So… how you doin’?
I haven’t blogged in a while because, well, it’s not like I’ve been out and about, seeing and being seen. I can’t work, as I am “fur”-loughed (no puppy parties, although I personally consider puppy breath essential). No date nights, unless you call side-by-side weeding quality time. No fancy dinners (but lots of takeout). No travel (and no, the grocery store does not count).
But we are still healthy, and no one in our family has gotten sick, so I don’t want to complain too loudly.
So what HAVE we been up to?
We finished the Marvel Universe Infinity Stone movie saga. While watching it we had family movie night almost every day — which was great (although the wine and popcorn diet was not good for the waistline). Now that it is done, we need to find something else, as we have started drifting to opposite corners of the house again and I miss the time with Singer Girl.
Singer Girl has officially finished her first year as a Michigan Wolverine. Officially, her grades say “Passed — COVID,” but she will petition to have the letter grades appear on her transcript as she killed it. She has been working on arranging songs for her a Capella group as she was chosen to be a co-music director for the organization. She has also been writing music and practicing so she can (hopefully) record and perform later this summer. I am loving all this time. I get to enjoy her singing (although we are supposed to pretend we can’t hear her. Don’t ask. It’s a thing.) We chat all the time about school. When she is away, she never hides things from me. But she has other folks to chat with, so she doesn’t need to share every detail with me.
She is getting antsy now, and it doesn’t help that her Macbook crashed. I allowed her to have a girlfriend over to hang out the other night. I felt like such a bad person, as that is still verboten in our neck of the woods. I guess slowly but surely we will have to start dipping our toes into the pool of society. Today we are being risky again. I invited my mom over for dinner for Mother’s Day. I just couldn’t stand the idea of her being alone for yet another event. I’m torn: is that selfish, selfless, or a combo of the two? I gave her the choice — but really I knew she’d come over. She was so sweet to promise she hadn’t been anywhere. I reminded her that I am more concerned about us getting her sick than the opposite. Hopefully, I won’t regret this!
I haven’t signed up for any new fosters since Secondhand Hounds has so many new fosters we can’t keep up with dog demand. But I miss being around new dogs, so I reached out to a fellow foster and borrowed her three German Shepherd puppies for a 24-hour playdate.
This was both a good and bad idea. Good, because I got a fix. Bad, because, like all junkies, I am craving another hit. So I have told other whelping fosters that I am available for more one night stands if they need a break or if their dogs need a little extra socializing. This could be habit-forming.
As mentioned in a previous post, I am obsessed with books. So many have been read, my husband has had whiplash. The other night I sat on the couch, closed a book, and declared it done. About an hour later, he saw me propped up in bed. Reading.
“Didn’t you just FINISH a book?”
“Yes. So I had to start another one.”
He looked at me like I had a sickness. Maybe I do.
Apparently, I have a couple of them.
I also get great satisfaction from purging and organizing. COVID has made this both easier and harder. Easier, because I have the time. Harder, because my garage is packed with giveaways that I can’t get rid of. Which means my projects are logjammed. I rearranged all my costumes into bins and want to put them in the attic.
But I can’t get them into the attic because the attic access is in the garage and there is no room in the garage because of all the giveaways I can’t give away. And I need to move stuff out of the attic to make room for new attic stuff, but, well, no room in the garage. It’s a circle of hell Dante forgot to write about.
My garage is also crammed with plants awaiting new homes in the yard. I had a Scarlet O’Hara moment sanding in my weed-plagued yard, surrounded by creeping charlie and garlic mustard and declared that, as God is my witness, I will never have a yard this overgrown again. COVID gave us lots of extra time, and spring has been mercifully dry and mild, so I am logging untold hours hacking at weeds. I know the only way to successfully control the weed invasion is not only to eradicate but to build a fortress against future insurrections by planting new stuff. So I asked on Nextdoor for extra plants folks were getting rid of or splitting, and I have battalions of hostas, ferns, Achillea, lilies, and more just waiting to be called into action. Unfortunately, the weather has taken a frigid turn. It looks like we will have several days of near-freezing items at night, so planting is on hold. I am hoping to get back out tomorrow to do more weeding, even if I can’t plant.
We will win this war! (If I wear jodhpurs and carry a riding crop while warring against the weeds, will my neighbors find me wacko?)
We remain committed to getting takeout from local restaurants. Every day I check the paper to see if we have lost any more great establishments! Easter dinner came courtesy of 6Smith in Wayzata.
Food was amazing — but they were unprepared for the demand. HWSNBN had to wait more than an hour for our order! We have encountered this a couple of times — like when we did Cinco de Mayo takeout from Baja Haus in Wayzata. Again: food was good (especially the margarita mix!), but waiting more than an hour is maddening. These poor restaurants!
Want something cool? Order from Travail Kitchen in Robbinsdale. Their takeout comes with instructions on how to put t all together so it is fresh and hot and ready to eat (and the accompanying videos are delightful).
Another huge win: biscuits from Betty and Earl’s. I have been wanting to try this place since local media master Jason Matheson opened it up, but have been too lazy to go try it. So when they announced they would do satellite delivery stations, I leapt at the chance. And now I am addicted. Damnit.
Not to worry — we’ve been cooking as well! Chinese food, Mexican, grilling, Italian, etc. And yes: there have been wine and popcorn nights, as previously mentioned. Don’t judge.
You know you’ve been home a lot when there is nothing left in your DVR. I know television and movie studios are panicking as they can’t make new content. But know I have o excuse not to watch things I’ve meant to, whether old movies or a new series. Singer Girl has actually decided to try to see all the best movies of each decade as proclaimed by her fave youtube channel, WatchMojo. I want to watch with her, but she has admitted that I am not the best movie companion, as I like to guess what is going t happen. I promised to do better — and pay her for every time I interrupt film, kind of like a swear job. I guess we all need to use our stay at home time to better ourselves!
One way I am now slacking on the “bettering me” front? I have stopped working out daily. Mainly, it’s because the yard work is kicking my butt! But I gave myself a firm talking to about the snacking and extraneous alcohol consumption, and I feel that is compensating. My goal now is to re-enter society one pound lighter than I went into isolation. Not a lofty goal, but again: lots of takeout, wine, and popcorn have made me a bit squishy.
According to the last announcement, Minnesota may get a few restrictions lifted on May 18th. I am not expecting full freedoms, but I am excited for a little bit more. Scared, though, as numbers everywhere are going up, not down. I know the goal isn’t to NEVER get COVID, but to make sure we don’t all get it at once. Like everyone else, I am ready to start planning again — travel, dinners out, hugs. In the meantime, I think I’ll go get something done.
So there’s this bug going around…
No, I don’t have it — yet.
Am I the only one out there not freaked out, but still get that it is a real thing? I mean, I know I will likely get it, or at least be exposed to it if I haven’t been already. I also assume that, sadly, I will know someone who dies. That’s an awful thought, but the odds are likely.
In the meantime, I am not sitting around wringing my hands and obsessively watching press conferences or reading charts or graphs or statistics.
My life has changed, sure. Date nights are gone. So is any personal space. My activities at home have to be curtailed to accommodate our home being turned into an office and school space.
The first time it started feeling real for our family was on our trip to Seattle Feb 27-March 2nd. That was about the time it started breaking open in Washington. As we wandered through museums and tourist attractions, rode planes and Ubers and ferries and monorails, ate samples at food markets and didn’t wash our hands enough, the bug was out there, closing in.
On Wednesday the 10th, HWSNBN was sent home from work to self-quarantine. He hasn’t been back to work since. That was the first way the pandemic has affected the family. We are lucky that he is still working — but keeping puppies quiet during his conference calls has been challenging.
At my weekly marketing meeting for Secondhand Hounds, the animal rescue I work for, we discussed possibly changing our upcoming events. I reached out the next day, Thursday, to my upcoming puppy parties (that’s what I do: I run our puppy party division), assured them that animals can’t spread the virus, but if they wanted to reschedule, that’s fine. No one took me up on the offer.
The next day we sent another letter, informing that all events were canceled, whether we liked it or not.
About that time my daughter and son were starting to feel the ripple effects where they are.
Singer Girl goes to school in Michigan (Go Blue!). She loves it there. I told her to prepare for things to change. I told her that her A Cappella group’s trip to Boston would likely be canceled. She said no way (it was canceled). I told her folks would soon be leaving. She said no way. The local kids started heading home temporarily. The school canceled classes for two days to decide how to handle the situation. They went to online classes. She wanted to see what would happen with all the social stuff. When St Patrick’s Day and Aca prom and here sorority’s charity event were all canceled, she was stunned.
I told her she would be coming home soon. She said no. She was still working; in fact, she was working more than she ever had, to cover the shifts of all those who had left already. She also worried about exposing us to anything she had come in contact with.
I told her she would be coming home. She said she didn’t want to leave her friends. I said just start emotionally planning for it. She rolled her eyes, and we hung up.
Two hours later she called and said, “Ok: come get me.”
So last Thursday I drove 10 hours to Michigan. We packed her up the next day and drove back on Saturday.
Now, we all have to juggle wifi and quiet time so she can do her studies, HWSNBN can do his work, and I can stay sane while they step all over my routine.
Sailor Boy is supposed to change duty stations this summer — to Italy. Not sure if that’s going to happen now. The military is taking some major steps to deal with the virus, and his day to day life has drastically changed. He calls every day, and we discuss the latest development. Will he go to Italy? Will he stay with his current ship? Will he deploy? Will the navy help him move? Will I have to go to Washington and help?
Weirdly it’s like wartime. It’s what he signed up for, I tell him. In a lot of ways, this whole gig reminds me of what I imagined WW2 was like. Folks are sacrificing and stockpiling. We are being told to use supplies wisely. Many common items are hard to come by. People are churning out homemade masks and hospital gowns to protect health care workers. Neighbors are checking in on one another. Again, we all are waiting for that shoe to drop: who will we know that will pay the ultimate price?
Rescue is all weird now too. We have been told to stop doing spay and neuter surgeries. We’ve already cut our office staff to a skeleton crew. On the plus side, more people than ever before want to foster. Sadly, we are unable to take in as many animals as we usually do, as we have cut down on transports to minimize potential volunteer exposure. So we have fosters just waiting to help, and we can’t get needy animals to their waiting homes.
On a day to day level, my life isn’t radically different. I am not worried. My philosophy for most of my life has been to plan for the worst, hope for the best.
In 2015, I saw a movie that pretty much changed my life: Bridge of Spies. Tom Hanks stars as an attorney on cold war America, called upon to defend an accused Russian spy. He funds the situation distasteful, to say the least, but does his civic duty Upon meeting the spy in jail, Hanks’s character explains the gravity of the situation, while the accused spy calmly listens. hanks, exasperated, asks why he is so calm. Isn’t he worried?”
“Would it help?” the Russian replies.
Would it help? Does worrying help? No, of course not. It just stresses you out. So from that moment on, whenever I get that nagging feeling, I pause and take a breath. Rather than waste energy worrying, I take action. Do what I can to take control of the situation, then let it go.
That’s where I am now: I have done what I can to prepare. Now I breathe. And wait.
(Meant to post this last week. What a shocker: my blog is late…)
In November I do “the Thankful Project.” That means that every day of the month I post on Facebook something I am thankful for. Some days it’s easy to come up with something that makes me genuinely grateful. Other days, its a struggle. But I think that’s the point of the exercise: no matter what is going on in your life, you need to know that there is good in your life.
Here’s a day to day account of this month’s project!
Thankful project day 1: HWSNBN is home from his European trip, and so tonight: we date!
Thankful project day 2: spending the day with my friend Anna learning travel secrets at the Thrifty Traveler University. My head is reeling with all the info, but I can’t wait to put it to use!
Thankful project day 3: In a few hours I will see my girlie!!! Been more than 2 months since I’ve seen Singer Girl!
