Wild Kingdom in my own back yard (and no alligators, thank you very much)

AA Marlin Perkins

That nice Marlin Perkins, host of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. What a guy. He can keep that scary bird, though.

Little did I know when I bought this house a little over a year ago that having a pond (okay – call it a water feature; it’s small) in the back yard would turn me into a Marlin Perkins wannabe. I loved watching Wild Kingdom when I was a kid, but I’m not fond of camping or “roughing it,” so I never aspired to experience nature’s critters in their natural habitats firsthand.

Now I am happy to report that a few of those critters have turned up in my back yard. I can just stroll to the pond and see all the wildlife a girl like me could ask for: different kinds of birds, squirrels and chipmunks (the bane of my dogs’ existence), and best of all, frogs and fish. Yes, I had to actually BUY the fish, so it’s not like they have a choice in the matter, but the birds, squirrels, and frogs showed up of their own accord.

I now have seven fish. Four of them stayed behind and hid from the previous owners when they tried to catch them to relocate to their new pond in Mentor. There are “fish caves” in the pond and the guys who wanted to stay with me and the frogs hid in the caves until the old owners left. At one time there were six. I have no idea what happened to two of them. Herons? I’m told that blue herons can empty a pond in a heartbeat and have been seen around here on other occasions. The bastards.

AA frogs and fish

Can you see my fish hiding under the lily pads? They’ve already had lunch. One of the playful frogs is hanging around in the water on the bottom right.

Anyway, when the previous owners removed their koi (which apparently were up for the move and probably too large to hide in the caves, anyway), only goldfish were left. One is a kind of white-ish goldfish, if that’s a thing, but the rest are orange. Pretty, but I wanted some variety. I decided to go to a pond store in Painesville to check out their fish and came home with two comets and a shubunkin. One comet is white with black and orange spots. It reminds me of a calico cat, so I named it Miss Kitty. The other comet is beautifully marked orange and white and the little shubunkin is gray with orange, black and white markings. I haven’t named any of the fish except Miss Kitty, so far.

I also bought some fish food at the pond store because the lady there said it would help me bond with the fish. She was right. I didn’t know I was interested in bonding with fish, other than to enjoy a good perch sandwich now and then or some grilled halibut, but I now go out every day, usually around lunch time, and the fish get excited and swim up to say hello and get a snack. No, I am not kidding. We have bonded. I will get back to you later with names for everyone. Since I can’t tell the three orange goldfish apart, I think I should name them Darryl, Darryl and my other brother Darryl.

AA big frog on pad

This big guy did not participate in any of the shenanigans today. He was quite vocal about the whole thing, though. A voyeur, perhaps? He stayed very near to me on his lily pad the whole time I visited with the pond gang.

I have to tell you, though, the frogs are my favorite. I’ve counted six, though usually there are only half that many visible at one time. The problem is that the dogs (mostly Mick, admittedly) scare them, and they’re smart to be wary. This week Mick found a chipmunk (more wild animals!) hiding among the rocks at the top of the waterfall. He killed it and brought it out onto the lawn to admire for a while before I took it away from him and put it in the trash. He’d definitely go for a frog if the opportunity presented itself. I congratulated Mick on his hunting skills, but I’d just as soon not deal with any more dead rodents for a while.

So after feeding the fish today, I was just standing there chatting with the fish and the frogs when two of the frogs started getting frisky. In fact – they started playing LEAP FROG. No shit. Then they’d wrestle a little bit, until one would break away and hide in the reeds. Lots of talking, too. I love the sound they make – like strumming a banjo. Doing! The frogs would wrestle, then separate, then wrestle some more. I’m wondering if it’s mating season – I don’t think it should be – or if they’re just playing. Whatever it was, I was just delighted with the entertainment.  Frogs playing leap frog. Fabulous.

AA two frongs

The frog on the left, also pictured above, was just hanging out the whole time. Very cool. The frog dangling in the water on the right was playing and wrestling (or having sex) with the other frog, now hidden in the reeds. Does he look tired to you? Satisfied, even? Should we draw any conclusions about why his or her little butt is hidden under that lily pad?

