Rain and the Radio

cosmos rain again

What is it about autumn rain that resurrects sad memories in a pretty way?

Is it the dull, brooding mirror of the pavement?

Or the resolute fall flowers on the curb, standing up to the wind and chill?

Or maybe it’s Jeff Buckley and Elliott Smith on the radio,

alive as ever,

Notes and words broken in pain but promising to be here

longer than any of us.

Posted in #musictuesday, autumn, music, musing, poem, poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Joy of Running in the Rain


No, it’s not glamorous, but at least I got a kiss at the end!

Why don’t more people run in the rain? This is a question I’ve asked myself for over thirty years, and today, I’m putting it online, hoping to get some answers.

Sure, I understand why people avoid the rain if they’re dressed up or going someplace where they won’t be able to change their clothes. Sitting around in wet clothing all day or night sucks. But most runners I’ve met over the years get pretty sweaty when they exercise and take a shower afterwards anyway, so what’s the big deal with getting wet outdoors? Especially when there’s a beautiful, warm rain, like today?

Yesterday–a shiny, sunny morning–when the dog and I went out for our morning jog, we saw at least twenty runners. We live in a highly populated area, and we’re lucky to have some great trails nearby. In fact, these trails are so busy on sunny days that they can actually be dangerous. (The danger comes from bikers who don’t always play nice with people on foot, but let’s not talk about that.) Today, however, we literally had the trails to ourselves, as we saw absolutely no other runners. And it was far from the first time. Ever since I started running in high school, I’ve noticed this odd phenomenon. People love to run in the sunshine, but most take a day off or exercise indoors whenever the sky decides to unleash some water.

I’ll admit that getting started isn’t always easy. That first jump out of the nice, dry house into the rain is a little like plunging into a swimming pool. Despite the fact that our bodies are more than fifty percent water, most of us have a natural aversion to that sudden change from dry to wet. But once you’re thoroughly soaked, it feels so refreshing, particularly on a warm day. No need to worry about overheating; you’ve got nature’s free misting tent all around you. Given the choice between a hot, sunny day, and a warm, rainy one, I’ll take the rainy one every time.

Yes, your sneakers will get wet, and I agree that’s not the greatest thing. I do try to avoid large puddles, and sometimes take the insoles out of the shoes when I get home to help them dry more quickly. But I’ve also put wet shoes on many times, and it’s not so bad.

So here’s my suggestion: if you’ve been missing the opportunity to run in the rain, give it a shot. You might find that you love it too.

Posted in animals, dogs, exercise, rain, running | Tagged , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Sharing Opinions with our Children

cuter spencerLast week, while out jogging with the dog, I passed a group of parents, kids, and a couple of other dogs waiting at a school bus stop. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that my mutt isn’t the world’s mellowest critter. Sometimes when he sees other animals, he’ll pull on the leash and try to greet them; other times, he’ll growl or bark. This time, though, he ran along calmly beside me, and didn’t even glance at the crowd gathered at the bus stop, despite the fact that a little white dog was barking at him.

“Mom,” said one of the kids. “Look at that doggie. He’s so cute.”

I smiled to myself and whispered, “Good boy.”

So it was a little surprising to hear the mother’s reply to her child. “No he’s not! That dog’s not cute at all.

What? I kept on running—starting an argument at a bus stop about a dog’s attractiveness isn’t my style—but I was a little hurt. Then we turned a corner and all was temporarily forgotten.

Later on, though, the incident crossed my mind again. And this time, it bothered me for a different reason. I mean, why would a parent say that to a child in such a definitive way? Perhaps, if she really found my dog so aesthetically unpleasing, she could have said, “I don’t think he’s cute, but maybe some people do.” That way, the child could form his or her own opinion.

I was feeling very self-righteous until I remembered visiting the local pet store with my own kids when they were very young. The store sold all kinds of creatures—fish, lizards, small rodents, birds—and we’d browse in there from time to time. But the one thing I avoided in that place was the ferret area. The ferrets were kept in a large glass case with a vent on the top, and the stench from the case was overwhelming. I don’t think the smell came from the ferrets themselves, but from their waste, which mustn’t have been cleaned frequently enough. In any event, the smell made me want to vomit, and I recall telling my kids—on more than one occasion—that “ferrets are disgusting.”

