Debating Dumb


Trust me, it’s not political, keep reading.

There is a great debate in the Hag’s house whether our much-loved canine cohort is, indeed, dumb.

There is evidence to support this theory. She hasn’t learned to open doors, like one of our other dogs did. She is deathly afraid of odd things, like paper bags, the freezer and sneezes. I have watched her spend an inordinate amount of time in the living room, stalking a stray sock (which she had brought in from the laundry room a few minutes earlier) then jumping three feet in the air as she pawed it and it moved.

She consistently scares herself as she vigorously wags her long tail and knocks everything over in its path. And chasing said tail never gets old. She has no idea how delicious treats from a people dinner sometimes magically appear in her food bowl. She never met a stranger, and would jump up and wildly lick Satan himself, should he wish to drop by for a visit.

Her excursions to the dog park consist mostly of running up to a dog, getting scared, and running back to me.

And she will eat anything, including plastic Easter eggs and shoe inserts.

Many of these oddities probably can be attributed to her rough start. She was abandoned in the country, like so many puppies, and rescued when she was about eight weeks old. No one is sure how long she managed on her own. We got her about four weeks later, and she was still frighteningly skinny (not only her ribs sticking out, but her hip bones, as well) full of worms, ear infections and skin problems. The first few weeks, we took her on small walks, and she kept her tail tucked at all times, warily eyeing the scenery.

She eventually thrived, and now is probably one of the most adored and spoiled princesses in the history of doggie love.


But I contend the girl is smart …. very smart. Or at least, her language skills are amazing.

There are many words she understands, such as all of the usual commands, most of which she will follow, if she feels like it and is not too excited.

She knows other things, as well. If you say the word “bath” to her, she will lower her head and ears, tuck her tail and run out of the room;  a useful tool at times.

She also gets very excited every time she sees me put on tennis shoes, or a baseball hat. To her, this means the hallowed walk is about to commence, and she proceeds to leap into the air with joy. I started telling her, “No, I’m going to the gym,” when I was, in actuality, dressed for a walk but indeed going to the gym. Within a week, she knew “going to the gym” was a terrible thing, and would abruptly end her happy dance, give me a disappointed/death to you look and walk away. We now use “going to the gym” anytime we are going out, and she is not invited. She’s not happy, and it works!

She also knows weird and random things, like “Let’s go check the mail,” which prompts her to run to the mailbox.

We are also a musical family, known to break out into song at least daily. I made up my own tune for going to the dog park, with riveting lyrics, including and limited to: “We’re going to the dog park, going to the dog park, going to the dog park, going to the do o o o o gie  park.” When I sing it she runs and gets her collar, then out to my car she goes.

As this is the limit of my songwriting skills, I picked another song to denote dog walks. I reached into my favorite Broadway bag and pulled out an appropriate tune from West Side Story… “Something’s Coming.” For those of you who are not former choir nerds or musical fans, the pertinent lyrics include “Could it be? Yes it could, something’s coming, something good …” I can sing it to her, or have Alexa (Excedrin? Alexandra? Alecia?) play it, the results are the same, she knows, she is excited, she runs to grab her collar and sits by the front door.

As an experiment, as I am only working sporadically right now and have a lot of free time on my hands, I tried just humming or whistling the tune to see if she recognized music. Nope, she needs the words.

As  final proof of the genius level of my dog, I give you this snippet. Lily’s first Christmas, a nephew was experimenting with her obedience skills. “Sit!” Check. “Stay!” Check. “Shake!” Check. “Lay down.” Nothing. “Lay down.” Again, nothing. I walked by and said, “Lie down!” and she promptly did. Is there any dog more suited to be my constant companion? I think not.



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Guns Or Butter

guns or butter

In college economics classes, we learned “guns or butter” to simplify a country’s compromise between military/defense spending (guns) and investment in the production of goods (butter).

What was demonstrated is that you can’t have all of one, or the other suffers. It has to be a logical balance. Perhaps this basic principle of balance and common sense can be applied to gun control. I believe there is a logical compromise that most citizens would support, a balance between the right to bear arms and a citizen’s right not to be gunned down by military weaponry in a civilian setting.

