Posted by Gail Gabrielson at September 18, 2015

Category: Memoir

I woke up this morning cranky. Our windows had been open all night, and it was cold in the house. I had been up a couple of times in the night — put on warmer pajamas, closed a window. But HighGuy likes it cool and I try to oblige. I usually like it cooler at night, too, so I can snuggle under the blankets.

The weatherman had predicted frost for some areas. We weren’t too worried. The last few nights have been warm — uncomfortably so. I’ve been looking forward to a little cooler weather. “Good sleeping weather.”

HighGuy was ready for some good sleeping weather. He’d put the fan in the window and turned it on early in the evening to get it cooled down. Oh, it was cool. Like 62 degrees cool. Still, I wasn’t worried. I didn’t see any frost on the walls of the bedroom. Yet.

Before bedtime, I took the fan out of the window and closed it. I figured it would stay cool enough all night. The window on HighGuy’s side of the bed was still open. That would keep him cool. Yeah, it was cool all right. I would have put on socks and a stocking cap, but that would have been too easy. I had a second blanket right there on the quilt rack, but I didn’t do that either. It was truly my own fault that I was chilly last night.

I put on a stocking cap and another top under my sweatshirt before walking the dog. I was still bent out of shape over losing sleep being cold. (I had managed to dream last night, so I couldn’t have been too uncomfortable.)

As we reached the park, I spotted a couple of forms on the ground by a bush. They were clearly people — likely homeless — and one had a blanket, while the other didn’t. That’s how I could tell they were people — I could spy the shoes in the early morning gloom. And then it occurred to me: my cool night was nothing compared to their cool night. “There but for the grace of God…”

Posted by Gail Gabrielson at August 26, 2015

Category: RANT

I am a prisoner. Oh, some may say I’m fine. I have food and drink, four walls and a bed, but I’m a captive.

My days are spent sleeping. I have no other entertainment. The television or a radio may be on, but I don’t care about such things, because I want more. Don’t get me wrong. I do get to go outside on occasion, but I can’t go any further than the fence.

When those who keep me imprisoned are around, I try to engage them, but they ignore me. Why do they keep me if only to ignore me? If I create a scene, I’m punished. I learned early not to do that.

These people really mean well — really, they do. They keep a regular schedule and I’m part of the routine. But it’s no fun for me. I don’t get to go anywhere. I can only dream of where they go, what they do.

So here I sit, day after day, longing for something — anything — to happen.

Who am I? I’m the family dog. I’m no longer the cute puppy they brought home, so the novelty has worn off. I’m merely tolerated now — just one more thing to take care of. No one takes me for walks, no one dares take me to the dog park, because I was never properly socialized. I don’t know what to do or think when someone new approaches, so I growl and lash out. In fact, I’ve bitten two people who meant me no harm.

You might think my life is grant, but it’s not. Sure I sleep all day –out of boredom. When I bark to liven things up, I get yelled at. I guess it’s still attention, even though it’s negative attention. My owners think I’m OK, but I’m not. I’m kept away from other dogs, other people, and literally the rest of the world.

I don’t get much exercise. I don’t get to do what I was bred for — hunting, running, retrieving. All I get to do is run after a tennis ball. They wonder why I’m so attached to my tennis ball. It’s the only thing I can count on for some kind of entertainment. Mine is a pretty scanty existence.

What’s going to happen when I get old and have a harder time with stairs and walking in general? Will they take pity on me and give me medicine to keep me comfortable? Or will they ignore the changes and just step over me? Maybe it would be better if they just let me go to that big hunting ground in the sky. It would be better than living out the rest of my days as a captive.

That’s what I am: a prisoner. Can anyone help me?

Posted by Gail Gabrielson at August 24, 2015

Category: Memoir

My sister sent me a text message today. It was a picture of a book dedication. My phone screen is small, so I didn’t see much, but my name popped out. What?! Someone had dedicated a book to ME?

My sister was working on an ancestry line, and had googled my name, and came up with the reference on Amazon. Lee White Fox is the author of “Toby Erdrich and the Golden Eclipse” and dedicated the book to me. It seems I had reviewed a book of short stories by this author back in the 1990s when I was working at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead.

