Thursday, December 30, 2010

To The Snow!

SUMMARY: It'll be cold but fun.
The Merle Girls and I are leaving in the morning, driving MUTT MVR to a friend's cabin in Truckee, for 3 days of fun in the snow. W00t! Getting exercise and staying warm will be two high priorities.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Boost of Christmas Past

SUMMARY: Because it's too cute not to share again.
For those who weren't around in December 2005, when I first posted this.


Happy Christmas Eve to all.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Red Moon

SUMMARY: It's after midnight, and something red is lurking in the dark...

...Without the moonlight, you see a sight that almost stops your heart
You try a snapshot, but dark clouds hide the sight before you take it
You start to freeze as cold winds hit you right between the eyes
You search the skies--

'Cause this is thriller eclipse night!
And no one's gonna get that shot unless you do it right
You know it's chilly, thriller night!
You're waiting for a gap among the cloudy, cloudy night!

(Oh, right, those lyrics--you remember Thriller, ya?)


The Merle Girls were thrilled that I was outside with them and started racing around madly with their toy. Who cared if it was half past midnight? Tika quickly assessed the cold wind and the boring Human Mom and retreated inside; The Booster kept hoping.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

It's a Beautiful Night

SUMMARY: Just dropping by for a note.
The rain has stopped--at least temporarily. I'm getting the stack on the dining table slowly pared back down to size (while cleaning around the house, have been tossing everything out-of-place or with no place onto the table), dogs and I and Friday Walkies friend walked over to the sopping wet park and threw the frisbees for the dogs for a bit (first time I or they had been for a walk in 6 days I think), xmas tree lights are beautiful.

If only I had some home-made frosted sugar cookies sitting in front of me at this very moment.

Ah, probably better that I don't!

And to all a good night.

(Xmas season is a serious business!)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Life and Death

SUMMARY: Contemplating both.
Christmas has always been one of my favorite times of year. I notice that I--and my posts--are a little on the down side. Sick. Ticks. Credit card problems. Furthermore, it has been wet and muddy and rainy in the yard all week and will be for the foreseeable future. Dogs are antsy and bored and I've been sore, tired, and grumpy with them. My second disk drive in as many months has failed. (Thank goodness for frequent backups.) Haven't done any Christmas shopping. None. The stress builds. I have ideas, but haven't gotten it together.

Still--last weekend I put up the tree and all except one string of lights. Last night for the first time since then, I had the energy to add the last string and a few ornaments. I can see it from my office. Or even--gasp--go to the living room and enjoy it.
But I have yet one more sad topic, as it's been on my mind lately.

Death.

I've thought about this post for a long time, and in fact I've repeatedly come to the conclusion that I don't really know what to say about it. I know how I feel, but (oddly for me), I'm not articulating it.

So, instead, I'll start by counting those whom I've known well enough to attend their memorial services [of the lot, three from agility]: Two with blood clots in bad places (both in their early 40s). Two from motorcycle accidents (40s and 50s). One from heart disease (80s). One from a brain aneurysm (early 60s). One from falling down while drunk and hitting his head (60s). And four from cancer (all in their 50s). On the other side, people I've known who've had cancer that seems to be in long-term remission: 3. And one who has just now been given a very close upcoming estimated closing date on her run with life by her doctor. I am so not liking the odds with cancer, and so not happy with it even existing in our universe.

My Friday Walkies partner has been fighting hers now for what seems, at times, an eternity, but has been only a couple of years.  She has continued to face life and cancer full-on and with perfectly directed humor in the face of the ongoing process of Getting Her Affairs In Order (although, as she notes, no one's around with her at 4 in the morning...):



But, as of yesterday, she knows specifically that it is only with great luck that she'll meet 2012 face to face, and even less likely that she'll need a 2013 calendar. So, she says: "Bucket list!" She has been planning and saving for her retirement and old age. Through her cancer, she has been unable to work most of the time, and when she was able, with this 11% unemployment rate, there've been no jobs. So she's been living with extreme frugality for these years--which, at times, seem like an eternity, too.

No more, she says. Sell the stocks! Empty the IRAs! Visit Hawaii, which she's always wanted to do. Replace the 20-year old carpets and the windows that have gaps where the wind blows through! Buy a tiny RV and tour as far and as fast as she can! So, yeah, OK, maybe everything will go amazingly right with the next type of chemo and she'll have such a boost to her immune system from having such a great time that it will go into remission and then she'll live for years and yet have emptied her cash reserves. She thinks it unlikely, and so does her doc. But, really, if she *doesn't* do it, then she doesn't have that chance to have those extra boosts to her sense of well being, enjoyment of life, and comfort. So she's gotta do it. She earned it! Cram that retirement into as few months as possible!