So that’s the news from my own little Wild Kingdom today. The Boys (my dogs) are asleep on the bench that wraps around in front of the windows in my office/dining room (it’s my office about 363 days out of the year and gets cleaned up and transformed to serve a meal to guests maybe twice a year). Chipmunks and frogs can safely cavort out back for the time being. I hear the froggie banjos strumming, and that makes me smile.

Critters are creeping me out . . . of the country


Oh dear oh dear oh dear oh dear!

First, go right over and read the latest post written by my dear friend Kari Lynn Collins at One Funny Broad. Kari, is indeed one funny broad. Love her to pieces. But wait until you read her story about alligators and snakes. Oh, my goodness.

I have been afraid of Florida ever since that video on Facebook showed an alligator the size of a Chevy Silverado ambling along the green at a golf course near Sarasota. Then there was the toddler ripped from the beach at one of the Disney hotels by one of the resort’s “pet alligators.” Oh, and yesterday another Facebook video showed an alligator scaling a chain link fence.

Lake Texoma pic

I don’t know if this guy is looking at a fish or a turtle because my eyesight sucks, but I do know it’s not an alligator. This is at Lake Texoma on an alligator-free day. Photo courtesy of houseboatmagazine.com.

Seriously? And just when I’d decided that maybe I value my life too much to ever set foot again in the Sunshine State, I learn from my buddy Kari that alligators are now hanging out in Lake Texoma, a huge man-made lake bordering Texas and Oklahoma where my friend Patsy has a weekend home (sell it, Patsy, SELL IT!) and other watery spots in Texas where they’ve never been before. Those sons of bitches are even walking down the street in a little town in Oklahoma. I am telling you, folks, alligators are taking over the country. And as I said to Kari, if they come to Ohio, I am moving to Ireland, Trump or no Trump.


These are Northern Pacific rattlesnakes doing a combat dance. We don’t do Combat Dances here near Cleveland, so STAY AWAY, you pricks.

My friend Sydney freaked me out last month, telling me there are rattlesnakes in Ohio. I have lived here a gazillion years and I did not know that. I don’t want to believe it. Or maybe they are just teeny, tiny ones that don’t really hurt. Regardless, I just want to tell you I am not putting up with living in the Snow Belt if the inconvenience doesn’t at least pay off in protecting me from the snakes and reptiles and bugs that I associate with far warmer climates. Those fuckers need to stay far south of the Mason-Dixon Line is all I have to say about that.

In the meantime, I’m afraid the northern critters are presenting their own brand of worry. If you’re a Facebook friend, you may have seen the photo of the diseased squirrel I posted about a week ago. The poor guy not only had lost half his hair to mange, but he also

Squirrel pox

Squirrel with Squirrel Pox on my fence. Pitiful and sad but EEEUW.

was covered with revolting tumors that the nice lady at Lake Metroparks told me was Squirrel Pox. She said if I could catch him, I should put him out of his misery.

Me? Catch a squirrel? How does one even go about doing such a thing? There are so many squirrels in my neighborhood, I don’t know what I could devise for my particular trap to signal to the rest of them that it’s just for the sick squirrel. I picture myself catching and releasing dozens of squirrels, feeding half the squirrels in Willoughby, before finally catching the sick guy.

And can you picture the scenario if one of my dogs caught the diseased squirrel? As you can imagine, I’d be dragging them to the vet, screaming all the way, and shelling out hundreds of dollars for tests and shots and blood transfusions or whatever the hell it took to save The Boys from Squirrel Pox.

I haven’t seen the poxy squirrel in nearly a week, though that might be what died under the addition to my house. The pest control guys who installed the metal mesh barrier that failed to keep something from burrowing under there last weekend are coming to fix everything tomorrow. They’ll have a camera on a pole (a critter selfie stick?) to try to see what’s in there.

And – get this – I just saw another huge, fat squirrel on the fence next to my driveway and . . . I thought I saw a lump forming on his back. If Squirrel Pox is going to become a thing in this neighborhood, I might have to import a small squirrel-eating alligator to discourage them from coming to my yard.

