Fantasy Island

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I don’t know why this place captivated me so, but it surely did. The only thing that would’ve made it better were folks in immaculate white suits handing me a cocktail as we arrived.  But maybe if we had come in on zee plane…

We had heard of Lokrum, just a 20 minute boat ride from Dubrovnik.  We had seen it from afar.  It didn’t look spectacular, but everyone said if you have the time, it’s a must.  It’s also cursed.

The island was home to a Benedictine monastery, which founded in 1038.  According to legend, Richard the Lion Hearted shipwrecked there, and vowed to build a church — which he did. Centuries later, the French decided they wanted it, so told the monks they had to leave. They fought it, but lost.  So the night before they were evicted, they all lined up with candles, and walked the whole island three times, chanting and pouring wax.  Thus came the curse: “Whosoever claims Lokrum for his own personal pleasure shall be damned!”

Three Dubrovnik aristocrats forced the move.  One jumped out of a window, one drowned, and the third was killed by a servant.

Another shipwreck brought Archduke Maximilian to its stunning shores. Captivated, and more greedy than grateful, he decided to buy it. Max moved in, built a mansion, and thought all was great.  Then he went to Mexico, to be Emperor.  He was soon executed there.  His wife Charlotte moved back to Lokrum.  She went insane.

Over the successive centuries, people died, were financially and socially ruined, and on and on until finally, after the last owners were assassinated in an act that actually kicked off World War I, it became a park.  And that is what we visited.

Our original goal was to find the salt lake, which was supposed to have healing properties due to the higher-than-the-ocean concentration of salt in the water.  That took us awhile, so we made a detour to the botanical gardens.  We met some English guy in a huff — he was unhappy with the state of the gardens.  Not quite up to British snuff, evidently.  Yeah, they weren’t manicured or lush (hello, desert environment…).  But: they had wild peacocks and bunnies galore.  That were tame.  And ATE FROM your HAND!!!

 

I wonder if random peacock sightings aren’t unusual in this part of the world, like they are in the US.  Some people just glanced and walked on.  But us? We were like Australians on tour in the midwest, freaking out over every squirrel (hi Kim).

We were also fascinated by the cactus displays.  Again: yeah, I knew it was more arid than tropical  here (although palm trees were everywhere in Split and Dubrovnik), but I didn’t expect such a Wild West display of fauna. If the peacocks were the Croatian Road Runner, did that make the bunnies Wile E Coyote? I am so confused.

 

We wandered some more, and just couldn’t find the salt lake.  I was getting tired, as the paths were very uneven.  We were getting frustrated, and started backtracking.  Eventually we figured out the not-so-helpful map system, and got pointed in the correct direction.  On the way we passed a place to get massages (Fantasy Island! I’m tellin’ ya!) and fish pedicures, which we discussed, 2/3rds of us excitedly, one not so much (if I were still an English major, my highlighter would’ve marked this last sentence and written “foreshadoing”in teh margins…)

Before we reached the lake, we stumbled upon a big soccer field, flocked with our furry and feathered friends.  So, naturally, we needed to detour yet again.

The following three pictures are indicative of the types of relationships the three of us had with the critters:

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Finally we found the salt lake, and the girl was IN THE WATER.  So was my foot, and, briefly, HWSNBN.  I mostly took pictures, though!

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After our respite, it was time to wander back to the boat launch. Of course, critter ADD set in when we saw a mama peahen and her babies.  We assumed she would shuffle her babies away from us, but no.  She basically pushed them aside to eat our proffered snacks.

 

Ok, ok.  You get it.  The critters were cool.  Yawn.

Fine: the scenery, sans fauna, was amazing everywhere we went

 

We hopped back on the boat, and pointed towards our walled home town, Dubrovnik, eager to enjoy our last night there.

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Doubling Down in Dubrovnik

You may recall our decision to avail ourselves of tour guides for the rest of the trip while floundering about in Split.  On our second full day in Dubrovnik, we took two.

First up: a walk-the-walls tour.    As always, I was in charge.  I don’t necessarily mind that, but being responsible for all the info all the time means I am not always on top of things.  I knew roughly where we needed to meet, but I had negelected to get precise info.  There were tons of tour groups, speaking so nay different languages.  I was trying to hobble, leading my crabby crew up and down the stone staircases.  I have no pride, or qualms, when it comes to asking for help, so I grabbed a tourist guide and asked: where does the Dubrovnik Walks (http://dubrovnikwalks.com/) tour meet? I was right: all the guides know each other. The gal rolled her eyes and gestured outside the city walls, so we scurried off.  Found another large group — asked them — and they pointed me to a group that was already walking away.  The guide said yes, this is the right group, but no, we couldn’t join without first checking in.  We rushed to the proper place, checked in, attached our little headsets, then frantically (with the aide of a sub-guide) to catch up with our crew, about about 10 minutes late.  Like every other person we met in this magical town, everyone was gracuious, kind and understanding of our touristic feebleness!