I have guns in my house. I am not sure what exactly they are. I am not a gun person. They are my husband’s. He very occasionally hunts ducks and deer.

I am not anti-gun. I think hunting is fine, as long as you eat what you kill, and are not doing it just for the sport of killing. I think anyone who wants to arm themselves to protect their family and home has the right to do so. I am not opposed to open or concealed carry.

I personally don’t like guns. When we had children, I asked my husband to store his rifles (is that what they are?) somewhere outside of our home, inaccessible to our kids. He did. When they grew up and out, the rifles came back in.* I am fine with that, although I will never touch them.

I am a big fan of the constitution and the amendments. Of course 1 is my favorite, but 2 is fine, too.

But … There should be no semi-automatic or automatic assault rifles available to the general public. There should be no bump stocks or other gadgets you can buy to convert guns into automatic weapons. (Even the NRA says it now agrees with that.) There should be stringent background checks wherever guns are sold. Each gun should be registered when bought, so that we could be alerted if someone was amassing an arsenal. Yes, you have the right to bear arms. Registration and oversight don’t negate or even infringe upon that freedom.

I heard a representative of the NRA say that the current regulations don’t work and are not being enforced by prosecution, so his solution is to do away with them. My solution is to fix them, tighten them, enforce them, and apply them to anywhere guns are sold.

I have heard all of your arguments. First, your broad view of the second amendment.  It differs from mine. By your interpretation, any type of weapon is within your rights. Air to ground missiles? Nuclear warheads?

Next, the NRA quote that the only thing that stops bad guys with guns is good guys with guns, which was patently not true in Las Vegas. The only way this could work is if everyone strapped on an automatic rifle, to make it a fair fight. That is not the world I want to see.

Then we hear that if we pass gun legislation, only law-abiding citizens will obey, and  criminals will still have guns. I am not asking for a total gun ban. I don’t think anyone but people on the fringe want or expect that.  Keep all your guns, except your semiautomatic or automatics. A ban on these weapons would prevent future  purchases. Yes, some crazy people may still have them. We can’t make the world a safe place, just safer.

My favorite, guns don’t kill people, people do. Yes, but if the Las Vegas gunman did not have access to assault-style weapons, there would have been fewer casualties.

Then I see lists of other things that can be used as weapons that are not banned … knives, planes, fertilizer, chemicals. Very true, I am sure someone could kill someone with a spoon, if they tried hard enough.

But these items have other uses, and a purpose. When they are used to kill people, it is a misuse of their intended purpose.

What is the purpose of extreme rapid-fire guns? As I understand it, they are military weapons designed to shoot and kill as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time. Why would any citizen need this?

Next, “Hey, you are taking away my rights.” No, assault weapons weren’t even a thing when the constitution was written. Many of our fundamental rights have caveats.

Freedom of speech is restricted. I can’t yell “fire” in a movie theater, threaten the president, or in many cases uses hate speech against a person.

Voting rights can be restricted, if you are a felon, or didn’t register in time.

If I want to fish, hunt, drive, buy alcohol, there are restrictions, regulations and registration. Why should gun ownership be any different?

I am happy to read opposing views, that is how understanding and compromise come about. Please, no name calling of the other side, or “facts” from sites that have a dog in the fight and cannot be backed up by more independent sources. What are your thoughts for a solution to helping prevent mass shootings?

Let’s all try to make the world a better place through mannerly discourse, respect and love. No one, on any side, wants a repeat of what happened in Las Vegas, or Orlando, or Sandy Hook, or Columbine, or …

*Update: Hubs read my blog. His guns are rifles and shotguns. He proceeded to tell me the differences, and my eyes glazed over.

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I Hope I am a Pineapple


Pineapples are rough and tough on the outside, with prickly spikes ready to jab those who don’t take heed or precautions. Inside, they are rather sweet and delicious, without being cloying.

