Uncertainty

This new year has slithered in with an air of uncertainty. It seems to be hanging over me in a dark cloud. Decisions pending, some of which are life and death. Others may “only” be life-changing. Sigh.

I’m tired of adulting. Really.

But whining never helps anyone, does it?

There is some positive news. Sort of. K seems to be holding her own. It’s a real roller coaster, mentally. I know the worst is coming, I just don’t know when.

I’ve been taking the girls for walks, weather permitting. The other day it was 65 degrees! K is very excited to go, but walking tires her out. She’s never ready to head home until she’s REALLY tired. So, I could force her to turn around sooner, but she doesn’t want to stop.

She LOVES walking.

The way I look at it, we could keep her safely tucked away at home, making her rest and take it easy. Or, I could let her do the things she enjoys, taking one day at a time, until she absolutely cannot do those things anymore.

If I were K, I’d want to do what I love. So we walk.

It’s gut-wrenching.

L-R, K and Belle

For now, we will just continue taking things one day at a time.

Welcome to the New Year

If you’d asked me a couple of weeks ago whether or not I had plans for the new year, I would have said, yes. Like making 2018 a year of more two-wheeled adventures (sorely lacking in 2017). Seeing more of my family and my friends. Working less and playing more in general (my job was very demanding in 2017). Getting back to the hobbies I enjoy — reading and writing blog posts, quilting, crafting, furniture painting, photography, etc. — but am always too tired for.

The unpredictability of life has a way of changing things, though, doesn’t it?

I learned a few things over the holidays, and now my outlook has shifted a bit. I still have plans, just different priorities.

L-R, K and Belle

Let’s talk about happy stuff first.

All of our kids, their spouses, and grandchildren were together at our house for Christmas this year. The last time we were all together was April 2013, for our son Eric’s wedding. Why so long? Because we all live in different states, have busy jobs, our own interests and commitments, and rarely enough time and/or money to get together as often as we’d like.

It really was great having everyone together.  Hubby Mike drove to Maryland on December 20 to pick up his mom. Shannon and Chris flew in from San Diego on a Christmas Eve red-eye. They told us they’d be arriving the morning of December 26, but surprised us on Christmas morning. Amy, TJ, and the grand kids drove down from just outside of Indianapolis on December 26. Eric and Kelsey drove down from Maryland on December 28 and 29.  It was a happy time.

L-R, Eric, Amy, and Shannon

It’s hard having the kids spread so geographically far apart. We want them to live their own lives doing what they want, where they want to do it, but we do miss seeing them more often.

Everyone left on Saturday morning. Eric and Kelsey drove back to Maryland, Amy, TJ, and kids left for Indiana, and Hubby drove Mom to Maryland before dropping Shannon and Chris at the airport. Which meant I was left home alone with the dogs.

This is the scene in our driveway that greeted me on Saturday afternoon…

All Gone

Now for the not-at-all-happy stuff…

That image perfectly captures the happy chaos of Christmas week. It really was awesome having everyone together. Just imagine how quiet and empty the house felt after everyone left.

It was just me and the dogs. I hadn’t been able to think too hard about the dogs since the day after Christmas. In fact, I’d had to consciously push focused thoughts of the dogs to the back of my mind for that entire week.

Belle and K, some time during Christmas week.

On Christmas Eve and Christmas day, we noticed K was having a bit more difficulty than usual getting around. She was having trouble with her back legs. We don’t know exactly how old she is. We adopted her after she’d been pulled from a kill shelter, so we don’t know her history. They guessed her to be about three at the time we adopted her, which would make her 12 now, but I think she’s two or three years older than that. She no longer hears well. She’s had cataracts for a while now, so her vision has been getting progressively worse. She has a heart murmur. And she’s been slowing down.  She’s always been a loud breather, but that’s been getting louder, too. It’s not laryngeal paralysis, which seems to be common in Brittanys, but we hadn’t been able to figure out why it’s been getting worse. She’s had unusual head twitches and tremors for awhile, too, which are apparently not uncommon in older dogs, but can look like a dog has neurological problems.

Long story short, her health has clearly been declining with age, but her rear-end weakness was very concerning. So we went to see her vet the day after Christmas. After a very thorough exam, including full blood work and x-rays, the vet was surprised to discover that she has very severe arthritis in her hips, which explains the rear-end weakness. She’s apparently been hiding chronic pain for quite some time (instinctual in animals). Her spine looks great, though. Sadly, the vet was also very surprised to find a large mass in the front lobe of her right lung. There’s no evidence of cancer in her lab results, which means if it IS cancer, it’s not a blood malignancy and it is still encapsulated.

