Posts by Sally

Muggsy

For a writing class I was challenged to tell the backstory of how my father got his dog Muggsy. His father had brought the dog home one day in 1934 or 35 after finding it while waiting for the ferry. Muggsy fit in my grandfather’s pocket.

This piece is fiction — and I don’t write much fiction, but it was fun to give it a try.

Stewart, Donald, and Muggsy


She rocked on her heels under a tree while it rained. The little bit of shelter offered relief, plus someone had thrown a crust from a sandwich there. She broke the stale bread in half and offered one piece to her dog.

“Dunno why Mama don’t want me sharin’ with you,” she said to the dog, as he licked her hand.

Toward evening the blind man arrived to beg. He tap-tap-tapped his way to his usual spot.

“Hep me out,” he called as people approached, and he extended his empty open cigar box in front of him. “Can’t see. Can’t work. Hep me out,” he called, and then waited.

The little white dog lapped water from a dirty puddle while the girl watched men dig into their pockets and throw coins in the box.

A lanky man in an overcoat stopped in front of the beggar. He rummaged in his pocket. “Here you go, friend,” he said, placing a few coins in the box. He patted the blind man’s shoulder and left his hand resting there a moment longer.

“Thank-a,” said the blind man.

She scooped up her dog, muddy paws and all, and ran after the man.

“‘scuse me, sir,” she said, as loud as she could. He was heading straight for the Hoboken ferry. “‘scuse me, sir,” she repeated.

He stopped and looked at the thin little girl whose outgrown dress was smeared with mud. “Can I help you?” he asked.

“Do you live in Hoboken?” she asked.

“No,” he said. “but I live in New Jersey? Do you need to get there?”

“No, sir,” she said. “My dog does.”

A smile played at the corners of the man’s mouth.

She continued, “Mama says folks in Hoboken have houses and yards. She says there’s lotsa green grass there. My dog needs to live some place like that.”

She lifted the dog up toward the man. “Can you –“

“What happened here?” he interrupted, gently touching a long dark bruise on the inside of her upper arm. Four similar parallel bruises marked the outside of her arm.

She pulled the dog back and tried to cover the marks with her sleeve. He noticed a matching set of bruises on her other arm.

She said, “Papa don’t know how hard he holds me sometimes.” Then looking up at him, she said, “Can you take my dog home with you?”

He scratched the little dog behinds the ears.

“You got a house?” she asked.

“I do,” he replied, “and two little boys, but I can’t take your dog.”

Supposin’,” she said, “supposin’ you knew somethin’ bad would happen if this dog stayed here, like he might end up drowned or somethin’.”

“My wife doesn’t like dogs,” he said.

“Can you tell her that you found him runnin’ ‘round the docks, and you was worried that he might get stepped on or kicked or end up in the river?” Tears filled her eyes. “He’s a good dog. She’s a mama. She’d understand.”

Gently, he took the little dog from the girl and snuggled it into his overcoat pocket.

“His name’s Muggsy.” Her voice cracked as she spoke and her eyes overflowed.

He started to speak, but she had disappeared into the crowd.

France vs. Croatia

Hmm… Which country?

My May 2017 trip to France was amazing.  My father had long wanted to visit Normandy, so my husband, my brother, my sister and her husband, and I all made it happen last May. The family time alone made it very special.

In France, Normandy stole my heart. The sacred ground —

And its rural charm —

But Croatia was also lovely.

How can I forget walking the city wall in Dubrovnik?

Or swimming in the Adriatic where the water was so cold it took my breath away?

If Bosnia-Herzegovina was in the mix, the people would make a pretty strong case. Golly, I love them.


But it’s France vs Croatia.

It will be decided by a bunch of men kicking a ball around on a field.

I don’t know who to cheer for.

Flowers and Weeds

Monday was not a great day.

I had taken my father to meet with his brother.

It was great to see my uncle and my cousin. While my father was so happy to see his brother, I was struck by my father’s struggle to engage in conversation.

