Ten Puppy Commandments

Charlie Brown was spot-on when he once said, “Happiness is a warm puppy.”

(Our boy Bear about 4 years ago. Puppy time goes way too fast!)

There’s nothing better when a soft ball of fluff with bright eyes and a quizzical disposition enters your life. Puppies – and dogs in general – are Heaven’s gift to humans. It’s a fact!

When God sends puppies down from Heaven, it’s rumored that he gave them these Ten Puppy Commandments:

 “Ten Puppy Commandments”

  1. Keep your human family happy all the time
  2. Always be cute – even if you may be in trouble
  3. Do not leave too many muddy footprints or hair everywhere, and no piddling!
  4. Keep the love constantly flowing in and around the house
  5. Learn to be a good girl or good boy – this means do not chew your human’s shoes
  6. Ask for treats (especially peanut butter) politely
  7. When your family sleeps, you sleepthen sleep some more
  8. Have lots of fun – even if it’s tiring
  9. Don’t snore too loudlyyou may wake your humans
  10.  Refer back to Commandment #1

If you have other “commandments,” please feel free to share. Let’s all hope we can continue to spread Puppy Love everywhere we can. We all need it now.

Tinnitus, Anyone?

Tinnitus.

The word is difficult to pronounce, and if you’ve experienced it – you know that it’s so darn annoying. The ongoing hissing and ringing in the head is indescribable. It takes no days off, and seems to trump all other day to day sounds – like the television, the washing machine, or the running car. And it’s every, blasted day.

In this year like no other, it’s become the sour, bitter icing on my cake. 

Somehow, some way, it entered my life over the summer and has not left. Tinnitus pays a daily visit in the calm of the morning and escalates in the silence of the night.

Did I mention it’s every day?

A recent audiology test revealed that my hearing is actually OK, but surprisingly, Tinnitus emulates from the brain and not from the inner ear. It could’ve been caused by simply aging. As a proud End-of-the-Baby-Boom Member, it could’ve been brought on by repeated loud noise, like music. Not that I attended a lot of rock concerts, but I was known to crank up the car radio with my friends years ago.

Photo by Thibault Trillet on Pexels.com

Another cause? Stress, according to the audiology expert. So NOT surprisingly, there has been an uptick in Tinnitus cases in recent months, likely caused by this thing we all know as The 2020 Covid-19 Freight Train of Despair.

What’s the cure? According to the American Tinnitus Association, there is no scientifically proven cure for most cases. Yet, there are some tips and “tricks” to fool the brain into thinking there are more important sounds going on.

Sound therapy – Zen music, white noise and other sounds – like ocean waves crashing – are recommended positive signals to the brain, along with general stress reduction. The only real break I seem to get from Tinnitus is from swimming, as it provides both as a great distraction and as a stress reliever. When one is distracted, it’s not noticed. In the water, there’s that ear-up-to-the-seashell sound from the constant turning of my head while wearing a cap.

It helps, but it’s still there.

Here is hoping that with the start of 2021, the long-awaited Coronavirus vaccine will be headed our way soon and with that, a path toward normalcy. Perhaps if that happens, my tinnitus will eventually be a blip on the radar, just like this terrible year we’ve all experienced.

Brighter days – and sounds – are ahead!!

Songs In The Pool of Life – Part One

Have you ever been told you have a knack for changing song lyrics into something that’s a little offbeat from the original song?  This self-proclaimed trait might have been an inheritance from my very gifted mother, Jackie.  She first created her own version of Paul Simon’s “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover,” converting it to “50 Ways to Lose Your Blubber” – a tribute to some college girls that she knew who were in danger of gaining the “Freshman Fifteen.” Later in life, I’d listen and laugh out loud to my talented co-worker from the TV news days, Bob Kirk. During the night news shift at WTVH, Bob would hum a few bars now and then, and sing lyrics like, “Then I saw her face…yeah, she’s a Retriever!”

With that in mind, but with not with as much Beatlemania or numerology, do you all remember the song “2 Doors Down” – Dolly Parton’s rather corny country song from 1977?

Even if you don’t want to admit it, you absolutely DO recall the chorus.

