National Squirrel Appreciation Day!!

Written by on January 20, 2015 No Comments

Okay, it wasn’t my idea but I happen to think it’s a good one, celebrating squirrels one day a year!  And according to people who keep track of this kind of thing, Wednesday is National Squirrel Appreciation Day.  So here’s to the chubby squirrels.

Chubby fox squirrel.

Chubby fox squirrel.

Here’s to squirrels that aren’t chubby enough.

Chubby female looking for more.

Chubby female looking for more.

Here’s to the brave squirrel we named Stumpy.

A squirrel we named Stumpy.

Here’s to the squirrel that’s more black than red.

Squirrel App Day 1

Here’s to the squirrel that’s more red than black.

Black and red mix.

Black and red mix.

Here’s to the squirrel that would just assume eat alone.

Squirrel App 6

Here’s to the squirrel that happily shares our deck with other critters.

Chipmunk, groundhog and squirrel sharing our deck.

Chipmunk, groundhog and squirrel sharing our deck.

Here’s to the black squirrel with the mostly black tail.

Squirrel App 21

Here’s to the black squirrel with the brownish tail.

Squirrel App 8

Here’s to the black squirrel with the grayish tail.

Squirrel App 16

Here’s to the gray squirrel with the gray tail.

Squirrel App 9Squirrel App 20

Here’s to the squirrels that hang out with us in the summer.

Squirrel App 10

Here’s to the squirrels that stop by in the winter.

Squirrel App 17

Here’s to the two baby black squirrels that shared a nesting box with a third sibling.

Squirrel App 14

Here’s to the three baby black squirrels on their first day out of their nesting box.

Squirrel App 12

Here’s to the baby fox squirrel that peeked out at us one day.

Squirrel App 15

Here’s to the young fox squirrel sampling an orange…and deciding he liked it.

Squirrel App 13

Here’s to the young fox squirrel checking out a persimmon…and deciding he didn’t like it.

Squirrel App11

Here’s to the pregnant and nursing squirrels.

Squirrel App 18

And here’s to all the squirrels that spend just a little bit of time with us.  Happy Squirrel Appreciation Day!

Squirrel App record

Home is Where the Heart is…and More

Written by on January 14, 2015 1 Comment

In November, my sister, Aby, said she was coming “home” to spend some time with my mother.  Aby lives in Illinois, and during her visit “home”, she got to talking about what “home” really is, to her and to her children.  We were at P.F. Changs.  It was a bit noisy.  I had a beer.  And I remember thinking that I hadn’t thought about “home” all that much, and I wonder what got her thinking about “home?”

Afterwards, though, I thought about it for a bit. In fact, for quite a bit.  Over time, I came to the conclusion that for me, Aby and our brother, “home” growing up was where Mom and Dad and our siblings were.  Going “home” after school was to be with our family.  Then, when our mom and dad got divorced in the early 1980s, our “home” was sold.  My mom moved into a condo, my dad into a house in another town and I, in college, suddenly didn’t feel I had a home any more.  I felt homeless.

Now, looking back at the time of my parents’ divorce, if “home is where the heart is” then I could have adopted the attitude that I had two homes, instead of just one.  My mom’s condo could have been considered “home” and my dad’s house in another town could have been my second “home.”  But those places didn’t quite seem like home to me.

But why?  What else made a house a “home?”

Then I thought about the home I bought in 1996 with my husband, Mark.  If ‘home is where the heart is,’ well, let’s just say that Mark has a big heart, loves me as much as my parents (he says more!) and he’s now the person I go home to every day.  He is the primary “heart” in my home.

Mark with Snickers and Winston.

Mark with Snickers and Winston.

But just looking at that photo it’s obvious there’s a lot more to this place called home.  Home is also where two dogs engage in bone wars…

Winston, right, about to lose his bone to his brother,  Snickers.

Winston, right, about to lose his bone to his brother, Snickers.

…where a young cat plays with the dogs…

Snickers playing with Preto.

Snickers playing with Preto.

…where an old cat grumps mostly wants to be left alone…

Purrkins.

Purrkins.

