March On

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Friday, January 19, 2018

One year ago, I left this glorious slice of dystopia that is my sometimes life, and flew home to march with my daughter, along with 99,998 other likeminded folks, at the Portland Women’s March. The raw energy and hope of this experience buoyed me through the past 12 months. Maybe that’s too Pollyanna. In the darkest days of this past year, it did give me some hope. It’s been a dismal year filled with some pretty awful folks doing and saying some extremely hateful things. It was hard to live through and equally hard to rehash. So…….I won’t. We all know what happened, which means that once again, we need to regroup and push on.

I have a longtime friend here at the park that has known me since my teens. I see him occasionally, and each time our paths cross, he tells me something I had no idea that I needed to hear. He was out taking a stroll and I happened to be doing the same, and so we stopped for a chat. He uses a walker, which is not a problem for him, as several years ago his doctor told him he would be wheelchair bound within a year. This was not the direction he had in mind for his life, so he began walking every day. He beat the odds. He does water aerobics several days a week; he walks, and engages with people. He has calm and thoughtful words that he happily shares. He mentioned that the thing he misses most in his life is a sense of purpose. He said, “At this point in my life, my purpose is me, and that is not how I like to live.” I told him that his purpose has simply changed and that he does have purpose. He gives to others. He gives his presence to others EVERY DAY, and that is a blessing to the rest of us. His words and attention to those around him make a difference. I have mentioned that I have a Guardian Angel here at the park. It seems that I also have a map-reader, who would be this particular friend.   In life, one needs someone to assist with the directions and someone to watch over things. I am lucky to have both.

My friend is right. We each need a purpose. Sometimes that is small. Sometimes it’s not so small. Personally, I spend my days caring for my Dad. I don’t speak about that here, but it is pretty much what I do. I miss being of service for the greater good, but life takes us each in unique directions and, if we listen, the path is truly part of our life’s education. You don’t know what you are able to do until you find yourself immersed in the task. This is not to say that I don’t fall into sadness over the smallness that life has taken me, but I have learned that there is a time when you use what you have in a different way.

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So for me, this is not a year to march. This doesn’t mean that I can’t be a part, and herein lies the message of the day: Sometimes we do, and sometimes our part is to make this thing possible for others. I give my deepest and most heartfelt thanks to the half-dozen women who did their part to make marching more possible for one. And to you, dear one, know that you are in our hearts and minds this weekend. We wish you strength, safety, and resolve.

There is a power within our greater collective that will move mountains. It always has.

Resist and persist.

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And The Fun Begins……

 

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Thursday, January 4, 2018

There are a few things that cause stress when you drive an RV. Pulling off to stop for virtually anything, but most specifically the gas station stops, can be a nail biting experience. The Hag is a long gal, and we tow the Jeep for added drama, so a mis-step mandating a do-over, (like backing up) is not an option. We happened to be in just that sort of a situation, half in and half out of a Pilot Station waiting for the dude in front of us, in a U-Haul, to return from his Big Gulp break to fill up and leave, so we could pull in. There was much anxious conversation in the Hag (this means the tension was high) when a woman appeared at the driver’s window and said, “Hey! Just what are you doing?!” Very, very, very fortunately (for all of us Hag dwellers) she is a fellow FOYite and they were behind us, sticking out even farther into the street, with their truck and trailer, waiting for gas. She recognized us and came to say hi! We must be memorable, although I can’t imagine why. They were also heading to the Orange Grove for their final night out before landing at FOY to stay the winter in their fabulous re-conditioned/re-wired/re-plumbed/completely gutted and re-done Spartan travel trailer. (If you’re not sure what a Spartan is, do a little Google search. They are classically cool, hailing from the 30’s to the 50’s.)  We exchanged pleasantries and hugs and said that we’d see them at the Orange Grove.

Due to the fact that we have a rigid park arrival and set-things-up schedule that is particularly unwavering in its execution, and that there were oranges that some felt needed to be picked immediately, we did not roam the park and look them up.

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Delicious oranges.

