Category Archives: Thoughts On Life

Remember to Enjoy the Sparkle in Your Life!

Hanging out with Claire on the patio

You may remember that during the heart of the pandemic, I started keeping a little notebook that I titled Things to Do Post Quarantine. Every time I had an idea of something I wanted to do but couldn’t, I recorded it in the notebook. This way I wouldn’t be missing out, just postponing the experiences. The idea being that once Covid was under control, it would be safe to go out into the world and do them. The link from that post follows. Ways To Deal With a Pandemic

The Covid pandemic is not over, and things are not back to normal. However, we have learned ways to deal with going out in public and have adapted ways to make things safer. I don’t yet go about my business like normal. What is normal anyway? I do go to places that I avoided during the worst of the pandemic and before vaccines were available. I do have a bit of a life again.

This made me wonder. How am I doing at enjoying the activities that I recorded in that little notebook? Am I doing some of the things and catching up with what I put off for another day? I got the notebook out and here is what I found.

I have done some of the things but not others yet. One of the most important to me was to be able to spend time with my nieces again. I have done this. In fact, the very first thing my husband and I did after getting our vaccines was to attend my youngest niece’s fourth birthday party along with her grandparents. We were all vaccinated, but had been under pandemic lockdown for so long that it took a little while for us to remove our masks. The masks disappeared when the food came out and did not go back on that afternoon. When it was time for us to go home, we all hugged each other. All six adults and two children. It was the first time in over a year. It was such a big deal that we were all taking about it. How we had avoided this and it was the first hugs for all of us outside our immediate household in so long. We were all in shock that we had been so brave to hug each other. I wasn’t concerned about getting sick because we all had our shots, but I had trained myself for so long to avoid physical contact that it was a big deal. But it was glorious! That day was the turning point for me in feeling like a normal human being again.

I have been able to see my nieces several times a month since then. I have done babysitting, gone on walks and to playgrounds with them, and spent a couple holidays together. It never gets old. I think I will have great appreciation of spending time with them until the day I die. We did come out the other side of the pandemic, but it has changed me forever.

Another item that I have done from the notebook, is invited a friend over for lunch on the patio. Granted, I have not done enough of this. This is due to the weather rather than any fear of being around people. It has been so rainy the past few weeks that fungus has become a real problem for our plants. This also makes it hard to plan more than a day ahead of time as far as inviting anyone over to hang out on the patio goes. Even the day my friend came over, we had to dry off the patio furniture. But still, the visit was an enjoyable time. To share the company of someone outside the family by choice is now a rare and wonderful thing.

An other item that I checked off my list is spending time at the library! This is something I am back to doing regularly, but that first time after being away for so long was food for the soul. To peruse the books, touch them, read the summaries inside the front flap, choose the ones I want and put them into my bag, was close to a religious experience! The library holds a special place in my heart. It is a place of knowledge, sometimes magic and adventure. It can take you to new lands as well as improve you and the place where you are. My daughter and I share a love of the library. One of our favorite activities has always been a long trip to the library, followed by a stop for ice cream at Katie’s Korner.

The last item in my notebook that I have completed so far is to hug the neighbor kids! We have two really great neighbor kids that live across the street. (Their parents are pretty great too!) We kept our distance as best we could during the pandemic. We met in yards and talked from a distance just to keep in touch, figuratively speaking. Of course, it wasn’t the same. And all the while I was thinking about when it would be safe to hug them again. They are really good huggers! Well, it was finally safe. They probably didn’t think I was ever going to let them go. We even had an opportunity to go watch the oldest play in her softball tournament recently and to have them come over and swim.

There are quite a few things in my notebook still to be done. The important thing is that I have begun. The Covid pandemic was and is a terrible thing. But as with many bad things in life, some good did come out of it for me. I no longer take so many things for granted. I realize that time spent with family and friends is a precious gift. To be fair, it always was. I appreciate it so much more now. I must take steps not to become complacent and return to my old ways. I need to enjoy each encounter for the treasure that it is.

Remember to enjoy the sparkle in your life and appreciate it!

Be a Covid Warrior!

Selfie

It is becoming safe to go out into the world and do a few things again for those of us who have been fortunate enough to receive our Covid vaccines. Life is no where near a return to normal though. Still, I am glad for those family members that I have been able to see in these past two weeks.

