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Lucky No. 7 on Friday the 13th (and some bad news, too)

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Big little Zuzu turned 7 on Friday the 13th – a lucky day for us.

Ah, me. I’ve been very remiss with The Lolly Diaries. So much going on, so much energy expended with the resistance, and so many appointments with Mother, partly because of a new serious new wrinkle in the fabric of our lives. And we’re still reeling a bit from the gaping hole left in our household by Tess’s departure, especially Zu. (She will get a baby sister for an early Christmas present – we hope she’s happy about that.)

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Zuzu has just never loved opening presents, as all our other dogs have. But she was intrigued by what might be inside.

I grieve for our country, and for the first time in my life, I start each day wondering what fresh new hell that man occupying the White House hath Twitter-wrought. But this is supposed to be a politics-free zone (my Twitter account is another story), so I’ll move on to other topics, mainly Mother’s newly diagnosed condition.

For tortuous weeks we’ve awaited a diagnosis, since we discovered in July, shortly after she turned 82, that Mother is losing her vision at an alarming rate. Now we know she has auto-immune retinopathy, which, in layman’s terms, means her body is rejecting her retinas. This is in addition to, and not caused by, her rheumatoid arthritis. AIR, as it’s called, is very, very rare – that’s how we do things in this family. No treatment for Mother, so we’ll just ride it out.

Of course she can’t drive anymore, but we’re making do. Wednesday she had back-to-back doctor’s appointments and my battery died in her garage (!), so she had her first Uber rides. She is a remarkably resilient woman – a wonder to behold. She intends to keep painting, though she’ll probably have to go rather impressionistic or abstract from now on. I just got her two packs of playing cards for the visually impaired, since she’s still in at least two bridge clubs and will host one at her house Thursday.

And fortunately and fortuitously (or maybe nothing’s by chance), my daughter finished her master’s degree this spring in orientation and mobility for the blind, so Mother has someone who loves her and looks like her to help her adapt as her vision worsens. We’re hoping it will go slowly. It’s already gone so far.

John and I did get away for two fabulous weeks in Sicily and Southern Italy last month, which I’ll talk about another time. I turned 62 in Marsala – a good place since it’s hard to feel old an area formerly populated by Phoenicians.

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That’s me looking through a street in old Pompeii toward Vesuvius. John, who took this photo, said he loves the juxtaposition of the little modern woman looking down a road to the past at the same distant view the ancients saw – I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the drift. (The three random black dots were permanent fixtures on the camera lens of his old iPhone, which he just replaced.)

 

 

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Good girl gone

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One of my favorite pictures of Tess, from three or four years ago. She loved a camera and cameras loved her. Her eyes were still amber then.

If anyone ever tells you that losing pets gets easier with time, they’re lying, especially if you have to make the ultimate decision for them. Over 42 years, I’ve had the great luxury of only having five dogs – they’ve all lived very long lives for their sizes, and many of those years we were a two-dog family. Trigger, who lived to be 12, came home with me when I was 20. Our beloved Tess came home with my sister and me in the last vestiges of my youth – I was a mere 49, which seems young at almost 62.

But never have I had the luxury of a dog dying in her sleep. Even little Trudy, who at 16 years and 3 months had a massive stroke, had to be assisted in her final exit. Tess, a graceful beauty – we called her “Barbie” for her delicate ankles and catwalk poses (but I also called her “Catfish” in her younger years for her silly, swishy walk when we used to go for miles) had dealt with neuropathy for a long time. She had her 12th birthday party in May, and things just seemed to swarm after that. Her dainty ankles puffed up and she fell more and more. But she never lost her sweetness or her smile.

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Our gorgeous girl spent most of her time sleeping or resting the last few weeks. Our beloved vet, Tim Palladino of AllPets, made a house call so she could depart on her own bed. 

She so enjoyed our big family Memorial Day party, but she wasn’t interested in the hot dogs her dad grilled for her. She did really dig the Caesar salad, though, and cleaned the cheese grits pan.

When Tess was tiny and I was recuperating from a life-changing/potentially life-saving surgery, she stayed in the bed with me and patiently chewed on the corner of our expensive newish nightstand. We’ll cherish those little teeth marks forever.

She annoyed the heck our of Toby, who was 9 when Tess joined the family, until Tess was old enough to be her best pal. (Toby made it to almost 14.) She preceded grandchildren but loved, endured, and protected them fiercely as each came along. Zuzu is their buddy, but Tess was their guardian.

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Big little Zuzu will have to learn how to be an only child, at least for a while. She’s wearing Tess’s going-away lei in her honor.

Today we had a little memorial and gardenia-planting for Tess. I’ll close with pictures from that. My heart isn’t in this. It still hurts.

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Pop put the lovely bush in the ground,

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then all the kids helped fill the hole with dirt.

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The kids are happy to have a reminder of Tessie, but Sylvia, who said a few words along with Pop, wanted assurance that we’d never move and leave Tess’s gardenia behind. No matter what, she’ll live in our hearts forever.

Golden girl

 

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Tess Among the Flowers

Today our darling Tessie is 12, quite a geriatric for a German Shepherd. She came to live with us in July 2005, when she was 8 weeks old and I was recuperating from a life-changing (and potentially life-threatening) surgery. Her tiny teeth marks are still on the corner of my very expensive nightstand from where she entertained herself while I snoozed.

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Official 12th birthday portrait – she’s always loved to be photographed.

She’s still an elder beauty, a natural blonde, but in her early years, she was dark and her future appearance was a mystery, as is always the case with shepherds.

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That face! That white-tipped tail (which she still has)!

Tess LOVES presents, so we started early this morning (early for her – she sleeps in most mornings and takes her morning pain medicine before she’s very mobile these days).

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In action

Present

Another squeaky toy!

In November, when Tess came screaming to us with bloat, formally called gastric dilatation volvulus – GDV – the emergency vet clinic wasn’t so sure she’d make it. We knew she would, and even though the vet was nervous, we opted for emergency surgery. Not only did she survive, she got to go home in record time. She was an invalid for a while, and she’s still terribly hobbled by neuropathy, her permanent condition.

A heartbreaker for us, but she’s still happy.

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Excuse the blur – they were a little too excited.

We know her days are numbered – I won’t embarrass her by mentioning some of the indignities of doggy old-age – but for now, she still loves her family and the grandkids and still has her glorious smile, so we persevere. Her neuropathy prevents her from taking the long walks she so loved, and her glorious tail hangs down these days, still with its white tip – not from unhappiness, but from numbness.

But in our minds, she’s still the cutest puppy ever and still has so much to say. Happy birthday, Tess!

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Precious in pink

 

And now it’s 2016 …

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Practicing on my late friend Franchelle Owen’s Wurlitzer piano, which is tucked into our foyer now, is one way I’ll be spending time in 2016. 

Four days into a new year, almost four months into my 60s and about four weeks since I last touched The Lolly Diaries. Time gets away.

But making better use of my time is one of my intentions for this new year. I don’t make resolutions – too stern a word for me and a recipe for failure for many. We need to be kind to ourselves and do the best we can.

Unless we need someone to (metaphorically) crack a whip to keep us going  – sometimes that’s called for, too. And I’ve been known to employ the “fake it until you make it” method repeatedly in my 60 years. Whatever works. We must progress.

Speaking of progress, or, really, lack thereof until now, I also intend to get my ass in gear with the Climate Reality talks. John gave me some no-excuses Christmas gifts – a projector, projector stand and really big portable screen. Seems like eons ago that I was in Miami for training, but only three highly eventful months have passed.

Many, many years have passed since I’ve parked my ass on a piano bench to practice, much less play, but it’s coming back, albeit slowly. I’m so grateful to have a piano to practice on – and I’m very pleased that it belonged to my friend Rhonda’s mother. That makes me smile.

Another thing that makes me smile is that John and I have resumed work on the upstairs. (Hooray!!) Right now it’s him – I don’t build cabinets or do wiring – but we have tile to lay (once we can agree on which tile) and will have cabinets to paint. I’ll share photos, of course.

One last thing for the hopping-back-in-the-saddle post: We kept the youngest grandchild this weekend while the big kids went to the Liberty Bowl (Woo, Pig!). He was a delight and was delighted when we pulled out his big brother’s little Thomas the Tank Engine inflatable bed that I found somewhere about seven years ago.

Probably not as excited as Tess, though. She remembered the tiny bed well and couldn’t wait to join Silas. When I gave him the giant fluffy bear Pop bought for Jude all those years ago, Tess ran and got her giant fluffy stuffed dog and plopped down on the bottom half of the bed.

The wee one was asleep within minutes, all warm and cozy with his bedmate. He even slept through both dogs howling (Tess had moved to her own bed just past the foot of Thomas by then, but Zuzu stood right beside him) when sirens and flashing lights went off at 2:20 a.m.

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Tess is still cuddling her stuffed toy a couple of hours after Silas crashed. I did tuck him back in before we left the room, and at the 2:20 howling, he was still nestled tight.

Such is life downtown.

Here’s to 2016. Let’s make it count.

Something to talk about

In April, Mother and I headed off to Italy – Florence and Venice – for her dream 80th birthday trip. What a time we had!

In April, Mother and I headed off to Italy – Florence and Venice – for her dream 80th birthday trip. What a time we had!

The last time I shut The Lolly Diaries, I locked the key, put it under the bed and thought it was time to move on. But since we still have something to talk about, lots of things, I pulled it out, dusted it off, made several changes and decided to carry on.

I’ll address the changes in a sec, but first let me say happy birthday to Bonnie Raitt, who turned 65 today and whose Silver Lining album (from which “Something to Talk About” hails) was playing in the background as John and I grew to love each other.

It’s been a big birthday year and a year of major changes, some good, some awful. Such is life, no?

Anyway, if you’ve followed this blog a while, you might notice the tagline has changed, along with a few other things – of course my five grandchildren are still the lights of my life, but since they’re not old enough to give informed consent to being all over the internet (well, you know what I mean), they won’t be as big a focus in the continuing form of TLD. Some posts are now down and many, many photos have disappeared.

Not every post will have a song link, and I’ve got some other not-ready-for-prime-time writing that’s taking up chunks of my time, so posts might be much shorter and more infrequent. We’ll see how things pan out.

This entry, though, will be a quick catch-up, in photo album form.

Sweet John dropped us off at the airport on his 64th birthday. He was so excited we got to go.

Sweet John dropped us off at the airport on his 64th birthday. He was so excited we got to go.

Mother was such a trouper and good traveler – you'd never know it was her first transcontinental trip or that she was almost 80.

Mother was such a trouper and good traveler – you’d never have known it was her first transcontinental trip or that she was almost 80. This was the day we arrived in Florence. Just a little rest and off we went!

A friendly couple wanted to take our picture at Palazzo Pitti in Florence.

A friendly couple wanted to take our picture at Palazzo Pitti in Florence.

Mother said she drank more wine on our trip than she had in her whole life (a bit of an exaggeration), but when in Italy, right?

Mother said she drank more wine on our trip than she had in her whole life (a bit of an exaggeration), but when in Italy, right?

In May, our Tessie turned 10! She still loves to cool off in the fountain at the Clinton Library on hot days.

In May, our Tessie turned 10! She still loves to cool off in the fountain at the Clinton Library on hot days.

Hard to believe this is the face of 80, but Mother couldn't have been more happy to have her family around for her birthday party.

Hard to believe this is the face of 80, but Mother couldn’t have been happier to have her family around for her birthday party.

See?

See?

And here are the Cartwright girls on our mother's birthday. We are not twins, nor did we plan to dress alike.

And here are the Cartwright girls on our mother’s birthday. We are not twins, nor did we plan to dress alike.

We've had another dash of progress in our big old house ...

We’ve had another dash of progress in our big old house …

... but we're not there yet. We did have our first party upstairs that included actual walls and real furniture.

… but we’re not there yet. We did have our first party upstairs that included actual walls and real furniture.

In September, I turned 60 – Mother made me a spice cake with penuche frosting, always my fave of her cakes. I bought vegan cupcakes for Silas this time, though Liz and I continue to work on recipes the little guy can enjoy.

In September, I turned 60 – Mother made me a spice cake with penuche frosting, always my fave of her cakes. I bought vegan cupcakes for Silas this time, though Liz and I continue to work on recipes the little guy can enjoy.

My darling Pam, who turned 60 in June (John and I went to Heber for hers), joined us at Mother's for my celebration. We're happy as heck about being older gals.

My darling Pam, who turned 60 in June (John and I went to Heber for her birthday), joined us at Mother’s for my celebration. We’re happy as heck about being older gals – and still being joined at the heart.

Later in September was my trip to Miami (my real 60th birthday present, along with this new lightweight MacBook Pro from John) for three days of Climate Reality Leadership training (much more on that to come later). One of the perks was witnessing the lunar eclipse on Miami Bay.

Later in September was my trip to Miami (my real 60th birthday present, along with this new lightweight MacBook Pro from John) for three days of Climate Reality Leadership training (much more on that to come later). One of the perks was witnessing the lunar eclipse on Miami Bay.

We’ll end this photo album catch-up episode with Zuzu’s fifth birthday in October. Both are girls are hale and hearty, which makes us very happy.

Birthday girl Zuzu is quite serious about photos, but Tess can't help but smile if she sees a camera pointed her way.

Birthday girl Zuzu is quite serious about photos, but Tess can’t help but smile if she sees a camera pointed her way.

Monterey

A little night reading ... my nightstand overflows with books, most of which I'm at least partway into. The guide to Italy and the two Italian language books are part of my preparation for taking Mother on our trip in April.

A little night reading … my nightstand overflows with books, most of which I’m at least partway into. The guide to Italy and the two Italian language books are part of my preparation for taking Mother on our trip in April.

I’ve never been to Monterey, though I’d love to go there, but Eric Burdon and the Animals’ classic description of the Monterey Pop Festival has been playing in my head for days. That’s because I finally let myself jump with both feet into On the Road with Janis Joplin, one of my Christmas presents from John.

janis It’s super fabulous if you’re a Janis fan – and, really, anyone who enjoys reading history and about pop culture should enjoy it. OTRWJJ is no adequately written lightweight memoir; au contraire, this book is a literary delight. John Byrne Cooke, the multi-talented author (he shot most of the photos and also worked on the filming of Monterey Pop, the excellent documentary, among other accomplishments), is a Harvard graduate and excellent writer, as well he should be as the son of well-known British journalist Alastair Cooke and the great-grandnephew of Ralph Waldo Emerson on his mother’s side.

That’s plenty to give him literary cred. But most importantly for this book, he was Janis Joplin’s road manager from shortly after she played the pop festival with Big Brother and the Holding Company until her much too youthful death – a gig that couldn’t have been easy.

For whatever reason, I was mildly (possibly a lot-ly) obsessed with the Monterey Pop Festival as a kid – I was 11 when it happened, but it just seemed so fantastic and fantastical that I was and always have been drawn to anything about it. I got The Animals’ 45 as soon as it came out and played it over and over. So I was in a literary swoon reading Cooke’s descriptions of the event, including the logistics, the crowd, the performances, even the newspaper reviews.

I’d read some nugget aloud to John from the treadmill (where I do lots of my reading) every time he came within earshot. (Side note: I know I drive John crazy at times, but my Myers-Briggs personality inventory says I can’t help sharing things I’m excited about.)

(Side-side note: I was tickled to read in her recent Rolling Stone cover story that my girl Stevie Nicks was reading OTRWJJ, too.)

This is the third book in a reading cycle of sorts. One of the books I took on our recent trip to Washington, a gift from my 10Songsexcellent friend Susan Garner, who thought I’d like it after hearing about it on NPR, is Greil Marcus’s History of Rock ’n‘ Roll in Ten Songs.

Was she ever right! I read the whole book on the return trip. This is not your standard R&R fare – Marcus takes readers on many side roads, tangents and flights of fancy as he discusses the music we love through some of the more obscure songs in the genre.

If you’re serious about music and like books that don’t walk the beaten path, I highly recommend it. I found myself at times thinking of Sarah Vowell’s books, with their sidetracks and tangents.

Telegraph_AvenueAs soon as we got home I started in on Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon. If you love Chabon’s writing, you’ll enjoy this book. If you’d love a good, quirky story set in and around an Oakland record store (vinyl, not CDs) – with midwifery, family tensions and coming of age themes – then you’ll enjoy it, too. We’re talking literary fiction, not pop fiction, but Telegraph Avenue is easy to read and hard to put down. And it’s nowhere near Chabon’s best work.

This is my overflow stack on the dresser – and one reason the nightstand is in such disarray. I keep cheating and grabbing books form the overflow stack. I'm an addict; what can I say? But the top two books are for the trip ...

This is my overflow stack on the dresser – and one reason the nightstand is in such disarray. I keep cheating and grabbing books from the overflow stack before finishing the nightstand books. I’m an addict; what can I say? But the top two books are for the trip …

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••

I was thinking today that perhaps we should have named Zuzu “Shadow” or “Curious Georgeanne.” Wherever you are, there she is, and whatever you’re doing, her nose is in it. She’s precious and has an exuberance for life, but, dang, she can be an obstacle.

But look at that face.

Zuzu takes a break from dogging Mom. She'd been my shadow or stumbling block all morning. But we love her madly.

Zuzu takes a break from dogging Mom. She’d been my shadow or stumbling block all morning. But we love her madly.

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

One last note about the damned shower and this will be the end of it, I promise. First, I moved all my stuff back downstairs and took a heavenly debut shower today. Ah, the pleasure of not having to stand on a stool to get wet. It’s just my size, has nice water pressure and the river rock floor is like a foot massage.

So, ultimately, whatever. As Tom said, it’s the little things.

But the “grout” is definitely more concrete than grout – we just can’t figure out what those guys were thinking/doing/hoping to accomplish. I’ve a bit of trepidation over how it will hold up, since it won’t take the sealer (even though said sealer is made for grout OR concrete – but evidently not a mix of the two). And, just to show that I’m not an insane woman, as John said I might appear, one last photo to show where he had to patch some areas with the grout we chose.

The chosen color was “Dark Taupe.” We’ll live with “Driveway Gray,” if it holds together. Fingers crossed.

See?! I told you it was the wrong color and texture. The dark area is the pure grout. OK, ohmmm ... letting it go.

See?! I told you it was the wrong color and texture. The dark area is the pure grout. OK, ohmmm … letting it go.

Tenth avenue freeze out

Brrrr.  We may be having a freeze out (freeze in? I haven’t left the house except to get the paper since Thursday night), but a little Bruce Springsteen always warms my heart and soul – and body because I can’t stand still to “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out.

But standing still hasn’t been a problem in my life – busyness is the flavor du jour on an almost daily basis, but I’ve noticed a shift, a burden lifted, a lightness of being of late.

This has been one hell of a year, but I feel it moving on. Maybe that accounts for the lighter feeling. Maybe it’s happiness and recent forward progress. One step at a time, but whatever it is, I hope it holds.

Meanwhile, let me capture a few things from the past few days.

Marie-Noelle left Wednesday, after being fogged out of flying back to Los Angeles on Tuesday. We had a great time just being together, especially father and daughter.

Marie-Noelle and John are checking something out, something that required a slamming of the laptop when I walked over. Hmmmm ...

Marie-Noelle and John are checking something out, something that required a slamming of the laptop when I walked over. Hmmmm ….

Though I wasn’t there to witness the work most days (being at work myself at ESSE Purse Museum, where I do an assortment of things, including writing The ESSEntial Blog), Marie-Noelle assisted her dad with woodwork in the upstairs living quarters.

This film-noirish nighttime shot shows the progress they made on the large oak trim separating the walls from the cathedral ceiling – and around the ancient windows.

This film-noirish nighttime shot shows the progress they made on the large oak trim separating the walls from the cathedral ceiling – and around the ancient windows.

That extra day in Little Rock also allowed her to help John hang the giant light in the foyer, the one I’ve wanted installed for years but that John thought was too big. Marie-Noelle voted with me, and voila! We have a gorgeous new addition.

See, it fits just fine.

See, it fits just fine. Now about that door …

Daytime view from below.

Daytime view from below.

Since Marie-Noelle is back in the states, her leaving wasn’t as bittersweet – and it’s particularly sweet that she refers to coming to visit as “coming home.”

We’ve got three good kids. Yeah, yeah, they’re grown, but they’ll always be our kids.

John and I still feel like kids in many ways, especially when we’re sleeted in and can take the day to decorate the Christmas tree while watching “Love, Actually.” (Yes, I cried again, for a variety of reasons: It’s sweet, it’s sad, Liam Neeson plays a widower with a son and now he is a widower with sons – and Hugh Grant reminds me of Daddy. But I adore it and it makes me feel good overall.)

OK, I decorated. John helped with the lights then left me to it – and declared it perfect even though I slipped most of my Barbie ornaments on once again. He protested in the early years but has given up on the Barbie issue. Someday they’ll be divided between the granddaughters.

We also have many, many German Shepherd ornaments. We don’t do “theme”  or designer trees. Just happy trees.

Many of our ornaments are German Shepherds – this one looks like it was made as a likeness of Zuzu.

Many of our ornaments are German Shepherds – this one looks like it was made as a likeness of Zuzu.

The dogs are always happy about our Christmas tree – they’re like big kids, too. Zuzu was named after a Christmas character, Zuzu in “It’s a Wonderful Life” (possibly my favorite movie of all time and one that always makes me cry), and she was a Christmas present, ostensibly for John but as much for Tess and me, three years ago.

And, oddly, the older Tess gets, the more playful and demanding she is. After eight years of refusing to return anything after catching or chasing it, now she’ll bring a ball or toy back and drop it or toss it to one of us over and over and over – alternating whom she gives it to if we’re both there.

Pretty darn cute, if a bit annoying when we’re trying to watch a movie and she’s doing her “Let’s play; let’s play now” yip over and over. But that face is hard to resist.

Look, Mom, I brought two choices. Will you throw one, huh? Huh? Huh?

Look, Mom, I brought two choices. Will you throw one, huh? Huh? Huh?

Well, rats. I had a whole next section about books, but the clock says otherwise. A party beckons and I’m officially running late. Maybe tomorrow.