Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Pippa Finds Gold

Pippa and Inka
You know my dog, Pippa? The Cairn Terrier. 
She isn't just a dog. She's my mentor and confidant.

The other day we did our neighborhood walk again. Sniffing around, she grabbed something white from the tall grass. I bent down to take it from her. She clamped onto it and wouldn't let me have it. With effort, I determined it was a roasted chicken breast. Probably boneless. It didn't even feel rotten. I gave up trying and let her have it. She carried her prize with her head held high for the rest of our walk. And didn't stop for the next five blocks. At home, she ate her find with great joy.

The older Pippa and I get, the more I realize she's my trainer as much as I am hers. I'm decisive, but nothing like her. She has distinct requirements.

Know quality when you see it. Unearthing her prize, she made several snap choices. Does it pass the smell test? Can I use it? Do I want it? In no time she knew she had struck gold. 

Don't give up when you find what you desire. Clench your treasure in your teeth if you must, but hold on with all your strength.

Take pride in your discoveries. Raise your head high, even show off a little. Wasn't that cool? Look what I did. The things you do for yourself are important.

Enjoy your discovery to the max. You uncovered it. You deserve it.

It's a beautiful thing to be mindful of each moment, like Pippa. To have a strong sense of what you want, how valuable it is, and what you plan to do with it.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

High Blood Pressure Makes You Question Everything

Here's a cautionary tale for you. My blood pressure shot up. At my doctor’s appointment, it was 173/62.

High blood pressure is sneaky. It risks your health often without warning signs. I'm a prime candidate because I am overweight, and my parents and siblings had HBP. My mother died from a stroke. So I have several risk factors.

As a Dental Hygienist, I learned the prevention rules. I never smoked. Pippa walks me twice a day. I eat more chicken and tuna than red meat. I don’t add salt to anything but fresh tomatoes. I use herbs to lower my cholesterol. I thought I had things under control with an ACE inhibiting drug. I even passed a cardiac stress test a few weeks ago. 

The elevated BP is a surprise. If I don't lower it, I face a stroke with inflamed blood vessels leaking fluid or blood, and my heart unable to pump well. This situation might kill me. I have to up my game.

My doctor added a second blood pressure medicine, a beta-blocker. The next day I felt worse than I had in months. The path I walked twice a day was now a struggle. My head was woozy. That night my heart beat faster than ever. All common side effects of my new drug.

The next day I called my doctor and was told to stick with the drug. My numbers meant he might even increase the dose. I wasn’t happy. 😞 How could I walk any distance as bad as I felt? How could I improve my situation now?

So I made an action plan. I called my acupuncturist and got an appointment the next morning. Then ordered a recumbent exercise bike online. I changed the TV news channel to stream funny videos. And swore off of caffeine. 

At my appointment the next morning, I talked with my acupuncturist about ways to reduce Metoprolol’s unpleasant side effects. 

Later at home, I reviewed the DASH Diet my long-time partner followed years ago. It promotes eating:

  • fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods
  • unsaturated fats
  • whole-grain products, fish, poultry, and nuts 
  • foods rich in magnesium, potassium, and calcium
I already prefer low-fat dairy foods and whole-grain bread. There's little room for me to improve there. Since drinking green or oolong teas are beneficial, I'll switch from coffee and diet soda to unsweetened tea. The test will be to manage the salt in the commercial foods I eat, having stocked up weeks ahead because of COVID-19. And there's my favorite pass time, eating out.

My immediate plan is: Eliminate coffee and cola drinks. Add my exercise bike to my walking routine when it arrives. Lose 10 lbs. And turn off cable news TV more.

I’ve worked very hard to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines. To let hypertension defeat me isn’t an option. This is my plan and I’m sticking to it. For now.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020


My brother Gene, my remaining sibling, passed away Wednesday from a heart condition. He took a piece of my soul when he left this earth. 

Gene loved people. Each time I visited, he introduced me to new friends. His mall-walking pals. The donut store regulars. And his buddy, Heinen. He taught me how to be a social Senior Citizen where people gathered and the coffee was cheap. I admire his talent for collecting friends. 

He also loved fishing and traveling. At 88 years those days were memories, but he still enjoyed visiting with his family and the tenants in his assisted living facility. Until the COVID-19 hit. The restrictions meant he only saw one person a day, the moment the attendant brought his daily meal to his door. For a man who cherished people, it was a hard way to live.

My first memory of my brother was us driving to get the family’s mail. I was four years old. We lived in the country with a long, rutted lane between the house and the mailbox. On our way, he let me drive the car. Sitting on his lap, I was too short to reach the pedals, so he “helped me out” by working them. But I steered the car down the ruts all by myself.

That is me now, guided unseen by my brother down life’s bumpy road.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

First Mindful Photo-Walk

After last week’s photo walk with Pippa, I found an interesting mindful photography blog post on Sixty and Me. As you know mindfulness is about being fully present at the moment. That’s also true about photography. Even a selfie takes intent and careful aim to look your best. 

So I did a small experiment. I went back to the same walkway just to take pictures. My plan was to study what I was about to photograph before I clicked the pic. 

After the first two photos, I saw a yellow theme emerging among the fading green fall leaves. It wasn’t the elements I noticed first. My eye found the color first wherever I looked. 

Looking at my photos now, some are unappealing. Their style wasn't my intent. The purpose was to raise my awareness and enjoy what I shot. To notice the special things that bring me pleasure and record them. But I learned something. If you don't prejudge a view for its beauty, looking at the photo later it may seem unpleasant. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Who Else Wants A Walk?

After lunch yesterday, I took Pippa for a walk. Often we go mid-morning, but I couldn’t get moving that day. She was good about it, but I knew she missed her outing. 

Once we were out the front door the sunny, mild, crisp weather drew us to our chosen spot. A small treed green space that separates opposing back-yards, where the grass is trim and the few flowers are wild. 

Earlier in the day many people workout here. An elderly couple from Belarus walks together. She totters along, covered even when it’s warm. He works out in shorts, adding exercises in with his steps. Another lady walks up and down the route, four times each direction, listening to an audiobook. Sometimes kids are running to school on the East end. Most days a neighbor comes with us, and we talk while wearing our masks. 

Now the solitude touched my essence, a sanctuary all to myself. To preserve the moment, I clicked pictures with my phone. No squirrels or rabbits were scampering around. They prefer dawn or dusk. But my favorite gnarled redbud stood steady between the fork in the trail. 

At the sidewalk’s end, we turned and retraced our steps. Pippa had more scents to explore. And I discovered details I missed. 

I snapped another photo of the old knobby-trunk tree. The twisted limbs and rough wood appearing original to me. 

Pippa and I have walked this green space twice a day for three years. Each time is like an unfamiliar experience for us.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The Eyes Have It

"Not now, but I use my eyes a lot". That was the answer I gave the doc at my annual eye checkup when he asked me how cataracts affect my life. I enjoy watching TV, driving, using digital devices, and crocheting. He replied without hesitation, "Your left eye is lazy. If something goes wrong because of the surgery, you’d be blind."

I knew about the apathetic eye. It’s been with me for over 70 years. I didn’t realize the one only received a hint of help. I’ll wait for the operation-thank you-until the halo-streaming lights make what I love doing impossible.

For most people, cataract surgery is a safe, effective procedure. For me, it’s playing craps with the rent money. If I lose, there’s no second chance.


Gone are the days Granny sat by the fireplace rocking and telling stories when her vision went. I don’t want to be that old lady. And I haven’t got a fireplace.

After leaving the office, I figured out questions I didn’t ask the doc. (Why don’t they pop up when useful?) So, I googled “cataract surgery alternatives”. It turns out scientists are working on it. Studies show a potential eyedrop treatment. That’s expert-speak for check back later.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Brain Fog

Talk about brain fog. There are days I wonder where my neurons went.

As a kid, they taught me people use just 10% of their brains. Now neurologists say we use every part, all the time. But not me. Mental lapses crop up oftener than I care to say, suggesting mine operates with less power. 

Remember, I started An Itinerant Scribe in March 2019 and wrote my last post here. I transported the old contents to the new one. And let Create Me 365 go dormant.

In mid-August this year, I repurposed this blog. I wanted to tell you about current things, medieval reenactment. So I gave it a fresh look and a different focus. After writing a recent note, I checked the layout using Blogger’s program. They looked perfect. I expected them to publish. But they didn’t. 

I tried to fix the glitch. But couldn't get it done using Blogger. 

So, I googled the blog’s name. And guess what? You could buy the domain. I hadn’t renewed the service. Don’t know when I paid the last bill. 

Thankfully, it was available. So I bought it and all is well.

The results. A few posts upload together. I saved a year’s subscription money. And felt foolish for forgetting to renew.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Summer Recap

Can you believe it? There’s only three weeks of Summer before the Equinox. It can’t be true, can it?

Summer is vacations, museums, outdoor sports, and cook-outs. This is the time I planned to recap them. Camping with my SCA allies, spending time with my 80-something Minnesota brother, and visiting my long-time Missouri friends. 

None happened.

My last trip was in October, a 10 day Road Scholar tour to Philadelphia. An incredible experience. Now many states expect outsiders to self-quarantine for 14 days. There’s no way to take that same trip now. Plus, Nebraska expects you to quarantine upon returning. (How privileged travel has become!) When I travel again, I’ll be careful to seek healthy measures.

I am not a medical authority, but I listen to those who are. Their guidance is valuable, even if I’m unhappy with their report. Ignoring the experts’ instructions and mask principles compromises my health and future. And yours, too.

This Summer I preferred seeing closer places. Neighborhood walks with Pippa. Driving grandson Ben to his sports workouts. Park visits with friends. Virtual discussions and a Zoom wedding. My riskiest trips were grocery and craft-store shopping excursions.

You can be both distraught and thankful at once. Living alone means there’s less chance to connect with someone having Covid-19. (That’s good, right?) Stopping indoor group activities protects me, too. I’m safe inside my comfort zone, but bored and lonely. The pandemic replaced the Summer’s joy with dread.

Hopefully next year the ordeal will end. Later the pandemic lasts the longer before I travel any distance or gather in a crowd. I yearn for tours, trips, and long sunny Summer days side by side. 

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Finding Hamilton

I cried for a movie hero. Not like when I was a teenager bawling during a chick-flick. I cried for Alexander Hamilton.

Who is Alexander Hamilton, you might ask?

The brief answer: he is America's forgotten Founding Father and lead character in Lin-Manuel Miranda's blockbuster musical.

The musical tells you about Hamilton's life. Its shocking opening line describes him as a “bastard, orphan son of a whore”. He was a poor immigrant who came from St. Croix and rose to power as Washington’s aide during the War of Independence. In the second act, he forms the United States monetary system, writes 51 articles defining the Constitution, and has the first American sex scandal. All before his tragic death. Though Hamilton lived over 200 years ago, his story, as told by Miranda, relates to today. It provides us a hopeful vision of a fairer America with opportunities for all.

When Disney+ began streaming the movie version, I subscribed. I watched it that evening, savoring the original cast performing in my living room. The opulent costumes and dazzling acting delighted me. The high definition images of Miranda’s perspiration and Jonathan Groff’s spittle were stunning. The rapping, prancing Daveed Diggs was a hoot.

I now understand my friends' intensity who paid for theater seats. Maybe I didn’t experience their theater atmosphere, but I controlled my viewing experience. I even used the closed-caption option to help me absorb the rapid-fire lyrics. The best part is I could enjoy it all again.

The next weekend my step-daughter came over and we viewed the musical together, sitting seven feet apart, each sporting a mask. I’d seen Hamilton six times by then, with each one I discovered details I missed earlier. (The nerd information level is high.) Marie loved it. She reveled in the close-up camera shots saying, “It’s better than the touring show I went to last year.”

I only watch the feature once a week now. Instead, I have its catchy music playing through any speaker paired to my phone. The song list is a feast of hip-hop, rap, and R&B. I listen when walking the dog, cleaning the house, and driving the car. (You get the idea.) At other times, unexpected random Hamilton songs pop into my brain.

Perhaps you love Hamilton’s wordplay as much as I do. The way the music lingers in your conscience proves Miranda’s creative genius. The songs are inspiring. They tell me to stay happy, scrappy, and to “not give up my shot”.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

My BFFs: Best Fur Friends

Pippa 7+ years old
I want you to meet Pippa. She isn’t just a dog, she’s my soul mate. A 7-year-old Cairn Terrier offering me constant comfort, companionship, and devotion. My reason to get up in the morning, to get out of my PJs, to move off the couch, to go for a walk. Because of her, I am more caring, friendly, and communicative.

A few months ago I took Pippa to the groomer, inside a local pet store. After dropping her off, I wandered down the row of viewing cubicles, the last exhibiting a dachshund puppy pair. In tandem they came to the window, reaching their paws to the glass, and staring straight into my eyes. I can’t express my direct connection to those little beings.

What you don’t realize about me is my long-held dachshund affection. Years ago - I was seven - my brother Charles bought one for our mom. Everyone loved Hilda. So much so my mom let her have puppies, giving them to my other brother, a cousin, and an Aunt. Those Hilda-pups began a family custom. I had three doxies myself - Liebchen, Schatzie, and Flecke - each burrowing into my DNA.

I left the pet store and drove home, waiting for the groomer’s call summoning me to retrieve Pippa. I daydreamed about those black pleading eyes for hours. I texted my daughter, my step-daughter, and my best friend about the wag-tail doggies in the window, asking them many questions. Should I get one? Am I too old? How will I care for her when I’m older? And how would Pippa - my BFF - react to her?

Their truthful answers rattled in my head after I picked up Pippa and long into the night. At dawn, I woke up with a plan. Monday I would return and buy one puppy, a female. If there were two, I wouldn’t split them up. If those details fell my way, I would sit with the pup in the adoption booth and allow her to come to me. If she did, I would buy her. This let the pair stay together. If not, I wouldn’t be the person dividing them.

But my musings didn’t stop. They shifted to baby names. Because my dad came from Austria, the tradition started that our dogs’ names must be German. They could be actual names or endearments, adjectives, titles, foods, and more. But the best ones already belonged to other dogs. Trudel, Otto, Mina, Tina, Rudolph, Gretchen, and Heidi. I told you my family loved dachshunds. All Sunday I researched possibilities. I chose three, yet I hadn’t met her.

The weekend dragged on, Monday arriving by a turtle. At the store, I chatted with Dave, the owner. I’m a frequent customer, having bought Pippa and another Cairn Terrier there. Both outstanding pets. Dave told me he already promised the male but not the female. He showed me papers with the breeding kennel, pedigree, plus pictures and weights of her dam and sire. Although important facts to know before buying a puppy, the entire discussion I itched to hold her.

Dave eventually walked me to the adoption pen, disappeared, and returned with the tiny black dog. He placed her on the floor where she took her sweet time walking around the booth, nose down, hunting the linoleum’s smells. When she came to me she sniffed me over too. At my face she stopped and gently licked my lips, showering me with tiny puppy kisses. And that was it, she was mine.

I took her home in a mesh soft-sided carrier. She whimpered and whined, scared from the rumbling, bumpy ride. We didn’t have far to drive, so I reached out my right hand touching her through the mesh and she calmed. At home, I carried her in the carrier to the side-yard outside my house, putting the bag on the ground. Then I hurried inside to find Pippa. I wanted their first meeting to be in neutral territory, not Pippa’s yard or house. I quickly found my soul mate and brought her outside on a leash. She examined the carrier without its usual cat. Unzipping the top, I lifted the little girl and placed her on the ground. Pippa sniffed her all over and walked away. Nothing more to see here.

Inka 2 months old
Inside the rec room, I left them together on the floor while I sat nearby. When Pippa walked away I picked up the puppy and snuggled her, smelling her distinctive baby breath. Her little black nose, fringy ears, ink-smudged brown feet, and wispy-tipped tail entranced me. She’s dark for a black-and-tan dachshund, so I named her Inka, after the German singer.

Two months passed since I brought Inka home. Pippa now acts with her like older sisters do. She’s taught her the best places to dig in the yard and plants to roll in. In the evening, she roughhouses with her or runs laps in the yard, extra activities for them both. She also tells Inka off when she takes her favorite toy or rests in her preferred spot next to me.

Connecting Pippa and Inka has been a slow process, but that’s good. I still have my soul mate for our walks. She hasn't stopped signaling time to eat dinner or get dressed for bed. Baby Inka - she won’t be that for long - receives nurturing from both of us. My two sweeties balance each other. Pippa is matronly, knowledgeable, and sedate; Inka young, inquiring, and silly.

Friday, August 14, 2020

A New Path Ahead

Is this thing working? I think it is. I haven’t used this blog in over a year because I moved my scribal posts to An Itinerant Scribe

I miss writing and hooking up with you so I want to change this and take a fresh path. A senior living blog. A grayer blog. Not because you’re elderly, but because I am. 

I’m eager to create a blog with a friendlier style. It will take effort and time altering the format, deleting pages, and eliminating all prior contents. It's worth the process.

Blogging now belongs to my generation. A place we share our ponderings from down-sizing steps, elder trend settings, artistic creations, or dandelion fluff. And Create Me 365 is the perfect place. 

I don’t know why I didn’t realize this earlier. Now I see topics everywhere. In books and podcasts I hear, walks with my dog, or places I shop. The writing will be a new adventure.

So let's give a toast to what happens here next. And as they say, “Watch this space.”