Removing the mass would require invasive and very painful thoracic surgery.  The anesthesia that would be required is very risky in dogs her age. Lung cancer is not very common in dogs, so there’s a good chance it’s some other sort of cancer that’s metastasized to her lung. We could have it biopsied to try and determine exactly what it is, but that would require anesthesia, too, and would be painful. Knowing what it is would not change anything. We don’t want to subject her to surgery or any other painful, invasive procedures. If it is cancer, we wouldn’t subject her to chemo and/or radiation at this age either. She’s just too frail.

My Sofa Buddy

We WANT her to live forever, as a healthy, happy dog. But we do not feel like it would be fair to subject her to pain, prolonging her life for our own sake. So we are doing what we can to manage the arthritis pain and make sure she is happy and enjoying life. That’s the status quo for now. Of course, we have no idea how long that will last, so we are struggling with this knowledge daily.

K, before her Christmas haircut.

She’s still got a strong appetite. She’s still able to get around okay and the meds seem to be managing the inflammation and pain. We are all trying to go on as usual, but are taking each day as it comes, hoping the inevitable is in the distant future, but preparing to handle the worst, but most humane thing for our Special K, whenever the time finally comes.

Taking Life One Day at a Time

Easter at Ruuska Resort

Despite the tone of my recent posts, it’s not all doom and gloom around here. In fact, it’s not really gloomy at all. I’m just feeling a bit “off.” But things are definitely looking up.

There’s nothing like a change of scenery and fun times with friends to lift the spirit. Besides, I am not typically a wallower, as in one who enjoys reveling in one’s own misery. I just figured I should share a little reality every now and then.

RR_MapHubby, Mike, and I did something a little different over Easter weekend. A road trip with the girls. A long road trip to the beach of all places, to visit our friends Heather and Timo (pronounced like tee-mo), who live in Carolina Beach, North Carolina.

I met Heather back in 2008. We both worked for the same company at the time. She is also a remote employee (works from her home), so we didn’t spend much time together in person. But we did communicate a lot by phone and e-mail.

We have actually managed to stay in touch over the years. Co-workers come and go, but I have forged bonds with some that will last a lifetime. Heather is one of those.

I have been saying I was going to visit Heather for a very long time. She, Timo, and their furbaby, Roxie, came to visit us in Warrenton back in October. So I figured it was about time we make the trek down to visit them. And I am so glad we did. We had a fabulous time.

Ruuska Resort
Ruuska Resort

Heather and Timo don’t live right on the beach, but they are surrounded by water. If you click on the map, you’ll see what I mean. And their house is absolutely gorgeous. It looks like something out of a magazine, which is why I decided to call it the Ruuska Resort. It’s lovely, really. Heather definitely has a knack for decorating, and “the Swede” who is in charge of upkeep does a bang-up job.

Definite Dog Lovers
Definite Dog Lovers

Roxie, the resident furbaby, is a cross between a German Shepherd, Foxhound, and maybe some other stuff. She’s super-smart, very sweet, and was quite pleased to have some canine company. We didn’t see much of their cat, Rosie, while we were there, but I did at least get to meet her.

Spring arrives much earlier in that part of North Carolina. It was nice to see all of the azaleas and lots of other pretty plants in full bloom. Their azaleas have huge flowers, which are more like rhododendrons than azaleas, if you ask me.

The yard at Ruuska Resort
The yard at Ruuska Resort

 

Azalea
Azalea

Isn’t that flower gorgeous? It looks like a Stargazer Lily. It was almost as big as my hand!

Welcome Sign
Welcome Sign

We all felt very welcome. Dogs included!

Timo was born in Sweden, but grew up in Finland, which is why they have a Swedish welcome sign.

Happy K
Happy K

 

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Ruuska (like roo-ska) is their last name.

Heather made that sign. She’s crafty, too, when she puts her mind to it (and has time for it!).

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Nook on the back deck.

Don’t you just LOVE this little porch nook on their back deck? It’s quite cozy, which is a good thing, since I locked myself out there at 5:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. Lucky for me, it was warm. AND I had a full cup of coffee. I just curled up on the little settee and listened to the birds cavorting through the trees.

The girls were happy, too, as they got to watch the birds and squirrels. The house is elevated due to its proximity to the water.

Great perch for squirrel-watching.
Great perch for squirrel-watching.

 

Octopus
Octopus

 

Roxie
Roxie

 

Roxie and Belle
Roxie and Belle

Heather and I had been sitting on that little settee. As soon as Heather got up — like seconds later — Roxie joined me. As soon as I got up, Belle joined Roxie, and immediately pretended to be sound asleep.