“She single-handedly made me feel ‘worthy’ as a fledgling writer at a time when nobody else would even communicate with me!” he writes in his dedication. “Kindness is everything to a new writer. Thank you, Gail, wherever you are.”

Reading it, I was stunned. I had made an impact on another writer. And now he’s made an impact on me. I haven’t blogged in a long time. I had over 300 spam responses, if that’s any indication.

So now my good deed has come full circle. I gave a little encouragement to someone else, and it’s coming back to encourage me. I promise I’ll blog more often. I’m back.

Posted by Gail Gabrielson at April 10, 2015

Category: Memoir

I must have “approachable” tattooed on my forehead. I must have talked to at least six people at Walmart tonight. And I was shopping alone.

I was looking at the bare-root roses they had by the door. I didn’t see a sign nearby telling what the prices were on them, so I stepped inside the store and asked a clerk. As we walked back outside, I realized all of the roses were pre-priced. Duh. I thanked the clerk and we both laughed.

Inside the store, I headed for the dairy department. I picked up eggs, and as I passed another customer, she asked where the butter was. I pointed straight down the aisle, where I was going and replied, “Right down there.”

As I went around the corner of an aisle to pick up cereal, a woman turned to me and asked about a product. She laughed as she realized I was not her husband, who had come around behind her and was waiting on her other side. “You’ll try this for me, right?” she asked. I laughed back and kept moving.

A little girl in the pet department greeted me as I walked past her to find dog bones. Another shopper apologized for cutting me off at the end of an aisle. As my energy for shopping was flagging, I found drain cleaner in the wrong section of the store, but picked it up because it was on my list. I thought about trying to find the right chemical section, but decided it was serendipitous that I found anything without a lot of effort.

The mom in front of me in the check-out line was a little frazzled; her two boys insisted they wanted to buy seeds so they could grow watermelons. The mom explained that they didn’t have anywhere to grow them because they lived in an apartment. She added that the boys’ dad might let them plant something at his house, but she had to find out from him first.

I silently sympathized with the mom — I’ve had similar discussions. I thought about telling the boys that they wouldn’t get watermelons overnight, but the mom was patient and explained it again. No seeds until we know if we can plant them.

It was my turn in the check-out line, and the checker was characteristically chatty. I double-checked my list, and tucked it away. I put my bags in the cart and headed out to my car. In the next spot was a family from … let’s just say Somewhere Else. They were chatting in another language, but I could still tell that the mom was nagging.

My groceries were loaded up in the back end, and as I went to crawl in behind the wheel, the young man of the family complimented me on my Kia. I thanked him and explained that I liked it, too, because I got to sit up a little higher, improving my visibility. He told me that he’d just bought an Impala. “Good for you!” I responded, and got in my car.

I have shopped at that store countless times and never spoke to another person. Tonight was unique.


Posted by Gail Gabrielson at February 7, 2015

Category: Charlie

We are trying to discourage our dog Charlie from barking so much. When he’s at home, he barks whenever anyone knocks at the door. I understand that. And maybe that’s a good one. But he also barks when the fellow next door locks his car door and the car honks at him. That’s annoying.

Charlie and his doggy daycare buddy, Tucker, are accustomed to barking at anything that moves at Grandma’s house. They sit at the deck door, waiting and watching. Tucker can also look out the front picture window, when he jumps up on her couch. Then he gets a clearer view of what’s moving, because there isn’t any deck shelter blocking the way.

Tucker has gotten better. He’s clearly settling down in that regard. He still greets me enthusiastically because he knows I’m a soft-touch for throwing the ball for him. He likes to nuzzle my face, and I think he knows I love that. There’s no such thing as too much enthusiasm when a dog gives you attention.

Or is there?

I’ve been lax over the past few weeks about daily walks with Charlie. I don’t want to go out when it’s icy. I don’t want to fall. Now that we’ve had a little snow again, I’m extra careful, because that snow hides the ice on the sidewalks. I think it was last winter when Charlie and I opted to walk in the streets because the sidewalks were too dangerous. But I digress.

