An Almost-Escape

A few days before Thanksgiving, our yard man showed up to mow/mulch in what we anticipated would be his final appearance until next spring.

Now this is a guy we’ve used in the past, several times in fact. He generally does a decent job, is reasonably fast, and (when we remind him) edges and blows off the sidewalks and driveway.

I distinctly remember cautioning him when he first reported for duty that I have a dog. The gate, I said, needs to be shut and locked when he finishes — every time, no excuses.

Okay, he said.

Being a Nervous Nellie, I always checked after he left to make certain he’d done just that.

And he had.

One can grow complacent in the face of reliability.

The day in question was dreary. Foggy. Damp. Drizzly. Cold.

As soon as the yard man left, Mom opened the door so Darling Doggie could relieve himself.

In his nice, safe, fenced yard.

Did you check the gate? I asked her.

No, he always shuts it, she said.

Something insisted I check.

I took out a bag of trash and found Darling Doggie standing on the back porch. A quizzical expression flitted across his furry face.

I need to check the gate, I told him. He beat me there and stood about a yard inside staring at the OPEN gate!

My heart skipped a beat, or maybe more.

Patting him and praising him for being a good dog, I inserted myself between him and the gate, and swiftly shut the thing and locked it.

He followed me inside, where I promptly gave him a Pupperoni treat.

But as he slept that afternoon (and as I fell asleep that night), scary images raced through my mind:

What if he’d seen a squirrel or cat and given chase?

What if he’d become disoriented in the world beyond the gate and couldn’t find his way back home?

What if I’d had to track him all over the county?

What if someone had stolen him?

What if a strange dog had come into our back yard?

What if I hadn’t checked that gate?

Those whose hearts have never been claimed by a dog probably can’t understand the panic I felt. Pets rely on us their entire life, not like babies who eventually grow up and often move away.

So St. Francis, thank you for the insistent nudge, for looking after my Sheltie!

And next time, I don’t care how reliable a worker is — you can bet I’m going to check that gate before sending my doggie outside.

A Stranger Comes Calling

A few days ago, I was chugging along on the treadmill, minding my own business, my thoughts a mile away, when I caught a glimpse of something odd.

It was a dark-colored something, and it SWOOPED through the entryway of our house.

My heart racing, I hopped off the treadmill and picked my way — tentatively! — toward the front door.

There, on the blinds covering the skinny floor-to-ceiling window beside the door, hung a BAT!

Big brown bat (image thanks to West Virginia Dept. of Natural Resources)

The thing was clinging for dear life, its head looking around, its wings sort of folded. It wasn’t making any noise.

Stifling a shriek, I called upstairs for my mom, who was peacefully watching TV. She joined me in the hall, and the two of us surveyed the bat and mulled our options.

‘We’ve got to kill it,’ she told me.

With what — a gun?

I can see us missing the bat but inserting bullet holes in the walls, the ceiling, and the floor, not to mention shattering the windowpane.

‘That’s not gonna happen,’ I said.

‘So let’s open the door, and maybe he’ll fly out.’

Right. Maybe.

By then, my Sheltie picked up on the commotion and arose from his nap. He, too, joined the party in the hall, looking around expectantly to see if this was some sort of new game.

Knowing his breed herds things, I led him to his crate — where he’d be safe and out of the way. My nerves were already raw; the last thing I needed was a manic Sheltie barking underfoot!

Meanwhile, Mom went into the garage and returned with a broom and a large Styrofoam box.

‘Here,’ she said, handing me the box. ‘I’ll move him, and you catch him, then we’ll send him back outside.’

Just like that, huh?

Before she could disturb Battie, I clamped the Styrofoam over him and held it there on the blinds.

Was he in the box? Duh, what choice did he have?

‘What do we do now?’ Mom asked.

Feeling a bit like Lucy and Ethel, I asked her to open the front door and flip on the porch light. Then I slid the box (hoping Battie was still inside) toward the door and gave the thing a shove.

The box fell to the floor; Battie wasn’t in it.

Uh-oh, could he have made his way back into the house?

We conducted a frantic search but found no bat.

‘He must’ve gone out,’ Mom decided. ‘Both of us were at the door, and neither of us saw him come back in.’

Let’s hope, I thought.

It’s been a few days now and no more bat, so we must have succeeded. Since then, I’ve done a bit of research and learned we did most of the right things — surprise!

But don’t call us for your exterminating needs!

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving to all my blogging friends! May your tables be laden with food, your homes filled with family and friends, your hearts cheered with laughter, and your spirits overflowing with gratitude. I’m taking a few days off; will return after the turkey-feast.

What’s Your Definition of Short?

Have you ever had a lifelong idea about yourself shattered with just one statement?

That’s exactly what happened while I was shopping yesterday.

I went into a store at the mall in search of a pair of shoes. They had to be cute. Functional. Comfortable. Sort of stylish. And not over-priced.

Not asking much, huh?

But if you don’t set some parameters, you could end up with the opposite of what you’re hunting for. And I had a pair of casual twill slacks that were screaming for new shoes.

I explained my predicament to the clerk, who suggested ballet flats.

‘Already have some,’ I said. And the slacks I’m looking to wear with this as-yet-purchased pair of shoes hang about three inches longer than flats will accommodate.

‘Oh, then you need heels,’ she said.

Shrugging, I nodded.

‘Of course, you’re short and probably could stand having your pants hemmed,’ she pointed out.

‘Short? Me? No way.’

I’m pushing 5’6″, not short by anyone’s measure (unless I’m standing beside my TALL son!)

‘Five-six? Oh, but that is short,’ she assured me. ‘Why, today’s average woman is between 5’8″ and 5’10”. That’s why manufacturers are lengthening pant legs and jacket sleeves.’


Another customer overheard our discussion and inserted her two bits’ worth.

‘I always buy petites or short sizes,’ she said. ‘And I’m almost your height.’

No, she wasn’t. I could see I had a good inch or two on her. But who argues with another customer in a shoe store?

“Petites,” from everything I’ve read, are for women under 5’4″, specifically in the 4’11” to 5’3″ range.

That is NOT me.

Still bristling, I hurried (without a purchase) back home to my laptop to search for the average size of American women today. Guess what?

According to, the average height of American women was 5’3″ in 1960 but increased to 5’4″ in 2002. The article goes on to say the average size increases every two to three decades.

That’s 20 to 30 years, people!

By my calculations, it might take 45 years for the average woman’s height to reach my height. And in 45 years, I probably won’t give one fiddle-dee-dee whether my pant legs drag all over the street or not!

Store clerks who want to make sales should never insult customers, argue with them, or make all-encompassing assertions that are wrong (especially when customers are able to check the facts themselves).

I am NOT short, I’m average.

And I don’t consider that an insult. I’ve thought it all along!

How NOT to Pet-Sit

My neighbor was going out of town over the weekend and asked if I would let her Chihuahua outside to potty the first day.

Her daughter would tend the dog afterward, but wouldn’t be available until dinnertime.

Enter me.

‘He won’t be any trouble,’ she assured me. ‘The backyard is fenced. Just open the door, shoo him out, watch to see he does what he’s supposed to do, then let him back in.’

Easy squeezy.

Now I’ve seen her walking this dog, but I’ve never “played” with him. I’ve been in the entryway of her house, but never really inside. So I was a bit apprehensive.

‘He knows you,’ she said. ‘I wouldn’t ask if I weren’t afraid he couldn’t hold it all day.’

Well, okay.

After my lunch, I bundled up and walked to her house, letting myself in as she’d shown me.

It’s kind of creepy going into somebody’s house when they’re not there (I don’t know how burglars do it!). She’d left the TV on to keep the dog company and set out a covered plate with a note asking me to give it to him.

Perfect — if I could catch him.

The little stinker started yapping as soon as he heard the door open. And he didn’t stop.

My Sheltie is “vocal,” so you’d think I’d be used to barking.

But this dog’s complaints really got on my nerves, fast. Probably because I was in a strange house and feeling the burden of responsibility.

I called to him in the “sweet” voice I use for my Sheltie.

Nothing. In fact, he raced out of the kitchen and into the living room, promptly setting up camp on the back of the sofa.

Taking the plate of food to lure him to a non-carpeted area, I called him again.

Nothing. This time, he charged toward the back of the house, barking like a lost soul.

What to do?

I tried calling him again. I begged, I promised I’d go outside with him, I told him his food looked yummy.

He wasn’t buying it.

Fearing he might take my leg off if I ventured into the recesses of his house, I set the food down, penned a note for the daughter describing what happened, and left.

Ah, failure. What a dismal feeling.

Looking back, we probably should have properly “introduced” me to the dog, on his own turf, before this fiasco. What do you think?

Junior Parents Weekend

Recently I received Notre Dame’s brochure promoting this year’s Junior Parents Weekend, and I’m still debating what to do about it.

JPW is billed as an opportunity to “become part of the academic, spiritual, social, and residential life of the University.” The weekend offers parents a chance “to learn more about the people and places that comprise your son or daughter’s home away from home.”

Sounds tempting, doesn’t it? Almost like going back to college myself, only this time, actually knowing something!

But guess when this extravaganza is to be held?

Did you say October, when the weather cools a bit and the campus trees are brilliant with reds and golds and coppers?


Maybe April, when a profusion of multicolored tulips poke through the soil, buds pop out on the trees, and the grass greens, turning everything into an emerald oasis?

No again.

JPW is scheduled for February.


Whose idea was that?

February, the shortest and dreariest month in the entire calendar.

February, when mountains of snow and patches of ice make travel by foot or vehicle treacherous.

February, when PermaCloud (that pervasive cloud cover over Northern Indiana) is ever-present to darken the skies above and the spirits within.

February. Seriously.

But maybe there’s more to it than at first glance.

Is it possible they deliberately chose February as the month for JPW?

So parents and their students could come aside for a few days deep in the heart of winter, when daylight is shorter and campus is quieter, when all you hear is the soft crunch of footsteps on the snow, when few other activities or holidays or demands compete for our attention, when the laughter of students blends with the camaraderie of professors and parents in a celebration of gala feasts and live entertainment.

Yeah, that must be it.

But I still wish they’d chosen another month. Mid-September through mid-November is nice; so’s mid-April through mid-May.

February is the height of basketball season. My Favorite Domer probably will be otherwise occupied with Band obligations, leaving little opportunity for “family bonding.”

If I could even get to campus through the ice and snow.

Another thing — they invite us to a celebration, then expect us to pay for every activity. Plus our own hotel rooms.

Call me cheap, but couldn’t they at least throw in free tickets to a home football game??

America’s Wealth Gap Widens

I read something in this morning’s newspaper that stunned me.

The article was talking about how wide the “wealth gap” has grown between the young and the old in this country.

Households headed by a person aged 65-plus, for example, are worth 47 times more than those headed by a person under the age of 35.

The article went on to say older households are increasing in assets, while younger people are racking up more debt — chiefly via student loans and housing. It said young people are returning to school for advanced degrees in hopes the current poor job market will turn around; in addition, many young people are struggling to pay mortgages on homes that have shrunk in value from when they bought them during the housing boom.

On the whole, this makes me angry.

I truly sympathize with young people who want their share of the American Dream. Fine houses, big cars, furniture, annual vacations.

And I’m sure that many can’t find suitable employment. Jobs aren’t being created in many industries right now; some jobs have gone overseas, and many companies have enacted hiring freezes as they wait out an uncertain political arena.

But who told these young people that they’re supposed to have RIGHT NOW what the older generation has worked a lifetime for? Who told them their salaries should be in the six figures, right out of college? Who told them to live paycheck to paycheck? Who told them everything should be “even”?

Many oldsters scrimped and saved their entire lives. They “made do” with old clothes, old appliances, old furniture. They didn’t take vacations (unless, like my parents, it was a quick trip to visit relatives). They stayed in one home rather than constantly “trading up” to fancier neighborhoods.

And they invested wisely. Real estate, stocks and bonds, retirement accounts, their own businesses.

I see both sides of this issue. My son’s in college, so I can’t help but worry about what kind of future he will face; my mother is of “the greatest generation,” so she must remain vigilant and careful with her savings. While son has youth and time on his side, mom can’t return to the workforce.

The last thing young people need is a bunch of old folks occupying space in the employment lines!

Every generation hopes the one behind it will do better — be better educated, amass more money, be healthier and happier. But all that takes time.

Young people must curb some of their impatience. Instead of envying Grandma for her savings, perhaps they should bust their bottoms to emulate her wisdom.

What do you think?

Christmas comes Earlier and Earlier

Guess what greeted me earlier this week when I stepped into a Kohl’s department store?

A pair of floor-to-ceiling, red-and-gold, glittery, artificial trees, along with Bing Crosby crooning over the loudspeaker, “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.”

Now don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas as much as the next person, maybe more than many.

But I almost gagged and walked back out of the store.

Why? This was two days after Halloween!

We haven’t celebrated Veterans’ Day yet. Nor have I had my Thanksgiving feast.

I don’t know about you, but I’m so not into celebrating Christmas until I’ve had my Turkey-day turkey, with all the trimmings!

I realize the economy stinks. Stores are hurting.

Many times you could shoot a cannon off inside the mall and not hit a single person!

But there’s no need for this urgency, this pressure to buy NOW.

I haven’t even started making my Christmas list. Or addressing my Christmas cards. Or decorating the house.

I haven’t got the manger out. Or the Advent Wreath. I haven’t done my Christmas Confession.

I haven’t done my end-of-the-year charitable giving. Or taken advantage of any last-minute business deductions.

But these marketing gurus and store owners are already pushing Christmas.

And just you wait — when I finally decide what I need to buy for whom, the shelves and racks will be bare.

Because as soon as Christmas arrives, they bring out the “summer resort” wear — the navy-and-white cardigans, the white capris, the flip-flops.

The nautical look.

Like we’re all going on a cruise or something.

Give me a break!