While swimming one morning in Lane 3, new lyrics popped into my head as I saw another female trying to swim her best freestyle in Lane 5.  So, here it goes…and dedicated to my new and “inspirational” friend, Kelly. And – if you’re about to head to the pool or open water, sing along if you wish…

2 Lanes down and pullin’ and kickin’ – I’m having my own swim meet!

2 Lanes Down – she’s not aware that I’m around

And here I am swimming my heart out feeling great

But she’s using fins just 2 Lanes Down

I think I’ll wet my goggles and get myself together 

I think I’ll freestyle down the lane and take a look to the right

‘Cause I can’t allow myself to be beat by this chick

As I’m having my own lil’ swim meet just 2 lanes down 

2 Lanes Down I’m flippin’ then turnin’ – I’m catching her quickly

2 Lanes Down – she’s still using those darn fins

But I’m turning it over every stroke of the way

And I’m gonna kick her ass 2 Lanes down 

I think I’ll touch the wall and check out my time

Then I’ll take a breath and see where she is

Since I still can’t allow myself to let her win

‘Cause this is MY swim meet just 2 lanes down 

Trust me, when you swim, and especially swim long distances, you have a lot of time to think – and create! Part Two the next time we meet………….

The No-Nonsense Restart

I’m back!  Not necessarily better than ever, but I’m out of the hole I felt like I was in, and am pushing forward.  All is good.  So…what better way to re-start than take a swim in my other home pool (my real home pool is closed until next May)?  Good for the spirit and the body.

It wasn’t too long ago when I made that initial call to reserve my lane at the “Y.”

This new normal of swims came with strict rules, of course, starting with those questions – like – “have you traveled outside of the United States in the past 14 days?”

Really?

Then came the temperature check and the wait in the hallway until the group is allowed in.  Just like cattle, you are herded into the pool area where you place your “stuff” on a chair that is a safe distance from the others.   But if you picked the Lane 3 Chair, you swim in Lane 3, and so on.

ChairsatPool

At exactly 45 minutes after the hour, in you go!  This leaves very little time for stretching and “getting used to the water” – probably my biggest quirk since college. Ugh, the water gets colder and colder as I get older and older.  However, now that my son gave me an Apple Watch, it helps me get my fanny in and get going.  It’s also a game-changer.  This amazing device knows what strokes I swim and the exact distance.  It takes my heart rate too – so I know when I’m huffing and puffing too much.

AppleWatchLog

There is also no socializing.  As much as I miss chatting with a few of the regulars, I totally get it.   Time is of the essence as people just want to get in, squeeze in their swim, and get out before the lifeguard sternly looks down in your lane and tells you it’s time to get out – so they can “sanitize.”  Sanitize?  Pool water is beyond clean, so the focus is on the pool deck, chairs and locker rooms.  They spray with disinfectant, using the Ghostbusters-type backpack. Remember that?  It must be so Slimer doesn’t show up anywhere.

GHOSTBUSTERS
Slimer in Columbia Pictures’ GHOSTBUSTERS.

If nothing else, this no-nonsense approach of swimming is a good way to start getting back into shape.  I had been hanging onto the fitness bandwagon this spring and summer, mainly walking, then walking, and then some walking.  Yawn.  Golf league came and went for the season, and although it was not played with much finesse and expertise, it helped with the long depletion of social interaction.

As for the pool, I must admit, having my own lane is pure Heaven.  No one to share it with means no bumping hands or arms, no waves, and no “hugging the lanes” if the other swimmer decides to swim his or her half in the middle of the lane.  Not my idea of a good time.

CatPool

Let’s just be thankful that pools and gyms are starting to open, and we seem to be returning to some sense of normalcy in a year that most of us would prefer to forget.  Forever.

If lap swimming is now allowed in this part of the world, then tolerating the small things in life is O.K….and that includes putting up with the snarky lifeguard, who I may rename Dr. Peter Venkman just for fun.

I guess this no-nonsense attitude can be kind of, well, amusing…

ghostbusters-trio-hotelhall

Dan Akroyd, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis in “Ghostbusters” (1984)

The Changing of the Emoji Guard

BZZZT!!! (Now a long tone sound…) We interrupt this normally cheerful Blog for a temporary change in mood…

In the past 3 days there has been quite a “shift” in the most used emojis on my phone from texting friends and family.  The top emoji had been the “LOL” – with the smiley-faced hard laugh, the closed eyes with tears of joy coming out of each side.  Last year, a survey showed that was the most used emoji by the public, both young and old.

With COVID-19 in the picture for way too many months now, on my “Frequently Used” section of the Top 30 emojis on my phone, there are now various crying faces with teardrops flowing, the pray symbol, numerous hearts in colors, and a broken heart.  They have replaced the clinking beers, the birthday cake, the girl swimmer, and also the dancing girl (I use that one in conjunction with the clinking beers).  How come the sudden shift?

On Monday, a friend posted on Facebook that her daughter lost her struggle with an aggressive form of leukemia, leaving a husband and young child.