That is me on my best days. I am not by any means overtly sunny, or even more than passably social if I can help it. But inside, I hope that I am kind, and that I can use that light to make a small contribution in the quest to make the world a better place.

Now seems like a good time to put aside our political differences, focus on remaining civil during discussions with those of opposing views, stop with the name-calling and the us vs. them, and recognize that underneath our various assorted veneers and armor, we are simply people. We love, we laugh, we hurt, we cry, we bleed. We share a world and walk a short path, albeit in many different directions and with unique obstacles.

Today I was thinking about the many acts of random kindness I have experienced from strangers.

Sometimes, a smile can light up a dark day. Thanks to all the cashiers, clerks, waiters and service workers who bring pleasantness into our lives.

Thanks to the many strangers who handed me tissues when I burst into tears in random places in the weeks and months after my mom died.

Also hats off to the people who hold open doors, help when packages are slipping, let you go before them in a line, wave you in front of them in traffic.

Many years ago, when the kids were young, a stranger bought our family’s dinner at a local restaurant. We tried to decline, then profusely thanked him and asked why. He replied “You just look like a happy family, and I wanted to do it.”

Wanting to pass it on, a few days later I was in line at a fast food restaurant, I drove up to the window and paid for my lunch and the person’s behind me. As I was waiting for my food, she got out of her car to come and thank me. She was heavily pregnant, and a bit teary eyed. She, too, tried to decline, and asked why. I told her I wanted to do it, as someone had recently done it for me. My guess is that she passed the kindness on, as well.

I love the mountains and hiking, but there are a few hikes that are a bit challenging for me due to both my age and my short stature (I’m looking at you, Skypond and Chasm Lake). There are always strangers with helping hands, pulling me up boulders or helping me down.

I remember the days of extreme toddler meltdowns, trying to get through a check-out with a child flaying in indignation. I was shot many dirty looks from people who I am sure were assessing my parenting skills and finding them woefully lacking. A wonderful lady behind me in line then made me laugh when she said “Oh, look, his legs gave out” as he flung himself on the floor. She then proceeded to tell me not to worry, it’s pre-programmed for that age, and that “the more challenging they are as a toddler, the better they are as adults. In fact, that’s how lawyers incubate.” No truer words …

Once I was crossing a parking lot and was hit by a car. My cat-like reflexes (haha) saved me, but I was certainly discombobulated. I sat down in a median to gather myself. Multiple people flocked to my side, asking if I was hurt, who they could call, called the police. I finally found a working synapse path and asked for my husband, explaining he was in our wine shop across the street. A man dashed over and fetched Hubs, while a woman sat down beside me and patted my back until he showed up.

I’ll see your evil, and raise you a world full of good.

I would love to hear your own stranger kindness experiences.




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Was It Good For You?


I don’t know why; I suspect I must emanate some type of sneaky/guilty aura, but I am always the one pulled out of airports’ TSA lines for further screening. It’s a bit ironic, as I am also awarded, through no application of my own, a TSA Pre-Check on most of my flights, with some higher power deeming me no safety risk.

Once a TSA agent told me I was flagged because I was wearing baggy shorts. I quit wearing baggy shorts when flying, or I gained the weight back so the shorts are no longer baggy, you choose the option you want to believe. One said the zipper on my slacks triggered the alarms. I don’t wear those pants when travelling anymore. Most of the time, I ask what caused the further search, and I am told it’s just random, and my number came up. I Wish I was* as lucky in the lottery!