A few months ago, at a doctor’s visit, his doctor asked him social questions about the family and his daily activities. When he didn’t answer immediately, I jumped in to help supply the answers. She looked at me and said, “I’m interested in the family and all, but this is also part of my assessment.”

She actually said it much nicer than that, but that was the gist of it. Stop answering for him. I need to get a handle on what he’s able to comprehend.

Since then, I’ve very consciously placed myself on the outskirts of his conversations.

At lunch with his brother, the conversation floundered.

Uncle Stewart: So, Don, what books are you reading these days?

Dad: Oh, I don’t know, a little of this, and — I guess I don’t read many books.

I stayed out if it. Nearly every day my father pulls new books off the shelf and starts reading them. Out loud. I put away eight books yesterday.  Everything from Outlander to the Book of Occasional Services to Murder at Fenway Park to Scotland Forever Home.

My uncle also tried talking to my father about the Red Sox.

Uncle Stewart: Who’s your favorite player on the Red Sox, Don?

Dad: Favorite player? Uh…

My father couldn’t come up with any names, so I jumped in. “How about Mookie Betts?”

He smiled broadly. “Yes, I like Mookie Betts.”

I felt sad afterwards — grieving a loss that was in progress, like watching a thief steal valued possessions and not being able to do anything about it.

Maybe that led me to my action later that day. You see, I broke one of three rules I have for dealing with a person who leaves unkind comments on my blog.

My rules are simple:

  1. Don’t engage. This includes responding in any way or acknowledging anything.
  2. Document everything. This is based on legal advice.
  3. Don’t change. This is also based on a discussion with my lawyer. I asked him, “Should I stop blogging?” “Absolutely not,” he said. “Don’t change your life to comply with a bully.”

I wrote a since-deleted password-protected post that bordered on engaging (Rule #1). Mostly the post bemoaned the lack of civility in our engagement with others. Still, I deleted it.

Yesterday, as I tended the flower garden, I found myself marveling at the way the more I cut the flowers back, the more blossoms they produce.

Daisies!

Look at all the daisies yet to come!

I moved to another garden where I’m in my third year of trying to eradicate Japanese Knotweed. I use a combination of Round-Up and hand-weeding. Surely, it will eventually die out. It’s so persistent, though.

As I prayed while weeding, one of Sunday’s scriptures came flooding through my mind.

“…a thorn was given me in the flesh, … to harass me … Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me, but He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” … For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (from 2 Corinthians 12)

It’s all a gift. The weeds, the thorns, the pruning, the losses.

The first dahlia of summer opened last night and I’m content.

 

Morning Hymn

I bought this book a few years ago. It has been waiting patiently for me.

Songs of Three Centuries, edited by John Greenleaf Whittier.

I didn’t go looking for it. The book found me.

Things I like about the book:

  • Marbled book boards. Isn’t it pretty?
  • Inscription — I’m a sucker for inscriptions, especially really old ones. 140 years ago, MHW suspected that Emma would love the poems inside and gave her the book for Christmas. She held it in her hands and leafed through it, knowing she would come back to some of the poems over and over again.
  • Poems — I really love the language of older poetry.

About a month ago, I started reading a poem (or two) a day from it.

Then I got stuck on this one.

Go ahead. Sing it out loud to the tune of Old 100th. It’ll be stuck in your head, too.

Morning Hymn
by Thomas Ken

Awake, my soul! and with the sun
Thy daily stage of duty run;
Shake off dull sloth, and joyful rise
To pay thy morning sacrifice.

Wake, and lift up thyself, my heart;
And with the angels bear thy part,
Who all night long unwearied sing
High praise to the eternal King.

All praise to Thee, who safe hast kept.
And hast refreshed me whilst I slept:
Grant, Lord, when I from death shall wake,
I may of endless life partake.

Lord, I my vows to thee renew;
Disperse my sins as morning dew;
Guard my first springs of thought and will,
And with thyself my spirit fill.

Direct, control, suggest, this day
All I design, or do, or say,
That all my powers, with all their might,
In thy sole glory may unite.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

You’re welcome.

Sari, Not Sari

High temperature yesterday – way too hot

Predicted high today – nearly as hot as yesterday

I decided not to mess around. When I went to work-out at the gym, I grabbed one of my sari skirts to change into after showering.