I went five months without seeing my daughter and three months without seeing my brother. And it was hard. I know others have had it so much worse, but at times this seemed like a lifetime. Time between visits was longer during the winter because it was too cold and snowy to meet outside often. This is the first year ever that my brother and I have celebrated our December birthdays outdoors. Mercifully, it was in the mid 50’s that day when we met under a park pavilion for cake. And our families were so glad to see each other that we were thrilled! After that, visits became farther apart while we waited for either warmer weather or vaccines, whichever came first.

One trick that I used to make myself feel better when my brother and I could not get together for a visit, was to wear this purple sweatshirt (above) that he gave me as a gift a couple of years ago. Wearing it makes me think of him and feel a little bit closer. It reminded me of getting together and knowing that we will do so again. Ditto, for a pair of earrings my daughter gave me.

Yes, these are just physical things but they are symbols. Signs of caring and hope. Do you have any coping mechanisms that seem silly like this, but help you?

My husband and I have received both doses of our Covid vaccines (Moderna). We are blessed and relieved. After the first dose, my arm hurt for two or three days but didn’t interfere with any activities. After the second dose, I had a headache and felt chilled during the first night. So I just went back to sleep. The second day I had a headache. The headache wasn’t that bad. I have had much worse.

This was the price to pay for freedom. And we have the knowledge that we are directly helping to stop the spread of the pandemic. Each one of us who receives the vaccine is a warrior against disease and possible death from infection. We need an army of warriors to emerge victorious.

Will you be part of the solution? Be a Covid Warrior!

My Favorite Super Hero Is…(and a few other heroes I have gained along the way)

Aquaman (from Bing free clipart)

Who is your favorite super hero? Mine has always been Aquaman, even before the days of Jason Momoa. And he certainly confirms it!

As a child, I liked Aquaman because he always saved the world with his ability to communicate with the underwater animals. Whenever there was a crisis, he used his under water sonar to call for help and the sea creatures always came to save the day. Aquaman would have been no one on his own. He relied on his animal friends. This was something I could relate to.

I also have always been drawn to undersea life. It fascinates me. Growing up, I made sure to watch Jacques Cousteau, Marlin Perkins and Jim on Wild Kingdom, and any other underwater shows I could find. Even Bedknobs and Broomsticks was intriguing with the bed floating through the underwater encounter. There is a whole plethora of organisms living their in the murky deep, and I wanted to know what they looked liked and how they lived.

I suppose it wasn’t that big of a stretch then, that my college major was Biology and my favorite part of my water treatment career was looking at organisms under the microscope lens and doing stream studies. You never knew what you were going to see there either.

My fascination with animals and iconic figures did not stop there. My favorite Saturday morning cartoon was Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle. I never wanted to be Jane, the female character. I wanted to be Tarzan himself who swing from vines and talked to the animals and called on them in times of need.

The focus of my life has always centered around animals. There has only ever been a few years of my life in college when I did not have a dog. I was between dogs after the loss of my beagle-mix Captain Sizzle, until I got another dog as soon as I could rent an apartment in college that would allow pets. (That was when I got my first Shetland Sheepdog and the rest, as they say, is history).

My younger years were spent watching cartoon characters and television personalities who worked with animals, because I didn’t know any people who did this in real life. As I grew up and my world became wider, my heroes changed. I discovered that there were real people that I had been unaware of, who were making animals their life’s work.

My first role model, who I saw as a regular person who had a life with attainable goals was Jack Hanna. As a Kent State University graduate, I moved to Columbus, Ohio for my first summer out of school in many years. I was newly graduated and didn’t have a job yet, so I bought myself a membership to the Columbus Zoo. It was only three miles from my townhouse, so I went to the zoo several times each week. Some days I would pick an animal exhibit and sit there watching the same animals for an hour. I noticed that on the days I wore a khaki colored cargo shirt that the animals in some of the exhibits would follow me along the fence line. I later figured out that shirt was similar to what the zoo keepers wore and the animals were hoping I was there to feed them!

