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Sunday, December 13, 2015

Caution! Christmas Letter from the Brooks Household-Proceed at Your Own Risk!

The image above is of a Christmas Card Holder that Paulette made in needlepoint for me. Isn't it beautiful? Ron and I are looking for actual, not virtual, Christmas cards, to put in it this December, of course, but, here we are, sending a virtual Christmas Card Letter........isn't that just the way it goes!

I'm surprised how many people ask me how I'm  enjoying my first year of retirement.  I truthfully answer that being retired is a challenge for me, but that I'm starting to get the hang of it. Ron, on the other hand, retired six months ago and will tell you that it is the greatest and easiest thing in the world to do. Paulette, also now retired, keeps all of us busy, and Bob, with the most experience, shows us all how to relax.

We adopted two additional cats last February. It was a bitterly cold winter in Sandusky. Lucy, a kitten of about six months, entered our garage and gratefully joined us inside. It took us all month to get AllieCat to calm down and share her surroundings and even longer to have all three dogs accept the newest member of our family. When Lucy discovered that this house was filled with yarn to play with, she was extra glad she picked us for her new home.

It was only a month later that we added Emma, Lucy's mom, to our brood.

Yep, we are now a 3 cat family. Emma, however, isn't too thrilled with the other furry animals and rarely leaves our library-she is truly a Library Cat!

 The additional livestock made camping a bit more challenging and so we stayed closer to home this summer, dropping in feed the cats once a day and then heading back to our seasonal campsite just 20 minutes down the road.

In fact, it wasn't until November that the wheels on Nina turned at all when we ventured across the bridge to East Harbor State Park for a week. Now that Ron and I have agreed that I love to drive the RV and he doesn't like it AT ALL, we might make a westward ho! next summer with me in the driver's seat. Fair warning.

Not to say that we didn't travel in 2015. I headed to Las Vegas to meet up with Amy and Anne, two friends from high school. We had a wonderful time catching up and comparing aging dilemmas just as we had counseled each other with teenage issues so many years before.

In the fall, Ron and I traveled to Columbus, Ohio for the very special wedding of Ivona and Ben Dunnavent. We met Ivona, a Serbian college student,  last summer when she was working at Cedar Point, and falling in love with Ben,  an Ohioan working at the Point. When Ivona left last fall, I didn't know she meant it when she assured us we would see her the following summer. Sigh. Young Love.

The travel bug hit again in the fall. Janet Ford and I took our second annual fly/road trip. This time, we headed to Boston and drove through Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and the southern coast of Maine. 

It was an extra treat for me to gaze at this  beach scene again,  having vacationed at Kennebunkport Beach, Maine for most of my summers growing up.

We stayed at P.E.O. b&b's for the most part -  having the extra bonus of donating our lodging costs to scholarships for women. We drove for 6 days, and never put more than 700 miles on the rental car. I really didn't know how compact New England is.

One of our favorite P.E.O. homes was located on 60 acres near Weston, Vermont, and just down the road from the movie settings of Baby Boom. In fact, when our hostess was lamenting the many apples in her orchard that needed tending, I mentioned that reminded me of the movie, Baby Boom. With that, she abruptly asked me if I had been to Peru. Thinking she was a bit daft in making that transition in conversation, I admitted that, no, I'd never been to Peru?  She offered to take me-yikes. Turns out, Peru, Vermont, is where the movie was shot on location. What a hoot.

As some of you know, both Kate and Marilyn had major illnesses in August. Kate, after having a large kidney stone removed, is doing better than ever. At age 5, she seems to have the energy and joy of a little puppy now. Marilyn, however, at age 14 1/2, just couldn't recover from liver and brain tumors, and we lost her to pneumonia in early November.  

Jack is our oldest (age 10) and has been especially comforting since Marilyn passed away.

My mom, who's birthday is today, December 13, came to visit us in July. We enjoyed shopping in Oberlin, dining at Sunnybrook, hanging out with Paulie, and spending time on both front and back porches.