But…….they did seek us out! THEY FOUND US, AND CAME IN FOR A VISIT! I mention this with grateful surprise, due to the fact that we don’t get a lot of visitors, and I tend to forget how wonderful and needed companionship is. Our lives are fairly solitary, which suits one of the Daisies. The rest of us, out of courtesy and respect, go along with this until our 2-month exile, when we enjoy conversation with the rest of the world (or our little world) on a daily basis. We caught up on life, they left, we went to bed, and Ground Hog’s Day began, once again.

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The last day of the drive to FOY can be the most harrowing. In the past, we have taken I-10 through San Bernardino and Palm Springs. Regardless of the time of day you drive this road, there is a lot of traffic. We have noticed that folks have become less happy to drive from place to place. A drive almost anywhere seems to put you in peril at the hands of the other less patient commuters. With this at the forefront of all our minds, we decided to take another route, which we were told, was ever so slightly longer, but with much less traffic. Our friends from the previous night drive this way and mentioned that they always stop at a little restaurant in Lucerne Valley (Café 247) for lunch.

It is general knowledge that once the wheels on the Hag begin turning, they don’t stop until either the driver has to stop for the call of nature, or we have reached our destination. As we drove this, new to us route, we came upon the aforementioned restaurant. The driver looked over, exclaimed that our friends appeared to be enjoying a lunch break, and he PULLED INTO THE PARKING LOT! This is big news for us. The Daisie group headed into Café 247 and had hamburgers with our FOY friends. It was a treat…..a cook’s treat! The food was good and the company even better.

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This is it.  We ate here.  It was good.

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We saw a Roadrunner outside the restaurant!

And with this, our respite in the desert began. We arrived at FOY, without incident and well fed. Our neighbors and friends happily welcomed us back for another winter’s stay in the land of the sun and retired folks. Linda, from across the street, brought us pulled pork and hamburger buns, (cook’s night off, again) Jan and Bryan, our next door neighbors, brought us donuts from Calipatria, and Dick and Helen, our Oregon friends, brought Dad his favorite donut holes. There were hugs and laughter. This is an isolated place out here in the middle of nowhere, but it’s not a place to be isolated. Surrounded by people who care for each other is a pretty good spot to be, at least for the Daisies.

Peace

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Stella and Dad have assumed their positions.

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Dad, hard at work with his braiding preparation.

 

 

 

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Year Six, Day 1

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

And the saga begins again. We are on the road, for the SIXTH year, to that little spot in the middle of nowhere, to neighbor-up to like-minded sun-seekers. For those of you who may have a tighter grasp on reality than I seem to, it’s true; today is the 2nd day of the year. In my little world, the first day of the year involved a lot of walking, both behind a vacuum cleaner and/or with a tight grasp on the handles of a wheel-barrow pushing loads of necessary things up to the Hag. Cleaning and packing. That’s really what it’s all about. The Hokey-Pokey has nothing to do with it. It’s simply a lot of work, list making, head scratching, and ultimately……confusion. Because, once it’s packed it becomes important to remember that it was, in fact, packed away, and then it’s helpful to remember exactly where you put it. Problems of the elderly, of which I am certainly approaching with greater speed than seems necessary.

Out of courtesy, I’ll review a couple of axioms for this little group of travelers:

  1. Craig is the driver.
  2. Dad is the co-pilot.
  3. I provide meals, laundry and cleaning services.
  4. Stella keeps everyone happy. And calm. She’s our visual example of how life should be lived.

Speaking of Stella, as we always are, it came as a surprise to us that she chose a new seat for traveling. Her usual travel napping spot, (I mean riding spot) is on top of a couple of cushy bathmats that sit between the driver and co-pilot. On this first day of travel, about an hour into the journey, when I was up fetching things for the first-class seats, she hopped into MY chair, which happens to be a recliner that rocks and sits behind the co-pilot. She looked content with this new seating upgrade. I try not to disturb folks when they look happy. I also noticed that she seemed to be able to rock the chair herself. She is a remarkable girl. It’s cute. I’m sure she wanted me to sit on the sofa with my feet up. I have been working pretty hard. She noticed that. (She’s mamma’s girl.) There’s no end to her empathy and compassion, and perhaps her need for sleep and comfort, which it seemed that she had found.