This means that The Boys and I would have to move, at least until the squirrels are gone and it gets cold enough to freeze the alligator.

St. Patrick with snakesBetween the critters and the politicians and all these folks walking around with a pistol in their pants or pocketbook, I just may have to rethink life in the USA. My son Chris is finally moving back here from Australia (another terrifying place critter-wise, but at least they don’t have guns) in August and it will be hard to explain why I have to leave just as he’s returning. I wonder if the University of Akron (where Chris will be teaching this fall – hurray!) might consider opening a branch campus in maybe Galway, or Cork?

I know Saint Patrick ran the snakes out of Ireland a long time ago and I’m pretty sure there aren’t any alligators there, either.

I’m not sure about the squirrel situation, however . . . .

Mick’s tough day at the office


I think it was Saturday morning that Mick alerted me to the fact that the barrier protecting the underside of the bedroom addition to our house had been breached. The first time critters sneaked under the addition (built on top of what had been a deck) was in late February. Unseasonably warm weather had prompted mating season for skunks and the potential for a very smelly disaster was high. I paid a pest control company to come out, dig a trench, and install heavy wire mesh attached to the bottom of the siding, then curving down then back out about a foot under the ground, to deter further visits. Problem solved.

Or not? I noticed a while back that there was a small gap near the corner of the house closest to the back steps. I plugged it up with some rocks and thought no more of it until – duh duh duh DUUUUUUH – Mick started sniffing and digging on the other side of the house this past Saturday morning. And so our story begins.

00 Mick smiling

Chatting with Mick

An interview with Mick Jagger, the Rock Star Dachshund

Mick, what drew you to the far side of the bedroom addition on Saturday?

Well, let me explain something to you first. I’m a dachshund, right? I’m a member of the Hound family and, in my opinion, we’re the best of the Hound family. I mean, look at this long, regal nose, right? We should be starring in crime shows. Just saying.

Right. I get that, Mick. But back to Saturday, what happened?

Okay, so I went outside for my morning dump and my amazing nose caught a whiff of something interesting over by the house. I knew right where to go not only because of the odor, but also because these intruders have a pattern. No matter where they sneak in, they always go over to the side of the house as far away from the back steps as possible. They’re stupid, but they’re not dumb, you know what I’m saying? So I know exactly where the little shits are hiding. You cannot fool a dachshund. You just fucking can’t.

Okay. So you knew it was hiding over on the far side of the addition. But why did you so stubbornly insist on trying to get to it, Mick? Except for the times when I had to drag or carry you into the house . . .

Yeah, and thanks for THAT, Moooom . . . .

Sorry. I was worried, okay? But just tell me, please, why was it that no matter how many ridiculous blockades I tried to construct, you just wouldn’t leave it alone? Mick, I don’t know how you did it, but you moved rocks I could hardly carry. You moved lawn chairs and stakes in the ground. You somehow shredded portions of that heavy wire mesh. Man, you were determined to dig under the house and get that little bastard. Why?

Mom, it’s my nature. It’s my job. If something is in the ground or hiding, it’s my calling to go after it until I can kill it. I may look cute with these soft, floppy ears and my fluffy, waggily tail, but I am a HUNTER. You have to respect that. And I’m German. Do you know anyone more stubborn than a German? No. I do not give up and I do not take no for an answer. And I resent the fact that you can just pick me up and carry me inside, just so you know. That’s not fair.

I’m sorry, Mick. I really do sympathize, buddy, but you are just ruining the landscaping and I’m afraid you’re going to hurt yourself on what is now torn and raggedy metal mesh. And what if you do manage to dig under the house? How the hell do we know what’s under there for sure? What if you get in a big fight and get hurt under there and I have trouble getting you back out? Do you know how dangerous this is?

I’m not a freaking puppy, Mom. Let me under there and I’ll massacre that critter. How could you doubt me? It’s my job to protect this house. To protect YOU. You think that pussy, Little Richard, is going to do anything? Ha. Who’s been napping in the chair most of the last four days while I’ve been on the job? Little Fucking RICHIE, that’s who.