The last incident, however, has me puzzled and slightly concerned. At the Denver airport, I was pulled aside after raising my arms and successfully dancing through the “let’s see your junk” chamber of shame. The TSA agent on the other side said it was for a random explosives screening, my third or fourth this year. I was not very worried, as my hobbies are more along the lines of reading and eating. Another TSA agent tells me to hold out my hands, and he swipes them. He warns me not to move off of my time-out mat, and proceeds to the high-tech explosives scanner that I suspect in reality might just be a toaster oven. He then hurries back to me, talking urgently into his shoulder microphone. (Cool, but still not as good as Maxwell Smart’s shoe phone.)  There is a flurry around me, and I am gently escorted by the upper arm to the search area at the end of the conveyor belts. I’m confused, but not worried, as the closest thing I have to contraband is a lipstick perhaps a shade too red for my age and a possibly expired granola bar or two. Absolutely everything is taken out of my giant purse. (No, Frontier Airlines, it is not a carry-on, it’s a giant PURSE, so don’t even try to charge me for it.) This could be embarrassing, but luckily, this time, I did not have my emergency underwear stuffed in a hiding section.  My purse simply is bulging with old lady stuff: hand sanitizer, Lysol wipes, eye drops, lotion, Cottonelle wipes, tissues, fifty Band aids, lip balm, Neosporin, make-up, a pound of coffee, (hey, Kind Coffee in Estes Park, Colorado, is the best coffee anywhere!) my Kindle, i-phone, two chargers, 13 pens, two broken pencils, a cone of candied pecans, a Rocky Mountain National Park map, a newspaper, a souvenir t-shirt, my journal and an extra pair of jeans. I told you it was a big purse.

While all of these items were being inspected and swiped, girlfriend TSA was called. She explained the pat down procedure to me, assuring me she would be using the back of her hands on my “sensitive areas.” Now this may decrease the fun for her, but from where I sit, my nether regions don’t care, back or front, it’s still an uninvited, intrusive hand. She then told me I had the right to have said search conducted in private, and asked if that was my preference. I bit back my initial inclination of snapping, “Not really. Is it yours?” as I wanted to get home that same night. She was thorough, perhaps more action than the average fifty-six-year-old gets in a month of Sundays. Head, shoulders, knees and toes, then the fun part. “Spread your legs. Wider.” Now it’s beginning to sound like some kind of badly written, soft porn novel. I comply. She touches everything, and the back of the hand assurance really doesn’t make me feel any less violated. I then get the over the boob, across the boob, then under the boob check. A quick butt feel, and all that’s left is the awkward silence. I stifled the urge to ask, “Was it good for you?”

No weapons or explosives found. My “purse” is jumbled back together, and we are on our way. Hubs looks at me and asks, “So does that count as foreplay?”

I considered how my hands could have possibly tested positive for explosive residue. Right before I entered the TSA screening, I went to the bathroom and used their soap, so my hands were just washed. Could there possibly be something in the soap they use in their own restrooms that triggers a positive screening? This could really be a problem, except from what I have seen, most people don’t wash their hands, so …

Anyway, if you ever see me at an airport, please steer clear, as I am obviously a nefarious character… unless you need something. I probably can find it in my purse.

*Word Nerd alert: I bet you think that’s incorrect grammar, don’t you? Sure, your high school English teacher explained the subjunctive rule, insisting it is always “I wish I were.” Ah, but our language is luxuriously complex, and allows us to convey so much more. Use the subjunctive, “I wish I were,” if it could never happen. You know, “I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener.” Use the indicative form, “was,” if there is a possibility of something happening. That’s why I chose “I wish I was,” above. I don’t want to rule out the off-chance of a lottery win!

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If It Ain’t Broke

This beautiful island, and its amazing people, are experiencing the full force of hurricane Irma right now. Keep safe, all! Here’s a blog from a few years ago …


Marriage, Mayhem and Mirth


Consistency. It’s a huge part of my internal make-up. I believe if you find something worthwhile, you should a) appreciate it and b) keep it. That is why I have been married to the same mostly wonderful man for 29 years, or as we like to say, 26 years of wedded bliss. My best friends date back decades, I’ve lived in St. Louis all my life, and I still end each week with a Friday night steak and wine dinner with Hubs.

I love to travel and experience new places, but I find myself returning again and again to my favorites. The last ten days were spent in my personal Nirvana, Anguilla. This beautiful, hard-to-get-to island has stunning beaches with blindingly white, powdery sand, infinite shades of crystal blue waters, fantastic gourmet restaurants on the beach where you dine under the stars and in your shorts and flip flops. The…

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If It Ain’t Broke


Consistency. It’s a huge part of my internal make-up. I believe if you find something worthwhile, you should a) appreciate it and b) keep it. That is why I have been married to the same mostly wonderful man for 31 years, or as we like to say, 26 years of wedded bliss. My best friends date back decades, I’ve lived in St. Louis all my life, and I still end each week with a Friday night steak and wine dinner with Hubs.