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Goldilocks, I mean Stella, hops into the co-pilots seat, when the co-pilot had to take a break.

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And…..the co-pilot unceremoniously asks Stella to leave his seat.

 

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Stella finds her best seat and watches the road ahead.

This particular day of travel did not necessarily come about in a random fashion. It is a Tuesday, which makes it “Taco Tuesday” at the casino. Two of the four Daisies think this is a GREAT idea. Stella doesn’t really care, as she has discovered a new favorite place to sit, and I’ll explain tacos to Dad, and he will “gag them down.” Cooks night off, and cheap food that will most assuredly give us all indigestion; it’s what’s for dinner.

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And so, with considerably less irritation and frustration than normally occur in a Daisie exodus, we are on the road. It is our first day out. It is not the first day of the year. None of this really matters. So come along with us. I’ll keep you informed of the latest happenings. It’s a sure bet that we’ll have “adventure” whether or not it’s what we want.

Happy Trails to us and to you!

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Traveling.  Food.  Truly, this will settle your stomach.  And make you happy.  It’s a known fact.

 

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Sleigh Bells

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Sunday, December 24, 2017

We have a Christmas Eve tradition that started a couple of years ago. Our sweet neighbors asked us if we would mind coming up to their house (at night – in the dark) and stand outside their young son’s bedroom window and ring bells. Jingle Bells. Like Santa’s sleigh bells. The time was pre-arranged; we weren’t creepy. Our bell ringing was to start around the time they finished reading “The Night Before Christmas” to their son. With the benefit of technology, aka texting, we managed to pull this off with a precision that would make a train conductor proud. We stood outside their house and rang with reckless abandon. It made for a magical experience, for everyone concerned. An evening walk, jingle bells breaking the silence of a quiet night, and a young boy’s knowledge that Santa was on his way.

As happens with all things, time passes and what once was believed to be true isn’t held so tightly. The parents felt that last year was probably the end of our evening shenaganins with bells, as their son was old enough that they were pretty sure he was wise to what was happening. I asked if our services were wanted this year and my neighbor said that their son was on to them, but wasn’t upset. But, she did think it would work well if we rang our bells and he looked out the window and “caught us.” I told her I would bring some cookies and we would tell him we were out looking for Santa. I was pretty sure he would believe me. This is the kid who thinks I pick up dog poop bare handed. I guess he didn’t see my plastic bag? I do feel a certain “toughness” being thought of in this light. And, you can read that as me believing that he must view me as pretty badass. Who wouldn’t like that? I’ll help you out: I’m quite flattered.

Because Christmas Eve brought us freezing rain and our neighbors were concerned about us falling, (and rightly so…..we’re not spring chickens anymore) we wandered up to their house, around 8:00, cookies and bells in hand. We were told he was watching “A Christmas Story,” so we began ringing in earnest. When he heard the bells, he jumped up and looked out the top of the curtains. I could see his face but I don’t think he could see us. It was a look of unbridled joy! He threw his hands in the air and his smile went from ear to ear. It was an expression of happiness and relief. Who doesn’t want to believe? (The answer: We all want to believe.)

We continued to ring the bells as we called out for “Santa!” Mom, Dad, and dear excited Son met us at their front door. We exchanged goodies and told him we were out looking for Santa. Whether or not he bought our story was not the point. Each of us wants to hold fast to the things that bring us joy, and to feel peace in the knowledge that some things can stay with us always. The goodness of a vision, of a person who spreads gifts to everyone, regardless of ANYTHING might just be something we all need to embrace.

To my neighbors who remind us that the beauty of this season is most certainly seen in the faces of our children: Thank you for being you.

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays however you may celebrate this season of winter, light, and love.

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Dear Son

I’m catching up…….forgive me……sometimes it takes me a while to get things done.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

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Several days ago, I was chatting with my neighbor and I mentioned that the kids and their significant others were coming down to celebrate my dear Son Justin’s 33rd birthday. She said, “How does that make you feel?” As her sweet son is still in the single digits, I knew what she was asking me had more to do with how old it was making me feel than what my mood was. I told her the truth. I remember the day he was born like it was yesterday. For me, all of life began with the birth of my wonderful son. (The birth of my daughter showed me the meaning of life. This is not about which child made the biggest impression. It’s about two life-changing experiences.) Each of us, whether or not we are a parent, can trace how our lives unfolded by the significant events that made us who be have become. For me, it is my kids. I have mentioned this before, and I stand by it.

