It could be yesterday…

June 4th… one year of acclimating after North shifted to another realm. Our neighbors hear him howl, still. Zoey, our 14 year old dat (not a typo), was born in June but we have no specific date. Henceforth, her birthday is June 4th. She continues to do her best being our watch cat.

We realized that when we lost our other malamutes, it wasn’t long until someone (ahem..Jon) was perusing the malamute breeder sites. This time the sting held on longer because we were committed to going it with Zoey only until we knew where we would land after this adventure. Playing dog grandparents is pretty sweet though. Love ’em, snuggle, give lots of treats and go home. No pills, no poop detail, no diarrhea clean up. Otis and Jasmine are special grand-dogs.

Zoey still gets a wild hair, thus the overturned garbage, but mostly she is a good sleeper by day; meowing with sundowners, by night. Our lives are mostly like this:

By day-“One of you humans- follow me to the bathroom, turn on the faucet. Now.”

By night: “Meowwwww.” “We’re up here Zoey. Same place we are every night.” “Meow, meow, meow, Oh! I wondered where you went, my tub is dry.”

Give your pets and extra hug from me. 🐶🐴🐠🐖

Check Your Privilege

Many people are confused by, or triggered by, what it means to be privileged. Check your privilege they say. Just to push that social experience of not talking for a week, I decided to experience the laundromat. Of course I have been to laundromats; I mean, I went to college. I have returned periodically for extra large items. The last time I was at this laundromat though was to wash my 130lb dog since they also have room for that and he qualified as extra large.

Back to today’s privilege check- as I was reacquainting myself with the process, I learned there was no ATM, the changed machine only likes 5s and 10s, not ones or 20s, and one has to bring their own detergent. Go figure. To top off the joy level, the laundromat lost power with 5 minutes remaining in my cycle.

Naturally the quality of this adventure was due to my level of familiarity, or more precisely, the lack of. But in a manner that has no relationship to social justice, what I experienced today was my privilege. My husband and I have carved a life that affords a pretty washer and dryer. It also affords me time to sit, write and wait for the power to return.

My take away- privilege can be found in places we aren’t use to hearing about. Sometimes privilege is its own reward. Sometimes it’s the reward for planning, for managing circumstances, which result in rarely needing to spend hours in the laundromat.

Sometimes privilege is something you benefitted from but did absolutely nothing to achieve it- you merely stumbled into it through the birth canal. You have this cash flow because you were born a trust fund baby, you were born into a family that can travel while saving for your college, or being of a race that never worried about mortgage red-lining, or white supremacy.

I think it’s ok to pat yourself on the back when you experience privilege because of your own fortitude. However, it may be even more important to discern when you merely stumbled into it by a birthright. Whichever privilege you experience, recognize others may not have that privilege and check your judgement after checking your privilege.

Epilogue- when I subsequently needed change for drying and the machine was ’temporarily out of order’….I knew I could go down the rabbit hole of ’time is money’ and will consider a dry cleaners, but that’s another day.

Emerging from the Cone of Silence-finale

The alarm sounding at the end of 168 hours was glorious! But hey, at least this hourly countdown was not as horrific as James Franco’s cutting his hand off in 127 Hours. Hmmm…what other number based connections can I make….OH, it was not as titillating as 9 1/2 weeks, much more interesting than 21 Grams.

We know the passage of time changes based on the fun-factor of the activity. Quite frankly I can’t believe it was only 168 hours ago that my voice ghosted me! Apparently, I like the shit out of talking; I suppose that makes sense being a speech pathologist.

The other day, before parole, and believing I could navigate without encounter, I ventured into the grocery store. If you are ever on voice rest and go to the grocery store, be assured of two things.

First– you definitely will see someone you absolute love but haven’t seen in YEARS and they will strike up a renewing conversation to which you nod and smile and make them laugh because you use the TEXT App and they feel awkward. Couldn’t help but think of Dan Fogelberg’s Same Ole Lang Syne, just without all the conversation.

Secondly– the chatty grocery clerk will think you don’t care one bit about the wildfires in New Mexico because you didn’t extend the conversation. We know that’s not true. It does cause me to pause to consider how often I judge someone’s ‘why’. We really don’t know a stranger’s story.

As was my wondering on day one, I am neither a blabbering idiot, nor peaceful as shit. Relieved, and thankful to have my ‘voice’ back. The speech pathologist believes the adage, “Physician, heal thy self”, and is implementing voice therapy guidelines. But I will carry forward awareness of what’s important to say and what is dribble.

A final meaningful thought about this experiment was how fatiguing it was to not speak. Any time we alter a pattern, remaining cognizant uses tremendous cognitive energy , my psyche was doing double duty. (Don’t talk, I want to talk, don’t do it, but I want to, oops I talked). Take away- have compassion when someone is in pain-physical or mental, have compassion when someone is distracted due to life being turned upside down. Have compassion for others but for yourself too.

Thanks to all who have followed me on this adventure beneath the cone of silence. Glad to fling it away and begin singing like Adele once again.

I leave you with a little Dan Fogelberg in the grocery store… it’s the bitter sweet aspect that resonated in the grocery store.

Deeper Beneath the Cone of Silence-

I have most of 4 days under my belt. The hours of continued silence have decreased from 168 to 58. It’s a true social experiment, particularly coming from a Speech Pathologist. I have told people I will either be a blabbering dolt talking completely unfiltered or I will be peaceful as shit. Jury is still out.

Zoey has helped me lay low….cats can exude peace when not exuding crazy.

📣 Having lived with me for 30+ years, my husband believes he deserves an honorary Speech Pathology degree. He’s right! Most spouses know we talk shop a LOT. He knows my hearing did not change from voice surgery. Hell, he could even tell you the anatomy of the 2 systems. But still, he finds himself over and over and over, talking to me veRY loudLY. 📣📢

My sounds-like-Lilith -TEXT App has been incredible for letting me engage. I mastered the pitch and speaking rate, so Jon no longer cringes each time I speak.

Yet, there’s been a welcoming of this imposed silence. Being a social introvert, having a reason for NOT engaging has its sweet spot. 🌺 I find myself weighing how important it IS that I say that thing. Is it really value-added or just banter. I love me good banter, but turns out- not particularly necessary.

Plus, banter moves fricking fast. Topics have moved on as I scurry to type my witty remark leaving me to click, ‘clear’ and await my next opportunity. Even with encountering extreme patience from others, I have been walked away from numerous times because well, banter, dialogue, life moves on. Oh my thought.

Decades on decades ago I visited a friend in Germany where we spent most of a week hearing German only. She knew some German, I knew nichts. I did a good deal of smiling and nodding, while connecting to how my communication impaired patients must feel. I remember I felt stupid and wanted to show the Germans my brilliant mind. Instead, I only smiled and nodded, offering my best engaged look. This time around everyone knows my self proclaimed brilliance so it’s not been a big deal. I am finding calm with not needing to add. It’s amazing what you hear when just listening.

The value of Listening quotes

Beneath the Cone of Silence

Yesterday I had this little thing done called a direct microlayngoscopy with micro flap excision… or vocal fold polyp removal. It results in 168 hours of no voicing…no talking, no outloud laughing, no coughing or throat clearing. Currently I am 20 hours in so only 148 remaining. A friend reminded me I shouldn’t count 8 hours of sleep; technically 100 hours with that positive mindset.

Those who know me as a Speech Pathologist said, “She must know sign language.” True I know how to sign beer and a few other words, but most others don’t, so it’s only showing off. I signed ‘toilet’ in the recovery room receiving ‘whaaat?’ head shakes. However, the universal sign for pee is, well…universal.

The ASL version of toilet (letter T with a handshake)

ASL Sign for Beer (we all should know that; bars are noisy) ⤵️

BEERB letter hand and rotate hand.

I downloaded TEXT, an aptly name text-to-speech app. I will definitely let them know work is needed on the womens’ voices. Currently, I sound annoyingly like Lilith from Fraser. Now, Bebe Neuwirth is a great actress which is why she was able to sound so Lilith-like and thrive. Beyond that voice flaw, it’s a stellar app.

My biggest accomplishment of the day was an ingenious repurposing of a mask into a magic marker holder! I only have about 75 black masks left to re-use. Ideas?

168 hours sounds so much better than 7 days doesn’t it?

Check back for more insights from beneath the cone of silence.

The Unanticipated Path

I was in high school when earth Day became a thing. A long long time ago in a gymnasium far far away, I recall watching a student play about the last flower on earth.

Growing up rurally the love of nature was established early. Ten acres of idle apple trees, a large garden yielding platters of corn on the cob, tomatoes, and green beans, and a walk to the river with my dad are iconic childhood memories. A high school favorite Throw Away Society foretold the level of consumerism to which our society would rise.

When you write a book, you dream of where your journey might lead. Will it be to author notoriety, the New York Times best seller list? One envisions busy book signings and large commission checks. Sometimes that is exactly what happens. Sometimes it is the segue to an unanticipated path.

My debut magical realism novel, Whispers for Terra celebrated its one-year birthday on Earth Day. It’s strongest theme is the forest, and the thriving soil beneath our feet which has the capacity to sequester carbon, helping climate issues.

When writing WfT, I anticipated speech pathologists loving it, and regenerative farmers embracing it. I did not anticipate reigniting awareness of life in the forests in so many. I did not anticipate connecting with people around the world that share the same love of nature.

I had always kept my seeing faces in trees somewhat on the lowdown. I did not anticipate discovering thousands of posts by others who believe in the living forests. Weekly I receive photos of old majestic trees. I am tagged in posts depicting wise tree faces or illustrating the life teeming beneath the soil.

