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Colorado, United States

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Be Kind to One Another

When I left Iowa at 19 I spent a short stint in Canada then moved to Colorado. Since September of 1974 I have called it my home. So I have officially celebrated my 39th year in my adopted home state. And over those 39 years I have made a LOT of road trips across the vast state of Nebraska to visit my family in central Iowa. In the early years it was just cheaper than flying with little kids. In the later years it was because we couldn't bear to be without our Boo for a week, so she always traveled with us.

After our trip in 2012 we knew that she didn't enjoy traveling that far anymore. So even before we knew she wouldn't be with us for the 2013 trip we had decided to leave her home in the loving care of our pet-sitter. Sadly she didn't make it that long.

I told The Mister that if I had to travel by car across Nebraska one more time my head would explode. (No offense, Nebraska peeps - it's just a very long, straight road to drive with the same scenery for 39 years.  Yikes.)

So we decided to fly ~ but also mix it up a little and see some country we haven't seen that much of.  We decided to fly into Minneapolis, spend some time there and rent a car to make the three hour drive to Mom in central Iowa.

We left our home at 5:45 am last Saturday (taking time to make breakfast and weigh our bags.) We parked in the outlying airport parking, snagging a parking spot 40 feet from the bus stop. Oh and as luck would have it, the shuttle bus pulled up right behind us. And we arrived at Denver International Airport as the sun rose.

Someone had booked our seats in the emergency exit row where there is no place to stash your bag under the seat in front of you. I'm a girl. I have to have my stuff.
So we joked with the ticket agent and bingo bango - we have better seats. The Mister thanked him for saving our marriage. 

We were fortunate to be among the first to board and our flight attendant instructed everyone as to their designated spot for carry-ons. She requested we put ours under the seats in front of us. (She and I got along fine.) I watched her as the remainder of the plane boarded. She was friendly and smiled but every inch of her 5' 100 lb. frame was all business. If she told you that was your overhead bin space, you listened. She joked and called herself "Judy the Baggage Nazi."

Get this - the pilot came out and talked to everyone. First thought, of course, omg the flight is delayed. Quite the contrary ~ he was welcoming us all and said if it was alright, we would be departing a bit early.  We arrived in Minneapolis 20 minutes ahead of schedule. As we left the plane I paused to thank Judy the Baggage Nazi and told her I had never been on such an organized flight!

Next step was to pick up our rental car. Someone had requested the wrong size car so the Hyundai Sonata we had hoped for wasn't available. Again, humour and patience paid off. The girl at Avis went above and beyond to find one for us. We waited. She came back and said, "You've got your Sonata!  I stole it from Budget."  

The Mister to our Avis agent, "Don't you own Budget?"

Me to our Avis agent, "You do now!"

Again The Mister thanked her for saving our marriage and we left fast friends.

So we check in to the Marriott (10 minutes from the airport) and have an afternoon to kill. Mall of America (MOA) is across the street, so what the hell ~ let's go see what all the fuss is about. We're walking, we're walking, we're walking. We stop in a few shops. A new carry-on bag with a padded shoulder strap was in order; my shoulders were killing me.  (Hey my carry-on was heavy but both checked in bags were 36 lbs and well under the weigh limit!)

I love handbags but I've never been into name brand bags. I'm more of a Marshall's/Kohl's whatever bag is on sale gal. But over the years my Mom-in-law and BFF/SIL have sent a few Vera Bradley's my way and I think they are kind of works of art. So when walking into the Hallmark store in MOA looking for something else, I stopped by the colorful Vera Bradley section in the front of the store. The bags aren't within my normal budget but I did fall in love with an extremely colorful one. (As Emile Zola said, "If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist will answer you: I am here to live out loud!") When I saw it had a padded shoulder strap, the deal was done. However... I kind of wanted to see the rest of collection in that pattern and theirs was limited. 

I asked the friendly clerk about that and she said if I really wanted to see all of them the Vera Bradley store was one floor down. And she said it genuinely and with a smile. So I finally found the store, took a quick look around and promptly took myself back to the Hallmark store and the nice lady and bought the bag from her.  Because she had been generous and honest and kind.

Considering every loop around MOA is a mile, we did our 5 miles. We found the delightful Napa Grille and plopped our sorry tired behinds down in seats on their patio. Our friendly server brought us our kale, chicken, roasted butternut squash and goat cheese salads. They were quite yum.

And so began our salad tour of the Midwest. And the oh so healthy side of fries almost every time.

