Sometimes it’s not only who you know, it’s who other people know. In my case, I know my boss and she knows her mom and her mom is a member of the Book Club of Grosse Ile. And it was because of that set of connections that I was invited to present a one-hour summary of my book to the members of the book club. Immediately, I was glad I dressed in a pant suit.
Inside, we were guided to the meeting room by a man who told us to tell someone else where an extension cord was for our media needs. The room was set up like this. My first thought: “I better not spill anything!”
Within a few minutes, I was introduced to Katie Hartwell, one of the book club members and the person who’d been my primary contact over the last couple of months. Then a waitress walked in to offer me some iced tea or lemonade and I told her I’d brought a bottle of water and was all set. Another person came in with two long, entangled extension cords. While Mark and I set up, ladies started signing in and putting on name tags.
By 1:00 the room held about 35 women, all of whom had given up an hour of their time away from a perfectly blue sky, zero-wind, 75-degree day to listen to me blab on about… I was about to be introduced when one lady pulled me aside and asked me what it was I was going to tell them. “I’m going to talk about my book, which is about raising a whole bunch of pets my husband kept bringing home.” “Oh,” she said. “I had a dog once, but I can’t have a dog where I am.” “Well, I said, have you ever considered getting a hamster?” She thought that was quite funny, and as she told her friend and they both laughed, I wondered if perhaps introducing these ladies to the messy world of my messy animals wasn’t my best idea.
At 1:00, Katie introduced me and I started off by thanking them for allowing me to talk in spite of the fact that my boss’ mom, Pat, wasn’t able to be in attendance due to her rehabilitation from a fall. Then I began my presentation, by t started talking, by giving them two reasons why–per the topic of my talk–Why There Will Always Be Something Underfoot in My House. Reason 1 was that I married a guy with 4 kids and kids like pets, so I figured I’d have a pet or two. I also introduced my first book, From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds. And I showed them the nifty book cover that I designed like my wedding cake such that the bride’s fishing pole was connected to a larger fish than the groom’s fishing pole. I think they liked that.
The second reason I provided for the fact that there will always be something furry underfoot in my house is the fact that Mark had a PhD. in biology and loved critters. And from there, I introduced each pet wed raised over about 18 years, going chapter by chapter, showing photos of my book and reading two sections.
An hour later, I reached my last slides, showing that because of Mark, and as evidenced by Winston, Snickers and Preto, creatures are still coming into my house.
As I began packing up my media and re-tangling the two giant, orange extension cords, I looked up to see a woman asking if I’d brought copies of my book. Over the next 15 minutes, I sold 5 copies, with, which a $100 honorarium was the best way in the world to wrap up my book promotion. Best of all were the comments:
“You’re a regular comedian,” one said.
“That was a great way to start our season,” one said.
“I enjoyed it very much. And I think you’re a saint,” said another.
“I think that it helps that he’s handsome,” said another woman, who caught on to the fact that most of the critters that came into the house were Mark’s fault.
Another woman said, “I was so glad you didn’t show any photos of any snakes or other scary thing.”
Another said she was on her way to see my boss’ mother, recovering from an accident, and that, “I will report favorably.”
As I was chatting, one kindly woman got me a plate of fruit and nifty chocolates that might have been petit fours. I sat down to chat with a few of the women, conscious the entire time of the whiteness of the table and the slipperiness of the melon pieces I attempted to cut with a knife. I cut and nibbled carefully as one of the women told of her dogs and cats, another about how her son had ferrets once upon a time, another about other pets. It seemed they all had had at as least one pet or another, and they were all happy to share.
It was about 2:20 when I thanked them, took the last of my unsold books, and found Mark outside waiting for me on a bench. Nearby was a member of the book club sitting on one of those walkers with a seat, waiting for a ride. She was telling Mark how funny I was, and I thanked her for taking time of out of such a beautiful day to come hear me talk. As Mark and I walked back to the car, she said something about how it was nice to have met the handsome hero of my books. “Too funny,” I whispered to Mark. “One of the other ladies said I was the hero.”
Mark and I drove the two-hour drive home and after tending to critters, Mark poured two glasses of champagne.
We raised a glass to my boss, Dina, and her mom, Pat, for inviting me to speak at the Country Club on Friday. And we raised a glass to Katie Hartwell for getting to the event early to help us set up, and for writing a nifty little blurb in The News-Herald on Sunday. We raised a glass to all the ladies of the Book Club of Grosse Ile, with an extra sip for the ones that thought I was funny. Finally, we raised a glass to the end of the book promotion. What’s next, we’ll have to wait and see.
At some point a writer has to start writing again which means book marketing must come to an end. My book Something Furry Underfoot came out as an e-book in May 2013 and a paperback in September 2013 and I’ve done marketing on and off since then. My second to last marketing event was a short, fun interview on Pamela S. Thibodeux’s awesome site. The interview was her Saturday Spotlight on September 13.