Many, many Crying face emojis.

And on Wednesday, I read in the local news that a 24 year-old made a tragic decision when he jumped off a cliff while swimming with friends, and never resurfaced.  Turns out, he grew up right down the street and attended school with my kids.  His mom and I have been in the same Book Club for years.  She, her husband and this boy’s younger brother are without question the nicest, kindest people on the planet.  Just a few weeks later, one of my daughter’s longtime classmates chose to end his life.

An infinite number of Crying faces, Praying Hands and lots of Heart emojis.

No words can help, and no actions can heal the big hole in these families’ hearts and make some sense of these sad deaths of three young people.

This is being written for them, yet writing about it really doesn’t make me feel any better, either.

Broken Heart emojis everywhere.

This Changing of the Emoji Guard will hopefully shift back to its happier and more positive list as time goes on, but right now, it’s a tough period in this corner of the world.

We now return to our regularly scheduled Blog, and hope that brighter, happier days lie ahead for everyone.

You know you’re a Competitive Swimmer when…

OlympicPool

I’ve often wondered what qualifies a person as a lifetime, die-hard competitive swimmer.

Here is my Top Ten:

  1. The second you walk into the pool area, you smell chlorine, AND. YOU. LOVE. IT.
  2. You watch every single race, every single day of The Summer Olympic swimming competition.
  3. You found a way to swim during COVID-19, even if  you had to swim in a horseshoe-shape in your backyard pool (without touching the ends) or in cold, weedy, open water.

    person swimming on body of water
    Photo by mali maeder on Pexels.com
  4. You see cute blond-haired children with the “shimmer” and “the green tint” in their hair and know they are swimming competitively – someplace – and you’re jealous.
  5. When you meet someone who was a former competitive swimmer, you talk for 5 minutes, and then you both agree you’re practically family.
  6. You shudder when people can’t recognize names like Matt Biondi, Janet Evans, Mark Spitz, Dara Torres, Michael Phelps or Katie Ledecky.JanetEvans1MarkSpitzswimmersgreenhairKatieLedecky
  7. You teach children (and adults) that the term is “Freestyle” and not “The Crawl.”
  8. It’s a sad day when you start to “see through” your favorite practice swimsuit (usually in the butt!) and hope you can order the same, exact one online.
  9. You refuse to accept your “New Normal”  which basically means you use your college-best 100 Free time as a baseline in a Masters meet – even though that was 40 years ago.
  10. Swimming a 25 yard Fly…in the middle of a workout…because you can.

Butterfly2

If you have any others to add to my list…please share! 

Puck

We’ve said goodbye to our dog Puck. He was an English Black Labrador Retriever and lived a very, very long life. At 15 1/2 eventful years, he was off the age charts for his breed.

He was a unique guy, as most labs seem to be.

He was surrounded by Golden Retrievers his entire life. He was kind of like a Golden Retriever sandwich – with 2 layers of Golden on the top, and 2 on the bottom, he was the “filling.”  First, he was “the baby” of the pack, pestering our elder Golden Corky and then his nephew, Bailey. Puck and Bailey formed quite the relationship.  Like peas and carrots?

Not really –  they were more like Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid.

The pair collaborated and ran off together when Puck was a mere 9 months old, probably one of the most traumatic days of our lives. Happily, and after lots of praying and several hours of searching, we found both of them. Temporary tie outs, a try at invisible fencing and finally, a large fenced-in backyard deterred Puck and Bailey from their encounters with all that nature had to offer.

Since he was a classic “water dog,” we thought he could swim.  He hated it, even though his webbed feet could’ve easily taken him across our pool and back.  

Since labs are known to love just about everything, so Puck, in his unique fashion, also disliked getting into the car, and the impending ride. Our vet office was only a 3-minute drive into the village, yet you would’ve thought he was being somehow traumatized in the back seat. No barking, but he’d utter a distinctive whine with some occasional grunts. He didn’t like stairs either, and one evening it took 3 of us to get his then-100-pound mass back upstairs when he refused to come back up from the basement. He remained on level ground since that day, but left us hysterical at how ridiculous the scene was.

When Bailey passed, Puck was the “lone dog” for a little while, and would do whatever he could to gain attention.  One spring day, when the lawn sprinkler workers came to “start things up,” Puck walked up to one of the workers who was bent down to replace a sprinkler head, and promptly removed the red bandana he wore on his head. We’ve never seen a bunch of grown men rolling on the lawn and crying from laughter while watching the bandana-less worker chase our naughty guy throughout the yard.

He constantly sniffed everything, and would raise his head over the tiniest noise, then would transition into a straight point with that thick tail.  He tolerated our daughter’s cat when most of our Goldens would not. His coat was of 2 extremes – his waterdog fur resembled quills, yet his ears were as soft as his puppy coat, and still felt just like velvet in his older years.

Along came “the puppies,” siblings Pumpkin and Bear, two more Golden Retrievers which automatically gave Puck that title of Dog Patriarch, The Alpha. He enjoyed their company, especially with Bear. Bear is the male and self-proclaimed Lover of Everything and Everyone On The Planet. Pumpkin simply wants her tennis ball to chase – and occasionally chew to smitherines. She helped keep him young, as his curiosity would prevail over his weakening legs.

With Bear off to college with his “father,” who is our son Sean, Puck developed an interest in Pumpkin, trying to follow her on her zigzag route in their big play pen. For a few years, they were quite the trio.

(L-R Pumpkin, Bear and Puck)

Now Puck has crossed the Rainbow Bridge, he is likely playing with his bestie Bailey and “Uncle Corky.”  He will be missed very much, yet we know there will be that time when we will see them…all running free together. 

Wuzzes & Willbees

While visiting Costco and the park the other day, I looked at all the eyes behind the masks. Some of the eyes were expressionless, other eyes appeared determined to get more toilet paper, and a few seemed just O.K.

woman in brown coat holding fawn pug
Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com

But behind every mask, there is very likely – a case of The Wuzzes.

That sounds kind of Dr. Seuss-ish, but it classifies most of us…here are just a few samples of what the Wuzzes might be saying:

“I was just about to land this huge new account, but they had to temporarily close.”

“I was supposed to go my Senior Ball last week.”

“I was headed to visit my elderly mother in Florida, but can’t.”

“His collegiate ___________ (name the sport) team was going all the way to the championships, but they were cancelled.”

“My building project was put on hold, so there goes some future income.”

“My daughter was supposed to get married next month, but they postponed everything.”

man in black suit jacket and woman in white dress
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Everyone has an “I was…” tale or two…or likely thirty or them! They are mostly sad events, stories or moments, which cannot be rescheduled or replaced. My own “Wuz” consisted of not seeing our son graduate from college in early May, nor swimming in a US Masters meet – last weekend. Those were 2 events I’ve been looking forward to for ages. What a Bummer for all of us Wuzzes.

BUT…..

Now that COVID-19 appears to be at its plateau (at this writing), it’s time to bid “Adieu” and “See you later” to the Wuzzes!

It is time to evolve into a Willbee. Yes, I know… now it’s sounding more like the “Who Moved My Cheese” author, but it IS pretty simplistic…and maybe you’ll get the point here.

Ask yourself – What I WILL BE doing in the future!!  There are still many unknowns, but shouldn’t we at least do some verbal planning? Talk about that trip you WILL BE taking with your spouse or significant other. Pick up the phone and reach out to your customer, and tell them “I WILL BE seeing you soon.” Prepare yourself to say “I WILL BE attending that game, match, or meet.  Do that Zoom Meeting with family members you’d plan to see a couple of months ago (down South-or someplace really nice) and inform them you WILL BE paying an extended visit – when this crazy, mixed-up, surreal time in our lives is past us.  Time for some optimism, it’s sorely needed right now.

baseball match
Photo by Garret Schappacher on Pexels.com

Simply Surreal

COVID-19 has everyone on edge. All of us have been trying to come to grips with this silent, invisible monster. Pretty obvious.

It isn’t easy. And it’s just so odd.

Sheltering in place, homeschooling our kids, risking what seems like life and limb to pick up groceries at already-busy supermarkets like Wegmans (a recent visit there freaked me out, and I won’t be returning any time soon), and living in paranoia is taking its toll on us.

So, finding bright spots in this dark time are seldom, but they’re out there. Take your neighborhood for example:

Young moms and dads playing street hockey in the driveway with their elementary school age kids…who they likely spent time teaching them ABCs earlier that day.

Many people are walking their dogs. Good for them, good for their dog.

BEARPUP

Or my favorite – the teenage brother and sister playing a game of “HORSE” under the hoop – and getting along?!

This time reminds me of a throwback to the late 1960s, when Sundays were really a day off. Except for church and a quick trip to the drugstore before it closed, on Sundays, we were home.  While at the drugstore, my mother faithfully picked up the New York Times for my father and would treat us to a Milky Way bar. Then – everything closed, and wouldn’t re-open until Monday morning.