As we were leaving I found our server to thank her and I found myself saying something Charlie's Gannie always said - what his Mother always says - "Have a happy life, sweetheart."
The Mister and I remarked as we were saying good night that wasn't it interesting how smoothly the day had gone. Even with a couple of bumps kindness begat kindness; laughter begat laughter and patience paid off.
There's a lesson there, grasshopper.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Tears Rolled into My Ears, Darlin'

Its been a hauntingly quiet day here in the studio. The Mister has been gone helping his parents with some minor flooding in their basement. I'm missing Boo snoring on her bed... I've made such a comfortable, cozy nook for A-choo downstairs she no longer keeps me company here.  I took a break from work and put together a little photo-history of my Mom and her life for her 95th birthday next week.  

Mom's natural environment is the kitchen.

She's had quite a life that Mom of mine... She has done everything from pumping gas at the Conoco station she and my Dad ran when they were first married to butchering her own chickens and planting huge gardens to rocking babies to sleep in the hospital nursery where she was a night nurse. And somewhere in all that, raised five kids.

She makes THE best cinnamon rolls - omg - hot out of the oven with some butter - to die for. Her homemade noodles are thick and soft and delicious. I grew up in a Norwegian community (although I am 1/4 Dane and for some reason the Norwegians rank higher...). So I grew up with kumla (a sort of potato dumpling best when smothered in butter) and kringla (a kind of Norwegian shortbread - again best hot out of the oven smothered in butter). Gez, I never realized how much butter we used... explains why I'm allergic to dairy now.

She sews every day of her life - even now. She has an active social life with friends in her retirement complex and her church. I joke that I have a really nice relationship with her answering machine; she's never home!

She lost her husband of 62 years back in 2002 and I know she misses him to this day. But her response to what The Universe threw her back then was to stay busy.  Just stay busy.

I think that is where I learned to block sad things from my mind. Its why I may sometimes appear stoic or reserved. It's just how I deal. Until the other day when I had an acupuncture treatment and for some inexplicable reason two minutes after the acupuncturist left the room - tears began to flow. I started thinking about Simba and more tears. I thought about some other things that have transpired in this sucky year of 2013 - it has been a year of much loss - and more tears flowed. Lying there with needles in my arms and hands I couldn't move. So the tears ran into my ears. (Sounds like a country song, doesn't it?  The tears rolled into my ears, darlin'.) So at least then I could think about something else. Like how it was driving me crazy to have tears just pooling up there in my ears and I couldn't move to wipe them out.

Finally she re-enters the room and I ask, "Is this treatment supposed to make you cry?"

"It can."

"Well, it did."

We talked for a bit and she said, "I don't know you that well, but it seems like maybe you hold your emotions captive. That's not good. You need to let things out or the stress and the sadness and the anger will literally affect your health."  (Hmmm... high blood pressure.)

So rather than actually express my emotions I booked another treatment. Yup, that's me. I'd rather lie on a bed with needles in me than confront my emotions.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Yesterday I took my first walk in the park since Simba has passed. In the past few months she wasn't up to the mile long walks ~ wasn't really up to walking much past the mailbox a couple of blocks away. So I although I missed her on those walks, I always knew she was waiting at home for me. 

So walking yesterday - knowing that she wasn't waiting at home for me - weighed heavily on me.  I had my Canon and shot the sun as it was coming up

and caught the Canada geese and other migrating birds as they flew overhead

I gave creativity and a rubber duckie photo shoot a shot

but ultimately I just didn't have it in me. I wasn't feeling it.

I was missing my buddy.

It will be awhile before we are ready to bring another dog into our family. Simba is still here at every turn. But a friend made a really good suggestion ~ volunteer at a local shelter/rescue for awhile. It will give me the connection I need with dogs and brighten the days of a few lonely pups. Of course, my problem right now is time; but it is something I intend to do. I never thought I could ~ knowing that the dog I walked yesterday may not be there tomorrow; but another wonderful friend once told me, "I know it would be hard, but think of the joy you gave that dog for even one day."

Today started out as my favorite kind of day

cloudy and cool.

Time for tea (especially the Chinese kind that is supposed to lower blood pressure)

And the day stayed cloudy and cool. I don't like summer heat and I love Autumn and I love days like this. As much as I'm still mourning, it was time to get back to work. So I filled Etsy orders

and worked on shop orders.

In between I did a few loads of laundry. And in doing so, came across the shirt The Mister was wearing the day we said goodbye to Simba. It was covered in her fur. I held it close, I cried, I inhaled her scent, I cried some more ~

and then I let it go.  

