All posts by kathygaillaughingatlife

About kathygaillaughingatlife

Born in Arizona, been living in Pacific Northwest area for 19 years. Writing is therapy; to look at life in perspective... get out of my head and on the page in front of me for a better view. Live with my husband, a son "on the spectrum and two rambunctious Norwegian Elk hound pups.

Christmas Came Early.

Christmas came early for me this year.  It is always a thrill when I receive an email from the editors at Chicken Soup for the Soul that states an essay I’ve written and submitted  will be included in a new book.

My essay, called Community Spirit,  is very special as it involves my son, Nick Baker. Nick’s love of music, especially Christmas tunes, gave impetus to the tale of how we’ve come to attend a Seattle area event, Great Figgy Pudding Caroling Competition, as the annual launch of our holidays each year. This year we celebrate twenty years of attendance.

The folks at the Pike Market Senior Center, the beneficiary of funds raised at the Caroling Competition,  share my enthusiasm. I have been invited to sign copies of this Christmas volume and proceeds on sales of the book will be added to their coffers that evening.

My essay is one of 101 and each will bring joy to the hearts of readers.   I hope you all enjoy it too.

Christmas came early
Christmas came early
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It’s Genetic

Must be in the genes.

What incites us to clean with such zeal when we expect company? The closer the kin, the deeper the level of “clean” is required.

The “us” to whom I refer are individuals of the female gender.  None of the males I know seem to be infected with the super-clean bug.

I saw the cutest cartoon, I’ll paraphrase here.

A father directs his two girls’ attention to their rooms. “We need to clean up the house, it’s pretty bad.”

The more precocious of the two girls asked, “What level of clean are we talking about, Dad? She listed out the possibilities; “Mom-Clean or Hospital ICU clean?” The father shook his head to each query.

His expression took on a more serious composure and he spoke in a hushed tone. “Grandma-Clean.”  His girls scurried off with brooms and rags.

I joke about this and yet as I type I sit here in a sweat soaked tee shirt. I spent a good deal of this week, which reached a climax today, in Grandma-Clean mode. My little sister is coming for a visit tomorrow.

I’m not as obsessed as some members of my husband’s family, who for sake of embarrassment shall remain anonymous here. They’ve been known to not only clean the house, but paint the house. Not just the interior. On one such visit, I recall we drove right past my in-laws home. The exterior sported a new hue, rendered necessary by the impending arrival of relatives from back East.

I plead insanity due to family genetics. My grandmother, on my mom’s side, was said to clean her house to a standard that enabled one to “eat off of the floor in any room.”

Why do we care? Does anyone, besides my own mother, rest in peace, look at the quality of housekeeping when they come to visit you and your family?

My own mother, infected with that same genetic disorder I described earlier, saw every visit as an opportunity for a white glove inspection. Mom’s other obsession, to arrive “on time.” Mom was always early, a good hour early.  Way before the designated time the events were scheduled to begin. Each time, Mom seemed to be surprised when greeted at the door, by me, with a sweeper attached to my other hand. Mind you, not an early arrival to help out, just more time to poke around.

On a past visit, she emerged from my guest bathroom and announced to all seated at the dining room table; “Kathy, there is some black, gunky stuff in your sink. I’d spent the previous hour in preparation. I scrubbed every surface and decked out the racks with fresh, color coordinated towels.

All I could muster was, “Thanks so much, Mom.”

OK, back to the mop and broom or I won’t be ready. My sister’s plane lands at nine, tomorrow morning.

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Honor your Mother

MothersDayCard

Rummaging in my box of cards, I found a Mother’s Day card I’d purchased, but never sent.  I planned too far ahead that year. Mom was no longer at an address serviced by the US Postal department.

I’remember many Mother’s Day celebrations, for my own mom, her mom, mom’s in law and the celebrations of my own motherhood.

