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

It’s A New Year


I hope that you and your loved ones enjoyed saying farewell — and good riddance! — to 2015 and hello to 2016.

Hubby and I sat at home and quietly ushered the new year in by watching movies, sewing (just me), and snuggling with our fur kids.

Surprisingly, Hubby picked two really good movies for us to watch, Crash and The Words. I highly recommend both of them, with the caveat that neither are what one would probably consider to be funny, lighthearted, or uplifting, but they were both very good stories.

Speaking of stories… I think 2016 is going to be a good year. Not that 2015 wasn’t a good year, it was just a year full of ups and downs. More ups than downs, but the lows were pretty low.

I’ll try to give you some more-cheerful posts since the last few were real downers.

We’re just sort of puttering around the house today. I actually have some work that needs attention, and by “work” I do mean stuff that’s employment-related. It’s all good though, I was expecting it.

I also need to make the girls, i.e., dogs, new “outfits.” After removing their Christmas finery, they look sorta naked. LOL.

I also need to finish a sewing project, which I’ll tell y’all about later.

Before I go, I came across this Christmas image I just HAD to share.

A Belated Merry Christmas from ToadMama
A Belated Merry Christmas from ToadMama

Finally, in case I haven’t told you lately, I appreciate each and every one of you. Thanks for following. Really.

Here’s to a happy, healthy, love- and adventure-filled 2016!

Pre-Christmas Update

I figured I’d make an appearance to let you all know things are fine here at the ToadMama abode. Although I was certainly feeling like this as of my previous post…

"Bah, Humbug!"
“Bah, Humbug!”

…I am happy to say that I’m doing better.

Thanks to my wonderful Hubby, who insisted we get SOME decorations out, the house is looking a bit Christmassy.

Bucket of Snowmen (I made it a few years back)

The family gifts have been purchased, wrapped, and shipped.

New Frog Ornament from My Friends, Annelies and Yves

The tree has been decorated…

Our skinny, country Christmas tree.

…as have the dogs.

They love their holiday scarves, but hate the headwear.

It’s looking festive around town, too, even if temps have been much warmer than usual.

Old Warren Green Hotel (now county offices)

It’s going to be a quiet Christmas. My mother-in-law is here for the holiday again, but Dad stayed in Pennsylvania this year. Two of our kids are on the West Coast, so we won’t be seeing them, their SOs, or the grandkids. Our youngest will be visiting on Saturday, though, with his wife, so we won’t be completely childless this holiday.

K was snuggling with me while I was sewing a throw quilt.

My mother-in-law will be giving me quilting lessons over the next couple of days. Hand-piecing (sewing the little shapes together with a needle and thread, NOT a sewing machine) and hand-quilting (again, no machine).

Quiet holidays are good sometimes. Especially when I’m not altogether there as far as emotional state. But I’m getting better.

You know the old saying, the first step to fixing a problem is admitting there IS a problem. It feels pretty good to have finally gotten the ball rolling.

There’s no cure for depression, only management. The trick is to stay on top of things, which I haven’t done so well here of late.

I’m pretty sure fluctuating hormones are to blame for this recent episode, but since I’m being honest, there are some things/issues that do tend to make it worse. In the past, “getting better” meant me, by myself, wrestling and wrangling the skeletons back into their hidden nook, securing the door with old and apparently fraying bungee cords, and pretending once again that all is well and good. But, guess what? That means one day those little bastards could escape. Again.

Frankly, I’ve had enough. I’m good at pretending, but it can be awfully tiring. Besides, there’s an awfully fine line between pretending and lying. And I hate liars.

So this time, for better or worse, I’m going to do whatever it takes to send those old, bony, moldering suckers on their miserable little way. Once and for all. It should be interesting.

It’s all good, though. Really. That particular mental exercise (or exorcisism!) is LONG overdue.

As for the holidays…

I did not send any Christmas cards this year. Not one. I just didn’t feel like hunting them down. So I’m taking the cheesy way out and wishing you all a Merry Christmas via the blog.

I hope you all know how thankful I am to have each and every one of you as a reader, follower, and/or friend. Thanks for giving me an audience, sharing my little adventures (or non-adventures as the case may be), viewing my pics, leaving comments, etc., and for sharing your world with me. It really is very nice to know there are kindred spirits in the world.