Now when I get dressed in the morning, donning long underwear and sweatpants, Charlie knows what’s coming. When I step into my boots, he’s really figured it out, and he knows we’re going for a walk. And that’s when he starts barking. He’s excited about going out for a walk — I get that. But he barks from the moment my toes disappear into my boots to the moment we get to the front door.

That means he’s barking when I’m putting on my hoodie, stocking cap, scarf and overcoat. He’s barking when I go to the kitchen to fetch another roll of doggie bags. He’s barking while I’m trying to fasten his halter and get his collar over his head. Charlie’s bark is loud, especially when it’s right in my ear as I’m bent over him, attaching the leash.

At first, I thought it was charming — Charlie barking with delight, trying to speed me up in getting ready. Now it’s getting old. And I don’t want Charlie waking the neighbors with his yapping. (My upstairs neighbor has assured me that she doesn’t hear a thing, because she wears earplugs at night. No snoring or traffic noise is going to disturb her!)

No sign language or verbal command from me has done any good. I finally grabbed my slipper and swatted him on the butt. He got the message. Now I just have to make sure I have my slipper close by whenever Charlie starts barking.


Posted by Gail Gabrielson at January 23, 2015

Category: Uncategorized

We get several deliveries at our home each week. The FedEx guy comes and drops off a slim envelope that contains some paperwork that could have just as easily been emailed. That’s the company HighGuy works for. He has to print out stuff daily, but they send other stuff FedEx. I think it would be nice if they’d FedEx it all and we wouldn’t have to go through printer ink like water.

The UPS people know where we live. They’ve dropped off stuff several times. They get a signature from me or Mom or whoever is in the hallway at the condo, and off they go. No big deal. The Forum comes every day, sometimes earlier, sometimes later, but it always comes. The woman who delivers it wouldn’t win any beauty contest, but she’s dependable!

And then there’s the US Postal Service. Sigh. They really do well — when all they’re really delivering is junk mail. Oh, of course we still get a few bills through the mail, and there’s a momentous occasion when we get something really nice, like a greeting card, thank you note or an invitation.

And why someone who doesn’t like dogs would do this job is beyond comprehension. And why someone who doesn’t like dealing with the public would sign up for this job is also beyond understanding. But there are and they do. We were compelled to install an outdoor mailbox for the building because ONE carrier was afraid of our dogs. We did it. We didn’t like it, but we did it.

And then another carrier comes, and comes right in the door and delivers the mail to our locked interior boxes. OK, that’s very nice. Apparently not all of the carriers understand what that box outside our main door is for. Whatever. So Mom checks the outdoor box and sorts the mail inside, putting the mostly-junk mail into our wire baskets on the wall. And then we have to check both the locked box inside and the wire basket on the wall. We’ll manage.

One day I realized I hadn’t checked our locked box for some time, so I opened it up and found a notice that they’d tried delivering a package. Mom had seen the carrier and told him that she could take the package — she’s my mother. Mom didn’t understand that the USPS carrier had orders to get MY signature on the little piece of paper. She was less than cordial with him because she doesn’t suffer fools gladly. It was only logical that he could leave the package and be done with it. His orders were to get the signature for the person sending the package.

And I know what’s in the package. It’s a wonderful stretch fleece sweatshirt from my son and daughter-in-law that they bought me for Christmas. Unfortunately it was a size too small, so I returned it to the company for the next larger size. Their suggestions on returning it? Insure it. Well, OK, it’s a high-priced sweatshirt, but I’m going to trust the postal service to get it there.

A representative from the Alaskan company who makes the sweatshirts called me. She said that they’d be shipping out my sweatshirt, and that her kids went to Concordia College — just across the river in Moorhead. What a small world. Unfortunately, she doesn’t trust the postal system as much and asked for a delivery receipt from them. That’s why I have to sign the paper saying, I received the package.