Belle didn’t mind too much when I took my seat back.

Freshly showered ToadMama.
Freshly showered ToadMama and baby Belle.

Heather prepared a lovely breakfast for us on Saturday. The furkids were all happy to share the leftover piece of bacon.

Bacon!
Bacon!

After breakfast, we went for a driving tour of the area. It was overcast and rainy, so I didn’t take any pictures. We eventually ended up in Old Town Wilmington, which is where we stopped for a delicious lunch at a place called The Basics.

There was a piece of artwork on the wall above our table, which made Timo ask if we’d been assigned to sit in that spot because he was with us.

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Blast from the Past!

The weekend went WAY too fast, of course. Sunday morning came far too quickly.

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My girls made themselves right at home.

My early-bird girls and I relaxed while everyone else slept in, then we went for a long walk. It was really lovely.

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One of their beautiful Sago Palms.

 

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A neighbor’s Live Oak.

 

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Cool plant (I forgot its name).

I told Heather we needed to make sure to get a group photo before we left. After the car was packed, we all headed outside. We knew our girls wouldn’t leave the car while we chatted and I set up the shot.

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Roxie wasn’t happy to see us getting ready to leave.

 

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We all thought Roxie was probably thinking “don’t leave!”

Nice group photo, right?

(L-R) Mike, Me, Heather, and Timo
(L-R) Mike, Me, Heather, and Timo

We all had a good chuckle afterward when we saw this…

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Apparently, Roxie had been thinking, “Make room for me!”

The girls were all perfectly happy to wait in the car as we said our goodbyes.

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“Okay, we’re set. Shut the door and let’s go!”

 

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Roxie, pretending to ignore us telling her to get out of the car.

 

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How can you not smile at that?

Heather thinks K and Roxie look like cousins in that photo (above). I think they look like drunk girlfriends.

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Roxie REALLY didn’t want her friends to leave.

It really was a lovely visit, even if it did go by way too fast.

One thing is for sure, I have been blessed in this life with a lot of really awesome friends.

More adventures are on the horizon. Could it involve family, friends, a road trip, airplane rides, surprise visitor(s) , a voyage to another country, a boat ride? Or maybe all of the above? One never knows. I do know, however, that exciting times are definitely ahead.

Snowpocalypsemageddon, Part 1

All is well here at the ToadMama abode. I was actually away at a work meeting Tuesday night through Friday morning. With the blizzard being forecast for our region, I made sure I left the hotel good and early on Friday.

When I got home, I saw that Hubby had prepared for the storm.

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Hubby’s Snow Stick

It’s always hard to measure snow depth during a storm. By that I mean actually having to go out into the storm to measure.

I took the girls for a walk around noon, which was when the snow started.

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Our driveway, shortly after the snow began.

I wanted to make sure and take the girls for a walk before the snow got too deep. They weren’t at all pleased to see the boots come out.

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“We can’t walk in these stupid booties!”

If they don’t wear boots, they get rock salt and/or ice balls stuck between their pads. It makes them limp.

ToadMama the Bitches
ToadMama and the Bitches

There was about 8 inches of snow on the ground when we went for our walk.

Snowin' and Blowin'
Snowin’ and Blowin’

They seemed to enjoy their walk despite the boots.

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Happy Pups

It was a crazy storm. We never lost power, fortunately. I took a bunch of pics yesterday and today, which I’ll share later.

We spent the day digging out, and I think I need a nap.

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Rest break during Friday’s walk.

I think we ended up with between 25-30 inches of snow. It was very windy, though, so I’m not sure of the actual total.

I hope you all had a warm, safe, and happy weekend.

More on the storm and digging out, later.

Not-so-traditional Thanksgiving

K and Belle (L-R)
The Girls (L-R), K and Belle

I hope you folks in the US enjoyed your Thanksgiving. Ours was interesting.

As I mentioned the other day, we didn’t have any meal plans for turkey day. A couple of weeks ago, when I was cataloging VA LOVEworks I still needed to capture, I mentioned planning a trip in the car, since Winter is approaching. Hubby said he’d go along, so I suggested doing it on Thanksgiving.

Hubby started a diet recently, and I knew we wouldn’t be preparing a traditional meal for the two of us. So I figured a road trip would be better than sitting around the house.

Not only did Hubby go along, we took the furkids, too. That’s something we rarely do. In fact, we’ve never spent the night in a hotel with these two. K is a good car rider. Belle doesn’t like car rides. Neither of them gets carsick, thank goodness, but Belle does a lot of panting unless we’re on an interstate or other smooth, fast-moving road. I was a bit worried that they’d be a real nuisance, but they actually did good on the ride.

Overview Map
Overview Map

I’d planned on capturing seven of the large LOVEworks and one smaller one, which I knew to be indoors. I also included two roadside oddities, which I knew wouldn’t be enjoyed by all participants. But, since both were in areas we’d be passing through anyway, I included them.

Traveling in a clockwise direction, our first stop was in Lynchburg. Wait, I mean our first planned stop was in Lynchburg, we first had to stop at Wal-Mart to buy a dog leash. We’d forgotten to grab the leashes before leaving home and could only find one in the car.

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My Traveling Companions at the Lynchburg LOVEwork

Mike, being a good sport, tried to get both of the girls to look at me for a pic. I took about ten shots before giving up.

Also in Lynchburg, within sight of the LOVEwork, were “the red high-heeled shoes of a giantess,” as described on RoadsideAmerica.com.

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Giant Red Shoes along the Lynchburg Waterfront

Not knowing when, if ever, I’d get back to Lynchburg, I wanted to see the shoes. There were other oddities, like an enema collection, large metal water pitcher, and Easter Island head, but I didn’t want to push it.

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Crazy Clouds

From there, we headed south and west toward Lambsburg. The LOVEwork is actually located at the Virginia Welcome Center along the northbound side of I-77, so we dipped down into North Carolina then headed north on the interstate.

The weather was warm — mid-60s F / about 18 C — dry, and partly cloudy, which made for some interesting skies.

Lambsburg LOVEwork
Lambsburg LOVEwork

That’s my favorite LOVE image from the trip. The light was perfect and there was a break in the clouds.

From there, we headed west toward Abingdon, where we’d reserved a hotel room for the night. A good bit of the Lambsburg-to-Abingdon leg was along The Crooked Road Trail (a portion of US-58), which goes past Grayson Highlands State Park, a place I’d been wanting to visit. I’d read there was a pretty good view from the park. As it turns out, the Internet was right.

View from Grayson Highlands State Park
View from Grayson Highlands State Park

I’d hoped to see downtown Abingdon’s Main Street at night, but Hubby was tired after those 380 miles in the car. The girls needed some people time, too. So, we got a mediocre-to-crappy meal at Cracker Barrel, which was right next to the hotel, then hunkered down for the night. (By sheer coincidence, Abingdon was almost exactly the halfway point of our journey.)

After a yummy breakfast, we were off.

Abingdon LOVEwork
Abingdon LOVEwork

I’d stopped in Abingdon in July, but the sculpture had been damaged during a storm and removed for repair, so I missed it. I’m glad I got the chance to go back. Not capturing the Abingdon piece wouldn’t have been a huge deal, but it’s a pretty town in a very nice area.

We also stopped at Holston Mountain Artisans, a craft co-op which has an indoor LOVEwork I’d hoped to see. They have a barn quilt on the outside of their building, so I actually got a chance to see a full-size barn quilt up close for the first time. (The standard side on a big barn is 8′ by 8′ (about 2.5 x 2.5 meters) square.

Holston Mountain Artisans' Barn Quilt
Holston Mountain Artisans’ Barn Quilt

Hubby actually discovered a second, smaller barn quilt behind the building, which I’ll share later. Sadly, the shop didn’t open for another hour or so and we had a lot of ground to cover, so off we went.

Dricing northeast toward Tazewell
Driving northeast toward Tazewell

I forgot to mention earlier that it was a very pretty day for a drive.

The next planned stop was Tazewell, where we’d capture the piece I was most excited about seeing.

Seen along the drive to Tazewell.
Seen along the drive to Tazewell.

I couldn’t resist stopping to see the barn quilts on this not-yet-open arts center. Speaking of barn quilts… wanna know why I was so excited about seeing the Tazewell piece, which was also added very recently?

It is a barn quilt LOVEwork! I’m not doing a barn quilt scavenger hunt, I just really enjoy seeing them.

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Tazewell LOVEwork

That piece is in a really, really cool location, too, which I’ll tell you about in a separate post.

Blacksburg LOVEwork
Blacksburg LOVEwork

Not all LOVEworks have to be standalone art works. The Blacksburg piece is a very nicely done mural.

We also revisited neighboring Christiansburg to capture a pic of the piece we’d ridden past in July because it was rush hour and too dang hot to stop.

Again, not seeing it wouldn’t have been a big deal. There are no hard and fast rules to this self-imposed scavenger hunt, but since we were in the area, we stopped.