On September 26 I will end my marketing of Something Furry Underfoot at the Book Club of Grosse Isle. The Club meets at the Grosse Isle Golf and Country Club. I was invited to speak by my boss’s mother who is a member. The bummer is that my boss’s mother fell while visiting my boss last weekend and is undergoing rehab. And that means that I won’t get to meet the very person that is responsible for setting up my last promotional opportunity for Something Furry Underfoot. That hardly seems fair. More on that in my next posting.
The topic of my one-hour talk at the Golf and Country Club is: Why There Will Always be Something Furry Underfoot in My House. Surely, you know the answer to that after reading the posting about the Thousand Dollar Kitten. The black kitten named Preto is now fully recovered from his botfly bite (and the tapeworms that followed afterwards) and an absolute joy to play with.
So this is my heads up to myself, perhaps, that marketing will be done for my book soon and I will have to choose to either start another book or venture off into a new hobby, like underwater basket weaving. I’ve not done underwater basket weaving yet and I hear there’s a venue for that somewhere tropically warm. In the meantime, watch for more photos and occasional blog postings about nature, pets and life. And watch for fun stuff on my FB sites, too.
Once upon a time, Mark decided to take his son, Arthur, his nephew, Terry, his good friend, Jack, and me, to Canada to go fishing. The location Mark chose was Kasba Lake in northern Canada. For months prior to our August 1 departure, new fishing lures arrived in the mail to my house about every third day. When it came time to pack, Mark realized, “We have more lures than we can possibly use in eight days. And if we took them all, they’d weigh more than the 50 pound limit we can have for luggage.” Packing was a lot of fun. I think we weighed our bags four times.
To get to Kasba Lake one must either first fly or drive to Winnipeg. Since Mark and I had spent a small fortune on fishing lures, some of which remained home, we opted to drive. Lucky for us, Jack had spent his money on a brand new Chevy Traverse, so Mark, Arthur and I loaded up in that and drove and drove and drove to Winnepeg. There, we met Mark’s nephew, Terry, and hopped onto an airplane that took us further north.
The plane looked something like this.
We took some small plastic bottles with us to take the edge off.
Two hours later, we arrived at Kasba Lake Lodge.
At the lodge we were fed a yummy breakfast. Note the fine accommodations.
Afterwards, we helped load up the float plane. Luggage went into the floats and into the back of the cabin.
This is a view out the window of the float plane. There seemed to be more water than land.
The pilot, Larry, told us the airplane had a great engine that would allow the plane to continue flying even if something went wrong. How ominous.
While Jack sat in the co-pilot seat, Terry, Mark and I sat in a middle row seat, and Arthur sat in the back with the luggage.
About twenty minutes after we took off, we landed on the water and tied up to a dock in front of our outpost cabin, which was our home for 8 days. It’s on Tabane Lake.
The cabin was made of plywood, with a screened-in porch decorated with a lot of duct tape. Duct tape held the glass onto the front door, duct tape held the bits of screen together where a bear had punched it in a year earlier, and you can see duct tape on the ceiling in the photo, below. The cabin consisted of one main room with 4 bunk beds, a stove, fridge and sink.
The bathroom was a tiny affair. The shower dripped the entire time and the one side was so flimsy it could probably be pushed down by a hoard of black flies. But, as Mark said, at least we had indoor plumbing–on a previous trip, we had an outhouse.
Food and beer had been left in coolers and in the fridge. We soon learned that in Canada, a case of beer is only 15 beers, whereas a “flat” of beer is 24. We had to order more beer via satellite phone with Larry mid-week because of our wee misunderstanding (as in, “Bring in a flat, Larry!”). Indeed, Larry flew in mid-week with beer, dish soap and other essentials, not including mustard, which Jack watered down so as to last longer. We were the last group to use the cabin for the season.
Our meals consisted of burgers on the grill, steak, and fresh lake trout, amongst other tasty food, compliments mostly of Chef Jack, with help from Arthur. I must say that the Arthur-Jack rub on the steaks–consisting of Tang, coffee grounds, orange peels, and Mesquite rub–was simply amazing.
I soon discovered that some men snore at an amazing volume, and with the drippy shower as accompaniment, it was a bit too much for me. I slept on the porch most nights. The citronella candles mostly kept the mosquitoes at bay, adding their own symphony to the air. The lovely cotton liner provided to line the sleeping bags actually stayed in place the first night. After that, not so much.
Our eight day stay consisted mostly of fishing, of course. Arthur hadn’t caught too many fish in his life, so we were all excited when he caught his first lake trout…puny little thing that it was.
And when Terry caught his first northern pike ever, it was cause for celebration. But not as great a cause as when his second-ever pike was 41 inches. Of course, Mark would later beat this fish by two inches.
In addition to fishing in the lake, we also explored three streams, one of which had killer rapids that tried to flip Terry and Jack, another of which took most of the way to get to, and another of which was kinder and gentler. Everyone caught at least one grayling, none of which cooperated for photos.
The first few days of fishing were warm enough for a nifty dip in the lake.
But mid-week, the temperatures dropped and the warmer clothes came out.