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Mother’s Day at the Portland Japanese Garden

Dear Son taught me things I would not have otherwise figured out. He has been my partner in crime. Actually, I may have misrepresented that. It might be the other way around. I could have, possibly, been his partner in crime, running wildly behind him, arms flailing madly, with warnings regarding safety. He was and is my guide through all things scientific, electronic and sometimes that which is quite cerebral. It has been a journey through time with a great teacher and leader, 33 years of memories, to be exact.

So I will state a well known but not often reflected upon truth: Age is what it is. You don’t get to the point you find yourself without the things that brought you there. Thank you, Justin, for the love and education that only a smart, talented, and remarkable Son can impart. You have raised me well.

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Young Son and Sweet Riley

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The Greenhouse

 

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November 8, 2017

A little over a year ago, in September of 2016, we made a little purchase. A neighbor happened to be selling a greenhouse and we, or more specifically I, thought buying it would not only be a GREAT idea, but would also make a dream come true. Maybe I should say my dream, as I don’t think it has been an idea others in my group have courted. I have a degree in Horticulture, actually Landscape Design. It’s true that I have ventured far afield from this early career, but working the land is something I have always done. A greenhouse has been one of those things I envisioned being a part of my life, but wasn’t sure how or when that would all work out.

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This is the “Before” photo.

As is our particular style, this event, of bringing something new into the fold, was stressful and worrisome for several members of the Daisie clan. And by several, I mean all of us. Maybe not Stella, but it’s hard to say, as she very wisely chooses to take a nap when things amp up at the farm. Maybe that is why she is so attractive? So much beauty rest. It works for her.

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She looks tired.  It was a lot of work and fairly stressful.  So much angst.  Time for a nap.

Again, I digress. My people were worried about the logistics of moving this little structure from the neighbors’ back yard into ours. There was much discussion regarding location and orientation of said greenhouse. And, of course, not everyone was on the same wavelength regarding how it should be set up. In the end, our dear neighbors and their flatbed trailer and VERY strong family members moved the greenhouse without drama or mishap. They are used to doing these sorts of things. We aren’t.

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The greenhouse comes to it’s “forever home.”

As for the location and orientation, I guess I would have to say that I mandated the placement and the angle, which, in the end, folks seemed to be generally pleased with. Dad got out his transit and level and we did a little survey work.

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Surveying.  We all have a job.  Dad does the big work. He understands the math.  He knows how to run the transit.  I get to hold the rod.  Stella is the casual observer.

We had cut and fill. This means we had a lot of opportunity to do tractor work and shovel work.

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These jobs need supervision.  Lots of supervision.

It is level.

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So much work…….I can’t even begin to describe it.  And, it was the end of a long HOT summer.  The ground was like cement.

I added some pavers for the entrance and interior, and I used some flue liners that I brought from our previous house, as planters outside the entry door.

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My paver and flue liner collection.  The pavers were covered with a moldish-type substance.  (The black stuff on the lower rows of pavers.)     I cleaned them with a scrub brush and “Soft Scrub with Bleach.”  Again, it was monumental work.

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Part of the process……

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Inside the greenhouse.  Pavers set but not yet sanded.

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Pavers set and relatively level.  The last step is to sweep fine sand over them, which will hold them in place.

Because the growing season was coming to an end, I threw my fuchsias, mums, and 1 lone coffee plant in the greenhouse, wished them well and hoped for the best. It wasn’t heated, and not knowing that it was going to be one of the coldest winters we’d had in a long time, I was shocked that by spring there was a little life in each container, with the exception of the coffee plant which dropped absolutely DEAD. It was very small. And inexpensive. It’s okay.

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A rather cold (and bleak) winter.