I love to travel and experience new places, but I find myself returning again and again to my favorites. The last ten days were spent in my personal Nirvana, Anguilla. This beautiful, hard-to-get-to island has stunning beaches with blindingly white, powdery sand, infinite shades of crystal blue waters, fantastic gourmet restaurants on the beach where you dine under the stars and in your shorts and flip flops. The pace is decidedly relaxed, and the free-roaming goats and chickens outnumber the tourists.

I know there are many other places that match this description, I have been to a few. I keep trying to understand and explain what it is about Anguilla and why it calls me back so frequently (six times in the last 12 years!)

I think ultimately the irresistible allure is what I glean from the people and their culture. I find myself returned to my real world much more relaxed, more appreciative of all I have, and a better sense of what is really important in life.

First, Anguillans call themselves “Belongers.” What a fabulous term, signifying family, and community, and the spirit of their island. If you were born here, you belong here. Our taxi pulls up to our resort, and the taxi driver calls out “Hey, Cuz” to the woman greeting us. We drive by the same house every evening, and every evening a lively game of dominoes, complete with laughter and the distinct sharp clap of tiles being slammed onto the table, continues. Sundays on Anguilla are family days. Multi-generational groups gather after church and spend the day together barbecuing, playing games on the beach, swimming, laughing and enjoying one another.

There is always a weekend event for the children, with what seems like the whole island out to watch and support… a bike race, a foot race, sailboat races.

Every business transaction starts with a handshake and introduction, followed by friendly general chatting about the day, the weather, anything really, just showing interest in you as a person.

The pace is decidedly slow. I watched with awe and amusement as cars went through the drive thru at the local bank. First, the teller window was on the usual left side of the car, but Anguillans drive on the opposite side of the road as we do, and most of their steering wheels are on the right. Each driver approaches the drive-thru, gets out of the car, walks around to the window, chats, laughs and transacts business, then walks back into the car. I sat for 15 minutes waiting for Hubs to do his own transaction inside the bank, and only two cars completed their journey. Three cars were still lined up behind, and no one honked, grew agitated or even seemed to care.

Here is a “no parking” sign, Anguilla style.

anguilla parking sign

Any issues, concerns or obstacles that come up are always met with a “no problem.” Manners are impeccable, with pleases and thank yous, smiles and hugs.

Humor seems to be a key ingredient to the Anguillan personality, as well; dead-pan and delightful. They don’t put up with nonsense. I was at a beach bar and ordered a cheeseburger (I know! I know!) Owner Mo raised his eyebrow, gave me that “Really?” look and gestured towards the sea. We all laughed.

Keeping with our newly acquired Anguillan spirit, while others panicked, yelled, cussed and generally showed their worst side, here is how Hubs and I dealt with our very long flight delay leaving St. Maarten: drinks, snacks, laughs and a photo war…


Of course the island is not perfect. There are real world problems here, like everywhere; but civility, manners, kindness, love and humor and an appreciation for life go a long way in addressing these issues.

I come back from these trips a better person, having learned life lessons from these wonderful people. I think I go back so often as I want to refresh and relearn just how amazing life can be if you slow down to appreciate it.

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I’m In Love With My Lawn Boy


There are many ways to judge a man’s character. How he treats his mother, the elderly, children, retail clerks and waiters is a good start. “Please” and “thank you,” to me, show more than just good manners.

There are other ways, as well. Does he stick around after baking cookies is no longer fun, but you still have two batches left to make? Will he occasionally watch a really sappy rom-com movie with you? If you need the emotional soothing that only comes from that bacon cheeseburger, right now, from that one place, will he go get it for you? When everything goes wrong, does he make things worse by crabbing and complaining, or better by making you laugh?