I did not anticipate my own broadening and deepening of the the reference for the forests. Although, I naturally remain open to large commission checks and the NYT best seller list, a writing mentor once said, “Let go of what you think it should look like.” Any new adventure, new journey often leads to branches and roots sprouting, causing a change of trajectory, placing you in the purpose that was intended all along.

Order below….

Seems like forever

I have been mostly retired for the past couple of years. A couple speech-language clients here, a short term speech subbing job there. I start a new one tomorrow. Seriously, only have to work 8 1/2 days…. I am looking forward to it but I thought I should put together a post because yes, it’s 8 1/2 days but seems like forever! Peculiar how one can forget the insanity, the rigor, of the 50+hour work week sustained for years upon years. But I love seeing the kids and it’s good to shake up the routine periodically.

Part of my routine has been lots of yoga, getting back to walking without a 130lb dog to reign in every 30 ft. Trying to look all around, not just down. Taking photos…lots of tree photos. You don’t want to see me doing yoga but here’s a recent tree. I love the way branches bend and coil all existing cozily together.

Much of my time has been writing my next novel. 1938…Glenwood Springs, CO…time travel. What a mix!

If you know the backstory of my novel, Whispers for Terra, you know several characters were found in my own meadow. Well, there’s a new girl in town…..can you see her?….I made it easy.

Lastly, there’s Miss Zoey….if she’s not following me from room to room, commanding said room, she’s sleeping. Here she is commanding. She doesn’t watch for North from the top of the steps every night anymore but many. Both Jon and I have heard North sounds…..

See you in 8 1/2 days or in forever, whichever comes first.

The Winters of the Malamute & Introducing our Dat

As the shovels came out for the first real snow of the season, my mind slipped into North’s last winter. We knew his back legs were weakening but were struck that he needed us to blaze the trail through the foot+ snow. The old guy that use to bound through the snow was stuck. He was like every aging creature thinking surely he could do what he’d always done, until he couldn’t. I stomped the path. The guy that loved snow, winter, would have only been able to stare at it. What the hell fun is that. While shoveling the deck I pictured creating heaps of snow so once most had melted he’d still have a pile to lay in. On the upside we don’t deal with the shaking of snow inside because he just didn’t sense the need to shake while outside.

I have shifted over to the path Zoey needs to steal quickly along the house and down the steps to pee without getting her delicate paws wet. Oh yes, and I have switched to referencing Zoey as our Dat. She has stepped up to be more than the cat. Or, maybe we never had time to notice before. She always came to her name better than North ever did, but she now begs for our food, and has continued to guard the house from the stairway at night.

I know we only have ourselves to blame
The bounding days

The pile…
The outside which ended up inside

Good Yule

I sent very few holiday cards this year. I either get it done around Thanksgiving or it’s a lost cause. When I did, I would sign the whole family’s names. This year, after Zoey’s, I added ‘North’s spirit’.

Only the random tumbleweed of malamute hair blows into the room anymore but the holiday brings up remembrances of North’s party energy. His best holiday trait was working the room during our holiday open houses. He was never a table food grabber, although his head easily reached. He certainly knew how to quietly approach the seasoned, as well as the new visitor, and use his big brown eyes for the Vulcan mindmeld, which deactivated the frontal lobe and resulted in a piece of ham or smoked salmon being handed to him; then on to the next victim.

Zoey is no holiday slouch either. She knows we will leave an opening in the tree skirt for her to lap up the pine infused tree water.

Did you know carefully selected pine needle tea is an excellent way to boost your immune system? Loaded with vitamin C and A. You need to know your needles (which I don’t) Not all are good for you. Listening Pines on Instagram knows her stuff. Based in Colorado Springs, she’s a certified Forest Therapy and Mindfulness Guide. ***Disclaimer…. I am not suggesting we all drink our Christmas tree water. 🥴

Good Yule to you and all your animal spirits.

No signs yet

The five month anniversary of North’s dying came and went with a mention and fond remembering. We all experience a varying perception of elapsed time depending on what it was, when it is. This definitely felt more than the words five months evoked. After all, summer had arrived and left, fall was in its winding down glory. Early June leaves were just emerging at 8400ft. Now they had been gone for weeks. Two seasons, five full moon cycles. They each sound longer than the months.

Each night, as we go to bed, Zoey sits at the top of the stairs peering through the railing down into the dark abyss. We have arisen an hour later and she stands steady, gazing. Eventually, she leaves what ever watch she is sentry for and jumps to the bed to settle in. We only know she never did this 3 seasons or 4 seasons ago. I ask her if she sees or waits for North’s spirit or if she feels charged with protecting; she doesn’t say. It’s her secret to keep.

As a disclaimer, we aren’t in such mourning, that you need to feel, “Oh poor dogless, souls.” We are merely adjusting, observing the differences. North must be having so much fun running with a new pack, in an endless snowfield; there’s been no time to check in………..yet. Zoey will let us know.