I went to the post office two days ago, orange receipt in hand, as well as my identification, and stood in line for at least 15 minutes. The lined snaked out the door into the foyer, and no one at the counters was moving anything too quickly. That’s because they’re all ready for retirement after having walked a route for who-knows-how-many years. But I was already there, so I wasn’t going to give up my place in line out of impatience.

Thankfully, when I got to the head of the line, the person behind the counter actually looked at my ID and took my receipt and disappeared into the back. And I waited some more. Finally the woman trudged back to the counter and admitted that she couldn’t find the package. She would take a copy of my receipt and they would call me when they found it. She took my receipt and disappeared into the back again. I waited. Ah, yes.

I called my mom to see if they’d dropped off the package there. No, she hadn’t caught the postal carrier, but I did have another receipt to sign. So apparently the carrier had the package with him on the truck. (And maybe they waited at the curb to make sure Mom wasn’t anywhere around so they wouldn’t get harassed by her.)

So now I have two receipts and no package. I thought about going to the post office this morning to see if it’s there, but it’s probably already on the truck. If I just wait long enough at home, they’ll deliver it. Sometime. Before spring, I hope.


Posted by Gail Gabrielson at January 22, 2015

Category: Charlie, Memoir

Now we have one of each again in the Condo Commune: small, large, brown, black and yellow. I’m talking about dogs, of course, not people. And our condo isn’t really a commune — it’s just that my husband and I own one unit; my sister owns another; and my mother owns the unit across the hall. (The fourth is owned by someone totally unrelated, but we try to make her feel at home, since she’s been here longer than any of us.)

We lost our smallest white dog, Abby, to old age. She was Mom’s faithful companion. Abby slept on or under Mom’s bed, depending on the time of the year and whether she was due for a bath. It’s been an adjustment for Mom. She misses her little lapdog, even though Abby was too old to hop up on Mom’s lap. Besides, Mom always has a book on her lap.

Our smaller dog is now Charlie, our puggle. He’s our empty-nest dog. When our son and daughter-in-law and their dog returned to Alaska after their visit a few years ago, our condo unit felt empty, and HighGuy and I both felt the loss. So we adopted Charlie — already potty trained, and already done with the chewing phase. A good choice.

Charlie made friends with Abby easily enough. They basically ignored one another or tolerated one another with equanimity. Now and then, Abby would inspect Charlie’s ears, and Charlie would sniff her hind quarters. But making friends with Tucker was a different situation.

Both dogs are males, and both of them were territorial. Charlie knew where his home was and he wasn’t about to give up too easily. They snarled at one another, circling with their hackles up. But before we knew it, they were great friends and gamboling in the back yard with one another.

Tucker, being a black Lab, had the upper hand, so to speak, and now and then would run roughshod over Charlie. Charlie, being the resourceful older dog, had a solution: he nipped Tucker in the underbelly, maybe even on a tender part, and Tucker got the message loud and clear.

I have a mental image of the two dogs, resting at the top of the steps next to one another, their tongues hanging out because they’ve been running up and down the stairs — and Tucker’s paw is draped around Charlie’s back as if to say, “We’re best friends.” I wish I would have had a camera. It was a classic pose.

And now we’ve added another dog. Jake is my sister’s boyfriend’s dog. He’s a yellow Lab — the dog, not the boyfriend. My sister, LisaLouWho, is seeing Keef, so nicknamed by her granddaughter, Gracie. Keef can’t leave Jake at home in the kennel all the time, so he comes to LisaLouWho’s — to spend time in the kennel.

Jake and Tucker have not had a great time of it. They’ve snarled and growled at one another, and even had an all-out fight. So Keef and LisaLou have to keep the two dogs separate for the time being. Jake comes in with his kennel and goes into one bedroom, while Tucker cools his heels in the other bedroom. Once Jake is settled, then Tucker can come out. When it’s Jake’s turn, Tucker goes into the bedroom with his chew toy.

Jake has been neutered, too. The thinking was that perhaps that would settle him down some. Or not. Both dogs just need to be socialized more. Charlie goes for walks with me in the morning, and we see all kinds of people and animals. He’s not nuts about cats, but for the most part, Charlie likes to meet other dogs.