I think our parents and grandparents were grateful for that time.  

I’m just grateful. Period.

Case in point – When making a prescription delivery to my mother-in-law, I saw a large hand-built sign on the front lawn of a nearby house:

“Thank you Healthcare Workers”

There are so, so many other “thank yous” that need to go to a new, special class of workers who’ve joined the brave doctors, nurses, attendants and researchers on The Coronavirus War Front Line. Gas station attendants, postal workers, grocery and convenience store clerks, child care workers, pharmacists, trash collectors, restaurant owners, and all the delivery people who transport our produce, our meds, and yes, our toilet paper – all need to be lauded. It’s so nice to hear people thanking them for simply working, but what important jobs they have right now. They truly are warriors.

To the manufacturers who’ve changed equipment over to produce masks, gowns, plastic shields, and “PPEs” (I had to throw that in, as our world abbreviates now) to distribute to hospitals and other first responders:

THANK YOU!

That’s another throwback…to the 1940s wartime production.  Factories were in high gear producing all kinds of equipment, but we are certainly waging a much different war.

Financially, it’s going to be (and already is) a struggle for so many of us.  We are saving some money here and there by not driving, paying tolls, airfares, and not shopping for extravagant items or raiding Marshall’s for bargains. We are cooking at home and have resurrected the family dinner, a virtually lost institution.  We are communicating more than ever – and NOT texting, but talking, face-to-face, via Zoom, Facebook, Facetime, or just the good old fashioned landline.  That’s good stuff.

We will get through this, surreal as it is.  Just remember some of the positive experiences you may have encountered during this strange path we are all taking.  It will make us all stronger in the long run 🙂

Inspiration

Do you ever wonder how or why you develop an interest in a hobby, a sport, or if your parents or friends were possibly the inspiration of your career?

I just sent a letter to the Editor of the Syracuse Post-Standard today, as it occurred to me that my love for writing was likely inspired by my mother, whose writing was inspired by a man named Dick Case. Dick was a columnist for decades at The Syracuse Newspapers, and passed away recently. In a story about his passing, the reporter asked readers to share a favorite column that Dick Case wrote. Instead, I sent a tribute piece to the editor. Here it is:

To The Editor:

There are simply too many wonderful columns that Dick Case wrote over the years, so instead, I wanted to share a memory.
My mother, Jackie Coley, was a columnist at The Herald-Journal/Post Standard for 2 decades, and joyfully wrote the “Social Notebook” column. 
Jackie felt truly humbled to be in the ranks of reporters, editors, sports guys and columnists like Dick Case, Brohmann Roth (and his daughter Anne), Don Pickard, Bob Haggart, Sean Kirst, Lois Vosburgh, Arnie Burdick, Pat Spadafore, Stan Linhorst, Hart Seeley, Margie Cheney, and Bud Poliquin, to name a very few.  There were so many other reporters and columnists that she would mention to me during my childhood, so forgive my memory lapse, but I’m hoping I have most of them listed.
And, oh, the articles and columnists’ clippings she would cut – so many of them – especially from Dick Case. Mom would even make a trip up to the Fayetteville Free Library to make photocopies of them – for preservation’s sake, and to place them on the kitchen table for all to view in passing.
Jackie said she never took herself too seriously as a journalist, yet she worked very hard to produce a column that was informative, enjoyable to read and beneficial to the charities in Central New York. 
She mentioned that Dick and the aforementioned colleagues were “A-listers,” and they would often run into one another from time to time upstairs in the large white building in Downtown Syracuse (and so beautifully decorated during the holidays).
(Photo by John Berry)
She thought the Herald-Journal and Post-Standard staff were just “tolerating” her. After all, she got paid to attend parties and write about them, a common mis-conception about what her column was really all about.

My most vivid memory is that one day, probably 1990-something – Jackie called me and was simply ecstatic. She said that Dick Case paid her a compliment on a recent column, and that his genuine and heartfelt words to her “was like winning a Pulitzer Prize!”  She went on to say that he was always gracious to her, a valuable trait that she always wanted to see in others.  Now, Jackie and Dick did have a common thread – she was a child of Skunk City, and Dick wrote a column or two about the area, which happily struck many sentimental nerves – especially with the Irish-American community.

Mom considered Dick Case the “Dean of Columnists” in Central New York, and he was the very essence of who a journalist should be. She also felt that Dick inspired her to do her homework carefully, making sure every name and detail were accurate. 
I’m quite confident Jackie Coley is introducing Dick Case to all in Heaven, and perhaps they are sharing the news of what a wonderful place Central New York is.