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Same Island, Different Feel

Once again, when the calendar turned to Labor Day weekend, we packed the car and headed to Madeline Island, WI.

Our plan was to leave no later than 10am, which would put us at the ferry in Bayfield around 2:30, but HWSNBN got sucked into phone calls and couldn’t pack up the car. Usually I drive so he can do work calls and sleep, but this time it just didn’t happen. And normally, showing up late isn’t a big deal, as ferries typically run back to back about every 20-30 minutes. However: we received an email from our rental landlords (the wonderful Madeline Island Vacations) the night before, letting us know that winds were high and the last ferry would be around 8pm.

When I read the email, I wasn’t worried. That would be an exceptionally late time for us to arrive.

But as his calls lingered on and on and on, and the hours passed, I started getting concerned. We made good time on the drive up, but, as we approached Bayfield (where we catch the ferry), I suggested that he check the website and see if there had been any updates. Sure enough, the winds were really bad, and the last ferry was now going to be 5pm.

It was 4:30, and we were 40 minutes away.

HWSNBN started to panic, urging me to drive faster and faster. I sped up, but decided that even though I was the only car on a pretty straight, relatively flat country road, I wasn’t willing to break the sound barrier just because he was late leaving. I calmly asked him to start looking into places for us to stay the night. He refused. He called the ferry, hoping to ask them to wait. They didn’t answer. As we reached town, of course I had to slow down, which of course meant his heart raced faster. I pulled up to the ferry line where the boat was still docked, but there was a truck towing a trailer in line before us.

We sat, and waited, and wondered if they’d let us on.

The ferry people were walking around the truck and trailer, and the guy finally shook his head and motioned us forward. We got the last spot on the ferry, simply because trailer dude didn’t fit. We sailed across (with our ass hanging off the back of the boat, according to HWSNBN), not nearly as relaxed as we usually are on the ferry to Madeline. But there is nothing like it once you are there!

It was an unusual start to an unusual weekend. The island has five restaurants, and two were closed early for the season due to COVID-19. The others were take out only. The place was unusually busy, crowded with lots of new faces. I guess everyone needed a getaway, and you saw folks all over the island wandering around with maps. Which is really funny, because the island may be 14 miles long and 3 miles wide, but the business district can be walked end to end in 10 minutes.

Don’t get me wrong: there’s a lot to see and do. But, sadly, not as much as usual. Yeah, Tom’s Burned Down Café was open, but only allowed a few folks in at a time. You could get a garlic burger and Superman ice cream at Grandpa Tony’s, but you wouldn’t be sitting at a table with an oversized playing card signifying your order number.

As we ran into the map clutchers, we gently suggested they come back when the pandemic was settled, as the island usually has a much more vibrant energy .

As for us, we did just fine. We stayed at a new cabin this time, called Haven House, and it may just be our favorite ever. One of our friends asked if we get tired of staying at new places all the time, but not at all. It’s great finding new island treasures, and this one was fantastic.

HWSNBN and I usually go up on Thursday, while our friends follow the next day. So the first night we ordered take out from The Pub, opened a bottle of wine and played cribbage in front of the fire. It was a perfect kickoff to the weekend.

The next day I read a book outside while he hit a bucket of balls, and Stevie Nicks kept an eye on the local wildlife.

When our friends arrived on the island, we all grabbed takeout again, this time from Cafe Seiche, and ate it at their cabin. After dinner we played drinking games and let all our dogs run amok on the golf course (it’s a pretty casual place, is Madeline).

Saturday was golf for the fellas, and the beach for the dogs and the ladies.

Sadly, this was not a warm weekend. The windy theme that rushed us onto the island Thursday never let up. Our paddleboards didn’t get any use — they just enjoyed a nice roundtrip strapped to the top of the car. We hosted dinner that night, and finished the night by the bonfire.

This swing was great, in theory. We sat on it and it immediately fell to the ground. Maybe too many Spotted Cow beers and Dot’s Pretzels the day before?

Sunday was pretty much a repetition of Saturday — golf and beach, but with a little stroll downtown in the afternoon, including a visit to the charming Bell Street Gallery, which is always good for live music and an adult beverage, and, of course, lovely local art work. Then we meanedered back to enjoy a cocktail at The Pub’s fantastic new patio area (it’s not a Madeline Island trip without a Bootleg or two!).

The group all headed back to our place to play Kubb, a fun game at which I do NOT excel. then dinner at their place, with more laughs and dog merriment.

It’s a predicable weekend, and maybe that’s why we love it so much. We know we will eat, drink, laugh and run around after dogs. After the craziest 6 months the world has ever experienced, that’s all you really need.

Summer is for The Dogs

You’ve heard it said before: our pets are loving quarantine. The only thing Stevie Nicks likes better than us staying home with her, is her going on vacation with us.

For the fourth of July weekend, we travelled up north to one of our fave places, Madeline Island, WI.

It was a different trip than usual: no dining inside restaurants, no bar hopping, no hanging by the pool. So it was take the dogs to beaches, day after day.

They loved it.

This was Stevie’s second trip to the island, but it was the first for her friend Lyle, and the umpteenth for old man Monte. At first Stevie was swimming laps around Lye-Lyle corocdile, butt after a day or so Lyle was kicking her doodle butt at stick fetching!

Lyle, the black doodle above, has a neat trick: he likes to dive for rocks. We didn’t understand at first, but as you’ll see in the following slideshow, he likes to sort through the rocks underwater with his paws, and pull one where he can get it, then sticks his head underwater!

Monte is the handsomest boy, but he has never been a big stick chaser. He’d rather catch water in the air, or the occasional rock. He’s 14 now, and fighting cancer, so we were happy to see him enjoy himself!

Lyle and Monte are brothers, and they tried to play together a bit, but Lyle is a puppy and his crazy speed revs a bit higher than Monte’s.

Oh yes: there were humans on the trip as well!

Goof balls. They managed it, but man they looked silly!

We head back up in a month or so. I think the dogs are already in the car, waiting to go!

Our Respite

Every Labor Day weekend we travel to Madeline Island, Wisconsin.  You travel to Bayfield, and catch the ferry.  When you drive onto that boat, you leave a lot of the day to day worries behind.

We have done this for years, meeting up with friends who introduced us to the island’s charms.  You can do a lot , or nothing. Golf, lay by the pool, paddle board, boat, nap.  Hike.  Go to fine dining restaurants (but don’t bother dressing up), shop for artistic creations, hear tons of live music.

Over the years our trips evolved.  At first the moms were exhausted, supervising 8 crazy kids who ran between lake and pool all day.  Then the kids were old enough to wander the town unsupervised, then they could rent mopeds and then they started graduating high school and moving away.  This would be our first weekend without kids.

Our dogs loved the island.  Monte and Penny were married on the shuffleboard court, and spent hours chasing fetching sticks in the lake.  This weekend, we released some of Penny’s ashes in her favorite place on earth.  Our first Madeline trip without a dog.

I was nervous that the weekend would be sad.  So I made sure we did some things we had never done before.  We ate at a restaurant I’d always wanted to try.  We went kayaking.  I explored parts of the island I’d never gotten around to before — heck, I even golfed! Yes, there were definitely sad moments, but we also managed a lot f laughter and smiles.  As always, the island gave me many reasons to pull out my camera.  I hope you enjoy these glimpses of Madeline as much as we enjoy being there.  Maybe, next year’s pics will have a new dog in them!




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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.

What I Love

80s Hair Metal

Unexpected compliments

Making people laugh

Hearing babies laugh


People with differing opinions listening to each other, respecting those differences and learning from them

The way my son now wants to go to theater with me

The way he loves his girlfriend

The way my daughter loves her boyfriend


Madeline Island

Scolding my husband and my BFF for being too silly together (the time they almost knocked the tree over, though…)

Getting Christmas cards

First flowers blooming in spring

My new car


The full moon

When my nail polish stays on

People’s reactions when I hand them puppies at a puppy party

Game night

Planning travel

Books and the people who read them (shout out to my book club!)

Food and the people who eat it (shout out to my Gourmet Club)

Volunteering and the people who make it happen (shout out to my Senior Party staff!)

Dogs and the people who save them (shout out to Secondhand Hounds)

My husband’s commitment to French lessons with me, even though he hates it

Taking off my bra at the end of the day

Wine with my girlfriends


That I forgot I’d already said cheese, which kinda shows my true feelings

The smell of asphalt after a rain

The Oscars

Historical dramas on BBC

Seeing a formerly traumatized dog become what it was meant to be, and finding the perfect forever home

The sound of a champagne cork

Crossing stuff off my list

Making a new list

The way my daughter teaches me things

The way my dad still says I love you, even though he isn’t sure who I am #fuckAlzheimers

That my mom still wants to help me every day in every way

That I am still in contact with friends made when I was a toddler (thank you Facebook)

That people who I used to fear/be intimidated by/look up to/have massive crushes on in high school have become my friends (social media plus time: the great equalizers)

Discovering new links on

Not caring if people think I am weird

Being recognized for my accomplishments

Hair dye (shout out to Chelsea at Spalon Montage)

My Vegas group (shout out to the Unicorn Poop Squad)

Online shopping

Mom and Pop stores

People who don’t untag themselves from photos

That my son asks me for advice — even when the subject matter makes my butt  cheeks clench

40 degrees in February


Lake Tahoe

Watching the parents of Olympic athletes realize it was all worth it

Sunsets over the water with a glass of Chardonnay

A clean house

All the laundry done

Cooking for my family

Having them all there to eat it

Having a long, hot roll … at craps

Free champagne in Vegas!



Someone else planning everything, rather than asking me what I want to do

Big fat scary pitbulls that are really lapdogs who want to give kisses and receive pets

My dog’s patience as a foster-trainer

The “unfollow this post” button on Facebook

Being retweeted

Having random people in cities I am visiting decide I am the bomb and follow me on instagram

Being a fly on the wall during fun school activities

The pile of shoes near the door when there are kids in the house

Watching Singer Girl do her thing

The look on a family’s face when they take home a newly adopted, once-my-foster dog

That my kids both bring soup to their significant others when theya re sick

My kids righteaous indigantion over the mistreatment of others

Doing new things

That my husband remembered that one of my dreams has been to dance on the Champs Elysees on my birthday — so is taking me there for my 50th

Sailor Boy wanting to be the party host (gets it from his mama, ya know)

Everyone’s excitement about my annual Halloween party

My friends’ disappointment when I can’t host Dec 23rd

Dressing up for any and all holidays and events, whether it means black tie or bunny ears

Knowing that my kids have amazing lives in front of them

Knowing that I have an amazing life in front of me

And did I mention cheese?

Enjoy all that you love this Valentine’s Day!







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