Five Things

I am trying to refocus my energies lately, to become more mindful and appreciate my life as it is in this very moment.

Life is too short to be unhappy and discontent, so I need to take some time and reassess and think about who I am and what gives me peace.

I will start today by listing five things that make me happy right now:

1. A good, strong cup of coffee in a large red mug.Coffee cup, desk, Starbucks

2. The sun rising over the lake out the front (63)

3. The prospect of spending the day with my family at the fall fest.404608_4271376979370_1058414503_n

4. The photo of Fee on my desk, smiling at me while she holds her parents hands.Sophia-48

5. The boys sleeping quietly next to me as I write this (61)

I would love to hear about YOUR five things. Why not leave me a comment and tell me about them?

**Thanks to my fellow blogger Candice at WryGrass for helping me to get my act together today.

Go on over and check out her page…the photos are terrific!


Friday Fun

Life on the Hill has been a little stressful lately.  I have a lot in my head that I want to write down, but not enough time to do it.

I have decided to start a new feature here  where I can share a bright spot from my week – something that made me laugh or smile and that I would like to share with you all. I intend to do this from time to time, just to let you all know that I am still alive and kicking, if not feeling particularly verbose.

The attached video really reminds me of our lab Max. He is a big, floppy, friendly guy like this, but I don’t believe he has quite enough “upstairs” to accomplish this neat trick.  (I like to say that he is pretty, but not very bright.  I don’t think that Jim necessarily agrees, though)

Please enjoy this first installment of “Friday Fun”:

I watched it over and over and it makes me laugh every time!

Have a great Friday, everyone!


Dear Fee

Smiling baby in orange polka=dot skirt
Photo credit

I am starting to get excited.

Do you want to know why? Exactly one month from today you are coming to see Poppa and me at our house here on the Hill!

You have already been here two times before, but this time I think it is going to be a little different. First of all…now that you are a bit older, I think that your Mama and Daddy will actually let you spend some time here with Poppa and I ALONE. (I think that by now an evening away probably sounds pretty good to them!)  That should be fun…and maybe a little bit scary (for me and Poppa :))  You see, we haven’t had a toddler around the house for a while. I am looking around the place every day now for trouble that you might get into.  Not on purpose, of course, but I am a bit of a worry-wart, so I want to make sure there is nothing around that can hurt you.

Also – we need to have some fun things for you to do here.  When we chat in the mornings you are very busy, so I know that we will need things to entertain you. I am hoping we can spend some time outside and use the pool that we bought you when you were here last summer. We will need to get a new ball and maybe a riding toy so that you can play out in the yard.  I am sure that Max and Moe will enjoy that, too – we will just have to keep them from popping the ball!

We want to take you to the park so that you can swim in the lake and maybe to Midway Park, where we can ride the train and the carousel.   Your Mama went there when she was little with her Grandparents. Of course we will go to the Parade up town on the 4th of July.  Village of Mayville Fourth of July FireworksIt will be fun to spend an American holiday with you (Don’t listen to your Daddy when he calls it “the day of Colonial aggression”, I know that he secretly enjoys it just as much as the rest of us!)  Maybe your parents will let you stay up late that night to watch the fireworks, too.  We will roast marshmallows out back and I am sure you will roll down the hill a time or two.

I have a pretty good feeling that right about now is when this grandparent/grandchild thing starts to get fun.  I am hoping that our morning Skype dates have made us familiar enough to you that you feel comfortable here.  I just can’t wait to hug and squeeze and tickle you. I am sure that this is just the beginning of many wonderful years of memories for us.Happy smiling baby in stroller

It’s going to be a long month of waiting…

See you soon!

Love and kisses,

Gram ❤

A vist to Isla Animals…one thing we did on our winter vacation.

Skip was my favorite puppy at Isla Animals. He was a bit shy, but very sweetAs I have mentioned in previous posts,  Jim and I have been visiting Isla Mujeres, Mexico for several years.  We talk from time to time about spending more than just a vacation there – actually staying for an extended period.

While I can feature myself there for months on end -visiting with friends, going to the beach, reading, shopping, learning the language – I always worry about what Jim would do.  I am afraid that after the initial “vacation” mode wore off, my busy husband would start to get bored.

At home he spends much of his leisure time with our boys – Max and Morley. Max and Morley are "the boys" on Squirrel Hill He was raised in a dog loving family, and he enjoys his time with them.  They are his companions and his main interest here on the Hill. When we leave them he misses them so this year I had an idea…

I had been hearing about Alison Sawyer Current and her work with the animals on the island for several years.  We have friends who have adopted dogs from her, and we have witnessed first-hand the improvement of “dog situation” on the island over the past several years.

When we started visiting Isla in the mid 1990’s there were many stray dogs that roamed the streets and beaches.  Since dogs are pack animals, and most of these strays had not been treated very well by the people that they came in contact with, they could be aggressive and troublesome to locals and visitors alike.  We had actually heard of several instances of dogs menacing people walking on the streets in certain areas. The local government’s way of dealing with the situation was to poison the offenders. This cruel treatment was the norm.  Since the dogs were not spayed or neutered, the population continued to grow, and the problem grew worse.

When Alison and her husband moved to the island (around the same time that Jim and I started making our annual trip) they were troubled by the problem, so they decided to do something to help.  She actually tells her story much better than I do…here is a video of an interview that explains how she got to where she is today.

This year I was determined that we would finally meet her.  We were hoping to be on the island during one of the spay and neuter clinics that Isla Animals, the organization that she runs, hold periodically on the island and the mainland, or to help with the dogs in some other way.

We weren’t really sure as to how to contact her, but I had been following her work on the Isla Animals Facebook page , so I sent her a message.  She responded with an invitation to stop by anytime, so one afternoon we did exactly that. It was a wonderful visit, but we didn’t really do much because they had just had a small spay and neuter clinic the day before. We did get a chance to visit with Alison, and to meet a few special cases that required some extra love and attention – including Hector (click on this link to see Hector’s Facebook page, which contains his story and many photos). Hector was an adorable little guy that was brought to one of the spay and neuter clinics.  He had several problems, the worst of which was distemper. He fought very hard to overcome his illness, and on that day he was resting in another room because he was so sick.  Unfortunately soon after we left the island they lost him, but the page remains as an honor to him; Alsion now posts daily updates there to let us all know what is happening with the rescue.

Later in the week while having  dinner with our friends Tiffany and Brad we mentioned our visit and I talked about how much we wanted to visit again. Tiffany told me that she and her children go and help on Monday afternoons after school.  She offered Jim and I a ride over to Alison’s house the following Monday and we jumped at the chance.Jim playing with one of the pups at Isla Animals

When we got there it became apparent that helping often just meant interacting with the dogs so that they could become more socialized. We had a great time playing with the pups.  I made a special friend of a skittish little guy named Skip (pictured at the beginning of this post).  He is what they call a “low-rider” – a short legged (almost like a Corgi) island dog; my favorite kind.

We spent a few minutes with Alison and she told us that at that time she had over 40 dogs living with  her! We asked what we could possibly do to help and she told us that although she gets many generous one-time monetary donations to help with the many spay and neuter clinics that her organization sponsors, or the special cases that need extra treatments –  the daily cost of caring for these animals is high. She said that often she and her husband use their own funds to make sure that the animals needs are met.  She expressed her hope to generate regular monthly donations so that they had a real operating budget to work with.

Jim and I decided right away that we were interested. As soon as we returned home we signed up for a monthly donation through PayPal. It is not a large amount of money – barely more than a few cups of coffee a month – but we both feel very strongly that Isla Animals is a necessary service for the people of the island.  The work that they have done over the years has improved the quality of care for many island animals, and has done a fantastic job controlling the stray population. Many local people are being educated about caring for their pets and often come to Alison and her husband for help. Jim and I feel that this is one way that we can give back to the island that has given us so much!

The other day on her Facebook site, Alison mentioned that her 60th birthday is coming up on April 26. She said that her only wish this year is to raise $2000 in monthly pledges to help with the daily operations.  It sounds like a lot of money, but Isla Animals’ Facebook pages have over 10,000 followers. If few as 80 of those followers pledge $25 per month or even if  320 people donated $6.25 per month they would meet that goal.  Isla Animals is a 501c3 US non-profit organization and can give donors annual statements for tax purposes.

I am hoping that by sharing our experiences we can help her to generate a few more donations.  Donations can be done online through PayPal by visiting their website and clicking on the “Donate Now” button.

Here are a few pictures of Tiffany’s beautiful children and some of the pups that live there now:My friend Tiffany's son Barlow and his namesake Barlito at Isla AnimalsThis little puppy is one of the many that have been cared for at Isla AnimalsMy friend Tiffany's daughter and the cute puppies at Isla AnimalsMy friend Tiffany's children Lior and Barlow with pups at Isla Animals

Special thanks to my friend Tiffany and Isla Animals for some of the photos and the video 

It’s the little things

I am most admittedly a spoiled brat. 

My husband is a great help around here…he does many things; he vacuums, a task that he took over almost completely when we introduced Labrador retrievers into our household.  This is something that I am most grateful for because I loathe vacuuming. I remember as a child when my mother ran the vacuum, she would grumble and complain that we children were messy and in the way of the chore. (Mind you, we were probably draped all over the furniture at the time, watching TV and sneaking snacks into the living room, which was against house rules) I always say that my negative childhood exposure to the chore gives me flashbacks! He doesn’t seem to mind it at all, as a matter of fact, I almost think he enjoys it.  I have no problem with that at all! He even does it when I am out of earshot, as even the sound of a running vacuum makes me tense. What a guy!

He also packs my lunch every day.  (I know, I know – I told you I was spoiled!) It is a ritual that both he and the dogs enjoy.  Each day when he makes me a salad to eat at my desk they get treats…bits of romaine lettuce or yellow peppers…they love them more than biscuits!

There are some things, however, that he does do that I swear are meant to drive me around the bend.  You know- the little things…like hanging odd items up and away from the dogs and forgetting about them.  I cannot tell you how many times I have gone out on the front porch of our house only to find a half chewed Frisbee hanging on a nail that was meant for a wreath or other decorative item, or an old dirty towel (used for cleaning dirty dog paws) hanging on the coat rack right by the entrance door.  I know that these things were originally put there only temporarily, but sometimes I swear he knows that it annoys me so he takes pleasure in leaving them there.  The coffee cup (or beer bottle, during summer mowing season) that is left on the window sill by the door – right there for anyone who visits to see!

Another one is putting garbage in the freezer.  I can’t tell you how many times I have come across a bag of food of questionable origin on the freezer shelf.  He tells me that this is to keep it from smelling up the place, but it still throws me to find chicken wing bones in a bag in there!

Then there is the habit of opening the center console in the car after we have started to drive down the road.  This bothers me because I then have to lean to the right so that he can rummage around – while still driving – looking for something that he keeps in there.  In the meantime, I am freaking out telling him to watch the road.  He will then find said item and use it (usually eye drops or chapstick) and leave the console open so that I still need to lean to the right. It’s maddening, but I think he secretly takes great joy in my distress.

It seems that these little things bother me much more now that the kids are gone.  The items that I pick up are more bothersome because the rest of the house is usually fairly tidy without all of the extra bodies around to pick up after. The freezer items are much more noticeable because the freezer is not overstuffed with leftovers and quick frozen pizzas like it used to be. I am more sensitive in the car because I am not engrossed in conversation with one of the girls about gossip or boys or other exciting things, or busy singing along with the radio at top volume.

But while I sit here complaining, I am starting to realize the trade-offs.  The extra cup of coffee that appears at my side as I sit here in the early morning, writing or paying the bills.  The napkin that is always included in the aforementioned lunch because I ALWAYS spill when I eat.  The bottle of wine that miraculously appears in the refrigerator after a horrible day at the office. 

Now that the kids are gone I notice that we are a bit more focused on each other. Our days are no longer a whirl of other people’s activities and schedules.  I have to admit that I enjoy being the center of attention when I walk in the house at the end of the day – after the dogs go out, that is.

I guess that while I have much more time to notice the things that bother me there is also much more time and attention coming my way as well. I like that! It IS the little things.

As long as I don’t find my shoes sitting high on the shelf in the back room because the dog wouldn’t leave them alone!