Tanks

Dear Navy Son,

Thanks for that Tanks. Well one tank I should say. You know the one -that fish tank that looked like a swamp that you left me to take care when you went off to the Navy? Yes that one- the one that has two angelfish and two whatever they are called fish swimming in muck. Yeah- you knew mom would not let that tank stay that way. You know when any live animal becomes my responsibility it becomes imperative that they live in the best conditions possible.

By the way-do you recall the amount of money we spent all those many years ago on a crab-itat for a beach hermit crab (Crabitat -google it) ? No you had no idea because you were like eight. A $4 hermit crab required a $150 home because that is what I do! I provide luxury! I am nuts. And wasn’t the man at the beach super impressed when we told him -when we saw him at his store at the beach years later -that your hermit crab lived over two years in that palace we built him? He was super impressed he laughed- tried to sell us another. No thanks!

Yes so back to the fish you left me. Thanks again! I bought a new tank – what a great thing to do during a pandemic! All the rescue dogs are gone and most of the breeders have years long waiting lists so for me it was a new fish tank!

Yep you knew it. Twenty gallons. New filter, airstone, heater, etc. My previous fishkeeping skills began to come back and I began to get interested in the chemical balances that are needed to keep a tank healthy. I got the tank through its first nitrogen cycle (look it up) and finally transferred your fish to the new tank. Sadly the no-name fish died. Yeah they took one for the team I am afraid. We gave them a proper sailor burial in the toilet. Oh sorry you are a sailor now so that might not sit well. We flushed them…lets not glorify it. Truly I was sorry they didn’t make it but the change from the swill they were living in to the pristine tank was too much. I did learn along the way. So their demise was not in vain.

I will tell you- angelfish are pretty and pretty boring. I have not added more fish to the tank bc I hear angelfish aren’t always nice despite being – well – angels and I was having chemical issues with the tank as it adjusted to the fish. So we watched the fish basically float inert in water. I mean they don’t even care about food. I have not once seen them eat but they must because they are alive. I have learned less is more when it comes to feeding – and for them seriously – like no food seems like it would be ok- but I jest because they are living under my care and I will care for them so well! Not feeding is not in the vocab. But I have read I can limit feeding to every few days and they will eat algae in the tank – they will be fine. Who knew!?

I found this out only after I put a 7 day feeder (seemed excessive for two fish) in the tank when we went away. Came back to algae!! And a dirty tank. Turns our those feeders are considered crap by fish keeping experts. _ like my fishlady in Petco. Lesson learned fishlady- lesson learned. I now feed them limited amounts and my house sitter fed them twice over our last getaway and the fish and the tank were great.

Why then did I do this next thing?

Once I had the biology in the tank looking pretty good despite the algae -I decided to get snails as they are algae eaters and we had a bit of alage growing – and snails are kind of cool. So I read up on snails and their reproduction habits (don’t want 1000 snails like happened to me as a kid in my guppy tank- nightmare) and found out that Nerite snails won’t reproduce in fresh water. Fishlady told me they can reproduce but the baby snails won’t live. That depressed me. But I decided to take a chance on the snails because I thought maybe snails would be more exciting than the angelfish! Snails- more fun – really?

The fishlady bagged up the snails for me. I decided on a whim to add live plants to the tank. Well why not. I read they provide oxygen (under water too!- who knew?) and are just generally good in tanks. So she bagged up the plants and then funny enough she noticed a little hanger on in the bag. A tiny crab. A fiddler crab. She was going to take it out. But it was so cute! How much is it I ask? I can see dads brain chugging – another freaking thing to care for! He is not in love with the fish. And I can’t bring him to the fish tank loving side when he has to help me clean it by lugging buckets of water to and fro and he gets no enjoyment out of the tank because the angelfish are BORING! But this was a CUTE CRAB! Maybe it would be fun!

So yep it is home living here. In the tank. I learned I needed to make the water salty- not sea salty- just had to add aquarium salt and make sure the PH was right and the alkalinity was good. Yep biology! Fun for mom!

Anyway the tiny crab is cute. As heck. Dad likes! And I read they need friends – not dad – the crab (but dad too). It does some dance ritual all the time so I thought it might need a buddy. Well I read that so I know it to be the case. Well the dance ritual can be a mating thing to attract the gals with his big claw – and also as a defense to scare other big clawed male crabbies away!

So fishlady ordered me some gal pals for crabby. His name is Paddy. Yes original (thanks Spongebob). They arrived yesterday!. I am not sure the girls have noticed Paddy- he has been working away with his dancing. But they are adjusting to the new digs. And if I am honest one lady is missing and I am hoping she didn’t jump out of the tank. Like the eel – the one whose whereabouts we have never figured out!? I think she is just hiding someplace and will show up when she is more used to the tank. Fingers crossed.

