Thursday, June 09, 2011
March 17, 2000 - June 7 2011
In the country you may not know every dog who lives along your road, but you always recognize a stranger. Sometimes a neighbor has gotten a new dog, but often what you see is that great rural tragedy, the dropped off dog. In honor of the dignity of my wonderful Priss, I won't go into what I think of the low-life scum that abandons a dog on my road but will confine myself to explaining that half way along the 3 mile stretch of tar, at the end of which, I live, there is a creek that is a tacit boundary of responsibility for dealing with downed trees, dead animals and dropped off dogs. If there is an issue on our side of the creek, we, and our closest neighbors, take care of it, calling out men with trucks and shovels and chain saws. On the other side of the creek, the responsibility falls on the folks who live closer to the big highway. It's just a shared duty divvied up by geography.
In the spring of 2000 ... March, to be exact ... I was driving home one day and just before I reached the dividing creek I looked out the window and on a gentle slope lay a little dog, head high, perky face, surrounded by 4 puppies. As I turned my head, she turned hers and our eyes met. Between us passed the arc of love that sometimes sparks across a distance, piercing deep into the heart. Her little soul whispered to mine “I'm yours. You are mine”.
With gritted teeth and clenching fingers I turned my head and drove on, muttering “I already have 2 dogs. You are not my responsibility. You are on the wrong side of the creek”. Have you ever thrust away love? Is there a moment in time you can remember when you turned your back on it? Rejected it? It is something you never forget. You'll think about it and obsess about it and wonder about it. I can't remember what I thought about that little dog later – if I contemplated going back to find her. I just don't know. What I do know is that 3 days later a man drove up to the house and said “did you know there is a mother dog and her 4 puppies at your mailbox?”
I knew then. I knew who the little dog was. I knew that she had come to me because we were meant to be. Mind now – my mailbox is half a mile from my house – and 2 miles from where I saw that little dog. The man was from Canada, come down to buy a sailboat from BD, with all the complications of an international sale, with currency exchanges and such. The boat wasn't even at our house, but at a marina in another county and they had to drive off to see it. It was a work day for me but they drove out first. At the time we had the most vivid black lab, Ike: a dog with more personality than you could fit in an entire circus of dogs. He always escorted BD off the farm but I followed shortly behind. At the mailbox there was Ike, beside himself with joy and fascination as he capered and pranced about the little dog. She responded in kind, actually flirting with him and letting him sniff her puppies.
What a beautiful little dog she was, too. Thirty-five pounds of thick silky fur, still puffed out with her winter down. Her face was pointed, her ears stood up in expectation, and her eyes were the most orange shade of brown I have ever seen. There was some shepherd in her dna; you could tell by the way the down fur was so white even though the top coat was brown – so she had that greenish cast you sometimes see in a German shepherd. And by now, by hook or by crook, I knew she was going to stay with me. How BD was going to be convinced, I wasn't sure, but by golly, this was one dog who was here to stay.
About that time, my farmer neighbor drove by and made a joking comment. I don't remember what he said, but I remember recognizing that he was thinking “thank goodness it's not my problem.” I understood – I'd said the same 3 days earlier. Besides, love was already gushing over me as I stroked and petted this little creature. Who cares what other people think? What I also did was scoop the puppies up and take them deeper into our own property, down by Jacob's Gut where they could get water to drink and be safe from cars. And be a little closer to my house without being too obvious to a certain someone who was already preoccupied with Other Things.
It was late when I got home, dark and pouring rain. The headlights picked out little furry puppies as I turned at my mailbox, but there was no little green dog with orange eyes. I piled the puppies into the car and brought them up to the house. No way was I going to leave them out in that storm – we have a dog house in the front yard. They could spend the night there. The surprise when I actually got to my house was that capering around in the rain was Ike and his inamorata. Already they wouldn't be parted. I was a little surprised that she'd abandon her puppies to go off with Ike – but I was also glad.
Mr. SoftHeart, Mr. TenderHearted, muttered a feeble complaint about stray dogs, but he really was tied up with negotiations with the Canadian fellow and, in fact, stayed so the rest of the weekend. Some other words about 'talking about it on Sunday' were probably spoken. What I remember was thinking that if I just lay low, things would work out.
And they did. I was working in the garden all that weekend, March 17, 18 and 19, according to BD's diary. I had a young boy helping me and I tried hard to pawn off one of the puppies onto his family, but the father absolutely refused. They were cute little fluff balls, but they were also, obviously, no-breed curs with only pet value. Most folk around here are looking for dogs who can do double duty, either hunting or herding or guarding. All weekend long, Ike and my dainty prissy little new love capered about, frisky, happy, flirty. On Sunday, a neighbor came up with his friendly black lab to give him a long country walk and the little mother nearly bit his nose off for even looking like he'd smell her puppies. Obviously she was a fierce protective mother – except when it came to Ike, where she knew her true destiny lay. In fact, time came when we began to call her Ike's Wife.
