Saved $60 but the dog hates me…

These days I’m always looking for ways to save money.  (Duh.  Who ISN’T, you say!)  Well, our dog hasn’t been to the groomers in … hmm.  When was that she last went?  All I remember from that visit was the groomer saying, “Maggie was a real brat!”  Haven’t gone back to them since.  I mean, I recognize that she is willful and does not like to be groomed, especially to have her nails cut, but honestly. to call her a “brat”?

Have you ever heard that phrase, “No bad dogs only bad owners”?  Or something like that.  Well, it is OUR fault that Maggie doesn’t like getting groomed.  She’s not used to it and it scares her and is uncomfortable.  Ah, but there are always reasons (er, excuses) for everything, right?  Like in our case, we are always wanting to save money and not get her groomed except when absolutely necessary.  We bathe her ourselves and all of that (otherwise, pee-euw!)  But when it comes to hair cuts,we figure she can go six months easy.

Only for some reason the last several months Maggie has decided to go the way of the Rastas and grow some wicked dreadlocks.  We’re talking mega-matting!  And once you go down that road, it’s really hard to go back to smooth and silky.  We try to brush her, but there is some sort of tipping point with brushing — after a certain amount of mats develop, you’re doomed. One of my former students had big, beautiful dreads but had to get rid of them when she joined the peace corps.  She said changing her hair was one of the most unpleasant things she had ever had to do, much worse than anything she faced in Africa for the two years she served there.

Anyway, so today was the day to “fix” Maggie’s fur.  She was not amused.  But I figured the best way to solve the issue was just to cut off every bit of matted fur.  I figured I’d give her what I believe they call a “puppy cut” (short all over rather than the typical Westie cut).  That way if there were spots that were REALLY short, it wouldn’t be as obvious.

Here’s what a Westie is supposed to look like…

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Well, that’s pretty cute, right?  One of the ways in which those dogs are able to look like that, though, is through the development of a stiffish, wirey overcoat that helps them keep this shape and not get matted.  For some reason our Magster has still — at three years old — not developed that tough outer coat.  She is still as soft as an alpacha.

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Which is nice for us when we pet her and all but leads to no end to the matting problems. (Our last Westie had the same problem, by the way — never got the wire coat.  Weird coincidence?  Our vet has no idea why Maggie is still so soft and fluffy.  We met her parents and they have wire coats.  Hmmm.)  Anyway, today I decided to implement my great money-saving plan and give Magga-muffin a new do.

She hates me.

Who doesn’t hate her hair dresser when she gives you a crappy cut?  Who doesn’t blame the one with the shears when we come away with a four week bad hair fiasco?

Honestly, I tried my best, but I REALLY underestimated how much matting there was. Every time I thought I had a leg looking okay and I’d run the brush through it, yank, it caught on yet another mat.  Maggie was none too pleased and took to biting the brush after a while.  “I understand, Maggums.  This sucks.”  I didn’t call her a brat.  She’s our soft little sweetheart of a Rastafarian.

I know you must wonder what she looks like now. Not sure this picture gives you the full effect of her humiliation….

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At least she was willing to go out in public!  Our good, brave Maggie-May!

SPRING is here at last

Finally!  We had a record-breaking high today of 93 degrees, and the leaves are definitely STARTING to unfold.  Still a ton of bare branches, but plenty of pollen and more and more bright spots of green and patches of flowers.  Spring is here at last.  Felt like an interminably long winter this year.

My son and I planted seeds in old cardboard egg cartons we’d been saving for a couple of months.  Hubbie and Boo and I made two beautiful raised bed planters to replace part of our ugly lawn.  We’ve now got those done, chicken wire stapled below to keep out critters, good organic soil inside each 3 x 3 x 1 foot wooden box, and a plan to sow some seeds directly outside and others to be transplanted in another month when they’re ready.  Carrots, tomatoes, green beans, zuchini, yellow crookneck squash, pumpkins, rhubarb, and we’re thinking of trying to grow potatoes, too.  I have some cucumber seeds, but that may be beyond me.  I’m not sure about buying and instaling a frame for them to climb on at a 30 degree angle.  Bad enough to have to stake tomatoes and tie beans!  Whew — so much to learn!

