Monday, December 29, 2008


Christmas was nice and actually quite relaxing (rather unusual for such a day, but I can say this year it wasn't too much running around for me and didn't require much preparation work - which was welcomed and pleasing). We had a brunch at our house....French Toast with peaches and syrup, ham, hash browned potatos, eggs, orange-pineapple juice, espresso, etc. Delish! I received some very nice gifts....and thank you to everyone who spoiled me rotten!! hehe Our life is good.

Because Christmas is also Vipin's birthday, we received many calls from across the globe and it was a special treat to hear from so many of our dear friends and relatives!! We received calls from India, Austria, Germany, France, Australia, and from all the time zones in the U.S.A.! Pretty cool! LuLu, of course enjoyed napping the day away on her Grandma's lap! Our dog's life is good too!

Well, it's back to work (boo hoo) and today was no picnic in the park! Monique had the day off and there were lots of shuttles to book and many calls coming in
....mostly students thinking about arranging their trips back to school next month...they hate to think about it, but classes will resume in January! We service 6 counties with our Airport Transportation business and there are quite a few colleges in these counties....Slippery Rock University, Grove City College, Westminster College, Thiel College, Allegheny College, Butler County Community it's "Book Your Reservation Now" time!!! I'm fine with it...I prefer they book now rather than wait until the last minute...reservations are based on a first-come, first-served basis, so it is definately to their advantage to book now!

I did laundry and cleaned the entire house yesterday in a BIG a
"I'm having guests over" way...the full treatment (the Windex and Pledge people are pleased, I'm sure)...because Peanut and Russell are coming to visit!!! They arrive tomorrow and we will drive to Niagara Falls to bring in the New Year! We have reservations at the Marriott Niagara Falls Fallsview Hotel & Spa - and have rooms with views!! I can't wait. Peanut has never been there so it will be fun to experience it with her as she sees the beautiful and amazing falls for the first time! Because it will be New Year's Eve there will be an outdoor band (yes...OUTDOOR band - in the winter-time....should be interesting!) and fireworks over the falls! That I have never I am quite excited about it! Details later....and I'll also write more about PEANUT!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008



I'm dreaming of an Austrian Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know
Where the wine is heated and I'm always greeted
With baked goods and lots and lots of snow

I'm dreaming of an Alpine Christmas
Just like the one back in 1988
Though my toes were frozen, my cheeks were rosen
I was young, skied well and felt so great

I'm dreaming of of white Christmas
Better than all this wind and rain
It's dark and dreary, and sort of eerie
But hey, no shoveling, so I'm okay

I really don't need to dream of any Christmas
Everyday for me is blessed
I have a man who loves me, a dog who adores me
And lots of love to keep me free of stress

I know, I'm going to have a sweet Christmas
I think I know just how it will go
I'll get home to my honey, he'll say something funny
To make me smile and laugh with lots of joy
And my dog is already my favorite toy

So...May all your days be merry and bright
And as peaceful as your nights.

Friday, December 19, 2008


Well, the new lingo these days, is at times, difficult (to say the least) to keep up with from TTYL (Talk To You Later) and OMG (Oh My God) and all the shortened versions of words for mobile phone texting purposes to whatever words are spoken in the tween/teen world of MTV and Rappers. I must say I do feel somewhat unconnected (but more often than not, relieved of the fact that I am) however I can also say that I DO know that the ever popular BFF represents Best Friend Forever and I not only know what BFF stands for, but what it really MEANS!

My BEST BFF in the world, of course is Vipin. He is the one. He truly is my very best friend in every way and I never knew I could or would ever share my life and world, dreams and hopes, fears and worries, wonders and thrills... and, well my everything with any other person in such a wonderful and fulfilling way. I think most people go through their whole lives without such a strong bond and consider myself very fortunate to have one with Vipin. The fact that I happen to have this connection with my soul mate, my husband, my love and my life makes it all the greater! We have been together for over twenty years! We have passed the time frame where we have been with each other longer than we have been without each other.....and that's pretty fantastic!
My LIFETIME BFF is my sister Wanda, we are very close, and of course I have had her in my life all of my life. We are sisters to the fullest meaning of the word and have shared and fought over everything from desserts to make-up. I spent my youth trying to be like her and she spent those same days trying to get me away from her in a "my little sister is bugging the heck out of me" sort of way. Back then, if she walked a certain way, you can be sure I was close behind her imitating that walk. When she sang, I tried to sing (I never accomplished that attempt, by the way). When she played the guitar, I listened (thankfully I knew my limits!!). When she listened to Pink Floyd, I listened to Pink Floyd. Mind you she is about five years older than ten years old, Pink Floyd was hard to get into!

When she went away to college I was devastated. One time I went and spent the weekend with her...I literally counted down the days and was so excited to sleep in a real college dorm and eat cafeteria food (don't ask, I'm certain it was all about the ice cream machine!)...and she made it very special for me...she even went so far as to take down her poster of the Grateful Dead and put up the one I gave her of, yes, Jeff Conaway (hey, he was thin and popular at the time...remember him in Greese!!). We were always the 'boys" in our family of four girls...we helped Dad with "boy work", we mowed the grass, we chopped the wood, we hung out in the garage (I really never knew what to do in there and usually just played with little pieces of wood, but she was there, so I was there). Later, when I was in college and she was working and managing the family travel agency, we shared an apartment together. We were always best friends...hanging out, renting and watching horror flicks, shopping, eating, etc.

To this day and forever I can count on her to tell me when I have a huge piece of food in between my teeth and she can count on me to tell her when she has toilet paper stuck to her shoe. We don't take offense from each other and we tell it like it is to each other. If we are mad, or sad, or hyper we don't have to let out a warning because the other already knows and is doing whatever is necessary to adapt to that particular mood. Our friendship, our sisterhood is strong and is a bond that will never and can never be broken...past, present and future, I know she's got my back and she knows I've got hers...and in this world, that is quite a luxury.
My HIGH SCHOOL BFF is Sherri...we actually met in the middle school, but we didn't actually form the bond of best friends until high band camp...and well, after hearing her on the clarinet and me on the drums we knew we'd make the strangest and most hilariously fun music together for the rest of our lives. Sherri and I were also in the high school plays together...true Thespians and all the joys (and drama!) that go with daily rehearsals, costumes, and nights on the stage! We lived about 6 miles from each other and whenever we could manage it (me in my Dad's old truck, her in her Mom's old car), we kept quite inseparable throughout our teenage years. Sherri now, thankfully lives somewhat nearby in Upper Saint Clair (a very nice suburb of Pittsburgh). She works in real estate and has three children, Dylan, Kaitlynn and Shane, so we obviously don't get to spend as much time together as we would like, but we still do see each other, hang out on occasion and of course have frequent and fun gab sessions on the phone (usually while she is in her soccer-mom van commuting to/from work or in between kid drop-offs or pick-ups). Blogging about Sherri will have to take it's own individual, dedicated entry (and I'll need some time) we have stories and then some (it was the 80s, we were in high school discovering boys & beer and all that goes with them...) we are with her beautiful daughter Kaitlynn!

My COLLEGE BFF is Tracey.....Freshman year, Kent State University.....we met in the second semester. We lived in Engleman Hall, a single rooms dorm (it is a very OLD dorm, we even had old fashioned sinks in our rooms) the first semester I had basically declared my Alpha position on 'my' wing and then found out that a new girl had moved into the one empty room on that wing at the beginning of the second semester. Well, I felt it my duty to go and tell her how things were on 'my wing'! I went over to her room, knocked, and told her some sort of BS about who I was and such, and she said "I just got kicked of the quiet floor and I'm totally into hanging out with you guys down here because it was way too study-ish for me up there!" At that moment I had to make a decision, should I love her or hate her?? Would it be all out war or total friendship? Thankfully I made the right decision and welcomed her to 'my world', we are still BFFs today....and wow, although my GPA was totally in the toilet that semester and I ended up transferring to SRU the next term, I must say Tracey and I had a "totally awesome" Spring in the year of 1985....we both had a fake IDs, her Mom lived nearby and baked cookies, we both loved alternative music, we were young, and wild and was good!

I'm so lucky to have such great friends. Since college, of course I have met and made friends with people from all over the world. We lived in South Korea and made so many friends, some Korean others from France, New Zealand, Hungary, England, Wales, the States. We lived in Houston, Texas and made great friends there (and learned to love chicken-fried steak and gumbo!) Now we are back in Pennsylvania and have made new friends from work, clubs (Slippery Rock Area Women's Club), golf, and of course still from all over the world thanks to our summer program in Austria (CSA TOURS)...still meeting and making great friends!!

Life is good......friends are GREAT!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Because they always understood, because their love was always unconditional, because they never argued with me, never tried to convince me to grow up, never doubted me, never had a lesson to teach me, never competed with me and always, always, always had unlimited and everlasting TIME for me....I write now about my animals. To this day I still frequently look back on, admire and cherish the precious memories I have of all my wonderful animals..........

BUFFY was our three-legged butterscotch colored collie (with probably some Labrador mixed in for good measure) and the love of my childhood life! My parents got Buffy for the family a month before I was born and Buffy and I grew up together (we lost her in December, when I was twelve years old). Growing up on Franklin Street (also Route 108 ), a main thoroughfare, kept us kids in the back yard at most times because of the heavy (heavy for a small, college town and young girls anyway) traffic. When Buffy was just a puppy, she somehow got out in the front yard, ran out into the street and was hit by a car. Thankfully the local vet, Dr. Paul Suorsa (whose son, Danny, took over the business and is my current Vet...Danny and I are the same age, and have known each other since kindergarten) was able to rescue Buffy, and though her leg was broken and beyond repair, was not amputated, rather put up close to her chest, in a folded and locked position, leaving Buffy with three operational legs and one that was permanently up. Because this happened when I was just a baby, I never knew a Buffy with four legs, she was always Buffy, the three-legged dog. She could out run all of us (including the McFeaters boys next door) and her condition never was a problem for her, nor for us.

I loved Buffy in a way that I can't explain, and to this day still do. Being the youngest of four girls, I frequently felt left behind because I was "the little one", younger and often unable to keep up or do certain things with the older girls. Because of this, Buffy became
by best friend... she was always there for me, she always wanted to be for there... she was totally fine with being 'stuck' with me. We joke in my family now about how I was a 'wolf child'... I never really realized how true it was until I saw a photograph us four girls (along with my three cousins) dressed up in our Christmas church clothes...all except for me, I was at the end of the line, in my underwear, howling like a wolf! I guess that I actually preferred being a wolf to being a little girl most of the time... and Buffy, of course was my companion, we were a pack. To elaborate on 'Sonya the Wolf Child".... I used to lap my cereal....crawl around on all fours... curl up on the floor like a dog (frequently against Buffy), sniff things, eat dog food, dig in the ground, .... well, you can imagine how proud my parents must have been! But thankfully, I grew out of it (sort of..hehe)...and my parents didn't fight me much on it (unless we were going to go out in public) ...I guess they figured I was safe, with my best friend Buffy (who always kept me well protected - she even attacked a man one time when he walked through the yard while my mother was hanging out the laundry to dry) and playing out in the back yard.


When I grew a bit older, Buffy was still of course my best friend, but I felt the need to have a hamster. Some of my friends had gerbils or hermit crabs, but I didn't like them much (and was secretly a bit afraid of them...crabs? no way, never wanted one.... and gerbils with tails? no -they were too close to being rat-like).. and it was the 70s... which meant the pet store retail world had just come out with the neatest things...HABITRAILS!!! When I think back on it now, and even though I really loved my hamsters, I actually believe that I wanted to have a Habitrail more than I wanted to have a hamster (sorry Mom!). Habitrails were so cool... made of plastic... and all the rage! Habitrails were snap-on compartment 'rooms' with orange bottoms and cool clear, yellow plastic tubing that you (meaning your parents) could buy for your hamsters to build incredible habitats for them (they still exist, and now come in every color of the rainbow, and have even more awesome rooms and tubes...they've come a long way!)! The tubes connected the rooms and you could really go wild with them...building up, to all sides, well, you've seen them I am sure, but at the time, they were NEW, NEW, NEW, much better than the usual 10 gallon fish tanks or wire compartments previously used for pet rodent housing, and of course they were advertised during Saturday morning cartoons (so naturally all children throughout the nation wanted one!!)

Well, for my birthday, I got a Habitrail...and a hamster...and I named her Henrietta (after my hero, my Dad, Henry). All my friends had to come and see her...marvel the Habitrail, and envy me! Life was good. Buffy, by the way was totally unimpressed with Henrietta, went over, smelled her, thought about it and walked away.....she never had anything to do with Henrietta after that...but she accepted her as my pet.

Well, time passed, and when winter came my family had our usual plan to go to Europe on our (as in CSA Tours) annual ski trip. So my parents arranged for our college student friend, Dave Stotlar come to live in and take care of our house, water the plants, and feed Buffy and Henrietta. I wasn't concerned because I loved Dave (as in had a massive little girl crush on), and I felt quite confident (after teaching him all the necessary chores of excellent hamster care) that Henrietta would be just fine... and off we went to Austria. Now, back in those days, there was no e-mail and international telephone calls cost a fortune, so when Henrietta up and died on Dave, he did not make the emergency call to my parents, and though I sure what must have been a horrible time of worry, came up with the perfect plan on how to deal with this situation.... he went and bought a new hamster! Ta Da!! So when my family returned, he quickly pulled my parents asside to inform them of the plan and as I ran to see my Habitrail...I mean hamster, Dave went up to tell me the exciting news of what happened....... "You see, while you were away, Santa came to the house because he needed Heniretta to help him go down the chimneys and deliver Christmas presents... and because he knew you would miss Henrietta, he left a slightly smaller hamster, one yonnger than Henrietta and not strong enough to lift presents for the boys and girls, but one that you could have and take care of ..." I named HIM, Barney (after the Flinstone's Barney Rubble).

Well, as the story (that my Mother tells best) continues....Dave was of course totally stressing over the whole thing, I mean who wouldn't be?? The poor guy is in charge of taking care of this little hamster (Dave is an extra-large sized, probably 6 foot 4 athlete) for this little girl who thinks the world of him and the $(%#*# thing up and dies!!! Anyway... one day soon after our return from Austria, Dave was over (as many of my Dad's college students/friends/baby sitters/care takers/helpers would do........usually for a hot meal, some family-time, just to hang out, for advice on studies, etc.) and I was showing Barney to my friend Shawna and she asked what happened to Henrietta and I replied "Oh, she died so Dave bought me a new one." Poor Dave, all that time trying to come up with a good story that I would fall for, but I guess I just knew...hamsters can't really carry presents down chimneys!

Now Barney was quite the super hamster! If cats have nine lives, hamsters must have ten! One time Barney got out of his Habitrail and was lost for over a week. We all spent hours upon hours searching our 5 floor, 22 room house for this little creature. Shortly thereafter we had problems with our furnace and while the furnace man was there to repair, he told my Mom "I think we have a rat in here!"....when I got home from school my Mom told me to reach into her apron pocket...I was totally thrilled! My little hamster, much smaller than before, was all washed (Mom said he was completely black and very dirty from the dust in the furnace pipes) and wrapped up in a tea towel keeping warm. Another time Barney did not successfully get out of his Habitrail but did get stuck in it's door....his nose was stuck in one of the holes of the metal took my Dad two pairs of pliers to cut Barney loose...blood was everywhere, but Barney survived...he was pretty ugly and scabbed up for a while, but fine. The final time Barney got out of the cage he was lost for only a couple of hours, and we found him in between the refrigerator and the kitchen cabinet....with a Halls menthol-lyptus cough suppressant stuck in the inside of his cheek (hamsters, like chipmunks and squirrels store food in their cheeks)...the menthol was burning his cheek and he was having a horrible time...he went into shock...but somehow my sister Susan (with her ambidextrous fingers) was able to dig the cough drop out. My Mom managed to keep him warm and moving with a hair drier.... he survived!


Well, as you can imagine, time passed, Buffy and got older, and my parents knew her time was nearing. They also knew I would be devastated when that time came and were quite concerned. Though I was twelve and no longer a wolf crawling around on all fours, I was still obviously attached at all times to and with my dear Buffy. Luckily, around this same time Holly Kelly, one of my dear girlfriends who lived up the street had a cat (Jill) that had just had kittens. I would go to Holly's house almost every day after school to play with the kittens, and of course I really, really, really wanted one. Mom and Dad said yes (not really wanting a cat but hoping it would ease the pain when Buffy passed), and as soon as he was old enough to leave the litter, Luke Skywalker came to live with us....and Buffy. Buffy, never having had pups of her own, adopted Luke and took him in... it was adorable. She would take him out into her dog run...surrounded by a chain-link fence, and show him the ropes to life as a dog....of course Buffy totally panicked when Luke poked her little head through the fence and then with her tiny little body walked right through it into the side alley! Thankfully, we were there to go and retrieve Luke and Buffy disciplined him well. Luke learned the boundaries of the yard...and the two of them would come inside and curl up together (ok, even though I was no longer I wolf child, I admit, I too curled up with them quite a bit!!).

Dad even taught us how to teach Luke to jump, we said the old "Ho Oh" (I don't know how to write the sound, but it was the same sound that Johnny Carson would make during the show's opening credits) and he would jump through our arms....we practiced it all the time, at least five times a day, and before long Luke could jump from the ground, standing in front of us, straight up and over our arms that were held out and linked together by our hands (forming a ring......I'm sure we would have made Lettermen's Stupid Pet Tricks, that's all I'm saying!!). It was a wonderful fall season...
we were all so happy, and then came December, and Buffy passed away. I will refrain from writing about it, but let me at least mention that both our cherished dogs (Buffy...and Gigi) died in my Mother's arms, and I am so happy that she was with them in their last moments (and totally love her even more for handling their passings)!


Luke was a dear cat, but not very good without Buffy and considering the fact that he thought he was a dog. Luke was used to sleeping outside in the doghouse with Buffy, and hanging out in the garage (we had a little doggie door that lead from the fenced-in dog run area into the garage). After Buffy died, Luke was alone, and it was winter time, so he was cold without Buffy to snuggle up with. My Dad was against animals sleeping in the house over night, but sometimes he would let us keep Luke inside...but only when it was really cold outside!

Well, with the dog gone, the doggie door to the garage wide open and cold weather blistering outside it was inevitable that another cat would discover the warmth and food in the garage. We became suspicious that there was a mighty cat coming and going by the larger than Luke's paw prints in the snow and by always finding empty bowls of cat food. After some time we finally saw him, and he was a sight to behold. Strong, huge and courageous.... but so quick.... he would run away as soon as we would open the door into the garage. Once in a while we'd catch him on the bench were we would leave the cat food and he would linger, for a minute or two...but then quickly dart out the doggie door. It was months before he finally let anyone pet him, and that anyone was Dad (probably because Dad spent more time than any of us kids out in the garage...piddling away, repairing things, and maybe just hanging out getting away from a house of females!). Even then, Captain wouldn't stay around us for long. Dad named him Captain, because he was Captain of his own domain. After probably 6 weeks, we were able to finally get a hold of him long enough to take him to the vet for a full examination. Dr. Suorsa said that he was a very old cat and would probably not live much longer. He also assessed that Captain had probably been abused by someone (which explained why he would always move down to the ground run away when we would approach him.) Dad decided that Captain had chosen to own us, and that we didn't own him...and prepared us in the fact that he probably would not stay with us very long. Captain lived with us for over 10 day he just wasn't there anymore, he left us as he came, on his own terms.


Of course, in that time, Captain kept a tight ship! There was a family that accepted him, fed him, kept a roof over his head (the garage...a five car stall cinder block garage with a cement floor), he had Luke to keep in charge of and grounds to protect. He taught Luke how to hunt...and we, for the first time ever, began to receive thank-you presents (sometimes headless, but it's the thought that counts, right!!) by the back door. Luke stuck to what he could, chipmunks, mice, and the occasional huge bug. Captain graced us with everything from rabbits to, well, one time I saw him running across the yard holding a very upset, slithering, live snake in his mouth!!! But one day, Captain was acting strange, we could not figure it out until we discovered that another cat had moved into the garage! Thankfully for us, there was no cat fight to be had, rather a cat acceptance time period....Captain could definately have kicked this cat's butt...but it would have taken all day, and I guess he felt he needed another among his crew. Grandma Lenz named this one Fritz (a good German name), who was BIG, but not in an Arnold Schwarzenegger way, more so in a Dom DeLuise sort of way way!!! More to love! In the winter, Captain left huge paw prints in the snow all over the yard, Luke left regular sized cat paw prints in the snow around the house and garage and Fritz left a long tube that basically ran from the garage to a bush and to the house only!

Now remember, the cats did not live inside the house (rather inside the garage), however, they were granted passage inside "the castle" (a beautiful 5 story white Victorian house, each of us had our own bedroom and there were plenty of other rooms to explore) on occasion and some how they just knew how to get in (we think Buffy taught Luke, and Luke spread the word)...they would go to the sliding glass doors (we had two upstairs off the deck and another downstairs leading to the pool room) and sit....and sit......and sit........and sit....until someone noticed them and let them in....and before bedtime we would have to round them all up and put them back out (or when they were ready, they would just go back to the sliding glass doors and sit). We used to make jokes about how our family must be like television to the cats, because they would sit out there and watch for hours!!

When times were good (or it was freezinging cold outside), they got to stay inside for hours! Of course the family rule was NEVER on the you can see from the photos, I totally 'forgot' this rule most of the time (photo of Luke and Captain hanging out in my yellow with white polka-dots type wallpapered bedroom...and on my bed.......feel free to marvel my stuffed animal collection - including the fuzzy purple snake....and yes, that's me in my overalls with Fritz and Luke!!!).

Life was good for these three musketeers....until we went to West Virginia for Easter one year, down to my Great Aunt Janet and Uncle Howard's farm. They raised beef cattle on their farm...and lived in a little house that my uncle built in the valley, next to a stream, in the middle of three mountains. They called it "The Funny Farm" and always had great stories of their dream retirement adventure life that they had made true for themselves after Uncle Howard retired from being a fireman. Aunt Janet was a West Virginia State flower arranging champion winner (for many years....and later became a state level flower arranging judge)...and grew her own beautiful flowers all along the hill sides of their farm. She also won several cooking contests and made a strawberry shortcake so out of this world, when she made it, one portion was considered an entire meal (and I enjoyed many such meals in my childhood!!).

Aunt Janet had a flower trail, a walking path through the woods, up and down and all around that was amazing. When walking the trail with her, she would point out all the flowers, give us their names, and usually tell a story about each one...always an interesting, educational, entertaining and overall fantastic afternoon! Well, that year Aunt Janet took my Grandma Baker and my Mom with her on a trail walk while we stayed back on the farm....I was still quite young, so I probably was fine just digging around in the creek (tormenting the crawl fish and getting very muddy), while Erica & Susan probably stayed inside and read (they always had allergies and always had a book in hand), Wanda usually went for her own private walks (probably to sneak cigarettes) and Dad and Uncle Howard were probably in the barn fixing something... that was a typical afternoon when we'd go down there. Anyway, when they returned from their walk us girls surrounded them, waiting to see what plants and flowers they brought back with them and Mom told Wanda to reach in her jacket pocket and "get that thing out". Well, the thing turned out to be a tiny little puppy...cute as could be!

One thing AJ and UH unfortunately got lots of while living out there in the back roads of West Virginia, were abandond dogs and cats! While the three of them were walking on the trail my Mom heard animal cries and started following the sound. I think my Grandma saw where the sounds were coming from..way up on a hill side, wedged inbetween some rocks, a little puff a thing, (they knew by that time that it was a puppy from it's cries). Well, Aunt Janet would have kept walking if she were alone, I'm sure, and Grandma, although curious, was not about to care (she had always been horrified of all animals --and our cats were never allowed inside the house when she visited-- since she was locked up in a closet that had mice in it... a childhood, sibling prank gone
bad). But my Mother wouldn't have it, she scaled herself up the side of a rocky embankment, risking broken bones of her own, reached over and got the little lump of love...and then handed it to my Grandma - who was truly frightened, but knew if she didn't grab it out of my Mom's hands that my Mom would fall down the hill! The pup was most likely the runt of the litter and the Mama Dog (a pure bread beagle) probably decided that the best way to care for the others would be to shove the weaker runt out of her nest, sacrifice it, survival of the fittest!

Well, this little pup now was the center of attention! Of course we all wanted to keep her (Mom too!)...but Dad, how to convince Dad (usually not that difficult...with four girls he usually caved at the sound of one "Daddy?")?? Buffy was gone, and well, Dad loved
the cats and they earned their keep! A dog???? Somehow, it was Wanda who came up with the best idea! Her friend Valerie had just had a birthday and Valerie's parents were going to get a dog for her but they could not find we would take this one for her!!!! (Excellent plan by the way Wanda!!) Of course by the time Easter vacation was over and our family of 6 plus 1 had driven all the way back home to Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania, it was sure that even Dad fell in love and Valerie was NOT going to get a call upon our arrival home! But what to name this pup? The story said it all...and Gigi or G.G. - short for Grandma's Girl became part of our family! Joy of joys to me!! I needed a canine best friend again! The cats were great, but I really missed my wolf was great! Happy Easter!

Now, as for Gigi, I must stay she was a softer than soft puppy, but when she grew bigger, her hair just became, well, a stringy mess. You could tell she was a beagle...sort of....but you knew there was more to her leagacy! My mother used to say that Gigi's mother was a beagle, and her father was a traveling salesman (everyone used to laugh, and I admit I didn't get it until years later)!! She wasn't the cutest dog in the world, she certainly wasn't the smartest, she was usually a bit sninky and she always had horrible breath..... but boy she sure loved us.....and we sure loved her!


Time passed, time passes, and I kept growing older (a curse of life) and my animals came and went with the seasons. We also had the occasional salamander and Erica always had a goldfish or two. Stories of our pets, of everyone's pets, are always wonderful, funny, exciting, horrible and unfortunately usually end quite tragically. We had funerals, made processions.... I wrote promises and love poems. But I have no regrets, what I do have is a mind full of wonderful memories and childhood dreams come true. How lucky I am to have had parents with the means and patience to allow me and my sisters to have and care for these dear animals. I believe that having pets in your life teaches you so much about love (Buffy), care (cleaning out Habitrials), tollerance (Sit Gigi Sit), patience (Ho Oh Luke), and yourself... and to have those lessons in your younger years truly forms you in a better way as a person. I treasure each lesson as I treasure each friend.

One time Luke ran away, I searched and searched and searched...I made lost cat signs (and you know, back then copies were not cheap and home computers weren't around yet, I made all those signs myself, on construction paper and with crayons and hung them myself all over town!!)...we even put an ad in the paper...every day after school I'd go on my Luke was looking dim, I know my parents had pretty much given up, but were trying to remain hopefull for me. Then one night we got a call from a little old lady who lived all the way on the other side of town and up on a hill....Dad said he would go and that I wasn't allowed because it was dark outside (but now when I think about it, it really was because he figured that the found cat couldn't have been Luke)......of course I am sure the 10 minutes it took for him to go, get it, and bring it back seemed like hours to me........but in came Dad...with a dirty, hungry, scared, and very skinny Luke!!!! It was great! I had saved my babysitting money for the reward but the lady would not accept it (sweet) I made her a cake! Ahh..small towns, gotta love them!

One time Fritz came home after an unusual trip off the property and his tail was completely broken! It was intact, but it was broken, just hanging there, disgusting! After a trip to and a short stay with the vet, Fr
itz came home with just a little stub of a tail, and so we then had one cat, one very fat cat, with no tail.

One time Captian fought off several cats...the cat fight was so loud that Dad ended up having to go outside and chase them all off by yelling and screaming. Captain ran off too, and we were so worried. The next morning we found him, under a bush and pretty beaten up, he had been bitten badly on the neck, and it was horrible to treat. The vet said that we were to clean out the wound daily with this stinky red medicine, and it wasn't easy, because Captain wanted to be free and wasn't always around from day to day. But we managed, Mom and Dad (it took two people!) would try and hold him down (easier said than done) and Wanda or Erica would put the medicine on with a Q-tip...I would
usually stay back and watch in was a long recovery.

One time Gigi.......oh gosh, the Gigi stories, I guess this isn't a book (but maybe should be), I'm going to refrain, but here are just a few highlights.......long stretching tounge licks to the bottoms of our clear, plastic Dairy Queen Peanut-Buster Parfait cups.......just standing around and then burping........running to the door when we would knock on the counter (psych, Gigi, it's just us)......acting like she was choking and possibly may die as a beg for foo
d manuver.....trying for hours to readjust the bean bag chair into the most comfortable nest ("Gigi settle down!")......begging from everyone to the point of complete exhaustion at parties........being afraid of her own passed gas!.........digging in the garbage - what fun things she found!............taking the toilet paper off the roll and pulling it all around the house........."hiding" under the bed and then barking when we'd call her name.......barking to get in the house........barking to get in the house......barking to get in the house.......Gigi was a great dog. She was the daughter that didn't go away to college. She was with our family (well, with Mom and Dad) until after I had graduated from college. She passed away, in my Mother's arms one winter (all our animals seem to have gone in that season) when I was living in South Korea. It was a horrible call to have taken....and I did not handle it well, but I treasure my times with Gigi, she was a true friend.

When I returned to the States from South Korea, and before I moved down to Houston, Texas, my parents were only 'baby-sitting' Erica's two cats, two brothers, Rollie and Snausage, and they officially had no animals of their own. Rollie and Snausage really were Erica's cats, but when she moved to Florida after she graduated from college they stayed with my parents for a while and of course really loved it there. Erica later sent for them, (another animal adventure, sending two outdoor cats, in two separate cat carriers on a plane down to Florida) and they did have an adventurous time when they lived in Florida (and chased lizards all day long). But when Erica moved back to Slippery Rock, the cats moved back with her and Erica ended living in an apartment just a few blocks from my parent's house. Well, one day Erica phoned my parents crying that Rollie and Snausage had run away....but my Dad said no, "They're both in the garage, I just set the food back out".....the old garage that housed so many furry lives! And so it was going to be, they remained "Erica's cats", but lived their lives out at my parents house. Rollie was the Protector and Snausage was the Whimp...together they fought chipmunks and patrolled the land in Captian's honor (well, Rollie hunted, Snausage watched). When Rollie was run over by a car (too many apartments were built behind the garage, the neighborhood was growing and more and more people drove their cars down the once very calm back alley - it was getting a bit dangerous, Buffy would have hated it!) poor Snausage didn't know what to do......he spent his remaining years in a daze and never got over his brother's death. The chipmunks would run up to him and taunt him, it was so sad.

Well, when I moved to Houston, Texas back in 1991 (Texas? Yes...for Vipin's graduate work), I really wanted a pet, but we lived in an apartment complex that didn't permit them. After a couple of years we moved to a really neat 1920's style duplexed house (into the upstairs apartment) in the Museum district...and the two girls that lived downstairs had a the pet potential for us was there....but I really wanted a monkey! (That story is in another blog entry....). Well, one day Vipin came back from an afternoon on the golf course and handed me a styrofoam coffee cup. I nagged, "Why are you giving me this, why don't you just throw it away, why did you even bring it inside the house?" and he just said "It's for you." and after I looked inside I saw a tiny little turtle, smaller than a quarter! I couldn't believe it! It was so little and cute. Green and yellow shell, yellow tummy (which I found out after I finally got the courage to pick it up). It was a red-earred slider turtle, and of course I was going to keep it! He discovered it while he was moving some leaves aside before making a putt! Vipin said he saw lots of these turtles on the golf course, many of them grew to be fairly big!

Well, I am happy to report that we STILL have Icky the Turtle (named after Southwyck Country Club -as in ICK). Yes, Icky is alive and well, 15 years old and going strong! He has since moved out to my parent's lakehouse, Lenzelhof, where he can summer outside (in a closed & protected rabbit cage) and enjoy nature in all its glory! He loves the sun and to lift his head up in the summer months to hear the birds and sounds of the wild. My parent's refer to him as their "Grandturtle". Icky follows voices and will literally go on walks with long as we keep calling out to him. He always pokes his head up and out to greet us when we when we say "Hello Icky". He is a very friendly turtle and does not mind it when he is stroked on his neck and under his chin.

He was once a palm sized turtle and he is now a two handed turtle (as in it takes two hands to pick him up)! He mainly eats turtle food, but does enjoy worms (he never got them when I had him, but my Dad, is nice enough to go and dig them up
for him once in a while!!), and usually three times a year we get him 12 little feeder goldfish. Now, with these goldfish he has a system. He will proceed to eat about 4 of them right away upon their first arrival (I think when they are first put into the cage they swim around all excited to meet their 'new friend'...and have no idea what their new friend will do to is then that Icky proceeds to swallow them whole!)......after that, the other 8 are onto Icky and know what their destiny they immedately go and hide under the rock platform. Icky will then eat maybe two a day for the next few days...and then let the remaining fish live and grow. He will then eat a fish whenever I assume he gets bored and just wants to play. But.....HE ALWAYS LEAVES ONE FISH UNTOUCHED!! This has been going on for years! He will always leave one fish, and that fish is HIS pet!!! It grows and grows usually grows so much that we have to take it back to the pet store and trade it in for 12 new feeder fish (because it gets so big that it can no longer swim up straight and is forced to swim at an angle to fit in the rabbit cage's height for water!!).

Well, if you thought that my adult life was going to go with just a turtle you are wrong. From previous entries, you may already know that I have a new little ball of love in my life and her name is LuLu. LuLu is a Yorkshire Terrier and well, the center of our world! Vipin knew Gigi...which means he knew me with Gigi in my life, and I guess he knew there was some sort of void in me that he and Icky were never going to fill. Vipin knew I would want a dog eventually. We discussed it, but we decided it would have to be when we lived in a house and could properly care for a dog. Also, Vipin has allergies, so that was going to be an issue. But, then along came this wonderful thing called THE INTERNET! And as I began the wonders of surfing, I decided one day to look up dogs, types of dogs, etc. What a plethora of information I found.!! I started to narrow it down, a small dog (because we still lived in an apartment at that time), a dog that does not bother people that have allergies, a cute dog (of course!), intelligent, trainable, sturdy, healthy, something that I could carry, easy to care for, not yippy or possesive and ideally, a dog that would stay small and sweet and be like a permanent puppy......all my needs and desires for such a dog pointed to a Yorkie! I wanted a Yorkie! I needed a Yorkie! I got a Yorkie!

I'll stop my entry now...because LuLu (as she sits here content on my lap, curled up in a ball, as I write this) is with me now, in my life now, and I will have many new entries all about her I am sure. Just know that I have returned to the castle, I now live in the beautiful Victorian house that I grew up in and the doggie door to the garage has been closed for years. Three apartment buildings and all the cars and people that go along with them stand behind the back yard and fill what was once my open field and playground. To Captain's horror, I am sure, chipmunks have taken over all sides of the property and rule the land. A little rabbit lives under the bush where Fritz would sit for hours...and thick, dark, lush green ivy fill the ground where Gigi's dog house once stood. But every time I open the door to the garage I look to my left and expect to see the bench where so many happy creatures would gobble down meals and take their daily sips of water. I treasure all of my dear, warm, sweet, animals....Buffy, Henrietta, Barney, Luke, Captain, Fritz, Gigi, Rollie, and Snausage......and sometimes, when I am all alone out in the back yard, when the wind is still and the night is young, when the traffic is calm and time slows down.... I close my eyes and take a moment to breathe............I go back......I am young, I am wild, I am free....I am a wolf .....I can hear the water drip from the weathered crack in the gutter onto the old wood pile that used to lean up against the back of the garage, I can smell the beautiful blooming flowers that Grandma Lenz planted and no longer grow in the side garden, I can taste the big, brown Chinese chestnuts that grew on my beloved climbing tree which fell down years ago, I can feel my hair in a tight ponytail and twirl it around my fingers....... and.......I can see Captain scurrying off under the tall pine trees, Luke strolling closer for a scratch on his head, Fritz looking up and hoping I'll come to him so he doesn't have to get out of his comfy spot, Gigi running towards me ready to play "Chase me", and Buffy, strong, at my side, protecting me, guarding me, forever there, forever my companion.....this is my pack, this is my strength, these are my animals.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


The night before Thanksgiving Day I decided to round up the kids (nephews Vinnie and Tony along with their younger sister Nicole...and her friend Skylar) and decorate Mom and Dad's house for Christmas while they were still away in Florida. Since Dad's ankle is broken and Mom would be exhausted having driving all the way home, it was to be a win-win for all...
  • Mom and Dad get to have all the decorations up,
  • the kids get a Pizza night & have something to give their Grandparents,
  • and I get to spend time with the kids (and could not have done it alone, my original plan, considering all the decorations are stored up in the loft of the workshop...those stairs are way too steep for me to carry down such heavy boxes, thanks boys).
Of course Vipin and LuLu were there to help too (LuLu was in many boxes to run around and sniff!)... it was so much fun!

I really enjoyed unpacking all of Mom and Dad's decorations. I have such found memories of evenings in the past when we were all young girls doing it as a family of 6. Our tree and house decorations always made me so proud! One year Dad cut little trees down so that each of us could have our very own mini-tree in our bedroom! Our house was featured in the local paper once, and our tree was often viewed by local clubs and organizations because it was an 'international tree' with hand-made decorations from all over the world. My parents often hosted Christmas parties because their house was always decorated so wonderfully for the holidays (and everyone loved it).

As I unwrapped each ornament and handed them to the girls (because the boys had already stopped helping by this point and settled into the master bedroom to enjoy Mom's last year Christmas present from Dad - massage chair from Brookstone and watch TV...can't blame them, Star Wars was on)...I would tell them, 'this one is carved out of wood and from the small German village of Oberammergau, this one is made from straw and is from Peru, this one is a type of mosaic from Spain, this one is made of lace and is from Venice, Italy, this one....." it was great and we only hung a few...there are still two more unopened boxes full of ornaments!!!

I also got out the little church with the red windows, the one that used to be Grandma Lenz' still lights up and it is so delicate and sweet...very vintage, made of a sort of plastered-type paper....and the little wooden farm house with the fence and tiny animals (Nicole set it up on the piano)....and the little clip-on birds that wear the little hats, there were only two - a red one for Susan and a white one for Wanda (I was always envious of them because they clipped on the tree and were so easy to put up, but they were for Susan and Wanda to put up....well, the clips don't work anymore, but I got them on the tree!)...and of course, many little hand-made ornaments produced by 'the lovely little Lenz girls'... from little mice made out of walnut halves to wooden clothes pin deer to bottle cap thingy-s (I don't remember what they were supposed to be, but we loved them and made them with care!!) to the plastic beaded things we made with Mrs. Foote. They are all there, some without eyes, some in parts, I found a thing that I think is just a big Elmer's glue blob (the actual featured item is gone but the glue is holding strong!!).

It was a great night! Good memories. Happy Holidays!


November 29th was my parent's 50th wedding anniversary!

They came over to our house for dinner and first we had to have a champagne toast!

Congratulations....still fighting after all these years!! hehe

Before dinner we wanted to give them the present that we (Sister Susan & Bro-in-law Steve, Sister Wanda & Bro-in-law Reinhard and Vipin and I) got them. It's not so easy getting two people who have traveled the world and live in their dream house a present. But thankfully Vipin thought of and found what I think may have been the most perfect present for them...something they didn't already have....a beautiful copper weather with a heron (my Mom just loves her real Blue Heron that lives on their lake)!! Vipin had it set up and covered with a sheet so they could 'unwrap' it!

They love it! We'll have to wait until Spring to get it up on their roof (Waldi already said he would come and do it...yeah Waldi!!) and I think it is going to be so beautiful. They are so excited!

After the unveiling, we went into the dining room for dinner....

and they told Vipin and I about their wedding day.... a day, back in 1958 when there was a massive snow storm in Columbus. The day began with fine weather, but then, in the late morning it began to snow...and snow and snow. Soon after Mom was in a total panic because Dad (along with his parents) were on their way via car and still not there and it was minutes before the ceremony (gee..why didn't he just text her on his cell??). Aunt Gloria tried to calm her down (while looking out the window in horror at the amount of accumulation!). The ceremony was to begin at 6:05PM. Dad said the roads were totally covered and all he could make out were the telephone poles on either side of the road, so he stayed in the middle of them, kept driving and hoped no other cars would come. They made it, of course, with no time to spare (Grandma and Grandpa Lenz had bought new clothes to wear but didn't have time to change into them)....after the wedding, there was a reception at Grandma and Grandpa Baker's house (Mom's parents) and it kept snowing and snowing....everyone ended up staying over (Grandma & Grandpa Lenz stayed in the Baker's bedroom room...took the mattress off the box spring, and Uncle Andy - with his two young girls-cousins Monica and Maryann- slept on the box spring while they stayed on the mattress.....Aunt Gloria stayed in spare room.......Uncle Larry stayed on the couch =which was 2 feet shorter than his 6'4" body would have liked--because they weren't married yet=....Grandma & Grandpa stayed in the basement somewhere)....but there was no place for Mom and they had to leave!! Out in the storm!! Can you believe it?!?! As it turned out...after about 30 minutes in the storm they drove right out of it (not a flake on the ground!)...and continued on........ what an adventure..what a nice story...I really enjoyed listening to them reminisce about it (so sweet). Fifty years! What a milestone! Congratulations!