First therapy dog visit

I have run out of space for photos on this blog! To read about Sudo’s first therapy dog visit, go to my new blog, It’s Okay, I Have A Book. I’ll move the last year or so of content from here over to there sometime soon, but right now it’s past my bedtime.

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Spring gardening, indoor edition

Indoor edition, because it’s 24 degrees out. On March 22. Which is technically spring, but Someone missed the memo. As usual.

This year, I’m planning to start plants from seed indoors, but it’s too early even for that – the packets say to start them 4-6 weeks before the average last frost, which, to be safe, I have to estimate will be around Memorial Day weekend. So I’ll start my tomatoes, herbs, and “bunny tails” (grass that’s fluffy on top, guess who that’s for) in April, and the radishes and sweet peas outside “4-6 weeks before the average last frost, or when the soil temperature is 40 degrees F.” (July?)

Meanwhile, I took cuttings from several of my healthy indoor plants to start some new little plants.

African violet

This happy African violet (above) donated a leaf (below). I’ve never started one African violet from another, but my mom says it’s possible. I had one of my four violets die over the winter, so I’m trying to replace it.


I’ve also been periodically cutting back my three mint plants and letting them root in water, so I planted a couple of those as well (one is in the red pot, above).

Succulent plant

This succulent (above) has been growing loopily all over the place, so I took a bit of root and a bit of growth from the top and started them in a new square container (below left; below right is another mint cutting).


The mystery plant from Trader Joe’s shed its orange flowers but is still growing healthy new leaves (below).


And all the herbs, somewhat improbably, made it through the winter: rosemary, mint, basil, chives, and parsley.

mint and rosemary

basil and chives

Lastly, I transplanted some miniature daffodils (paperwhites?) from the tiny pot they came in to a bigger pot.


It might be a lost cause, but we’ll see. Maybe I can move them outside when other spring flowers start poking their heads up, whenever that might be. (July?)

Yes, it’s springtime in New England! The time of year that the “it may be in the twenties, but at least it’s sunny” consolation starts wearing real thin, and everyone is sick of winter boots, and, upon seeing snowflakes begin to float down from the sky, has a reaction resembling PTSD.

Sudo in armchair

“I just want to go outside without my jacket.”

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New routines

At the end of the day, I gather up some of Sudo’s toys from where she has scattered them about the living room and put them back on her bed in our bedroom. In the morning, she carries them out one by one (“incoming,” we say to each other as she marches through with a yellow teddy bear in her mouth) and distributes them around the house. This is pretty much the extent of her “playing.” It’s not uncommon that we’ll throw a toy for her when she’s in a playful mood, she’ll catch it once, and when we throw it again, she lets it hit her in the face. Playtime over. Commence eighteenth nap of the day.

This morning, though, I noticed one of her toys in an unusual place.

Notice the stuffed duck on the chair.

Notice the stuffed duck on the chair.

“Ben,” I asked, “did you do this?” He came to look. No, he had not left a stuffed duck on his chair. “She left you a present!” I said. Ordinarily, she only deposits things in places where she might use them for a pillow later – her bed, the couch, the recliner, the futon, the floor. She’s pretty flexible but I don’t think she would try to curl up in a plastic folding chair.

A distribution of toys.

A distribution of toys.

Meanwhile, she seemed pretty much the same.

"Who, me?"

“Who, me?”

It kind of reminded me of the scene in The Boggart by Susan Cooper where the Boggart leaves a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on Jessup’s chair as a present, but Jessup misinterprets the gesture and thinks his sister booby-trapped his chair. He should have known better; Emily would never do such a thing.

"It wasn't a literary allusion. I can't even read."

“It wasn’t a literary allusion. I can’t even read.”

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The Boston Obstacle Course

It’s like our very own Winter Olympics! And the prize is More Snow.

Obstacle #1: Walk without tripping or slipping.

caution loose bricks in sidewalk

missing bricks from sidewalk

Obstacle #2: Figure out when other obstacle course participants (walking, biking, or driving) are on the other side of a snowbank from you. Dodge them to avoid a collision, without tripping and falling.

roadside snowbank

Obstacle #3: Avoid deadly icicles.

very big icicles

Obstacle #4: Guess the object under the snow. Be specific; what kind of car is it?

cars under snow

Obstacle #5: Get to work on time via public transit. (To my knowledge no one has yet achieved this final and most difficult obstacle, but the efforts put forth to accomplish it have been, may I say, Olympian.)


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The Arts are fine, the Grammar not so much.

Ben and I escaped our house on Saturday for the few hours between blizzards to go to the MFA, and it was lovely. We saw the “D is for Design” exhibit, Klimt’s Adam and Eve (on loan), Japanese paper toys, cool glass sculptures in the contemporary art area, “Nature, Sculpture, Abstraction, and Clay,” and “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.” Each of these exhibits was on the small side, just one room each (and the Klimt was just one painting, though it was surrounded by Oskar Kokoschka’s Two Lovers and a few Egon Schiele paintings and drawings).

In the “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” room, however, I encountered a problem (click to enlarge the photo below).

two literallys

literally the tip of the iceberg”

The word “literally” was used twice in five sentences. I’ll give them the second one; I’ve never been to the Scharfs’ home, and it may well be that there are fascinating things to look at “quite literally everywhere,” even the bathroom. (Incidentally, I once saw a Klimt print hanging sideways in someone’s bathroom. Not that the Scharfs’ would ever do such a thing, though it would be fascinating if they did.) But that first “literally”? No. The part of the collection in that room in the MFA was not “literally” the tip of the iceberg, or it would have been the tip of an iceberg. And, fortunately, it just wasn’t that cold in there. (I couldn’t even make a good Titanic joke, because the model ships were safely two rooms away.)

I know that language is not static; it changes over time. I know that in at least one case (the word “cleave”) a word may mean one thing (“to adhere closely; to remain faithful”) and its opposite (“to split or divide; to cut off; sever”). I know that language changes and evolves because of the way people use it, whether or not that usage is accepted as correct at the time (usually it’s not). But there are plenty of good alternatives for what people mean when they misuse the word “literally”: try “figuratively,” or “metaphorically,” or “as it were,” or just use a metaphor or a simile or an analogy or a stronger adjective or adverb to make your point.

Or put a damn iceberg in the room, if that’s literally what you mean.

But. On the plus side, this exhibit had a model of the Ford Fairlane, the car that Henry DeTamble’s parents drive in The Time Traveler’s Wife, and it does indeed have magnificent fins:

Ford Fairlane

And we got out of our house for a few hours, and ate a delicious lunch at the cafe, and tried out these green chenille beanbag chairs, which are even comfier than they look:

bean bag chair

All in all it was quite a good outing. It was nice to see some color, and it was even nice to get out of pajamas and into real clothes (well, jeans), and I expect we’ll go back again in the spring when the Da Vinci exhibit goes up. If spring ever comes.

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Keeping an eye on the stray sheep

It’s indisputable that of the two humans in the house, I’m the dog’s favorite, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t keep track of Ben’s whereabouts too. When he goes outside to shovel snow (again), she watches through the window…at least for a few minutes.

Sudo looking out window

Brr, it looks cold out there. Why did he go out there?

Sudo ears alert

Where’d he go? (This is where she’ll hop from the recliner to the couch so she can get a better view.)

And he gets the third degree when he comes back inside.

Sudo legs crossed

Do you know what time it is, mister? Don’t walk away while I’m talking to you. You said you’d be home an hour ago.

All that vigilance really tires her out, though.

Sudo napping on couch

Whew, my eyes were open for five whole minutes there. Time for a nap with my stuffed animal friends.

You think shoveling is hard work? Try watching someone shovel.

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Even more snow days

The next time I have to go to work on a Monday, it’s going to be a rude shock. As of tomorrow, it’ll be three in a row, and next week is Presidents’ Day, so I already know we’ll be closed (but who knows, it could be snowing then too, it probably will be if the last three weeks are any indication). I’ve enjoyed the extra time at home to sleep in, read more (including all three books I mentioned in my last snow day post), and cuddle with the dog, speaking of which (whom?)…

Sudo is certified as a therapy dog!

Sudo and her new friend Daisy, certified therapy dogs!

After attending three workshops with Dog B.O.N.E.S. (Building Opportunities for Nurturing and Emotional Support), Sudo, Ben, and I are a certified therapy dog team. This does NOT mean Sudo can (or should) assist the blind in crossing streets, nor does it mean that I can take her on a plane as my “emotional support animal”; what it does mean is that we can visit places like assisted living facilities, nursing homes, colleges, and anywhere else where her presence might brighten someone’s day. Our instructors were great, and the classes were a very good start to what I hope will be a rewarding volunteer experience. (I think Sudo earned extra points for not trying to chew the tennis balls off the walker feet; unlike, say, golden retrievers, Sudo cares not a whit for tennis balls.)