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And then came spring.  I planted annuals and perennials in the flue liners and made some glass flowers.  The “little old lady fencing” was to keep sweet Stella from laying down on the cantaloupes.  She seems to prefer to lay in the dirt…..next to the greenhouse.  The barricade worked.  She’s polite and takes a, not so subtle, hint quite well.

In April, Kailin came down for the day and we planted seeds for the garden. The benches were filled with the sweet scent of a greenhouse brimming with life in the making. I was careful in this endeavor. I sanitized the plastic planting containers. I bought the components to mix my own sterile planting medium. Insect pests and fungal issues weren’t a problem. Life sprung from my little greenhouse in a way that amazed all of us.

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My sweet Miss, and a LOT of tomatoes!

I had success. Almost everything that we planted came up, which I can only attribute to beginner’s luck, as well as the fragments of “Greenhouse 101” that I remember from my college days. If I’m being honest with myself, my memory might only be the glorious smell of the OSU greenhouse and the dreadful whitefly infestation. But, I did have success, and all that I planted in the garden did pretty well. We had tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, herbs, tomatillos, edible pumpkins, and jack-o-lantern pumpkins – there is a difference. And quite shockingly, for this area, we also had cantaloupes.

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Tuscan Cantaloupe

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Naked Bear Pumpkin.  It’s edible.  (Jack-o-Lantern Pumpkins are SO stringy they are not good for eating)

It has been a glorious adventure and hardly a day has gone by without a trip from the house to the greenhouse. We are best friends.   I can see it from the kitchen and its presence brings me pure happiness. It’s small but mighty. All those little seeds we carefully planted, the promise of summer’s bounty, sprung forth with a little work, love, and water. It gave me Heirloom tomatoes that I ate with a vengeance, rendering all other tomatoes as something altogether different, and not necessarily in a good way. It is true that a garden ties you to the earth. You become the common denominator between what goes into you and where it comes from.

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Sungold Tomatoes.  They were my daily “snack,” vine ripe and enjoyed any time I walked by, which was pretty often.

With the onset of fall, and the threat of our first freeze, I have put the garden to bed for the winter and buttoned up my beloved greenhouse. Once again, I have surrendered my fuchsias for the winter months, to its unheated shelter. Maybe they will survive. Maybe not. We’ll see come spring. My notes from this summer’s garden are tucked away along with my list of what to plant next year. I can’t say it any better than Henry David Thoreau:

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”

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Stella Has Friends Over

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Sunday, October 1, 2017

It’s never good to start something with a retraction, but in the hope of being blatantly honest, I really should. Dogs and people came over, but the dogs turned out to not necessarily be “friends.” It’s hard to imagine. Stella is practically perfect, and I can only assume because of that, she isn’t well received by the canine community. It’s happened before and I guess it’s her lot in life. I’ll explain.

We celebrated dear Kailin’s 30th birthday on Sunday with a family dinner and the kids, their significant others, and respective dogs came for the mealtime event. Each set brought a dog. Riley’s boyfriend, who would be my dear son Justin, brought her (Riley the dog) and his actual girlfriend, Sara, down to the farm. I’m thinking this might be a tad confusing? Riley, who is Sara’s dog, pines for Justin. Unfortunately, in the dog’s eyes, Sara has become fresh broccoli, or some other unpleasant food item. The chopped liver analogy doesn’t really work in this instance. This shunning of her companion of the last 7+ years occurred when she was introduced to Justin. Sara speaks and the dog feigns deafness. This seems to be a dog thing as dear departed Wiley didn’t hear any voice other than Craig’s or mine. My Dad barely existed in his world. Again, I am drifting in a wayward fashion.

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Riley, the dog, being held by her boyfriend, Son Justin, with Justin’s girlfriend, sweet Sara, in the background.  Read it a couple of times and it will begin to make sense.

Dear daughter Kailin came with boyfriend, Taylor, who brought the dog he is dog sitting. This would be 14 year-old Dodger, a happy-go-lucky, yellow lab that some folks would describe as being “long in the tooth.” He’s an old guy, with old guy issues. His hearing isn’t what it used to be. His vision isn’t what it used to be. His hind legs aren’t what they used to be, and his breath could peel paint off the walls. But what am I thinking? This could quite easily describe any of us older Daisies, but you get the point. What he is, is an endearing senior, who doesn’t have a care in the world, and is simply happy to be alive.