Mother’s Day was the one holiday orchestrated by our dad. “Stand still.” A stern look from Dad, as we twisted and squirmed. The toasty temperatures in the Midwest heralded an early summer.  A line that never seemed to move, at the fancy smorgasbord in Hagerstown, became an endurance test. A testament to how much we loved Mom. We did not connect this expenditure on Mother’s Day to frugal meals of scrambled eggs and toast for dinner in days to come.

“Kids, have you made cards for Mom?”

Back when I was a kid, the majority of families had a dad to coordinate the gifts and a special meal that would honor his children’s mother.  Single moms today are beneficiaries of grade school teachers who inspire their children to commemorate their mothers with art projects.

For a brief time I walked in those shoes. Grateful when my son’s teacher shared a comment she received, “Nick, how old is your Mom?”  I laughed aloud when she repeated his answer.

“She’s about twenty.”  Nick is blind, but still I appreciated his proclamation of my youthful age.

“Thanks for sharing, it made my day.”  The momentous occasion of my thirtieth birthday, the previous month, felt more like sixty when reinstated in the singles dating scene.

Reality hit me in the gut, that first Mother’s Day. No dad in residence. My children were not of an age to go shopping for a gift, let alone bankroll the elaborate meals of past years, funded by their father.  I sensed expectation in their faces and bewilderment at the lack of celebration.

I put together an impromptu picnic. We sat in the shade and I mused over what Mother’s Day truly meant for me. “I am so glad you are my kids.” I told my boys how much I loved them. “I’m so glad to be your mom.”

Deep appreciation for my own mother surfaced. She’d weathered many years of “no father in residence” holidays.  Humbled, I shuffled along in my mom’s worn and threadbare house slippers. I redoubled my efforts to celebrate with her, at any opportunity, every year.

The last day I spent in celebration of my mom’s special day, found her silver hair well coiffed at the salon in her assisted living facility.   Clad in a bright pink top that showed off the special pin she’d made in crafts at her assisted living residence. It was a diaper pin, strung with bright beads that spelled MOTHER.  She rolled her eyes as I admired her work.

I wasn’t sure if disdain or humor emerged from the fog of her dementia. “I’ve spent plenty of time fooling with diapers and pins. Never thought of them as jewelry.”

Happy Mother’s Day to you.  You washed your share of diapers and wiped many tears with the same cloth. I hope there is a good internet connection in heaven so you can read my blog.

 

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Confessions of a Coupon Clipper

October marks my favorite time of year. Yes, I love the color of fall leaves. I am lucky to live in the Pacific Northwest where scene takes on definite autumn hue. Halloween is a great holiday, especially in my small Edmonds community. The whole downtown participates with events like scarecrow contests and merchants provide treats in a safe environment for families to enjoy.  Our local health club even gets into the act. Women of all ages are engaged in a “flash mob” athletic dance routine, performed to “Thriller”, replete with all of the famed Michael Jackson moves.

My favorite October event, for the last thirteen years anyway, is the release of the latest edition of the Chinook Book.

I love a bargain.  Ever since my first experience of Earth Day, my senior year of high school turned me into a supporter of the movement to clean up our planet.  I shop my local farmer’s market, recycle, drive a Prius or ride public transportation and love  programs to support the local economy and it’s ecology.

Friends and family know I am an avid supporter of Chinook Book. Most know they are likely to receive one, for a birthday or holiday gift. I’ve presented them to young couples as a very practical wedding gift , guaranteed to sustain them as they start their lives.

I’ve even organized coupon swaps at my office.  In past years I encouraged those who live south of Seattle proper to exchange the bargains for places they’d not likely travel, with the workers in their local area and vise versa.

I offered a restaurant challenge to my husband one year. How many new restaurants could we discover and dine, at a discount, courtesy of the coupons from Chinook? The results were delicious. Unexpected eateries, in quaint neighborhoods off the usual trail we take, but well worth the detour.

Over the years the Chinook Book has continued to improve both in the product values offered and content. Maps of neighborhoods are tremendous aids when I venture beyond my local area to try out a new store or culinary experience.

I am extremely excited to read about expansion into markets beyond the Pacific Northwest. The Chinook Book app helps one locate “local businesses” where ever I roam.

This year I took up a different challenge, for myself. My quest for the 2015 Chinook Book season is to use as many coupons as possible… AND blog about the experiences I have as I redeem them.

Obviously I cannot utilize all 648 coupons in the book, so this is where I hope to draw from my readers who also enjoy the Chinook Book opportunities!

Please share your experiences of redemption, as gifts for all readers.

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Chocolate Comfort

As I pushed my cart through Trader Joe’s, I nursed my perceived wounds.  Earlier in the day I attended a writer’s workshop, an opportunity to see if my novel in progress proved marketable. All twenty four attendees, myself included, met the month prior with speakers who shared with all of us the work that lay ahead. I left this portion of the program inspired to rework the theme of my pitch to promote my novel to a literary agent.

The next few weeks I wrestled with words, read, reread and rewrote again. I called a friend and consulted, read my three paragraph synopsis to my husband, and queried both of them on my content.

“If you read this on the book’s back cover, would you be intrigued enough to open the book and read the first few pages?  Or would you put it back on the shelf?”

My husband waffled.  “I only read non-fiction, so maybe not the best person to ask.”

“Oh, I’d want to read it!” said my friend.

But hey, what are friends for if not to offer support?

I crafted what I believed to be a great start line, reread my three paragraphs for the umpteenth time, printed it out and departed for the workshop in great spirits.

I left the session with a flattened ego.

Instead of commentary on the brilliant pitch I’d worked on for weeks, I received no particular feedback at all.  I was the next to the last person to read. The literary agent listened to twenty two individuals before I took my turn. Made sparse notes; I observed  only one piece of paper on the table .  I watched as the notes were jotted up the side margin.  Possibly one too many hopeful authors’ story caused the “random access module” of his brain’s processor to max out.

On the drive home I chided myself. “Don’t take this so personal, rejection is part of the game.” I believe I possess a thick hide when it comes to critical advice. I take the bad with the good. I just needed some “retail therapy”. I drove directly to my favorite foodie store.

Wounded animal instinct propelled me into the frozen food aisle.  My shopping list included staples in my freezer like the Triple Pepper Mélange that needed to be replenished. The top shelves of this aisle are stocked with items I cannot resist, cookies and confectionary items. By the time I’d reached the checkout line my cart contained not only the items on my list but clear plastic tubs of Dark Chocolate covered Caramels and Roasted Pistachio Dark Chocolate Toffee.

Fortune smiled upon me as I sat in my car, my goodies on the front seat next to me. As I struggled with the plastic tamper proof rings, I dialed my sister. Thank goodness she answered right away! I poured out my heart and she made sympathetic noises.  I cannot munch on chocolate covered caramels and carry on coherent conversation at the same time. I felt better and ceased to tamp down my hurt feelings with  the chewy truffles.

I arrived home and began to unload my shopping bags. My husband greeted me.

“So, how did the workshop go?”

I met his gaze and mumbled “Tell you later.”

My husband took in my activity; the candy containers I’d shoved onto the top shelf of the highest kitchen cupboard and wisely posed no further questions.

If I said the uneaten chocolate wound up in the trash, I’d be a liar.

Tomorrow I’ll don my “big girl panties” and get back to work on a rewrite of chapter twenty-nine.

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Dog Poop Karma

Dog Park Karma: the perverse reward of stepping into at least two piles of dog poop for the shite you shun.

 

Our Off Leash Park has a sign: IF YOU SPOT IT, SCOOP IT. I think this is a fair system. I have observed many dog owners, oblivious to what the Universe has in store. They ignore their own pet’s gifts, not to mention the opportunity to invoke the Karmic process and protect their own footwear. “Pay It Forward” clearly not on their Net Flix list.

 

Other communities take this a bit more seriously. In Brunete, Spain, some dog owners may start to fear the postman. Why? Because the local government was so tired of people neglecting to clean up their dogs’ mess that they found volunteers willing to patrol the streets and watch for them.

 

Can you guess what’s next? The offending material is boxed, labeled “Lost Property,” and a courier delivers it right back to the guilty pet owner. How well has it worked? Well, since the campaign began, there has been a 70 percent reduction in abandoned dog waste.

 

The city of Bristol, England had something similar in mind with their latest campaign to get people to clean up after pets. They feature signs with toddlers picking up dog poop, smearing it all over themselves… I think you get the idea.

 

I spend a lot of time at dog parks. I have to Norwegian elk hound pups, less than 2 years old. They greet me at the door whenever I am out, even to get the mail. But during their perceived window of time called “run wild and free”, they make it clear what they expect.

 

Anxious to get into the car and off to the park as quickly as possible, they use innate Moose herding techniques to guide me out the door. Elkhound translates “moose dog” in Norwegian and even pups are hardwired to fearlessly pursue and manage large animals. Moose herds or their Mommy who drives the car to delightful places they can frolic, all get not so gentle persuasion to move along. Similar application of skill is applied at mealtimes if the food bowls do not appear at the appointed hour and place.

 

In the car at last, they are content to hang out as far as the windows’ openings will permit. They sniff the wind for familiar scents that tell them, “We’re on the right road.” When traffic back up from road repairs dictated I take a different route, there are whimpers of concern voiced from the back seat.

 

My female pup has studied reruns of  the movie “Foot Loose.” Elki emulates the films heroine as she hangs between two trucks going down the freeway, her hair blowing as she screams “Yippee!” Perching herself as high up on the arm rest as possible and out the window as far as possible,we motor along to the park.  Elki’s fur fluffs up as she yips with excitement.

ElkiMirrorImage

We arrive and my pups caper about in the wooded enclosure.  I righteously pick up after my two dogs and any extra offerings that I spot as well. I even tote in 5 gallon bottles of water to add to the communal supply held in a converted rain barrel.  I share my brilliant Karmic observations with another pup’s parent. We both chuckle about “Universal Truth” and paybacks.

Cooler temperatures encouraged a decision to turn on the car heat vents at my feet. “Oh wow…dog farts,” I shouted and roll down all the windows.

One of the dogs ate a ton of grass and promptly emptied its stomach.   I’d buried the results in gravel and leaves as best I could. No plastic baggie would easily scoop up that mess.  The Universe must have felt otherwise…the source of the vile smell was on the sole of my shoe!

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Like! Share!

Hope for Hallmark® a Sabbatical from Likes…

It’s can’t be that difficult to actually write, with pen and paper a proper letter, or at least a note… of thanks.  The greeting card industry has survived for the last century, on sales of not only the printed version of birthday greetings,  but cards to celebrate other noteworthy (yes, pun is intended) occasions.

Store shelves and twirling spinners are filled full of lovely embellished cards, some worthy of framing and hanging on the wall. Every retailer seems to offer up the opportunity, lest one forget to commemorate an anniversary or console a friend who is under the weather.

Clever are the retailers who have “captive customers” such as those milling around at the local carwash. I admit to finding some of my best cards in these establishments. I had plenty of time too.  Not only were they washing my car, but changing the oil and checking the other fluids.

Ever intrepid, my local Danny’s Family Car Wash even had a windshield chip repair technician on site. I could read “War and Peace” whilst the tiny dings on my windshield were repaired and my windshield rendered safe from further damage. Unsealed chips might develop into unsafe cracks at any time and I needed to be prepared.

Back to my rant about how hard is it to actually communicate in written form. Many were certain that using email would be the death blow for the US Mail. Fortunately, spam in the form of mass mailing circulars will keep these couriers moving on the swift completion of their appointed rounds for many years to come.

When email to a friend failed to elicit a response, I spied her on the side Chat Bar that tells me who is logged into Facebook and sent her a message. She responded immediately.

Facebook, it seems, is the new communication platform by which many of our friends, a term used quite freely these days, utilize to spread their news, opinions, and post pictures of sometimes questionable taste.  Greeting cards are even posted on this massively viewed medium. Look out Birthday Alarm Greetings… your future may be in peril too.

I admit it… sometimes I have succumbed to clicking on the little thumbs up icon, better known as “liking”, when I felt compelled to let the friend know that I saw their post and enjoyed its content. I have even gone down the road of “sharing” posts of items that I truly “liked”.

My Home Page fills so rapidly with posts and people liking and sharing other people’s posts. One of my dear cousins recently called me out, for not responding to her comments on a post that I had commented on a day or so earlier.  I told her that some of my friends (she being a chief offender) post so prolifically that my fingers get tired scrolling down the screen trying to keep reading posts, as they pile into the column.

I can relate to another friend’s comment.   I feel like I am going down a To Do list each time I log into Facebook. I am compelled to click like on every post, so that my friends know I am paying attention.”  I liken this compulsion to the old anonymous doodle, KILROY WAS HERE, the graffiti made popular during WW II. Clicking on the little thumbs up or down lets everyone see that you were there… that you did indeed read the post and have marked it as such, so that all the rest of the friends know you were there as well.

Come on, admit it, you have clicked on the list of likes to see who else read an item posted by one of your Facebook friends.

A new concept is being shared around on Facebook… taking a hiatus from clicking on the LIKE button!

Imagine this. People are beginning to realize how hollow and mindless their attention to and appreciation for life events has become.  One friend stated she would stop for a week. On a later post she shared how difficult it was to not click LIKE! Maybe there is hope for the greeting card industry yet.

Spoiler alert!  I did notice that Hallmark has a Facebook page… along with all the other card companies.

I do see this as such a good step in a direction. It might lead to all sorts of random acts of communication. Two friends could call each other. OK… they’d probably TEXT. Make a  plan to get together. They’d sit down and have an actual conversation over a cup of coffee. A rich life experience, happening in person, in the moment, between two human beings!  WOW!

I was so taken with this idea that I “liked” it and “shared “it with all my friends on Facebook!

FB likes

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Pickles!

Blackberry Crumble CurriedRiceTofuSalad

I opened the veggie bin and stared into the empty space. Until recently it was full of carrots, celery, Jalapeno peppers and onions. I’d checked the inventory earlier in the week, when I did my usual shopping trip. I had plenty of supplies to complete my planned meals for the week and the dishes I planned to take to my husband’s company picnic.

The software company my hubby is currently working for is delightfully social. The office manager schedules many well attended and very enjoyable events throughout the year for their employees and families. The Summer Company Picnic is a highlight on the annual calendar.

Running a bit behind on my agenda, it was 9:30pm and I was about half way through the two recipes when I discovered the ingredient deficiencies in the refrigerator’s storage drawers.

I was signed up to make my Curried Rice and Tofu salad. I needed lots of celery, onions and there was not a single stalk or bulb in sight. My rice was already steamed and in the bowl, dressing well under way.   My trusty Cuisinart, fitted with the proper slicing blade, stood on the counter ready for the stalks of celery to be fed down its chute. All that was missing was that celery!

In addition to my contribution for the shared dishes, there was another fun event, the Dessert Contest! I had entered my EVOO Cake last year in the Most Unusual Ingredient segment and lost out to the office’s baking Diva. Not only did she win the most creative category with an adorable Alligator cake but she beat me out with her “to die for” Guinness Stout Cake with Irish whiskey ganache and Irish Cream frosting.  Oh yeah. I went back for seconds on that one.

I was doubly determined this year.   However this year’s entry for Most Unusual Ingredients would be Just Plain Ordinary Blackberry Crumble without the tiny minced jalapeno peppers lurking amongst the dark juicy fruit under the crispy oatmeal laced crust. Yup, you guessed it. Not a single pepper in the crisper!

Glancing at the top shelf I saw several Quart jars of pickled veggies! My celery, onions and even the Jalapeno peppers, my “unusual ingredient” that I hoped would win the dessert category by the same name, were all floating in pickle brine!

My husband has been on a pickled beet kick. Several weeks prior, he’d filled every available canning jar with wonderful fresh tasting beets and onions. They were truly yummy too! Our deck holds several flats of baby lettuce and chard. A bumper crop of greens this season has supplied us with super fresh salads and smoothies that must brim with extra vitamins that are supplied by the freshly picked greens and mint. His savory beets piled on top of fresh lettuce, topped with walnuts, crumbled goat cheese and a drizzle of Dijon Vinaigrette are a perfect summer meal.

Apparently the enthusiasm and praise for the pickled beets spurred my husband on to greater culinary preservation feats!  He had requested on the “Shopping List”, a magnetized pad, attached to the front of the refrigerator, cauliflower and eggplant.

This is our system for communicating to whoever does the shopping.  Desires for future dish ingredients or the notice of a recently depleted item, like celery or pickling spices, for instance, can be written down on this pad, with the pencil also attached to the front of the refrigerator by a magnet.

Didn’t happen! Hey, no system is perfect.

No worries. Our local grocer is open until 11:00pm every night.  I stomped down the stairs and in my best “Princess Obvious” voice stated “There is no celery! I need celery and green onions for the Curried Rice salad.”

Husband looked up from his book. “Can’t you get them at the store tomorrow morning?”

“I am in the middle of the recipe, right now. The Cuisine art is out and ready to slice the celery. And … this is for YOUR work’s company picnic. You signed me up for this and I am doing my best here…”

His big sigh interrupted my tirade. “Can’t you just go?”

I subscribe to a philosophy similar to that of shopkeepers who display signs that say” You break it, you buy it!”

“You are the one that used up ALL of the celery and onions!”

“OK, OK… Is there anything ELSE, since I am going to the store in the middle of the night, I only want to make one trip!”

“Yes! All of the Jalapeno peppers have disappeared as well, so I will need at least two.”

He returned, almost 45 minutes later. The QFC is about 1 mile from the house.  I could have walked there and back.  On wheels, I could have done the week’s shopping and even had time to gas up my husband’s shiny black V6 Jetta on the return trip.

He plunked down two paper grocery bags. I decided this was not the moment for the Ecology lecture about recyclable grocery bags. I know there cloth bags are on the front seat of his car, I put them there, a subtle reminder. Colored bright lime green and yellow, maybe he is too manly to tote them into the store. I make a mental note to switch out his bags to a more discrete khaki shade.

“Beer was on sale. There was a new one from Elysian, called “Loser”… celebrating 25th anniversary of Sub Pop Records. This stuff is normally $14 for a 6 pack; it was on sale for $7.99!”

I bit my tongue, resisting the temptation of a cheap shot regarding the aptly named beer.

The picnic was wonderful. Held on a park just above a beach looking out to the Puget Sound, the blue skies and sun a perfect backdrop for all the sail boats, soothed any leftover animosity.

Our two Elkhounds took 1st and 2nd place in the Navigating the Dog Obstacle Course.  They were the only two entries, but I can’t fault them for that part! They won fair and square.

Best of all, I won the “Most Creative Dessert” category.

Here are the recipes. Bon Appetite!

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Little Giant, Big Brain

I have been in deep weeds this summer helping my son Nick Baker finish up a book called “Turtle.” It is Nick’s story of being made fun of by kids in his grade school. Nick was so different from the rest of children at his grade school and 25 years ago he was truly a novelty on campus. Using using a long white cane to find his way earned him the nickname “Turtle”.  This is an illustrated book. Nick is both blind and on the Autism spectrum. He truly needed my eyes and editorial skills to help complete his book.

cover with text

Great news! The book is finished and is selling well. We have it uploaded to Amazon for sale as both print book and Kindle EBook. Local press has been kind to Nick. A recent feature on My Edmonds News TV garnered the attention of the local NBC affiliate, KING 5. They sent a reported and cameraman out and did an in-depth interview. The show was to air the next day.

 

My son set his alarm for 5:00 am, the stated beginning time for the King5 morning news broadcast. He promised to keep the volume low, knowing that Mom and Dad’ alarm would remain at the usual 7:00 am rising time.

 

True to his word, we didn’t hear a peep. By 7:00 am our bedroom TV set tuned into the King 5 morning show. Excitedly watching for the next part of the segment that featured Nick, I shouted; “He’s on now!” My husband was in the shower. Steam blew out from the bathroom as he leaped out, towel in hand, to get a look at our family celebrity.

We have ultra sensitive smoke detectors in our home. The weirdest things will get them going… like steam from a hot shower. Yes, they all went off. The units must all belong to the same “union”, when one goes off, they all follow suit and start emitting obnoxious beeps!

Instead of seeing my son on TV, we were running around swinging doors, turning on fans; doing whatever we perceived would make the noise cease and desist. Nick raced up the stairs to see what was happening. He started shouting “I’m going to call 9-1-1”…which of course was not the best idea. Our two dogs were affected by this shrill noise too.  They barked in tandem with Nick. Their voices added to the pleas for the pandemonium to cease.

 

I stopped dead in my tracks.  As calmly as possible given the uproar in our home, I reviewed with Nick the circumstances under which it was permissible to call 9-1-1. He agreed that he did not smell smoke, or feel any heat from a possible fire. Most importantly there were two other adults were present who had the skills to detect a possible fire or other emergency.  He did relent and hand over the phone. I was truly grateful that he doesn’t have a personal cell phone, or the next sound I’d likely hear would be our doorbell, rung by a local police officer.

A side note here… our name is probably on the “list” of 9-1-1 prank callers. We have had this happen more than once. On the off chance that Nick might still waiver, I took the upstairs base phone off the hook.

The fans and doors seem to increase the smoke detectors activity. Each time things calmed down and we’d breathe a sigh of relief…shrill squawks would again fill the air. Eventually the air cleared of the stimulus and silence prevailed. But wait, now a different beep was heard, the low battery signals. This extra activity had depleted the 9 volt back up battery in two of the units.

This was an easy fix. The ladder and some fresh batteries were all I needed. The situation seemed well in hand as my husband dashed out of the door and backed the car out of our garage.  I waved and silently prayed that he was able to catch the last bus downtown.

The ladder is called Little Giant, but a Big Brain is required to set it up. If that brain belongs to engineering major who’s of a brawny build, so much the better! I wrestled the Little Giant® MegaLite™ Aluminum Ladder out of its storage spot and into the house. “Lite” in the name surely doesn’t mean the physical weight of the ladder.

The brochure (which was nowhere to be found at that moment) says how versatile and easy it is to use. One can configure it to just about any position, like reaching the Smoke Detector mounted on an 18 foot high ceiling in my dining room.  I set up the ladder in the usual A-frame position. I use this ladder about twice a year, so the mechanism to change positions is a little dicey.  I simply could not get it into position to reach that unit located on the 18 foot ceiling.

All the while the random beeps from the low battery continue to drive us crazy. I’d yet to have a cup of coffee, the dogs had not been fed and the show’s last segment is now over. My son, who also hasn’t breakfasted either, heads upstairs. He announces, in case my ears were no longer working, that the smoke detector needs a new battery.

This was the exact moment I’d opened the drawer where our batteries are kept. A crunching sound from a crinkled, empty package, which once held 9 volt Duracell batteries, greeted my ears.

I was on the internet in a flash, Googling: “Handy Man” in Edmonds, WA.  Twenty five minutes later my knight in shining armor, actually clad in jeans and a sweatshirt, arrived to silence the squawks for good.  In no time he had properly aligned the settings and mounted the Little Giant ladder, now stretched to its full height. The joy of not hearing the beeps was short-lived.

My knight on the shining ladder determined that the unit doesn’t just need a battery, it needs to new, as in be replaced with a new unit. The expiration date on this particular one is 2011…oops!

I mentally schedule a stop at the local Home Depot into my rounds for the day. My list included 9 volt batteries.

Much later, I sat down to write this post. I marveled at how our happy high; seeing Nick as the star of the segment on TV this morning, crashed into the reality of daily living on the spectrum.

Just when I thought it was safe to get back in the water…

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Spoiled Dogs!

Ready for the Dog ParkSpoiled? My dogs? Nah….

Last weekend we embarked on a new type of vacation. A trip dedicated to travel with our dogs. They are old enough to have reliable good manners and can be trusted not to chew up the decor at the hotels!

We did select a dog friendly place to stay in Oak Harbor. I was pleasantly surprised to see how many places are listed as “pet friendly” when searching the internet. For those of you wishing to plan a get away with your pets, check out sites like www.bringfido.com . Lots of options are listed no matter where you intend to roam. The most important parts were the reviews and comments from happy pet owners.

So are my two Norwegian Elk hounds truly spoiled? I certainly did enter them in the “Spoiled Dog” contest! Our travels on Whidbey Island lead us back to a winery by that name that we’d discovered on a previous, “BP” (Before Pups) trip two years ago.  We’d enjoyed their Pinot varieties especially and were back to ensure a purchase of their lovely dry Pinot Rose before it sold out this season.

Yes, we planned an entire vacation around two pups! That is what parents do when traveling with children or grand-kids if they want to enjoy the trip. Plan ahead, make good choices and spend the time relaxing and enjoying….not struggling against situations that are fraught with peril from the get-go.

For dog owners lucky enough to live in the Pacific Northwest, it is a true paradise of pooch playgrounds!  Seattleites love their dogs! The numbers available confirm it. There are now more dogs in Seattle than children, by a lot: about 153,000 dogs to 107,178 kids, according to figures from the U.S. Census and the Seattle Animal Shelter. The area’s canine oriented facilities certainly bear out this. One can’t sling a dead cat (apologies to cat owners for the bad pun!) without hitting a “Doggie Daycare” or” Pet Parlor” these days.

I want you to know there are at least six Off Leash dog areas on Whidbey Island alone.  There is a non-profit organization called FETCH- (Free Exercise Time for Canines and their Humans!)that maintains five of these parks. See www.fetchparks.org.  We hit them all and went back for a few extra visits to the pup’s favorite one, the Patmore Pit! This off leash area is 40 acres of open grassland dotted with lush islands of brush and trails through the trees on the outer edges. Our female pup, Elki was in dog heaven as she romped through the bushes, struggling out the other side with vines and branches trailing behind her. Her brother Gordon seemed content to follow her lead or possibly just couldn’t keep up with her pace. She is lighter than he by about 20 pounds and she can run circles around him on most outings.

When we finally could coax our cavorting canines back to the car our boy would flop on the back seat to nap. His sister was doing a great imitation of the scene in “Foot Loose” where the troubled teen daughter of the local preacher is hanging out of her boyfriend’s truck with her hair streaming in the wind. Elki struck a similar pose sticking out the window as far as she could squeeze her head and front paws, barking “Yippee”. She was on the look for the next opportunity to run wild and free. We wondered if she’d ever truly get tired.

I will say that when we settled in for the evening that Elki was so deeply asleep she was snoring! This is the pup that usually sleeps with one ear cocked so as not to miss a single sound.

My definition of “spoiled” pertains to fruit that isn’t picked and eaten at its peak of flavor. In the case of our pups, the Oxford dictionary says to spoil someone is to “Treat with great or excessive kindness, consideration, or generosity”. I think my pups must have read that one! They love us excessively and are so generous with their affection toward their human family members that we are probably the ones who are spoiled.

Maybe Gordon and Elki will enter us in a contest … one called “spoiled humans”… cause we certainly are!

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