Here’s wishing you a very Merry Christmas (or long weekend if Xmas ain’t your thing) and much peace and prosperity in the coming year.

Best Christmas Cartoon Ever

Big hugs to all of you. Thanks for being there for me.


xmas-turkeyHave you ever been chewing on a kernel of an idea for a post, which needed just the right image then, while searching for said image, gotten completely sidetracked by the search results?

That’s what happened to me this morning. I was all set to tell you about this different sort of plan I have for our Thanksgiving, the US holiday happening this Thursday. It’s a rare four-day weekend for us, so I figured we should make it interesting.

Our parents have other plans. Two of our three kids are on the West Coast. Kid number three works in a restaurant, so I assumed he’d be working, but he’s actually going to spend the day with his wife’s family. We could invite friends over, or go out and share a meal, but most of our friends have families of their own or, I assume, plans with others.

So I decided we should do something we’d never done before. Which I was going to tell you about in that post. So I went to Google Images and searched for something like “turkey car thanksgiving” and got completely sidetracked.

I must say, there’s a lot of weird stuff on the Internet, in case you didn’t know that already. It can be quite entertaining, nostalgic, appalling, perplexing, and more.

Pilgrim in Corn Car with His Turkey
Pilgrim in Corn Car with His Turkey

The images that I enjoyed most were the vintage postcards. I mean, I like postcards in general, but vintage postcards can be rather unique. They were so entertaining, I figured sharing some of the gems I discovered would entertain you all more than some boring “guess what we’re going to do on Thanksgiving” sort of story.

NOTE: None of these images are mine. I searched the Internet, saved them, and re-posted them here. I usually check image licenses, you know, to see if it’s okay to share them, but I didn’t this time. So share at your own risk. And, if you don’t hear from me for a while, I may be in a jail with no Wifi.

Thanksgiving in Britain?

There’s my turkey in a car. But it’s a British car. I think. Did cars in the US ever have steering wheels on the left? Brits only recently started acknowledging Thanksgiving, supposedly because so many Americans are now in the UK, not because the Brits themselves find the need to celebrate.

Generic Thanksgiving Greeting

Honestly, I never knew Thanksgiving was an occasion to send postcards. Or greeting cards, even, which I guess these could also be.

Racing to Dinner?

Maybe there was once a tradition to race cars on Thanksgiving? Before the whole American football and Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade thing began.

British Corn Car?

Is there some tradition I don’t know about with corn cars and orange-slice wheels? And why is this image also British? I suppose the steering wheel could be in the middle, but Tom is clearly driving. How can I be so sure? This is a vintage card, remember. They’d never let a female turkey actually drive the corn car back then.

God Bless America

I wonder what message that card is supposed to be sending? Maybe it was created during a time of war and folks were supposed to send this image of a pretty lady, clearly American, accompanied by a turkey couple to a soldier fighting abroad. To remind them of home.

What’s more joyful than a kid driving a turkey and load of produce around?

Kids in vintage images like these creep me out. There’s almost always something wrong or at least a bit off about their faces. That face isn’t horrible, though.


Here’s a pretty gal who dressed her young turkey friend up all nice and pretty, with a lovely pink ribbon to pull the pumpkin wagon. Maybe in a parade? But, behind her friend’s back, the gal is prepared to stab and eat said clueless friend. What kind of message is that?

Ummm… I’m at a complete loss.

Put all care away? Looks to me like this is more about hiding your true self. You know, so your family thinks you are well and normal.

Or maybe the artist’s kid dressed as a turkey for Halloween. The artist wanted to share the drawing with friends and family, procrastinated, so made it a Thanksgiving card to mask his tardiness.

I bet this was very risque, dark humor for its time.

It probably wasn’t polite to even refer to the turkey actually getting having to get murdered so people can enjoy the traditional meal.

I’m guessing this next one is another war-time greeting.

We bow to thee, oh Turkey God.

How odd.

Speaking of odd…

Because it’s tradition to dress kids up like jesters (or small clowns?), sit them on a wheeled pumpkin, and have Tom turkey take the kid for a ride. The flag was added just to make sure folks knew this was an American card. You know, because people is so many other countries would do this sort of thing, too.

Fun with Turkey

That’s a really small image, but I HAD to share it anyway. Maybe it was once part of the holiday tradition for kids to befriend and cavort with Tom Turkey before he was beheaded, plucked, stuffed, and cooked? Rural kids, of course. Stuff like that would never fly in a city.

