Posted by Gail Gabrielson at 22 September 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.

 

 

Posted by Gail Gabrielson at 16 September 2014

Category: Memoir

It was a sweet, simple wedding: no string quartet or 16 attendants, no champagne toasts or limousines. It was just our daughter Robin and Nate, their attendants Kelly and Jason, and a small country church.

The pews were filled with mostly family and a few friends. In a larger church, the group may have seemed skimpy, but in the hometown church, it was a full house.

The attendants came from a side room; Robin’s attendant was her brother Jason. No maid of honor in a dress that would never be worn again. Nate’s friend Kelly was the best man. They opted for white shirts and bright blue ties. Jerry escorted Robin up the aisle, and the ceremony began.

Pastor Sonja introduced a couple of women who read poems that Robin had written. In one, Robin talked about how she and Nate had met: at the gas station where she was working. It was a sweet reading that brought a genuine grin to the groom’s face.

The pastor spoke a little, mentioning how the two met, and how they’d been urged by friends and family to get married. They’ve been together for nine years. (Has it really been that long?) She gave them their vows, blessed the rings and voila! It’s a marriage.

Whenever we discussed plans, the mantra was, “Keep it simple.” I’ve seen at least one wedding where no expense was spared, and the marriage didn’t last more than a month. And that’s part of what drove some of the decisions: do we spend money on this, or save it for a down payment on a house?

Robin and Nate will be making a great start together. The wedding might have been quick and simple, but the marriage should last for a long time. They’re good for each other.

Posted by Gail Gabrielson at 22 August 2014

Category: Memoir

I made a new friend today. That’s it, that’s my big highlight. I have the fog to thank. Charlie the puggle and I were taking our morning walk a little later than normal, so I also have Charlie to thank. He let me sleep in until 7:15! Oh, the luxury of it! (I don’t have to be to work until 11 a.m., so you understand my enthusiasm.)

We were out at the park, thinking about sitting down on one of the benches, when a woman rode up on her bicycle and sat down at the picnic table as if she were meeting a friend. (She was.) We chatted about the dense fog and she told me how her friend got lost in the fog and ended up several blocks away. I expressed sympathy about having to look for her friend.

Charlie dragged me over to her, so she could pet him, and after they bonded, Charlie sniffed her backpack.

“Ooh, Charlie,” I cooed, “what does she have in her bag? Is it her lunch?”

“That’s my house,” she told me.

“Ah,” I replied. “Traveling light.”

We talked more — about the weather, about the park and how it gets trashed now and then, and how nice it was to have a porta-potty there. I recalled how last year, someone kept tipping it over. She said she remembered that. She told me how someone vandalized the porta-potty, and she called the phone number on it, and they came out and cleaned it up.

Yes, my new friend Stephanie has a phone. It’s likely a prepaid phone and perhaps it’s only for emergencies — I don’t know. It didn’t matter. She was friendly, she shook my hand, and she laughed with me when I joked about how fat my dog is. She told me that she’d been staying at the Gladys Ray Shelter since it opened. She has a voucher for a month’s rent and a deposit for an apartment, but no one will rent to her. I expressed my dismay at that.

While we were chatting, another friend pulled up on her bike and sat down. She’d brought the doughnuts. And soon, two fellows joined us. They were on foot. They pretended to take the two bicycles, and then laughed and sat down. They were apparently friends, too. They had all the time in the world. There wasn’t any pressure to be anywhere at a certain time. It was a nice visit.

I have a job, so I do have to be somewhere. And now, looking at the clock, I realize I have to get ready for that job. I hope I see Stephanie again. She’s a nice lady.

Posted by Gail Gabrielson at 18 August 2014

Category: Charlie, Memoir

It looked foggy out this morning when I peeked from the window. But it was Monday and Charlie hadn’t popped up on the side of the bed to wake me. I could hear him breathing heavy from the floor, and I heard him when he got up and flapped his ears to let me know he was actually awake.

Charlie had actually let me sleep in until 10 to 7! Usually it’s 6:30 every morning when he stands beside my side of the bed and then puts his front paws on my arm to let me know it’s time to get up. I have permanent little bruises on my arm from his nails. But he’s so appealing, I can’t get cross with him.

I rolled out of bed, got ready, and got Charlie all cinched up for his walk. He always wears his collar, and then we use a harness on him so he doesn’t strangle himself with all his enthusiasm for getting out there. We got out onto the front step, and Charlie turned around. It was drizzling.

I stepped down off the porch and felt it. It wasn’t too bad. We were just going to get a little damp. “Come on, let’s go,” I told him, and away we went. I intended to go around one block, but Charlie decided for us: In for a penny, in for a pound. We went all the way to the park. And by the time we got there, it had stopped spritzing.