Between bouts of fishing, I fell for a few of the local critters, including this rabbit, which may or may not be an arctic hare.
The rabbit did something I’d never seen before: it took off swimming across the lake. I held my breath the entire time it was swimming, knowing that a big pike wouldn’t hesitate to eat a rabbit. Luckily, it circled back and returned to land about 500 feet from the lodge. We still have no idea what it was doing.
I also fell for the resident jays. They showed up the first evening and searched around the hull of our boats. It didn’t take them long to find some trail mix that had accidentally fallen over in the bow.
I quickly discovered that the jays loved the nuts in the trail mix, but not the raisins or M&Ms. That worked out great for me, because the raisins and M&Ms were my favorite. So, I shared the rest of my trail mix with the birds. I put some on the boat…
…and I put some on a burning barrel. Jack took up the sport, sharing his walnuts and peanuts by making small piles on the ground.
Other birds we saw included a boreal chickadee, a redpoll, common loons, an arctic loon, eagles, gulls, arctic terns, three birds I will have to get identified by my Alma College birding pal, and this shorebird.
I also took time to shoot the smaller things…
…including the lichen and other macro-life.
And let’s not forget the fresh blueberries!
Of course, bears like berries. And we did see some bear tracks on another island.
In the arctic, the sun doesn’t set in August until around 11 p.m. Most nights, it was worth staying up for the sunset.
And sometimes, there were still things to do.
The week went by in the blink of an eye. The fishing was fast and furious, especially for pike. The overall size of all three species of fish–lake trout, pike and grayling–was smaller than Nueltin Lake and smaller than at the main lodge, where, at Kasba Lake itself, one lucky guy got a 36-pound lake trout.
But the numbers of fish kept things interesting all week. As did the weather.
And Mark caught enough fish to get boo-boos on his fingers. Poor fella.
On our last evening at the outpost cabin, the men smoked cigars, and we all tried to finish off the rest of the expensive beer we’d paid for. That meant four beers per person. Burp.
The next morning at 7, Larry flew in to pick us up in his plane and take us home. It was rainy and the plane’s engine wasn’t as loud as when we took off from the lodge, making me a bit worried. My worry gene was correct, and if you go to my FB page, you’ll see the hairy video flight back to Kasba Lake Lodge, where a cylinder blew on the plane. Aaaahhhh!
Larry keeps a sign on the cockpit of his plane that says that “Tipping the pilot helps him remember where he left you.” Upon landing safely with a blown cylinder, I gave Larry a nice tip!
After another great breakfast at the main lodge, we took the plane back to Winnepeg, which involved a stop-over at Lynn Lake to refuel. At Winnipeg, we said good-bye to Terry, and Arthur, Mark, Jack and I headed to Jack’s car for the loooong ride home. This is a parting shot from Kasba Lake Lodge. Thanks, guys, for the great time!
First, thank you all for being part of International Author’s Day on July 18 and entering to win the free copy of Something Furry Underfoot. Congratulations go out to Bonnie H. for being the winner of the free, autographed paperback version. Everyone else that entered can still nab an e-version of my book for 99 cents through the end of July.
And now for the fun story about the latest critter Mark brought home. Last Thursday, while putting his canoe in the water at a boat launch, Mark saw this tiny black kitten. Mark had a friend with him and they left the kitten to wander the shore of the lake. Hours later, the men returned to the boat launch and Mark called for the kitten in vain. Part way down the road to his friend’s cottage, the men realized that a canoe strap was missing, so they returned to the boat launch and Mark called for the kitten again in vain. An hour later, after having lunch at his friend’s house, Mark returned to the boat launch area, called for the kitten one more time and out came the kitten from the thick underbrush.
Mark named the kitten Preto which is Portugese for black and also the name of our Amazon fishing guide. The kitten was mild mannered, gentle and sweet. The puppies loved him. I couldn’t get over how black he is.
Mark loved the fact that Preto would sit on his lap. Snickers and Winston loved the fact that the kitty would play. It took Purrkins 2 days to warm up to Preto.
I brought my mom over to see Preto on Sunday. She thought he was pretty nifty, too.
On Sunday, Preto woke up but didn’t want to eat. He refused milk. He refused water. And when I picked him up, he felt really warm. We drove him to the MSU Small Animal Clinic where the vet suggested blood tests to eliminate the potential for a fatal virus. And because what Preto had might be fatal, he was taken to an isolated area in the Clinic. The vet called later to say the blood tests showed nothing and perhaps we should do an x-ray (for like $150) and an ultrasound (around $330). We countered, suggesting an antibiotic and call us in the morning.
We left Preto overnight. The next morning, Mark returned Monday and paid the $700 bill at the MSU Vet Clinic (AAAHHHHHH!). Yes, for emergency services, an IV, antibiotic, fluids, isolation, blood tests. Gulp. Mark took Preto to the Haslett Animal Hospital where we knew we’d pay less than an arm and a leg per day. There, Preto was given a new IV, different antibiotic, but his temperature remained the same. Monday turned into Tuesday with the same results. Tuesday night, I asked Mark how much more he was going to put into this kitten. Mark said, “I don’t know. But when I drove him home, I told him I’d take care of him.”