In fact, just yesterday, I let go of the leash because he was so insistent about seeing another little dog on a leash, and I wasn’t moving fast enough. Sorry, it was icy. Charlie went scampering over to see what other dog was claiming the park as his, and the two circled one another with their hackles up. I made my way over and stomped on Charlie’s leash so the other dog and his owner could continue their walk.

The other dog was a smaller furball — one of those breeds that sound like you’re swearing or sneezing or both. His owner had told me before that his dog wasn’t very social. I wanted to inquire why he had chosen that time of day when children would be walking through the park on their way to school, but I filtered that snarky question. On this encounter, we both commented on the icy walking conditions, and went our own ways.

If left to their own devices, the two dogs may have gotten past their hackles and sniffed each other’s backsides. Who knows? But I digress. Tucker and Jake will both have to grow up some, and perhaps, someday, they’ll decide to let it go. Until then, we can always tell when it’s Jake’s turn to go outside.

We hear him first. LisaLou opens the door upstairs and Keef is at the door to the back yard. Jake comes like a streak of lightning. It sounds as if he’s running on the walls and then taking the stairs six at a time. I swear, he goes from zero to 60 in two seconds. And then he’s outside, doing laps along the fence. I think he must stop at some point to actually do his business. But I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him at rest.

And speaking of resting, I have a dog on my couch with his head on the armrest, silently pleading with me. It’s time for our walk.



Posted by Gail Gabrielson at December 29, 2014

Category: Uncategorized

HighGuy and I spend a lot of time watching HGTV — we watch The Property Brothers and Fixer-Upper, among other home improvement shows. We enjoy seeing the changes that can happen with money and the right tools. (The thing I’m always amazed by is that the homes don’t always end up looking the same.)

At some point, I get tired of hearing people whining about not having enough space. They want spa tubs and gourmet kitchens and open concept living areas. They want all kinds of storage areas, and room for the kids to play, and a place for the dog to run.

And the Scott brothers try to give them everything. Then they run into a couple where one or the other is a control freak and wants to know what’s going on all the time. Or worse, they get a couple where one or the other wants to change the plans halfway through the construction. I don’t know how the brothers keep their cool. Maybe that’s what we don’t see when the cameras leave.

One of the things they talk about on Love It or List It is functionality. Does a room “work” for the family? We have three bedrooms in our condo — one is our master bedroom, of course; one is the office/sewing room; and the third is the library/spare bedroom.

We have a hide-a-bed in the library/spare bedroom which just barely fits. It’s a small bedroom which has been used as a dining room. I can’t imagine using it for that, since the kitchen is big enough for a good size table. So HighGuy suggested that we change the two extra bedrooms around — making more room for our guests. But we have LOTS of stuff in that larger bedroom.

We have our computer desk, a buffet, a bookcase, a filing cabinet, a sewing machine and a big dining room table that I use to cut fabric for sewing projects. There are two large closets in that bedroom, too. They’re filled with fabric, sewing notions, and bins filled with craft supplies. I’d like to go through those bins and see what can go and what can stay, but I can’t get to them.

That room is so cramped with stuff that I don’t think I could pull anything out of the closet until we get some of the stuff out of the way. But I doubt we’ll be able to swap the two rooms around. There just isn’t enough room. What I can do, however, is organize our office/sewing room so that it functions better.

The bookshelf in the office is mostly picture albums. I need to find a different place for those, and get rid of the rest of the junk on the shelves. Some of it is old craft magazines and random picture frames. Those can go in a bin if I ever get to them.

January is a time when I like to start a major project — like a quilt, or a cleaning project. This January, I’m going to conquer that extra bedroom. To start off, I’ve done some mending projects that were piling up on my sewing machine. Next I’ll be pulling the albums from the shelves and finding them another place in the condo — perhaps the book shelf in the other bedroom.

I can certainly downsize the number of books stored there. I should only have books I haven’t read yet, and those that I’ll definitely re-read. So far I haven’t re-read very many books. I have too many other books waiting to be cracked open. So if I get my books sorted out, I should have room enough for everything on one bookshelf.