Paddy – the crab -doing his dance!

The crabs are way more exciting than the angelfish and Dad is finally getting some enjoyment from the tank. Oh and also the fishlady told me that two angels in a 20 gallon is too crowded for them. I can’t add any more fish safely. What? They may kick other fish butts if I put them in with them. How did your four fish live in that ten gallon crud hole? I was skeptical about this 20 gallon being too small. But began to wonder should I get them a bigger tank? I had read that angels need bigger tanks but they stay in like 1/3 of the tank most of the time…remember they are boring. But then fishlady said the right words…

…sale on tanks…big sale… huge sale….so we are now the owners of a 40 gallon tank. New filter too – a good one- cost more than the tank. Need other accessories and a stand and then we will have a real bargain tank on our hands. Yeah- it will be a palace for the angels…. and I will have to get the tank all in balance again- biology! Truthfully I am going to have to get the verve to begin this again (and you know I will keep the 20 gallon too- so more work for dad!) so in the meantime I am loving the crabs….they kind of look like spiders with all their legs – a little ick but the rest is cool.

Oh and thanks again son for the tank… it been an unwanted endeavor but yes fun for me – and now for dad.

love you …

mom….(and dad – most of the time- jk 3/4 of the time)

XXXOOO

Bob Cat (aka Kiwi)

You know it is never a dull moment here. And with the stay-at-home  orders because of the Covid-19 virus  you just want things to be dull.  But it seems for us it just never is. I wrote in a blog post a while back that we were missing  one of our cats. He is our sweet barn cat Kiwi- a black tuxedo male. We have had assorted cats over the years here and I love the tuxedos! And now Kiwi – Bob – has the label most expensive of all barns cats here at Glory View Farm!

If you hadn’t guessed as yet – Kiwi- came back after being lost for about 4 -5 days. About 5 weeks ago I was in the barn and feeling sad that he still wasn’t back – it feels empty when an animal dies or goes missing – they each fill a space.  All of a sudden I had this feeling I should to go outside and look for  Kiwi. I didn’t understand that niggle but I know when I get it to give it a listen.  So I went out of the rear of the barn to the fence line and I was looking in the field at nothing but emptiness when I heard a faint meow. I didn’t see anything where I was looking but the little sound was coming from my left which is the dry lot where the horses loaf when not out in a pasture-  I assumed it was our other cat Pearl calling for dinner. I looked around and didn’t see Pearl. I heard it again- so it must have been real. But where was it coming from?

Kevin stepped out of the barn and I asked him if he heard a meow – and just as he was going to answer I spotted Kiwi by the right side of the shed in our dry lot. I told Kevin I saw him and ran through the barn and walked around behind him just as Kevin- who by then had also spotted him -walked to the front of him. Something was off.  Kiwi was having trouble walking forward. He seemed very stiff. I was afraid to lift him but had to take the chance he might bite me if he was in enough distress. I thought his backend was injured but I was able to pick him up without him biting or getting upset. I might add here that I am allergic to cats- it is a pretty good allergy too- but I won’t let that stop me from helping one if needed. I just have to careful not to touch my face after I touch him. And I can’t put my face to close to their bodies.

We got him in our gym which is part of the barn and we got him some food and water and I looked him over. I suspected he had an abscess.  He had a nasty looking area on his back hip and his tail seemed wonky and there was an area that looked like it may have been injured. He had a back claw that looked bad and his front ears were lightly scratched up.  He ate just a bit but drank well – but I knew he needed attending to.  He needed a trip to the vet- but is was Sunday – so it was the emergency vet for him.

The vet visits during Covid-19 are different now. We called ahead and Kevin took him in. Kevin called the desk when he arrived masked assistants fetched Kiwi from the car and they took him to be  examined by the vet. The would call Kevin on his cell with their assessment.

Basically they took the conservative approach and treated him for abscesses.  They didn’t feel like he had any breaks – like his pelvis or ribs. But they warned us about the tail. He could have more going on.  He came home and was left crated in the gym so he could recover for a day or so. But he didn’t really perk up. He wasn’t eating much and when I let him out of the crate he just seemed that he could not walk forward. And he wasn’t moving the tail. I had the feeling we had more going on there.

I was worried so Kevin took Kiwi to our regular vet a couple days after his initial emergency visit. They had the same routine of them coming out to the car to grab Kiwi but Kevin could come right home as our little farm is only a couple miles away from the vets office.  Soon after Kevin got home they called and asked to x-ray Kiwi and we said of course. We waited anxiously for news. Not long after the first call, the vet called with some grim news. His tail was completely broken. She said it had to come off.  What a bummer- not bc I felt bad for him losing his tail but for the fact he must have been feeling so crummy for a while. We ok’ed the surgery for the next day. Kiwi spent the night at the Vet’s office.

The good news is that Kiwi did great in the surgery. They removed the tail and fixed up the wound on his back hip. The bad news was he needed to be confined for a couple weeks and wear a cone of shame- an e-collar. He would be fine in the gym in the crate.  He was be given exercise time in the gym (he was not allowed to do any heavy lifting- ok that was a joke) and he began within days to get very tired of the e-collar and sick of being indoors! This was a good sign.

He became his playful self quickly, he was eating and drinking.  I let sister Pearl visit him – she was not into the e-collar and would hiss at him. I worried maybe she would not understand it was her brother because his tail was missing. I worried that he might not get along with our feral cat Jet anymore bc he had been gone so long. One day when Jet was in the center aisle of the barn I opened the gym door hoping Jet could see or smell his buddy. I don’t know if he could Jet does not let humans too close and there was no way to coax him closer.

The vets at our regular practice said that they had two differing opinions on what may have happened to Kiwi. One thought it was a fan belt injury- where he may have gotten caught up in the engine of a car. He had a classic break that is indicative of that event the vet said. There was the hip cut too and that made the other vet think it was a larger animal that may have gotten him. I wondered if he had run off and then been attacked (he had not been one to run off though) or if something had grabbed him on our property. We definitely have cars around a lot – though I had never seen him get close to them. Kevin had seen some blood on the fence near the driveway so I think whatever happened it was right here at home.

I have had my own thoughts on what happened. I think maybe a horse stepped on  his tail but I can’t figure out the cut on his side. A horse could crush him. So I am not sure the horse makes sense. But whatever happened it had been a few days before the day we found him- his wounds weren’t fresh. Perhaps he went into hiding after he was injured. He could have been under that shed – there is room under there for a cat to hide. I had that experience years ago when I found our sick cat Momma under there.  Kevin had looked for Kiwi there when he first went missing but it is pretty deep so he may have been there. I won’t ever know. But that was where is was standing when we found him. I am so glad he was able to be found!

The best news is that Kiwi is out and about again and playing with his friends. He has stayed put and seems to not notice he is missing a tail. He looks cute too. Our friend Mike suggested we rename him Bob-Cat! Hilarious. So now I call him Kiwi and Bob (sometimes Bobby and sometimes Manx- I think they are the cats with no tails right?  I need to google that.)

In addition to the cat injury  and along with my kid leaving for the Navy, our cooktop was fried in a brownout- which required a repairman to come into the house tell us we needed a new one- this requires him to come back to install it. And at about the same time we had a large clog in the main pipe to our septic – not good– which also required a plumber to come out. This all during a time we would rather not have anyone come into our home. I really am wishing for dull days!

Missing me? I hope not.

Rudy knew we were leaving. He always knows when we are going to be going in the car. He can tell. The suitcase comes out and I grab my pillow and a blanket I always travel with.

Even Ridley my Old English Sheepdog gets excited. He knows too. And he and Rudy usually get to go along – but not on this particular trip. This time they didn’t hear me utter “bye bye to beach house”. But still there was an expectation. An anticipation. The waiting for the leash. The sad look from Rudy ( or was that my projection ?) when he realized I was going and he wasn’t.

I know not to make a big deal about coming and goings with my dogs. But they know the packing and the taking things to the car. I did give them a pat and a treat when I left. I may have said “I’ll be back in five minutes.” I say that often if I run to the barn or mailbox or store. It’s said with no inflection. No sadness. I just say it as if Rudy or Ridley or any of the other dogs would understand. So The other day I may have said that and then I left. But Rudy was confused. He had anticipated wrong. He thought I was supposed to be getting him loaded in the car.

It’s amazing at what dogs pick up on. They know by your movements where you intend to walk. Well at least Rudy does. My sheepdog who isn’t very smart or maybe he’s just so stubborn it resembles dumb – even he sees cues and knows things sometimes before I know them.

Dogs are so in tune with their humans. We think they can tell time sometimes right? My dogs knew when my kids bus was coming. Not because it was 2:34. But because they likely heard the squeak of the brakes or the door opening at a stop down the road. I couldn’t hear it but they knew. Or maybe it was the light or maybe some cue I gave them through my feelings. Dogs are not humans they have senses we don’t. They are more of this world then we will ever be. We live in houses and so do they but they are so much more part of the real world – is nature. They aren’t distracted by all the things we think are important. To dogs the humans are important to them bc we help them survive. So they have to be in tune to us.

So in this situation of me leaving -the packing is the most telling to them. It seems obvious. They relate those actions to them going somewhere. If I grab my purse Rudy knows I’m going out. Ridley who acts deaf half the time can tell the difference between plates rattling in the sink and the opening of the treat jar in the kitchen. It’s certainly amazing. But I think it’s their instinct to be so in tune.

And for Rudy I’m his job. He rarely plays with our other dogs. He most always chooses to be with me – with the exception of the chance to scam some food off someone in the kitchen. Sometimes he bags me for that. But soon enough he comes to find me again. If a door separates us he lays by it and whines.

I didn’t leave feeling badly about him. I knew he would be ok with my sons and my mom who sneaks the dogs treats often. I left missing him though. We are together a lot but this trip – to Cleveland to see my daughter – wasn’t going to be good for a dog to attend.

Funny enough the drive was nice because we didn’t have any dogs to walk at the rest stop. But I will say I missed him when I was laying in bed. He’s always around and a few times I woke up looking for him quickly remembering he was at home.

Just before bed I had texted one of my sons at home and he called me – no FaceTimed- (I’ll never get used to it.) And he showed me Rudy and Ridley laying by the front door. He said they had been like that since I left. ( ok they did leave that post in order to eat so they aren’t that sad.) They weren’t suffering. They were eating.

I know sometimes when routines change dogs won’t eat -I have a couple dogs like that who occasionally get too stressed to eat when we are gone. Mostly it happens if we have a new caretaker. But after a couple days they are usually eating again.

Dogs don’t have a concept of time like we do so that always makes me feel better knowing they don’t see the passing of time the same as we do. So I knew he wasn’t pining. Just waiting.

I had a little fun the other night and tried to call him to me on FaceTime and he came to the phone. But was totally confused. He heard my voice and maybe saw something in that phone but i am not sure he saw me. I took a couple photos. He’s certainly sweet.

Anyway when I checked with my son the next morning he said Rudy did lay back by the door after our call but then came to bed with him – he slept in our bedroom. The rest of the pack was in there too so he was going in.

I suspect in another day or even less he may have stopped laying by the door. He would move on to whoever was there. He would be ok.

When I got home we had some excitement from all the dogs so Rudy was lost in that fray. I gave him a pet quickly and then I think he was sent outside with the pack. So I began to get settled -I had been home maybe five minutes and back in came Rudy. He doesn’t jump all over me – though he would do that to a stranger. (Pet peeve of mine that we work on and on). He just stood in the room and I told him to come up on the bed for a hug. And it was then he began whining and rubbing his head into my chest. Then Kevin came in and he gave him his excited growl – a thing he does when he’s happy. He makes this growling noise but it’s not menacing it is like he is talking. It’s funny! He also murr’s a lot. It’s dog purring. Maybe some dog owners out there know what I’m describing. He has different inflections of this noise based on what he wants. Like me to share my food. It is an intake or exhale of air with like three pauses. Our lab Lemon does that too. It’s communication and I thinks it’s cool.

I think Rudy was whining because he was glad I was home. I’m a pack member and I was gone. I am also his person and I was back. Did he miss me? Maybe? I want to think he was ok though. But just happy to see me return back to the den.

I did miss a dog being around they are a comfort to me as I have anxiety and I find a dog helps me feel less anxious but I did well aside from some pain from the long drive but it didn’t last long so that was great and I had a nice time seeing my daughter and doing stuff.

But I still wonder what he thinks – what his perceptions are. But I’m glad he is back doing his job. He’s here right now in my office as I write this. He’s laying by the door – and as soon as I move a certain way he will jump up trying to anticipate my next move. “Is she leaving the office? Ok – Just tidying up. Oh then I can rest my head down again. Or maybe there is some paper I can eat. ”

I like to think they aren’t as complex as we try to make them. I like it that way. We must seem very complex to them. Or perhaps they read past all out flawed humanness and see our souls.

I will never really know what Rudy feels but I don’t think my being gone is horribly distressing -maybe confusing because he was anticipating he was going. But he ate and drank and was fine. And I’m glad. I know Rudy and I have some kind of special connection -and however that is manifested i am very lucky to have him.

Ahh – he just came over for some pets. I think I’ll go now and oblige him. All is as it should be in his world. His person is here.

The Little House that Did. 

I’ve long said that your home is where your people are. I’ve moved enough times to know this to be true. That’s not to say I haven’t had some sentimental attachments to a house. I have. I have driven past homes that I’ve lived in and felt the little heart pulls. It’s not really for the bricks and mortar of the place – though I can remember the worn carpet places on the steps of my childhood home – it’s the memories the house represents.

I remember the green counters in Kevin and my’s first home we built together – a cute townhome in Germantown, MD. It was there we brought our first child home from Kazakhstan. It was there I became a mom at age 37. It was there where my life went from being so me oriented to being family oriented. Other people mattered. I began to grow up there.

It’s the memories these brick and mortar places hold. We can take the memories with us in our minds, hearts and photo books but there’s something so sweet when we drive by the old places.

I have some sad memories from some of my old childhood homes too but they represent places that shaped me in some way. So good memories flow with some not great ones. For me I see the swift passage of time when I see old photos of these homes or I drive by them.

For some reason lately that realization of the fast path that life takes has been weighing on me. So it’s not surprising that I have become overwhelmed by sentiment at the sale of my dear inlaws home.

My inlaws have owned that home for nearly 60 years. The little Aspen Hill neighborhood known as Harmony Hills has turned over and and over and over family after family-Kevin’s parents were among the few original owners left in the neighborhood- now one sees many little children running about as young families have moved in. It’s a working class neighborhood now. It’s close enough to the city to be in demand and their house sold quickly. I wasn’t surprised. .

But I was surprised at how sad I am about it.

The sale had to happen. My mother- in- law is in assisted living and we lost my father- in-law a little over a year ago. But their home – not house- their home is one place I have only good memories of. The many dinners with everyone crowded in the living room chatting after a good meal. Lots and lots of laughs. My kids playing with old metal cars or Legos in the basement. The “picnics” in the back yard, Easter egg hunts , gift exchanges and lots of love. It all existed in this house.


It’s hard to believe this little house raised six boys. My husband tells stories of knee football games on the lower level. Sometimes an adult voice would yell down to be quiet. There were sibling arguments too. Much expected with six boys.

That house held many diaper changes and bottles , then much sports gear, many class photos, then graduation pictures, then wedding photos, then grandkids and great grandkids. Those people in those photos have all stepped foot in that home. Thousands of meals were prepared by one of the most kind woman I have ever met. I can see how my mother-in-law might have had the patience to raise six boys. She was a mom to all who came through that home. She’s been a blessing to me and words cannot express how thankful I am for her. She got me through some hard days. She may not even know it. Sometimes  my phone would ring when I would be at my wits end with work or tired from being with my little kids all day and she would be on the line just checking in- and it was just what I needed at that moment. She never intruded, she never judged. She became my friend.

Once I asked if she ever got mad. I’ve never really seen her mad in the 20 years I’ve known her. Kevin -my husband-told me that a few times when he was young his mom got up from the dinner table while they were eating -said nothing – and went quietly into the bedroom and shut the door. I nod my head in understanding. She was overwhelmed with men. I picture the small flask being pulled out from under the mattress! Six boys. One husband. She had to have her moments. No wonder she made so much banana bread.  Baking was her solace. Her banana bread is talked about in many circles. It was that good.

.

Six boys raised by good people. Extremely good people. My father-in-law was maybe the fairest person I’ve ever met. He never told anyone what they should do. If you asked him his opinion on something he would tell you what he might do in a given situation but he never pushed anything on anyone else. He believed his sons needed to make their own way and learn from their mistakes. He was also generous. If someone needed a little help he would freely give what he could. This wasn’t a wealthy man but he was rich. He had so much more than money. He had wisdom and love.

Dad was quiet but I’m told that when friends of his sons came over they feared him! Apparently he had a look that made any kid snap to in an instant. Once he told a friend of the boys to move his car out of the driveway and the kid not only moved the car- he left entirely! He was gentle yet firm. I knew only the gentle man and gentleman.

The living room home to many gatherings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each person who has been in that home had a different memory and perspective of life there. What I know is that my life changed there. I became part of big family. Something I always dreamed of. And that family welcomed and accepted and loved me for who I am warts and all. I watched my children who came to us through adoption be loved and accepted without question. I saw them thrive in that love.

We laughed and we cried there.

That little house holds so many memories. And new memories will be built there by a new family.

Family visiting the house before closing.

If it’s walls could talk the stories it would tell. The one thing that that little house did was hold six boys that were raised to be wonderful men. Gentle men and gentlemen. Men that today make sure their almost 92 year old mom gets the best care possible.

Love full circle.

That’s what that little house did.

I will miss that little house.

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