I'm thrilled about it. I'm scared about it. I'm happy for her to be able to try this. I'm more than sad about the reason for it. [As she says: "SUX!!!"] And I'm not her; I'm me. I can barely imagine what she's been going through, physically and emotionally, although she has shared a lot of it.

So here's the reason I'm doing this post--because of her determination, every step of the way, to get the most from life, to take some risks, to engage with others others around her, to continue taking care of the people who are important to her rather than focusing on her own situation, and finally to just say Wheeeee! This is it, I am going to have the time of my life while I still have a life with which to have it!

I think that's all that one can hope for in the inevitable face of death. Good for you, friend of many years!

Reminds me once again to not take things for granted, to stop focusing on colds and ticks and rain and stolen credit cards and dogs with cabin fever, and to work harder at crossing things off that Bucket List. So--

The stockings are hung by the chimney with care. Renter's bah humbug Scrooge, my wool stocking with my initial hand-knit with love by my mom when I was a mere babe, and those for my four most recent dogs, two still here and two gone but often remembered.

And try to remember more often this reminder, which sits at my computer terminal week in and week out:


Seize the day: Live. Love. Laugh. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Tis The Season To Screw Someone Over

SUMMARY: Credit card!

I haven't done much with my credit card lately, seeing as how I've been mostly home sick. I did make some buys online, and something at the pharmacy this morning, and something else lately that's not coming to mind.

I do remember joking with someone at some store about how the dogs getting the credit card would be very bad, even worse than the fact that they're always sneaking into my facebook account and posting annoying things. We laughed. [Where was that? Making me nuts not remembering.]

Who knew that I wouldn't be laughing long?!

It probably wasn't the dogs.

Remember at the end of the October when I thought my wallet was stolen and so canceled my credit card and ordered a new one? So didn't have a credit card for almost a week? And then had to go remember and change allll my recurring accounts over to the new number?

Sigh. Doing it again.

I got home this afternoon to find a partial recording from my credit card company: "...unusual activity on your card. If this is Ellen Finch, press 1." Well, neither the dogs nor the answering machine pressed one. So I looked up their number and called, thinking, yeah, well, this *is* December, and so?

But, sure enough, there were a bunch of things that they listed that I didn't recognize from yesterday and today, one that was hand-written that they had already denied and another that they'd denied for some reason. But a couple they'd let through.

Of course, now my online account is frozen for the moment, so I have to wait until the new card comes in and/or for about 3 days for it to be unfrozen, so then I can go through all the charges and identify what's real and what's not.

Here's the kicker: They have a cool tool where you can get a temporary number that's good for a certain amount from a certain vendor for a certain time period. I used it religiously for online orders, until one day, a few months back, that function no longer worked. I called them to say, hey, I really need a number. And the guy to whom I spoke (I have no idea whether I wrote his name down, because it didn't seem important at the time), said, oh, you don't really need to use that. It's kind of nice, but since you have protection on your credit card anyway, you don't need to go through that trouble all the time. Just use your regular number.

OK, so I did. The thing is: If there is a problem--like now--they have to shut down my regular card and number and I have to go through all this fuss and bother and be without a card. In contrast, if someone tries to use one of the temporary numbers, (a) it probably won't go through, (b) they can probably track better where the problem occurred, and (c) my regular card and number are still safe and usable!

He seemed puzzled why anyone at their company would ever tell me not to use that feature. I assured him that I'd go back to using it and hope that it works.

So--merry Christmas. Guess I'm not finishing my shopping until the very last minute this year! And rest assured that I'll be keeping a close eye on my dogs' spending habits.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bleahhhhh

SUMMARY: Sick.
So here's the thing. A little sore throat midweek last week. Then this odd thing where one side of my nose started running like crazy. Felt plenty good enough over the weekend to go to the movies, get a christmas tree, and go for a really excellent hike. By Monday evening, though, it all went to pot. Dang cold. BOTH sides of my nose running and the rest of me not so much; more fatigue than explainable, a tiny fever for a couple of mornings. Sooo congested.

So: Doing nothing with the dogs. Cancelled out of class (but then it got rained out anyway, yay, so I'm not out a week's class--except no more classes scheduled until the new year! Ack!), cancelled out of a work-related party, cancelled out of tomorrow's weekly walkies. Yesterday, DROVE the dogs to the schoolyard--to which I usually blithely walk .6 miles each way and then around its .25 circumference several times--threw the frisbee, Tika pooped, the trash can was on the far side of the field, and walking over there felt like about 20 miles.

I made a foray into the grocery store, with sanitary mask, because I was running out of everything useful. Not all that hungry, but a LITTLE hungry.

Ventured out again briefly today with my sanitary mask, but not a lot of walking, still tired but maybe not as much; sudafed helps a bit with the runny nose. But there are still symptoms; I'm not done yet. Went out and threw the ball for the dogs and did a little tug of war, 1st time in 3 days I think. But every time I bent over, nose started running! Dang! It's *me* that's supposed to be running!

Meanwhile, I've suspected that I probably missed ticks on the dogs from Sunday's hike; just right as I write this, noticed TWO on Boost's face near one eye, dangit, those will be hard to get off. And nose runs when I bend forward. And I'm tired. But--gotta do it. REALLY makes me think that there are others on them that I haven't found yet.

I've been frequently checking around their ears & haven't found any; that usually seems to be their favorite place. I was late on their FrontLine application this month--ran out--and so didn't apply until after the hike. Apparently that's a bad thing. (Or maybe it wouldn't help with the face anyway, and that's why they went there?)

So--off to detick, then more chx soup, then maybe to bed. Or, um, mindlessly doing things on the computer.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Into the Fog

SUMMARY: Santa Teresa Park hike with dogs and friend.
We've hiked with this agility friend and her dogs before. She lives just a couple of minutes from me. We've said before that we're going to do it more often. Somehow we don't. Two busy people! She does a lot more hiking than I do, plus a whole lot of geocaching. (She's the one who finally got me to try some after all other friends failed.)

We didn't look for geocaches today, just for good opportunities to knock off some of the calories we consumed at an impromptu and small party at her place last night.

We hiked about 6 miles round trip, with cumulative elevation gains of probably 1000 feet. But--no views, sorry, fog fog fog.

At the summit, I pulled out the camera and took some shots anyway.

Sheila and Jersey and their human with a lovely view of the coastal range... oh, er, well, of fog.


We've all had our drinks of water. While their human mom puts things away and takes some pics, Tika and Boost wait patiently, collecting more ticks. (This park seems to be particularly bad in December.)

Is that the cutest border collie in the universe or what?

Is that the most beautiful whatever she is in the universe or what?

To prove we were at the top of Coyote Peak. With a nice view of San Jo... er, right.

It was very foggy. Here's our snapshot-camera-with-timer portrait.

Thank goodness for photoshop! (It *slightly* reduced the effects of the fog.)

On the way down, B noticed several interesting footprints in the mud. Deer:

And we're not sure about this one. Maybe it's two prints in one? Maybe a big dog? Probably not a mountain lion, but not entirely clear.


Now we're all very well exercised. Except that the dogs had to be on leash, so no running, so they are not actually satisfied with today's exercise quotient so far.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Class, Bleah

SUMMARY: Not in our best form.
We had class tonight. A couple of the courses were pretty challenging for many of us. I spent probably more than my share of time with Boost's runs trying to get them right. Poor Tika got only 2 runs this time, and they were of course spotless so didn't burn a lot of energy, for either of us.

Of course, not super fast, either. Really, she must be slowing down. I don't think that even in comparison to Boost she used to feel that slow. I'll have to calculate some YPS on some of her courses again this year to see how it looks.

Boost? Knocking or ticking bars relentlessly. Not coming in over a jump on a sharp turn. Tried it several times. Just a long-standing issue that I'd thought we'd gotten over, but no. I messed up the first few times, but even after I got it right--nope. It was combined with a front cross move that didn't look bad when others did it but I just couldn't get it.

She also missed a fairly straightforward, but fast, weave entry several times, jeez.

And a couple of crosses that I just couldn't get right until the intructor walked me through exactly where I needed to be and when. Discouraging sometimes--after 16 years and I still can't get this stuff?

So much to work on. I just want it to be easy, I'll admit.

We've got one more week of class before the holidays, then two weeks off. Will I survive? Instructor was strongly encouraging us to identify specific things to work on over the next month. I'll have to think about it and then, well, actually do it. Radical idea.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Dropping In on Mom and Dad

SUMMARY: Brief visit after the flea market.
Correction: Next morning, 8:30 a.m.:   Oops, got the anniversary year wrong. Fixed below (in red).

I needed to drop something off at my parents' place, and since they live just a couple of miles from the flea market, I headed up there yesterday right after fleeing the fleaing.

Dad was out raking up leaves, but the tree and the wind were conspiring to throw down more even as he worked. He didn't mind, and also didn't go back for the new ones. He's not one to let mere trees dictate his activities.



At Christmas, there's always a wreath on the outside of the front door.


And, on the inside, there's always a set of real jinglebells, from my mom's grandfather's sleigh.


Inside--oh, look, my seeester and her husby from the flea market dropped by, too, and are checking out Mom's birthday cards.