But you can really tell the measure of a man by how he mows the lawn. Of course, there are some who pay others to do it, but that in itself tells me something. I, on the other hand, have better uses for $70 every week or so. To be fair, my perspective has changed a bit ever since I started occasionally helping out a friend’s moving company by packing up people’s houses. It’s physically challenging, hot, occasionally gross, and in no way intellectually stimulating. So now, everything I think of is in “packing” dollars. Such as, it would take X hours of packing to pay for someone else to mow my lawn.  Not going to happen.

Hubs and I vary greatly in our approach to yard work. He spends excessive amounts of time meticulously planning the mowing route. Last week was straight lines, so this week we go diagonal! Every little branch is moved out of the way to get each little spot under the trees. He consistently stops to empty the bag every few laps, so that no clippings might accidentally spill out. Stray weeds are wacked, and the job isn’t complete until the sidewalk and drive are swept. There is evidently a “right way and wrong way to mow” manual in his head, and he never deviates for his made-up rule book.

It is none of my business how people divvy up household chores. I know some women who don’t do yard work, good for them. In fact we, too, have a few gender stereotypical things going on in my own family. For example, I have been cutting Hubs off at the pass if I see him heading towards the laundry room, ever since the Silk Blouse Incident of 1986. In our defense, though, everyone is much happier if Hubs is doing the cooking.

I did refuse to mow for a few years, as we had a very intense mulch vs. bag argument, and I said if Hubs wanted to bag, I wouldn’t mow. (Not that I am a huge environmentalist or anything, just lazy.) I actually like mowing. First, I’m not the girliest of girls. In fact, my father was a bit confused as we kids were growing up. He knew he had a son, and a daughter, and that third one. Once, we were leaving on vacation, and Dad said to me, “Cheri, grab those suitcases and bring them downstairs. They’re too heavy for the girls to carry.” Only a few years of therapy needed on that one. Plus if I mow, I don’t have to go to the gym that day!

I recently dismounted from my moral high horse and am back to lawn mowing, weirdly just as our lawnmower broke and no longer walks itself while you gently dance behind it. Now it’s like pushing a cantankerous fifty-pound boulder. We are not getting it fixed as we are moving to the mountains in a few months, and will need only lawn tools of the pioneer variety.

Anyway, this is how I mow. I amble around, cutting areas down into manageable yet interesting shapes and complete them, or not, if I get bored.  I’ll go to another area, perhaps more shady, and work there for a while. Then I’ll go back and try to find where I left off on the other spot, and take a guess. I’ll also surreptitiously peek over my shoulder, and if no one is looking, I’ll give a couple haphazard vacuum cleaner maneuvers under a tree or two, and call it a day. I have never employed clippers of any sort, as I kind of like the aesthetics of longer pieces of grass decorating fence posts and mailboxes.

I know it’s time to change the mower bag when grass starts spewing out and blocking my vision, or the mower gets too heavy to push, usually only once during the escapade. I grab the dang mower bag, wrestle it, curse it, then pour the contents in the general direction of the recalcitrant waste bag. Most gets in, some does not, so the grass lands on the grass, who cares? Contrast this with how Hubs carefully lifts off the mower bag, ensconces all four corners of said bag deep into the yard waste container, and gently shakes the bag back and forth, coaxing the grass clippings into total, immaculate submission.

I think the way we mow reflects our personalities to perfection. I say anything worth doing, is worth doing fast.* He thinks there is a right way and a wrong way to do everything, and everything should be done carefully, with a plan (his plan) in mind.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of knowing your partner’s lawn care techniques before jumping into marriage. In fact, I recommend all couples live together before marriage. You will learn each other’s habits and idiosyncracies, and, as we all know, you can only hide your crazy for so long. I remember one of the first times Hubs and I did laundry together, and he said, “I hang my shirts up and button the first and third button.” I looked at him like the alien creature he is, and said, “Well, good for you. Why are you telling me?” Thirty years later, he simply brings them to the cleaners.

As for me, I’m still in love with my lawn boy, even if he does mow the wrong way.

*Okay, not everything.

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