Christiansburg LOVEwork
Christiansburg LOVEwork

We were supposed to see a seventh LOVEwork. Unfortunately, I’d failed to notice that the LOVEwork at the Silver Hearth Lodge, which was one of the more-recent additions to the growing list of sites, is on private property and you’re supposed to make a appointment to see the thing. We took our chances and drove up to the lodge anyway, but didn’t see the LOVEwork.

I don’t think pieces should be included  on the official/master list of LOVEworks unless they are publicly accessible around the clock. I can’t be the only person to have driven to see a specific piece only to be thwarted because a piece was behind closed gates and/or doors.

The next-to-last planned stop for the day was a must-see for me. I missed it the first time I visited Roanoke.

I had planned the route, but Hubby was in charge of entering it into the GPS. His label for the next stop should tell you how unexcited he was about that one.

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Just another stupid roadside oddity…

was excited, but the girls were ambivalent.

My first Paul Bunyan Muffler Man
My first Paul Bunyan Muffler Man

I should have made the girls get out of the car, but sunset was fast approaching and I wanted Hubby to see downtown Roanoke. As it turns out, he wasn’t impressed.

Looking west from Roanoke, just before sunset.
Looking west from Roanoke, just before sunset.

That was the end of day two. Not counting the uneventful drive home from Roanoke. I think it was just before 8:00 p.m. when we got back to Warrenton. The girls were especially excited to be back home. We were, too.

Now, if I could just muster up an iota of Christmas spirit, I might get something done today.

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In search of some Christmas spirit.

 

Out and About

Mother Nature has been teasing us with little outbursts of Spring.

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Belle is enjoying herself more than it seems.

While yesterday would have been a nice day to ride, we had some things on our to-do list than needed doing.

And today’s weather is supposed to be even better. So we decided to get the chores out of the way on Saturday, leaving Sunday wide open for FUN.

The first big thing on the to-do list was de-winterizing the WV Place. Mike had decided to shut off the heat and water for the winter,  hoping to avoid another ugly, very inconvenient, and costly freezing of the pipes incident.

Notice I said “hoping to”? Apparently, enough water lingered in the shower valve that it froze, causing the shower valve to fail. So, when he turned the water back on, the shower wouldn’t turn off. Crap. Not a huge deal, just another inconvenience.

We also had to move a dresser from the VA house to the WV Place. If it hadn’t been for that, we would have taken the bikes. Alas, taking the truck meant the dogs could join us.

It was a real treat for them, they LOVE the WV Place.

Happy Dogs
Happy Dogs

Can you tell that they’re happy? K, aka The Huntress, was so obsessed with whatever critter was cowering in the woodpile that I literally had to drag her away to get her to come home. Crazy mutt.

While Spring appears to really be settling in here in VA, it’s just barely starting to make an appearance near the WV Place, which is about 100 miles northwest of here and at a somewhat higher elevation. We thought for sure some of the Redbud and Dogwood trees would be in bloom. We thought wrong.

I did see some evidence of Spring.

Tiny Little Wildflower
Tiny Little Wildflower

I can’t remember what those flowers are called. They’re only two to three inches tall, with blooms about half an inch across. They may be tiny, but at least it’s evidence that Spring is on its way, albeit very slowly.

Still Standing
Still Standing

It’s always a relief to see the WV Place surviving without out us.

I can’t remember whether or not I told y’all we had not one, but TWO signed contracts on the place last year. Signed, as in we thought it was a done deal. Buyer number one had some sort of family emergency. The second buyer had “buyer’s remorse.” We could not believe that was their actual excuse. Bastards.

So it’s still on the market. Sigh.

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Hunting Fun

The dogs did seem to enjoy the brief visit. Even if K spent almost the entire time glued to the woodpile.

At least it was a pretty day for a drive. I even spotted a barn quilt along the way.

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Barn Quilt in Pleasantdale, West Virginia

I know that’s a crappy picture. I thought for sure we’d spot others, since Hampshire County now has a barn quilt trail. It would have been helpful had I remembered before we left. Then I would’ve been equipped with a map. They’re not as easy to find as one would think. And cell coverage is so painfully slow in those parts, that trying to use my phone to locate them was frustrating me more than it was worth.

That was our Saturday.

Imagine my chagrin this morning when I looked at my weather app to see this crazy-weird report. There was a frost advisory, current temp was 36 degress (F), with a forecast for a high temperature of 70 degrees.

That’s Spring for you.

Now, I need to go plan a route for today’s ride. I hope you all enjoy your Sunday.