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A Song For The Ages

I remember the first time I saw Elvis Presley perform.   It was on the Ed Sullivan show. I was major impressed. I was watching it with my parents and my dad was anything but impressed or at least not the same … Continue reading

Always Learning

So, here we are in mid November, and in lockdown again in England. It isn’t as severe as the first time, schools are still open, people can go to work and can meet others outside.  For Dave and I, life is no different to how our daily lives have been all year and in most respects, it’s been a good one. The family are all safe, the garden has flourished and kept us sane, and I’m back in writing mode with the novel, and accepted a painting commission. Now, that is a challenge for me as my client begged me to do a painting of her pet dog Lia which sadly recently joined those over the rainbow bridge.

I’ve warned her it won’t be very good as I don’t do animals and am not good at drawing but my client has become a good friend over the past years and I didn’t have the heart to refuse. I’ve spent the past few weeks practising drawing dogs and now comes the hard part, drawing Lia. I’ve only a few photos to go on, none of which are close ups, so it’s going to take a lot of improvising. I only hope I can pull it off.

The weather here is still very mild and autumn has given us all a fabulous display of colours in the falling leaves. I’m not a great fan of this time of year, particularly now the clocks have gone back and we have short days and long nights, but since I took up painting, I do look at it through different eyes and can appreciate the changing seasons much more. But my heart does sink a little when I walk around our garden.

The front is mainly bare soil now as Dave believes in taking everything out, digging the ground and leaving it fallow for the winter, whereas I believe in letting nature take its course and leave everything to die back naturally as Mother Nature intended. Many plants are thus still in bloom. I have cosmos and marigolds still in flower, my climbing fuchsia is spectacular for its first year, the hellebores are shooting up buds for later in winter, and there are even Welsh poppies in flower. Okay, so the borders do look a little untidy, but I know the wildlife and insects appreciate the cover, the birds enjoy the seed heads.The other day I was delighted to see a rare bird enjoying the garden for the best part of a day. Not rare as in uncommon, but because it is the first of this kind, a chaffinch, I have seen in the garden and I’ve been here over 40 years! The photo isn’t very clear as I had to take it through the bedroom window as every time I opened the window, it flew off into the holly tree, so it’s the best I could get.

Despite having been growing plants for over 50 years, I am still learning something new. There was I happily telling a friend about my Christmas Cactus that has decided to bloom early when she pointed out my plant was, in fact, a Thanksgiving Cactus, a totally separate breed from the Christmas or Easter Cactus most of us are familiar with. I’d never heard of a Thanksgiving Cactus so looked it up. And yes, she’s right. The Thanksgiving Cactus has different leaves, almost claw-shaped, to the other two which are more rounded, and both of these are different from each other:  the Easter Cactus having bristles on the tops of each leaf, the Christmas one has not.

I love learning new things. How about you?

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Thanksgiving, Election and all that stuff

It’s November and this year it means elections here in the US. It’s been a wild ride that’s all I’m going to say. Thanksgiving will be very different for most of us this year due to Covid-19. My family decided … Continue reading

November Means Veterans Day and Remembrance Day

Jillian here. Sorry this will be a long post! It’s November and since this is the month we remember our veterans—on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour, I thought I’d share some tidbits about the veterans in my own family.

My Revolutionary War ancestor was Thomas Gresham (yes, my U.K. friends, I am related to Sir John and Sir Thomas Gresham—perhaps you’ve heard of them 😁 but that’s a story for another day). One of the later generation younger sons came to the colonies in 1690. By the time of the Revolution, we’d been here long enough to become attached to this place and my five- times great grandfather enlisted in Washington’s Army at the tender age of 15. He survived that long, freezing, brutal winter at Valley Forge (got sick and lost some wages as was too ill to fight for a bit) and also survived the war- thank goodness he did or you wouldn’t be reading this post!  🙂 When I think of what I was doing at age 15, my admiration grows for this young man and all the others who stood with him.