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Dodger, the dog, gazes lovingly at Taylor, while Justin and Riley, in the background, exchange looks.  This scene was repeated often.

When the kids arrived and Dodger lumbered out of the car, Stella, in her wild excitement for a prospective friend, almost bowled the poor guy over. He needed to use the facilities, and didn’t give her much acknowledgement in his pursuit of a suitable spot to do his business. After his needs were attended to, he did break into a little trot, but that was short lived. Stella caught wind of the serious age difference and gave up the idea of a running companion. I would have to say that our dear girl was somewhat crushed by all of this.

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Riley.  She has many moods.  This one is happy.  And hot.

Stella would LOVE to have a dog friend, and is briefly overjoyed whenever Riley comes down. She was equally as excited to have Dodger over. In the case of Riley, her joy is short-lived as she isn’t interested in a friend. She has Justin. That seems to be enough for her. She makes this known by showing Stella (or, in this instance, Dodger) her pearly whites. Stella learns quickly and gives her a wide berth. Riley is admonished not to do this, but at age 10, suggesting that she adjust her attitude, results in some genuine unhappiness and what her people describe as “throwing a tantrum.” I would call it doing some serious sulking.

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Riley and her teeth.  This is actually a smile or maybe the beginning of one.  Her “not so happy look” is slightly different.

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So. Many. Dogs.

The day did give us insight into Stella. It was a stressful day for her. Dodger was of the persuasion to randomly let out a bark. Every time this happened, it sent Stella into a frenzy. Somehow, she seemed to think that the perimeter had been breached and was frantic to find out what crisis was in the making. She found herself having to run in circles checking the window and dashing to the door wanting to go outside and surmise the situation. Riley was unaffected by this, as was Dodger. He was just talking and doing what Labs do. He wandered around, paying no mind to anything.

Riley, was unimpressed by Dodger and let him know that she was not interested in him invading her personal bubble. Again, Dodger was oblivious, and Stella was a mess. She kept giving me looks, which I interpreted as: “That dog is too close to the other dog. I’m telling you that bad things are going to happen. You better do something other than just sit there!”

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The infamous “side-eyes.”

It was my dear daughter who summed things up for me. She said, “Mom…….Stella reminds me of you. She NEVER sits down, and she is always concerned about what is going on and what needs to be done next.   The only difference is that she gets more sleep than you. A lot more sleep.” If you are thinking this is some sort of an insulting statement, think again. The truth is the truth. I get that. Know thyself. It’s good to have someone who’s got your back, especially when they live under the same roof. (That would be Stella, in case there is still some confusion. She is ever helpful.)

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She’s a doberman.  That means she’s a lap dog.  And, my dear departed Mother would turn inside out to think that the dogs have overtaken the furniture.  It really isn’t that way.  It just looks like it.

All in all, it was a wonderful, joyful day for the two-legged folks. I love being in the presence of my dear kids and their dear partners, the dogs, the food, and with plenty of conversation. It was Kailin’s birthday, but it was truly my treat. Surrounded by love, life, and laughter, what could be better? Some friends have mentioned that coffee and chocolate are close seconds, but we had both of those, so all needs appeared to be taken care of.

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Kailin, the birthday girl, Taylor, and Dad

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Justin, Sara, and Craig

It was the birthday girl’s choice for dinner. We had what, in our family, we refer to as “A Big Bean Dinner.” I made refried beans, and all the fixings for “make your own burritos.” For birthday dessert, she requested my chocolate cake with raspberry filling and whipped cream frosting. Food from days gone by or, more aptly put, a meal from the kid’s childhood.

We ate, the dogs collapsed, and all was good, except for the friend thing for Stella.

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Sweet Riley

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Dear Dodger

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Stella.  It was a long day.

But, by the time everyone left, she was so tired from all the work this day had dumped on her plate, that she went to bed and fell dead asleep. As usual.

Again, Happy 30th to Kailin, and to the rest of us for the grace she brings to all our lives.

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Three generations.  Happy 30th, Miss!  May the next 30 be as magical as the first 30!

 

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