Just Life

A Little Rant to Start The Week

One of the “hallmarks” of my personality is that . . . I really don’t like to be misunderstood. This is different from not wanting to be wrong (although I don’t like that either). But mostly, I just really want to be understood.

Something happened last week that is really triggering that “misunderstood” thing in me, so I thought that maybe it would help if I ranted about it a little bit here, in an attempt to just get it out of my system, y’know? (Because, really, there’s only so much “airtime” Tom is willing to give this particular topic at this point.)

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(Just a little view from my dog walk on Saturday. I love that haze of green from the willow trees in the background.) (And don't expect much from the other photos in this post. They are purely functional.)

So here’s the situation:

I live in a very dog-friendly neighborhood. There are lots of dogs, and they’re generally quite well-behaved – as are their owners. Pretty much every day - in all types of weather - you’ll see dog owners out there on the streets of my neighborhood, walking their dogs. On leashes. With poop-bags in hand. (We even have a neighborhood Great Dane. His owner walks him every day, carrying a small “shovel” and what appears to be a small garbage bag. Lucky him.) 

We neighborhood dog-walkers are a jovial bunch. We know each other, at least by sight, and if we have time (and the inclination), we occasionally allow our dogs a little “together time” out on the street. (To sniff and “play bow” a little, y’know?) We keep an eye on each other. Several of my fellow neighborhood dog-walkers have stopped me to inquire about - and offer their condolences for - Jenny, for example. 

Almost without exception, the dog-walkers in my neighborhood are caring and responsible. Some people actually leave out bowls of water near their sidewalks in the summer, for example, so dogs on walks can get a drink in the heat. And only on rare occasions do I find a “wayward poop” from another dog in my yard. My neighbors carry poop bags – and know how to use them.

JoJo and I join the dog-walking parade every day. We are very responsible. JoJo has been through obedience training, and “heels” well on leash. We stay on the street or sidewalk, unless JoJo needs to do her business (she prefers the grass for this), but I keep her just on the edge of a lawn - and I always pick up her “leavings.” I don’t let her walk through garden beds near the road. I don’t let her go more than a foot or two into someone’s lawn. I keep her out of any areas of active grass-seeding. She is always on her leash in our neighborhood.

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So.

Last Wednesday, we were out for our walk when JoJo stopped to poop on the very edge of a lawn. While she was in the process, as I was getting my bag out of my pocket - ready to pick up her mess, the front door of the house swung open, and the woman at the door started yelling at me. 

Really yelling.
Loudly.
I couldn’t quite get my head wrapped around the words she was yelling, but she was certainly incensed. I figured she was concerned about the poop in her yard. I waved my little poop bag and assured her I was going to pick it up.

NO! She hollered at me.

I.DO.NOT.WANT.YOUR.DOG.ON.MY.LAWN.
AT.ALL.

She was really, really upset.
Like, spitting-while-she-yelled upset.

I tried to be nice. I explained that I couldn’t really do anything about that right now (with my dog mid-poop), but I’d see to it that my dog didn’t get on her lawn in the future. Which apparently wasn’t good enough, because she continued to yell. I picked up JoJo’s poop, and quickly moved on.

I did scan the lawn, though, to see if there were maybe “keep off the grass” signs posted that I had missed. There weren’t.

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(This is NOT a picture of the lawn in question, but it could be. The street/curb situation at that house is exactly like the one in this photo. JoJo was this far from the curb when she did her thing. I never leave the street.)

Anyway.
The whole thing was very upsetting.
And I've done a lot of "stewing" over this situation.

There are MANY dogs and their owners walking past this woman’s house every day.  I wonder . . . does she just watch out her window and yell at people whenever a dog walks on her lawn? Have I been doing this dog-walking thing wrong (for the past 30 years) in allowing my dogs to step onto people’s lawns? Have I been missing a law or something? What made this woman so incensed about my dog being on her lawn . . . at the very edge of the street?

The next day I contacted my city’s municipal office to find out . . . what ARE the rules/laws of dog-walking in my community? I discovered that the rules are actually quite simple (and enforced) in my community: Dogs must be leashed. Dogs must be licensed. And that’s it. 