My great uncle, William Eugene Fowler died at the Battle of the Bulge and is buried in one of the American cemeteries in Belgium. He was an army sergeant and died while in battle, but not before saving five of his men and pulling them to safety. My dad, who was a tot at the time, as he was born in 1940, loved his Uncle Eugene. My great grandmother had a portrait of him in a massive oval frame with one of those bubble glass fronts. My dad would carry that thing around even though it was as tall as him. Thinking about the sacrifice Uncle Eugene made—saving others— without regard to his own safety, makes me proud to be related to such a brave man.

My dad enlisted in the Navy when he was still in high school and left for boot camp a few days after he graduated. He was already engaged to my mom. His mom and dad moved from their farm into town while he was gone and he didn’t know where they lived when he got back. And my grandmother had gotten rid of all his civilian clothes as she thought he’d always be in uniform and wouldn’t need them. 😁 —he served during the Vietnam era and volunteered to go over, but he wasn’t allowed as he was a weapons instructor and was needed stateside to train the young me who would go. He’s always felt a little like he cheated by staying in the USA. This is him below:

His younger brother, Robert, always wanted to be in the Air Force. He was a fun person and a real ladies man. I remember him well even though he died when I was almost six. He injured himself in boot camp and was told he was going to be shipped home as his back injury was so bad, he wouldn’t be able to serve. Despondent that he’d never have the life he’d always dreamed of, and with no loved ones near to help him, he took his own life. It was terrible and so sad. My dad was the one who had to tell his father as the Navy commander was contacted by the Air Force as they had the records that Dad was his brother. The commander called my dad into his office and told him.  My poor dad had to make that terrible phone call to his father. My grandmother was never the same. Her bible, at her death, had so many notes in it where she was praying on paper for understanding of the death of her fourth son. I share this to say I don’t consider my uncle a coward. I consider the pressure he was under and the loss of his lifelong dream as the impetus for his actions. If only there had been the kinds of services we have now for counseling back then, I think he’d still be here.

And lastly, my nephew, Kyle ____ (his middle name is Eugene), who is very much like my Uncle Robert, charming, fun and a ladies man (they even look similar), is currently serving in the Air Force. It’s like we’ve come full circle with him and my uncle. Kyle is following Robert’s dream. Maybe not exactly the same exact dream, and we hope the ending isn’t the same, but I do find it comforting that Kyle found his own path, that included military service, and has been following it for more than 12 years now.

What about you? Any stories to share about loved ones who served in your branches of the armed forces?

Happy Things

Fall Color

In America, the elections are over and only the counting continues. And, enough said about that. When you add in that most of our holiday celebrations will be muted this year due to COVID-19, well… Enough said about that, too.

Instead, I’m going to celebrate all things good in 2020. Some nationally and internationally, some personal.

  • I get online with three of my grandchildren every week as an adjunct to their online schools. We do some math games, play hangman, and read out loud. Well, at least, that’s what I do with the eleven-year-olds. The six-year-old and I have a dance party. After a week of trying to sit for various online school sessions, she needs to expend some energy. So on goes the music and we dance on our respective sides of the video screen. J
  • The U.S. celebrated the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, which recognized women’s federal right to vote.
  • My husband and I have taken a couple days here and there to stay in rental homes or condos and get different views. That’s kept me sane because we’re staying home a LOT. Don’t get me wrong, I like our house and we have an acre of property, but I need something different once in a while.
  • I’ve binge-watched Grey’s Anatomy. (Made it through season 11, sigh, and I’m currently in season 12.)
  • Drive-In theaters have made a comeback.
  • I haven’t (yet) grown out of my jeans, even though I spend most of my time in sweats. Whew!
  • Diversity is discussed more now than ever. (Praying that brings about positive changes.)
  • Brad Pitt won his first Oscar. (About time.)
  • Hamilton. Wow. Enough said.
  • We have an amazing great-granddaughter, now 7 months old and so precious.
  • I finished a painting project and a 30-year long crochet project, among other things.