So: we started our tour hot, late, sweaty and grumpy wth one another.  The hot and sweaty part never went away, but the grumpy part sure did.

There is no persepctive from which this city doesn’t captivate.  Our tour guide was terrific: all of his speech was peppered with deferential references to his beloved speed metal, which of course endeared him to this rocker chick and her musical daughter.  But he was appropriately sober when required, especially when telling us what it was like as a child fleeing from the under-siege city with his mom and living in a refugee camp.

I took tons of pictures, and they say more than I can.  Here are some of my favorites, with periodic captions:

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HWSNBN, wearing his treasured Croatian soccer jersey, wondering where I am. I was up in one of the tower niches, like the one you see behind him, capturing a dazzling succession of pictures, which you will see below.

One of the funniest moments on the tour was also one of the most weirdly charming.  While strolling about at ground level the previous day, Singer Girl notced what we thought was a tennis court, stashed behind a small alley entryway.  But up on the wall we got a closer look. IMG_1824

Croatians love their sports — and especially basketball.  But the city walls of Dubrovnik are not very forgiving when it comes to space.  So when the city needed a public basketball court, they changed the court configuration.  Our tour guide said he rememebred when this was a dirt area.  He and his friends celebrated Croatia’s historic third place win in the World Cup 1998 by kicking up a storm in this spot. The court may be fancy and new, but nestled into the centuries old city walls, it retains its whimsical appeal.

We completed this tour, then went tograb some lunch and regroup before our next one.  We had lots of time — I had selected a city tour for early evening, so it wouldn’t be so hot.  So that meant two things: back to the beach, and then a nap.  Our trek to the starting point of this tour was easier, since this time we knew where we were going (of course, we still had to DO the trek.  By the end of our 3 1/2 days in Dubrovnik, we would walk about 37 miles, or 322 flights of stairs, or more than 90,000 steps.  And yes.  I was in das boot).

Our tour guide strolled us around Dubrovnik on street level, where we admired architecture, lamented war damage (this guide, too, was a war refugee), marvelled at history and folklore, and fell deeper in love with the city.

We saw so many cats — I have never seen so many stray cats so well loved.  Everywhere you looked there were water and food dishes set out for them.

So much charm and color!

After asking for restaurant suggestioins, and what we should do on our last day, we said goodbye to the guide then went home to clean up to go eat.  The next day was going to be good: a trip to fantasy island, and another Croatia World Cup game!

Up the Down Staircase in Dubrovnik

Let me just remind you I was in a boot. IMG_1843

 

We arrived in Dubrovnik late — like after midnight. It was rough on some folks, and another airport nap was in order.

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Again, I had arranged transportation, so again we had someone waiting there to whisk us away. Again: we were immensely grateful.  We each had carry-ons and checked bags, and Dubrovnik, like Split, is an ancient area with no cars allowed.  We were  dropped off at the Pile gate (pronounced pee-lah: the city is walled, which we will get to later), and basically walked across a drawbridge to enter the amazing city.  If we hadn’t had our guide we would NEVER have found our way.  Dubrovnik is a warren of alleys and stairwells. How many stairs? According to a study, there are 5,423 steps in Dubrovnik.  On a daily basis we essentially SLAYED the Fitbit.

The city reminded me a bit of San Francisco, with steep staircases instead of streets.  And the little shops and residences tucked into every square inch reminded me of that as well.  Upon arrival, we wandered down the Stradun, an awe-inspiring marble main street, with centuries old buildings rising on either side (featured on lists worldwide as a street you have to walk before you die).  It was about 1am, and people were celebrating life.  In a weird way, it reminded me of Vegas — but  like under the Venetian on the Strip, where it’s so cool but it’s fake.  This was real.  It was like everything Disneyland, Epcot and Vegas wish they could be.

Our VRBO host had a porter with him, who skillfully took all three of our checked pieces of luggage and disappeared into the night.  Somehow he made it to the apartment before us — and our luggage was waiting.  The apartment had two beds and one bath, like our last place, but oh my the terrace! And the windows and the steps we climbed hinted at what the view would be like in the morning. And oh. Oh wow. Take a peek at the VRBO listing here and see what I mean:  https://www.vrbo.com/868272ha?unitId=1211599

When we woke, here were the views we saw out the windows:

 

Sunday, our first full day in Dubrovnik.  We wandered a little bit, finding some pastries on which to nosh, and getting a general lay of the land.

 

 

Then Singer Girl wanted to hit the beach — of course.  Again: no sandy beaches nearby, but this walled city is right on the Adriatic, and there are two famous “beaches” cut into the wall: Buza 1 and Buza 2. We wandered a few minutes from our apartment (which itself is built into the ancient wall) and climbed down precarious stairs to find a flat section of rock.  I relaxed (and watched lizards cavort) while my travelling companions took to the water.