It is this particular woman’s preference that dogs not be on her property. She has no legal footing – unless the dog is unleashed or unlicensed. Now that I know about her preference, I will honor it. But I wasn’t doing anything “wrong” or irresponsible. I didn't deserve to be hollered at. And, really, she should make her preference known in ways other than yelling at people out her door. Like with signs. (Signs that people have no legal obligation to heed, mind you.) Giving some notice would be helpful for people trying to be good neighbors; trying to do the neighborly thing.

I’d love to go back to that house and explain to the angry woman that I’m a responsible dog-owner, and that I wasn’t actually doing anything wrong. (I don’t like to be misunderstood, y’know?) I’d also suggest that, perhaps, if she really doesn’t want dogs on her lawn, she should at least put up a few signs indicating her preference, and see if that helps. Because just hollering at people? Not nice. Although effective. (I certainly won’t allow JoJo anywhere near her lawn when we’re out walking in the future!)

But I won't.

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Okay.
That’s it! 

I feel better now that I’ve had a chance to rant a little bit.

(I’d love to hear your thoughts, by the way. Especially if you aren’t a dog-person and have to deal with dog-walkers in your neighborhood. I am responsible with my dog-walking, but I’m always willing to be a better dog-neighbor.)


Friday Follow Up

Here we are . . . Friday already! I feel like my week is, well . . . very messed up. It feels like maybe Wednesday to me? It's because I spent all day Tuesday working an election, and 15-hour work days (even when slow) (especially when slow?) wreak havoc with my schedule, my energy levels, and my sense of time. 

But there is this . . . 

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Grape hyacinths are my very favorite spring bulb . . . and I have them springing up all over my gardens right now. It delights me to see them. Flower are always magical . . . but these little guys are especially magical to me!

And . . . speaking of the election. In my post on Tuesday, I provided some basic facts about my community, and asked you to take a guess at how many people would vote in my precinct on Tuesday. One thing I forgot to mention in my post is that we have "on demand absentee voting" now in Michigan, giving every voter the option to vote by mail. And . . . a LOT of people really like that option! So in my assigned polling place (which also happens to include the precinct I live and vote in), we had the following results:

  • There are 2,364 registered voters in the two precincts voting in my polling place. (Often they will combine precincts for elections where low turnout is expected).
  • 567 total votes were cast in those two precincts -- representing almost 24% turnout. (I'm sure that sounds low, but it's actually a little higher than average for a special election.) (Consider that the national average for a presidential general election is only 60%, and only 40% for primaries. Local elections usually experience minimal turnout.)
  • BUT . . . only 59 votes were cast at my polling place on Tuesday! (Which means 508 voters opted to mail in absentee votes instead of visiting the polls.) (You can imagine how slow a day that was for us election officers! The polls are open from 7am until 8pm - 13 hours. So that translates to . . . about 4 or 5 voters per hour.)

So. I am happy to announce TWO winners for my little guessing game! (I'm choosing two winners because I forgot to mention the ability for voters in Michigan to vote by mail. I was specifically looking for a guess at how many voters would come to the polls, but your guesses may have been lower had you known there was another option for voting. My bad.) Anyway. The winners!!!

  • Dee guessed 60 voters at the polling place, and she is only 1 voter off! Congratulations, Dee!
  • Jane guessed 525 voters, which is the closest guess to the total number of voters from my assigned precincts. Congratulations, Jane!

(I'll be contacting you both to make arrangements for getting your exciting prizes out in the mail.)

Thanks so much for playing along with me on Tuesday! It was fun distraction for me all day to watch your guesses come in . . . as I read and knit dish cloths. (More on that another day, but I'll tell you that gave me time to finish one book and knit two ball band dishcloths.)

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I hope you all have a lovely weekend, full of what you like best.

 


A Little Guessing Game

Look! It's my larch tree . . . coming back to life!

(This amazes me every year.)
(I don't know why I should be so amazed. It's a native tree, and this is what they do. But still.)

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Anyway.

By the time you read this post, I will be hard at work at today's special election.

There is only ONE issue on the ballot: a millage renewal request.
And that translates into . . .  a very long - and likely very slow - day at the polls.

