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A restful (not) night in my own guest room

July 27, 2017

They say you should sleep in your own guest room to see how restful it is. So, last night I did (due to a broken air conditioner, not my marriage), and I’m exhausted. Between the pecks on the window, storm, scurrying in the ceiling and growls, I didn’t get much sleep.

First rain pounded the window well cover just over my head while thunder crashed. I flashbacked (I just created a verb) to two summers ago: the window wells filled and forced waterfalls through the tiny cracks under the windows, which soaked the beds and the carpet far into the basement. Was this happening again?

I leaped out of bed, ran upstairs for a flashlight, raced back down and examined the window wells. Our landscaping worked. No lakes in the window wells. No impending waterfalls. No need to dry out mattresses by slicing the mattresses and inserting the leaf blower.

The storm subsided. I lay back down, comforted that our guests would not know this waterfalls history, would not have PTSD symptoms and might be asleep by now instead of wondering where the leaf blower is these days.

Then the knocking on the windows began. Tap. Tap. Probably a bug, I thought. Tap. Tap. Pause. Tap. Tap. I imagined a bird or a gnome crouched in the window well. I leaped out of bed, stood on the bed and shined the flashlight in the window wells again. Nothing.

I lay back down. What was it, I wondered? A frog? A poltergeist? A ghost? When would it strike again?

I must have eventually fallen asleep because I startled awake to a low growl.

Growl. GROWL.

My limbic system kicked in. Fight or flight? Fight! I leaped out of bed, grabbed the flashlight, ready to kill.

Feet hit the floor above me. Oh, the growl was from Edmund Dog. The feet belonged to him and Husband. Yes. Husband had chosen to sleep in the hot main bedroom instead of the cooler, more restful basement guest room. Husband had also chosen to let the beast sleep with him, which violates both our prenuptial pets contract and our dog acquisition contract. Husband had chosen to believe Edmund when he said he’d already gone potty. Husband had not actually witnessed him pottying, which violates our ongoing dog dealings contract. Or Edmund had played the game where he gets out of sight, counts to ten and then saunters back inside, pretending he’s pottied.

I heard Man and Beast’s footsteps across the wooden floors. I wondered what else a guest can hear. Conversations? Um. Noises from the upstairs bathroom? Whispers?

I lay back down. I told myself to get back to sleep.

In that haze between sleep and wakefulness, there was scampering above my head. This was not a man or canine.

These noises did not bother me. Much. Well, just a little. I knew who they belonged to, more or less. They belonged to whoever visits the basement ceiling but never shows himself. Two pest control guys failed to find the entrance or figure out the mystery. Chipmunk? Small squirrel? Apparently not a skunk.

Later today, I assured myself, I will call a third pest control company. And check for frogs and things in the window well.

I did not look at the clock. I stood on the bed and knocked on the ceiling.

I lay back down. I went back to sleep. Sort of.


My search for a ‘lumps and bumps’ dermatologist

May 22, 2015

mole-checkI need a dermatologist. For nothing scary. Just a check on some “lumps and bumps” and moles and body parts that saw too much sun exposure the summer I drove a tractor on a tree farm. (Oh my, I was so proud of that tan on my pale, pale Kentucky skin. Only time in my life I looked “tan and healthy.”)

 I ask my friends for referrals. One suggests Mayo. Somehow I don’t think my lumps and bumps require Mayo. One suggests someone not covered by my insurance.  

 Finally I ask my new doctor for a referral via “My Chart.” The referral refers me to the dermatology department within their clinic network. Well, duh.

 I decide I’d rather have a good FEMALE dermatologist studying my bod from head to toe. I click through the many female photos and profiles. I reject the ones just out of school–they can practice on someone else. I stifle the urge to reject the ones who looks too pretty and too made up. (Did they spend much time studying in med school? Or were they reading fashion magazines behind their textbooks?)

 I reject the doctors who don’t say much in their profiles. They probably just skimmed by in med school, too, and buzz through their exams of moles. How can I trust such a person to take my lumps and bumps seriously?

 I wonder if I care how many kids each doctor has. Will a doctor who has more college tuitions to pay find more reasons to have me come back or charge me? Do I care if she does volunteer work in Africa? Not while she’s examining my lumps and bumps. Do I care if she specializes in molluscum contagiosum or other things I can’t pronounce? I’m not sure. What if she finds lumps and bumps too boring to bother with?

 Finally I click on a woman who needs a fashion consultant. Her cheerful face is square and her forehead is very high. Clearly she needs rounded glasses and bangs and a feathered hairstyle. She has not read fashion magazines. And her profile reads: “…I enjoy seeing patients with… skin lumps and bumps….” I re-read this. Seriously. A doctor who speaks my language. A doctor who treats MY condition. Have I found my doctor?