That summer was 1985. It was when I first heard of Jack Hanna who was Curator of the Columbus Zoo. That was before he went on to have his own television program. He had made some guest appearances on The David Letterman Show and others. I saw him walking around the zoo a few times. I was so impressed with the fact that he had taken a love of all animals and made it into a career. A career with the intent to educate about animals and improve their chances for survival. He is still one of my heroes.

The other real life hero of my adult life is Jane Goodall. What an amazing woman. She has loved animals for her entire life too. As everyone knows, she started her career studying chimpanzees in Africa. She has taken it so much farther. She has published multiple books and documentaries on saving our planet and the plants and animals that inhabit it. She even has foundations to promote these causes. And at her current age of 87, is still doing all she can to inspire hope and let us know that we can make a difference. She has taken a break because of Covid, but until then was still touring and speaking many days each year.

You can see a theme throughout the list of all my heroes, both fictional and real. They are defenders of animals and people. They know they were put on this world to make it a better place. Although my presence is small, I want to join them and follow in their footsteps to make a difference.

You have the ability to do the same. Won’t you join me in making a difference?

In Honor of Earth Day

Ice at West Branch State Park
Lake Shoreline

I started this post on Earth Day, but got sidetracked because we were working on starting a fruit orchard just outside the back door. We now have five blueberry bushes and a plum tree there. Two of the blueberries went in last year and we just added three more, plus the plum tree. We still want to buy two peach trees and add those to the mix. Elsewhere on our property we already have serviceberries, plums, a pear tree, heirloom cherries, and black raspberries.

Blueberry Bush

So, although I missed publishing this post on Earth Day, we did honor the day by planting and that benefits the planet. Yay!

Newly transplanted plum tree

And this post is a two-fer, a two for one if you will. It includes below, what I wrote with the intention of posting on Earth Day.

Happy Earth Day!

Earth Day is celebrated each year on April 22, with its inception in 1970. Earth Day started in the United States, but has grown to be acknowledged worldwide. It’s goal is to make people aware of environmental issues. That is also the year the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) came into being, so focus then was obviously on our environment.

It can be a bit frightening to look around our world and see the state it is in. So many animal species are extinct, endangered, or threatened. Even some of our favorites, rhinoceroses, gorillas, lions and tigers, to name a few , are in danger of leaving this world forever. Many plant species and ecosystems such as the rainforests, seem to be on their way out of this world too.

The outlook feels grim. But, it is not too late. Most of these changes have occurred because of man and his impact on our small blue sphere. Men (and by this I mean Homo sapiens, men and women, humans. Us!) have behaved in a very egocentric way. For generations, we have thought only about what is good for us. Our immediate selves. We didn’t consider plants, animals, or the planet as a whole. Heck, we rarely even thought about other humans unless we knew them.

We can no longer afford the luxury of this way of thinking. The planet will soon no longer be able to sustain us in the way we have become accustomed to, or eventually, at all. But as I said, it is not too late. One of the heroes of my adult life is Jane Goodall. She was one of the first female field researchers of modern times. I suspect everyone is familiar with her story. She studied chimpanzees in Africa, fulfilling a childhood dream. She went on to be a spokesperson for saving our world and the environment. She has made it her life’s work. And after devoting a lifetime studying these things, she still has hope. And I believe her! She is after all, a scientist.

Jane has programs, works, books, and teams with the goal of helping our world. She has programs for children, conservation, primates, and even one to promote hope. Home – Jane Goodall’s Good For All News You can check out what she has to say at the link. My point is, if she believes it is not to late to save our world with all she knows about it, let us do what we can too.

I realize that we can’t all do historic acts like Jane. But, we can all do something!

Are You Happy? You Can Be!

Heirloom Cherry Blossoms

Did you know you can take actions to make yourself happier? Apparently, you can.

I am currently taking an on-line college course that was offered for free by Coursera. (Not all Coursera courses have a free option.) I had never heard of them, but now that I am aware, I will be taking more of their free classes on my computer. The class I signed up for is through Yale University. Other classes may be provided by other institutions. If you want a certificate at the end, you have to pay, but I don’t care about that. I am auditing the course.

This class is about happiness. It is taught to Yale students, and during this time of Covid, they wanted to offer it to others who might benefit as well. I first became aware of the opportunity when it was mentioned in the newspaper. The name of this particular class is The Science of Well-Being. It lasts for eight weeks and requires about two hours per week of effort. Lectures are pre-recorded video clips and there are quizzes and a bit of home work. I’m having fun!