 

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After a nap and a shower, it was off to the famed cable car of Dubrovnik. We sailed to the top, and the view was spectacular. How did we not know more aout this incredible place? The Adriatic was dotted with islands, and the  orange roofed houses of the walled city below us just radiated charm.

 

 

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We had another fun activity planned, but first it was time to absorb some more “recent” history.

Some background: the Soviet block dissoved in the late 80s, which was in the long run a good thing.  But in the short term, it meant countries had to find ther way again.  The communist country of Yugoslavia fell apart in 1990 when Croatia declared its independence.  A new war broke out.  In 1991, the Yugoslav army attacked Dubrovnik, which had been thought safe due to its coastal location.  But it was an important seaport, and the city ended up being under attack and isolated for seven months until international peace talks settled things.

Beside the incredible view at the top of the mountain, there is a great museum about the war and the siege. It is hard to separate the breathtaking landscape from the bullet hole riddled fort at the top. During our time in Dubrovnik, we met many people wo lived through the siege, being evacuated to refugee camps as children.  It was sobering.

After we were through with the museum, we made a radical shift: we were going to drive dune buggies.  Actually, HWSNBN and Singer Girl drove: I was a passenger.  It was so fun — and we were nice and mud splattered by the end.  But along the way we got to see an amazing sunset!

 

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Afterwards we went to dinner, then climbed up and down the many stairs to our apartment, ready to rest up for a full day of guided tours in the morning!

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Let’s Make like Croatia and Split

Omigosh no one is gonna read this — it has been 7 weeks since I posted!  I am sorry! I will try to make these next few posts long, full of gorgeous pictures and at least adequate writing.

On June 19th we embarked on our Great European Vacation (yes, I kept playing the Holiday Road song in my head).  First stop: Split, Croatia.

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Why Croatia, you may ask? Why this trip at all?

Last year we asked Singer Girl if she wanted to go on a senior trip, and if so, where? She quickly narrowed it down: Argentina, Thailand, Australia, and African Safari, Egypt or Turkey.  Hm.  So we discussed the pros and cons: winter in Argentina and Australia (out).  Deathly heat in July in Egypt and Thailand (out). Political unrest in Egypt and Turkey (out). Safari was an almost, but we decided to put that one on the back burner until Sailor Boy was out of the Navy.  So I asked her what she wanted, and she said sun and ancient ruins.  Greece was an obvious choice, especially since she has been obsessed with the Disney movie Hercules since she was in preschool.  Decided to add another country to round out the experience, and a little research led us to Croatia.  Man am I glad it did!

We did the typical late night flight from the US, with a layover in Frankfurt, where we watched a little World Cup soccer and some of our group napped.

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As we approached our first city, Split, it was clear that this was going to be a beautiful place.

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We lived at this one: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/2885183. Below is a picture of the gate to our apartment and the street we lived on. Two beds, one bath, and a communal kitchen/living room space — accented by a bottle of the local liquor, raki (it’s like Eastern European moonshine).

Soon we headed out to dinner at Frane’s favorite restaurant, F de Mer.  I’ll do a whole blog entry on the food we ate on this trip, so I won’t go into details here.  But the walk down the Riva was stunning, and it was a great intro to our vacation!

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Plus: Singer Girl got to have her first legal drink! She wanted a fancy cocktail, but they do drinks differently in Croatia, and very few bars do frou-frou drinks.  n fact, if you want a gin and tonic, you order the two things separately, and they bring you a glass with gin and a bottle of tonic for you to mix.  She settled…

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The next morning those with two healthy feet went running.  I did not.  When they returned, we decided to get a little sun, and ventured to Bacvice Beach.  Croatia may not be known for it’s sandy shores, but the water is gorgeous.  HWSNBN and Singer Girl went swimming, but my broken foot and I stayed back, leery of the rocks underneath.  But at least the foot got a little Vitamin D!IMG_1636

Soon it was time to get back for a shower, a late lunch and then the day’s main event: the World Cup!

When I realized we would be in Croatia when their team played Argentina, this quickly became on of the most anticipated moments of our trip.  Frane suggested a public park, where they had a huge TV, beer for sale and tons of rabid fans.  Foolishly we only arrived an hour in advance, so were destined to be standing and squished.  No matter: this was such a cool experience! And to see the home team absolutely CRUSH perennial favorite Argentina 3-0? I will never forget that! I hope the US can gets act together and start adoring this sport before we host World Cup in 2026!

 

Afterwards we went to a square outside the cathedral (steps from our apartment) where people gather every night for live music, drinks and fun.  Everyone was in a great mood — and Singer Girl and HWSNBN actually danced a bit, which was awesome (and a little amusing).

We were originally scheduled to do an island hopping boat tour the next day, but the rain rearranged those plans.  So it was a sight-seeing day, which I love.  Singer Girl grumbled at first, but I think she enjoyed it. Before the rain fell, we saw amazing ancient architecture, from sky high cathedrals to the dungeons where Daenerys Targaryen keeps her dragons (GOT reference).