 I read further. She teaches at the U of M part-time. Good. You have to know your stuff to teach it. She was a top student. Good. She was paying attention to school, not fashion magazines. She’s also a dermatopathologist. Good. Maybe she won’t remove benign freckles like the last dermatologist. Her hobby is cooking healthy meals. Wow. A doctor who respects nutrition and maybe discusses diet instead of just lotions and pills. She rates well on Rate a Doctor or whatever it’s called. Then I discover she has twins. Uh-oh. Two college tuitions at the same time.

 Oh well, the other factors trump the twins. I make an appointment quickly… before everyone else gets the skinny on my great new dermatologist.


P.S. “Gets the skinny” means learns “what’s going on.” How could I resist this pun? 

Play and visits–too important to skip

April 3, 2015

We human folks are supposed to play a bit. And we’re supposed to reach out to others. It energizes us and gives our lives meaning.

A past centerpiece....

A past centerpiece….

This week’s to-do list is long. A big project had a deadline today. We’re hosting a meeting here this weekend. Plus family is coming for Easter dinner. (Um, yes, back-to-back company means just one house cleaning, not two.) There’s grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry, yada, yada. Plus I’m still jetlagged from being up all night last Sunday with some gaggy superbug.

So I thought I’d skip making a centerpiece. And I’d just send a card instead of visiting my elderly friend. But something didn’t feel right. And I was draaaaaaaging.

Then my heart beat a little faster when I saw the inexpensive potted plants at Trader Joe’s. Wouldn’t it be fun to plant a few of those tulips and mini daffodils in a pot or basket, dye a few eggs and make a centerpiece? Ooh. Natural jelly beans. Cool….

Before I knew it, my brain was singing, trying to figure out a centerpiece. And I was deciding I had time to visit my elderly friend if I skipped cleaning a certain room (again). And suddenly my to-do list seemed quite happy and doable… an honor, really, instead of a list of chores…. (But, yes, guys, some of these chores still have your name on them. Find your own happy brain sauce….)

Hubby spins a yarn

March 17, 2015

IMG_0297If your husband or male friend said, “I want to take a spinning class,” you’d assume he wanted to take one of those trendy new group stationary bicycle classes, no doubt led by a leggy blond in Spandex. Well, when my husband said he wanted to take a spinning lesson at our friend A’s house, I knew he had something different in mind—old fashioned spinning of yarn on a spinning wheel.

You may know that Husband goes through hobbies the way some people go through diets—he tries one for a while and then sets it aside for the next one. This is why we have equipment and books around our house for everything from bonsai to scuba diving to bird watching. Yes, we will notify you if we ever have a yard sale.

Anyhow, back to the spinning class. Last Friday we went to A’s house for Husband’s spinning class. For the record, she was wearing a lovely sweater that she’d made from scratch—she’d readied the wool, dyed the wool, spun the yarn and knitted the sweater.

This guy is, she said, a natural at spinning. Wool is in his part-Irish blood. And as he confidently pumped the pedals of her spinning wheel and spun orangish yarn, he explained the project he has in mind. He’d like to make a sports jacket. “A sweater?” she asked. No, a sports jacket. Okayyyyy.

When I passed Husband’s computer, I noticed two computer screens lit up with spinning supplies. I am envisioning lots of packages arriving at our door. Books about spinning. Spinning wheels. Carding thingies. Fleecy stuff. Spindles. My head is already spinning. So is the bank account.

I’m hoping the spring-like weather will put this hobby on hold until next winter… before it spins out of control.

Son says be glad the aforementioned spinner is not into break dancing head spinning.



Square Foot and Vertical Gardening Looks Fun!

March 10, 2015

verticalgardenIt’s March, the sun is out, and thoughts go to gardening. Saturday I attended a fabulous seminar on square foot and vertical gardening. The advantages of this type gardening are many. With raised beds, there’s no need to test the soil, the soil is loose and easy to work with, drainage is efficient, and it’s easier on the gardeners’ backs and knees. And of course, vertical gardening—growing “up”–means being able to grow more on a smaller footprint.

Joan James, the seminar leader, co-owns a company called A Backyard Farm here in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. The company will design, install, grow, maintain and harvest an organic vegetable and herb garden right in your own backyard! And James is generous about sharing her knowledge at seminars such as the one I attended.

James recommends the following: 20-year weed barrier(unless you’re creating gardens on top of an existing garden): 2″ x 8″ x 8′ cedar or pine or untreated lumber held together with decking screws; and soil created by mixing one third peat moss, one third vermiculite or perlite, and one third compost (a combo such as chicken manure, cow manure, worm castings and leaves except NO black walnut leaves). She also recommends using a drip irrigation system specially made for raised beds and square foot gardening since this loose soil requires more water than a regular soil garden. James usually creates beds that are 4′ x 8′. She uses 4’ if she has access from both sides, 3’ if she can only access one side.