And so many more. It’s been a good year in so many ways. I hope you all have an opportunity to count your blessings.

Walking in the rain! 🙂

For more information about Laurie Ryan:
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Ode to Zack

Cars… I’m notorious for keeping mine until it gives up the ghost and the truck comes to tow it away. I purchased my little Toyota in 2005 and named him Zack. He has been the best car. Okay, he grumbles on occasions, his brakes are not the quietest, and my passengers are basically horizontal thanks to the dodgy mechanism on the passenger seat. And he has more knocks and scratches than I can count. But never once has he let me down, and we’ve travelled some miles together over the years, I can tell you.

Zack has suffered my rants, my woeful singing as I joined in with Bruce Springsteen’s anthems, he’s learned some pretty colourful language during those times when I encountered less than mindful drivers, and he’s listened to me rabbiting on about plot points and characters who refuse to do what I want them to do. He’s heard all about my worries, and my hopes and dreams.

Sadly it’s now time to say goodbye to my trusty four-wheeled friend. I’m needing to do quite a lot of long-distance travel and AJ was worried about the toll on old Zack. Oh my, it was hard letting him go, but I know it’s for the best and I already LOVE my new four-wheeled baby. Not that I didn’t initially put up a fight and voice all kind of objections: he’s easy to park, he’s SO reliable, he nips in and out of traffic like a little mechanical ninja. But eventually, my head won out over my heart.

So it was with a heavy, but grateful heart that I bid farewell to my trusty steed. All that’s left for me to do is thank him for all those incredible years of safe and reliable driving, wish him well, and bid Godspeed to those who are lucky enough to travel with him in the future.

How about you? Do you get attached to your cars? Do you find it hard to let them go? I’d love to hear that I’m not alone in this. It would help to know there are other crazy car lovers out there.

Moving Day

Are you are sitting comfortably, as I’d like to tell you a story. A true one.

Once upon a time there existed a village called Charlton nestled on the edge of the county of Gloucestershire, England. Surrounded by farmland, there were some large houses, a pub, post office, and several small cottages clustered around a village pond. Through modern eyes, it might seem idyllic but life then was simple, but harsh especially in winter as cottages were small, two-bedroomed buildings with no hot running water. Each had a kitchen and a small living room but there was no bathroom and the toilet was outside at the end of the garden.

Charlton was close to what was then the largest factory in Europe (later to become part of Rolls Royce) which designed and built aircraft, including engines and spare parts. Due to its manufacturing importance and its runway, it was a prime target during WW2. Thankfully the village survived the bombings, however, after the war, a compulsory purchase order was issued by the air ministry who wanted to extend the runway to accommodate take-off and landing requirements of a new aircraft, the Bristol Brabazon, and to build what would be the largest hanger in the world to house this experimental plane. The village was demolished, the government rehousing all the residents in brand-new houses in a larger town close by, thus keeping most of the community together.

In 1947, Vera and Albert and their two sons became the first family from Charlton to move into the new semi-detached homes, the national press on hand to record the event. With three bedrooms, a kitchen with storage cupboards plus larder, an anthracite boiler in the corner for hot water, a dining room, a living room with a large open fireplace, and joy-of-joys an indoor toilet, and an even bigger joy, a bathroom with a sink and airing cupboard with an immersion heater, Vera felt like she had won the football pools. Outside was a shed with a coal store and another toilet attached to the house, all surrounded by a large garden in which to grow vegetables and flowers. Some nine months later another son was born – a celebration of the new house Vera would proudly boast.

Reader, 30 years later I married that new son, and a month after, moved into that house to look after my terminally ill mother-in-law. It is where we still live. Whilst for Vera the house was wonderful, for me it was not. The kitchen was cluttered, small, had only one electric socket sited under the wooden draining board by the sink. The boiler created constant battles with soot and ash, as did the fire in the living room. There was only one electric socket in each room, nor was there any central heating. I truly hated the house but put up with it all.

