March 2011


Joe always wanted a dog. I did not. I was the parent. We did not get a dog. But he continued to campaign vigorously, hoping I would change my mind. I held firm all through his childhood. He graduated from high school in 1997 but he continued to live at home and go to a community college.

What good boy. Would you like to be cooed? Best dog ever.

In December of 1997, I finally relented and he and his father went to the pound to look for a dog immediately, lest I change my mind. They brought home this puppy that was the size of what I had imagined the grown dog to be. The dog had feet that would have fit in Magic Johnson’s shoes.

Although I allowed a dog to invade my home, I was still very afraid of dogs and this big ox was going to have to stay downstairs. The door to the kitchen was always closed and Joe spent all his time at home in the basement with the dog. Joe named his dog Trip, claiming it had nothing to do with drug use, but Joe’s own desire to travel.

We built an eight- by six-foot pen in the basement for the dog. And yet, when I came home from work, Trip would be on the landing. He hated the basement. We tried everything to keep him penned (because he was not house trained) but he managed to make messes all over the basement.

In less than a few months’ time, Trip had access to the entire house. There were dog toys scattered all over. The puppy was now the size of a pony and romped through the open house floor plan enjoying his time until someone, anyone would let him outside. He LOVED outside.

At the end of July 1998, Joe announced he was nineteen, grown, and moving to Colorado. He was nineteen and he and Trip moved to Colorado. Trip loved outside and apparently the neighboring farmer did not like that as much as the dog did. Trip was shot with salt buckshot while out there. Joe called in tears after trying to treat the dog himself. We got Trip to a vet and he was okay.

While Joe was out west, I was missing my full house or hating my empty nest. I told Dick we either needed to have a baby or get a dog. We got a dog. LC looked like a much smaller version of Trip when we first brought her flea-invested self home.

About three weeks later, Joe called and asked if he and Trip could move back because they were not as successful out there as they had hoped. They got back home and I held LC on my lap while we introduced the dogs. Trip smelled and sniffed and then looked to me for pets and scratches behind his ears. The dogs decided they would be best friends.

They chased around the house. There was always dog hair everywhere. They tore up the yard. They romped through the leaves. They chased. Trip fetched balls and sticks and LC chased with Trip but never would pick up whatever had been thrown. He was lead dog.

Joe and Trip moved to Columbus. They moved back to Elyria. They moved out. They moved to Hilton Head Island. They moved to Cleveland. They moved back to The Rock. Trip went wherever Joe was.

Aiden thought the huge dog was great. He poked at it. He laid on it. He did whatever he wanted to it and the big dog let him. While learning to walk, Aiden learned that when walking around the back of the big dog – squint. The dog’s tail wagged a lot and you could get hit in the face with it.

Two more kids poking and laying on the dog never tired him. He spent the summer they lived on an inlet always guarding the kids. Trip was always scanning the horizon, looking for alligators and was always between the kids and any gators. He was their protector and he took his job seriously.

A couple years ago, he was infested with a horrible case of fleas that would not go away. A lesser man would have given up. But both the great men – Joe and Trip – struggled to overcome this issue. They did. Finally, a dog who looked half dead was back to himself.

Trip lost his hearing a few years ago. His legs were weakening. The last time we were at Hilton Head and playing on the dirt mountain, Trip was with us and would only chase a thrown rock once and then simply ignored one of his favorite games. He was tired.

Trip was simply a great dog. He will be missed by his family. I don’t know how to let LC know her bestest friend ever is gone.

As I walked, I watched ducks flying overhead. A group took off and soared over the trees into my line of sight. They came from the northeast, flying southwest. Then they wheeled and headed more directly west. The cawing of the birds faded as they flew and then they must have wheeled again, for the sound grew louder and they were once again overhead before heading off in a eastward direction. The cawing faded as the birds flew away.

It is said that ducks are amazing to watch as they fly because they form a V shape with different ducks taking the lead while the rest of the flock quacks encouragement from behind. This seems a bit presumptuous to me. How do we know they are quacking encouragement rather than critique.

Ducks flying (Photo by Daniel Paquet)

Perhaps this is more like what happens.

Ducks fly up with Stanley taking lead position.

Rocky (a young adult male) flying next to Estella (a beautiful young female) groans, “Stanley in front! He can’t find his way out of a paper sack.”

Estella says, “Rocky, be nice. We are only flying to the pond. Anyone can find the pond. Just let Stanley have the lead.”

Rocky grumbles but doesn’t want to fight with Estella since he has high hopes for an assignation later in the day.

True to form, Stanley doesn’t have any idea where he is going and as he heads in the wrong direction. Rocky calls out, “Go to your left, Stanley. Head left.”

Stanley, not being a great navigator doesn’t make the correct turn but heads in the opposite direction.

Rocky says to Estella, “See? Can’t even find the freaking pond.” He then shouts louder so Stanley can hear better, “Your OTHER left, Stanley.” Stanley finally wheels off in the correct direction.

Towards the back of the flock is an old duck named Howard. He is grumpy and rather curmudgeonly. His trousers are pulled up tight under his wingpits and belted just a bit too tight. His hat sits firmly on his head. The wingtips on the end of his right wing are slightly yellowed from the nightly Stogie he smokes, disregarding his wife’s admonitions to quit.

