious whether or not they’ll start something with Mocha. Just as I don’t want her torn to shreds, I don’t want to get caught up in the milieu either. A year or so ago, when I was out running errands, a neighbor who regularly walks his dog, came under attack by 2 dogs living in the house above mine. His dog was badly injured, requiring surgery that cost $1,000. He had a commendable attitude, saying that “dogs will be dogs.” Of course the owner of the attacking dogs expressed great remorse and paid the vet bill.

A German Shepherd Dog.

Image via Wikipedia

There is a leash law in our city, but not everyone heeds it. The Center for The Preservation of Wildlife has also erected a sign in our neighborhood, and elsewhere, stating that dogs should be kept on leashes so that they don’t attack the wildlife. There are hiking trails at the end of our road. The warning sign stands at that juncture, and so do 3 houses whose owners allow their dogs to wander freely pretty regularly. One of them looks like those I’ve seen on the Discovery Channel, that live in the African wild. Its owners were present once when their dog confronted Mocha. I told them how I felt, which seemed to upset them. They didn’t smile back at me when I saw them later. I understand people don’t like criticism, but when it involves my safety, and my dog’s, well…so be it.

Port-a-Potty on My Land

Image by joanna8555 via Flickr

My next door neighbors have always allowed their labradors to run freely through the neighborhood, even when they use to walk them. I didn’t appreciate the dogs making my yard their personal “honey pot.” Still don’t. Fortunately, the fence we erected, and the hedge that grows between our side yards have kept their pets from trespassing. But recently when the owners were combing the neighborhood in their car in search of one of their dogs, I advised them that it had wandered through my yard and then scared Mocha and me as we went around a bend. Standing taller than my waistline, the labrador, growling,  circled Mocha, nudged my backside with its nose, pushing me forward, before it wandered off. That was a first for me. That was one nervy dog, I thought, before I collected my wits, and Mocha her’s, and moved on.

I love pets, cats and dogs, of which I have 3 felines, Sunkist, Sitka and Juneau, and my Mocha. But there’s no telling what will set an animal off, domesticated or not. They’re not human, and no amount of wishing will make them one of us. So when they act out of character, I have to hold the owners accountable when an innocent bystander, or a restrained pet, is injured. I don’t really put a lot of stock in the words “But he’s such a sweet dog. He wouldn’t hurt anyone.” My thought is, there’s always a first time. So why take a chance…

Dobermann Dog

Image via Wikipedia

I think my fear began when a Doberman Pinscher raced across its yard, as I walked by pushing my daughter’s stroller. Gnashing teeth within inches of us, it’s owner finally heard my yells and came to the front door to save my toddler and me from being mauled. That feeling of dread remains embedded in my subconscience. But I try my best to suppress it, when Mocha wants…  

…a breath of fresh air…hugmamma.  

role models, aging gracefully

I’ve become acquainted with a 91-year-young woman through a very dear friend who’s in her mid-70’s. They belong to the same senior center’s group. I’ve only chatted with the elder woman 2 or 3 times, but I’m always amazed at her vitality. She still drives herself to their weekly gatherings where they do needlework, chat, and snack on goodies they, or others, bring to share. This acquaintance dresses stylishly, right down to matching earrings, handbag and shoes. I admire her youthful glow which obviously emanates from within. Her image is always in my mind’s eye when I think of someone aging gracefully.

My friend who’s 70ish is admirable not only because she’s such a fashion-plate, which she is, but also because she is laden with health issues that would bring a younger, stronger woman, like me, to my knees. I’m a wuss by comparison. Like an older sister, sometimes a mom, my girlfriend was a smoker for many years, but was finally able to kick the habit. Whether as a result of smoking or having had it beforehand, she continues to suffer with emphysema which is compounded by asthma. Weighing under 100 pounds she’s a lightweight, but she can be as “tough as nails” when debating her opinion. I’ve never tested her, and am not about to try. I’d rather have her in my corner. When a coughing fit overtakes her, she can easily bruise some ribs. As a last resort her doctor prescribes prednisone which eliminates the cough, but leaves my friend with side effects that linger. She has bouts of diverticulitis which has her curled up in great pain. Throughout our 13 years of friendship, she’s been poked, probed, xrayed, cat-scanned, MRI’d more than anyonelse I know. With the help of a physician who’s cared for her, REALLY CARED, my amazing friend always seems “as fit as a fiddle.” I forget her medical history until another episode occurs, and it always does.