Honestly, I’m no gardener.  I’m expecting this not to work out very well.  I guess that’s why we belong to a local CSA farm.  So we won’t starve….  But I thought we could learn a bit of gardening, too.  So today, when my son and I were working on the garden out front, three neighbor kids we hardly know came over and asked if they could help.  Of course, we said yes, and thus ensued about an hour of teaching the kids how to ge the bed ready and plant carrot seeds.  About a week or so and we should start seeing sprouts.  I told them to check back then.  And then 70 days to maturity.  I said they could have some of the carrots.  Cute kids.  Made me feel really neighborly, teaching the  children about where food comes from!

I’ll try to take some pictures and post next time.  For  now, just wanted to let y’all know that we’ve got winter on the run at last in New England.  Even though there’s a danger of hard frost for another six weeks, heck, when we start getting LEAVES, winter’s through!  I’ll just hold back those tomatoes for a bit….

Tuesday, 11:22 p.m., week two

So far I am not yet really behind in my teaching/grading for the spring term.  That is an improvement over last semester when I was behind before I began and never caught up until Christmas Eve.  Ah, but this term is different.  I have found the answer this week number two.

In my husband’s words, texted to me the other day after I had been up til 2 a.m. but had a splendid day teaching (go figure), “You found the answer.  Never sleep!”

So here I sit in with my laptop, having just updated my on-line poetry course materials, sent that class an email, checked the Discussion Board (how could there already be almost three hundred posts?)  And I am trying to decide whether to tackle updating my lesson plan on Dryden’s literary criticism or go to bed.

And then… a noise, a clanking.  Hmm.  Pause.

Again a little quieter.  Oh, my son has knocked something over in his room as he sleeps, something harmless.  Typing begins again.  Hmmm.  Should I tackle Dryden or can I wing it at ten a.m. after … how much sleep will I get if I go to bed now?  Maybe I should get up at 4:30 again tomorrow.  Worked today…

Then … a different sound.

My son is singing in his sleep.

I’ll let him serenade me and turn off the light.

Goodnight.

Kreativ Blogger? Wow, thanks!

I want to say a big thanks to Montessori Mama, who has given me the Kreativ Blogger award!!

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You know, it feels kinda good.  I needed the boost — thanks again, MM.  Coming from one of the most creative of all bloggers I know, this award means a lot!

Now, on to the rules:
– List six things that inspire my creativity
– Pass the award on to 6 more kreativ bloggers
– Link back to the person who gave you the award
– Link to the people you are passing it on to and leave them a comment to let them know.

so…

SIX things that inspire my creativity:

  1. family night — We decided to rotate the responsibility to each family member each week  to choose an activity for Friday night that the whole family would enjoy.  Last time that it was my turn, I chose painting, and we had a marvelous time just hanging out and painting together. Never done such a  thing together ALL three of us at the same time.  Cool!
  2. Christmas — Something about that holiday brings out my creative side.  I relish the chance to make things beautiful, to use my hands to create something new out of something old (ornaments, table decorations, handmade cards….)
  3. teaching a text that students seem to find boring — Ah, I love that challenge! That’s when I revert to drawing crazy pictures on the board, jumping on top of furniture to act out a concept, bringing in wigs and hats for students to stage an impromptu dramatization of that boring 18th century poem, etc.
  4. dinner parties — I know you aren’t really “supposed” to make up new recipes when you have company coming, but I love to get creative in the kitchen for my friends.  Almost always there’s enough delicious food (if I do say so myself) in the meal to make up for anything borderline.  Even the flops are food for funny stories later on. 🙂
  5. scrapbooking — Okay, I admit it.  I actually like doing this activity.  I haven’t been able to work on anything for years, but I love how it is both a creative (making something new) and retro- and intro-spective activity.  I need to find a way to do this craft again, as it gives me much pleasure both in the doing and in the viewing later.
  6. Grandma’a life — I find my beloved grandma to be incredibly inspiring.  Writing her book is one of the most meaningful things I have undertaken in my life and one of the hardest.

Now, on to listing SIX more kreativ bloggers:

The Sruggling Writer is a wonderfully creative guy — I like how he just keeps on writing despite being busy with work and his young family. I’ve seen a noticable change in the quality of his writing, too, clearly proving that practice makes perfect. Paul, you’re awesome!

I read Kitty’s delightful blog  The Show Must Go On almost every day.  She is witty and hilarious and kind.  Check her out!  But bonus…she is also a gifted photographer and has another blog The Cuckoo’s Nest filled with interesting pixs.  This gal can do anything.  She even turned me on to cooking cabbage (yup, Kitty, I finally bit the bullet and cooked that thing in the bottom of my fridge — delicious!  Who knew?)

Ginny over at Praying to Darwin is a crack up.  Always makes me LOL when I read of her and her family’s escapades in the great white north of Canada.  I’ve actually snorted with laughter when reading her before.  Thanks, Ginny, for cheering my day!

I love handmade paper products (books, cards, etc.), and I really admire Diane Aldred’s work, often showcased on her blog Much of a Muchness.  She has a real knack for choosing just the right design.  She’s also a good writer, and despite my jealousy over her exciting travels, I’m nominating her as well.

I don’t recall exactly how I first found Katie Hoffman’s blog Paint Fumes, but I have enjoyed visiting it and viewing her paintings for a long time now.  I always find something worthwhile to contemplate there, and I’ve enjoyed learning more about the art wold from her interesting written posts, as well.

When I first began blogging a year and a half ago, I was searching the blogosphere using the keyword “grief”  and came across Linda’s mysteroriley, a “blog I never wanted to write.”  What strikes me so much about this blog is Linda’s courage and the strength of her creative energy in the face of the painful loss of her 20-year-old son.  Linda, I admire you both as a writer and as a human being.  You inspire me!

So, there you have it folks!  And I want to encourage everyone to visit Montessori Mama‘s site, too.  She is a gifted artist, teacher, and a great gal. Thanks!

The Obamas’ National Day of Service

Recently, the Obamas called on Americans to participate in service projects in honor of Martin Luther King Jr Day.  So my son and I signed up to help at a local goods bank in our city.  A goods bank is like a food bank only with furniture, clothing, etc. for needy families.

About eight years ago, Donna Hunnewell, came up with the idea after sitting through a years worth of meetings of our local Hunger and Homelessness Commission and hearing case workers talk about how much time it took them to track down things like cribs and couches for their clients.  Donna decided that while she could never work directly with the clients herself (she told us, “I’d sit there crying all day if I did that”), she did know that she could gather used furniture and clothes for the caseworkers so they could concentrate on doing their real job, helping these families with job training, housing, health care, and education issues.

Here is Donna, speaking at our volunteer event yesterday:

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At first Donna began informally, using her porch and garage as a holding space for goods, which she delivered in her van.  Then she moved operations to a mini-storage unit, then several units and finally a warehouse.  This past year her Lowell Wish Project surpassed the one million dollars in goods mark and has now served over 27,000 clients, including 600 families that received an entire house full of furniture, right down to the shower curtains and pots and pans.  Remarkably, she and her volunteers can now pull together a whole house full of furniture, etc.,  in just 20 minutes!

So, my son and I arrived and were amazed to join over a hundred volunteers as we sorted donations — everything has a clearly marked place, so it’s very easy to find.  I had to crack up because we were assigned to mitten and hat duty, supremely ironic because my son and I had a rather unpleasant discussion the other day about keeping track of mittens….  SO here we were, sorting donated mittens, destined for families who could not afford to buy such things.  What luck!

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After we sorted and refilled the various bins from an extra bin in the back of the warehouse, we wandered around looking for the places where some odd items that we found really belonged (these items had somehow made their way into the girls’ hats bin by mistake).  As we walked, we saw everyone busy sorting and organizing.