Howard start to complain to said wife, Daphne. “Back in my day, we knew how to fly. We could just take off up into the air and head in a straight line to where we were going. These young ducks have gotten lazy and probably really need to buy a GPS or something. We aren’t even heading toward the pond.”

Daphne, who has been married to Howard since forever, is used to his complaining. She sighs. She used to be quite a looker, but age has been just as unkind to her as to her husband. Her apron is tied right under her boobs which might be a bit unfair since gravity seems to have moved them to only 2.5 millimeters above her waist. She adjusts her glasses and says, “Howard, for God’s sake, pipe down. Everyone can hear you.”

“I don’t care. I’m right. That Stanley character gets lost all the time. Are we there yet? I really have to pee.”

“Howard! Lower your voice.”

“For Christ sake. If I had known this was going to be an all day trip, I would have peed before we left. We were only a half mile away from the pond as the crow flies. But we have Stanley leading the pack.”

Finally, the pond is in sight and the flock lands. But poor Stanley isn’t out of trouble yet. His wife waddles up and starts bitching, “Where have you been? Breakfast is on the table and getting cold. What took you so long?”

Stanley slowly follows his wife and says, “Traffic was a bitch.”

The hazards of a healthy life-style are rarely spoken of, but they surely exist. I have been walking (successfully since about 13 months old, I’m told). But I have been walking as exercise since last fall. I am a morning person and so I prefer walking first thing in the morning. I like to wake up and get out of the house before I realize what I’m doing.

When it got too cold, I decided to walk after work. I managed to force myself to actually do this once or twice a week. When I am not yet fully awake, I can get out between five and seven times per week. Obviously, being awake and alert is detrimental to my plan.

It finally warmed up again and I could walk first thing in the morning. I would get up, get dressed, get out the door. And then, for some reason known only to lunatics and madmen, we had a time change. I am now waking up before sunrise. I’m even awake before dawn.

If I try to walk in the dark, it is unsafe because 1) I can’t see where I’m going and there is uneven sidewalk out there; and 2) drivers can’t see me since I’m dressed in dark clothes. So I wait until at least dawning light is enough to see and be seen.

This has meant that I have been awake for a while before there is enough light to walk. Yesterday was a case in point. I woke shortly after five and could not fall back to sleep. I didn’t leap right out of bed, but regardless, I was awake.

When dawn finally arrived, I was dressed and ready to go and so out the door I went. Unfortunately, I wasn’t all that far down the road when I thought to myself that I might need a bathroom. I ignored myself and kept walking. And then I walked some more.

Finally, I told myself I could no longer ignore myself and I really, really honestly and truly needed a bathroom. But I was walking in a straight line. I was about ¾ of a mile from home before I gave in and turned around. But that meant that I was ¾ of a mile from my bathroom, too.

One would think that with all the news of late, I would know that Mother Nature cannot be ignored. One would think I would have been paying closer attention to biology and intake/output ratios. One might even think that since I’ve been potty trained for almost as long as I’ve been walking, I would know better. One would be wrong.

I hurried myself back home. I hurried myself faster, but walking faster induced a little bump into my gait which exacerbated the need for the bathroom. So I had to find a pace that was quick enough to get me home in time, but not so quick the trip home was going to be to change clothes.

I did, in fact, make it home in time. But just barely.

I hadn’t walked far enough so after proving that I was submissive to Mother Nature and fully potty trained, I once again left the house and made an attempt to finish my walk. I did this successfully as well.

However, with all this excitement, I did not manage to take any pictures on my walk yesterday. It may have been beautiful out there yesterday morning. In fact, more than likely it was beautiful and a lovely morning. I just didn’t have the right frame of mind to enjoy it.

 

There are some really great things about the Internet and the amount of connection it offers. I have friends around the globe. I don’t know anyone on Antarctica, but who does?

Years ago, Sied hooked me up with a woman who runs a website. She was looking for writing based on a military topic. While I am not and never have been enlisted in the military, Dick was. I wrote a story about his field jacket.

Soon after, Sied (a co-writer at RGQ), said he was not feeling well and would have to stop writing. He suddenly died (not from the illness making him not feel well). Our mutual friend wrote to me with this sad news. The RGQ family was stunned.

Tim introduced me to MWC, a writers’ forum. Tim also wrote for RGQ and we played most evenings at MWC as well. Tim began to feel poorly and it took a while to come to a diagnosis. Tim also knew I was a nurse and wrote to me about that diagnosis.

His friends at RGQ and MWC all sat vigil and we all missed him terribly when he died. I had made it a point to befriend most of his family on Facebook and so was aware when our Tim was no longer with us.

I cried. I cried for the friends I never met but were a great part of my life. We had e-mailed with each other frequently. I spoke with both men on the phone. I can still hear Tim telling me how stupid I was for not being able to get Folding@Home working correctly. We finally did get it to work, but it wasn’t easy.