I think I dress rather smartly, but when I’m out with my friend and her husband I know she’s outdone me. Not that I mind, for I am simply in awe of  her sense of style, wearing skirts and dresses that I never would, simply because they wouldn’t look as well on me. They’re not my “cup of tea,” but they suit my girlfriend to a tee. And the jewelry, she can wear several gold bangles, rings on several fingers, including on her toes, and of course, earrings. Stunning is the only word to describe her. Whether she’s lounging at home or stepping out, in my estimation, she’s always “dressed to the nines.”

Her hobby, more like a full-time job, keeps my girlfriend in constant stitches. (Pun intended.)  She is never without a knitting project spread out across her lap, fingers and needles furiously working “knits” and “purls.” Her handiwork is so exquisite that I’ve often said she would make good money selling her sweaters, vests, shawls, afghans, and baby things. But she takes such care that she prefers to give them as gifts, rather than sell them. A few Christmases ago, my husband and I received a deep, red afghan pieced together with several large, knitted squares in different designs. Needless to say, it’s rarely used as a coverlet. The afghan lays decoratively across the back of an oversized, upholstered chair. 

With little success I’ve tried to knit, my friend sitting patiently at my side, encouraging. But when I’m alone I’m in a quandry as to how to correct a mistake, so I undo everything and start anew. Exhausted and frustrated after several hours of undoing my knitting and redoing it, I put my yarns and needles aside. They still sit in a Nordstrom shopping bag against the far back wall of my closet. Now that I’m blogging, who knows when my attempt at knitting will resurface. I wouldn’t place any bets.

My girlfriend is one of the most charitable persons I know. In spite of the toll it might take upon her health, she is committed to helping family and friends in need. Regardless of her step-mother-in-law’s incessant complaining, my friend and her husband regularly visited the aging woman who lived a few hours away. While there they would help however they could. Until she died they spent Thanksgiving with her, foregoing a gayer holiday with their own children and grandchildren. Before putting her into an assisted-living facility, my girlfriend and her husband helped clean out decades of clutter from her mother-in-law’s home. While she lived, there was no indication of her appreciation for her daughter-in-law’s constant concern and care. But after passing away, my friend was bequeathed the old woman’s engagement ring. A just reward for a just person.

As I write this, my girlfriend is hosting friends who are visiting from out-of-state for a month. It may become an annual occurrence, for they welcomed their friends last year at this time. When other friends who live in the same retirement community vacationed at their condo in California earlier this year, my girlfriend took care of their sick dachshund. She went to live at the dog’s home so that it would feel comfortable in its own surroundings. Her husband visited, and she would return home to prepare and have dinner. When we planned our trip to Venice, my friend offered to care for our dog, even contemplating moving into our home so she could also care for our cats. It was a generous gesture, but her husband convinced her that it would be physically challenging for her to walk our dog up our steep driveway without his help, and he was not planning to live here with her. He had their home and dog to care for. We happily agreed to send our dog to their home, and have someonelse care for our cats.

Our family is grateful for the years we’ve known my girlfriend and her husband. I’ve especially cherished her as a role model for living robustly, despite personal hindrances. I hope I have her strong constitution, generosity toward others, and energetic vivacity as I live out the remaining years of my life. With my friend leading the way for a long time to come, I know I’m in good hands.

hugs for role models…hugmamma.

out and about

Just spent a nice day out and about, with my husband. Great to step away from the keyboard and enjoy life first-hand. Reminiscences are wonderful, but so is creating fresh memories.

Heading east we enjoyed clear views of the mountains, and the evergreen landscape that stretched for miles toward the distant horizon. The weather is cooling down, a signal of fall’s appearance. While not as abundant and colorful as the seasonal change in New England, we’re still blessed to bear witness to Mother Nature’s handiwork here in Washington.

We stopped in a small town to lunch. Instead of our usual choice, we decided to eat at Twede’s, a diner that serves breakfast all day. Not a fancy place by any means, but booths filled almost to capacity meant the food was good. Allowed to seat ourselves, we chose the only available booth toward the back, left-side. Once seated, I noticed that the lighting was poor so we moved to a table in the middle of the floor. Shortly afterwards, a wedding party filtered into the diner.  As they mingled near the entrance, it was obvious the bride and groom, and their bridesmaids and groomsmen would be occupying most of the other tables around us. Wanting to give them elbow room, I decided we should move to a booth that had become vacant. At this point my husband, and I were feeling like the Ricardos and the Mertzes in the episode of “I Love Lucy” where she changes tables at a restaurant. The first move was for a better view, and the second, because of an overhead draft. Having watched the sitcom countless times throughout the years, I am probably Lucy Ricardo, reborn. Our daughter agrees.