But that wasn’t cool! I mean, I may not be a huge ferret fan (sorry ferret fans) but I was doing the exact same thing as the woman who declared my dog un-cute. And you know what? Despite the fact that my kids love animals and have asked for pretty much every type of pet imaginable—we currently have a dog, a cat, and some fish—they’ve never asked for a ferret. And I can’t help but wonder if that’s because I instilled in them, at very young ages, that ferrets are repulsive.

Thinking more on the topic, I realize I’ve been sharing other opinions with my kids as well, and stating them as absolute facts. For example, there are a couple of musicians and bands (I won’t name them, OK?) that I’ve forbidden on my car radio. Is it because these musicians offend me with obscene or racist lyrics? No. As far as I know, they don’t write offensive material. They’ve simply been banned because, as my kids will tell you, “Mom says they suck.” Hmm. Not very objective, huh? Perhaps I could’ve told my children, “I don’t care for XY’s music, but lots of people love it, so you should decide for yourself what you think.” Of course, it’s common knowledge that kids will often choose to listen to the exact music their parents despise just to piss them off, so maybe I’ll get my comeuppance some day. Maybe one of them will run off and elope with someone on my “banned list”—and go live on a ferret farm—or maybe they’ll blast bad music at my funeral. If so, I guess I’ll deserve it.

Anyway, I’m now making it a goal to be more careful about voicing opinions to my children. They’re teenagers now, after all, and will soon be adults, making adult decisions and possibly passing their views on to their own offspring. So will I continue to tell them that Donald Trump’s a buffoon? No! Instead, I’ll say I don’t think he’d make a great president, but every American has a right to vote for his or her favorite candidate. Is liver the most repulsive excuse for food ever put on a plate? No, it’s simply not something I enjoy, but it’s packed with nutrients.

cute spencerOn the other hand, our dog is freaking adorable. Sorry, woman at the bus stop. You’re wrong about him!

Posted in dogs, opinions, parenting, raising kids | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tips to Keep Your Feline Companion Healthy

gray cat green eyesHi Readers! Today, I’m very pleased to welcome guest blogger Jordan Walker. Like me, Jordan is very passionate about animals. He has written several contents about this subject as the lead content curator for Coops and Cages, and was kind enough to offer a post for my blog. In this article, he gives tips on how your cat should be maintained to ensure their good health. So without further ado, here’s Jordan!


For many cat lovers out there, we don’t just consider our feline companions as pets but more like as a family. As such, we want them to have the best health possible for a long and happy life. So, here are tips to ensure that your “furry family” will have the good life they truly deserve:

Safety is Always a Priority

One of your major responsibilities in ensuring the safety of your feline family is to cat-proof your house. Many of our household items pose threat to the health and safety of our cats.

Since cats are very curious by nature, make sure that nothing risky will catch their attention. For example, a dangling electrical cord will surely attract your cat, and this may have devastating consequences. Close your washer; keep them away from your gas range, and basically make sure that your cat can safely roam, explore and play inside your house.

Keeping your cats indoors might be best for them since there are several elements and other animals outside that may be hazardous to your cat. However, if your cat is already used to the great outdoors, you will have to ask your veterinarian for ways to help your cat transition to the comforts of the indoors. In case you need to walk him outside or transfer him to another location, use a leash or a carrier.

tiger cat with bowlHealthy Diet is Essential

Although it can be very tempting to turn your cat into a cuddly ball of fur, an overweight cat tends to have a shorter lifespan.

Ask your vet for nutritious cat food and treats, and seek advice on the proper amount and frequency of feeding. Also, provide them with fresh and clean water every time.

tiger cat closeupSpay or Neuter Your Cat

Animal shelters receive animals on a daily basis – those which are lost, homeless, or have been abandoned. You can help avoid this by having your cat spayed or neutered.

This will not only lessen the population of unwanted cats but also bring about other benefits. For one, studies have shown that a spayed or neutered pet has lower risk for cancer. Also for cats, this decreases their tendency to roam; thus, the risk of them getting lost is at a minimum or can be avoided completely.

puffy catAdequate Exercise and Time

Like most other animals, cats need to have adequate exercise. Not because they are indoors, they are to be deprived of any outdoor activity. While most cats love to entertain themselves, regular play sessions with them will provide them enough physical and mental stimulation.