Speaking of porches, Ron's favorite porch was at the b&b, Welcome Home Inn, a screened in beauty in peaceful surroundings....that didn't require Ron to so much as lift a finger to maintain. Notice that broad retirement smile on his face.

Ron and I wish all of you the very happiest of times in the days ahead and extra wishes for a happy and healthy 2016.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving ponderings

I've had a  difficult time writing a blogpost after Marilyn passed away several days ago. Yesterday, while at the vet's with our other Sandard poodle, Jack, another client started telling us all about this fantastic white Standard poodle that sat in the church pew ahead of him every week for years. He told us how much he loved that dog, even though it wasn't his....I interrupted and told him that Marilyn Monroe had come to live with us 3 years ago and that she had passed away recently. He was clearly saddened and yet glad to know that she had been in good care after her owner passed away. This encounter, while not unusual because Marilyn was actually well known in this small Huron, Ohio community, just accentuated my raw sadness.

Marilyn Monroe (March 9, 2001-October 26, 2015)

Marilyn passed away swiftly from pneumonia. We were completely blindsided by this as she had done so well with all of her surgeries. You might imagine how lonely it is to suddenly not have your shadow beside you after 3 years....and that is the struggle. But, this is a blogpost of many things and I am going to try to move on.

My return to the gym after an absence of, um, many years, has made me happier and stronger. Many of the trainers around me are working out toward their next triathlon or marathon. Trying to perfect putting one foot in front of the other must be very difficult because they practice this alot. I, on the other hand, am working toward a unique goal of getting myself up from a bean bag chair!!! 

Google Images of pretty lady in a beanbag chair

While I don't actually own a bean bag chair these days (whew)  I thought that would be a worthy goal anyway. Really, how many people over the age of 45 can get up from a bean bag chair by themselves?  I hereby am initiating the BEANBAG CHALLENGE. I'll have to trust you on this one, but, if you can get out of a beanbag (you''ll have to find one first, of course) and have a photo to prove it, send it on to me by March 30, 2016 and you may receive a special trophy from me.

Christmas shopping. Yes, I know,  some of you are not in my league.  I am already FINISHED! And, I have two December birthdays nailed down as well. Ha. In fact, I'm looking for some shopping to do, so, if you need me to run errands, or shop for you, or anyone you know, please contact me. I'm here for you. I have my Black Friday scheduled already plotted out---I'm NOT going anywhere! Except to the gym (see Beanbag challenge above)

Needlepoint Canvas

Christmas decorating.  I haven't started that as of yet. I'm almost finished with my needlepoint Santa, though. I was stymied with the orange thread suggestion and reached out to the Needlepoint Nation. Yes, this exists- on Facebook! I have received over 100 suggestions and I settled on the ones that suggested a slightly darker pink color instead of the orange indicated. These are the kinds of things that can keep me up at night.

Brace yourself. You are about to see a very scary photo. It is a PORTION of the Christmas decorations stored in our attic. Everything is labeled. However,  I often just want the  box stored on the bottom of all of the others!

Unedited photo of Brooks attic-Christmas corner

I considered, briefly, boycotting putting up any decorations this year. Perhaps I could select one and only one box plucked at random from the pile. I could even  sort through all of this stuff and give most of it away! If you look at my December blogposts,  you'll see what usually happens at our house. Ron has carried all the boxes down two flights of stairs....and back up again.....for more than 25 years.....this year, I've hired someone else to help with this daunting task. (Happy Birthday, Ron!!)

Holiday yard flag used for one day each year
But before Christmas decorating issues are resolved, it's time to put the porch furniture away, find all of the traditional holiday recipes, and enjoy a few days of leftovers! I am thankful for all of you and hope you each have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

All's well that ends well.