Over time and the years we have altered and changed the house to the extent Vera would never recognise it or the gardens, and slowly I have come to like it. We are happy here. And we’re still improving and changing things. Whilst the majority of it is now as we want, the kitchen is desperately in need of updating again, but a chance situation last week changed that, putting its refurbishment on the back burner once more. Instead, we had a new drive laid. The old concrete one we installed some 30 years back was cracked in several places and breaking up and was always frankly too narrow. Laid within a day and a half, we are delighted with the result. Dave still parks right on the edge, still steps onto the grass to get out of the car, but he’ll learn soon enough. And I’m in no hurry for the new kitchen. It’ll come in time.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my story and trust I haven’t bored you with it. Oh, and the photograph of Moving Day? That’s Vera alongside her father who helped that day and the little boy is my brother-in-law, Bev. Funny thing with Bev too – his wife has the same name as me. Often causes confusion!

 

Kit Domino’s Website and Blog

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It’s October and Puppies

I’m not sure how October got here so fast, but it’s here. Halloween is going to be interesting, I doubt there will be many kids out with the virus. By the time you’re reading this I would have had my … Continue reading

A Little Change of Pace for this Post

Jillian here. I decided I’ve been whining too much on my posts and, instead of bemoaning the direct hit hurricane we had here in September and the loss of power for several days, I thought I’d share a little story I wrote for a contest (I didn’t win or place)–The theme was all about smells. I picked New Orleans as my setting as it is full of smells, both good and bad. 🙂 Hope you enjoy.

Beauregard, Canine Cop

Stale beer and vomit. Stale beer and vomit. The mantra played in my head as I trotted along at the end of my leash. The New Orleans French quarter has a distinctive character as well as scent. Being a canine cop for the city police department comes with some perks. Like all the andouille sausage I want because, after all, who’s a good boy? Me. I am. Especially when I find the bad guys. Or a corpse.

Today is a corpse finding day. Maybe. There was a shooting outside the Old Absinthe House on Bourbon Street last night. And several people called in sightings of someone gut-shot staggering down the street. That street called Bourbon that didn’t smell like bourbon, but stunk like the rest of the Quarter. Stale beer and vomit with a side order of urine and semen in some of the darker corners.

My partner has me out following a spotty trail of blood. It started out thick and viscous but petered out as we went on. I ran quickly at first, barking once in a while to show my enthusiasm. Not that I’m ever very thrilled to chase scents on city streets. Too many distractions. Meats cooking, stir-frys, strong perfume, cigarettes, and tourists sweating. I try to focus, but this area of town is tough. I’d rather be out near the old abandoned Six Flags Park as it’s easier to follow human scent in the wild. At least we weren’t over by the Cafe Du Monde today. The odor of the donut grease and powdered sugar is really almost too much.

Powdered sugar makes me sneeze which I guess is good to clear out my sinuses to be a better  tracker, but I like to stay away from that street if I can help it. Too many people there, too. It’s easy to lose the thread of the quarry’s trail when there’s a big crowd and there’s always one at Jackson Square.

Sadly, I’m not the master of my own domain.  I go where I’m taken. Crime fighting is not for everyone. My partner, who egotistically calls himself my handler, sometimes makes me mad when he pulls me off a trail that may lead to something I want. Like that time last week I absolutely craved locating that dead possum and having a small little snack. My partner jerked me away and tossed that lovely carcass in the closest ravine. Brat.

Focus, focus. Find the dead man. Find the dead man. Stop thinking about snacks.

I stopped in the middle of the sidewalk. Is that a faint tinge of human blood?

Before I can lift my snout and determine where it’s coming from, my partner jerked a bit on my leash. “Come on, Beauregard. It’s not time to rest. You need to earn your sausage.’

Humpf. Earn my sausage. Right. Give me a minute, old man.

My partner turned to another officer. A detective I like a lot. She’s a real lady. Always smells clean, like soap. A refreshing thing in this town full of bad aromas. She also usually carries a few pieces of kibble in her jacket pocket.

“Beau seems to be off his game today, doesn’t he?” my partner asked her.

“Give him a chance. The droplets have virtually disappeared. He needs to recapture the scent.” She knelt down and slipped me a bacon flavored treat. Ahh, bacon.

This is another reason I like her. She doesn’t rush me. My partner sometimes gets a bit impatient. He should know better. He’s supposed to be trained, too.

She patted me. “You’ll find the man, Beau. I have faith in you.”

Refreshed by the bacon and her praise, I lifted my nose in the air and concentrated on the odor of the dead guy’s blood. Trying to locate the scent by isolating it out of the atmosphere was harder than usual. Some guys up on one of the balconies were cooking burgers and hot dogs. The smoke wafting out from the wrought iron balustrades was distracting, to say the least. Yes, I just had a snack but surely it must be lunch time by now.

Although lunch time usually found me sitting in the station eating kibble or in our rig with the air conditioner running while my partner ate at 9 Roses Cafe near the cop shop. Trying to hit on the pretty detective. I don’t think he’s ever going to get her to go out with him even though I’d like it too. Since I live with him, she’d surely come by if she was dating him. I’d get lots of attention from her. In fact, I think she likes me better than she likes him. Oh, to be human.

As I pondered all the fun times we’d have if she came over, I caught a faint wisp of that blood I was seeking.

Without letting my partner know what I was going to do, I took off in a run. I probably pulled his shoulder out of joint judging by the way he yelped when I jerked him into a trot. Serves him right for acting like I’d lost the trail. Never mind that I had for a moment or two. What does he know?

Down the block we went until we ended up at a shotgun house painted yellow with green shutters. I loped up onto the porch and clawed at the door. The guy is in this house. I got a whiff of him. He smells like decayed leaves and something metallic.

There was another aroma as well. Fear. Sweat. Someone inside was terrified. There was someone in there with the guy. The stench of the terror came at me in waves.

I sat back on my haunches and whimpered. Man, I wish I could speak English and warn my partner there was danger inside to whoever was trapped in there with the bleeding man. The dude most likely wasn’t a corpse if this other person was so afraid.

Since I couldn’t tell him my thoughts, but knew I alerted on the door for a reason, my partner didn’t wait for me to do anything else. He knocked on the door and called out, “New Orleans Police.”

Nothing happened for a moment. Just me, the detective and my partner on the porch in silence.

Then a lady’s voice, “Please go away. I’m ill and can’t let you in. It’s contagious.”

“We can’t go, ma’am. We’re looking for someone who was shot before dawn and the trail leads here. We need to come inside and check for this man.”

“I don’t know what you mean. There’s nobody here. I promise.”

“Please let us in.” The detective knocked herself. “We can’t leave without checking the premises. Even if the man is dead, we need to come in.”

“There’s no dead person here.” The lady’s voice quavered.

At her words, my concern for the woman inside the house grew. She said there wasn’t a corpse. That meant I was right and there was a live person in there, holding her hostage.

Luckily, my partner had dropped my leash. He trusted me to stay put. This time, I wasn’t going to obey the rules. Someone was in trouble and I was the only one who knew it. I couldn’t verbalize what I knew, so I was going to have to act. Somehow.

I sidled away from the porch, hoping to find an entry point. If I could get my teeth on the guy, this would all be over.

Slinking around the corner, I inspected each window to see if there was one left open. I could see a couple of window unit air conditioners and hoped some of the windows without them were open to catch a cross breeze. No such luck. They were all tightly closed.

Luckily, the back door was a little bit ajar. I could see some blood droplets leading from it into the center of the next room. The guy must’ve been too hurt or lost too much of his vital fluids to have thought about closing it all the way. Stupid move for him, but lucky for me.

I nudged the door open with my nose and hoped my toenails didn’t give me away on the wood floor.

As I crept deeper into the house, the smell of the blood grew stronger as well as the stench of that lady’s fear.

I could hear my partner and the detective still trying to communicate from the front porch. There was no response from inside the house.

Small sobs alerted me to the hostage’s location. She was somewhere near the front door. Now I needed to know where the man with the bullet in him was sitting. I was pretty sure he wouldn’t be standing based on the amount of blood on the ground at the crime scene and along my path to this house.

“Stop crying or I’ll shoot you now.”

She gasped in fear, but I knew he’d never do it while officers were within hearing distance. All his words did was make her cry harder—but still almost silently—and alert me to his location.

As soon as I had a bead on him, I tore directly toward him, counting on the element of surprise.

I threw myself at him, paws out. My full weight hit him in the shoulders and chest.

Gore and mucus and other nasty smelling stuff from his gut wound covered my stomach where I hit him. Ugh.

Luckily, the weapon he was holding skittered across the wood floor.

The lady had the sense to grab it while I barked with my whole being.

Before the hostage could open the door, the injured man was screaming at her. “Get your dog off me. Get your dog off me.” I bit down on his arm to lock him in place although he didn’t seem to have much strength left to fight me.

The lady of the house stood there in a daze with the gun in her hand as my partner and the detective came in from the back.

“Beauregard. Are you okay?” my partner called out.

“Get this foul beast off me.” The wounded man fought against my hold on his arm. He was causing himself more pain. My teeth tend to create more damage when people fight against their grip. I might also have bit down a little harder. Foul beast? Me? Look in the mirror, mister. I’m not the foul one here. Except for your guts all over me.

While my partner called for an ambulance and took the man into custody, allowing me to release my grip, the detective turned to the former hostage who seemed a bit perkier now. “Do you know this man?”

“No. He barged into my house and said he was going to wait here for help. He called someone and they were bringing a doctor. He said he’d let me go when they got here. Then you knocked on the door and he threatened to kill me if I let you in.” She drew in a shuddering breath.

By this time, the man had passed out. Blood loss was my guess. He was really pale and barely breathing. No more fight left in this one.

The detective knelt down beside me. Even though I reeked with the man’s guts all over me, she kissed me on top of the head. “You’re such a good boy, Beau. Even if you stink and broke the rules about leaving your partner. Great work.”

She didn’t have to acknowledge my stench. With my nose, I was more aware of it than anyone in the room. It was nice to be kissed by a pretty detective, but a bit embarrassing to be so disgusting from my work. Just wait until I have a bath. Then she’ll see I’m worth not only a kiss on the head, but also some belly rubs. Oh, and being given extra andouille sausages and bacon treats. Mustn’t forget those.

*THE END*

Flu Vaccine

It’s the beginning of October and the days are getting shorter and cooler. And wetter, for us in the Pacific Northwest. I wanted to take a moment to urge everyone to get flu shots. This has been a scary year and, while my husband and I get flu shots every year, this year, it feels more important than ever. I had hoped to post a pic of my bandaid, but my appointment isn’t for two days yet. And I’ll have two bandaids as I’m getting my pneumonia vaccine as well.

Are flu shots 100% coverage? No, not from my research. They have to make an educated guess at what strain of the flu will be prevalent in the next season. Even if they guess right, it may not completely prevent you from getting the flu. But it can reduce symptoms. And if we don’t get sick, there are more resources available for treating COVID-19 patients.

How long does a flu shot protect me? About 6 months, which is why we get ours in early October. That carries us through until Spring.

Bottom line, I believe they are important and I’d just like to add my voice to the message that is trying to get us all, old and young, through this winter.

And, to leave you with happier thoughts, the following are pictures of my granddaughter’s new companion. My granddaughter is six, and you can see the bonding progress through these pictures. My heart is happy when I look at them.

I hope you have a safe, healthy, happy month.

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