I'll have my knitting. And a book. And the NYTimes crossword puzzle (from Sunday).
But it's gonna be a long, long day.

Here's the guessing game: How many total voters will vote where I'm working today?

(Hints: I'll be working in a location that is combining TWO precincts for this election. It's in a fairly "polictically active" area of the city, and turnout is generally high, although it is not expected to be high for this election. The issue being voted on is not controversial, and has not garnered media attention. The population of Portage is 49,000, and there are 20 voting precincts in the city.) (Oh. And the weather forecast is for rain. All day. . . )

Leave your guess in the comments. There will be a prize!


Always Wish for More Birthdays!

"My life is better with every year of living it."
               --- Rachel Maddow

Today is my birthday.

And this is what 63 looks like for me. . . 

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Once upon a time, back when I had my hair colored every 4 weeks and I never left the house without makeup, I was . . . well, let's just say . . . Not Looking Forward to my 50th birthday. And then I was diagnosed with cancer. And I realized . . . how very much I wanted to turn 50 . . . how lucky I would be to turn 60. And 70. And, hopefully, even 80.  (Perspective is an amazing thing.)

So now?
I get really excited about my birthday every year! Bring 'em on, I say. Pile them up and stack 'em as high as possible, please! The more the merrier, in fact!

I agree with Rachel Maddow . . . my life is better with every.single.year of living it!


Best of February . . .

Lately, on the last Monday of the month, I've been sharing a few of the "best" things that happened for me over the month wrapping up. But . . . I've been struggling with the topic all weekend. What to say? How to write? Not because I don't have good things to share (I do), but because . . . well. It doesn't feel quite right when a power-hungry bully is killing innocent civilians in an unprovoked war, y'know?

I mean, it feels very . . . surreal to me. To be running around the house, doing my weekend chores, taking care of the laundry, and planning for the week ahead . . . while Ukrainian citizens are making molotov cocktails and taking cover in the subways while bombs drop on them. And I can watch immediate updates of this in real time, thanks to the internet. I'm trying to learn as much as I can, without getting too bogged down in hysteria and spending all my time doom-scrolling; wanting to stay informed, but also wanting to sleep at night. It's one of those living-in-the-"&-space" moments. My life is moving forward in its usual way . . . AND . . .  there are horrible things happening in the world.

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In the end, I've decided that I need to take some time off from blogging. I'll be back . . . because I enjoy connecting with all of you. But for today, telling you about my new rug or how nice it was to be able to celebrate Brian's 30th birthday with him just . . . feels wrong for me. It feels . . . trivial. A little break is my way of processing, a way to regain some perspective about what to say and how to say it.

Take care of yourselves. And I'll be back . . . sometime later this week.


February 4

"I have woven a parachute out of everything broken."
            --- William Stafford

Today. . . is my chemo-anniversary. 13 years ago today, I walked out of the infusion center . . . bald, tired, and really freaked out (because it's surprisingly unnerving being "untethered" from the poisonous concoction that, while draining you, was also saving you).

I used to celebrate this day in various big and splashy ways, but my celebrations have evolved to become more solitary and inward as the years have ticked by. I still mark the day and remember it each year, though. (Tom greeted me with a special song-and-dance to celebrate this morning.) (He really is very worthy of that big brown blob of a sweater. . . ). 

I was going to spare you all another of my February 4 anniversary posts and just let this day go (at least blogwise). But, here I am. Writing about it again. It seems I can't help myself. Time may blunt the need for splashy celebrations, but it doesn't take away the need to express gratitude!

I'm so grateful to be here. Still. After all these years.

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(The sunset last night, from my front door, was amazing.)

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I wish you all a wonderful weekend. Take some time to be grateful for your days. (They really are a wonder.)

 


Air Travel . . . These Days: When Plans Unravel

So . . . when I got the notice of my appointment at Mayo, I had a few decisions to make. Number one being . . . how to get there. Now, the last two times I visited Mayo, I was incredibly stressed, under duress -- and sick. Tom handled everything. He drove me. (For us, it's an 8-hour drive. But not an easy 8-hour drive -- because of the lake and driving through Chicago.) But this time, I knew I could handle the journey as a solo trip -- but driving that far in December in the north is potentially . . . challenging.