James loves trellises for vertical gardening. She creates trellises from EMT conduit pipe, and buys pipe that is 0.5″ x 10′. She pounds 3/8 inch rebar four feet into the ground, then sets the trellis on top of that. She builds trellises that are 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide and uses tomato netting for plants to grow on or through. Plants such as beans and squash will easily go up the trellis. Tomatoes have to be trained a bit. (A tomato tip: Be ruthless with plucking off suckers; you want lots of fruit, not lots of green.)

verticalgarden2James extends the growing season by creating mini greenhouses. She crisscrosses two PVC poles, putting all ends into the ground, and covers these with three mil painters’ plastic. Imagine gardening from March to November in Minnesota!

James recommends organic insect control products such as Pyola for Japanese beetles, Escargo (or Slugg) for cutworms and Soap Shield for fungus.

She recommends the following resources: the Square Foot Gardening books by Mel Bartholomew, Gardens Alive for products (, and drip for drip irrigation. Bartholomew’s first book has more information on soil.

Contact for A Backyard Farm: 612-296-8507 or

I have plenty of garden space and no need for this type of gardening at the moment, but I plan to adapt some of the ideas for my regular garden… and tuck the info into my back pocket for some future day when I have less space.

P.S. My apologies about the inconsistent use of numerals and spelled out words for numbers. I do know better. I am experimenting with using voice recognition software. And I’m also experimenting with letting go of some perfectionism! Now back to my seed catalog….



Cece Bell writes kid books with heart and humor

February 21, 2015

P1040418After Cece Bell’s autobiographical graphic novel El Deafo won a Newbery Honor this year, I decided to see what else she’d written. Today I read and loved Sock Monkey Rides Again. As you can see in the picture, our sock monkey dolls also enjoyed the book. There’s nothing quite like seeing yourself in a book! (FooFoo is 22 but still loves picture books, as do his buddies.)

Bell’s sense of humor is hilarious. In Sock Monkey Rides Again, the main character, a famous toy actor, grapples with whether he can actually kiss a girl—a must if he is going to be famous. Now I can’t wait to read Bell’s other Sock Monkey books.

If you haven’t already, check out (literally) El Deafo. This graphic novel is about a deaf rabbit (Cece, of course) who wears a bulky hearing aid strapped to her chest to school. The aid embarrasses her before she discovers she can use it to overhear her teacher’s gossip (and restroom tinkles). Thus she becomes the superhero El Deafo, whose super powers suddenly make her a sought-after friend.

Frankly I think everyone with a sense of humor and everyone with a desire to understand what it’s like to be “different” at school would want to read El Deafo.

El Deafo Interior

You can help someone get an assistance dog

September 5, 2014
A little donation from you helps create an assistance dog for a person with disabilities!

A little donation from you helps create an assistance dog for a person with disabilities!

Blue, an assistance dog, helps a Macy’s employee who has mobility problems by picking up her keys, fetching the phone and much more. (Blue even has a Macy’s name tag.) Moxi warns her human partner about low blood sugar… and even fetches juice and meds. Some assistance dogs help children with autism. Still other dogs help people with hearing or seizure issues. (Have your tissues ready when you view this video of assistance dogs and their human partners.)

You can help a person with disabilities obtain a Can Do Canines assistance dog by making a small contribution to Can Do Canines. I’ll be walking in the Can Do Canines Woofaroo Walk September 13… and you can sign up to sponsor me as a walker if you’d like. Or you can sign up to be a walker yourself. You can send a check to me (made out to Can Do Canines) or contribute online.

The Woofaroo Walk and Festival offers lots of activities for dogs and their humans, so come on over. It’s 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Can Do Canines, 9440 Science Center Drive, New Hope, MN. The one-mile walk is at 11 a.m.

Can Do Canines has provided more than 450 assistance dogs free of charge since 1989. The nonprofit places five kinds of assistance dogs—for people with diabetes, hearing, seizure, mobility and autism issues. Many of the dogs are rescued from animal shelters. All the dogs are specially trained for the unique needs of their human partners.

It takes an average of $25,000 to provide an assistance dog, including food, shelter, vet care, training, etc. Plus lots of volunteers are involved in fostering the puppies and all kinds of jobs. (I do writing, editing and PR work for Can Do Canines as a volunteer.) Prisoners provide some of the training, which is another win-win situation.

I’ve been volunteering for Can Do Canines for several months. I am wowed by the staff’s ethics and caring… and I am amazed at how they can squeeze a penny. And of course I’m in awe of the dogs and the human-dog bonds.

If you love people or dogs… or people and dogs, this is a great opportunity for you to help create a mutually beneficial dog-human partnership… you can help make the world a better place and maybe even save a life! (There are lots of amazing stories about the diabetes assist dogs saving lives!)

You can donate by sponsoring me as a walker… or signing up to be a walker through the Woofaroo website.

And if you’re seeing this info after the September 13, 2014, Woofaroo, you can make a contribution on the Can Do Canines website.

Woof-woof. (Thank you.)

Here’s also a 3-minute TV interview about Can Do Canines.