But of course.
This morning, Dr. Melissa Wyatt shaved various sections on Preto looking for a reason for his illness. Dr. Wyatt shaved Preto here and there, looking closer, looking for reasons for his illness. And then she saw it, a small hole in his neck where he’d been bitten by a botfly. The life cycle of a botfly in a kitten or cat is the stuff of a horror movie, so I’ll spare you those lovely details. I will share that it’s only the sensitive kittens/cats that develop a fever. It’s just our luck that Mark brought home a sensitive kitten.
Thankfully, Dr. Wyatt removed the botfly today and–get this–saved it in a bottle for her vet students to see (which is something Mark would do!). In fact, Dr. Wyatt is my hero, not only for solving this mystery, but because she removed a sewing needle from Purrkins’ mouth once, removed all of Little Dipper’s teeth over the course of three surgeries, and kept her doors open just for me when I brought Dusty in after he’d been attacked by a bulldog.
At home this afternoon, Preto took to the comfort of Mark’s lap.
Soon, Preto began eating the dogs’ food (in spite of his own food being nearby).
After he ate, Preto curled up in the sun for a nap.
Winston came by to make sure he was okay.
Snickers goes out of his way to be with Preto.
My book Something Furry Underfoot is all about taking care of and spoiling a whole bunch of different animals Mark kept bringing home. Preto, who has already wormed–or shall I say botflied–his way into our hearts, is just the latest example of why there will always be something furry underfoot in my house. It just happens. And it’s always a good thing.
P.S. Don’t forget–you only have until the end of July to enter the Petspage.com giveaway for lots of great pet-related prizes, including a free copy of my book.
A kindly woman by the name of Debdatta Dasgupta Sahay, who admits to being a book addict from India (and also a site host for my first book blog tour a few years ago), decided that there should be an International Author’s Day to celebrate authors. On her web site, she says that she was shocked to learn there wasn’t a day to celebrate authors and that she wanted “to show her appreciation for the hours of hard work that authors put into their books.” She asked authors to join her in the celebration on July 18. And she suggested we post something on or around July 14. So here `tis!
As part of celebrating International Author’s Day…. the badge for which is here…
…I am giving away a free, autographed copy of the paperback version of Something Furry Underfoot, my humorous touching memoir about a whole bunch of pets. All you have to do to enter to win a free copy of Something Furry Underfoot–which, by the way, is averaging 4.7 stars out of 5 on Amazon.com– is comment on this blog posting. That’s all there is to it. One winner will be selected on July 18.
But wait, there’s more!
Since my book is about pets, its also part of the Petspage.com summer giveaway. And in honor of Petpage.com’s month-long giveaway, you can enter to win one of several signed paperback of Something Furry Underfoot! Just go to Petspage.com and enter to win! There are a LOT of other pet-related products being given away, too, so be sure to check it out. You have between now and July 31 to enter the Petspage.com giveaway. Several winners of my book will be sent copies in mid-August.
So happy International Author’s Day to all authors out there! And be sure to celebrate by entering one or both of these great contests.
P.S. Debdatta is sponsoring this blog hop to help get the word out about International Author’s Day. She blogs at (http://www.b00kr3vi3ws.in/)
While cleaning out my mom’s condominium recently, my stepson, Arthur, stopped by to see if there were any items that would be of use to him in his new apartment. Now, I was thinking he’d go for things like cooking utensils, and sure enough, he grabbed a colander. But what really intrigued me was when he disappeared under the basement stairs and came out with a roll of leftover linoleum. “What,” I asked, “is that for?” He said, “For the bunny I’m going to adopt.”
Well, Mark and I happen to like rabbits, so we invited ourselves on the journey from the Lansing area towards Ann Arbor and into the middle of absolutely nowhere to the Great Lakes Rabbit Sanctuary. We were intrigued to see the Sanctuary because Arthur had worked there on weekends for a year or so a year up until a few months ago, and my friend Brenda had volunteered there in the past. So I was excited when we saw this sign.
Before we got too far walking around, we were met by one of the workers at the Sanctuary whom Arthur had worked with.
Nearby, on the side of one of the barns was this sign.
Inside the barn were a bunch of metal partitions that make up the cages for the rabbits. In one far corner was a rabbit Arthur had seen online named Ferbie.
Ferbie had no idea that Arthur had come to see her to take her home. In response, she ran off into her poop box.
Arthur squatted down and after a minute or two, Ferbie came up for some scratches between her ears.
And that’s all Arthur and Ferbie seemed to need. Arthur stood up, went to the office, purchased his bunny and returned with a small animal carrying cage we happened to have had in our garage.
On the way to the car, we stopped to check out another barn that contained smaller bunnies and bunnies that hadn’t been neutered yet. See, one of the benefits of getting a bunny from the Great Lakes Rabbit Sanctuary is that the rabbit comes neutered, and that’s important to keep a boy rabbit from spraying and to keep a girl rabbit from developing ovarian cancer, and to keep both parties from reproducing, like, well, rabbits. One of the smaller buns was this cutie.