Alright, alright. You’re very different personalities. Don’t blame him because he’s not all bent out of shape about critters under the house. But, Mick, here’s the big question – why are you so hell bent on spending every waking hour smelling the side of the house? When the pest control guy came today he pointed out the flies, which is a pretty good indication that whatever it is died under there. Why are you still obsessed with smelling the area?

Well, first of all, it’s my job. I don’t know why this is so hard for you to understand, Mom. It’s my house. It’s my responsibility. If I don’t keep track of critters under the house, who will? I want that little bastard – dead or alive. It’s all the same to me. (Oh, and dead critters smell great, just so you know).

And pardon me for saying so, but this isn’t exactly the most exciting place to live. I’m sorry. I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but it just isn’t. I love you and thanks for the food (although I have to ask, how much longer do I have to eat this damn diet food? You know I hate it!) and the belly rubs and all, but there’s more to me than being a lap dog, you know? I’m a HUNTER, for Pete’s sake. Remember when I killed that squirrel and brought him inside to show you? Cool, huh? I’d bring you some frogs and fish from the pond, too, but those little jerks are too fast. For now, anyway. Notice how they move their asses as soon as I head in their direction? Yeah. Stupid, but not dumb. That’s what I think about most other animals, if you want the truth.

00 Mick sidewaysOkay, Mick. I understand. Well, I have some news for you. The pest control guys are coming back Thursday to check under the house with their camera to find and remove (I hope) whatever is dead under there, and then they are pulling out the old wire mesh and installing new stuff. They’re going to attach the bolts more closely together so there aren’t the gaps that caused the problem this time. What do you think of that?

Are you serious? Come on! This is the most exciting time I’ve had in years and you’re going to wreck it? I hate you, Mom! I hate you!

Oh, dear. I hope that’s the end of the story. I’m so glad the pest control guys guarantee their work for a year. As for Mick, I know he’ll forgive me eventually. My brave little protector. He’s currently sacked out on the cool linoleum floor near my feet. He’s been working overtime since Saturday morning and I know he has to be all tuckered out. Ooops. Never mind. He just ran back out to see if there are any new developments. Who knew my dog was a workaholic?

Please share this post

I was having some deep thoughts (early SNL? Anyone?) about Facebook this morning and thought I’d share this idea with you. If you like it, would you share my post on your Facebook page? Read on and see what you think:

It occurred to me that while I love seeing Facebook posts about puppies and kitties and recipes and such, maybe we could join together and actually USE Facebook to help each other out. I’m not even going to speculate on how Facebook is using US. That’s another story.

What if, every time someone we know needs a hand, we were to share the story on our own pages? Here’s my first example:

My friend Karen is trying to sell her cottage on Lake Erie in Saybrook, Ohio. I’ve been there. It’s a really cute little place and Karen is a nice person. She moved to Las Vegas a few years ago to accept a job at a hospital there and to be near her daughter and grandchildren. If you’re reading this, you may know me, but not Karen, right? But what if you, by chance, have a contact who would love to buy that cottage? How cool would it be if you and I found someone to buy Karen’s place?

Karen's house

Then there’s my dear friend Kari who lives in Texas. Her husband’s dad is in Hospice and they need to find a home for his sweet dog, Samantha. I can’t help out because I already have two dogs and am in Ohio. But I have friends (hope you’re reading this!) who live in Texas who might know someone. I have other friends (hope you’re reading, too!) who have their own friends or relatives in Texas. If you share this on your page, maybe we all can help Kari’s family find a home for this senior dog who’s soon to lose her “dad.”

home for Sam

My final example is for my friend, Bonnie. Bonnie doesn’t need help, but I’d really love to support my dear and talented friend by spreading the word about her work. I LOVE her paintings. I saw her a couple weeks ago at her home in Cape Coral and bought one painting that’s now hanging in my living room.

Bonnie's show

Bonnie’s work is being featured in a gallery in Cape Coral and I’d like to spread the word. Do you have friends or family in the Cape Coral vicinity? Then maybe you’ll share this post so they’ll check out Bonnie’s paintings.

So that’s the idea. If you know someone who needs help or has something going on that you’d like to support, post it on your page. Then go one step further and ask people to repost. Let’s USE Facebook to help the people we care about, even when it’s a step or two or three removed. No judgement. You decide what you want to post, obviously. But maybe now you’ll think about it and consider helping your cousin’s friend’s neighbor. What have we got to lose by passing the word? I’m going to try to pay attention and do this more often.

Thanks for reading, and by the way – if you post this link on your page, you’re also supporting ME! Bloggers always love having more people following them. Writing makes me happy and people actually reading it now and then is the icing on the cake!

Many mugs are called, but few are chosen

When I moved to a smaller home (with a MUCH smaller kitchen) last year, I donated what seemed like a ton of coffee mugs to Goodwill. But when it came time to unpack those I’d kept, I realized I still had far more mugs than I needed, or had space for, in my new house.

My current dilemma is twofold. First, nearly every mug that made the cut from Madison to Willoughby is meaningful to me. I find it all but impossible to get rid of any of them because of the memories associated with each one. However, and this is part two, I only want to drink coffee out of maybe four of those mugs.

I feel like Goldilocks, except just with mugs. No issues with beds or chairs or other bear furniture.

There are two adorable mugs that are simply too large. By the time I’ve finished half a cup, I need to microwave what’s left because the liquid has cooled to an unacceptable temperature. I could, and sometimes do, simply pour less coffee into the mug to begin with, but that goes against the grain. I want to sit down with a nice FULL cup of coffee when I invite the dogs onto my lap to read for a while, which is our habitual morning wake up routine.

coffee mugs

You should see the rest of the mugs in the cupboard.

Most of my mugs, however, are too small. Unfortunately, these are my prettiest mugs and most are souvenirs from foreign travel. The two in the photo are from Florence, Italy and the picturesque town of Delft in The Netherlands. Just looking at each one takes me right back to the days I bought them. After visiting the gift shop, my cousin Carole and I sat in the sunshine at an outdoor cafe on the square in Delft and had coffee and tiny Dutch pancakes, poffertjes, sprinkled with powdered sugar. My foreign mugs are all so cute and evoke such great memories! But … I never use those smaller mugs unless I’m sick and making tea. This is because I don’t really like tea and don’t want much of it. It just seems to be the comforting thing to do when I have a sore throat. Thinking about Europe is comforting, too, I must say.

Finally, there are three mugs in the middle, like Mama Bear’s belongings in the story, that are just right. I poured in water to measure capacity and, as it turns out, my ideal mug holds at least 14 ounces of liquid (one is a mug from my sister with pictures of my son and my dogs; the other is the “You Can Write” mug from the Erma Bombeck Humor Writers Workshop). My bright red “Who Rescued Who” mug holds 16 oz. and is almost too big. I need to fill it not quite to capacity for the perfect cup. A fourth mug that I picked up at the World Market has a cute dachshund on the side and probably holds a very full 13 ounces. It’s just shy of being in the perfect range, but because of the dachshund, it rates in my top four.

Which brings me to the question of what my answer should be when I’m asked how many cups of coffee I drink each day. I think that’s a trick question, and one I rarely answer honestly.

As a meeting planner, I’ve spent many an early morning grabbing coffee from a group’s buffet or break line. FYI, the coffee cups at a hotel or conference center are a standard five ounce pour. It’s no surprise that I gulp down a ridiculous number of cups, circumstances permitting, when I’m working an event. Should my reply be that I drink a good part of ten cups of coffee some days?

On the other hand, if I’m at the airport, say, and only have time to grab the largest coffee available, does that mean I had just one cup that day?

So I normally admit to having two or three cups a day. I don’t mention that those are 14 to 16 ounce mugs. And since at home I only drink half-caff coffee, I think it’s only fair to claim a lesser quantity, anyway.

If you’re being honest, how many cups do you have each day?

And has all this talk about coffee made you want a cup right now? Me, too.


The oldest kid in church

Mother's Day 2016

Mom is still amused at lunch

My mother greeted me on Mother’s Day with a huge smile. “Thank you for the flowers,” she said.

I’d just arrived to take her to lunch and had my gift in hand. I had not sent her flowers. “What flowers, mom? I didn’t get you flowers this year.”

She pointed to a corsage on her lapel. “These flowers. They’re because of you.”


Mom seemed inordinately pleased by the corsage. She couldn’t stop giggling but finally paused to explain that she got it in church. In honor of Mother’s Day, the priest asked mothers to raise their hands so he could see who had been a mother the longest. By process of elimination, women lowered their hands as Father swept past age brackets of “kids” in their 40’s and 50’s. Anyone with a kid aged 60? 61? 62? Mom’s was the last hand waving with a child aged 65. That’s me.

with me

Mom and her oldest kid in 1951.

Mom was quick to point out that she was not necessarily the oldest MOTHER in church. She was just the mother of the oldest CHILD. Again, that’s me. Recognized as the oldest child at the 11:00 mass at St. Cyprian’s last Sunday.

My mother got as much mileage as she could out of that clump of flowers on her chest. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if she wore it to play bridge yesterday.

So here you go, Mom. This blog post is for you:

Congratulations on being the mother of the OLDEST KID,

From your loving, ancient daughter

But how will they enforce it?

I’ve been thinking about the whole transgender bathroom issue. I have to admit, I’m confused.

If a fella is dressing as a woman and identifies as a woman and goes into the Ladies and into a stall and does his business . . . who’s going to know? And if a woman is dressed as a man and strolls past the urinals to do her business in one of the stalls . . . who’s going to know? And who’s going to care?

I’m much more concerned about whether someone is carrying a gun (open or concealed) in a public place than I am in where that person decides to take a tinkle. And yet, I am going to guess that the majority of the people whose panties are in a knot over the restroom dilemma are the same ones who think it’s their right to shop for Cheetos and doughnuts with an assault rifle slung over one shoulder.

Can this country get any crazier?

looking up skirt

You’re good to go, ma’am. Ladies is on your right.

So, if we stick to the status quo of one facility for the Ladies and another for the Gents, how are we going to know if someone is trying to do a switcheroo? Will Wal-Mart and Target have to hire Gender Checkers? Would you look down people’s pants for minimum wage? Would there be spot checks, or would the Gender Checker have the authority to pull aside anyone who looks suspicious?

“Excuse me, ma’am, but is that an Adam’s Apple or a goiter?” 

And let’s consider the idea of shared bathrooms. Unless you were raised by wolves, didn’t you share the family bathroom with members of the opposite sex? Yeah, I know they’re family, but nobody wants to go in the bathroom after Dad has finished the paper and unloaded or Little Brother has sprayed everywhere and left the seat up. I would say keep men in the Men’s room simply because so many of them are gross. Forget about sexual imposition.

Every time I have to fly anywhere and am forced to use the unisex bathrooms on the plane I know I’m taking my chances and that acceptable standards of sanitation are just one unfortunate visit away from being compromised. And yet, with a couple hundred people on a plane and two or three potties, everyone manages.

How annoying is it, though, when a flight attendants snarls, “You can’t stand here,” and all you’re doing is waiting to use the john. It’s not for FUN, lady. It’s not an experience I’m looking forward to, ma’am. Do you know what awaits me inside? No. Nor do I, and yet, I have no choice but to face it. And if I return to my seat? Well, then I’ll have to come back in a few minutes and stand behind more people to wait my turn and, oh, just SHUT UP.

Anyway. With nutjobs running for President and more garden-variety nutjobs packing heat on college campuses and at the Dollar Tree and Dunkin Donuts, who the hell cares if the dude who looks like a lady piddles in the women’s restroom?

The chances of a transgender person approaching a little girl in the Ladies are about as likely as a dingo eating  your baby. Now, can we please get back to worrying about real things, like how that poor Mr. Trump’s skin turned orange?