I think that’s when my travelling companions realized guided tours had their place: I usually do a lot of research and guide everyone, but this trip I just didn’t have enough planning time. We wistfully eavesdropped on a group, realizing they were getting way more info than we were. So when we were done, and the rain set in, I hopped on the computer and scheduled tours for our next few stops.

Late that night we found ourselves wandering, as I always like to do on our last night somewhere. That’s when we found our favorite bar of both countries, Marcvs Marcvlvs Library Jazz Bar (https://www.facebook.com/marvlvs/). It had great music floating down the alley, and looked warm and cheerful and happy, so we stepped in. It was like a cool little library, with cubby holes and cats (cats were a recurring thing on this trip). Then we noticed the cucumbers.

There was a cucumber in a fruit bowl.

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There were paintings of cucumbers on the wall.

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I had to ask. It was odd.

Come to find out, the makers of Hendricks Gin liked the bar, so offered to invest.  So: cucumbers.  Very funny, very fun. Definitely stop by, if you’re ever in the ‘hood.

The next day was a scramble.  We had to be at the docks on the Riva for a boat tour by 830, but also had to have the whole apartment packed up, as we were leaving that evening and had to be out of the room before the boat tour would be done.  So packed it all up, and hustle down to meet our captain.  I was a little apprehensive, as Frane had cancelled my old reservation and scheduled this one instead, and I never could connect the boat captain.  I had no idea what we were getting into.  But wow was it fun!

When I saw the seats on the boat we originally WERE going to be riding on (chairs you straddled like horse) and the cushy couches on our boat, I thanked Frane in my head (and my backside).  We spent the day tooling around different islands, stooping for swimming (I got to jump in!), snorkeling, sight seeing and lunch.  Below are some of the awesome pictures from this beautiful day!

 

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Afterwards we met Frane at the apartment, where we quickly changed clothes and repacked before Frane drove us back.  He was so kind — even offered to help us out if we needed anything during the rest of our time in Croatia.  Seriously: if you go, these are great people to rent from!

The Split airport was…interesting. There were 4 gates total  – tow domestic, two international. The domestic gates were literally on the other side of security.  We waited and waited and waited — while the folks at security just kind of hung out.  Finally, about 30 minutes after we were supposed to leave (no notice of delays or anything), the security people basically changed their hats and started boarding.  It worked, I guess, but not what we were used to.  Next stop: Dubrovnik!

 

 

Foot up, blog down

So I have posted nothing in like forever.  because I have done nothing in, like, forever.

I mean, obviously that’s not true.  But I do it all fat on my ass on my couch (was gonna fix that typo, but since it’s kind of true, I’ll let it stand.  Which reminds me: I started Weight Watchers. can’t exercise on crutches, and putting on a bathing suit in 4 weeks. Scary shit. But I digress).

I have been making notes of things to blog about — but none of them have amounted to blog-length posts yet.  And I am not a fan of doing a half load of laundry: I’ll wait until it’s a full load, thank you very much.

So I will keep not blogging until I have a full post. But here are a few topics on the horizon:

— My career in volunteering coming to a close (school volunteering, that is)

— The reconstruction of the 100-plus year old wall in our yard, and how I managed to use my injury to convince my husband to do a project he does not want to do

— All of the last of Singer Girl’s senior year

— College shopping hell (we haven’t started yet, but I already know this will get ugly)

— Singer Girl’s grad party

— Our trip to Croatia and Greece in June

In the mean time, I am a relentless poster on Facebook, pretty good on Instagram, meh on Twitter and nonexistent on Snatchchat (why would you call it anything else?).  I am also conducting an internal debate on whether to take a foster for one week — one who, like our recently passed beloved Penny is a female chocolate labradoodle.  (Glutton for punishment much?)

 

Tripping the lights not so fantastic

I like to be busy.  I like to get things done, to lead,  plan and organize.  I have worked hard to learn to delegate and how to say no, but quite honestly I try to do stuff on my own as much as I can.

But sometimes the universe has a way of well, tripping things up.

This Monday I had grand plans: I was finally gonna clean my gross house.  But first I was hitting my favorite garden center (Tonkadale Greenhouse: http://tonkadale.com/), to get the first round of plants for the season.  Happily buzzed about picking plants for my pots and window boxes, and think I found some great options.

Hustled home, unloaded the car, and got to work.  It was a lovely, warm spring day.  I was on pot number 3, when I somehow stumbled and twisted my ankle.

And heard a snap.

I glanced at my shoe, hoping I had broken my shoe.  No such luck.  Caught my breath, sat down and decided to finish getting that pot done.  I had about 60 seconds before my body starting screaming at me.  Clammy skin, nausea, searing, burning pain in my left foot.  My mind started racing.