From the booth I had a perfect view of the wedding party. I gave my husband a running commentary on their attire. Probably in their 20’s and 30’s, the young men and women seemed suitably attired for their ages. The gals wore black cocktail dresses in varying styles that flattered; the guys, black pants held up by suspenders over white, long-sleeved shirts. They might have looked a tad like the Amish. The groom was dressed similarly, but with a vest, and tweed cap pulled low over his brow. The bride wore a strapless gown sporting a vintage look in off-white tule, sprinkled with something glittery. From afar I wasn’t able to decide what gave the dress its bling. The bouquets were simple, large mums in shades of plum, creme and eggplant. I didn’t glimpse the bride’s.

Only in a humble eatery on a country road would we see a bridal party assemble for picture-taking, without ordering a meal. I think a couple of slices of the diner’s famous cherry pie and mugs of coffee, were shared by the wedding couple and the photographers. Otherwise photos were snapped, and the group was on its way, calling out their thanks as they exited. My husband and I surmised that arrangements had been made beforehand, because the waitresses were not perplexed by the group’s short stay.

It wasn’t long before my husband and I were served our delicious hamburgers, his, the “Southwestern” and mine, the “Philly.” They were accompanied by fries and onion rings. We happily downed our meal with a Red Hook (him) and a root beer float (me). Unable to resist, we shared their cherry pie à la mode. Not a lick was left.

Ambling out the door, we sauntered across the town’s main street to Birches Habitat. What a find! My husband left me to browse leisurely, while he walked further down the street to check out other establishments. The front of the shop was stocked with gift items befitting a mountain lodge: metal figures of moose, needlework pillows of a black labrador resting on a red background, assorted guidebooks of the area, scented candles in glass jars painted with butterflies, fragrant soaps in horticultural paper wrap, and other similar merchandise.

Before wandering further back in the store, I selected a book as a Christmas gift for a friend. He’s 76, and while I have no difficulty finding a gift for his wife, I’m usually at a loss when it comes to him. The gift is actually appropriate for both, i’ll wait in the car – dogs along for the ride, texts and photographs by marcie jan bronstein. It seems wherever they drive, our friends cart their dachshund, Gretchen, along. Their previous dachshund, Schatzie, was also their traveling companion before she passed away. So a picture book of dogs waiting for their owners’ return seemed made for our friends. Some of the captions for the photos read “There are dogs waiting alone, dogs waiting with friends, dogs waiting with relatives, and puppies learning to wait.” 

Paying for the book and a few other trinkets, we left main street heading away from town. A tip from the shopkeeper sent me in search of Bad Sisters, an antique shop. Besides blogging, I also sell antiques and collectibles. I make more money selling old stuff, than I do writing. Truth be told, I earn a little in the former, and zilch in the latter. Does it matter that I’m passionate about both? It’d been a while since I visited  the antique shop, having forgotten its existence. Or maybe it was because the pickings were slim. Today was different. I left the shop with some nice items for resale: a large steamer trunk, giant crock, folding room-divider, plaid print tin basket with handle, a couple of old bottles with interesting motifs, an old sepia photo of a Danish family, a tall pair of shabby chic candlesticks, a small white curio cabinet with glass shelves and a few other things. Luckily, I didn’t purchase a drop-leaf, gate-leg, pine table. It would have ridden in the car, while I walked home or thumbed a ride.

Noshing on bagels with cream cheese, grapes and cups of coffee, we spent the evening playing Bananagrams. Amidst a lot of laughter, my husband and I scrambled to finish first. I think he won one game, and I won the other. It depends on who spins the story. Since I’m telling it, we each won one. 

As you can see I’m at the keyboard, my husband is in his recliner watching James Stewart and June Allyson in “The Glenn Miller Story,” the pets are doing their own thing. “God’s in His heaven and all’s right with the world.” Is that how the saying goes? My husband’s unable to confirm this, even though he was the English major.

do you know?…hugmamma.