And so. There was a long walk with my wonderful husband, oh man of enormous heart, where we hashed out the future. He had all the good arguments for not keeping such a dog – a stray, an adult, probably with heart worms, with her personality already formed, bad habits already in place, who knew what her history was, a cur, a traveler, a burdensome family of puppies. The same arguments that had flashed through my own mind in the brief moment of first seeing her. In the end, of course, love prevailed. “What are you going to call her?” he asked me and I replied “Priss, because she is so dainty and almost prissy”.
And that is who she became. Our little green dog with orange eyes. Miss Priss. Ike's Wife. Sleek, stubborn, independent, she became dog #3 in our household. She was unpredictable. She would bolt the moment she was let out of a car and refuse to come when called, so that eventually we wouldn't take her anywhere except on long walks about the property. Even then, walks with Priss involved her dashing off into the woods, or across the fields, only to circle back to us when we were on the way home. When we went swimming, she'd disappear into the field behind the swimming beach and often didn't catch up with us till we were in the middle of the creek paddling home. She had a way of begging that involved pawing you and the curvature of her claws always made her gesture dangerous – lethal if you were in the river swimming with her. We treated her with more gentleness than we've ever given any of our dogs – no rough play with her – because it was obvious that she'd had some pretty serious trauma in her early years. There was a bit of buckshot just below the skin over her hip. She quailed at gunshot or even the sight of a gun or the sound of it being loaded. Thunder sent her, not just indoors, but under my bed. We got so we knew if a summer storm was on the way because we'd hear the screen door slam shut and she'd come dashing into the house, up to us, seeking comfort.
Her devotion to Ike remained strong and she mimicked some of his gestures. He would always plunge his whole face into water whenever he drank and she did too. Only last Sunday BD and I remarked on how she was still drinking like Ike – and we said simultaneously “Ike's Wife”. Ike had a fanatic's passion for chasing balls and when the apples ripened and fell from the tree, Priss would get an apple, run up to Ike and toss her head, letting the ball fly, so he could chase it.
That was our Priss. BD found homes for all 4 of her puppies. We had 3 dogs. A year later we found baby puppy Socks on Our Side of the Creek and we had 4 dogs. Then Ike died. Then Topsy. Jack came to live with us in 2005. Each time a dog would leave us our broken hearts grieved. Each time a new dog would come to us our swelling hearts would rejoice. We are dog people and we give dogs a special, country life full of smells and tastes and space, with warm fires in the winter and cool cement floors in the summer.
A few years ago Priss developed a limp that made her squeal when she put weight on her front paw. Concerned that it might be a dislocated shoulder I dropped her off at the vets on my way to work. Later that day the vet called me, angrier than I thought it possible for such a gentle spoken man to be. The fury in his voice was palpable, it oozed down the phone line to drip into my ear and pool on my desk. “Do you know your dog's been shot?” the venomous voice demanded.
Shocked, I tried to figure out how I could have transported Priss all the way from my house to town without noticing any blood anywhere. “Impossible. I know I would have noticed if she had been bleeding” I remonstrated.
“Not now. This is an old wound.” came back the gritted answer, and how well I remember the sensation of muscles relaxing. I hadn't noticed how tense I'd become with his first question. “Oh yes. I know. There's a little buckshot just below the skin of her hip” I explained.
“No. She's been shot. With a hollow nosed bullet. Her neck and shoulder are full of shrapnel. She's peppered with it. There's nothing I can do.”
I reeled then. I'd have sat down if I hadn't already been sitting. Evidently, the early years of Priss' life had been harder than I'd realized. I called BD, who drove into town, looked at the X-rays, talked things over with the doctor and then took her home. We treated her with a little buffered aspirin, but when she began chasing and wrestling with Jack again, we stopped.
It was autumn when this happened and shortly thereafter Priss got a cocklebur wrapped up in the thick fur around her neck, forming a lump about an inch long and half an inch thick. In the evening I sat with her between my legs, gently working the burr out when suddenly the top of that lump just lifted up like the lid on a trashcan and out of it rose a piece of metal! A fragment of that bullet had formed a cyst and worked its way out of her body! I kept that tiny thing for years, along with a natural pearl I'd found in an oyster one Christmas – but it was lost last winter in a fit of cleaning up after the holidays.