After we said farewell to the rabbits and rabbit workers, Arthur carried Ferbie out to our car and sat with her all the way home.
As we drove, Arthur announced that he’d changed Ferbie’s name to Hodor, which is a Game of Thrones character. Of course, I can’t get used to unusual names very well, so called her Fer-dor and Herbie and everything else. Later, at home, Mark took the bunny out of the back of our car and held him while Arthur went into our house to get some timothy grass I’d purchased for our outdoor rabbits, and while I picked some fresh dandelions we happened to have in our yard.
Then Arthur took Fodor out to his car.
And then Hodor was gone. Thanks to Facebook, though, we know that Hodor is doing well in his new home.
We are proud of Arthur for rescuing a rabbit. And we are proud that when he posted his photo of Hodor on Facebook, he wrote: “No home is complete without a furry friend!” Mark and I completely agree. In fact, we think no backyard is complete without a furry friend, either.
Congratulations to Arthur and Fodor..I mean Hodor. May you have many great years together.
In my last post, I shared how my brother, sister and I came to the conclusion that it was time to move my mom. And while it was tough coming to that conclusion, the act of physically moving the Little Old Lady (LOL) to an assisted living place was even more difficult. See, while the LOL admitted she wasn’t using her dishwasher, oven, washing machine and dryer, and was sporadically unplugging her TV and phone, she was still adamant that she would make her own decision as to when it would be time for her to move. She had decided that Bickford of Okemos was where she wanted to be some day, but “some day” hadn’t come, said she.
Now, I’m occasionally more stubborn than the person from whence half my genes came, and so I contacted a few close friends to make sure they’d step up to the plate if the LOL refused to move. Next, I contacted her primary physician to make sure he supported me, and I made sure my brother and sister hadn’t had second thoughts. Then I took the LOL back to Bickford, because her memory of what it looked like had faded. I gave her my own tour, touting all the great amenities, including the fact that the cooks could accommodate her 30-year habit of having oatmeal with frozen blueberries for breakfast. And I mentioned the fact that some of the residents had four legs, including this 14-year-old dog that Bickford kept when the owner passed away. That says a lot about a place if you ask me.
After we toured Bickford the second time, I put down a deposit on a room and had another conversation with the LOL. This time I mentioned who all was behind me. She responded with, “What did I do to deserve this?” I pointed out that she had done really well on her own, and as with her driving, it was a good idea to quit while she had a good record and hadn’t hurt anyone, including herself. I said that her safety was my primary concern, and that I was also interested in her getting more social interactions. She looked at me with a defiant glare and said, “Okay but not until I see my family doctor.” The following Saturday, we met with her family physician, who–after beating around the bush and bringing me to a near state of panic–finally looked at my mom and said, “It’s time.”
And that, luckily, was all the LOL needed.
The next step was for me to bring in reinforcements for the move. Now, every team needs at least three people, so I selected my brother and sister. My brother , Lloyd, brought from New Jersey a sense of humor, musical abilities and an engineering prowess, while my sister, Aby, brought from Illinois a sense of humor, impeccable organizational skills and a knack for interior decorating. My brother also brought some interesting t-shirts, like this one which read: National Sarcasm Society. Like we need your help.
The first thing Team LOL did is go to Bickford and take some measurements.
My brother wore a different shirt for this occasion.
Back at the LOL’s condo, Aby and I put boxes together and packed while Lloyd made miniature pieces of furniture to scale so we could see what might fit where.
While we worked, Mom entertained neighbors who stopped by to say good-bye.
We packed everything up on the Thursday before Memorial Day. The next day, Two Men and a Truck showed up. That’s one organization that’s perfectly named, because sure enough, two men showed up with a truck to move the heavy furniture. They gift-wrapped all the furniture, loaded it up on to their truck, drove the 3/4 mile trip to Bickford and unloaded everything.
Aby put things away.
I took photos, including a selfie.
We left the LOL at Bickford for her first night, returned to her condo and thought about playing a friendly game of cards. We couldn’t think of a friendly game, so we played the fast-paced game we call Scrunch.
The next day we took the LOL to Binder Zoo so she could feed the giraffes. I had my fish-eye lens so that we could get another stellar selfie.
We all got to feed the giraffes. And while I think my mom enjoyed herself…
…I think Aby enjoyed it the most.
We spent the rest of the evening and the next day packing up stuff to donate, taking a few more things over to the LOL’s new place, and getting her new TV remote going (thanks to Lloyd). We also went out to dinner at El Azteco.
On the way home, we, stopped to see an old friend, Sparty, on the MSU campus.
I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between Aby’s and Sparty’s feet.
Lloyd left the next morning (Sunday), Aby on Memorial Day. Over the next few weeks, I took an entire car load of paper, plastic, etc. to get recycled, and went through every item left in Mom’s condo with her so she had a choice about whether something got donated, sold, stored or taken to her new place. I also made several trips to the Salvation Army and Goodwill, the former of which will NOT take Christmas goods this time of year, I learned.
