THE NINETY-NINE PERCENT


I have noticed that when a new cleaning person has been hired to straighten up the mess you have made of your home, at least 99 percent of the people spend a couple of days cleaning house before the new cleaning lady arrives. It’s human nature to want to be seen in the best possible light.

I don’t mean pushing the vacuum cleaner around the middle of the room, or fluffing the feather duster over the books, I’m talking about really scrubbing. Move furniture and toss out all the old magazines. Heaven forbid that anyone would see that hidden corner in the kitchen you’ve been meaning to clean for several months.

Cleaning people know what they need to do the job, and they want to know if you have all the stuff available for them. My Grandma used the expression to “give it a lick and a promise”, which meant wipe it up quick and promise to do better next time. I have respected this mantra for 71 years with very little complaint. The beauty of it is that you can always do it tomorrow.

Eyesight fades as one ages which adds another perk for the old guys. The less you see, the less there is to clean. But cleaning ladies see it all with the first perfunctory glance. “Oh yes,” they say”, “this will take time.”

It behooves the homeowner to decide just why they hired someone in the first place. For instance, those of us who share our homes with four-legged ‘children’, want someone equipped with a vacuum cleaner better than that which lives in the hall closet. It’s a fact of life: dogs shed, and gravity does the rest. I have never heard anyone complain about the dust collecting on the book shelves, but I have developed a number of friendships with other frustrated owners of dogs complaining of their hairy homes. For some unknown reason Jack Russell Terriers leave a path of white hair in their wake. At some point in time, I look forward to once more enjoying the carpets in this house.

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HAIR OF THE DOG


It is no laughing matter. We have hosted many varieties of canine throughout our nearly 71 years of wedded bliss, during which time I have been more or less on top of the cleaning game. The Health Department has never visited our home with poor housekeeping complaints in hand.

However, we have been “done in” by a Jack Russell Terrier, whose shedding has caused us to purchase several vacuum cleaners in the past few years. The last one was a lovely Dyson, which was difficult to care for. Our handyman was able to unclog Charlie’s hair, so we gave it to him and bought another simpler machine.

When I was a girl, my Grandmother did not have a vacuum cleaner. We used a Bissell carpet sweeper, and she hung smaller rugs on a line and beat the dust out. Auntie had a vac, and taught me to sweep over each area 7 times. (She may have taught me to chew my food 30 times since that was a new fad in the ’30s, brought about by Dr. Kellogg of corn flake fame. We have had many vacuum cleaners through the years, including a heavy and expensive Kirby, which came our way when I bought it from a door-to-door salesman. It was the best one we ever had, but I was a lot stronger in those days.

To solve the seriousness of our problem, I also bought a tool called a “Furminator” to brush Charlie. It worked fine, but I neglected to use it during a period of malaise. It somehow disappeared, so I have purchased another. I will hide this in a better place.

“A Gentle Descent” watercolor by kayti sweetland rasmussen

This painting has absolutely nothing to do with dog hair, but it was relaxation after all the vacuuming. The mountains are gently draining a spring thaw into a deep, dark and mysterious pool. To give the sky some tactile interest, I sprinkled canning salt over a coat of paint.

A MILD SHAKEUP


Charlie Fireplace

Charlie is a brave soul who shies away from stepping into the Pacific Ocean, and lives comfortably with the various wildlife sharing our garden. Though he was bred to destroy rattus norvegicus wherever they lived, he insists that our garden variety rat is a potential friend, and only gives them a bark or two.

However, the sudden action of an earthquake sends him into paroxysms of angry terror as it did in the early hours of the morning today. We were all nestled comfortably in and on our bed when the house shook and crashed. Dr. A slept soundly until Charlie announced the event, and then sleepily groaned “Naw, that wasn’t an earthquake.” The morning news showed it was a 4.0 quake right beneath us, though with no visible damage. Some so-called experts say that animals show nervousness when a quake is on the way, but that has never been the case with our animals. They simply take them as they come.

We in California are used to the earth shaking now and then, and even sometimes wonder if it will give us a bit of excitement when the weather remains warmer than usual. They predict that sometime in the near future, the San Francisco Bay Area will experience what they call the “Big One”. Since we have about as much control over the weather as we have over the fury of a terrified Jack Russell Terrier, we may as well go back to sleep.