I thought I heard her raspy breathing this afternoon ~ the breathing I used to hear from the bed behind my desk.

A-choo the Cat has been acting weird all day. It's almost like she sees Simba and Simba is taunting her like she loved to do.

We are receiving cards full of sympathy and love from friends - actual snail mail cards. Family members are donating to shelters in Simba's name. It's overwhelming. And lovely. And makes me cry.

Who knew one little 35 lb. ball of fur could touch so many lives? She was one of a kind, our girl. And her legacy will live on.  I love you, Boo.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Baby Steps...

As I was editing images this morning I thought, "Life goes on" and felt like maybe I was making some progress. The Mister and I have, despite our deep sadness over losing Simba, had some smiles in the past few days.

We [almost] had to force ourselves to celebrate our 20th Anniversary two days after Simba passed. Having made one of the hardest decisions of our lives on Tuesday, by Thursday neither of us felt like making decisions. So the Jeep just automatically steered us to Hillstone for sushi

and comfort fries.

And because we already had tickets and reservations, Friday found us at Lucy for dinner and Comedy Works for Kevin Nealon.

As we do, we did some retail therapy at IKEA on Saturday and the rest of the day was spent assembling our new entertainment center. (Or rather I watched; The Mister assembled.)

While he did that, I experimented making a pizza we could eat with our new food restrictions. We discovered our restrictions aren't as restricting as we thought.

I had forgotten about my little garden, so did some harvesting this morning.

With which I made chunky guacamole

and peach, mango, tomato, cucumber, cilantro, onion, jalapeno, garlic salsa.

And as I was cleaning up the kitchen I heard the familiar jingle, jangle, jingle of our girl's tags on her collar. Startled, I spun around fully expecting to see her. Of course she wasn't there. But it sent me into a funk. Life goes on, but not for her.

We have felt so many arms around us this week. A multitude of kind and comforting and loving words have come our way. 

My son and his wife sent this beautiful plant with a lovely note. 

Our Vet Clinic sent a card telling us a tree was being donated in Simba's name in Superior National Forest in Duluth, Minnesota.

Family and friends are making donations to animal shelters and rescues in Simba's name and we will do the same.

It's all so loving and warm and wonderful.

But when I wake at 2 am and feel her presence right next to me on the bed where she slept... I lose it all over again.

Baby steps...

Saturday, September 7, 2013

They Never Really Leave You

I've always said that about our pets when they pass on ~ they never really leave you. I didn't mean it literally. Until now.

Every bit of what I'm about to tell you is true. And, if, after reading it, you think I've really gone 'round the bend, you can call me crazy.  (You crazy, Cindi!)  But I believe it. And we have found a surprising comfort and solace in it.

About a month ago we interviewed a woman to help us around the house a couple of times a month. I didn't know her and The Mister had only met her once when she was a guest at his BNI (Business Networking International) meeting one morning. She came highly recommended by a couple of people in the group so we set up an interview.

About five minutes into our interview with her Simba peeked out from behind my chair, looking right at the woman (we'll just call her S) and peed on the carpet.  The Mister and I were used to her having an accident now and then (at 16 it happens) but this seemed deliberate ~ and surprising that she would just squat and pee in front of us; she usually snuck off to another room.

Yesterday as we pieced things together we think we know why.  

S only saw Simba one time after that initial meeting. At this point in her life Simba had grown silent, not barking, not yodeling, not making a sound.  But when S leaned down to speak to her, she growled.

Fast forward to yesterday... S was here to clean (only her second time here) and she knew that we had said goodbye to our girl just 2 days prior. As we do, we would chat now and then and she remarked that it is so interesting being in people's homes and picking up their energy. (She had told me earlier that she was empathic - and yes, I had to Google it, too.  Here's a quick explanation. Think John Edward. No, not John Edwards. John Edward the medium - the guy on TV who knows your dead Uncle.) I asked what she felt in our house.

"Simba. She's here." 

I thought ~ well, ok. Of course we feel her presence and see her at every turn. But not literally.

S says, "She's been following me for about an hour. Is there something about snacks? Her treats? She's looking for them."

Ok - this is where I got chills. I said, "I just put them away this morning. They were on the counter but I put them in the pantry."

"Well, she isn't happy about that."

So I put them back on the counter. I'm not kidding.

I said, "We haven't been able to put her beds away either."

S- "Don't. She won't like that."

Before S left we were chatting a bit more and she said, "I see an older man ~ someone in Charlie's family who has passed. A real dog lover..."