Give them safe toys and scratch-post to keep them busy when they are not grooming themselves or asleep in their nook. You can also let them play with other animals as long as they are safe. Nonetheless, the best thing you can give your furry friend is some love and quality time. A simple cuddling session after a day’s work can be very comforting for both of you.

cat on floorProper Grooming is a Must

Regardless of your cat’s fur length, it needs regular grooming and brushing to keep their skin and coats healthy. This will also prevent matting and reduce hairball formation and shedding. Contrary to common knowledge, cats can actually be bathed. The earlier you introduce them to bathing, the easier they will adapt to it. Additionally, have their claws clipped to prevent these from growing into their paws.

Regular grooming will also give you an opportunity to check for skin conditions, injuries, lumps and even fleas. Fleas are definitely a nuisance which can cause skin irritation, hair loss, infection, etc. Also, all it takes is one swallowed flea for your cat to have tapeworms, which is a very common internal parasite. If you are having a major problem with flea or worm control, talk with your vet.

cat teethYes, They Also Need Dental Care

Dental problems – abscess, tooth loss, tooth pain, gum disease – are common in many animals, and your cat is not an exemption.

Studies have shown that about 70% of cats start to show signs of dental problems by age three. The good news is, this is preventable. Through regular brushing or oral cleaning, your cat’s teeth are kept strong and healthy.

cat at vetRegular Veterinary Checks are Vital

You may never know that there is something wrong until your cat starts to show signs of a problem. With regular visits to your veterinarian, you can ensure that your cat’s health is maintained and receives the necessary vaccinations. Regular check-ups will also help detect possible problems in their earliest stage so that appropriate solutions are employed before these become worse.

Having a cat as part of your family comes with certain responsibilities. Like any other pet, your feline companion requires love, safe environment, proper nutrition, time and veterinary care. Ensuring that all these are properly met will provide your furry family with a long and healthy life he will surely enjoy to the fullest.


Author: Jordan Walker

jordanwalkerJordan is the lead content curator for Coops And Cages as well as a couple of other pet related blogs. His passion for animals is only matched by his love for ‘attempting’ to play the guitar. If you would like to catch him, you can via Twitter: @JordanWalker82

Posted in animals, cats, family, guest blog, guest post, health | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Read a Good Book? Or One You Didn’t Like? Speak Out!

my review ofWell over a year ago, I found myself sitting in an independent bookstore on a Saturday morning at 10 a.m., behind a stack of books and a dish of peppermints. The owner had invited me to do a two-hour signing for my novel, Leaving the Beach, but not much was going on.

Each time the door opened, I’d hope it was someone coming to meet me and perhaps buy a book, but for the first half hour or so, everyone who entered had other business. Some people glanced in my direction and smiled; others didn’t acknowledge me at all. The owner was busy on the phone, and a middle-aged woman sat on a bench along the back wall, drinking coffee and reading a newspaper.

I was starting to feel a little anxious when a couple of women came over and asked some questions about Leaving the Beach. Then a few more people came along, and for the next hour and a half, I stayed pretty busy chatting and signing.

But as noon approached, things quieted down again, and my time was up. So I thanked the bookstore owner and started packing up my stuff. Just as I was about to leave, though, the woman who’d been reading the newspaper on the bench all morning stood up and approached me. “I didn’t want to bother you,” she said, “but would you mind signing my book?” She reached into her purse and took out a copy of Leaving the Beach. “I really liked it,” she said, her eyes not meeting mine. “My sister had eating disorders, and I could relate to a lot of it.” (The protagonist in Leaving the Beach is bulimic.)

I almost cried. It’s not every day that I get direct feedback like that—and talking with the woman was the best possible way the event could’ve ended. Still, I wondered why she’d waited so long (almost two hours) to make contact with me. Had she been intimidated? Or was she perhaps worried about being honest about her feelings regarding the book? After all, she’d told me she liked it, but had said nothing about love.

But just knowing that she’d read it, related to it, and had taken the time to tell me made my whole weekend better. I still think about that woman, in fact, as evidenced by this blog post. Sure, we authors write because we have stories to tell, but if we’re publishing our work, we’re also hoping other people will read those stories. Would we love to write books that appeal to thousands of people? Of course. But getting good, honest feedback from readers gives us the energy to keep writing, and often provides us with the tools we often require to write something better the next time around.

So I’ll end this post with a plea to readers. Please consider writing honest reviews of books you’ve read, and posting them on Amazon, Goodreads, or other public review sites. Your reviews don’t need to be long—in fact, short, to-the-point ones are often read more frequently by other potential readers—but every one really does count.