“Crap shit god DAMMIT! What did I do I do NOT have time for this.  OK.  Do I wait it out or go in? It’s probably nothing.  I’ll just ice it in a minute. Son of a BITCH that hurts.  Oh no.  The dinner we are hosting Friday night for 10 people…no way I can do that now.  Well, maybe I can.  I can cook with a twisted ankle (you know this is not just sprained you moron)..but how am I gonna clean? We’ll move it to a restaurant.  OK this plant is done.  I’ll clean up later.  Gotta go ice before it gets bad.  I’ll just try standing on it…AAAAAHHHHHGGGGGGHHHHH! Nope.  Not doing that again.  Fricking knives in my foot. OK Breathe.  Work through this.  You need to get to a phone. Stupid stupid stupid….”

I hopped on one foot into the house, and called the orthopedic clinic to ask the nurse line if I should come in or wait and see.  Nurse listened to my descriptions and said “we’ll see you soon!” so I called Mom and she came over shortly.  Stumbled about, finding a shoe to wear (knew I shouldn’t do flip flops or I’d get yelled at), grabbed a phone charger, a book and a sweatshirt in case it was cold at the doctor.  Swallowed 4 Advil and hobbled out to the driveway to wait (yes, even in the throes of agony I am trying to be organized…)

They got me in pretty quickly, which was good and bad.  I knew they would do an x ray.  I knew it would hurt.  I was right.  I screamed during the first xray. By the end of the second film I was weeping.  By the third I was clammy again and out of breath.  The doctor didn’t even need to look at my foot; his greeting upon walking into the room was “So did you hear it snap?”

Yes.  Yes I did.

So for now I am in a boot and on crutches for at least 3 weeks, then the boot alone for at least 3 weeks.

In those six weeks, I am running the school senior party, attending Singer Girls’s graduation, and hosting her graduation party. I also will have house guests — wonderful. non-demanding house guests, but nonetheless their rooms have to be readied (they are currently full of senior party supplies), the house cleaned, food purchased and plans made.

Sitting on my ass the past few days has made me reassess what I can do, what I can’t, and how to get help.  For years I have wanted to get a house keeper.  The want has become a need, so I have done that.  I am hiring someone to help me plant all my annuals.  I am paying extra for delivery and setup for Singer Girl’s grad party.  After attempting to get about the other day in public on crutches, I took up a friend’s offer to use her knee scooter (which, btw, gives me a dangerous amount of mobility so I have to be careful not to let that heady freedom get me in trouble and overdo it). When people ask how they can help, I tell them.

This has not been easy.  This morning I had a crying meltdown talking with HWSNBN about my frustration at not being able to keep up with even the basic stuff around the house, and my family’s inability to even see the things I see.  Like, for years I have asked Singer Girl to not just drop her shoes in the middle of the mud room, but to put them in the cubbies.  Now that I have to crutch gingery around the scattered footwear minefield it is maddening to me that she doesn’t even see the problem.  Since I have known him, HWSNBN has always been super helpful, but not always in the way I think he should be. Like, he thinks it’s helpful to tidy up for me — by moving my crutches out of my way.  So I can’t reach them.  And when I ask him to help keep things tidy, like by doing dishes or putting away the groceries, he decides it’s time to detail the master bathroom shower head.

So I had to tell him that I need him to listen to me more.  That I know he is trying, but I need him to follow my lead.  If he and she don’t step up, I will try to do it on my own and that’s a bad idea. Last night, after having been out with work colleagues for drinks and dinner, he disappeared into the basement to work with his seedlings.  I decided I had better fix myself some dinner, so crutched over to the kitchen.  Foot was talking to me, so I propped it up — on a counter that hadn’t been cleaned so was slippery and after a few minutes my foot slid off and crashed to the floor.  I screamed.  Three times.  When HWSNBN finally came upstairs (he didn’t hear the crash or the screaming), he found me weeping, trying to catch my breath, terrified I had undone whatever healing had happened to date.

What should have happened? Before he went downstairs, he should’ve asked me if I needed anything, or I should have let him know what I needed.  But because I stupidly think he and Singer Girl can suddenly be the wife/mom in the relationship, I don’t ask.  I just get mad when they aren’t me.

And that’s dumb.

Just like it’s dumb of me to think that my Senior Party committee will volunteer to take things off my plate.  No, I have to ask. I have to tell people what I can’t do.  What I need. Where others have to step up and fill my broken footsteps.  That’s what happens when everyone is used to you willingly and capably taking charge of stuff.  You sometimes have to point out that your cape is in the shop and you need someone else to save the day.

I think it’s asinine for any of us to assume the world knows what we need.  As a stay at home mom and wife, I have been training for more than 20 years to anticipate the family’s needs, and, realizing that this life is a game if chess, planning a few moves ahead so things move smoothly.  This ain’t chess anymore: it’s checkers.  With me hopping around chaotically, no linger gliding in all directions.  And while I love game night, this is not what I had in mind.

The next 5 weeks will suck in many ways.  But while I can’t run around like a headless yet efficient chicken anymore, I do have a flock of good eggs who will help me if I learn how to patiently direct them.  Hopefully my squawking will make it over easy, and not leave everything scrambled.

 

 

A Penny and some change…

Thanks to everyone who reached out to me after yesterday’s blog post.  It’s tough to know your crowd — some folks don’t get it.  Thankfully, they have kept their mouths shut to me (and I mean thankfully for them.  I do not go gently into anything.  Good night)

Today my son reached out to me with a dreadful tale about animal abuse.  Some (can’t really call them human, or even people, so I will go with the most polite moniker with which to bestow them) ASSHATS decided that owning a puppy was too hard.  After their 8 month old labradoodle chewed up a pair of tennis shoes, they took the puppy to the woods and shot it.

Seriously.

Luckily, the police were called.  The puppy is doing well, and will be adopted by one of the police officers.

The Asshats are in the brig.  Hopefully the Navy can punish them more than a civilian court.  In most instances, animal cruelty/abuse/neglect is a misdemeanor.  In Washington state, where this happened, I believe the minimum punishment is $150 fine, the max is $10,000 and five years in jail, presumably for repeat offenders.  ( found this link helpful, btw: http://www.dopplr.com/animal-cruely-laws/).

Here in Minnesota, my rescue just last night brought in an owner surrender Dachshund named Uno.  Uno is struggling, but making it so far.  (to donate to his care, go to https://www.facebook.com/SecondhandHounds/)

Nope.  This is not a stray.  This woofer had an OWNER.

Today I want to reach out to all of you animal lovers out there.  So many folks have asked what they can do for me and my family in our time of grieving for Penny — a dog who may have come from a breeder (I didn’t know better back then) but has helped so many foster dogs learn how to be forever pets.

You can help by:

  1. Fostering.  Find a local foster-based rescue and open your doors to an animal.  At our rescue, there is no cost to the fosters — all expenses are covered by Secondhand Hounds (including massive, expensive medical care).  Fosters choose which animals they foster, and they choose the animal’s new family.  Most rewarding thing I’ve ver done.  Yes, it’s hard to let them go.  But it’s worth it (in 5 years we’ve never kept one!)

2.  Adopt, don’t shop.  Don’t use a breeder.  Yeah, there are good breeders out there.  But there are far more animals killed daily in shelters (some of them purebreds, if you care about that) than you want to know:

NEW YORK, N.Y.– The ASPCA® (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) today released national shelter estimates showing dramatic decreases in shelter intake and euthanasia of homeless dogs and cats. The ASPCA reports that an estimated 1.5 million companion animals are euthanized in U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year, a decrease from about 2.6 million estimated in 2011. Contributing to this reduction is an 18.5 percent increase in national adoptions. An estimated 3.2 million shelter animals are adopted each year (1.6 million dogs and 1.6 million cats), up from 2.7 million adoptions in 2011. (March 2017) https://www.aspca.org/about-us/press-releases/aspca-releases-new-data-showing-remarkable-progress-homeless-dogs-cats

So yes: the numbers are better.  But 1.5 million animals last year!!!

3. Spay/neuter your pets.  yes, you love your Fluffy.  But don’t breed “just to see” what the pups/kittens will be like.  Every litter brought into this world means another litter dies.

4. LOVE your animals! Get them preventative care (you do NOT want me to put up pictures of a heartworm-ridden hart).  Vaccinate.  Keep their teeth clean.

Do not leave your pet in a car.  ‘Nuff said. (and fyi: the police are getting more and more ok with breaking windows to save animals.  So there’s that).

5. Support bigger penalties for animal cruelty.  The animals are insanely forgiving.  We don’t have to be.

I would love to invite you all to share your stories with me — pets you have loved and lost, your forays into rescue, etc.  If I can convince just one person to help in Penny’s name, it will help ease our pain.

Now: go hug your pet! Walk your dog, stroke your cat, make googly eyes at your fish.  Enjoy them!

 

 

A Penny for Your Thoughts

She wasn’t supposed to be ours.

I had finally convinced HWSNBN to just LOOK at labradoodles.  He was of the opinion that no self-respecting man would own a dog with the name “doodle” in it.

But we took a long drive on a Sunday to see the litter.  There were three left: a yellow, a black and a brown.  It didn’t take long to pick her — she reminded HWSNBN of his childhood chocolate lab.  We signed the papers, but, to the shock of everyone, I refused to take her that day.  I wasn’t ready, I said.  I needed to get supplies.  I’d come back the next week.  What I would do now for that extra week…

Penny Penelope Torres died April 17.

It was totally unexpected.  Yes, she was 11, but we were unprepared.  And we weren’t home.  We were in Paris.

I’ll never forget the phone call from Singer Girl as we ubered to the airport early in the morning for our flight home. “Put Dad on the phone,” she said tearfully.  Then told us what happened.

That was a horrific flight home.  We cried in the uber.  In the airport in Paris, the airport in Amsterdam.  We cried on the plane.  When we returned to Minnesota we cried there.