I have friends in England, Ireland, Holland, Austria, parts of Africa, scattered across Australia. They are all part of my life. They have all enriched my life. They have laughed with me and cried with me. They have offered their attention and given me sound advice. I can’t think of a better definition of what a friend is. However, if they were standing in front of me, I probably wouldn’t know it. I’ve never met them.

I have signed up for a variety of e-mail subscriptions. All content has to be written by someone. This is a good thing for writers. I appreciate the work it takes to put out a daily or not quite daily publication. I enjoy their labors each day as I read all the fun stuff in my inbox.

One of the things I am subscribed to is the Humor Letter from Dear Webby. The author includes jokes, a picture, tech help, and a doofus nincompoop who made the news by being stupid.

The mailing comes almost every day, but Dear Webby will sometimes get trapped in my spam folder and I have to hunt him down. He also travels and will sometimes end up in a place without connectivity. So missing the mail for a few days didn’t alarm me.

But after a few more days (and seeing his website hadn’t been updated either meaning spam filters weren’t the problem) I began to really worry. I remembered Sied and Tim and I worried some more.

How would I ever know if something happened? Not just to Dear Webby, but to all my friends scattered around the globe. How do we deal with this uncertainty?

I dealt with it by shooting off an e-mail and wishing Dear Webby the best and hoping he was vacationing somewhere remote without access. He wasn’t. He was “vacationing” in CCU after suffering a heart attack.

I finally learned that this week when he was given permission to use his laptop in the hospital.

Back when I worked ICU/CCU we were told to try to keep patients quiet and relaxed. They could watch the TV, including the news programs. But there is still some idea that the computer will alarm people. Dear Webby had to plead for special dispensation from the National Health Service of Canada or something for permission to have a computer hooked to the Internet.

I hope hospital administrators will soon realize that in our connected society, NOT having a computer is far more stressful than anything we can do WITH the computer.

I am happy Dear Webby is doing okay. But I am still worried how I will know that all my friends from around the world are also doing okay. There must be some solution, but I don’t know what it is.

 

I understand that the Internet isn’t really free. I understand that the ads on webpages actually help to pay the cost of offering the product. I understand that most people (including me) have gotten extremely good at ignoring the ads – just like we did with newspapers, or like going to the kitchen or bathroom during the ads on television.

I absolutely hate being talked to when I’m surfing the web. I have learned to never, ever click on an ABC News item because it is going to talk to me. It talks loudly and there is no “shut up” button, so it will continue to talk for – well, I don’t know how long because I’ve always just shut down the page before it finished.

I made the mistake once of clicking on the aforementioned ABC News site while I was at work. After one of the bosses asked me, “What was that?” I vowed to never again click on the website either at work or at home. They taught me by using avoidance technique to actually avoid the entire site.

I have all sorts of things on all my computers to help me manage popup ads and pop under ads. They don’t always work. The nicest thing about Windows 7 and Chrome working in concert is that I can close a page without having to ever actually even see it. Great. I don’t have to be offered a chance to buy a Netflix subscription several times a day. This works for me.

I am an early riser. Way too early on some days. I am awake long before my husband even on days when he works and I don’t. I get up and often surf the web first thing in the morning. I look at Facebook and Fark, page through Google news, and then I read Dear Abby and Annie’s Mailbox.

I found places that carry those last two items and bookmarked them. I have been using them for years. Many years. I was happy with this choice right up until Thursday morning.

Last week, I clicked on UClick to read Dear Abby just like I do every day and have been doing for over five years – the thing yelled at me. I thought it was going to wake Dick up since it was talking so loudly in the still house. I quickly killed the page and hesitantly opened it again. Different ad, no noise. It happened again on Thursday. Instead of just killing the page and restarting it in hopes of a quiet ad, I searched for a different hosting site.

Apparently Yahoo will accommodate my needs and I switched my bookmark from loud, intrusive, annoying UClick to simply intrusive and annoying Yahoo.

I’m not sure what advertising genius comes up with some of this stuff. For a time, there were seizure inducing neon colored flashing ads that were bannered across the top of pages. I used to have a cardboard near the computer just in case I needed to shield against such ads. They really did induce a migraine if I watched them for too long and so I made sure I didn’t. (This is the same thing that happens when I’m following a school bus, a mail truck, or some other public service vehicle with those flashing lights. I have no idea how blinding me is supposed to help make the roads safer. I either have to pass them or pull off the road until they are far enough in front of me to not give me a migraine. Nice.)

I know I am not the only person who surfs the web while at work. I know this because I often see people posting on Facebook while they are at work. I’m not sure how they handle the loud, intrusive, and annoying ads. Perhaps they have their speakers on mute, which would work but would be annoying for the times when I, the actual owner and user of the computer, wish to have sound available. I need the little ding to tell me when I have new mail since the bosses often e-mail files with work to do.

Forcing me to have a smaller and smaller bit of the webpage for actual content is annoying, but something I can deal with. I have installed an add-on that lets me just have the text to read without any of the surrounding ads. But it doesn’t shut up the noise.

If someone is trying to induce me to buy something, they really should think of a more pleasant way to do it. Making me so angry I will go out of my way to change a years-long routine probably isn’t helping their cause.