The LOL, meanwhile, was settling in quite nicely at Bickford. One evening last week, as the LOL and I were about to leave Bickford to clean her condo, she saw some of the residents in the lobby at Bickford, turned to me and said, “Do you mind if I stay here this evening with my friends?”
I gave my mom a big hug and said, “No, I don’t mind at all.”
In fact, as I drove to her condo alone, I couldn’t have been happier for her.
Once upon a time there was a woman I affectionately called the Little Old Lady (LOL) who lived by herself in a condominium for 30 years. She was an independent woman, driving hither and yon, doing her own grocery shopping, cleaning her house, and navigating two flights of stairs with ease. But in 2010 things began to change–after getting lost en route to see her younger daughter in Illinois, the LOL was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. In 2011, her driving was limited to 50 miles. In April 2013, she failed the written driving test and was no longer able to drive. From April 2013 until just last week, the Little Old Lady’s three children–Amy, Aby and Lloyd–witnessed a slow, but steady decline.
Last week, we moved the Little Old Lady to an assisted living facility. It was both one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done and one of the best things I’ve ever done. The LOL’s condominium is a tri-level, so she had three sets of stairs to navigate every day. Over the winter of 2013-2014, when she was unable to drive and get out to walk on a regular basis, I saw her strength dissipate. I went to bed most nights hoping she wouldn’t fall down the stairs.
Of course, my fear that she might fall didn’t make it such that it was time to move. But I did start planting the seeds. And those seeds were quickly dug up and pulverized by the LOL. See, while my mom acknowledged she had Alzheimer’s and said she would have to move one day, she also thought she’d be able to tell when that day had arrived. I suggested otherwise…and was pulverized just like the seeds.
So for quite some time, I remained quiet and took her grocery shopping, walked the mall with her once in a while, and took her to doctor appointments. And I kept notes. First, I noted little things. For example, in February 2013, Mom no longer sent birthday cards or anniversary cards. And that was one of the things she had ALWAYS done.
The LOL also complained that her calendar was all messed up. One of the reasons, I discovered, is that she had not one, but two calendars.
I also noticed that she struggled with paperwork, including sorting the important stuff from people wanting her money. The LOL and I had more than a few discussions about legitimate organizations and the ones I referred to as vultures.
I also noticed a decreasing ability to use electronic devises. Starting about 12 months ago, the LOL started washing her dished by hand because she claimed the dishwasher didn’t work. Nine months ago she complained that her oven didn’t cook things right, so she started only “cooking” things via the stove and the microwave. Six months ago, the LOL unplugged her phones, turned off her answering machine and then didn’t know why nobody called her. After I reset her answering machine, she forgot to retrieve messages and call people back sometimes. The microwave went out, but that’s because she blew a fuse, which I was actually able to fix. And yes, the stove worked, but given that nothing else worked from her perspective, I worried for a long time that she’d burn the house down using the stove. The most recent sign that things weren’t quite right in the world of electronics was when I discovered a note she put on a switch plate in the kitchen intended to denote the garbage disposal from the light switch. Check out the spelling.
The LOL also said that people on the TV were staring at her. That was only a bit disconcerting, and also the reason the TV was unplugged again and again. I “fixed” her TV several times over the winter (by plugging it back in) and she once hired the very honest and reliable guy from the TV Den to fix her TV, too, which required any actual fixing, either. And that was all okay, until about three months ago when she told a friend that people were coming out of the TV and walking around her room. The people were all friendly, though, so her friend wasn’t worried. But I was worried, so I wrote a letter to her neurologist about what I thought might be hallucinations. When he didn’t call to express his concern, I let the people continue staring at the LOL and walk around her room now and again.
I also noticed a change in the LOL’s clothing and towels. For example, a couple of months ago, I noticed that LOL’s favorite corduroy jacket had mung on it and was in need of a trip to the dry cleaner. I took care of that, not thinking much more of it because other clothes seemed to be clean. A couple of weeks later, though, I noticed she was wearing the same clothes over and over again, some of which were being held up with safety pins (for reasons that were not clear to me); some had holes in them. She said she needed to go out and get more clothes, yet she had clothes she’d forgotten about in her two dresser drawers…the contents of which she’d forgotten about. It was only when we actually finally moved the LOL that we discovered she hadn’t used her washing machine for quite some time. It, too, was “broken,” she claimed.
About two months ago, I noticed that the refrigerator and pantry contained expired products and duplicates of the same products. But since I can claim the same situation in my own house sometimes, I didn’t pay much attention until I noticed that the LOL’s fridge had three bottles of Ken’s raspberry vinaigrette, two opened and half-eaten containers of yogurt, and some deli meat that was moldy. In her pantry was an opened jar of applesauce that should have been in the fridge. I also found Kleenex boxes everywhere in the house–every room, every cupboard. Now, you’d think that since I took her to the grocery store the last year I would have noticed some of these things, but it wasn’t until the last month that I realized this was going on.
Starting around Easter, the LOL got to the point that she couldn’t remember where we were going five minutes after being told, and she often asked where we were going en route to an appointment. Also, two hours after we went somewhere, she couldn’t tell me where we’d gone. My sister and brother were both concerned after she spent Easter with Mark and me, and two hours after I dropped her off at her home, said she hadn’t seen me all day. The next day, she had no idea who Mark was.
As a result of her quickly declining memory loss, I also lost confidence that she was taking her medications. I’d tried taping a list to the kitchen counter where she kept most of her meds, but she didn’t like a list there. I’d tried putting them in the M-F plastic box she had, but she said that box was only for vitamins. I had tried calling to remind her to take her meds, only to hear that she couldn’t remember if she’d taken them. Over the last three weeks or so, I had no confidence she was taking her medications.
I also noticed that neighbors and friends fell off the radar screen one by one and rapidly. Over the course of the last three months, the LOL lost the ability to name one neighbor after another. Jill, the school teacher–whom she seldom saw–was first to go. A month later, the LOL failed to come up with Cheryl and Bruce, two people who’d come into her condo to fix things over the years. The LOL recognized Cheryl but couldn’t come up with her name. A neighbor named Suzanne and her dog, Lulu, were recognized but nameless. Cindy, the lady next door, was the only name that has remained of her immediate neighbors. Her closest friends from Livonia are easily named, as are her closest friends in town. But my four step kids confuse her; my sister’s two kids (especially her son) are impossible for my mom to come up with; my brother’s two daughters’ names come and go; and neither of my siblings’ spouses are named anymore.
Mom also didn’t act like her old self. Fact is, the LOL was slowing down in many ways. While she took pride in the speed with which she walked the mall or went up and down stairs, she was doing both at about half the speed she used to. She had also become more withdrawn, perhaps afraid to report on things that weren’t working or weren’t quite right in her home or in her head.
In spite of all of these signs–and knowing in my heart that the time had come–I struggled with moving her to an assisted living place because there is no checklist for when it’s time to move one’s mom. Neither her primary physician or her neurologist had said, “It’s time to move.” And her friends did not tell me much unless I specifically asked.
But before my brother, sister and I made the decision to move our mom–and anticipating she would resist–I contacted several of her closest friends to see if they’d observed anything disconcerting about my mom. And once I got each of them to talking, they all expressed concerns about her living alone. The one friend that had told me that Mom had said people coming out of the TV and walking around her room said she supported the idea of assisted living. Another friend expressed concerns about the LOL getting lost on one of her walks. Another said that she was very engaging in conversation but was sometimes repeating herself.
Armed with all this ammunition, I got Mom to agree to go to visit a large assisted living facility that both her parents had lived in “back in the day.” We were both immediately confused about the lay-out, where the lunchroom was, how to get to the trails. While all the people were friendly and nice, the place was just too big. Afterwards, we stopped at the chiropractor, walked the mall, got some ice cream. It was 3:30 that Friday when I suggested we stop by Bickford of Okemos, a memory care facility less than a mile from mom’s house that we’d driven by hundreds of times over the years but which I’d never thought about. Amazingly, the LOL’s face lit up when we walked in. I knew we’d found her new home.
Getting her there was the hard part, of course. More about that, in the next blog posting.
Today’s leadership tip: Always leave the office in plenty of time to get un-lost, fix a flat tire or rescue a dog in the middle of the road. I’ve never had a flat tire en route to a meeting, but I did once get so engaged in a conversation with a co-worker that we didn’t realize we’d missed the exit to our leadership class in Dearborn until we saw a sign to Toledo, Ohio. Ever since walking in quite late to that leadership class, I always leave early for meetings. On Wednesday it’s good I did, because my co-worker Jaclyn and I rescued a dog in the middle of the road.
The dog appeared in the road near a big, white farm house. Jaclyn stopped, pulled over, and I got out, hoping for the best. I patted my knee, talked nicely to the dog, and he came trotting over. I grabbed him by the collar, and while Jaclyn opened the door, I whispered, “Please don’t bit me,” and lifted him up and put him in the car. We did a U-turn, went up the driveway, knocked on the door of the big white farm house, then rang the doorbell. Nobody answered. We went down the road to the next house, where a nice lady running a day-care said that the dog did belong to the people in the big white house and that the dog was often found in the road and often escaped from its line outside. The lady said the nearest animal shelter was in Hastings, 10 miles away. We were minutes away from our first meeting site at Nashville City Hall, so Jaclyn drove us there and went inside to let the people know that we might be a few minutes late. Meanwhile, I checked out the dog and determined that he was otherwise well cared for–his nails were neatly trimmed, he was well fed, and his owners had spent some money getting his teeth removed. He did, however, need a bath, because my hands were turning brown while petting him. And I was getting dog hair all over me.
Ten minutes, Jacylyn returned to tell me we were to follow the Nashville Police Chief back down the road to the owner’s house. Sensing our time with the dog was coming to an end, I made sure we had a cute photo of Jaclyn with our little pal.
Back at the big white farm house, the officer took the dog from the car and tied him back up outside. Before we left, I told the officer that the dog had been panting and seemed to need water, so the officer took some water to the dog. He also said he was going to talk to the owners about the fact that the dog did not have cover from the elements. And he was going to speak to him about the dog getting off it’s line again and again.
So things didn’t quite turn out how I’d hoped. In fact, for one tiny moment I had imagined that we’d drop the dog off at the shelter, he’d get adopted to a family that recognized him as a member of the family. Ya know, let him come inside, get snuggled and pampered?
Jaclyn, meanwhile, had emailed a photo of the dog to her husband; he was kind of hoping Jaclyn would bring the dog home.
But rescuing dogs and leadership are both about taking chances, and sometimes things don’t always work out the way we planned.
Oh, but did I mention we were on time for our meeting after all? With minutes to spare! I got to see the Nashville drinking water filtration site.
And I got to see the Nashville wastewater treatment lagoon.
And I got to see the Hasting wastewater treatment plant.
Three sites, one dog, and a lesson in leadership. All in a good day’s work.
In Chapter 3 of my humorous, touching memoir, Something Furry Underfoot, I tell how our first ferret was soon joined by a second, then a third, until we had four crazy, inquisitive ferrets in our house. As with the other pets that came into my house, I knew nothing about ferrets. Here are a few things I learned.
- Ferrets are still illegal in some states, and some local municipalities require permits, so check your local laws and regs before you consider getting a ferret.
- At pet stores near me, I can buy a ferret for somewhere around $150. A good cage, water bottle, food dishes, hammocks, toys, and litter can cost anywhere from $200-$300. Vet visits for basic shots and other preventatives, and continuing to provide good food, treats and bedding can cost several hundred dollars a year. I found ferrets to be more expensive that our cat, Purrkins, and much more expensive than our hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs and mice.
- A good cage is one that will keep a ferret safe during the approximately 18 hours a day they are usually in cages. A good cage will have very little spacing between shelves OR, if there is a lot of spacing, you’ll need to make the potential fall less than 4 inches with hammocks and old sweatshirts. As I wrote in Chapter 3 of Something Furry Underfoot, our sweet little ferret named Chunky cost $1,200 in vet bills because Chunky fell in his cage and the vets back in the late 1990s weren’t able to immediately diagnosis his broken back. With a lot of help on our part, Chunky recovered, but we hope his story helps people realize the importance of reducing the distance a ferret can fall in a cage.
- Ferrets mostly take to litter boxes, however, they’re not always perfect and they sometimes make messes on the floor. If you can’t deal with an occasional mess, a ferret may not be right for you.
- Ferrets will explore every inch of every room you give them access to. They can open and disappear in bathroom cupboards, they might dig up house plants, they can disappear in the overhangs of kitchen cupboards. It is important to ferret-proof your house, putting safety latches on all cupboards they can’t get access to and sealing any cupboard overhangs.
- Ferrets need to be kept in safe places or supervised at all times if allowed to explore somewhere new. Our ferret, Rocky, got into the underside of our La-Z Boy chair, and since he could get crushed if someone sat down, we had to watch and wait until he came out, then seal up the underside of the chair with duct tape. Ferrets were the most time-intensive pets we owned. And we’ve owned a lot of pets!
- Ferrets can interact with other pets, but keep an eye on any pet bigger than your ferret. We had one dog that was great with the ferrets, another dog that tolerated them, and one cat that we had to watch at all times because he sometimes got rough with the ferrets.
- In my book Something Furry Underfoot, Tip #12 is: Ferrets are curious little thieves that will claim everything as their own. Keep erasers, lipsticks, lip balms, balloons and other similar items out of ferret reach. These non-edible items can cause blockages, which require an emergency trip to the vet.
- Ferrets don’t make much noise, so it is easy to step on them. Owners need to get used to walking with an eye to the floor. That’s true even if you have a bunch of ferrets.
- A ferret can live 6-10 years. During the first few years ferrets are vivacious, explore everything, and can get into trouble. But for the last six to 12 months of their life, most of my ferrets needed help getting around. Chip liked to be pulled around in a shoebox.
The American Ferret Association web site contains great advice about what to feed—and what NOT to feed—your ferret. The site also contains important information about caring for your ferret, including the fact that because ferrets have high metabolism, it is necessary to get them to a vet as soon as there is a change in your ferret’s energy or behavior.
Because ferrets are quick, curious, fragile, and can get in and out of things quickly, they aren’t right for everyone. But if one IS right for you, you’ll be taking in a very energetic, curious pet that will want to play with you and with other ferret pals. If you have a real happy ferret, you’ll get to see a “weasel war dance” which is when they sort of bounce on their little feet and twist around.
Read more about life with ferrets in Chapter 3 of Something Furry Underfoot, available at Amazon.com and Smashwords.com. Or go to Amylpeterson.com and click on My Books. Also, check out my children’s rhyming photo e-book Goodnight, Big Wuzzy about one of our ferret pals.