Double Daffodils

The lectures first tell you some of the science behind happiness and various theories, studies, and experiments. Then it moves on to how this pertains to us. I am learning a lot through the course and having a good time doing it. Some of the ways to be happier are not news. The one that everyone has heard about is gratitude.

Narcissus

Gratitude is an easy outlook to apply. Just look around you. What do you see that you are grateful for? I see flowers, plants, trees, and gardens that I am grateful for. If I look at my more immediate surroundings, I see dogs, books and magazines, and coffee in a gifted mug that I am grateful for. One of the dogs is currently gazing at me adoringly and that is a true blessing. And there are so many more. We have but to open our eyes and hearts and see.

What are you grateful for? Yes, I really want to know. There may be things that I am overlooking, and I care what others see as blessings.

Namaste. Peace be with you.

6 Tips to Help You Keep Your Dog After the Pandemic

Cassius, Zekie, and Baxter. Three of our dogs posing during a recent walk.

Did you adopt a dog during the pandemic to keep you company? Is your dog having trouble adapting as your life begins its return to normal? Then these tips are for you!

Here are some ways to help your dog adjust to his new normal as you return to the work world and leave him to spend more time on his own at home. For the purpose’s of this article, let’s call your dog Max, the number one dog name in America!

Tip #1Buy a crate and use it!

Crates can avert a host of behavioral problems. First off, you need to get Max used to his new crate before you leave him on his own in it. And don’t think keeping a dog in a crate is mean. Dogs are by nature animals that live in dens. If you introduce him to the crate properly, he will look at it like it is his bedroom and a comforting and safe place to be. Several of my dogs will go into their crates by choice and hang out with the door open. The crate may only need to be used during this transition period, it depends on the dog. You can find many articles on the web about how to get your dog used to his crate.

Tip #2-Get your dog used to spending time on his own.

Whether or not you are using a crate, Max needs to know that he can be alone and be ok. Leaving him to his own devices when he has had you there all the time is stressful. Get him used to it in steps. Leave him alone while you go talk to the neighbors for a few minutes. Drive down the road and come back. Go to the store for a few purchases and come home. Visit a friend for a couple hours. Don’t spring being alone for an entire work day on Max all at once. Give him time to adjust.

Tip #3-Give your dog something to do while you are gone.

Again, this holds true whether Max will be in a crate or not. If you suddenly found yourself alone in a room in the house, would you just sit there in the same place until someone returned? Neither will your dog. My favorite distractions for anxious dogs are Kongs. I have a bone shaped one with two hollow ends that I put peanut butter and baby carrots in. I also have the original sort of funnel shaped Kongs that I put dog biscuits and peanut butter in. I use pieces that are big enough so the dog has to really work to get them out. (Be sure your peanut butter does not contain xylitol which is toxic to dogs. I use natural.) You can also leave your dog with an assortment of toys, but be sure it is not something he will tear apart and ingest while you are away. Using a Kong Toy to Reduce Stress

Tip #4-Don’t make a big deal of your coming or going.

It should be a part of life, not a major event. If you make your leaving and return into a production, Max will see it as something worthy of having a big reaction to. You may not like his choice of reaction. So, treat your going away and coming back home again as a part of life. A pat on the head when you return home is ok, just don’t turn it into a party!

Tip #5-Make sure your dog is well exercised.

Remember, a tired dog is a good dog. 7 Ways to a Tired Dog Max is more likely to relax and take a nap while you are away if he is tired. Exercising him before you leave for the day is ideal, but exercise after you come home is still beneficial. See the link above for ways to tire Max out. The benefits of exercise before you leave are obvious. Exercising Max when you come home will let him relieve pent up energy from the day and give you both something to look forward to. And a dog exercised the evening before, is still more relaxed than a dog not exercised at all.

Tip #6-Have someone take your dog out while you are gone.

Everyone may not be able to do this. Your dog may not be trustworthy with others or you may not have anyone you trust that can help. But, if you can find someone to take Max out mid-day, it will provide a potty break and a chance to stretch his legs while you are gone. Do you have a responsible neighbor kid or senior citizen who would like to have some company and make a few dollars a week? This would be a win-win for everybody. Eight hours is a long day for a dog to spend alone, but it can be done if that is your only option. Be sure to get home right after work to let your dog out and give you both companionship, after all that’s why you adopted him.