Thankful project day 4: the amazing volunteers at Secondhand Hounds. Every week it seems I have a puppy party staffing crisis. But somehow, all the dogs, drivers and wranglers come together in the end. And I can breathe, even when a time Zone away!(I was visiting Singer Girl at school in Ann Arbor)
Thankful project day 7: Kate at Peak Life Clinic! Who knew getting voluntarily suck with dozens of little needles would make me feel so good? Headache? What headache?http://peaklifeclinic.com/?fbclid=IwAR1YVaK83QYe5YDXO60UBos4vDClXTXjQpYoFS2fP1f1mzysPjhf3CC9D4A
Thankful project day 8: that I am able to spend fun days with my mom! Thanks for planning our outing! (we went to a huge craft fair/Christmas boutique event at US Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings)
Thankful project day 9: tears and heartache. Today I said goodbye to the last of the sub pups. Stickball Special was my favorite from day one, and I’d be lying if I wasn’t a tiny bit grateful every time the vet said he needed more time before he could go to his forever home. So today I cried. And my heart hurts. But when I see the smile on his adopter’s face, I know it’s okay. Lots of highs fostering this group (like having folks call them fat when I know how hard we worked to feed them) and lows (I still miss sweet Phyllis). My heart hurts, but I am grateful for the opportunity to help them survive and thrive. @shhfostersmn #StickballSpecial #Styx #neonatal #givetothemaxday #adopted #yellowlab @ Lake Minnetonka
Thankful project day 10: that I live in a place that has so much character and variety and fun (and that I have cool friends who want to explore it with me!). Today’s calories brought to you from @kegandcasemn , @truckparkusa, #cosettasstpaul #sundayfunday #thankfulproject #food #stpaul #minnevangelist @ Saint Paul, Minnesota
Thankful project day 11: my dad, my son, my nephew, my father in law, my uncle, my brother in law, my grandfathers, and all my ancestors who have served in all the wars of this country. Thank you for your service. (Veterans’ Day post)
Thankful project day 12 (yesterday!): that I have found the Skipper salute community, where we hold each other’s hands while we hand over kleenex and pour the wine. This weekend I get to help make holiday care packages for military men and women deployed all over the globe through the valiant efforts of Semper Fi Flo. If you want to help, she is still accepting donations!
Thankful project day 13: I am FINALLY getting around to getting the Spooktacular pics published! (this referenced my Halloween Party blog post)
Thankful project day 14: thanks to everyone who has donated today to their favorite charities! Give to the Max Day is THE BIGGEST day of the year for many. It certainly is for Secondhand Hounds! What happens today determines the course of the next year — who we can save. We have a benefactor who has pledged to match your donations, so please contribute something. ANYTHING will help! Donate before midnight tonight!
Thankful project day 15: yesterday I kinda chilled, as the day before had been pretty darn crazy! Two puppy parties, and lots of online stalking watching the G2theMax numbers changing. At the end, we did it. Actually, YOU did it! Secondhand Hounds brought in $400,000 in donations! That. Is Amazing. Every dollar will count — whether it’s $10 to microchip a dog, or $5000 to save a sick litter of puppies with parvo or distemper (we have THREE such litters right now, two with parvo, one with distemper. So far we have lost about six puppies, but we are working hard to save the rest. Vaccinate your pets, people!!!). Thank you to all!
Thankful project day 16: Stevie Nicks! Happy gotcha day, Miss Stevie. The Stevester has been with us officially for one year today, and we couldn’t be more grateful. She is still a bit of a hot mess at times (some people have dogs who defend their homes against strangers. Ours pees.). And yet again we find ourselves dog proofing when we leave the house — but not against food, as we did for Penny Torres, but for anything miss neurotic can destroy during her fear we won’t return. Like tissues. Or baking soda. Or scrub brushes. But she is bombproof with puppies, a hilarious goofball, and makes coming home a joy. I recommend everyone feather their empty nest with a touch of fur!
Thankful project day 17: cooking. I am grateful that having food is a given for me and those I love. I am grateful that I get joy from cooking. I am grateful that I have people with whom to share a meal. Tonight’s meal includes wild rice given to me as a gift from the lovely gal who adopted my last foster. Food brings us together!
Thankful project day 18: the Power of 100. This amazing group of like-minded women meets quarterly to choose a locally-based charity to support. Each time three people present worthy options and the group votes who to support. After many tries on my part, they picked the neonatal program at Secondhand Hounds.
Some folks have questioned why I kept presenting. Well, every time I got up and spoke, a few people stopped me afterwards. Either to hand me a separate check, or to ask questions. I met wonderful women who were genuinely I trigger about fostering, adoption, rescue, and how they could help. So yes: the meant is amazing. But the chance to bring awareness is invaluable.
If you would like to learn more about the Power of 100, come with me next time! It’s a fun, quick, casual gathering, and the group has donated more than $100,000 to local charities!
Thankful project day 19: going clubbing in my 50s. Wine club, meet book club. #thankful #thankfulproject #bookclub #wineclub @pejuwinery #pinotnoir @calmereestatewinery @annpatchett #thedutchhouse #wine
Thankful project day 20 (yesterday): Etsy! I can shop online and still support small business people!!
Thankful project day 21: the moments I have left with my dad.
Thankful project day 22: a quiet night at home. Dinner will likely be popcorn and wine, and I’m okay with that. Busy (but fun) weeks ahead!
Thankful project day 24: that my brother Trevor found Sarah and married her 6 years ago today. She’s a keeper. Him? Jury’s still out. Happy anniversary you crazy kids!
Thankful project day 25: bubble baths, books, and wine! (yeah, I’ve mentioned 2 of the 3 of those before. But I am on my third book since that post, and well, like more than that bottles of wine since then)
Thankful project day 26 (again, a day late): the girl is home! And thank goodness Singer Girl arrived before the storm!
Thankful project day 27: (I posted a link to my blog post, “Merry Thanksvgivmas”)
Thankful project day 28: the Melly-dallys and their infinite hospitality. Thank you, Mike, Erika, Lucy, Joey and Paige for another fun, delicious Thanksgiving. Fat and happy, signing off!
Thankful project day 29: When you are ready to snuggle in for the night before 7pm, and Netflix drops an almost 4 hour movie that you’ve been excited to see. I mean, I know we’ll never finish it in one sitting, but at least we have a fighting chance to get it more than halfway done! (NOTE: we watched “The Irishman.” So good!)
Thankful project day 30: the tree is up, and my girl Is home for one last night. It has been an emotional few days, and I will miss her again when she is gone.
We all need to concentrate on what we have in this life, and not worry so much about what we lack. I am thankful for all of you!
So I said goodbye to the last of the Sub pups last week. They lived with me for almost three months — three months of laughter and tears and hopes and fears. They were not my first fosters, nor will they be my last, but I wanted to share them with you all on this very important day.
Today is Give to the Max Day (donate now at https://www.givemn.org/organization/Secondhand-Hounds). It is the single most important day all year for Secondhand Hounds and thousands of other charities. What we raise today will determine the course of the next year: will we be able to save the broken, the sick, the doomed? It depends, really, on you.
If not for the donations of others, I wouldn’t have met the Sub Pups. They were born July 7th to a breeder mama. There were seven in her yellow lab litter and five had cleft palates. That means they could not eat, not by nursing mama or drinking from a bottle. Historically, breeders often chose to euthanize imperfect puppies. Yes, it seems heartless, but breeding is a business first and foremost, and there is no way a breeder is going to sell a “defective” puppy for full price. Not to mention get back the man-hours and dollars it takes to treat them.
Rescue is about a lot of things, but it is definitely NOT about making money.
So Secondhand Hounds created the Neonatal division, and the coordinator, Teri, has worked hard to let breeders and their veterinarians know that there is another option: surrender the animals to us, and we will do our best to fix them and get them homes. This wonderful breeder agreed to let us help, and we took four of the puppies.
(Actually, Teri climbed out of bed, made some coffee, hopped in her car and drove hours to get them. Then she snuggled them into the incubator plugged into her car and warming in the passenger seat. She also had to pull over and feed them every 2-3 hours. They were just hours old).
And how did she feed them? Well, since conventional methods don’t work for cleft babies, she (and, later, me) had to insert a tube down their throat and into their stomach and syringe-feed them through that tube. And no: you can’t buy puppy formula at the store. Teri had to figure out her own formula through trial and error (it’s a lot of goat’s milk and Greek yogurt!)
The sandwich shop Jersey Mike’s had run a wonderful fundraiser for us, so they had been given naming rights, and the Sub Pups were born: Jersey Mike, Big Kahuna, Stickball Special (aka Styx) and Philly Cheesesteak (aka Phyllis, the lone girl).
In some ways they were the perfect fosters: they never made a sound. They slept through the night. In fact, they slept ALL THE TIME. I guess that was partly because they were puppies, and partly because they weren’t all that healthy. At the time I got them, they were transitioning to solid food. It’s a challenging time with any puppy (or human infant!), but even more so for a cleft baby. Every time they tried to eat, it would go up through the hole in the roof of their mouths and they would sneeze and couch and it would be yucky out their noses. So we had to get them on solid food asap, and away from mushy baby food.
I still supplemented them with tube feedings, and every day I weighed them, panicking when they lost an ounce, celebrating at every milestone: they all came in under two pounds, so that first 2 pounder was huge for me!
So they did the puppy thing. They ate.
(they drank out of what I called a rabbit water bottle so as to not choke on water)
They learned to play!
And they slept.
When they were all diagnosed with pneumonia, we weren’t surprised. It happens. It’s pretty common with cleft palates, as any fluids they consume can easily travel into the lungs. So we started treating them, and we thought they were all getting better.
But not Phyllis.
Little Philly Cheesesteak started craning her neck — like a turtle. I showed it to Teri, and our founder, Rachel, and they decided she needed to go to the emergency vet.
I never saw her again.
Philly Cheesesteak didn’t make it.
The sweet little girlie, the littlest one. She looked like an absolute toy. The vets tried for days, but ultimately she passed in her sleep.
Phyllis was the first foster I have lost. I grieve her all the time, but I know that I did all I could. That SHH did all it could. And I had three little yellow boys who needed me, so it was time to get re-focused.
I was nebulizing them. I was giving them steam showers. I gave meds several times a day. I did chest percussion treatment to loosen the phlegm. And they began to grow.
From day one I followed the Secondhand Hounds protocol, socializing them and exposing them to sounds and surfaces and textures.
Soon it was time to start talking adoption!
Mike was the first to find his people.
His new name is Winston, and he is being spoiled quite nicely, thank you!
Then Big Kahuna moved on and was renamed, Barney.
Both Winston and Barney have cat siblings, and are doing just fine with that!
Styx had to be with me longer, as his lungs just wouldn’t clear up. We sent him to a specialist, who vacuumed his lungs and did a culture and we changed medicines. Two weeks later his x rays were much better, so I started contacting potential adopters. Two weeks after that, he was able to go home.
Now Mr. Styx got to keep his name. It works well with the resident cat’s name, Skittles. But one kitty isn’t his only furry sibling!
Styx is an office dog now, who has his own cubicle and gets plenty of love!
When the pups are 6 months old, they will have surgery to correct their cleft palates. If all goes well, they should live the lives of normal, happy, loved dogs. But Secondhand Hounds has bills to pay. When we are done, we will have spent more than $10,000 on their care. We will not recoup that cost from adoption fees. We rely on your donations.
So consider donating, please. Because there are hundreds of animals we want to save. So far, in 10 years, SHH has saved more than 10,000 cats and dogs. Every day we hear of another one that needs help — a dog found starving and abused, a cat who had a litter by the side of the road, a breeder pup born with hydrocephaly, an animal abandoned because it was old and now needs hospice care. We have a donor who is willing to match all donations on Give to the Max Day dollar for dollar. So please: get that donation in NOW! https://www.givemn.org/organization/Secondhand-Hounds
In the meantime, here are a few more cute pics to remind you of where your money goes!
That link for donation again is https://www.givemn.org/organization/Secondhand-Hounds
I lied: here’s another fashion post of sorts.
But this one is short and sweet — like me (stop choking on your cocktail, those who know me best).
As you may know, I am passionately involved in one of the biggest rescue organizations in the Midwest, Secondhand Hounds (https://secondhandhounds.org/). Besides fostering, working events and other activities, I am in charge of our Puppy Party division. A while back, Facebook shopper-stalked me and suggested I might like checking out a pair of shoes. I did. I liked them. I bought them.
I wear them to every puppy party, and get so many compliments!
Then I saw these online:
Fun and practical! I love when it is wet enough to pull them off with style (which was a lot this spring!).
Then a friend shared a link with me for more dog shoes. That led to another link. And another…
Now I have 5 pairs of “dog shoes.”
I have a problem.
Last year I surprised myself by getting my ears double pierced. Consequently, I have been shopping for itty bitty earrings. Naturally, that led to these:
I refuse to catalog all the t-shirts, hoodies, tank tops, sweat pants and sweatshirts I have that are somehow dog-related.
I know I am not the only one with a theme-skewed wardrobe. What’s lurking in your closet?