… where animals are tended to until–and including–their dying day…

With Dusty the day he died.

With Dusty the day he died.

…where wildlife can get corn and sunflower seeds year-round, whether they come in alone…

8-point buck that visits our yard.

8-point buck that visits our yard.

…or with a few of their pals.

Our record - 21 squirrels on the deck at one time.

Our record – 21 squirrels on the deck at one time.

Home is also where I can wear sweatshirts, jeans and a baseball hat and they don’t have to match because unless I go outside or answer the doorbell, nobody else will see. Home is also where my outfits get even worse when I stain or paint.

My staining outfit.

My staining outfit.

Home is where I can ponder cleaning now and again and actually do it even less often.

Home is also an imperfect place whose imperfections I can ignore or fret about–the crack in the kitchen ceiling, the brass light fixtures in the hallway that don’t go with the rest of the house, the crack on the bathroom floor.  At the end of the day in my home, it’s the hearts that matter.  The rest can–and does–wait.

Preto on Mark's lap, which makes Mark as happy as Preto.

Preto on Mark’s lap, which makes Mark as happy as Preto.

Home is also the structure whose walls hold the photos of days gone by, capturing brief moments that happened inside and outside these walls.  On winter days in particular, I look at those photos and know how blessed I am.

Photos on the wall.

Photos on the wall.

Home is also where what I say or do stays in my home.  It’s like being in Los Vegas without all the crowds.  And unlike Los Vegas at night, it’s safe in my home–my thoughts are safe, my actions, my words, secrets, and expressing whichever part of me I want to…even if I’m not sure what part that is.

Home - amy with hat on

 

Home is also where I roll over in the middle of the night and find someone who loves me at my side, that same someone I can call cute names without anyone else hearing.

Home is where my step kids come to visit with stories of their travels, their careers, their hopes and dreams.  Home is also where we laugh and sometimes cry, and raise a toast to one another in celebration.

Family at Christmas.

Family at Christmas.

Home is also where home-made cards are cherished like no other presents, no matter what home they were made in.

My birthday card from two of my step kids.

My birthday card from two of my step kids.

And while only two of the four step kids lived here for any length of time, I hope they know that my home is their home when they need it to be–it’s where they can always come no matter what.

That, of course, got me to wondering how they define home.  And so it goes.

The Last of Moving Mom

Written by on October 29, 2014 No Comments

Prior to moving my mom into an assisted living place the end of May, my mom had lived alone in a condo for over 20 years.  For most of those years, she lived independently and had kept up a place that had been the gathering place when my siblings visited from their distant states.  Mom’s condo was also where Mom and my siblings met my future husband, Mark.  And it was where my mom’s friends had come to visit.  To  my mom, her condo was her home.

Mom's living room view.

Mom’s living room view.

Several weeks ago, when I told Mom that we’d gotten and accepted an offer on her condominium, I took her to her condo one more time.  I had left all the drapes and curtains opened so potential buyers could see the nifty view out the back.  The shot above is out her living room window.  The one, below, through the basement sliding door.

Moms view

 

Mom’s response to seeing the house like that was to shut the curtains “so nobody can see inside.”  What she’d feared the most living alone was somebody peaking in at her.  So shutting the drapes in every room before she left was apropos.

As she walked back up the basement stairs she turned off the lights behind her, making the place all the more cave-like.  She stopped at the main level for one more look around, pausing at the fireplace to reflect upon how her neighbor had cut the tiles for her and how she and I had installed the tiles together.  “Yup,” I said, hugging her, “and I think we did a nice job.”

Moms fireplace

As Mom walked past the dining room, she paused and asked what my plan was for the rest of her furniture.  I told her a man was coming to buy her buffet, dining room table and chairs the next day.  With that, she opened a random cupboard in the kitchen, made sure the pantry was empty and took one last peak into the one-car garage.  She shut and locked the garage door and said she was ready to go.  It was oddly unemotional, and I wasn’t quite sure what to think.

The next day I met a man at Mom’s condo who bought up all of her furniture except her monstrous sofa-bed.  I didn’t have the heart to tell Mom that due to health concerns, nobody would take her sofa-bed in the basement and that I’d have to get rid of it myself.  I charmed the furniture buyer and his friend and Mark and we all worked together to carry the beastly sofa to my car.  Twenty minutes later, we paid $15 at the transfer station and dropped off the sofa for good.

Moms couch

The last item to find a home for was her old fashioned dollhouse.  Mom had bought a kit many years ago and spent countless hours putting it together, adding a roof, fencing, all sorts of stuff.  On the inside, she’d decorated rooms, and she’d bought furniture and miscellaneous pieces over the course of many years.  Her request to me was that I try to get some money for it.  Mark and I loaded it into my car in the hopes I’d figure out an easy way to make Mom some money.

moms dollhouse

 

With the dollhouse in my car, Mark and I had only a final sweep through the condo to make sure we hadn’t missed anything.  We opened every cupboard, every drawer, and throughout the house we found all sorts of things I’d overlooked before:  an old towel and luffa in the bathroom, a glass pitcher in one cupboard, and an entire cupboard we’d missed on previous sweeps that contained a bunch of very stale crackers and cookies.  How’d I missed those?  I also loaded up the last of the cleaning supplies, the last waste basket, a few rolls of paper towels, three brooms and a toilet bowl brush.  And then I locked the door for the last time, wondering all the while what the new owner would find that I left behind.

Matk and I stopped at GoodWill to donate the items that were donate-able, then went to Kelly’s Consignment in Okemos where we learned we can bring the dollhouse to consign in early November.  We unloaded that into my garage temporarily, put the crackers and cookies and toilet brush in the trash.  And with that, the job of moving mom’s stuff was done.

The next day I went to the closing and signed on the dotted line.  Afterwards, I squared away the water bill and energy bill, and cancelled Mom’s house insurance .  Oddly, as I drove to work  I felt rather empty.  In several strokes of the pen I had made disappear the central gathering place for my brother and sister visits.  In the same few strokes, I’d gotten rid of all my obligations related to Mom’s home–no more wondering what might be happening inside her empty condo, no more running off to sign papers for the title people or the realtors, no more calls to the maintenance people about the need to fix this or that on the outside.  And no more stuff to sort, store or get rid of.

Mixed with the sense of relief, though, was a type of guilty feeling for having free time on my hands. In fact, when I took last Friday off to go fishing with Holly–who moved to New York on Monday–it took me until the moment captured below to relax and really start enjoying myself.

Mom - fishing afterwards

To make sure I continued getting used to having fun in my new spare time, Mark and I went fishing on Sunday, too.  Afterwards, I took Mom to the grocery to get some “necessities.”  And that was a good thing, because I was starting to miss her.

 

 

 

 

The Last of my Book Promos – at the Book Club of Grosse Ile

Written by on September 27, 2014 No Comments

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.

Door mat at the country club.

Door mat at the country club.

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!”

Room at the Country Club.

Room at the Country Club.

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.

Print

 

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.

SOMETHINGFURRYUNDERFOOT final

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.

Preto joining in the celebration.

Preto joining in the celebration.

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.

The Last of the Book Promos

Written by on September 15, 2014 No Comments

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.

Preto in the box.

Preto in the box.

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.

One Woman, Four Men, Eight Days Fishing in Canada

Written by on August 17, 2014 No Comments

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.

Selfie before boarding the first plane.

Selfie before boarding the first plane.

The plane looked something like this.

Mark about to board the first plane.

Mark about to board the first plane.

We took some small plastic bottles with us to take the edge off.

A wee nip to take the edge off the flight.

A wee nip to take the edge off the flight.

Two hours later, we arrived at Kasba Lake Lodge.

Arthur and Mark in front of the lodge sign.

Terry, Arthur and Mark in front of the lodge sign.

At the lodge we were fed a yummy breakfast.  Note the fine accommodations.

Awesome breakfast before heading out into the hinterland.

Awesome breakfast before heading out into the hinterland.

Afterwards, we helped load up the float plane.  Luggage went into the floats and into the back of the cabin.

Loading up the float plane at Kasba Lake Lodge.

Loading up the float plane at Kasba Lake Lodge.

This is a view out the window of the float plane.  There seemed to be more water than land.

View out the window of the float plane.

View out the window of the float plane.

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.

Larry, left, our pilot.  That's our friend, Jack, on the right.

Larry, left, our pilot. That’s our friend, Jack, on the right.

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.

Arthur, sitting with the luggage.

Arthur, sitting 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.

Kasba Lake Outpost Cabin.

Kasba Lake Outpost Cabin.

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.

Inside the cabin.

Inside the cabin.

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.

Bathroom at the Kasba Lake Outpost Cabin.

Bathroom at the Kasba Lake Outpost Cabin.

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.

Fresh lake trout for dinner.

Fresh lake trout for dinner.

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.

Heavy sleeping bags and bag liners anyone?

Heavy sleeping bags and bag liners anyone?

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.

Arthur with his first lake trout.

Arthur with his first lake trout.

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.

Terry with his big pike.

Terry with his big pike.

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.

Exploring a small grayling stream.

Exploring a small grayling stream.

The first few days of fishing were warm enough for a nifty dip in the lake.

Floating in the water.

Floating in the water.

But mid-week, the temperatures dropped and the warmer clothes came out.

Bundled up in 7 layers of clothing.

Bundled up in 7 layers of clothing.

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.

My rabbit pal.

My rabbit pal.

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.

Rabbit swimming in the lake.

Rabbit swimming in the lake.

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.

Jay on the dock, about to check out the two boats for food.

Jay on the dock, about to check out the two boats for food.

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…

 

ACanada - jay with nut on 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.

Jay with its mouth full of nuts.

Jay with its mouth full of nuts.  That’s a caribou antler in the foreground.

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.

Greater yellowlegs.

Greater yellowlegs.

I also took time to shoot the smaller things…

Spider web.

Spider web.

…including the lichen and other macro-life.

I took a liking to the lichen.

I took a liking to the lichen.

And let’s not forget the fresh blueberries!

Yum!

Yum!

Of course, bears like berries. And we did see some bear tracks on another island.

Tracks of a small bear.

Tracks of a small bear.

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.

ACanada - sunset

And sometimes, there were still things to do.

Arthur working on a reel.

Arthur working on a reel.

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.

Arthur, Mark, Jack, Terry.

Arthur, Mark, Jack, Terry.

But the numbers of fish kept things interesting all week.  As did the weather.

Calm day in Canada.

Calm day in Canada.

And Mark caught enough fish to get boo-boos on his fingers.  Poor fella.

Mark's wounds from pike.

Mark’s wounds from pike.

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.

Men smoking cigars.

Men smoking cigars.

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!

Float plane after we arrived back at the lodge, and after the cylinder blew.  Note the oil in the water.

Float plane after we arrived back at the lodge, and after the cylinder blew. Note the oil in the water.

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!

Tipping the pilot highly recommended.

Tipping the pilot highly recommended.

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!

Jack, Terry, Arthur, Mark and me at the lodge.

Jack, Terry, Arthur, Mark and me at the lodge.

The Thousand Dollar Kitten

Written by on July 27, 2014 No Comments

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.

Preto on Mark's lap.  Mark is wearing a black t-shirt with lightning on it.

Preto on Mark’s lap. Mark is wearing a black t-shirt with lightning on it.

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.

Preto in box with Snickers, Winston and Purrkins watching.

Preto in box with Snickers, Winston and Purrkins watching.

I brought my mom over to see Preto on Sunday.  She thought he was pretty nifty, too.

Preto with my mom, yesterday.

Preto with my mom, yesterday.

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.

Preto sporting two shaved legs where the IVs were and a shaved neck.

Preto sporting two shaved legs where the IVs were and a shaved neck…where the botfly was.

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.

Snickers saying hi to Preto. Note Preto's shaved tummy.

Snickers saying hi to Preto. Note Preto’s shaved tummy.

Soon, Preto began eating the dogs’ food (in spite of his own food being nearby).

Preto eating the dog's food with the dogs.

Preto eating the dog’s food with the dogs.

After he ate, Preto curled up in the sun for a nap.

Preto sleeping in the sun.

Preto sleeping in the sun.

Winston came by to make sure he was okay.

Winston checking out the sleepy Preto.

Winston checking out the sleepy Preto.

Snickers goes out of his way to be with Preto.

Apreto with snickers on chair

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Happy International Author’s Day! And Enter to Win Great Pet Prizes!

Written by on July 14, 2014 6 Comments

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…

International Authors Day

…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.

SOMETHINGFURRYUNDERFOOT final

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/)

And Along Came a Bunny

Written by on June 29, 2014 No Comments

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.

Sign to where Arthur's rabbit resided.

Sign to where Arthur’s rabbit resided.

Before we got too far walking around, we were met by one of the workers at the Sanctuary whom Arthur had worked with.

Arthur with a former coworker.

Arthur with a former coworker.

Nearby, on the side of one of the barns was this sign.

The second sign.

The second 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.

Arthur saying hi to Ferbie.

Arthur saying hi to 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.

Ferbie in her poop box.

Ferbie in her poop box.

Arthur squatted down and after a minute or two, Ferbie came up for some scratches between her ears.

Ferbie and Arthur.

Ferbie and Arthur.

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.

Arthur carrying Ferbie out.

Arthur carrying Ferbie out.

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.

Baby Harlequin rabbit.

Baby Harlequin rabbit.

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.

A proud bunny owner with his bunny.

A proud bunny owner with his bunny.

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.

Mark holding Hodor's cage.

Mark holding Hodor’s cage and the dandelion greens. I think he looks pretty proud, don’t you?

Then Arthur took Fodor out to his car.

Arthur and Fodor about to head home.

Arthur and Fodor about to head home.

And then Hodor was gone.  Thanks to Facebook, though, we know that Hodor is doing well in his new home.

Fodor in his new home.

Fodor in his new home.  Photo by Arthur Oemke.

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.

Bunny relaxing in our backyard.

Bunny relaxing in our backyard.

Congratulations to Arthur and Fodor..I mean Hodor.  May you have many great years together.

 

 

 

When it’s Time to Move the Little Old Lady – Phase 2

Written by on June 26, 2014 1 Comment

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.

One of the Bickford residents.

One of the Bickford residents eating his favorite snack, baby carrots.

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.

MM - my helpers

 

The first thing  Team LOL did is go to Bickford and take some measurements.

Aby inside the LOL's new room.

Aby inside the LOL’s new room.

My brother wore a different shirt for this occasion.

MM - lloyds shirt

 

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.

Our visual game plan for the move.

Our visual game plan for the move.

While we worked, Mom entertained neighbors who stopped by to say good-bye.

Mom with one of her neighbors.

Mom with one of her neighbors.

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.

Two Men without their truck.

Two Men without their truck.

Aby put things away.

Aby unpacking.

Aby unpacking.

Lloyd unpacked.

Lloyd unpacking.

Lloyd unpacking.

I took photos, including a selfie.

Amy unpacking.

Amy unpacking.

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.

Lloyd and Aby smiling, moments before I began to trounce  them.

Lloyd and Aby smiling, moments before I began to trounce them.

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.

Family selfie at the zoo.

Family selfie at the zoo.

We all got to feed the giraffes. And while I think my mom enjoyed herself…

Lloyd and Mom with the giraffe.

Lloyd and Mom with the giraffe.

…I think Aby enjoyed it the most.

Aby feeding the giraffe.

Aby feeding the giraffe.

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.

Another amazing selfie.

Another amazing selfie.

On the way home, we, stopped to see an old friend, Sparty, on the MSU campus.

Me, Aby and Mom in front of Sparty.

Me, Aby and Mom in front of Sparty.

I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between Aby’s and Sparty’s feet.

Aby's and Sparty's feet.

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.

My Element crammed with recycle stuff.

My Element crammed with recycle stuff.

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?”

Mom's new friend Betty with her dog, Teddy.

Mom’s new friend Betty and  Betty’s dog, Teddy.

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.

 

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