HOT DIGGETY DOG


It’s no secret that I am a dog lover. I have given my heart to several Dachshunds, to several German Shepherd Dogs, a Doberman Pincher, an Old English Sheepdog, even a Chihuahua. One or two were second hand blessings, the others took a bite out of our wallets. Our lives today are enriched by a slightly overweight Jack Russell Terrier with a grand sense of adventure.

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He’s not allowed on this chair

Charlie first became an entity by way of daily e-mail photos from our late son-in-law who claimed this puppy, brother to his pup, was “cute as hell” and we would do well to come to Southern California and see him. We named his picture “Charlie” after a brief naming process, and at seven weeks we were his.

Slow moving tender-hearted Sheepdogs sleep where they are pointed, eat when you get around to it, come when they are called, seldom bark, and generally simply want to please. Nothing is a hardship for them and they plod along with or without restraint for miles at a time, casually checking out the occasional squirrel or rabbit on the trail. Another astonishing and marvelous attribute, at least in the case of Panda—in spite of dense, curly fur; she did not shed. Leaves and dirt clods came in contact with her feet, but she left no hair. Not so with a JRT as those who own one will attest. It’s a credit to tight follicles that they have any hair left. We lasted two months without a dog when Panda left us, and it is difficult not to have something on the end of a leash.

Playpen
Playpen from thrift store

My father was a no nonsense dog lover who came from the age when most dogs ate table scraps and slept outside. He would not have understood our anthropomorphizing a tiny seven week addition to our family, but things are different today. Dog food comes in many varieties, even for different breeds and sizes. Pets feel their natural place is on our beds, even believing it their right to push their owners to the edge.

There were six puppies in Charlie’ family, and our daughter found homes for all of them. Soon afterward, she hired a trainer and gave a puppy party for the pups and their owners. It’s a Southern California kind of thing. The puppies didn’t learn much and neither did the owners, but presents were exchanged and food consumed and it was fun.

Puppy Party (2)
The Puppy Party

Charlie is now eight, and his description as a seeker of adventure is well known to neighbors who now and then raise the alarm “Charlie’s out!” He has never seen an open door which has not called to him. Ours is the only house I know of in which a kennel sits by the front door where Charlie is funneled when the doorbell rings.

In the privacy of our house and rather large garden, Charlie responds to the slightest summons in jig time, but once out, the world is his oyster, and it’s a game of “catch-me-if-you-can.”

Charlie isn’t perfect, but neither are we. He has given us eight years of his life, filled with amusement at his antics, interspersed with keeping a close watch on all the doors opening into the neighborhood. He has the rare quality that some of us lack, the ability to make friends immediately.

CHARLIE’S PAL


220px-West_Highland_White_Terrier_Krakow

He quietly moved into our neighborhood on the end of a leash which was attached to the hand of a nice-looking young woman. Charlie was enchanted as he struggled at the end of his own leash held by Dr. Advice. Introductions were in order for us and for the dogs. “What’s his name,” I asked. “Charlie”, his owner answered. I assured her that it couldn’t be possible, since the dancing bundle of energy on our leash was the real Charlie! Henceforth, this charming ball of snow white fur would be known as “Charlie 2”, and our joyous companion was “Charlie 1”.

Like some people, Charlie 2 developed some health problems which prevented him from enjoying his daily walks, so he “walked” in the arms of his owners. Not nearly as much fun as on his own 4 feet.

He was the very first dog the new neighbors had adopted, and was beloved as an additional child. After struggling for several years with ill health, Charlie 2 left as quietly as he arrived, leaving his human parents bereft.

I wanted to tell my neighbor to get a new dog right away, but I knew it was too soon. I remembered sitting in my car years ago in front of the vet’s, with tears streaming down my face when my precious Liza took her last sleep. A concerned woman leaned into the window of my car and told me to “get a new dog”. I’m sorry to say I rejected her well-intention suggestion by blurting out that “I already HAD” another dog and it isn’t the same. Our doberman Max, waited at home for his companion who would never come, while we adjusted to the unfamiliar life of caring for only one dog.

Each dog or cat as well have their own personality, and we humans are privileged to share it for an allotted time. At present I’m grateful to share the wild and happy personality of Charlie 1, who arrived after quiet and sublime Panda, and I wish the same for the neighbors. It just takes a little time.

A DAILY ROUTINE


Noah's Ark

“NOAH AND HIS ARK” Terra Cotta sculpture by kayti sweetland Rasmussen

Order is good–most of the time it helps us find our shoes easily among an array of other pairs. (Think of the early morning confusion with Noah and the boys trying to get dressed while the Ark is tossing about in a discontented sea.)

But if we stick too much to the same order and pattern we lose. We lose the opportunity to discover new paths and new ways of doing things. Sometimes the break in order is not of our own choice and at times it’s forced as when you lose a job. Often it’s a blessing in disguise. It’s an opportunity to explore and discover what remained hidden in the old path.

That said, I am a firm believer that a daily routine should be a preferred way to go. Children benefit, husbands benefit, and even dogs benefit from a comfortable expected way of life. It’s the sudden glitches, potholes and difference of opinion which give onto a less satisfactory lifestyle. However, some people such as Dr. Advice, thrive on these glitches, and as the old saying goes he “makes lemonade out of lemons”. As I have perhaps mentioned before, he is a communicator. (Ronald Reagan was a no-show in comparison! ) The good doctor calmly faces the antagonist, and chats for an hour or two and problem solved. Charlie on the other hand, is still a work in progress.

charlie relaxing

As Jack Russell Terriers go, Charlie is fairly typical. Noah would not have welcomed one onto his boat, since they are great disruptors, and Noah’s planned sense of order would have suffered. JRT’s are like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get. Charlie’s brother Bodee, who is 6 months older (don’t ask) is his counterpart, although Charlie at seven years is showing signs of sensible old age. On the other hand, he has his own sense of order. He expects a walk at 3:30 p.m. and dinner upon his return, he not only expects, but demands a blanket over him at night, not that it is so cold, but it has become routine.

But if we, like Charlie stick to the same old routine day after day, are we missing out on something new and exciting? It may be like eating the same old oatmeal day after day. Perhaps we need to throw on a little more brown sugar and blueberries, or possibly even change the menu. Who knows where it will lead. Just put your shoes in the same place every night.

THE ART OF AGING GRACEFULLY—-OR NOT!


Beijing grandpa_0002If we are fortunate, we will age. It will happen, whether you like it or not, and if you are healthy, it needn’t be a time of despair. My friend refers to us as “functional seniors”, which is also an apt description of an old car in good repair.

These are mostly the seniors I consort with, although there are a few who no longer function as well, and I love them even more for their courage in the face of their pain. A strong woman does not let the hardships of life tear her apart. But a woman of strength goes on to accomplish what she wants even when she is torn apart.

Two women friends who are well into their senior years, one of whom is nearly 91 (going on 75), prepared a full Christmas dinner for their large families, and thought it was not a big deal. Another, a high school friend of mine of 85, regularly drives almost 4 hours to Lake Tahoe from the Bay Area to see her family. My mother-in-law, when in her 70’s, drove a number of times to Washington state to visit us, sometimes carrying a jug or two of the good wine we liked. As a matter of fact, she got a ticket once in Ukiah for speeding. I don’t think the trunk was inspected however.

My husband, who is quite a handsome fellow of 86, can frequently be found on top of our roof, or at the top of a ladder trimming a tree. His loving companion, besides me, is a frisky Jack Russell Terrier, a breed sometimes humorously referred to as Jack Russell “Terrors” They regularly disappear twice a day for mile-long walks which keeps them both in trim.

I took part in a great tap and ballet class with a stunning group of women when in my senior years, as well as a Tai Chi group for many years. As a dare from a grandson, I got a tiny “three-feather” tattoo to celebrate my 50th wedding anniversary, even though I really, really dislike the abundant tattoos on other people! Show a little class, please.

However, the best example of a “functional senior” is Liu Qianping, who is a 72 year old grandfather in Beijing. The five foot 8, 110 pound former rice farmer has become the new fashion sensation, and according to his fashion-designer granddaughter Lu Ting, “Looks great in crimson”. After struggling to find a model who could boost her online store, she realized her retired grandfather was the perfect model for her line of clothing, and now credits him with more than quadrupling her sales. He sometimes struts out on stage doing his own version of Korean rapper Psy’s “Gangnam Style” dance.

Enjoy life, it has an expiration date.