In the past 18 months Priss seemed to have aged a lot. She couldn't jump up into the big bed. She grew a little deaf. She stayed curled up beneath her favorite bush by the front door. Her face grew grey. She still ran fast and hard across the fields and through the woods. She still walked 3 miles for every mile I walked. And on Sunday we took her for a nice long walk down the New Path. I had a library function that afternoon and came home around dinnertime. BD usually feeds the dogs and it was a hot afternoon, so I never noticed, and thus, never asked, about Priss. I figured she was in the cool beneath her bush out front.
But Monday morning she wasn't there waiting to come in for her biscuit. This was not like her and I was a little concerned, though not unduly – because, after all, we live in the country. All sorts of interesting things, smells, sounds, can tempt a dog away from the front door. When I got home, though, I asked Himself if he'd seen her and, at first he said yes, but after a moment's thought he said he hadn't seen her all day. We looked around the yard, and in the hideyholes that our dogs retreat to if they're upset about something – but no Priss. Tuesday morning she still wasn't in her spot by the front door and while I was at work BD went searching for her.
And he found her. Lying in Jacob's Gut – on the north side, where she likes to stop for a drink when we take long walks, out to the mile point or even beyond to Robert's Landing. Her back half was paralyzed and she had obviously been there some time. My darling man picked her up and gently placed her on the road while he went back to get the truck. When he got her home he fed her and she ate and drank but she was still immobile. He took her down to the clinic and dear Dr.L gave him the bad news. I hurried over to be in on the conference. Was it cancer? A slipped disc? Was there anything that could be done? An MRI? Surgery? Almost 3 days in paralysis already? Minimal to no chance of recovery? A wheeled cart strapped to her waist? Diapers?
Each word was a bullet into my own heart. My Priss – so wild. So independent. So generous to have loved us and trusted us after such a rocky start? Poked and prodded and cut and strapped by strangers? She had had a life of good doggness. I wasn't about to rob her of the dignity of a gentle ending. And neither was the softer, kinder, more tender half of this marriage. Instead, we loved our Priss all the way to the end – without a tear or a sad sound in our voices, until she had fallen into her final deep sleep. And then we could sob and we are sobbing still. But we aren't regretting a thing. Only savoring the grief that must come with love. Even my sadness feels - almost good – because it is so very right.
Oh Priss. I love you. I loved you the moment I saw you. I loved you for 11 wonderful years. I will love you as long as I live. Wait for me up ahead and we'll take a walk down heaven's country lane once again.
Wednesday, June 01, 2011
As I told you in my last blog - I've been following the new Weight Watcher's Points Plus plan since March and so far I've dropped 9 lbs after flirting with the extra 3 christmas lbs I put on at the end of 2010 - up one week, down the next.
I joined WW in 2003 and took off almost 40 lbs as I learned a number of staggering truths about my eating habits. Oh - I already knew that a bag of M&M's was going to load on the lbs and a that butter doesn't come from cows, but is rather, the sweat of the devil. What I learned from the WW guys first time around was what 4 oz of meat looks like - and baby it's not much. And that if planed it out carefully, there was room for a stack-0-pancakes with syrup on an otherwise healthy diet, but not very often.
In fact, once I figured out just what "that much syrup" cost me in points/calories/however you measure your food - I pretty much lost interest in pancakes. Even though it's the Sunday Breakfast in our house. I do the cooking so it's not too hard to make my particular favorite, which is a Parmesan (high quality) cheese omelette.
So. Portion control was the powerful lesson I learned from WW the first time around. I already liked healthy food - I just ate too much of it. And living that close to - even over - the edge meant that a party with birthday cake - a wedding with bacon wrapped scallops - a bar-b-cue with potato salad - would sneak on another pound or so and my regular habits didn't whittle it off again.
So what happened? Ah. Well. Life happened, of course. With family crises and boredom and oh just all those things that DO happen. And then, any plan you get to know really well, you learn how to sabotage - and for me it was with the (s)wheat things - the 2 point bars that WW manufactures and other flour based foods that I finally gave in to. Honest and true - I seriously love grain products - whether they're sweet ones or savory ones. It just got easier and easier to eat wheat/rice/quinoa/amaranth/oat/barley you name it any grain!!! - than to eat the other stuff. Or worse, in addition to the other stuff. Given the opportunity to step into a kitchen and pick a single thing - it was always more likely to be a grain product. Then, guilltily I would think "Oh - I need some protein" or "oops. better add some vegetables" - this on top of a stomach bloated with delicious whole grains. Oh - and then, well, a little glass of wine with dinner.....
You see how it was. Gram by gram I tolerated the weight till suddenly I was wearing at a size 16 once again and wondering if I ought to try that 18. And the evil one whispered in my ear "You're almost 60. Who cares what you weigh?"
yeah. That too.
But of course, I do. And more than that - I hate how uncomfortable I am in the summer when the double chin sweats against my neck. And I hate it when I hide behind the children in the family reunion photographs. Yeah - those are the true irritations of being overweight when you're 'almost 60'.
So here I am back at the WW meeting and what do you know - they gave me just the tool I was looking for. I am a closet math girl - too lazy and slap dash to be a real mathematician, I still absolutely love what you can do with math. I love strategic planning. I love budgets. I'm really really REALLY good at living within almost any sized budget and maximizing the delights and treats I can purchase with my cleverly budgeted funds. I look on numbers the exact same way I look at a box of crayons - and see limitless possibilities. So here comes WW re-calculating the numbers for us, giving us more points to work with, upping all the grain based points (even their own snack foods) and taking away the points on fruits and vegetables. Better than that, they go and give us a little calculator! Well. they don't give it to you - you have to pay for it - but it's cheap and it's cool and it keeps track of what I've eaten with absolutely no possibility of going back and changing things.
So that is where I am with the new WW program. Cutting back (but not out) the grain products, enjoying the fruits and vegetables, having fun with my cousin, who's doing this with me, and playing with the cute little calculator toy. I can see progress on the scales and am able to wear some of the clothes I'd plumped out of over the past few years. It's all good.
I'm aware, also, that the time may come when I'll figure out how to sabotage this plan too - but maybe this time I'll have a different attitude. Bad juju could wham into my life - no reason to think bad stuff doesn't happen in the lives of thin people as well as the fluffy ones - but that doesn't have to be the motivator for a date with the hostess twinkee box. I am certainly not going to worry about it. It's just a little factoid I have filed away - knowledge brings power that temptation can take advantage of.
In the meantime, I'm enjoying the healthy eating and looking forward to a single chin!
Hope you find your own motivator and cool toys to play with on your journey into good health.
Friday, May 27, 2011
It seems as if I have time for one long serious bit of writing in the early mornings: an important email, a post to my personal blog Likethequeen2 likethequeen2.blogspot.com or musings about my weight loss journey here. Since that particularly journey didn't seem to be going anywhere this winter, I haven't been tempted to prose much about it. Now, though, I feel I ought to catch you all up on where I have been and what is happening so - here goes!
I have a dear cousin who has shared with me the foibles, battles, failures and triumphs of weight issues for almost 40 years. This past Christmas we were both closer to the loosing end than the winner's mark and as a Christmas present I offered to pay 2 months gym membership or 2 months at Weight Watcher's - and if she chose WW I would also go with her to meetings. It wasn't till March that she was ready to choose and she picked WW. We used to go to meetings in another little town nearby - I even made it to my goal and to their lifetime status!! But as life and bad habits slowly layered onto my body, so did those pesky 20-25 lbs. I continued to attend meetings for a long time but there came a day when it seemed to me that I was giving them money for something I wasn't buying. Weight Watchers is a very sound program, but as any long time weight managing adult knows - every system can be circumvented. Though I liked the people at the meeting, I also don't like throwing good money away. It became an honesty issue for me ... and ever so slightly ... a location issue because the place they met was awfully moldy and had a heating system that drowned out the leader.
My own doctor's office (both m.d.'s) strongly urge the South Beach diet for their patients and I certainly looked into it - but everything about SB depressed me, from the voice of the doctor reading the audio book to the miserably strict regimen for beginners. I k now - one is not required to start at the strictest first 2 weeks - one could leap over stage I and II and follow their maintenance recommendations and lose slowly and easily. somehow - I was too blue after reading the first half of the book to give the second half a fair chance.
So - about the time WW came up with their new plan (looks so much like south beach maintenance ... or the Edgar Casey Alkalizing program I can hardly tell them apart) H and I started attending meetings at lunchtime in our own little town. Much easier to do than staying out nights, held at the meeting room of my own gym, so even more convenient. And of course, I'm taking along a buddy.
I don't know why things clicked this time - though I admit, I love the little hand held calculator as a daily tracking tool. I love it that pretty much all fruits and vegetables are points free. I love it that they've upped the points of all their snack products. It used to be that when a banana was worth 2 points and one of their candy bars was also worth 2 points .. well, heck. I'd choose the candy bar. Now that I'm choosing between a 0 point banana and a 2 point candy bar .. easy peasy, huh?
The main thing I've done, besides watching portion control, has been to scale back the amount of flour products I consume. I seriously bread but since they upped the points for an average slice of bread I find it easier to eat fewer slices. Of course, we're rolling into the fresh garden produce season - our local farmer's market held its first day last Saturday and boy did I stock up. Salads are a daily offering at Chez Bess. I've made it through a long vacation, 3 receptions with "heavy" hors d'oeuvres, 2 graduation parties, a Kentucky Derby party (with mint juleps), a wedding, 2 birthday parties and a funeral over the past 2 months and the weight is still slowly coming off.
I have to give WW credit for finding a combination of tools and tricks that is working for me, but I also give myself some credit for working with WW. It feels good to see the downward movement. It feels great to go shopping in the attic for "new" clothes. I like the new program a lot - certainly enough to shell out the $10 a meeting it is costing me. The 9 lb weight loss since Christmas is an added incentive.
So - Just wanted y'all to know where I was. In a good place. Here is hoping each of you is finding that sweet spot too.
Wednesday, March 09, 2011
Got to wear it yesterday!
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Whole grains. We're always hearing about how important they are for us. Lots of fiber, essential vitamins and minerals. All that good stuff. And then you're given your options. Dry cereal or factory baked bread. Mind now - I totally love bread. If I had to pick a single Desert Island Food it would be bread. But I have yet to find a store bought bread that I really want to eat. Something in the recipe, possibly whatever it is that gives these breads any shelf life at all, just ruins it for me. Even the fancy bakeries in the city have disappointed me. That leaves baking bread myself. Fortunately, I like to bake bread and often do, but I can't always bake it and to get me to light up my oven in the summertime requires a visit from the queen.
Dry cereals don't appeal to me. For me, a filling size portion of dry cereal needs to be a cup and a half. I love me some hot oatmeal - and I like grits well enough. I like all good tasting grain products. But I'm tired of what is available locally - which is whatever is available from Walmart and Food Lion. Some interesting flours but few and besides - flour means baking and I am curious about what these grains taste like just plain.
And so, my 2011 food quest is to sample Whole Grains in as many ways as I can. I started with what's already in my house which was Quinoa flour and pearled barley. I already knew I liked barley and I was curious about what the cookbook authors meant by quinoa's earthy taste.
okay. earthy means it tastes like dirt.
LOL well, no. it just had that hint of dirt - earth - scent and taste when I dipped my finger into the flour and tasted it. And the authors (dang. I don't have the book near me but I'll have it next time I post) did warn me that it does well cut with something sweet in the bread, like pine nuts. I didn't have any pine nuts and I really didn't want to make a sweet bread.
I used their recipe which is a pretty basic bread recipe ... 3 cups liquid to 6 cups dry. I used 3 cups whole wheat, 2 cups all purpose and 1 cup quinoa and, as per the recipe, double the yeast. which is good since I had to quit making the bread mid-way and put it in the refrigerator after the first rise. As such, it came out a little denser than I think it would have been if I'd been able to stick with the normal time schedule. Happily, I like dense bread.
Unhappily, the quinoa gives a slight bite or tang to my bread. It fades quickly and can be completely masked by a nut butter - almond or peanut worked. Interestingly, Jelly and blueberry butter did NOT mask the tang.
I don't call it good bread unless it's good with nothing on it - so I would give quinoa a go by as a flour product. I'm not sure what I'll do with the rest of this bag of flour either, since I'm really not tempted to bake anything more with it ... but I am still researching recipes. I may change my mind.
As for the barley - oh. well. YUM.
I already knew I loved barley. I love it in soup and my husband insists it be put in pot roast - and sometimes I comply. The down side to barley and most of the whole grains - is it takes a LONG time to cook them. With barley, though, you can cook up a big batch - it swells to three times its size so 1 cup uncooked will give you 3 cups cooked - and refrigerate it. I like it hot with a few raisins, cinnamon, a dot of butter and a little milk. Yum. In fact - I will have some for breakfast today. And it's yummy in salads. But we had it with a shrimp stir fry made up of a pound of shrimp, a bag of frozen stir-fry vegetables, sliced mushrooms, some garlic, a pinch of pepper flakes, about 1/2 teaspoon of powdered mustard and maybe 1/4 cup soy sauce. a little water, a teaspoon of corn starch for thickening .. even my picky eater husband loved it.
I love how long you can chew barley - it makes a half a cup of breakfast cereal last a long time and it lasts a long time in my tummy. Three days now I've had it for breakfast at 8 and wasn't hungry at all even when noon rolled around. That alone is enough to make barley my new favorite grain ... but there are So Many Others out there - and I plan to try them all.
Happy Hump Day
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