Maybe that’s why there’s an annual Presidential turkey pardon? As the American population became more and more concentrated in cities, the pre-Thanksgiving turkey-trot deception became less and less popular…

Coming Out?

Is that supposed to convey having fun on Thanksgiving? Or perhaps indicate that the sender had enjoyed a well-dressed turkey?

This next one really made me chuckle. The turkey looks well and alive, but the child looks like she’s been stuffed, dressed, then laid-out on a decorative platter.

Who ate who?

The last one is my favorite.

Telling It Like It Is

No subterfuge there. No making the turkeys look like anything but the murdered, dead turkeys that they are. Surrounded by some vegetables, a big bundle of Popsicle sticks, wine, and a big fish. On a desk by the rocky coast, just like the Pilgrims would have done. How festive.

I hope your Thanksgiving is as interesting, straightforward, adventurous, different, fun, and love-filled as I hope mine will be. Even if you can’t be with family or friends, I hope you are able to find a way to surround yourself with love, good times, and good cheer on this thankful day.

Fun with Elves

Quite a few years ago, my friend Carol gave me The Elf on the Shelf. Our youngest was already a teenager, but I suppose she thought it would be fun for the grand kids. Or maybe, MAYBE, she just loved the Christmas Elves of our childhood and thought I should have one.

In the 60s and 70s, every house had an elf amongst the Christmas decorations, right?

We had two, I think. My brother might say there were three. No matter the number, I always loved those elves.

My friend Janet, who owns The Empty Nest, recently acquired a bunch of vintage elves. She said that someone asked how the elves can be vintage when they were made in Japan. Because everyone knows that vintage = antique and all antiques were made in America. Right?

Anyway, today, on my way to dinner, I took a few of those elves off of Janet’s hands.

They’re silly things, really, but they made me smile. And that felt good. Smiles have been a bit rare around here lately.

Once I started smiling, I sorta got carried away. What better way to kill time waiting for food than playing with my new-to-me elves?

And since nearby diners seemed to enjoy my elves’ antics, I thought you might, too.

Menu Help


"I Love Beer!" says the elf.
“I Love Beer!” says the elf.


“Hmmm, isn’t a Cosmo more sophisticated?”


“Tastes more sophisticated.”


This particular Elf thinks beer is better.


He was also very happy with dessert.


VERY happy with dessert.


So happy, he fainted.


A not to be named member of the Warrenton Town Council was a bit perplexed by the elves’ antics.

But I bet even she would agree that The Elf on the Shelf has nothing on these old guys.

Our Family is Now Bigger

Our youngest, Eric, got married this past Saturday. I now have a daughter-in-law (DIL).

Kelsey & Eric Brandt
Kelsey & Eric Brandt

It was a lovely event. Kelsey not only planned the whole thing, she did an awful lot of work to make it all happen. Favors, flower arrangements, linen and cutlery purchases, decorations, etc. You name it, she did it. A monumental feat. And even though it took us all a bit longer than anticipated to get everything set up, she remained calm. It was her day.

Drip Catchers
Drip Catchers

Her and Eric’s day, that is. The two of them were absolutely glowing with happiness.

These pics were captured by my sister-in-law. I didn’t take a single picture at the event. There was a photographer there, so I’ll have better pics to show you later. I just didn’t feel like I should be behind a camera lens during the affair. No matter how badly I wanted to. I’ll have to trust that Marcus, The Annapolis Photographer, captured it all.

First Dance
First Dance

These two are a lovely couple. So in love. They were meant for each other.

More later after the official pics are available.

Here’s one of Eric and me…

Eric and Me
Eric and Me

It was taken just before I walked Eric down the aisle. I had just pinned one of my Mom’s angel pins on his lapel. If you look closely, you’ll see that I am wearing one, too. She so wanted to be at Eric’s wedding. Even though she wasn’t there physically, she was definitely there in spirit. And in our hearts.

We’re both happier than we look. We were just using those last few seconds to steel ourselves for the big moment. I was telling myself, “Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t cry.” I didn’t want to be bawling on the way down the aisle. But I didn’t want to look terrified either. Which is how I looked in the pics from Amy’s wedding as I was being led down the aisle to my seat!

Details to follow when more pics are available.