I decided to fly.

It was a highly considered decision, you know . . . with Covid and all.

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But I decided to go for the air option, and I scheduled my travel to keep myself as separated from others as possible. I even upgraded myself to First Class so I could be in a less populated (and less crowded) part of the plane. (I have many, many "miles" built up. . . ) I chose seats that were "singles" so I'd have no "neighbors." I gave myself connecting flights with enough time to comfortably move between gates without having to crush in with other people on "trams." I felt . . . fairly comfortable about everything. After all, my flights were short. My time in the airports would be minimal, and my time in the air would be brief (about 2 hours, total, flying time). I had arranged for a car/driver to retrieve me from the airport to my hotel. I was . . . good to go.

Until it all fell to shit.

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I am a veteran traveler. I know better than to count on things going as planned. But, oh boy. Things really went off the rails on my trip out! That's me . . . ready to (finally) board my outgoing flight . . . after what turned out to be a four hour delay. My entire plan unraveled at the first step! What I had planned as a short stint in airports . . . turned out to be eight hours in airports. By the time I arrived in Rochester - at midnight! - I was exhausted, stressed, and generally not a happy camper. (And I ended up sharing my car with other shell-shocked Mayo patients who had no waiting car at the airport. At midnight. During a wind storm. With windchills below zero. Because it was the right thing to do.)

Best laid plans. And all that.
(And, yeah. Driving would have been faster.)

Coming home yesterday was much smoother. (Although it's never fun to get to the airport at 4am only to find that your first flight has already been delayed. Sigh.) I will say that the First Class thing did work out brilliantly (and comfortably). I was first in/first out on that plane, and I had no one breathing near me (although I know . . . circulating air . . . ). Best thing I did, upgrading to First Class.

And I did have time to knit yesterday. (I was actually too stressed on the way out to knit. It was bad.)

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Any guesses what I've got on the needles?
(Hint: it was perfect travel knitting.)

Now. I just keep my fingers crossed that I didn't pick up Covid during my travels. (Sigh.)

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How about you? What are you making this week?


Medical Care . . . the Way It Should Be

As you read this post today, I'll be winging my way back home . . .
from a whirlwind medical adventure in Rochester, Minnesota . . .
at the . . . 

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Some of you may already have had the great pleasure of visiting Mayo, so you'll know what I'm talking about when I say . . .

This is medical care . . . the way it should be!

I first visited Mayo in the fall of 2008 . . . when I was in the midst of a tricky lymphoma diagnosis. Locally, I had been getting the medical runaround for months, jumping through hoop after hoop and finding no answers, getting nowhere. . . but once I finally got to Mayo, I had a diagnosis and treatment plan after just a few (sure, rather grueling, but still) days.

So. Fast forward to 2021. I've reached a phase with my rheumatoid arthritis where I'm  . . . let's just say not getting what I need locally . . . so I decided to head to the Mayo Clinic for answers and a plan once again.

Let me just interrupt myself to say that it's not all rainbows and moonbeams when you decide to go to Mayo. In fact, if you don't live within easy driving distance of the campus, it's just gonna be a hassle . . .pure and simple. You can't just call up and get an appointment, either. There is a Process. And it takes time and requires a referral from a local doctor. You have to be approved. And you have to jump through a lot of hoops along the way. There are travel hassles and timing hassles and logistical hassles. (Trust me. I've had them all in the last 3 days.)

But, friends. When you walk into this building . . . 

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every one of those hassles is Totally. Worth. It.

Because Mayo Clinic care is completely patient focused. Everyone is friendly. Everyone is efficient. They answer questions. They ask questions. And they cater their care to what YOU need. Thoughtfully. And quickly.

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This wall mural really does say it all. The Mayo philosophy. (It took me a long time before I could snap this photo . . . because it appears in a very busy hallway- part of the underground "subway" system of interconnected, underground tunnels connecting the many buildings on the Mayo campus - and hordes of people walk by all the time.)