I was lucky to be back by our garage a few days ago to see two eagles! The one on the left caught and  then  finished a snack of a small bird (gulp) and stuck around for awhile before heading north toward the Lake. The eagle on the right stayed on a bit longer. I missed getting a photo of their wide wingspans as they flew away, but, I promise, it was a stunning sight. There are several nests in and around the marshes in the area, but I have never seen them in our city alley before.

Meanwhile, back inside, it was time to put the kitchen back together after a week of painting. We decided to lighten up a bit, so to speak.

 Instead of cabinets and bead board paneling in dark stain, had it all painted white. An all white kitchen was my original goal, however, I selected a paint mint turquoise for the walls to accent the aqua counter appliances and the various antique bowls and accessories that we had.

 It turned so well that I decided to keep the white sinks and laminate that we installed many years ago.

 It looks brighter and more spacious with the cosmetic changes.

 I know, I know, I lust for the aqua AGA stove, but, in lieu of the recent onslaught of pet expenses, I can let it all go.

 Healthy and loving dogs trumps kitchen appliances any day of the week!

 Yes, in case you haven't been on board lately, we have had a spate of life threatening illnesses for Kate and Marilyn.  (see blog post of 9/5/15 for the details )

Marilyn's brain surgery (to remove a tumor in the frontal lobe) was on hold while first I, then her neurosurgeon, Dr. Lovett, went on vacation. No, not together! That reminds me, I should ask him where he went for the first week of October. ......

Ron and I drove the now oh so familiar route to MedVet in Columbus on Sunday. MM's surgery was successfully completed on Monday afternoon. It was a 4 hour surgery and her recovery went very  well, so, we headed back for her on Tuesday afternoon. Full disclosure: The night staff had to wake Dr. L. several times to ask his advice about MM's incessant barking, ahem. So, I think it was general consensus that she could relax at home with her family better than in the ICU ward at MedVet. We were delighted to drive the 100 miles (exactly, by the way) to retrieve her. Except for a shaved and stapled noggin, Marilyn looked fantastic and was delighted to be heading home.

I rode in the back while Ron drove and Marilyn snoozed peacefully until the last 30 minutes of the trip.  I tried to help her get comfortable, but, her distress increased. When we arrived home, upon getting Marilyn out of the car, I could see the dreaded signs of bloat- a very distended stomach and hard as a rock.  This is a life threatening and fast acting condition common in Standard Poodles, and one in which Paulie and Bob lost their two year old Standard, Beau, and Ron and I lost Louie a few years later.  The only known prevention is to surgically tack the stomach to the stomach wall so that even if the stomach fills with air and gas, the stomach cannot torque, thus avoiding extreme pain and swift death. In fact, if you really want the back story, see my blog post of 1/3/13 (It's a Dog's Life) where Paulie and I took our Standard Poodles, Jack, Sam, and Prince in for the life saving surgery.

With  no delay, we headed back to Columbus, this time with Paulie riding shotgun in the back with Marilyn, keeping all of us as calm as she could- a BFF for sure. The good news is that the ER doc aspirated the air from Marilyn's stomach and danger was averted. Relieved to have her back in good hands, Paula, Ron, and I  headed back to Sandusky, arriving home around 1:30 a.m.

We were so glad to bring Marilyn back home, this time, with no drama. She's such a great dog and we are happy to give her a few more years in the Brooks household.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Class of '65

Two of my favorite people graduated in 1965 and this summer marks the 50th class reunion for the the Class of '65. Born in 1946, they  are considered the first of the baby boom generation.

Above, Paulette demonstrates that life is good fifty years after graduation from Sandusky High School, Sandusky, Ohio!  Look at that smile!!!

A common Friday night in Sandusky in 1965 included "buzzing the Ave" and the tradition was recreated for the reunion.   American Graffiti scenes came to mind!

Here's my very own Class of '65 graduate! Ron, graduating from Port Clinton High School, headed to Tulsa after graduation to the Spartan School of Aeronautics to obtain a commercial pilot's license.

As this car rounded the Ave, I asked Ron what it was and he quickly identified it as a 1957 Bel Aire. Way to go, Ron!

Listed below are events that all happened during their senior year:

* Race riots of Watt, Ca. left 34 dead.
*The 1965 Voters Rights Act was enacted, making it law to allow African Americans the right to vote.
* Martin Luther King, Jr. lead the first march in Selma, Alabama and the march to Montgomery and gave his famous speech, How Long, Not Long.
* Lyndon Johnson increased U.S. troops in Viet Nam from 75,000 to 125,000 and 35,000 protested with a march on Washington. Operation Rolling Thunder was launched in Viet Nam.
*U. of Ca. Berkley hosted the largest anti-VietNam teach-in at that time.
* Malcom X was shot in NYC.
* Blackouts in the North East took place and 1965 was the fist year of mandated health warnings on cigarette packages.

As a point of reference, here are some more interesting facts from 1965:

Gas was 31 cents per gallon. A new VW Bug was $1,769. The Beatles released four new albums, including Help. Mary Quant introduced the mini skirt and the skate board became a craze. The Grateful Dead played its first concert and the Sound of Music was a movie hit. The optical disk and the respirator (replacing the iron lung) were invented.

I'm celebrating the Class of '65-they are  fun loving, bright, survivors of cultural tumult, and cruising into their retirement years with a sense of adventure and curiosity. Kudos and many happy reunions ahead.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Marilyn, Kate, and a wedding, oh my!

 Proper Garden gift shop in Delaware, Ohio

Actually, unlike the quote above, our Marilyn Monroe is quite a rule follower. She had a job to do as a seeing eye dog for 11 years and she did it well. For the past four years, she's been enjoying  retirement with us.  Last Friday night, she suffered three grand mal seizures-each lasting more than 5 minutes. This is a true emergency and so,  Ron drove while I held MM and off we went to  Lorain Animal Emergency Clinic where Marilyn was admitted and anti seizure meds were started. Little did we know that she had a brain tumor, pancreatitis, and liver cancer. And that all three illnesses were recent and unrelated. All of that was  ascertained the next day at MedVet, a animal specialty clinic in Columbus.  We  planned to be in Columbus area for a wedding on Saturday and we took Marilyn straight to MedVet from Lorain. Marilyn was well cared for by round the clock shifts of vet techs in ICU  and by Doctors Dudley and Lovett during her 7 day stay.  Delaware, Ohio

Planned months in advance, we were excited to be invited to Ivona and Ben's wedding at their home in Delaware and had selected the Welcome Home Inn for our accommodations after the wedding.

Ivona Nikolet
Married August 29, 2015 to Ben Dunnavant

 Timing was tight and we missed the ceremony while admitting Marilyn into MedVet, but, we arrived in time to enjoy the reception.

Ivona and Ben relax during the reception

Ivona and Ben met and fell in love when working at Cedar Point last summer. Ben flew to Serbia to ask Ivona's dad for Ivona's hand in January and she and her family arrived at Ben's home in Delaware a few days before the wedding. (I met Ivona last summer and helped her in various situations while she and her friend, Jovanna, worked at the Point from June through August.) As her "Sandusky Mom," I was excited to be invited to the wedding and was so glad we were there to share her special day.   Her dad, a chef and restaurant owner in Belgrade, Serbia, prepared the wedding feast.

Ivona pauses to give her dad a big hug at the reception

It was one of the best meals we've ever had!

Both moms pose with the newlyweds

The weather was perfect and Ben's mom was a gracious hostess. Ivona's mom will miss her daughter very much! Even with a green card and marriage visa, Ivona cannot return to Serbia for 3 or more years.

Modern cake topper

Welcome Home Inn

Knowing that Marilyn was in good hands, Ron and I settled into our room  at the Welcome Inn as planned after the wedding reception.  Actually, we extended our stay by 5 extra nights! Our hosts, Forrest and Brenda Williams, were very flexible and we could not have asked for a more restful place.

Fabulous screened in porch at Welcome Home Inn

We were the only guests for several of our  nights there and every morning we raced out to spend private time on the  porch. After a few hours, we would then drive into Columbus to confer with Marilyn's team.

We caught up on reading while waiting for news of Marilyn's surgery

You can see by the smile on Ron's face that we had good new regarding Marilyn's prognosis. Her brain tumor could be managed via medication, her liver cancer could be removed, and her pancreatitis abated! It was about this time that Paulette called with bad news regarding Kate.

Jack and Kate are best buddies
Paulette reported that Kate had been sick all night and wondered if she was experiencing another pancreatitis attack. Paulie and Bob offered to drive her to us in  Columbus and a few hours later we met with Dr. Martinez, Kate's internal medicine doctor. Kate's kidney stone, which we had discovered in June, needed to be removed!  Dr. Dudley (Marilyn's surgeon) offered to be  Kate's surgeon as well.  The stone was the size of the kidney, but during surgery, it was discovered that her kidney was still healthy and could be spared. Back to our sanctuary we went to await Kate's recovery and monitor Marilyn's progress as well.

Just a hint about the meticulousness of our host, Forrest Williams

Our host, Forrest, is a bit of a perfectionist, as you can see by his woodpile! We were properly impressed.
The inn was filled with oak antiques, quilts, pottery, all beautifully arranged

I loved the collections and displays that Brenda had created inside the house. She was the gardener as well! And the piano teacher, and the baker. Forrest, a Methodist minister, is a wedding officiant and building the home as a b&b keeps them busy in their "retirement".

Garden sculpture on the Welcome Home 6 acre property
Kate's surgery was scheduled for Thursday. The Welcome Home Inn had some interesting activity that day as well.

Ron hopes for his chance to be an extra in the TLC film 

A film crew from L.A. arrived to tape a TLC network episode. They had scouted locations and determined that the Welcome Home Inn was a perfect as background for an emotional film episode of parents meeting their child given up for adoptions 20 years earlier. (to be aired in January 2016)

No dice, the film is a closeup of just two people

Filming started at 10:30, broke for lunch, and filmed  again from 2-7! We headed to MedVet to await news of Kate's operation. I thought we would make a pretty good episode for TLC, and tried to pitch the idea to the camera man. No dice. So, we stopped to buy a lottery ticket at a small deli on our way into town, realizing that our MedVet bill would be a whopper.  In fact, just a sec, I have to check to see if we won..........nope, just got one number. Darn.

Marilyn perks up in ICU when I entered the room and tries to rise

Marilyn was coming along fine and we spent some time with her each day. Since Kate was in the same ICU area, we stopped to check in our her following her surgery as well. Spending ( a great choice of words, by the way) time at MedVet, we discovered an outdoor memorial garden on the property.

Memorial garden at MedVet, Worthington, Ohio

Grateful not to be adding a brick this time around, I took some photos of the sculptures there.

MedVet metal sculptures around the entrance of the Clinic

You might have noticed that I don't have any photos of the visitors and their pets. Most  were just too worried to pose, as they awaited news of their pets. Ron and I were there enough hours of the day and night to witness emergency admissions, talk to owners about their pets, and  offer a hug when tears began to flow.

 It was inspiring to be among people who love their dogs and cats as much as we love ours and it was a privilege to meet the techs, the vets, and the general admissions staff. On the day of our last appointment, we arrived late. The staff  called to be sure we were alright! Actually, we were delayed by a Ohio State Trooper who politely issued me a ticket for speeding (60 in a 45, as they say) He didn't seem to think rushing to pick up our beloved dogs was reason enough to be speeding,  I guess.

Family and friends offered  encouragement and cheers with progress report and we are thrilled to announce that our pet family is doing great -it is wonderful to be  back on our own porch again. Paulette, thank you for extending your stellar pet sitting from one night to six, and managing all of the ongoing household chores for us. And Bob, for making the drive to Columbus with our precious cargo, Kate.

Convalescing on our back porch