“You’re all dressed up today,” one of the locker room ladies said. “Where are you headed?”

“Yeah, where are you working these days? We miss you here,” said another.

“Nowhere,” I told her. “Just home. I’m trying to stay cool.”

It’s true. I’m not working there any more. It’s been all of two days and I already miss it.

It’s also true that I put on a skirt to stay cool. I learned on Sunday how comfortable these skirts can be on a hot hot day in July. I wore the skirt to church and stayed in it all day.

Last month I had ordered a number of skirts from a site called Darn Good Yarn.

I confess I fell prey to an onslaught of Facebook advertisements. However, a few of my friends had “Like”d the company so I visited.

They sell yarn (obviously) but I don’t “do” any yarn crafts. I knit one mitten once. I crocheted about a 4 inch square once. I don’t think either of those qualify.

But they also sell these wrap-around skirts made from recycled saris. No two skirts are alike.

From their website:

Each skirt is handmade by our co-ops in India out of recycled saris and turned into the beautiful finished skirt you see. With your help, these artisans are able to sustain year-round employment.

Some of my other skirts

I love the idea of repurposing and employing women in another part of the world.

Wrap-around skirts are forgiving, especially for people between sizes. If my size goes down (which is what I’m working toward), the skirts will still fit. If my size goes up (ugh), the skirts will still fit. And, if I stay the same, the skirts will still fit. They come in three sizes – regular, x-large, and child – and in varying lengths from mini to maxi.

Because every skirt is unique, you tell them the size, the colors you like, and the length. They do the rest. I have not been disappointed.

It’s rare that I do product reviews here, but this is something I love.

Also from their website:

From the artisan to the person who packs our orders, Darn Good Yarn is fueled by infusing Good into all parts of our business. From our warehouse and order fulfillment partnership with Schenectady ARC (a non-profit dedicated to providing employment for adults with developmental disabilities) to our employee benefit programs, our goal is to create a better world by caring and doing things the slightly harder way. In a world of short-cuts and cookie cutter experiences, we believe that when you slow down in order to build that this creates more sustainability and stronger communities.

I can get behind a business with those values.

ps — I think they’re running a sale for 4th of July — buy two sari skirts, get three free.

Not Your Typical Swim Camp

Several years ago the aquatics director asked me if I would be interested in running the swim camp.

“It wouldn’t be your typical swim camp,” I told her. “I don’t want to do freestyle on Monday and backstroke on Tuesday. I’d like it to be fun and a little goofy.”

She let me run with it.

I came up with the theme of “Swim Like a Beast” and chose a different animal for each day: jellyfish, golden retriever, otter, dolphin, and frog.

The best thing that came out of that camp was a game called Otter Island. My friend Katy was helping me. I told her I was thinking about a game like “Sharks and Minnows” (standard pool fare) but we could make it sharks and otters because sharks eat sea otters.

“Yes,” Katy said, “and we could put one of the big mats in to be an island where they could go for safety.”

The kids love climbing on the big floating mats.

The otter island mat

“When they’re on the island,” I said, “they run the risk of being grabbed by an eagle.” I had read that bald eagles predate on otters.

“So we can have kids on the side with noodles to act as eagles,” Katy said. “If they get tapped by a noodle, the eagle got them.”

Before long, we had concocted a game that was fairly crazy and totally fun.

I realized then how fun it is to collaborate with Katy. We both throw ideas around, bouncing them off each other, like the ping-pong balls that sometimes show up in our games.

Katy has ping-pong balls that look like eyeballs. She’s that kind of person.

I’ve never done the same theme twice for swim camp. One year we did Skull camp — and we did lots of sculling, trying to teach kids how to feel the water. One year we did the Incredibles and called it an Incredible Swim Camp.

In fact, as we were putting stuff away on the last day, Katy said to Mat, our other full-time helper with camp, “Next year it’s up to you. You could probably do the Incredible Swim Camp again.”

Mat stopped piling kickboards and said, “Wait — what?! Aren’t you two going to do it?”

Katy said, “No, this is my last year. I only did it so I could work with Sally one more time.”

I laughed. “It’s my last year, too. I only did it so I could work with Katy.”

I love collaborating with Katy.

This year’s camp was called A Quintessential Swim Camp — and we used the five classical elements: earth, water, air, fire, and æther. We did science-y things in and out of the water.

On Thursday night, as we were trying to come up with a bang-up game to end on, Katy and I bounced ideas off each other — and ended up incorporating those ping-pong balls.

“What if we had kids blowing ping-pong balls across the pool –” she said.

“Okay, that’s the air,” I said, mentally check-marking one element.

“And other kids could be splashing them or making waves in the water to make it difficult,” she said.

“That’s water,” I said. “How about it we have a third group of kids pretending they are stuck to the bottom — you know, can’t move — to represent earth?”

“Yeah! And they could be trying to grab the ping-pong ball or tag the person or something,” she said.

“It sounds chaotic,” Mat said — and it was. Chaotically fun.

Swim camp was fun — once we figured out those initial obstacles — but I’m not doing it again.

“I’ve heard that before,” one of my kids said.

This time I mean it.

Swim Camp

The other night I watched part of a Red Sox game against the Seattle Mariners with my father before I went to bed. In the morning I looked up the final score. The headline read: Sox can’t solve Leake as Rodriguez struggles

Leake was the pitcher for Seattle, and he has more pitches than numbers on a Bingo card.

“What do you think he’s going to throw this time?” one commentator would ask the other.

“I don’t know,” the other replied.

Apparently the Red Sox didn’t know either. Pitcher vs. Batter is such a mind game.

Seattle won 7-2.

Meh — baseball is a long season. I wasn’t too dejected.

I’ve been procrastinating planning swim camp for a while. I set up two meetings last week to discuss the nuts-and-bolts of swim camp with the staff that I would have. We planned activities and scheduled who would be where when. This is the 4th year that I’ve run the swim camp. I wasn’t cocky, but felt like I had a pretty good handle on it.

Plus I knew that a curveball or two would be thrown at me.

It goes with the territory.

Yesterday (Sunday) Bud and my children were covering little signs I had made with clear contact paper so they would withstand a week in the pool.

Last Wednesday I had 22 kids registered so I planned for 28. You never know.

This  morning I got up early to cut up our watermelon snack. 30 wedges should be plenty. I put it in a big bowl and brought it to the pool along with tape for my signs, sandals for my feet, and my whistle for silencing the small masses.

Curveball #1 — It turns out that I’m not allowed to tape anything on the walls. No worries, I thought. The signs were cheesy anyway.

Curveball #2 — Between last Wednesday and Monday (today), the camp had grown from 22 to 31. I didn’t have enough supplies for some of the activities. No worries, I thought. I have several sets of siblings and siblings can share.

Two of our three pools.

Curveball-slider-fastball-knuckleball-all-rolled-into-one — Two of the three pools were not available to me. AND the pool that was available was also being shared with adult lap swimmers and another camp. Maybe I could have three lanes.

I may have started hyperventilating.

Changeup pitch — Over one-third of the swimmers who signed up for my SWIM camp could not swim. One of the pools we couldn’t use was the shallow teaching pool. Now I had safety concerns.

We were told that we should have asked. Asked to use the pool for swim camp? A swim camp scheduled by the facility?

Apparently, it was my fault for not asking. Asking wouldn’t have changed anything. It just would have prepared me.

I was speechless.

So we fumbled (<– sorry, football analogy) through the morning.

The kids had fun.

Who knew that kids could have fun in such circumstances?

And I went home still feeling totally blindsided.

The prompt for today is my greatest regret. My greatest regret today was agreeing to run the swim camp.

It’s not my greatest regret, though. That has to do with far bigger things — missed opportunities with people I love.

However, today, I’m reeling.

The Red Sox couldn’t solve Leake, and I couldn’t solve Monday at swim camp.

BUT — tomorrow is a new day, with no mistakes in it yet. (Anne of Green Gables)

I can’t wait.