In Conclusion:

I wrote this article to help keep dogs in their homes, and lessen their influx back into shelters and rescues as people return to their normal lives and the effects of the pandemic wane. Remember, Max provided you with loyalty and companionship during some dark days. Return his loyalty now and see him as he sees you, a member of the family.

There may be challenges as our lives change again, but you and Max can survive these together. I provided tips here that I think will help the most people. If you need more ideas and help, please email me at sheltiequeen1@yahoo.com with the subject line-Need Dog Advice. We have fostered more than 50 dogs over the years and I may have a few other tricks up my sleeve that I can share with you if you give me some specifics. No guarantees, just friendly advice.

Sometimes, we need to vent to work through stressful times, like dealing with Max as your lives both change. If you just need someone to lend an ear and hear what you are going through with your dog, I can do that too. There are times when knowing you are not alone, and others have been there and survived what you are going through, is enough.

The goal is to increase the number of dogs that get to stay in their homes!

This Is My Bag Check!

Bag Check
Hiking Bag and Contents

Have you seen those photo ops called “this is my bag check”? Since I rarely go away these days, there is little point in doing my purse. Maybe it will be more exciting post-Covid.

But I do use this belt bag or fanny pack every day. I strap it on for hiking, to carry all my essentials. I used to keep these items in the many pockets of my parka, but with the changing seasons I kept changing coats and forgetting something.

So what do I take with me?

  • Poop bags-important on every outing!
  • House and car keys.
  • Face mask-a Covid essential.
  • Pepper spray-I never go on a hike without it since our scary run in with loose dogs. Encounter With Loose Dogs, Gone Bad
  • Tissues-I spared you those in the photo. Good to have when applying pressure to a wound, as well as the usual uses.
  • Cell phone-not pictured because I was using it to take the photo. Also useful for accessing maps, tracking distance, and as a compass.

Is there something unusual you never leave home without? Inquiring minds want to know.

You Have Survived!

Self-portrait
Me after my first shot today.

 

I got the first dose of my Covid vaccine yesterday. This is so exciting. It’s the first step toward freedom! I have to wait a month for the second dose and then two weeks more for full immunity, but the process has begun. We won’t return to life as we knew it before any time soon, but will feel safer going in some places while wearing masks and adding a few activities back into our lives.

The act of getting vaccinated seems so simple, but it has momentous results, for us and for our country. Things that we took for granted pre-Covid will be special treats now. For me, going to the library is one thing I am looking forward to.

If you had told me last March that a year later, we would still be isolating and wearing masks, I would have been hard pressed to believe it. Yet, here we are. It was actually a blessing that we didn’t have the foresight to know this would still be going on. I don’t think I could have done it, if I had known at the outset, just how long this would last. I would have been lost in despair. But we did do it. All of us. We have survived.

I can’t imagine forgetting this feeling and enjoying so many freedoms without appreciation again. Time will tell. It’s easy to think that you will never forget while in the moment. But life has a way of moving on and dulling memories.

Knowing that I am going through the vaccination process, changes my outlook and gives me new hope. It renews my appreciation of life in so many ways. I came home from getting my shot and it was nearly 70 degrees outside in mid-March. I took some time to sit outdoors on the steps by the side door to read the current issue of Yankee magazine and enjoy the weather. (I couldn’t sit on the patio because Zekie was in the pasture and that would have put me out of his sight kicking in his separation anxiety. Much barking would have ensued.)

Mama and Zekie
A girl and her dog, Zekie.

While I was sitting there I noticed so much life. The spring peepers were singing on our neighbors pond. I love the sound of the peepers. I could listen to them all year. They are the sound of the spring thaw and a return to the growing season to me. Soon there will be daffodils, followed by budding trees. I heard birds chirping all around me. One was even rustling in the rhododendron next to me. Or it could have been a resident chipmunk.

I imagine I will forever tie the memory of my first Covid shot with signs of spring. In our state of Ohio, every adult is eligible to receive the vaccine starting on March 29, so I am not in an elite group and any can join me on this journey. I hope it means as much to you as it does to me.

Remember, you are a survivor!

Two Dogs, Sheltie

Shelby and Zekie Got Mail!

Something happened a few days ago that put smiles on the faces here at our house. Shelby and Zekie got mail! It was addressed to them, as was the card inside. As you may know, these are two of our dogs who were attacked by two other loose dogs while hiking about a week and a half ago. Encounter With Loose Dogs, Gone Bad

Get Well Card
Card received by Shelby & Zekie!

The card was signed “Love, Foxy and Wolfie”. These are two shelties that are owned by a friend of ours’ from the sheltie world. Foxy and Wolfie say they are glad that Shelby and Zekie are feeling better and send hugs, and to their mom too (me!).

What a blessing the friends I have made in the dog world, and elsewhere, are! My posts and updates about the incident garnered tremendous amounts of Facebook likes, hearts, and hugging cares. We feel loved. I hear comments about how social media is bad for people and results in stress and anxiety. I say, those people are not using it properly or perhaps associate with the wrong people. I have made wonderful, supportive friends who make my life better. When I have a trauma or upsetting experience, I post it (as long as it will not harm someone else), because I know my friends, acquaintances, and followers will share words of kindness and lift me up. This happens 99.5 % of the time, making it easier to ignore that one. That one was not my friend anyway, if they are “diss-ing” me.

The card that Shelby and Zekie received also points out how one kind action can change someone’s days. It certainly did for me. I feel lighter and more cheerful knowing that people have my back. It makes me want to be kind to others and share the positivity. It created a ripple that will spread to others and make the world a little bit better. Thanks Diane!

By the way, Shelby and Zekie are feeling much better. Shelby has been off pain meds for days, and finished the antibiotics yesterday. I still gently massage her wound area to increase blood flow to promote healing of the deeper tissues. On the surface her wound looks good. Zekie is a miracle, like the whole thing never happened. The prayers everyone sent have been answered. The two of them are doing great.

I thank you for your thoughts, prayers, support, and good wishes. I can feel them.

Why Do We Love Bernie’s Mittens?

Mittens, Love
Mitten Love! (Free Stock Photo)

Bernie Sanders started a craze of memes across the nation with his mittens at President Biden’s inauguration last week. What is it about this cold, winter wear that has caused the mittens to go viral?

Yes, they are just mittens. But, they represent so much more. In this time of cold, both wintery and emotional, they represent comfort and warmth. The mittens were gifted to Bernie and he obviously appreciated them. They may bring memories of caring gifts to our own minds. I remember my Aunt Ruth who gave me handknitted mittens and slippers on many Christmas’. She made them for all the nieces and nephews because she loved us and wanted us to stay warm. I always thought of her when I put them on. And even though she has been gone for many years, I still think of her sunny and caring personality.

We like the idea of nurturing that the mittens bring to mind. The idea that we can reach out and take care of each other sits well with us. People are in special need of extra compassion and thoughtfulness during these hard times. There is political animosity, racial unrest, even people becoming confrontational about how to deal with the pandemic. Someone to reach out with kind actions and provide warmth is what we all need right now. We need warmth of body and soul. Our souls are tired and it is time to lift each other up. Be kind. Be thoughtful. Be caring. There has rarely been a better time during my lifetime to employ the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. These mittens represent so much as their image goes viral around the world. They represent what we all need.

Bernie’s mittens were repurposed from an old sweater. That they found new life as hand-wear pleases our utilitarian urges not waste, but to give new uses to old things. Old things can have beauty and still serve. The wool from the original sweater is still doing a job and serving a purpose. The fleece lining is made from recycled plastic bottles. These are some of the values that have served our country well. And the Bernie memes show that government officials can be down to earth, just like us.

We also like the coziness of these mittens. At the inauguration, all around were people in finery. Beautiful long coats, stylish scarves, slim leather gloves, fancy footwear. As it should be for such a formal and momentous occasion. But there was also room for comfort and things that are meaningful to the wearer. We are nothing, if not a diverse people.

The popularity of these simple mittens goes far beyond what they are made of. They are a symbol. They represent things we have and things we want, in the figurative sense. Let’s hope that in the coming days and weeks these mittens will foster a kinder America. A place where we can all feel at home again.