I’m pretty certain she’ll enjoy visiting people who want to pet her. What she is enjoying less is this:



But until she learns to use the toilet – and I just can’t see that happening – three times a day we must rouse her from one of the below poses to go outside, at least for a few minutes.

Snuggling with stuffed alligator toy

Snuggling with stuffed alligator toy

Tucked under a blanket on the couch

Tucked under a blanket on the couch

Pretending that outdoors does not exist

Pretending that outdoors does not exist

Somewhat miraculously, Ben’s birthday outing was not snowed out. Six of us made it to Danvers to play indoor mini-golf, because nothing says grown-up birthday party like glow-in-the-dark monster-themed mini-golf. (Right, other grown-ups who read this blog?)

Par three? Are they kidding?

Par three? Are they kidding?

Cool, right?

Cool, right?

Both before and after indoor mini-golf, we stood around in the parking lot and ate homemade cupcakes out of the trunk of our car. This is also a very grown-up thing to do. (Hey, we knew enough not to bring outside food into the establishment. If glow-in-the-dark monster-themed indoor mini-golf can be called an establishment.)



While I was planning that classy outing for Ben’s birthday, he took me to see Nick Hornby. So yeah, I think we’re even.

What will tomorrow’s snow day reading be? Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug, Howards End by E.M. Forster (it was mentioned in Vanessa and Her Sister), another book from my TBR list? We shall see…

Last, and least, the rose bush got another haircut:


Almost a year old – it was a Valentine’s Day present last year.


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Snow days

The blizzard hit pretty much as predicted in our area. This morning I went out the back door and waded through snow above my knees. We took Sudo out the front instead, so there was only a little deep snow before the street, which had been plowed at least once during the night or early morning. Coming back in, Ben was going to dig a little path through the snow banked between the street and the front steps, but Sudo had had enough of being outside, and tried to jump straight over the snowbank. She kind of got stranded on her belly, since the snow was taller than she was, but she paddled on through, ran up the stairs, and tried to push the front door open with her face. She’d be shocked to learn she’s the same species as a husky.




In this one you can see how she’s squinting her eyes against the snow and wind.

Inside, we’ve been well provisioned, having purposefully created leftovers for the past couple days in case the power went out (it hasn’t). Fresh baked bread, North African stew, pasta with homemade sauce, chocolate chip cookies, and lots of tea and hot cocoa. And that’s just the food! We also have stacks of books. I finished God’s Hotel by Victoria Sweet (thanks Erin!) and am trying to decide what to read next – The Art of Fielding? The first in Tamora Pierce’s Immortals series? Vanessa and Her Sister? Decisions, decisions.

Back inside and ensconced in her armchair once again.

Back inside and ensconced in her armchair once again.


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Winter rose

The miniature rose bush I pruned back to nearly nothing is doing extremely well indoors.

November 9, 2014

November 9, 2014

November 23, 2014

November 23, 2014

January 9, 2015

January 9, 2015

January 9, 2015

January 9, 2015

January 12, 2015

January 12, 2015

January 12, 2015

January 12, 2015

January 12, 2015

January 12, 2015

Once these blooms start to fade, I’ll cut it back again. Because that’s what you’re supposed to do, right? I really should read a gardening book one of these days. Any recommendations?

Aside from the rose bush, most of the other plants are still doing well indoors too (except one of the African violets seems to be dying, I’m not sure why), and I’ve added an orchid to the bunch. My track record with orchids is so-so; I know to drench them and then let them dry out completely before watering them again, and keep them out of direct sunlight (they actually do okay in offices). We’ll see how long I can keep this one alive.

New orchid, January 12, 2015

New orchid, January 12, 2015

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On Letter-Writing, II

2014 yielded 4 inches of letters.

2014 yielded 4 inches of letters.

A year ago, I read Simon Garfield’s book To the Letter and Lewis Carroll’s “Eight or Nine Wise Words On Letter-Writing” and was inspired to start writing letters again. Luckily, I had four equally dedicated correspondents, plus a few friends who send postcards when they travel (and sometimes even when they stay home).

Reading and writing so many letters this past year has been a pleasure, and it’s an activity I plan to continue this coming year. Letters are a different quality of communication compared to e-mail, talking on the phone, or social media; they’re a little more organized, a lot more thoughtful, and they have more personality. I’ve loved recognizing friends’ handwriting on envelopes when I pick up the mail, seeing what stamps they chose, what kind of paper and ink. I’ve sent and received beautiful and unique cards and postcards, and I’ve learned about more facets of my friends’ lives than I would have in any other way.

To my letter-writing friends, thank you. Here’s to 2015.


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