A murder of crows greeted us in the park. I decided that’s going to be the opening line of a book I write. The crows have been hanging around the park because there’s always something to forage for in the garbage cans. People from the apartments go out there and have picnics and take their kids to play. Drunks on their way to the shelter leave their bottles and bags, too.

I didn’t pick up trash today. The trash bins were already full, so whatever I’d pick up would just blow out. Maybe tomorrow.

Charlie and I got home and dried off, and in no time, Charlie had eaten his breakfast and fallen asleep on the couch. And he was barking in his sleep. Just little yips that came from deep in his belly, punctuated by his twitching paws. It was so cute. Yeah, I’m a dog person.

I imagined that he was dreaming about last night. We had an impromptu family get-together because my nephew was here from California. It was minor mayhem, since the three dogs in the building had more people to get attention from. Charlie was lapping it up, since all he has to do is turn his gaze on someone to get their affection.

Tucker, the Lab who lives upstairs with my sister and cowers in the bathroom during thunder storms, had eyes only for the tennis ball. He would whine until I tossed it for him, or tried to kick it past him in our little soccer matches. If I get it past him, I consider it a goal. He’s a good goalie.

It was fun visiting with my brother and his family. We had some laughs and shared our lives a little. It was great to be able to connect over ribs and brisket, and update everyone face to face. Facebook is OK, but face to face is better.

Posted by Gail Gabrielson at 15 August 2014

Category: Charlie, Memoir

This morning as Charlie and I set out, I didn’t take a garbage bag with me. I took my camera.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Gail Gabrielson at 15 August 2014

Category: Memoir

I’ve been gone for a while — for whatever reason, my account was suspended. Perhaps I neglected it too long, perhaps my account was hacked. I’ve changed the password, and renewed my resolve to post more often.

I have a new job that’s completely computer work, so maybe I was a little burned out after learning a load of new stuff. Heck, I’m STILL learning new stuff!

What’s the highlight of my day today? After getting a good night’s sleep, I woke up before the sun was completely up — thanks to my little four-legged alarm clock. Charlie the Puggle has been diligent in getting me out of bed at daybreak for our daily walk.

We’ve been seeing some beautiful flowers on our walk. A couple of houses along Fifth Avenue South have some really creative flower beds, bursting with color and variety. We’ve also made some new friends. Our old four-legged friend Dar passed away over the winter, but his owner has a new dog, Java, who has more energy than a wind-up toy.

We’ve been seeing other people using the park (and sometimes misusing the park by leaving their garbage all over). So when I think about it, I take along a grocery bag and stuff it with the trash in our path — mostly empty water bottles and soda cans. I just can’t bear to walk past the trash!

Charlie thinks it’s a game, too, to see what little morsels have been left behind. So far, he hasn’t helped me pick up anything, which would be nice, but anytime he picks something up, I know it’s probably a chicken bone that didn’t make it to the trash bin. He’s been good about not swallowing it, and letting me grab it out of his mouth without a lot of protest. One day this week, he managed to swallow a hunk of chicken, and he “gave” it back by throwing up the next morning.

One new face we’ve seen consistently is an older gentleman who walks along at a brisk pace, head down, carrying a back pack and intent upon ignoring us. I think he’s probably afraid of dogs. What makes him stand out in my memory is that he’s the human version of Mr. Burns, a character on The Simpsons. He has the same balding pate, beaky nose and nearly nonexistent chin. This fellow doesn’t look like he has a mean bone in his body, while the cartoon version delights in someone else’s misfortune. He just doesn’t say anything, and gives us a wide berth when he passes.

Yesterday morning I could have had a great picture of the super moon, but didn’t take my camera. This morning I took my camera, and didn’t get to the park in time for the colorful sunrise. Oh, well. Maybe I’ll snap some pictures of the flowers and post those.

It’s past my bedtime, and I’m not going to be able to catch up tomorrow. I’m sure Charlie will want to hit the trail early.

Posted by Gail Gabrielson at 7 March 2014

Category: Memoir

Oh, I’m so proud. I got that spelled right the first time. I looked it up on Refdesk.com. It’s a great site — it has a dictionary and thesaurus and all kinds of other references. I use it today because that’s what I’m experiencing now when I read the newspaper: schadenfreude.

The online dictionary simply defines it as pleasure derived from someone else’s misfortune. If you want to learn how to say it, Refdesk also has pronunciation available. That’s a nice feature.

Since I was laid off from working at the newspaper, I haven’t been as devoted a reader. Now I just read it for the schadenfreude. I love to see all the errors — especially in headlines. If a name is spelled one way in the story, don’t you think they could get it right in the headline?

Poor John Travolta. He’s been getting lambasted over messing up Idina Menzel’s name on the Oscars. BuzzFeed.com has a program where you can find out how Travolta would mess up YOUR name! Friends have been posting on Facebook how their names would be mangled.

It’s one thing to be live and not be able to read the teleprompter, but in the newspaper you’d think they’d doublecheck the names — especially when they’re big names dropped by little people.

Today in The Forum, a local movie critic cited Gene Shalit and Joel Siegel as being influences in his career. Unfortunately, they were spelled Gene Shallot (like the onion) and Joe Siegel (perhaps Joel’s lesser-known cousin). So the writer knew that Roger Moore is also an actor, and made that point several times in the story, since the local movie critic shares that name.

Maybe the writer forgot to use Google. Or IMDB.com. Or Wikipedia. Or Bing. Had I been writing the story, trust me, I would have looked up ALL the names. That’s schadenfreude. And I guess that makes me human, too. Like the human who actually wrote the story and winced when he realized it was wrong.

Ah, but in the newspaper business, we say, “Eh, they’ll line their litterboxes with it tomorrow.” In the case of the Oscars, it remains forever on YouTube and BuzzFeed and Facebook.

 

Posted by Gail Gabrielson at 3 March 2014

Category: Review

Giving one’s opinion has become a national pastime now that we have the anonymity of Twitter and other social media. A good example of that was the little sketch where one of the late-night talk show hosts went through the TV screen and chastised a couple for their rudeness. It was a clever bit.

So I’m going to give my two cents’ worth about the Oscars, which will have been sliced and diced and examined from every other viewpoint.

It was nice that the Academy wanted to honor their elders, but please, please, please, leave them in their seats. Seeing Sidney Poitier totter up to the magical microphone that appeared out of the stage was frightening. I was glad that Angelina Jolie held onto him — he looked rather frail. And then he couldn’t see the teleprompter. So sad.

Kim Novak was scary, and I’m not talking about her movies. She’s scary-looking now. No one expects you to retain your youth forever. I don’t know why actresses (and actors) don’t get that. Some of us age better than others — some of it is just genetics. A plastic face that doesn’t move is just plain tragic. And her hands gave away her age anyway.

I was glad that Liza Minnelli didn’t try any harder to steal the spotlight from Ellen. That would have been sad, too. Ellen, by the way, did a fine job in hosting. The pizza bit was a little strange. I would never have taken any because I’d have been wearing tomato sauce on my dress the rest of the night. I know my limitations.

And for heaven’s sake: did some of those stars actually not know what they were going to be reading? Did they not show up for rehearsal? Did they forget their glasses or are they just illiterate? Yikes. I know a few children who could have read from the teleprompter better.

Here’s a little bit of trivia for you: Alfonso Cuaron, who won an Oscar for Gravity, directed one of the Harry Potter movies! Yep, it was Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. More than a few people wondered whether that movie would be too dark for most children, but I think it was fine. OK, back to the Oscars.

How about those musical performances? Bette Midler: outstanding. Pink: awesome. U2: divine. Idina Menzel (better known to me as the Woman Who Played Lea Michele’s Birth Mother on Glee): wildly wonderful. Just one question: Who was that little girl who sang in front of the moon with a guitar player trying to prop her up? So underwhelming. If that performance had been on American Idol, she would have been buzzed off the stage.

Now for the fashions: I missed most of the red carpet stuff, but what I did see was very classy and very well-chosen. Yes, Kate Hudson’s neckline was down to her waist — literally — but she could do it because she wasn’t falling out all over the place. The same with the black woman who won with 12 Years a Slave.

There were a couple of dresses that were less-than-great. Whoopi Goldberg’s comes to mind. It looked like a strapless dress that she put a shirt on underneath. Yes, she’s not young or thin anymore, but that dress just didn’t flatter her.  Whoopi should have tried on a few more dresses. Heck, I have one in my closet that might have fit her.

As for the men: those white tuxedos were very handsome. I didn’t see any tuxedos that were a little iffy. And yes, even Ellen’s white tuxedo was very flattering. She looks good; I can’t imagine her in a dress anymore. I wonder if tuxedos for women will ever catch on for the rest of us.

 

 

Posted by Gail Gabrielson at 28 February 2014

Category: Memoir

I found a link to an interesting story in Huffington Post on what you HAVE to do when you visit each state in the union. A few people responding to my friend’s post on Facebook said they’ve got some traveling to do. I perused the list to see what I have yet to do.

I can legitimately claim six states and their Must-Dos. In Alabama, I’ve been to the US Space and Rocket Center, although I haven’t attended their Space Camp. I doubt they’d take me; their informational packet says that those with asthma may have trouble in some of the simulations.

In Minnesota, I’ve canoed the Boundary Waters — twice! I went on canoe trips with a church youth group, and it’s a good thing I was young. I would never dream of tenting as an adult.

The caverns of Missouri are a must-see. On one vacation, HighGuy and I made a point to going to all the caverns in the area. It was interesting to see how different some of them are. Some are like underground cathedrals, while others are tighter and much more hard to navigate. Some we rode through, others we crawled.

I guess I can’t say whether we drove the Going to the Sun Road in Montana, but HighGuy and I did go to Glacier National Park — on our honeymoon. We did a lot of hiking and saw Old Faithful. I’ll never forget the sulfur smell of the hot spots.

South Dakota’s Corn Palace is a little like Wall Drug. There are tons of signs out there urging you to visit, and lots of hype, but then once you get there, you wonder, “OK, now what?” OK, I was a little impressed at the ingenuity of people who can create art out of corn.

I was surprised that Dollywood made Tennessee’s Must-Do list. But yes, I’ve been there with my entire family. We went with an Odyssey of the Mind team to the Global Finals that were held in Tennessee, and one of our day trips was to Dollywood. We took the little train ride around the countryside. It was relaxing.

It isn’t on the list, but HighGuy and I have also been to the US Golf Hall of Fame in Florida. According to their ads, “If you like golf, you’ve got to go.” So we did. We played an awesome game of miniature golf on an outdoor course.

Although I live in North Dakota, I haven’t done what’s recommended for the state: hike to White Butte near Amidon. It’s considered the highest point in the state. I probably live in the lowest part in the state — the Red River Valley.

Below the HuffPost listing is a photo gallery of places to see in the United States. In checking that list, I can add three more items to check off my bucket list: I have been to Medora to see the cabin that Teddy Roosevelt lived in when he visited; I have seen Mount Rushmore in South Dakota; and I have paid my respects at the Boll Weevil Monument in Alabama. Pretty cool — a monument to a bug.

I’m surprised that Wyoming wasn’t represented on any list. At least I don’t recall any listing. Have they seceded from the Union? I loved seeing Devil’s Tower when we were there. And Casper is a great city to visit, too. Maybe they didn’t have Internet access that day.

Posted by Gail Gabrielson at 22 January 2014

Category: Memoir

It’s true that beggars can’t be choosers, as I’m learning firsthand. My car is in the body shop, getting a new front bumper. Winter’s been tough on my car this year!

So while my car is next door getting a new piece of expensive fiberglass, I’m driving Mom’s car. Oh, it’s going to be a long week. My car is a Kia Sorento — considered an SUV or at least a small SUV. I sit a little higher in it, and I like being able to see. It’s a Zachheus thing. Meanwhile, Mom’s car is a Ford something… I think a Taurus. It rides along the ground.

Mom and I are approximately the same height — she’s done some shrinking — but we’re definitely not built the same. She must have longer legs and a shorter torso, while I’m just the opposite. I tried to get into her car to back it out of the garage, and I thought I was going to have to take off my head to get in. I fell into the seat, brought in my legs and put it in reverse. Whew. Got that far.

Once I was in, I couldn’t get out again. I tried moving the seat back. That seemed to help. I crawled out, and checked the seat adjustment buttons. Ah-ha! I could move the seat down as well as back, so I could fit my fat head into the interior of the car. My head fits, now if I could get my feet and legs to follow!

I moved the seat back still farther, so I could just barely reach the gas pedal, while still being able to touch the brake pedal easily. If I don’t wear my snowboots, I think I’ll be able to maneuver into and out of her car. Her steering wheel is still too close, and I’m still reaching down to find a phantom stick.  I might get used to having the shift lever on the steering column by Thursday.

Parking on Tuesday was a losing proposition. I had to park out in the South Forty — probably a block and a half away from any door at work. I thought about leaving the car at home and just walking to work. Well, maybe not. It’s really cold and windy. I found out just how cold and windy when I went on my supper break. I knew that car was out there somewhere, I just didn’t recall exactly where.

And her car doesn’t have an Astro Start, so I couldn’t set off any alarms or flares or even a toot to give me a clue as to where it was hiding. Did I mention it sits rather low to the ground? At least when I’m looking for my white SUV, I have a few targets to choose from. Mom’s car is low and red — we tease her that it’s her mid-life crisis sports car.

After 15 minutes of checking out low red cars in the back lot, I finally found her car. I was just about ready to call a taxi to help me in the search. I’ll have to say this much for her Ford: It does warm up quickly. Now if I could get the seat adjusted so I don’t feel like the Hunchback of Notre Dame hanging over the steering wheel… I think it’s the headrest that’s a little low.