A mutt is a dog with parents of a different breed. Some mixed breeds are created by engineering which breeds to mate. i.e. Puggle, Chiweenie, Labradoodle, Cockerpoo¬†and Pitchu. Wait a minute! What is a Pitchu? It is a mixed breed with Pitbull and Chihuahua parents. Let me introduce Ozzie, a Pitchu. He is the size of a Chihuahua with a Pit Bull face, muscular Pitbull legs and brindle Pitbull coloring. His ears are a just a bit smaller than a Chihuahuas’. The result is a very cute, but very unusual looking little dog. Because Ozzie is a dog, he is not teased or bullied, and does not suffer from poor self esteem. We humans are not so lucky.

What about humans? We are mutts too. We have a female and a male parent (different breeds). We have 23 pairs of chromosomes which contain our genetic material. Combinations of genes can’t even be counted. We are truly one of a kind. Amazing!







Climbing Mountains

This past weekend my niece’s son, Logan, and his mentor, climbed Mount Lady Washington, a 13,281 peak close to Longs Peak. It took more than 10 hours to reach the peak and come back down. Logan has a lot of spirit, old fashioned gumption and determination, all tempered by white hot anger. In his short 12 years he has made friends with chaos. Born to a mother barely in her teens, he grew up as his Mother grew up. Now she has grown into a responsible, loving Mother. Her road to maturity had lots of her own mountains to climb. Depression, anxiety and an eating disorder consumed her. Logan felt her absence. The most stable relationships he had were with his Nana and Poppa, his grand parents. Logan had lots of “parents”. His father, who Logan has seen regularly since his parents divorced, recently lost his job and needed to move closer to his family out of state. Yet another mountain of loss.

We are all mountain climbers. My Mother always said ” Don”t make mountains out of mole hills.” I hated to hear this because I knew I faced only mountains. Of course, some of my problems were molehills driven by my ego’s need to be the center of attention. Sadly, there were too many times that my mountains were made into molehills. Pain compressed, sadness squashed, fear like a black hole, and abandonment denied, were all shaped into molehills. In my family, mountains of denial and hurt were just too imposing to climb and conquer. I felt like Chicken Little, ignored and dismissed, when I cried out ” The sky is falling.” or “Help me! I am hurting” Only I could see the mountains.

In the mountains of Colorado, if you can’t go over or under the mountain, you build a tunnel through it. My mountain of grief since Roger died can not be made into a molehill, and I can’t
climb over or go under it. There is only so much denial I can carry in my backpack. It seems my only option is to go through the mountain. Jackhammers and drills are the tools used to get through rock. Courage to face the grief, feel it, and hands to hold on my journey, are my only tools to get thru the stone in my heart. My memories of hiking in the mountains with Roger sustain me. I will put my backpack on and head out to the trails. My backpack is full if rocks now, but it will be empty of rocks and full of love when I return.

Climbing Mountains

Duck Butts

img_1034Sir Roscoe, His Royal Naughtiness
Prompted by the “peach pit incident”, my sister Aileen has knighted Roscoe with his new moniker. A most deserving name! Last Thursday, Roscoe grabbed a peach out of my hand and ran off with it, hiding under the table. Before I knew it the peach was eaten and the pit was gone. Damn, he swallowed it. The Vet Hospital Emergency Room was his next destination. The Resident on duty was very good looking, but that’s another story. Roscoe was given medication to make him vomit, and the peach pit came out whole. An X-ray confirmed no damage to his esophagus. Hundreds of dollars later we were on our way home, tired but all better.

The other day, driving between the North and South poles, Fort Collins and Loveland, I witnessed a most unusual spectacle. In a pond about midway, I saw a bunch of ducks swimming and, as if on cue, they all turned upside down and stuck their butts in the air. I can just hear the coach duck saying: “Now ladies all together now, “Flip and hold.” Synchronized swimming for anas platyrynchos, the Mallard duck. I would not have been shocked if they had been wearing swim caps with flowers on them. Team name: “The Duck Butts”

One of my favorite animal happenings is one Roger and I witnessed about 10 years ago. On the mountain side we saw a deer herd with a large black deer. Black deer? Binocular time! The animal was a large black billy goat. The goat and deer calmly munched side by side. The ranger told us that the goat had been with the deer herd for several years. Affirmative action?