We went to the vet to say goodbye.  It was awful, and wonderful.  I am so glad we did it.  I got to hold her paw, scratch her head, kiss her and lay along her big furry body one last time.  We left with a paw print and her collar, then went home to try to move on.

Penny was so many things to so many people.  She was the crazy puppy who wouldn’t eat the first week we got her, yet turned into the ferocious food thief that stole everything she could put her paw on. Stole bacon from the frying pan, shoved her head in the oven to check out a roast, singing her nose and going back for more.  She even went bobbing for bones in a boiling stock pot, escaping through the doggie door with her prize.

Now I have to remind myself that she’s not there to steal my lunch when I walk away from the plate.

She was a great car dog — loved resting her head on my seat from her place in the back.

Now I have to remind myself not to ask her if she wants  to go for a ride when I have a short errand to run.

She loved running with HWSNBN and her husband Monte, chasing deer and squirrels and swimming in the lake to chase sticks.  Now HWSNBN can’t bring himself to run, and I don’t want to go to our annual vacation spot on Madeline Island and be faced with her beach, and the shuffleboard court where she got married.

She tolerated all my foster dogs, puppies to seniors, bigs and littles, chill and maniacs.  She taught them how to dog — when to back off on play, to respect boundaries, to beg, steal and pester delivery men for treats.

Now I don’t want to foster without her help.

OK: let’s hear it.  How she was “just” a dog.  Not gonna say it? Good.

What else — “she lived a good life.” Yes, that is true.  But we were sure she had more life to live.  I had planned to have a life-sized picture of her made for Singer Girl to take to college.  The lakes are just now thawing out.  Time for her to drag us down the street, ripping the leash from our hands as she bee-lined for the water.  The brewery’s dog-friendly patio is calling.  This was the summer I would finally take her to Minnehaha falls.

She gave us so much.  Don’t get me wrong: she wasn’t the sweet, loveable cuddle bug so many pets are.  She was honestly kind of an imperious bitch.  We often said she was a human who lost a bet in a past life — if she’d had thumbs, she’d have stolen the car keys, picked up Monte, and hit every drive through in town.

Every State Fair we’d say “man, Penny would love this” as we looked at all the food so carelessly carried and dropped.  This year’s State Fair will be the first one without Singer Girl, and without Penny.

I think that’s one of the things that makes this so hard.  I didn’t really worry about my empty nest that much — but now it’s more than empty.  It’ll be hollow.

Will we get another dog? Maybe? Some days I think no.  I can’t imagine getting another dog that my kids won’t really know.  The dogs are weirdly like book ends: we had our first, Sam, before we had babies.  Then Penny was our woofer world for 11 years, leaving us just when the kids will.  Our next one will have to bring us full circle I guess: dog after the kids.

But the other night we talked a little bit about it.  Would we get one? When? I know we won’t foster until July for a number of reasons — that was decided before Penny died.  Now I am afraid we will fall desperately in love with the first foster we have, bereft and eager to fill that furry void.  HWSNBN says no, that won’t happen.

He also said he’d never own a doodle.

So there’s that.

For now, Penny sits in a box, next to her collar, a photo and the paw print from the vet.  When Sailor Boy comes home on leave, we’ll save some quiet time to say goodbye with the kids.  Then we will do it again in her favorite place n the world, Madeline Island. When we got about 45 minutes away from the ferry, she’d start perking up in the car.  Straining forward to see out the window, eager to win the “who’s going to see the lake first?” game.  She adored the ferry.  We’ll take her to the shuffleboard court where she and Monte were married.  We’ll find a stick and throw it.  We’ll remember every time we got tired of doing that, and swear we’d do anything to have her demand we throw it again.

I’ll always love you Penny.

Time to kennel up.

Au Revoir, Paris

Our last day was here, sadly.  We had a plan to see all that we had left to see, and we were going to make it happen.

Hopped a la metro to Notre Dame to finally climb the towers (fyi: no hunchbacks in sight, but lots of fallen arches…).  It didn’t cost us anything, thanks to our Musee Pass, but we did have to sign up for a tour.  Had about 90 minutes to kill, so we wandered over to Ile St Louis, which we really hadn’t explored yet.  Saw lots of cute shops (still no souvenirs), and had espresso and a crepe (just butter and sugar — sublime) at La Chaumiere (no website), right in the other side of the bridge.  Weather was gorgeous: finally we were in shirt sleeves!

Trekked back to the cathedral and started climbing.  Strategically placed myself in front of someone older than me so I wouldn’t slow them down — I was done.  We had put in a lot of miles on this trip (more on that later).  The views of Paris were amazing.  Once again it was awesome being able to point out where we had been.  Up there we realized that although it felt like we had seen a lot, we really hadn’t scratched the surface of Paris (guess we have to go back).

 

We went up farther still, seeing inside the bell tower (those suckers are big):

HWSNBN had heard something about the oldest tree in the world, and it turns out it it was right below us, so we went over.  It’s really NOT the oldest tree, but it was planted in 1600, which is pretty darn cool.

