Snug as a pug in a rug.


Today is National Weatherperson’s Day and I say we don’t nominate Phil the Groundhog as our spokesman because it sure didn’t feel Spring-like at all this morning. In fact, the weather has been a little crazy all this week.  Wednesday it rained steadily from noon on, and yesterday it hit 56 degrees and we broke still another record in this El Nino Winter.  This morning it was nearly thirty degrees colder than yesterday – I heard that early morning weather report before I suited up, so I had to grab more woolen layers and a hooded scarf to add to my repertoire of warm-weather gear before setting out on a walk.

I like that hooded scarf as it keeps me warm, but it terrifies the neighborhood dogs. They see me coming, this hulking figure in a puffy salmon-colored coat and head sheathed in a dark hooded scarf and they start carrying on.  First, it’s a low growl, then the barking begins, and pretty soon they are baring their teeth or laying back their ears.  Yikes!  Saying “nice doggie” doesn’t help much either.  Especially to the Doberman who moved to the ‘hood last Fall.  He didn’t like me when I was bareheaded in Autumn before I donned the hat, and he doesn’t like me any more now.  He bounds off the wooden deck with that sleek, streamlined body and those long, coltish-looking legs, and arrives at the cyclone fence in about ten seconds flat.  Then, just to reinforce his resentment of my presence, he runs the fence of the entire corner lot while I pass by.  In a heartbeat, my heart is in my mouth and I am uneasy.  My big emergency whistle is embedded under layers of clothes and far out of reach.  Most of the time I resort to walking in the street until I’ve passed him.

After barely recovering from that episode, in the next block lives a large and very mean German Shepherd who is always outside. He’ll come charging at me, barking his head off as well, and that gets the two pit bulls across the street a tad riled up too. They stay silent, but their flopped-over ears twitch a little and they just give me “the stare”, and, believe me, I get the message loud and clear how they feel about me.

I’m a morning person – I guess they don’t do mornings well.

So, going forward I will take an alternate route to avoid them because the only shiny white choppers I like to see that early in the morning are my own as I glance into the mirror.

[Image by photographer Matthew Wiebe at Unsplash]

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I saw MY shadow …


… even if Punxsutawney Phil did not see HIS.

But, then again, that groundhog was up and at it earlier than I was this morning.

It was a little gloomy and dreary out when I left the house, but on my return trip, I watched as the sun finally lit up the sky and cast a shadow on the stockade fence on Emmons Boulevard as I walked by.  In my own shadow, I saw long legs, a funny-shaped hat with a floppy brim and a very puffy coat.  That coat made me look almost as roly-poly as Phil.

With Winter now at the midpoint mark, with a mere six more weeks ‘til Spring, calendar-wise anyway, the groundhog’s admirers waited with bated breath for Punxsutawney Phil to emerge from his burrow and make his prognostication about the weather going forward. This celebrity groundhog, through his handler, told us that we’ll have an early Spring.  Perhaps someone tipped Phil off that we’ve been having a mild Winter thanks to El Nino, so an early Spring was pretty much a given.

In the Twittersphere, Local 4 forecaster Paul Gross scorned Phil’s prognostication based on the lack of sun. In fact, Paul countered Phil’s forecast by attaching a picture of Spud, his fake groundhog, with the sun as a backdrop in the photo.

Meanwhile, Woody the Woodchuck, Michigan’s own weather prognosticator, saw her shadow and proclaimed six more weeks of Winter were in store. She’s actually got a better prediction record than Phil, but doesn’t get the notoriety that he enjoys.

The Twittersphere was not only buzzing with tweets at #GroundhogDay, but the songbirds, in their own twittersphere, were tweeting as well. I guess the sun, once it arrived, made them happy, even if there was a thick layer of frost on the grass and a chill in the air.  It seemed as if their song emanated from every bare branch that was silhouetted in the pale blue sky.

I had intended to take a trip to Council Point Park, but, once I saw the heavy frost on the lawn, that put a kibosh to that idea. The asphalt on the walking path is prone to collecting black ice when the temps get below 32 degrees, so, instead I trekked to the tracks and back.