Because it’s a tough world for authors right now. There’s a lot of content out there, and, in many cases, reviews are the only way a new writer can let potential readers know what their book is about. Also, the websites and newsletters that help writers promote their books often won’t accept a new book for promotion until it has a certain number of reviews.

And seriously, don’t worry if your review is negative. As a very wise person once told me, the very thing one reader hates about a book is probably the thing another reader loves. For example, some people hate lots of description, while others adore it. Some hate fast-paced, plot-driven stories, while others live for that stuff. So there you have it. Thanks for reading! And writing!


Oh, and by the way, one of my novels, Living by Ear, is on limited free promo until 9/23 on Instafreebie. Meaning that if you’d like to grab a free copy and would consider writing a review afterwards, you can go to this link https://www.instafreebie.com/free/tdHlh and get one right now. Of course there’s no obligation or pressure to read or review, but if you have a chance, I’d be most grateful.

Posted in book reviews, book signings, books, feedback, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Karma of Found Art


Note taped on large abstract painting below

Original paintings are treasures to me. I don’t care about their financial “value.” What I love is staring at them for moments or hours, appreciating the effort and dedication of the artist. After all, each brushstroke was done deliberately, by a human being. A painting may carry messages unintended by the artist, but the paint on the canvas was put there in a certain, unique way, and I find that fascinating. Especially since I couldn’t produce a decent painting if the safety and well-being of the entire universe depended on it.

I also appreciate the way paintings can’t be duplicated (like prints and photographs); rarely get modified or “interpreted” by others (like songs); or get edited by multiple people (like books). So I try to hang as much original artwork in our home as possible. Fortunately, several of my friends are gifted artists, and over the years, they’ve shared some of their work with my family. My husband and I have also bought a few paintings over the years for various reasons.

Then, there’s our found art. Found art is one of my very favorite things, because it’s always a surprise, often a mystery, and it’s free. Every time I look at one of our pieces of found art, I feel eternally grateful to the person who created it and left it for someone else to enjoy.

Now to clarify, found art is art discovered legitimately. It’s never stolen, and, in my opinion, shouldn’t be the result of dumpster diving, which is rude and also illegal in most places. Dumpsters on private property are private.

Found art, on the other hand, is generally spotted on the curb, often accompanied by a note stating that it’s up for grabs. Although there are exceptions. And I think there’s something karmic about found art, too. In other words, people often discover it after they’ve donated things themselves, or have suffered emotional losses.


Small painting left behind by a roommate who didn’t want it

For example, my very first piece of found art was this lovely little painting, done by a roommate who left it behind when she moved out. And for the record, I did check with her to see if she wanted it back, but she said to throw it away. For me, however, the painting was/is anything but trash. I was physically unhealthy at the time, and because the roommate had gone to live with her boyfriend, I was also left temporarily alone in an apartment I couldn’t afford on my own. It’s just a simple little painting, but its colors comforted me, and helped me believe things would get better. And they did. Not long afterwards, I found not one, but two new roommates, and a whole new chapter in my life began.


Small piece spotted on the curb in Montreal

Jump ahead a bunch of years to last summer, when my family took a little trip to Montreal. The vacation was nice–we loved the city and hope to get back there soon–but the weather that week was so unbearably hot and humid that we didn’t do nearly as much walking (or shopping) as we’d planned. In fact, we spent much of the vacation rafting and boating on the Saint Lawrence River, in an effort to stay cool. We were also carrying some heavy emotional baggage, as our 17-year-old cat, Mac, was ill and we knew he had very little time left. And my son was about to begin high school, which was foreign territory for us. So as we trudged to our car, preparing for the long drive home, the whole family was feeling end-of-vacation anxiety. Back to the real world; back to reality, responsibility, and imminent pet death. But about a block from the vehicle, on the grass beside the road, was a pile of discarded household goods with a sign that said FREE on it. We weren’t interested in any of the dishes, pans, or silverware, but right in the middle was this painting. It looks sort of like someone’s art experiment, but I love the optimism in it: the pink on the horizon, and the sparkly stars in the pretty green sky. Taking it home with us made the trip feel more complete, and also helped me believe that although we were probably going to encounter some darkness in the near future, there were good things up ahead.