Did I tell you about a chihuahua named “Poptart”? 4 months old and 2 pounds. His Mom and Dad drove 12 hours to get him surgery. His gruff Papa kissed him and said he loved him…

Duck Butts

The Yellow Caterpillar

It must have looked like a mountain from below, but there was no stopping the yellow caterpillar. Up and over,up and over, crawling slowly over the rocks. Roger and I were sitting on our favorite bench,taking a break from walking around Rogers shrinking world. We were watching the yellow caterpillar move, and Roger said it was heading for a tree a few feet away. After he got sick, Rogers’ travels on foot had gone from a few miles, to just around the block. Right then the yellow caterpillar was his “find” and he calmly focused on it. Insects were very interesting to Roger. One day he buzzed for help several times so he could warn all the staff , according to his book, it was female mosquitos that bit, so watch out for female mosquitos! He was so earnest because he was innocent, and forgot how to lie and manipulate. Roger noticed that the yellow caterpillar was going off course, so he asked me to pick up a small stick and help him go the right way. I redirected the caterpillar and all was well. We watched until Roger was sure the caterpillar would reach the tree. We slowly made our return trip, and Rogers’ attention shifted from the yellow caterpillar to what was for lunch.

That was the way it was. We went for a walk whenever it was a nice day and Roger felt up to it. When it was raining, we had options for indoor fun. We put puzzles together, and if Roger sometimes forced pieces to fit, nobody cared that his puzzles looked a bit “off”. If he wanted to “read”, he could pick the books. We called it good if Roger could point to what we asked for. I can still “see” the book on bears and wolves he loved. Of course, his books on insects were some of his favorites. Playing the dice game “Zilch” was his all time favorite pastime. I saved pages and pages of score sheets from the hundreds of games we played. It’s hard for me to look at them without imagining his face when he got a good roll. The game was a way to get Roger to join and engage with us and vice versa.

Sunday’s were “Ann” days. Roger knew if it was Sunday, my sister Ann came to visit. The three of us, Ann, Roger and I, had our “special” activities. Ann and Roger were bonded by unconditional love, and together in acceptance. We looked at the birds in the cage and waited for them to chirp. Roger was now in a wheelchair so we pushed him down to the “plant” room so he could touch the giant leaves on the elephant plant. Roger could see pretty well with his glasses on, but seemed to need more sensory input, so he often touched things.

Roger had a bear which he named “Steve Alvin”. He was proud to bring the bear to the entry where I came in, so Steve Alvin could say hello too. He loved to rub his face in Steve Alvins’ fur. There is a box in safekeeping, with very special things from his room. Steve Alvin is one of the things in it, and when I am ready, I will open the box.

I remember that once Ann and I lost a card game and were joking that we were losers. Roger thought for a moment and said ” No you are not losers, you are runners up.” He won our hearts.

The Yellow Caterpillar


There are needs, and there are wants. I NEED my morning coffee, or my day has a dead battery and I need a jump start. The smell of coffee brewing comforts me, and feels like home. With coffee, I can face my dog Roscoe who has only 2 speeds: asleep or 90 miles an hour. My little Mia wakes up like me, she stretches, yawns, and with only one eye open, she ambles up the stairs to begin her doggie day. If you were a fly on the wall, you would see that as I write I am sipping the elixir of the gods. You guessed right, if you guessed coffee. Strange rituals and choices have developed around coffee, and older people like me may remember when your choices were black, or with cream and/or sugar. Better hope that the person in line before you knows the difference between lattes, Americanos , and frappicconos, one shot or two, skim milk or whole milk, and what flavor they want in decaf or regular coffee (whipped cream or not), or you might have gray hair and wrinkles when it”s finally your turn to order.

History is divided by B.C. and A.D. The literate know that B. C. means before coffee. Anthropologists will study coffee shops and the coffee culture. White Pottery will be excavated for carbon dating. We have coffee to give us a reason to connect. “Let’s have coffee” sounds better then ” Let’s have sex on that table”. Coffee shops have rules: 1. Keep your voice down, 2.No loud parties! 3. Don’t yell at the barista for another round and 4. If you are alone, keep your eyes on your computer screen, and your earbuds in. My best friend and I even give directions to each other using the closest coffee shop as our reference point.

Coffee shops are elitist. Think about it! Harley riders do not come roaring up,dismount,and order a latte. “Let’s go have a beer.” is their favorite invitation. Cowboys, farmers, and
mechanics have dirt under their fingernails, callouses, and grease smeared on their shirts, and eyebrows may raise if they walk in to have coffee. Young professionals, students, meet-ups, and artsy-fartsy types claim coffee shops as their habitat.

Coffee can express love and friendship, and how well we know each other. Roger liked his coffee with enough cream in it to make it a caramel color. One of my sisters likes black, and blacker coffee. Another sister likes enough cream or milk to make it latte color. She also loves Christmas, because Eggnog and Gingerbread lattes are available. My sister from Portland is a coffee snob. She grinds her own coffee and uses a French Press, all very “Portlandia”. My mother is a coffee wimp. She runs hot water over the grounds, and calls it coffee,when it should be called colored water. My friend Susan likes cream and “real” sugar in her coffee. I like cream in my coffee, so please leave room for cream and then I add “fake” sugar like Splenda or Sweet and Low.

Let’s have coffee….



This last Sunday I was driving on the street in Fort Collins, and I was shocked to see several wild turkeys that had been been struck and killed in the road. There was one survivor struggling to stay alive. I kept driving but burst into tears at the thought of the bird dying in the street alone. Cars avoided the injured turkey but no one stopped. My heart demanded that I turn around and take the bird to the veterinary hospital, but my brain argued that I should just keep going and not intervene with wildlife. My heart won. I scooped the bird up and placed it on the floorboard by the front passenger seat. Eyes open and still breathing, the bird had a compound fracture of a wing. Wild turkeys aren’t beautiful, colorful birds, but I saw myself reflected in it’s eyes. We spoke in unison ” Please help me, it hurts so much.” My mind went from the turkey, to me, and to Roger as he was dying. I couldn’t keep the real and the memories apart. I was captured and tortured by my vision of Rogers last breath and my feelings of pain and deep sorrow.

I got the bird to the veterinary hospital, and they called the Raptor Society to come pickup and evaluate. Waiting and crying were the only things I could do. Eyes open and still breathing…
A young woman coming to visit her injured kitten stopped to ask me what was going on and she sat and stayed with me. We covered the bird in a towel and checked every few minutes to make sure it was still breathing . I doubted they would be able to save or rehabilitate the young turkey, but euthanization would end it’s pain. Someone would witness it’s death and
it wouldn’t die alone on the road. My companion agreed and said she was so grateful that her kitten would survive. We waited together until the bird was picked up. I don’t know my companion’s name, but we were together,shared our vulnerability and saw how fragile life is. Thank you.

I cursed my out of control emotions and my determination that this young turkey would not be roadkill. The past and the present were tangled up. In that moment I knew pain and death did not ask permission to attack our complacent and ordinary lives. Death can happen in an instant or slowly day by day. Then, a couple of days ago, I saw a group of wild turkeys crossing the road in the same place, it was their path. I sat and watched them cross and I took a deep breath of relief and comfort. They all made it across. Eyes open and still breathing.


Playing Pinball

Topic? I have been waiting for inspiration to strike. I got nothing, and that may be something! Confused, and waiting for clarity, is my usual state of mind; all the while life is happening and manipulating me. It feels like pinball (remember? ), balls flipped this way and that, falling in holes and popping back out. I can hear the bell ringing, signaling that I scored, and feel the disappointment when the ball quietly rolled out of play. I was not a “pinball wizard”….. But I could concentrate, and learned how and when to press the button that moved the bumpers and flippers. I felt excited when I pulled the lever to shoot the ball into play. I was sure that this time I could wrack up a big score. This time would be different.

The lyrics to “Pinball Wizard” written by Pete Townsend describe him as a ” a deaf, dumb and blind kid” who plays by “intuition” and “sense of smell”:

He stands like a statue
Becomes part of the machine
Feeling all the bumpers
Always playing clean
He plays by intuition
The digit counters fall
That deaf dumb and blind kid
Sure plays a mean pinball!

When I played well I took all the credit, and when I didn’t, the machine was bad, the sun was in my eyes, or God was not on my side. The poor decisions I made that caused the machine to “tilt” were not my fault. I had all my senses, but no intuition like the pinball wizard. I was not inside my life and felt numb. When I shot the balls into play, I did not have a plan except to do the opposite of what I learned as a child. How could I keep the ball in play when I was full of fear and my brain to heart coordination was way off?

I’d like to think that today, I own my life, mistakes and all. Sometimes no matter what I do, a ball rolls slowly and quietly out of play. Roger is no longer in the game and even the “Pinball Wizard” can’t change that. I play with less desperation and entitlement, and more for the simple joy of playing. It’s been a long game and much more to come. When I pull the lever to put the ball into play I accept that luck is a part of the game, but practice is most of it. People say Danita “Sure plays a mean pinball!”

Playing Pinball