From above in the towers we noticed a super cute little building which happened to be around the corner form the tree.  That led us to a fun shop full of things made by artisans and available nowhere else, called Pays De Poche (https://www.yelp.com/biz/pays-de-poche-paris). Really cool shop with one of the kind things — found some souvenirs, and the great shopkeeper directed us over to the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore (https://shakespeareandcompany.com/) where we were successful once again!

Now it was time to hop back onto the metro to head to Montmartre and Sacre Coeur.  Wandered a bit when we arrived to find some lunch.  Most places were closing (many restaurants close at 2 then reopen for dinner), but nabbed a table at Coquelicot  (http://www.coquelicot-montmartre.com/en/), a bakery/cafe which was only open for breakfast and lunch.  Sat outside in the sun and actually got HOT, which was wonderful.

This part of Montmartre we liked.  The rest was too crowded and touristy.  I took the funicular up to Sacre Coeur, while HWSNBN didn’t want to wait.  I was fine waiting if it didn’t mean any more stairs! The church was pretty, the view terrific.  But I think we were burning out at this point.  I had to use the bathroom, so we stopped at the super touristy Place de Tertre square.  Grabbed a beer then got out of there.

To further the touristy feel, we hiked over for the obligatory photo of Moulin Rouge.  Lovely sex shops everywhere, who seemed to cater to middle eastern and German patrons.  Odd.

Metroed home to pack a bit, shower then head out for our last night. I wanted to get near the Eiffel Tower one last time.  We decided to take a chance, and whaddya know: no line, and we got to go up finally! Champagne and views, lights and love.  Kinda perfect.

Starving, we decided to uber back to our neighborhood hopingto find a restauarnt still serving food at midnight on a Tuesday.  We tried the Montogueil, a cool area blocks from our house (https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g187147-d208054-Reviews-Rue_Montorgueil-Paris_Ile_de_France.html).  We’d been there a few times already, and always found something interesting. There was one place left open: Bianco (https://www.yelp.com/biz/bianco-paris-2).  Poured me a huge glass of wine, HWSNBN a G and T, and we settled in to recap our week.

We tried to keep it going, knowing that when we left we had to go home and pack.  But we had done Paris, and Paris had done us.  Au Revoir, City of Lights! Thank you for dispelling the myths that Parisians are all rude, hate Americans and smoke incessantly.  We will be back.

Side note:

according to my fitbit, during our trip we climber 281.05 floors, an walked 70.04 miles or 170, 136 steps.  Yes.  We were tired.

The Heat (and hunt) Is On

Today was our second to last day, so we had to start to make decisions: what MUST we still do? And what in the world will we buy as souvenirs?

Finally hit the Marais, a twisty-street neighborhood full of shops, restaurants and art — in galleries, and on walls.  I love fun graffiti.  Paris is full of it — especially the pac-mans you see high up on street corners.

Started with a cappucino at the Place des Vosges, considered one of the prettiest squares in Europe.  Have to say I agree!

IMG_8671

Had brunch at a recommended crepe place — Cafe Breizh (https://breizhcafe.com/fr/).  Guess others read the same guidebook, as it was packed minutes after opening with English speakers.  But it wasn’t touristy, and I would say my first buckwheat crepe was a success.

We were going to visit the Musee Picasso, but it was Monday so it was closed.  Which reminded us: the Louvre is closed Tuesdays, so we revamped our itinerary and added it to the afternoon plans. Enjoyed meeting a few dogs, including these Westies who seemed a little confused at seeing mirror images of one another, and this darling shop dog who greeted us so happily:

Headed to the Ile de Cite, to finally see the inside of Notre Dame, which did not disappoint.

Kudos to this guy, who had the unofficial job of rearranging all the offering candles at Notre Dame:

Wanted to head up the tower, but couldn’t get a spot for hours, so decided to tack that on to the Tuesday plan, ans metro-ed to the Louvre, which was way more crowded than the last time we went.  And hot.  And poorly planned — exit signs are rather arbitrary, we found.  And the women’s bathroom was planned with chaos in mind.  But hey: it’s the Louvre, so everything is at least cool to look at!

Back home for a rest and shower, then headed back to Ile de Cite for a stunning Seine river cruise on Vedettes du Pont Neuf (http://www.vedettesdupontneuf.com/home/).  If we had done the cruise 30 minutes prior we would’ve watched the sunset, but being there for the first evening’s lighting of the Eiffel Tower was a great trade off.  First time we’d been cold however: got windy on that top deck.  Heartily recommend book-ending this trip like we did: bike tour up front, and river cruise at the end.  Helped us both plan and remember everything.

Dinner afterwards in the Latin Quarter.  Had French Onion Soup and Beef Bourgingnon at Chex Fernand (http://www.chezfernand-guisarde.com/), then metro-ed home, exhausted. Tomorrow is our last day… and we still haven’t bought a thing.

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