After that, I think I can convince HighGuy to sort through some of his papers and find a solution to storing them. We have a file cabinet for those papers we need to keep — we just need to file them. And we need to find room in those drawers for more papers. I get tired just thinking about going through all that stuff.

That’s a bad sign. When I get tired of a project, I’m likely to take shortcuts. I’ll just cram stuff where it’ll fit instead of going through it with a garbage can and a shredder. But really, who need information about an insurance policy you no longer have?

So I’ll take it slowly, bit by bit, climbing the mountain a step at a time. And if all else fails, I’ll find an episode of Hoarders to watch to inspire me.



Posted by Gail Gabrielson at November 10, 2014

Category: Uncategorized

Taylor came in to work with her hair down. It was lovely. It looked as if she’d had a spiral perm — all the rage a few years back, and still in style today.

I was stunned at how pretty it was — it framed her features and and made her face softer. Almost glowing. I had to ask, “Did you get a perm? Your hair is gorgeous!”

Others had noticed, too. No, she told us with a little scorn in her voice. “This is my normal hair.”

“What?! You have naturally curly hair and you don’t love it?!”

We all told her how nice it looked and how we would kill to have wavy gorgeous hair like hers.

Why is that? Those of us with straight hair want curly hair, and those with curly hair do everything they can to straighten it. I have spent hours and several hundred dollars on getting my hair to curl. It’s stick-straight and doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t even hang nice. I would have to curl the ends to get it to look presentable.

Now that I’m older and wiser (snort!), I’ve learned to embrace my straight hair. I wear it straight. Straight up, that is. And now I don’t own a hair dryer or a curling iron or a perm rod. I wash it, I color it, and I use a little pomade. I spend about five minutes on it in the morning, if that.

I no longer burn myself with a curling iron or get tired arms from using a hair dryer. I get it cut every six weeks or so, depending on how short it was to begin with, and I color it. That’s it. That’s my hair regimen. And I’m starting to think about letting it go gray. If it were coming in a beautiful white, I’d certainly let that come through, but it’s coming in gray, and I’m not so enamored of that.

My greatniece Gracie is still a toddler and has the most charming blonde curly hair. It falls in natural ringlets around her face. I hope she embraces her hair just the way it is. But I know human nature. And at some point she will look in the mirror and say, “I wish I had straight hair.” And she’ll spend hours blow-drying it straight.

I just hope someday that she’ll say, “I love my curly hair,” and wear it that way.


Posted by Gail Gabrielson at September 22, 2014

Category: Charlie

Charlie leaves a post on Furbook

On a television special recently, an animal specialist said that when dogs sniff a fire hydrant, it’s like logging into Facebook for them. They can tell who’s been there, how they’re feeling, and what they’ve eaten recently. Yeah, that sounds like Facebook.

So when Charlie Puggle and I go walking in the morning, that’s logging into Furbook. I don’t think we have any fire hydrants along our route, but Charlie knows where to find the Three Amigos — the three chihuahuas that live on the next corner — or the Dynamic Duo — a pair of barky little Yorkies a block from the park.

Now and then we see other dogs face to face — Java and his owner Gerald, and a woman and her white Yorkie cross. But Charlie spends a good part of our walk checking out the World Wide …World. Guided by his mouse (muzzle), he leaves friend invites on nearly every tree and fencepost, and checks those posts to see if he’s had any res-paw-nses.

He never knows where his muzzle is going to take him on Furbook. He checks out the latest posts by other dogs, and will sometimes add his two cents’ worth. And there are times he just gets lost on the WWW and has to be guided back to the sidewalk. Thank goodness he doesn’t have a cordless muzzle. Who knows where he’d end up?

Alas, some of those dogs will never respond because they’re limited to MyInnerSpace, or ChainLinkedIn. Charlie likes to leave a message now and then on a chain link fence for one acquaintance. And now and then, Charlie will just run out of juice. That means he’s been on Furbook for too long, and it’s time to go into sleep mode on the couch.