 My parents still have the decoration from their big 50th Anniversary party a few years ago. This coming year will be their 57th.
 It was Christmas decorating time at their house!  All the boxes were out and Mom was supervising.  They always have a bowl of nuts on the table, with a nutcracker. Fond memory from my childhood; I still do that at home for the Christmas season. My youngest nephew was partaking of them--
When he wasn't helping to set up Mom's vast and fascinating village, which runs along about 10 feet of the bookcases. (Almost all of it was gifts. Mom keeps saying "no more!"  but then there's be this one little thing that's just perfect for the village...)
This little tree used to be my Dad's Mom's. It comes apart and stores flat. We used to love setting that up every year, too.
Oh, wow, cool! I made this plate back in--uh--elementary school, anyway, but I no longer remember when or where or why (except that it was for a gift, and was done in either school or girl scouts). It involved laying out little plastic granules on, probably, aluminum foil and baking it to melt it together.
Another seester was helping to find my parents' Christmas music  to play in the background.  "What is this curious big black round thing?"
I couldn't decide which photo I liked best. "Whaaaahnnnnnh??? What dis big black round thing?"
In this one she's just her usual beautiful laughing self. But still with a large black round thing.

I needed to mosey on off into the sunset--well, actually only 11:00, and it was raining, but their street's autumn colors gave me a good sunset-colored sendoff anyway.
I'm so lucky to have so much of my family nearby.

Happy Holiday prep to all of you, whichever holidays you prefer to celebrate.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Flea Market: No Dogs Allowed

SUMMARY: Doesn't that seem somehow appropriate?

But it wasn't a completely dog-free day, as we shall see.

The DeAnza College Flea Market, held the first saturday of every month, is one of my favorite places to go and browse. So much to look at, and sometimes some great things to buy, as well. Plus the fresh-made crepes first thing in the morning. (Forgot to take a picture this time! Drat!)

Rain was threatening today, so the vendors were a little sparser than usual. We arrived at 8, had our crepes, and proceeded apace. We wore, like, jeans, fleece, and comfy walking shoes (and you can see that most others do so, also). Some people, however, turn it into a fashion event.

The flea market has become primarily "vendors" (in contrast to people emptying their garages or attics). But that means that there's a lot of cool stuff that you wouldn't find elsewhere.

This guy's mom decoupages pretty images in glass, and they'll do custom ones for you of anything you want. I bought one as a gift.

This vendor sells a lot of interesting hats. You'd really be showing yourself to be a Niners fan in that hat! But how about all those animal-head hats? Check out that cute black and white dog head just begging to go home with you. (See--not dog-free!)  Hand knit (but I suspect hand-knit in bulk).
This guy makes amazingly life-like and charming animals out of waste metal. Tempting! If only I had someplace to put one.
 Did you know that toe socks are back in? How about toe socks with faces? (Wouldn't it be kind of weird to have your feet look up at you?)
 How about toe socks with a blue dog? I wonder whether it's a Kerry Blue Terrier?
You can even get dog tags for your dog socks.


There were actually quite a few vendors and sellers with dog-related stuff. One trainer even set up a booth to drum up business.

Then there are the purveyors of things like tools and hardware-related stuff, all of course with hand-lettered signs with their bargain prices.
But the best bargains are still often to be found at the random-stuff garage-cleaning sellers' booths!

Just what every classy bathroom needs:
 Made me smile.
 Oooh---best kind of seller! What treasures await at truly bargain prices?

This interesting little doggie was offered for $20, with a big hand-lettered sticker noting that it was "From Japan".
Sometime after 10:00, as we were getting close to finishing our rounds, it began to drizzle. This vendor all of a sudden started doing a brisk business.
 Some sellers were prepared, but it the opaque white made it hard to see what they were offering.
Others were prepared AND clever:
 The vendors with canopies suddenly became popular, too.
I don't see what all the fuss was about. Check out my Cynosports umbrella! How agility geeky is THAT? Do you like the fabric that my cart bag is made of? Thanks, seester!
The only problem with the rainy bits is that everyone decided to leave at once--the parking lots AND the huge 4-story parking garage. Through a single  one-lane exit. Took me 20 minutes to get out of the place.
How can one resist? For $4, this beautiful large upholstered octagonal box with lid in excellent condition that'll match my sister's sun & moon decor perfectly. For $5, this large sturdy ceramic planter in dark green that'll match my house (and I was actually looking for one). And who could pass up this hat for $3? I mean, really?
I also bought a bay-leaf wreath for Xmas decor (do it every year) and some beautiful cyclamen in better condition than you'd usually find at nurseries for $2 each in 4" pots.


Drat, forgot to take pictures of my sister and bro-in-law who went with me. Sorry, Sis!

Dogs were glad to see me when I got home, even though I didn't bring them anything.