nyc paintingI’ve already written a couple of blog posts recently about the challenge of cleaning out the home my parents bought when I was a little kid, the house in which they raised my brothers and me. In a few words, it’s been a lot. A lot of dust, a lot of tears, a lot of bittersweet laughs, a lot of hauling things around. One of the hardest parts has been saying goodbye to things that seemed like permanent fixtures in our lives. We’ve done our best to keep the really special stuff, but none of us have much extra space, so many large items have ended up on the curb: perfectly good furniture, bicycles, yard equipment, TVs, dishes, glassware; you name it. And although it’s kind of cool seeing people pull up in trucks to load them up with your castoffs, it’s also slightly sad. (Hey, there goes my childhood bed!) So it was very exciting for me, the morning after a huge day of cleaning, to find this awesome painting on the curb in a neighborhood near my current home. The note on it said, Free sidewalk art circa 1950 NYC artist unknown. I fell in love on the spot, and the painting looks terrific over our living room couch. A couple of people have already expressed interest in buying it, but I’d never sell it. (That would be bad karma, right?) On the other hand, perhaps I’ll pass it along–on the curb of course–someday, when the time feels right.

dad's flowers

An oil painting by my dad, done in a summer art class

And here’s the final one for today. It’s my favorite painting right now, as I think you’ll understand if you keep reading. Earlier this week, my brothers and I were in the final stages of cleaning out the house. As far as we knew, everything was gone from the upstairs level, and the only room downstairs that contained anything at all was the kitchen. But as I swept out a deep hallway closet, I saw something flat and wrapped in white tissue paper way in the back. I was actually a little frightened. What was it, and why hadn’t anyone noticed it before? Of course, I pulled it out and unwrapped it, and was delighted to see that it was an oil painting my dad had made when I was a kid. He’d taken an art class one summer, and although he was no Picasso, I think he did an OK job with this one. Neither of my brothers wanted it, nor did my mom, so I’m really looking forward to getting it framed and adding it to my family’s found art collection.

How about you? Have you ever discovered something wonderful (art or otherwise) on the curb, or in some other unexpected place? If so, please share your story in the comments section.


Posted in life, art, found art, paintings, karma, surprises | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

A House, Some Lives, Some Things…and Trying to Make Sense of it All

dad army

My dad in the Army

A month of so ago, I wrote a post about getting ready for a yard sale to help clean out my mom’s house. She’s selling the house in which my brothers and I grew up and moving to a condo. And I promised a followup. Well here it is, but like so many things in life, it’s different than what I’d expected.

The yard sale was pretty good. If the goal was to get rid of unwanted things, then it was successful. It was also pretty crowded most of the time, which made the time pass quickly, and kept our emotions in check. But when it was over, I went inside the house and looked around a little. And that’s when I realized how much more there was to be cleared out.

The more turned out to be the tricky stuff, mainly because most of it had belonged to my dad, who died fourteen years ago. I’ve never written a proper tribute to my father, because I can never figure out where to start. For now, I’ll just say that he was a kind, generous, and thoughtful man, and the best dad I ever could’ve wished for. One thing about him that I’ve come to appreciate over the years was his ability to listen. He was also an exquisite storyteller. Ask anyone who knew Jerry Rowen and they’ll verify that he had a story about everything. 

Listening and telling stories, however, don’t require equipment. But most hobbies do, and my dad was extremely committed to three main hobbies: photography, ham radio, and flying.

After his family, photography was probably his favorite thing in the world. His “baby” was a Hasselblad camera that crops up in almost every memory I have of growing up. My dad was an outgoing person who smiled and laughed a lot, but he was essentially shy, so I think perhaps being the official photographer for family events gave him both something to do and kept him out of the spotlight. But even though he had a terrific camera that took great pictures, one was far from enough. He also had several 35mms, a Super 8 movie camera, and at least twenty other cameras from various periods of his life, all equipped with multiple lenses, filters, tripods, lights, and meters. Oh, and there was a darkroom in the basement, where he developed black & white film.

This is probably a good time to mention that my dad died quite suddenly of a brain aneurysm at age seventy-two, when he was still taking and developing pictures. Perhaps, if we’d made an effort to sell or give away all his equipment back then (2001) we would’ve found some eager takers, but now, in 2015, who still uses film?

Of course, since he spent so much time taking and producing prints–and slides, and movies–there are thousands of images in various formats in the house. It’s been interesting sorting through so many–some of friends and family members I know and love; some of people I never met; some of my parents when they were young; some of my dad in his Army days. I think the Army photos are the ones that make me most emotional, perhaps because one of my nephews recently joined the Army. Or maybe it’s because my own son is due to graduate high school in a few years, and the circle of life becomes clearer to me each day. In any case, seeing my dad looking so young, handsome, and eager to find out what life had in store for him is both amusing and painful.

ham carvings

My grandfather and father’s ham radio call signs, carved by someone

After photography, my dad loved ham radio, as did his father before him. My mom had the good sense to sell the radio he used on a daily basis shortly after his death, but like photography, ham radio is a hobby that requires and encourages a lot of equipment, and I can’t begin to describe how many dusty, unidentifiable gadgets we’ve found, and, in most cases, tossed out. None of us know what these things are, and most of them look like they’ve seen much better days. Not to mention that time is of the essence here, as my mom was recently injured–she’s been able to provide lots of guidance, but the physical part of the move is being handled by my two brothers and me–and the closing date on the house is in September. And nobody in my family has storage space for so much stuff. Still, it’s awfully hard to throw away things that I know meant so much to my dad. Of all the ham radio stuff, I’ve chosen to keep just a few small things, including a couple of carvings of my dad’s and grandfather’s call signs. I’m also working on a novel that features a character who’s a ham radio operator, and writing that has helped keep memories of my dad vivid in my mind.

tie pins

Fighter jet and Cessna tie pins

Finally, my father loved to fly. He could never afford his own airplane, but enjoyed renting Cessnas at the local airport, and taking his friends and kids up for rides. He also loved building model planes, reading about airplanes, and going to air shows to see the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels. Many of my childhood memories revolve around aircraft, but again, we simply can’t hang onto all of Dad’s airplane magazines, photos, models, and books. I did keep two tie clips of his, though, one of a Cessna, and one of a fighter jet.

Throughout this entire cleaning out process, I’ve told myself repeatedly that everything we’re getting rid of is only material, and that memories are in our hearts. But although I know that’s true, my heart’s been a bit more sensitive in recent weeks. I’m also a little concerned about falling to pieces when it comes time to say goodbye to the house. I have such clear memories of the day we moved into it. I was almost five at the time, and recall running up and down the stairs and around on the lawn, screaming that this was our NEW HOME. The good news is that the future owners are a young family, so it’s comforting to know that they’ll build their own memories there.

There’s that circle of life again. <sigh> I do hope the new family has as much fun at that address as we did.

Posted in aging, life, live events, moving | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Catching a Breath

breathThe rain and thunderstorms this morning cooled things off, both literally and figuratively, and the breeze coming through the windows smells just a little like the ocean.

If you follow this blog, you may be aware that my life has been sort of stressful in recent weeks. My mom is selling the house she’s lived in for forty-six years, so we had a yard sale at the end of July to help clear out some stuff. It was a good idea and parts of it were fun, but it’s not easy to see items that symbolize years and years of memories sitting in your old driveway with price tags on them.

Then, the first week of August, our family and extended family took a trip to Bermuda, and while we were there, my mom fell and fractured her hip. Perhaps I’ll write more about that experience someday, but for now, let’s just say it was very sad on many different levels. Thankfully, Mom’s doing better, and should be released from rehab tomorrow, so we’re grateful for that.

Our family also had a rabies scare last week when a bat somehow got into the house and interacted (not by choice) with our cat and possibly our dog too. Again, though, we’re lucky because the bat ended up testing negative for rabies. Hence, our family and animals weren’t exposed to the deadly disease.

But wait, there’s more. Yesterday, the dog had a severe allergic reaction to something. All of a sudden, he seemed unable to stop scratching and biting himself all over. I gave him Benedryl, which helped some, but last night, things flared up again, and his nose actually broke out in hives. It was a rough night for him (and me), but with some more Benedryl, he eventually fell asleep. He woke up this morning looking and feeling much better, and he saw the vet, who instructed me to keep him on a strict Benedryl regime, at least until the end of pollen season.

And if that wasn’t enough, around 10:30 last night—right in the middle of the dog’s allergy attack—one of the burners in the basement blew a valve and started spraying water everywhere. Luckily, my husband was home by then—he’d just gotten back from a work trip in New York—and knew how to shut off the water, but not before the cellar got a bit flooded.

So now it’s Friday afternoon, and the house is amazingly quiet. The dog is calmly sleeping on the floor, and both kids are home at the same time. And here I am, drinking iced coffee, typing on the computer, and breathing slowly. If I shut my eyes, I can convince myself I’m in a beach cottage.

If only it could stay this way for a while! But in less than an hour, everyone will mobilize. The kids both have adventurous weekend plans, which should be fun for them, but will raise my anxiety level again. I wish I were a more laid back parent, but I’m not.

Then, tomorrow morning, I’ll be picking up my mom at rehab, and on Sunday, a whole bunch of family members will be making a concerted effort to get Mom’s house cleaned out for good. And in just a couple of weeks, school will start up. My son’s crew team has already been practicing for over a week, and fall racing season starts in late September.

Has it been a relaxing summer? Not so much. But this little moment—right now with the laptop and the iced coffee—encapsulates my vision of summer when I fantasize about it in the middle of winter. Which is why I’ve taken time to document it. If for no other reason, than to verify that such moments really do exist.

Posted in life, mindfulness, reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Going Batty: A Rabies Story

sherlock the batkiller

What me? Torture a bat?

It’s 11:33 on Friday morning, and I’m waiting for the phone to ring. I’d be lying if I said the anxiety’s killing me, but also can’t deny that I really, really hope to hear some positive news.

Here’s the story, or as much of it as I know so far. The night before last, around 2 AM, our dog and cat started racing around the house. This isn’t entirely uncommon, as chasing each other is one of their games, and occasionally, they enjoy playing in the middle of the night. However, even from the quiet side of my bedroom door–and mind you, I was half asleep–the play sounded a little more raucous than normal. Then I heard something that sounded like a screech. Oh god, I thought. Did the dog hurt the cat?

I got up to investigate. The dog was sitting calmly outside my door, and the cat was in the living room, looking a bit smug, but peaceful. It struck me as a little weird that they were so still, when just seconds earlier they’d been tearing around, but hey, they’re animals.

So I went back to bed. But not fifteen minutes later, the wild rumpus started up again. Then, the dog started scratching on our bedroom door, which he does when he needs to go outside, or if he’s frightened by something like a thunderstorm.

Darn! He probably got himself so worked up that he needs to go to the bathroom. And it’s almost 3 AM. That’s what I was thinking as I opened the door, but the dog just stared at me, then turned to the cat in the living room. So I took a closer look at the cat. He still had that smug look on his face. But what was that dark thing next to him on the floor? A wing? Did a bird somehow get into the house? As I got closer, I heard some sad chirping, but that wing! It didn’t have feathers, and it was sort of scalloped, and…yes, it was a bat’s wing, attached to a very injured little bat. As I stared in horror, the cat leaned over and started licking it, torturing the poor creature that was already mortally wounded.

I wish I could tell you I was bold and calm, but I freaked out and immediately woke up my husband. And like the good husband he is, Mike got up, covered his hands in plastic bags, and used an old dishrag to pick up the bat and put it in the back yard. It was alive, but bats carry rabies and other diseases, and neither of us was comfortable keeping it in the house, especially since we have kids–not to mention the cat, who couldn’t understand why we’d be so cruel as to take away his plaything.

First thing in the morning, though, I went outside and checked on the little fellow. It looked awful but was still alive, so I called animal control and they came and took it to be rabies tested. Mercifully, they also euthanized it.

So what does this mean for my family and pets? Well, very little if the bat tests negative for rabies. But if it tests positive, we humans will need prophylactic rabies shots, and the animals (who were up to date on their vaccines and got additional rabies boosters yesterday) will need to be quarantined for 45 days. In other words, they can’t come into contact with unvaccinated humans during that period, or have any contact at all with other animals, even animals who have been vaccinated for rabies. The dog can be walked a couple of times a day, but people and other dogs can’t be allowed to touch him. Apparently, current rabies vaccines are excellent but not perfect, so any animal who’s been directly exposed to rabies presents a threat to the community.

And if this seems a little over the top, consider this: if a human or animal actually contracts rabies, they will die of it; it’s a fatal disease with no cure. So of course, if either my cat or dog were to come down with rabies symptoms during those 45 days, he’d have to be euthanized.

So wow. I learned a lot about rabies in a very short time. And yes, I’m really hoping the animal control person calls soon with good news about the bat.

If it’s bad news, though, we’ll get the shots, do the quarantine, and keep our fingers crossed that everyone else will remain healthy.

But for what it’s worth, here are a couple of tips that might help other people avoid this situation–or a worse one:

  1. Make sure there are no little openings into your home. Our house is over 200 years old, and yet, we’ve never had a bat during the fifteen years we’ve lived here. So why now? After all the drama was over yesterday, I checked our window screens and noticed that a few were loose. And the cat had opened a couple of them an inch or so (he often sits in the window, watching birds) and a bat doesn’t need a very big opening to enter your home.
  2. Be ABSOLUTELY certain that your pets are up to date on rabies vaccinations. The only reason our animals will “get lucky” with a 45-day quarantine (if the bat turns out to be rabies positive) is because their vaccinations are current. Animals without current rabies vaccinations need to be quarantined for six months (in Massachusetts anyway) if they’ve been exposed to a rabid animal.
  3. Be careful about leaving doors into your house open on summer evenings. According to the animal control officer, August is a big month for bats entering homes, and it’s also a big month for rabies. (Again, I’m talking about Massachusetts and the Northeast part of the US). The animal officer explained that as evening temperatures get cooler, bats are drawn to the warmth of peoples’ homes. Earlier in the evening of our bat episode, I was sweeping out my hallway, and left the door to the outside open for about ten minutes. It’s quite possible that the bat flew in right over my head and roosted somewhere for a while before catching the attention of our pets.

OK, well that’s it for now. C’mom, phone, ring!! I’d like to know what’s going on, one way or another. I’ll make sure to add an update to the comments section when we get some news. Until then, please keep your fingers crossed, and do your best to avoid bats and rabies.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Just half an hour after publishing this post, the animal officer called to say the bat was rabies negative. YAY!! I’m feeling very grateful right now. But we’ve all learned some valuable lessons, and I’ve temporarily duct taped the window screens so the cat can’t open them. We’ll be getting new ones soon. Thanks to all of you for reading, and may you always stay rabies-free.  xo, Mary



Posted in animals, cats, dogs, health, life, life events, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Packing for a Trip? Here’s One Good Reason for Travel Insurance

suitcasesIf you’re anything like me, you’re not in the habit of buying travel insurance. When you plan a trip, there are so many expenses anyway. Depending on where you’re going and what you hope to do while away, you’ll most likely be forking over plenty of cash for at least some of these things: accommodations, airfare, meals, vehicle rental, other forms of transportation, activities, special clothing/gear, beauty (you may want to have your hair or nails done, etc.) pet care (if you’re leaving your pet with a sitter), taxes, fees, parking, and shopping. So when you consider that additional expense of insurance, you may very well decide to take your chances. After all, you’re in generally good health, and if something goes wrong, you’ll just pay a little more. Right? Well…not always.

Last week, my family embarked on a cruise from Boston to Bermuda (and back). It was a special vacation for us, as it included a number of relatives and friends, including my mom and mother-in-law. All told, there were eighteen people in our party, which was the largest group I’ve traveled with since college. Everyone was excited about getting away together and spending time with people we don’t see nearly enough. And, since the trip included three days in Bermuda, we decided to do some shore excursions there. All the ones we considered seemed safe for our crowd, and we certainly didn’t anticipate anything bad happening. When my husband and I were offered travel insurance for our family of four, we said no.

But you can already see where this post is going. One of the things we did on the island—with our entire party of eighteen—was go out on a small boat, and on the journey back to the cruise ship, my poor mom fell and ended up fracturing her hip. I won’t go into detail here, but you can imagine that it was a pretty grim situation. And although the fracture wasn’t particularly serious, Mom would clearly need surgery and rehab, and the orthopedic surgeon who treated her in Bermuda recommended that both of those be done in Boston. And, in her condition, she’d need to be transported on a flying ambulance.

I was afraid to even ask the cost of such a thing when Mom mentioned that she’d purchased travel insurance. Now, one thing many people don’t realize—I had no idea—is that travel insurance usually covers the cost of medical evacuation. Long story short, my mom was Lear-jetted back to Boston, where my brothers met her and assisted with her care and surgery. She’s now on her way to rehab, and shouldn’t have to pay a cent of the $25,000 flight fee.

So that’s my friendly advice for today. Will we go back to Bermuda with Mom soon? We all hope so. But not without travel insurance. Never again.

Posted in family, insurance, life, travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments