Posted by Gail Gabrielson at November 18, 2015

Category: RANT

I walk our dog Charlie every day (well, OK, almost every day) and our path takes us past a small strip mall just off Main Avenue.  The small businesses there are mostly ethnic — an African food market and a barber, among others. Every day, without fail, I notice trash on the ground around the businesses. And since this is North Dakota, the trash blows around the neighborhood. If I lived south of this little bunch of businesses, I’d be angry.

And the business owners are not doing themselves any favors. The presence of trash makes the entire area look tacky and rundown. They have Dumpsters in the back, but it’s always filled to overflowing, which leads me to believe they don’t have a contract to have it emptied.

I’d pick up the trash in my yard, and then I’d complain to the business owners. And unfortunately, those business owners might not understand me, because I’d bet the majority of them are New Americans. And those few are giving other New Americans a bad name. They don’t need any more black marks against them.

Posted by Gail Gabrielson at November 17, 2015

Category: RANT

Here’s a list of things that bug me — not big things, just little annoyances.

Guys who wear their pants hanging low look ridiculous. I just want to tell them, “Pull up your pants; you look like an idiot!” And I’m told that wearing pants low like that is actually a signal to other … ahem … guys looking for a “date.”

People buy nice clothes and then don’t know enough to open the pockets and back vent. Um, folks, the pockets and vent are basted shut so they don’t hang funny on the rack. And they press nicely in the store. But once you take the garment home, you can open the pockets. You can use them.

I buy 90 percent of my clothes at thrift stores, and I think I dress nicely. I can’t imagine buying everything new. Oh, I buy some things new: underwear, coats, shoes. But everything else is used. And when I’ve worn a garment a few times and I’m tired of it, I give it away again. I’ve gotten my money’s worth, and I don’t feel bad about donating it for someone else to wear and enjoy.

Little old ladies with grey hair who wear it long need a real friend to tell them it looks tacky. Color it, cut it, find a real style. Parted in the middle and worn straight isn’t a style. It’s the path of least resistance; it’s lazy; it’s boring. (And those who wear their hair as they did in high school are equally boring.)

Those who demonize the media would miss knowing what REALLY happened. One of the biggest compliments I received when I worked for a newspaper was from a board secretary. She said that in her limited minutes she couldn’t go into detail about how or why a decision was made. My coverage of the meetings gave that detail, and I think she found my coverage fair and unbiased.

Diets in which an entire food group is eliminated seems ill-advised. OK, you have celiac disease, so you have to go gluten-free. (What do they use to replace flour — sawdust?) I know a few people who are giving up all grains because they claim it’s healthier. Hmm, I have doubts about that. OK, they aren’t eating a lot of processed food, and that’s probably healthier, but all that meat certainly must be raising their cholesterol level.

I couldn’t give up chocolate. That’s one of the things that makes life worth living. I’m trying to make healthier choices, but my health coaches have said, “Go ahead and have chocolate if that’s what you’re craving. Just don’t go overboard.” I don’t want to feel deprived on this diet, and so far, I’m not. In all things, moderation.


Posted by Gail Gabrielson at October 22, 2015

Category: Uncategorized

HighGuy has been out of town off and on for a couple of weeks due to his job. I’m accustomed to having the time alone — well, I’m not really alone with relatives nearby. And I mean close.

But, poor Charlie Puggle. He doesn’t quite understand it. He knows that we both go to work during the week and stay (mostly) home on the weekends. He understands when we go to the lake for the weekend, and barks excitedly when we put his halter on for the car ride. He can’t wait to get out the door when we arrive.

Now that fall has arrived, HighGuy and I stay at home, and every weekend is different. But we still get up early (just not AS early) and go for a walk. I hate walking early mornings when it’s dark. Then I have to juggle the poop bag, a flashlight and the leash. And when it gets colder, I’ll have to do with with gloves on. But I digress.

Last week when HighGuy was gone, Charlie couldn’t figure it out. He waited by the door, and hung out behind HighGuy’s chair, wanting to be the first to greet him when he came home. Nope, no daddy. Daddy had brought home a new toy — a bright green stuffed wiener dog. So when it was time for bed, Charlie did the next-best thing. He trudged back to the living room, picked up his toy, and brought it to bed with him.

He kept his toy close by all week, and then Daddy came home, and Charlie was beside himself, wagging his tail and generally acting like an idiot. This week Daddy is gone again, but Charlie is a little less anxious. He’s still keeping his toy nearby, but he’ll be just as excited when Daddy comes home tonight.

Posted by Gail Gabrielson at October 19, 2015

Category: Charlie, Memoir

When Charlie Puggle and I walk in the mornings now it’s dark out. And it will remain dark out until we hit Daylight Savings Time. And it’ll still be dark out.

This morning I started thinking of all the ways to say “dark” or “black.” Black as pitch, dark as night, black as the ace of spades — those were the common ones.

So then I decided to come up with some new ones:

Dark as Stephen King’s dreams. (I’m just guessing, of course.)

Black as Satan’s mustache. (Assuming he has one.)

Black as a pirate’s heart. (Again, assuming he has one.)

So, can you come up with anything?


Posted by Gail Gabrielson at October 18, 2015

Category: Uncategorized

I walk my dog every morning, and I’ve had some random thoughts that don’t deserve a entire post, but I’ve kept track of them.

I pick up some of the trash I see, and I’m always amazed when I find an energy drink can on the ground, mere feet from a trash can. What? They just had an energy drink, and they couldn’t make it to the trash can? I pick up my dog’s poop, and I manage to get it to the can.

The Forum had just run a story on the homeless, which I read with interest. I’ve met some homeless people in the park where we walk. Nice bunch, for the most part. They’ve greeted us with a little hesitation, but Charlie usually breaks the ice nicely. We haven’t seen anyone for a long time, but just the other day, we saw three girls walking early on a Sunday in a park.

I didn’t think anything about it at first. But then I thought again. It was early Sunday morning, and they were not dressed up for church. Well, neither was I, but I had a dog with me. They looked as if maybe they’d just woken up and had to leave quickly. They were three different ages, so they weren’t friends; they might have been sisters.

They weren’t walking as if they were having fun. I thought it looked more like they were killing time. And thinking back on it now, I wish I had stopped them to see if they were OK. And maybe they would have looked at me as if I were crazy.

Walking in the early morning is quiet, or at least most of the time. One morning HighGuy walked with me and we saw a bunch of people in the parking lot of an apartment, yelling at one another. We took an alternate route through the park. Didn’t want to disturb a potential rumble. But HighGuy hasn’t gone with us for a long time.

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.