I racked my brain and couldn't really come up with anyone. 

"He's tall and he's wearing jeans and a - not flannel - more of a denim shirt. And he's waiting for Simba."

The dim light in my brain began to brighten ~ "Maybe it's his Grandpa Russell. He was a farmer. And I think he had a fondness for his dogs."

Now S got chills. She asked if Simba had been kind of gazing off in the distance a few days before she passed. Yes, she had. "She was looking at Grandpa Russell. He was there for her."

Enter The Mister ~ and S told him everything. He's convinced she was describing his Grandpa Russell, who as it turns out really did love dogs. And he quite often wore jeans and denim shirts.

Saying our goodbyes at the door, S says "I'm leaving now, Simba!" And turning to us said, "She's been trying to shush me out the door for an hour."

We later thought ~ well, Simba always did hate the vacuum and that's what S had been doing for the last hour.

So as we reflect on all this we wonder if maybe Grandpa Russell came in the house when S did. If he sat by her in that interview and Simba saw him, she was either scared or defiant so she peed. And if the next time S was here and leaned down to speak to Simba, Grandpa Russell was right next to her so Simba growled.

The Mister shared with me that the other night when I was yakking away about something he swore he heard the light jingle, jangle, jingle of Simba's tags on her collar - as if she were coming down the stairs. But he thought he was just imagining it.

Was he?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Until We Meet Again, Sweet Girl...

This is the post I have been dreading ~ but knew the day would come...

We said goodbye to our girl yesterday.  She made it to her sweet 16, but didn't last much beyond that.

In birthdays past she chomped on homemade peanut butter dog cookies

and homemade Pupcakes

She was a traveling dog from her early days and quickly adapted to long drives.

She made several trips to Iowa and was a good little hotel guest.  She traveled to the Bay Area in California and enjoyed a stop in Las Vegas on the way home.  She went to her first (and only) funeral in Peoria, Illinois and she loved downtown Chicago and the Omni Hotel and the North Shore.  On little "staycations" in Denver she was an honored guest at the Hotel Monaco (a blackboard in the lobby welcomed her) and she was a favorite at "Second Home" bar in the JW Marriott in Cherry Creek North.

She loved her Grandma

And visited Grandpa when she could.

Her neck would get tired - from holding up her big heavy brain - when she was "driving" (such a back seat driver) so we instinctively took turns helping her out.

And she was always happiest when we were on our way home.

She liked the mountains a lot.

And she liked being near the water

But not so much in the water.

And bridges - particularly swinging bridges  umm... nope.

She loved the park and knew every inch of our favorite trails.

She loved her Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Dick's Iowa farm because she could run wild and free off-leash.

She wasn't a fan of cold and snow ~ probably because I dressed her in warm coats.  I told her she was a fashionista.  Her Dad told her she looked ridiculous.

Her Aunt Christine (who she loved very much - and she showed this love by snarling at Christine every chance she got) gave her winter boots to protect her little toes.  She hated them.

It may have been why she snarled at her. 

She didn't like the rain much either.

She was half basenji and half blue heeler.  That translates to a feisty, whip-smart dog who sheds (basenjies don't shed), barks (basenjies don't bark) and yodels (basenjies do yodel).  

She liked the holidays and thought every present was for her.

And she loved her Grandpa and Gram - who were like second parents to her.

She tolerated her feline sister

And even liked her sometimes...

From the very start, she loved her Dad most of all.

And it was a love affair that would last her whole life.

She was funny

and beautiful

and full of surprises.

She was curious

and sniffed every blade of grass.

She was my every morning walking partner, my supportive studio mate, my sweet, sweet girl, my buddy. On September 11, 2001 while I sobbed watching the World Trade Center Towers fall, she sat right next to my feet all day to comfort me.  She didn't leave my side. Every day after Dad took her out for her morning tinkle she would bound up the stairs to my studio for her morning treat. The box sits next to my desk still. I don't want to move it. If I leave it maybe it means it didn't really happen. If I leave her bed in my studio maybe I'll wake up and this was all just a really bad dream.

She and I spent just about every day of her life together. We understood each other and loved each other. Very much. Saying goodbye to her is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do in my life. I miss her. I will always miss her.

The world is a little colder today and there are big holes in our hearts. She took a piece of both of ours with her...  Whatever will we do without our girl?

I like to think that she is wandering in lovely meadows chasing after bunnies and squirrels ~ free of pain and full of joy.  

I love you, Boo. Until we meet again...