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And we saw so much stuff that had been donated, almost all of which was clean and usable, if sometimes a bit, well, ur, ugly, to be honest.  As we walked by one woman with two teenagers, I heard the mom explaining, “Yeh, it’s not that attractive, I know, but if you had a bedroom window that looked right out to the street, you’d be glad to have this to cover it!”  I saw the teens nod.

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At the end of the day, Donna told us that our band of Obama-incited volunteers had in one morning accomplished what it normally takes volunteers about three months to do.  “You helped make wishes come true.  Thanks!”  She also said that her Project is responsible for reducing the local landfill input by 1%, not bad for a little organization started out of someone’s garage!  Every little bit helps.

We will be going back for sure.  This was an easy service activity for me and my son to do together, and they offer a lot of flexibility for volunteers to come lots of different times of the week, inlcuding evenings and weekends.  “Guilt-free charity” Donna calls it — come again if you want, or not.  They also sponsor 18 service projects throughout the year, including a back-to-school backpack drive.  I’m sure we will find many ways to get involved.

So, on this inauguration day, hats off to the man who inspired over a hundred people ot spend their Saturday morning in a warehouse sorting donations to help out local families in need.  It’s going to be an interesting four years.

Happy New Year!

Twenty minutes to the big count down.  I’m hanging out in the livingroom with our dog while my son and his friend — here for a New Year’s sleepover — are in the basement watching a movie. Said parents and little brother have gone home, leaving their sweet girl to hang out with my Bubby.  They are pals.  What a nice New Year’s Eve for us all.

I wish every year could be this simple for him….

For now, I’m just grateful for friendships, for a warm puppy in my lap, for an automatic dishwasher taking care of the dinner plates, for scented soy candles ablaze on a shelf, for sparkling LED Christmas lights on a still supple and green tree, for my health, for my job, for our nice little house, for the snow outside, for freezable leftover refried beans and Mexican rice from our feast, for the lazy day I expect to enjoy tomorrow, for completing my work thing that was buggin me and that needed to be done THIS year, and for my husband who is spending the last few minutes of his year trying to fix my other computer, Lord bless him!

I got the almond in my rice pudding in the Christmas feast this year.  So I get the luck.  Feels like that luck started long ago!  How much better can it get??

I bought seven lottery tickets today, one for each person at dinner.  Then I totally forgot to give them out.  I guess I’ll have to pass them out when we bring back Bubby’s friend tomorrow.  Oops!  Ah, well, tomorrow we shall see who else is lucky! 🙂

On bravery

BRAVE (adjective):  “having or showing courage, especially when facing difficulty, danger, or pain”

Bubby is a brave boy. I need to remember that and not worry so much.

I admit that the fact that he still cries easily at eleven years old and is very sensitive emotionally sometimes makes me worry that he is wimpy.  I shudder to think of where I got this highly gendered notion of appropriate behavior.  I guess for all my feminism, I am, after all, still a product of my time and place.  I try hard not to let that influence too much how I respond to my son.

But the thing is…he is really so incredibly brave. He feels a lot.  He gets anxious and worries too much, and he can really exercise that imagination of his to come up with all sorts of potential disasters.  But time and again he’s shown himself to be stunningly brave.

For example, last night. He lost his first molar.  Big deal, right?  Well, when was the last time YOU lost a tooth?  It hurts, and when you’re eleven and a sensitive kinda kid, it’s a little scary, too.

“I think something’s WRONG, Mom.  This isn’t normal.”  He went on to describe the perfectly normal sensations of losing a stubbord molar that is half out and half in, digging into the tender flesh of the gum line.

He had tried several approaches to getting it out, but nothing had worked.  Finally, I said to pull it down as far as you can and then twist it.  He repeated the instructions aloud, and then he just reached in his mouth and did it.  I watched him closely as he began to twist the tooth and his face became distorted with pain. He kept twisting and then SNAP it was out.

Nobody likes to see her kid writhing in anguish.  But I tell ya, it was an amazing thing to me to observe him push right through it, tears in his eyes, pale skin but not letting go.  Where did he get that strength?  How can he be so brave when he is so fearful?

I admire his pluck.