Once you arrive at Mayo, they put together an "itinerary" for your days, filled with appointments, scans, x-rays, tests . . . anything you might need. And ususally . . . all those tests happen back to back to back, all in one day. The results come in . . . . and you get another itinerary. Maybe appointments with different doctors. Maybe surgery. Maybe staging. Who knows! But whatever you need . . . they do it. And you don't wait long for results or treatments or answers either. 

You know what else? The Mayo Clinic buildings, themselves, are beautiful. And that's a real treat when you're sick or hurting and scrambled and searching. There are comfortable places to sit and wait. Big windows to take in the views. Real art on display. Soothing music. A calm atmosphere. And plenty of helpful "concierges" to help you figure out where you are and how to get to your next destination.

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Seriously. (Say it with me. . . ) Medical care the way it should be!

When I made my appointment for this week (months ago now), I was unsure how long I'd need to stay. They recommended 4 days, and that's what I planned for. As it turns out, they were able to cram everything I needed into one (very long) day -- and I'm already on my way home again, with a virtual doctor appointment to follow later this week to review my results and put together a plan. 

So that's where I've been.
The whole Mayo thing is really . . . quite an amazing experience. And I'm happy to have hassled my way through it!

(And if you ever need answers for a tricky medical issue, or if you feel like you're getting nowhere fast locally . . . please remember that the Mayo Clinic is an option. It might seem like all kinds of hassle. But when you're desperate for answers or a next step, it's worth it!)


Sometimes Mondays . . .

are all about acceptance.

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This was the view of the sun setting over my garden (with my neighbor's tree-on-fire background) last Friday night. It was a very cold evening -- but Tom and I (stalwarts that we are) sat sipping our beers wrapped in blankets (or, at least, I was) out on the patio . . . with Mr. Heater* by our sides.

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You see, although I consider myself a flexible person . . . one who can roll with most any situation . . . I really (really) have a hard time bidding adieu to the ease and joy of the warm months!

I like the easy flow of being inside/being outside. I like running out for an ice cream. Just sitting on my patio or my garden swing while I talk on the phone. I like throwing on a pair of shorts in the morning and calling it good. I like snipping herbs from my garden . . . grabbing some flowers for a vase . . . prepping dinners that are really just throwing stuff together for a salad. I like the sun going down at 10:00 at night (which is the case, here at the very western edge of the eastern time zone).

I put up quite a fight when it starts getting dark.
And cold. 
I deny. I pretend it's not happening. I refuse to wear socks.

Until, eventually, I just . . . accept it. 

And I do every year. Because there is comfort in the dark season, too. There's a loveliness to my dying garden. There's a coziness to candles on the mantle and a fire in the fireplace. Chili. Fresh bread. Wool layers. Twinkle lights. Beer tastes good in front of the fireplace, too.

So I'm giving up the fight now.
Accepting.
Coming around.

It's time for me to embrace the dark season.

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(*) The Story of Mr. Heater: A Special Bonus

Several years ago, I wanted to get a heater for our patio so we could extend the outdoor season and stay warm while enjoying our evening "cocktail hour" on the patio. I, of course, had one of those rather elegant tower-style heaters in mind. Y'know . . . the ones you see at outdoor restaurants or on the more put-together home decks and patios. Tom was quick to agree that a patio heater was a great idea -- and he volunteered to pick one up for me when he went to Lowe's.

He came home with . . . Mr. Heater.

NOT AT ALL what I had in mind. Mr. Heater . . . is designed for hunting camps, ice fishing shacks, pick-up pond hockey games. Absolutely functional. Totally portable. All you need is a propane tank! He keeps things toasty, for sure.

But . . . not the elegant tower-style patio heater I had in mind!

Several years later, Mr. Heater still accompanies us out on the patio (spring and fall). At this point, friends and family all know Mr. Heater. It's a good story. We get a lot of laughs. And Mr. Heater is a perfect example of how Tom (Mr. Function) and I (Ms. Form) . . . complement . . . each other. Every year, I plan to replace Mr. Heater with that elegant tower-style patio heater I originally wanted. And then I don't. 

Because Mr. Heater? Well . . . he's part of the family now.