I saw no groundhogs on my journey, just one fat squirrel munching on some dried kernels of corn that someone had strewn on the sidewalk for him. Poor thing – he had the worst case of mange I’d ever seen.  There was a wide, bare strip from the back of his neck all the way to his tail; if he were a black squirrel, at first glance I might have mistaken him for a skunk with that wide strip of bare skin that parted his fur.

Whatever is in store for us, I hope we don’t get slammed with the white stuff and psst … I hear another Arctic blast is in store for next week.

Winter is on my head, but eternal Spring is in my heart. ~Victor Hugo

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Be still my beating heart.


It used to be that “heart month” meant the time for celebrating Valentine’s Day. The last few years everyone has jumped on the bandwagon for National Heart Month, and, for women’s health … now we have “National Wear Red Day” (this year it is Friday, February 5th).  The media gathers statistics about the heart and will wow you with them – they wow me for sure.  Here’s one for you:  more women die of heart attacks than breast cancer.  I didn’t know that fact and was surprised to hear it.  Here’s another one:  the American Heart Association says heart disease and strokes kill approximately one woman every 80 seconds.  Now, that’s scary for sure.

My grandmother, Minnie Goddard, who is pictured above, was one such woman – in fact we buried her thirty years ago today. My grandmother slowed down a lot her last few years – she spent most of her time taking afternoon naps, usually during her soaps.  At night though, she had a ritual – one that the family would tease her about.  Her bedtime ritual was to have a small glass of cherry cordial from the decanter she kept on her nightstand.  “Down the hatch” she’d say, then she’d put the empty glass on the nightstand, snuggle down under her blankets and soon was fast asleep.  Her cardiologist prescribed the wine as a Rx for a good night’s sleep, and she liked its instant effect because she could sleep soundly without hearing the thump of her heart reverberating on the mattress.

Eight of my grandmother’s siblings died from heart disease, all before her, and, in her 80th year, my grandmother joined them.  It was the morning after the Challenger disaster … she woke up to searing chest pain, called out for my aunt, but she died of a massive heart attack enroute to St. Joe’s.  My mother remarked dryly “well the last day of her life she missed all her soaps due to the Challenger incident” so the anniversary of the disaster usually strikes a poignant note for me.

My mom, had her own share of heart problems, in addition to her orthopedic woes and the occasional flare-ups of cellulitis. I’d take her to see the GP quarterly and accompany her into the examining room because the doc was soft spoken and Mom was deaf in one ear.  I’d listen to ensure we wouldn’t miss anything he said.  He’d routinely run heart tests on her because she had an irregular heartbeat and it caused “flutters” sometimes, so nitroglycerin was one of her many pills he prescribed for her.  He’d always ask Mom how many “heart episodes” she’d had since the last time.  The answer was usually “five or six” … that worried me.  After the first time she gave him that answer, coming home in the car I turned to her and said “you didn’t tell me about them”, and I was chastised for asking and told if I mentioned it again, I would stay in the waiting room going forward.  So, I never brought the subject up again, but plenty of times, in the still of the night, I’d see her mini flashlight go on, with a faint beam shooting across the hall into my room.  Then I’d hear the narrow wooden drawer of her nightstand slowly creak open and the rattle of tiny nitro pills as one was fished out of the bottle.  Soon the drawer was shut again, and the nitro pill placed under her tongue to work its magic.  After the pill dissolved, the flashlight was shut off.  I was ever-mindful of how quickly the pills disappeared, and the frequency of the refills which I picked up at CVS with the regular prescription meds.  Nope … we never spoke about it again, and, it was not heart issues that caused my mom’s death, but sepsis from a perforated bowel.

At age 40, I decided to be proactive about the family heart problems and had a complete set of heart and stress tests performed ; even a Holter monitor was strapped on for the weekend. My “ticker tapes” came back perfect and I passed with flying colors.

So, it appeared the heart issues had skipped a generation – at least from that set of tests taken nearly twenty years ago.

After my mom passed away on January 31, 2010, I decided there would be no more fast food for me, much as I liked it. We had gotten way too comfortable with cruisin’ through the line at Little Caesar’s for a $5.00 pizza … just a five-minute wait for piping hot pizza versus having it at home; and, there were those chicken nuggets and fries deals for a buck apiece that sure beat dragging all the stuff out of the oven to put in a tray of nuggets and fries or French bread pizza, then cleaning up afterward.

Since then I’ve eaten much healthier and become a poster child for Michelle Obama as to produce. I let this quote from Hippocrates be my mantra:  “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

Now that it is officially “heart month”, you’ll hear all kinds of tips on keeping yourself heart healthy, like “spend at least thirty minutes a day, five days a week doing moderate exercise” for example. That works for me – I walked my four miles this morning.  As to healthy eating, well I get a gold star for that too, BUT, some sound bites from the radio this morning included Republican Presidential candidate Ted Cruz at a rally telling school kids that when his wife Heidi is First Lady “French fries are coming back to the cafeteria” – so much for Michelle Obama’s school lunch menus; meanwhile, Burger King is touting its “Extra Long Buttery Cheeseburger”, a double-cheeseburger on a hoagie roll with buttery garlic sauce.

No! No! No!

I thought we were eating healthier to keep from plugging up our arteries?

I knew my sedentary lifestyle, once I started working from home in 2011, was not healthy. Long hours staring at the laptop screen, just moving around the kitchen and up and down the hall and a little yardwork.  So, I embarked on a walking regimen in the Fall of 2011.  It was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself, and, that led to this walking blog, probably the second best thing I’ve done just for me.

A year ago today, in conjunction with “heart month” I decided to give up red meat – I can’t say that I miss it, though every so often I’ll dream about a large onion bun, piled sky-high with roast beef and dripping with slaw and dressing, a concoction much like Edward X. Delaney, the detective in Lawrence Sanders’ “Deadly Sins” series, might enjoy, but, alas, I now make do with turkey on a whole grain bagel with light mustard instead.

I’ve eaten so much turkey this past year, sometimes I feel that I’ll open my mouth one day and a gobble will come tumbling out instead of words.

But, that’s okay – it’s for the cause.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Makin’ tracks and not draggin’ MY caboose.


Another beautiful morning, bright and sunny, and way warmer than that wind chills-in-the-teens nonsense we had yesterday. This weekend, we’ll give Old Man Winter the cold shoulder and enjoy temps in the 50s.

Before I left, I took the car for a little spin, then took myself on a little hike. I intended to go to Council Point Park, and, dumb me … out of force of habit, I’ve walked so many times to the railroad tracks or the Rivers Edge Marina, that my feet just kept going in that direction.  I couldn’t even blame this phenomenon on “brain freeze” so, I just kept going.  By the time I got home, my roundtrip yielded another five more miles to my total.

As I headed down Emmons Boulevard, I heard the train in the distance. I thought “good, it won’t interrupt my walk and I’ll head down to the marina again”, and, by the time I got to the tracks, the railroad gates were lifting up and my feet never missed a beat.

The marina was still frozen over, although some of the thin ice had broken through and the water was visible below, but no ducks were around. Even the seagulls weren’t circling – probably since there was no food for them to try to snatch.  It was especially quiet, and, though I had brought my camera along, I didn’t take it out.  Even though it was sunny and bright, the landscape looked a little lackluster.

I hung around the marina for a few minutes while taking in that rather drab scenery, then headed for home. As I neared the tracks, I heard the loud bellow of the train’s whistle competing with the clang-clanging of the track gates as they dropped down.  Nothing like disturbing the peace on a quiet Saturday morning!  I stopped a few houses before the tracks to await the arrival of the train as it rolled through – and it was rollin’ all right.  I thought it would never end.  A long lineup of cars began to grow behind me as well as on the opposite side of the tracks as that train kept right on rollin’.  I was beginning to regret my second cup of coffee I’d had and thought to myself “what if the train has issues and must stop in the middle of the tracks?” because it’s not like I can just back up and take an alternate route.  Finally, (thankfully), the last of the 119 cars rolled by and the gate lifted.  I scurried across in record time and got a half-block down the street when I head the whistle blow and the clang-clanging of the gates signal another train was coming – it was from the opposite side this time.

While on my walk, I was thinking about a good friend who retired today. I believe she is the first classmate of mine to retire.  I’ve known Cheryl since high school and we shared the same graduation years from Lincoln Park High School as well as Wayne State University.  Cheryl was a teacher for many years, and I note she has already updated her Facebook profile to read “retired teacher at Wake County Public School System” at the conclusion of Saturday’s school session.  Her new retiree status and added free time got me wondering what I will do when I am retired, besides returning to those hobbies that I started, then abandoned, through the years, like drawing in charcoals and pastels and photography.  Perhaps I’ll finally have time to read the pocketbooks that currently languish in Rubbermaid tubs in the basement and there hopefully will be many miles to be walked and many blog posts to be written.

Meanwhile I’ve had a good run this last four days and I’m not retired! Like those trains, I’ve been rollin’ … I’ve walked four days in a row, (at the end of January no less), and added four more posts to my blog which is already burgeoning with 697 posts to date.

I will embrace retirement when it comes, but right now I’m feeling very blessed to be able to do both these things that I love right now – who could ask for more?

In order to attract more of the blessings that life has to offer, you must be grateful for what you already have. – Ralph Marston

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

“Cheep” entertainment.


Once again the sky was bright blue when I left for my walk, but, that sunny and bright blue sky belied just how brisk and downright cold it was this morning. Though I was dressed for the weather, I felt the wind whipping around and seeping through my hat and hooded scarf.  Since my boss was out again this morning, I suited up for a long trek down to the marina.   Even if I didn’t feel that wicked wind infiltrating my clothes and stinging my face, the effect was heard countless times as I walked past wind chimes that were sounding very melodic as they made a chorus all their own in the brisk breeze.

I hadn’t checked how my feathered and furry friends were doing at their “joint birdfeeder” in a couple of days, and, there they were, just as I last left them, side by side, munching away on the birdseed, with the sparrows clinging to the squirrel-proof feeder and the squirrel happily ensconced in the planter while lapping up the dregs of seeds that have spilled out of the feeder. The birds queue up for their turn on a nearby bush, their chirps and cheeps audible, despite the constant stream of vehicles that zoom up and down Emmons Boulevard.  The scene was amiable, like a group of paisanos tucked away in a tiny Italian restaurant drinking wine, breaking bread and talking about the good old days.  You’ll remember from my prior posts, that I always get a chuckle when I pass by this house and their affinity for wildlife – for me, it is “cheep” entertainment.

The songbirds are lucky this year because people went ahead and stocked up on birdseed fearing another cold Winter, but, that was not to be, and homeowners continued filling their feeders, even though most birds would have been able to get nourishment from grubs, or even berries, like this Cedar Waxwing pictured above.

As I crossed the Ecorse Creek footbridge, I took a gander for geese – there were none, and the mallards were missing as well, since the ice-melting progress was thwarted by the cold temps and once again a layer of ice topped the murky water. There were lots of tree branches and garbage that had floated in the water, then frozen in place.  I continued on my trek down to the marina where it was the same scenario.  The tiny, cove-like area was devoid of ducks, and, in its place was a light layer of ice.  It looked pretty though, as the sun glinted onto the icy sheen sending out random prisms.  I would have liked to stay longer, but it was not a morning for lingering.

On the return trip home, the wind was whipping into my face and it seemed like there was a big hand pushing me back as I walked. My nose and eyes began to run and I was grateful to finally turn the corner to the opposite direction without any pushback from that wind.

I noticed the cold temps had some smaller birds huddling together near the chimneys keeping their feet toasty – I sympathized with them, as I was not feeling so warm and toasty myself, but my stay out in the elements was short-lived, compared to theirs. Once I neared my house, I was happy to see the steam pouring out of the furnace pipe, so I nearly flew into the house, anxious for that warm air to envelope me just as soon as I closed the door.  I was more than ready to wrap my hands around a big cup of coffee plus I was starving.  Where in the world  did that big bowl of oatmeal go that I ate at the crack of dawn? Down to my cold toes I suspect.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Hello Spring!?


I love that it is finally getting lighter earlier; this morning as I bustled about getting ready to leave, I saw the first rays of the day filtering through the blinds as they cast a pale glow onto the floor. That hint of sunshine made me want to tear out of the house and get on the road ASAP.  Where did that expression “slow as molasses in January” come from anyway?  It sure was not me this morning.

I must admit I was feeling pretty smug as I walked past that snow shovel propped up against the wall in the basement when I went to get my coat. It was standing up in the dry boot tray and I noticed a fine layer of dust collecting on its bright-red handle.  That dust was very telling I would say.  It tells me that someone is a poor housekeeper, and, it also tells me this is my kind of Winter.  That new shovel has been used a total of three times in this season.

When I was finally suited up and then stepped out outside, one look at the sun and I was ready to burst out singing “Blue Skies – Nothing but Blue Skies” but I restrained myself. Besides … it might scare the birds who were hovering around my neighbor Marge’s many feeders that line her back deck.

It looked and felt like a March day with bare pavement, brownish-looking lawns with the occasional hard and crusty patches of snow, and very windy. It was a “hold-onto-your-hat” kind of day, like you find in March when your kite or your cap can go airborne in a matter of minutes. Michigan is going to lose its moniker of the “Winter Wonderland state” when we have 50 degrees on our thermometers this weekend.

It seems unbelievable that the end of January is upon us. I’ve not yet taken those coveted hiking boots out of the box, and maybe now I’ll just hold them over until next year, though I must confess I am itchin’ to borrow Nancy Sinatra’s song title for a blog headline ” These Boots are Made for Walkin’”.

As I walked along, I mused that I had music on the brain today, and, while pondering that thought, I saw a robin. He wasn’t singing, just bobbin’ along like the song says, occasionally trying to peck the frozen ground and scowling as his efforts yielded no worms or grubs as far as I could tell.  Seeing him reminded me that I must come up with a more-permanent fix to thwart the robins’ nest-building, though that is a few months away yet.  I was surprised to meet up with this robin red breast, even though I’ve heard, or read, that not all robins head South.  This was no birdbrain as he no doubt follows Local 4 weatherman Paul Gross on Twitter … Paul has been tweeting since early Fall that we were going to have a mild Winter thanks to El Nino.

I could have taken my camera along this morning, though my fingers might have been a tad cold to capture a picture, and frozen digits are sure no fun … they take too long to thaw out and feel normal again. Besides how would I have written this blog post, not to mention get Robb’s work done?

The days are getting longer and pretty soon I can hit the road earlier … a quick glance at the calendar shows that there are 51 days until Spring. As of today, I have walked 50 miles so far in this young year.  I am curious to see whether the Groundhog gets it right again.  If you’ll recall, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow last year and we got six more weeks of Winter (and then some).  Well, pfft to the old Groundhog’s predictions anyway; we have El Nino helping us to stay warm.  Gracias my little friend.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

How many rings will you reach in your lifetime?


My boss was out this morning which was nice for me as I could leave later and take a longer walk. The sun was already high in the sky when I left the house, so that was a big plus as well.  We had scattered flurries last night and most of those flakes had settled into the cracks and crevices of the sidewalks, making it look as if Mother Nature got out her big sifter and let the icing sugar gently cover the cement.  It was otherwise clear and dry, with no slipping and sliding at all, so I headed over to Emmons Boulevard.

It was quiet in the neighborhood as the early-morning scramble to take the kids to school and get thyself out of the house timely had already passed. The neighborhoods and streets were deserted but for the occasional squirrel bounding across the lawns or the soft twittering of birds clustered together in the bare trees.

It was peaceful.

The sun kept dipping in and out of the clouds, and those clouds were dark and brooding. Suddenly a flock of geese appeared overhead – just five of them – doing what geese do best, honking the entire time they were overhead .  Soon they were gone and the silence was restored.

I got to the footbridge and looked in. The middle of the Ecorse Creek is still frozen over and covered with that same light dusting of snow, while on the fringes of the Creek, the ice has melted and water is lapping on the low banks.  That rain we had yesterday probably did a number on the ice.  I crossed the bridge, stayed at a good pace and wended my way toward the River.

I kept hearing the drone of a small plane flying overhead. Ever the pessimist, I looked up to the sky, hoping that it was not a plane in peril as it sounded close by, and boy was it flying low.  It kept disappearing into the darker portions of the sky.  Only when it went into a sunny area did I notice that it was pulling a banner.  I didn’t notice the banner the first time as it was clear with black lettering on it.  I stopped in my tracks to read the message.  It said “Rest in Peace Eric E&J” and then it glided out of my sight once again.

Ahhh, I knew what that message was about. In yesterday’s online version of the local newspaper, they told the sad tale of a local businessman who lost his life Friday in a snowmobile accident in Paradise, Michigan in the U.P.  He took a bad turn on the path and crashed into a patch of stumps and trees.  The article got my attention right away because I knew this young man.   He owned a tree-cutting business here in Lincoln Park and his company did work for the City.

On November 24, 2014 a terrible windstorm rolled through our City, and my neighbor Marge’s two plum trees incurred significant damage, splitting down the middle. Eric and his crew came the following day to remove the trees.  I heard a rumble of large machinery and went to the front door to investigate.  Within minutes, Eric and his crew got the machines revved up, had those two trees down, chomped up by a grinding machine and into a large mulch pile.  I was fascinated how quickly they finished the job, in fact, I even wrote about E&J in that day’s blog post. A day or two later I was returning from walking and the crew was there again, this time cleaning up the mulch and spreading fresh dirt.  I went over and said I could not believe how quickly they disposed of those two tall pear trees.  I got big grins for that statement.

But, more significantly, Eric was a hero to my friend Ann Marie last Spring, after her 4 ½-month-old African Grey parrot escaped from their new apartment. He was tethered to a leash but flew away with the leash attached to the harness and got carried into the raging wind.  He made a beeline for a fifty-foot tree in a neighbor’s yard in Allen Park, across the street from their apartment in Southgate.  Ann Marie and her husband searched for Digger; they walked around the grounds, and finally saw the harness in a tree, but it was nightfall, and much too late to call a tree trimmer to rescue him.  They were heartsick, as they believed they lost their beloved pet forever, not to mention that he would be spending the night in the pouring rain with temps dipping down to 36 degrees.

Saturday morning at 6:45 a.m. she called E&J and spoke to Eric Parrish who said he had an emergency job and promised he would be over as soon as he could.  Finally, that big E&J truck rolled up and pulled into a nearby driveway.  Up, up, up toward the sky this skilled tree trimmer went to retrieve one petite parrot as Ann Marie, and her husband, Steven, gazed up into the tree, two very anxious pet parents waiting on the news of their “baby”, because, to find this bird and have him healthy would be a minor miracle.  Success!  Eric grabbed Digger, gave a thumbs up and started his journey down to the ground, his little feathered friend in tow.  The ordeal over, it was all smiles and a scolding afterward to the naughty and mischievous Digger.

I thought about this interaction, and how Ann Marie proclaimed Eric her “hero”, while I watched the plane circle ‘round and ‘round overhead, all the while the sad message trailing in the breeze.

Finally I headed toward home and decided to walk along Fort Street to extend my walk a little longer. I purposely strolled through Memorial Park which is directly across the street from Solosy Funeral Home where the plane continued buzzing by and family and friends gathered out front to comfort one another prior to Eric’s 11:00 a.m. funeral.  Just as I suspected, heads were swiveling, just like mine, as they watched the little plane on its relentless journey.  The pilot would buzz close by … more heads swiveled upward … then more hugs.  Several E&J trucks were parked in front of the funeral home; there was a pickup truck whose bed was brimming over with huge chunks of cut wood and the other truck pulled tree cutting gear behind it.  Up and down the street, and in every available space for many blocks, cars and trucks filled the lots and people were walking up the street, enroute to the funeral home.

Perhaps they, like me, were remembering a vibrant young man, snatched away much too soon in a tragic accident.

Or, maybe they, like me, saw the irony of a man whose livelihood was felling trees, only to be quietly felled by one himself.

Eric Parish died doing something he enjoyed, and, if we learn nothing else from the tragedy, we should learn the value of living each day to the fullest, doing the things you love to do and surrounded by those who make you happy.

In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years. ~Abraham Lincoln

Back when you were just a little nipper you learned how little acorns grew up to be big oak trees. Those tall trees earn a ring in their woody trunks for every year they exist on earth.  Their trunks often become gnarled or misshapen as they weather the years, but they continue growing, undaunted by time as they continue to reach for the sky.

Eric Parrish reached 43 rings – how many rings will you reach in your lifetime?


[Image by photograph Patrick Fore at Unsplash]

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments