Sunday, December 31, 2017

My Year in Books 2017

Hi everyone! A few years ago, I started doing the “My Year in Books” at the end of the year, because I saw it on a friend’s blog. Go check out Lisa’s blog (where I first saw “My Year in Books”); her blog is called Two Bears Farm. The first time I had done “My Year in Books" was because she had done it on her blog. I believe she had done it because she'd found it on someone else’s blog. But I don’t think that blog is up and running anymore, since I can no longer find it. 

Ever since I first participated in the year-end “My Year in Books” theme, I’ve made it a habit to wrap up my year in books on or around December 31st.

The idea is that you take the following prompts and "answer" each one with the title of a book you read during the year. 

So here is "My Year in Books, 2017 Edition"!

Describe yourself: 
Song of the Lion, by Anne Hillerman

How do you feel: 
(Robert B. Parker's) Debt to Pay, by Reed Farrel Coleman

Describe where you currently live: 
The House of Secrets, by Brad Meltzer

If you could go anywhere, where would you go: 
Odessa Sea, by Clive Cussler

Your favorite form of transportation: 
The Western Star, by Craig Johnson

Your best friend is: 
Deal Breaker, by Harlan Coben

You and your friends are: 
MatchUp, by Lee Child (Editor)

What's the weather like: 
Vicious Circle, by C.J. Box

Favorite time of day: 
Nighthawk, by Clive Cussler

What is life to you: 
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley

Your fear: 
Typhoon Fury, by Clive Cussler

What is the best advice you have to give: 
Cross the Line, by James Patterson

Thought for the day: 
The Cuban Affair, by Nelson DeMille

How I would like to die: 
(Robert B. Parker's) The Hangman's Sonnet, by Reed Farrel Coleman 

My soul's present condition: 
Fallout, by Sara Paretsky

So there you have it! What were some memorable books you read in 2017? 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Last Time for the "Actual Santa" duties?

My child is 11. We haven't discussed Santa at all. I just go on as though I think she still believes in him. She doesn't deny she doesn't still believe. She just doesn't admit he's "not real." It's some sort of unspoken gray area, like "knowledge" of his "actual existence" is just fading away with time.

Seems like I'm the only one showing excitement tonight, Christmas Eve, about filling the treasured Christmas plates and glass one more time, the Christmas plates and glass we got when she was nearly one.

The Santa plate is usually loaded with a ton of cookies (I eat some and the rest go to her grandparents on Christmas Day); the reindeer "bowl"? Usually either baby carrots or uncooked oats (which go back where they came from once she's asleep). And then the glass is full of icy cold milk (yes, I drink most of it when I eat a couple cookies.)

She is getting ready for bed at the moment, the Christmas dishes still unfilled. After dinner,  I was the one who mentioned we'd get them prepared just before she went to bed. She didn't even react. (Maybe I'm just excited about it because the cookies and milk are my dessert....maybe this is her unspoken answer that she doesn't believe in Santa anymore?)

As soon as she's ready for bed, I'll tell her to get the Christmas dishes ready for Santa. I'm going to go through this charade one more time. I'll probably do it again next year on this day, if she doesn't object. Maybe she'll let me pretend one more time.

In the morning, under the tree, there'll still be gifts from family and gifts "from Santa" in the morning - the gifts from Santa being in her stocking - gift cards for iTunes, the book store, a new memory card for her camera, some treats (chocolate covered espresso beans and candy canes, etc).

In the meantime, Merry Christmas, everyone.

Some of the decorations at our church during Christmas Eve Mass. 

Jock's View

Jock LOVES playing in the snow. And we're finally getting some, though it seems to just be a dusting.

When it's time to come inside, he parks himself in front of the sliding glass door, to survey "his domain."

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Christmas Time 2017

I used to live in the Southwest (El Paso, TX, Tucson, AZ, and Alamogordo, NM). I feel like the Southwest is most like "home" to me, even though I've lived all across the country.

But, since I no longer live there, I enjoy having little touches of the Southwest where we now live (eastern Iowa).

I have some chile* pepper lights, some Southwestern ornaments on the tree, and a Southwestern style ladder I'd gotten in Santa Fe way back in 2006.

*(Note, I didn't say "chili" pepper: "chili" is that stew-like meal with meat, sometimes beans, and chili powder spices, along with other ingredients. "Chile" is what you call the actual "chile peppers," such as jalapeƱo, Serrano, Hatch, habanero, etc.)

Anyway, I always like the glow of the chile pepper lights that I wrapped around my Santa Fe ladder.

I'm sitting in the kitchen with Jock and a cup of coffee, enjoying the Christmas lights and the Christmas tree, before the rest of the family gets up.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Thinking of Summer 2018 Already

While I certainly don't mind cool (or cold) weather,  I LOVE autumn, by the way, I love the first snowfall (or any light, fluffy snow), and the beauty surrounding the holidays. . . I have to admit I've been planning our Summer 2018 activities already.

By the way, here's my view as I look out my bedroom window (currently 30°F with a 25°F wind chill):

See, my daughter attends Culver Summer Schools and Camps - more specifically, she attends Culver Woodcraft Camp. She has attended for the past few summers, and LOVES it. She has a couple more summers before graduating and becoming an alumna of Culver Academies.

The application for the following summer usually happens mid-autumn (usually around October) of the current year.

So technically, we've been planning for summer since October. Even though there's no doubt in our minds that she will be accepted (and already has been at this point), we still have to fill out the application (the sooner the better), so the camp's administrative staff can process it and hold a spot for her in her unit. I say "the sooner the better" because as fall turns into winter and then spring, there ends up being a significant waiting list for kids trying to get a spot in camp (they only have so many cabins and beds).

The "Culver Academies" also function as a high school during the school year (of which I'm an alumna), so they are busy year-round. And it's on a beautiful campus, so I find myself daydreaming about being back. The campus is mostly pedestrian, with various parking areas around the edge of the campus, so it's nice being able to walk around (which helps me get my steps in every day, and also it's just good to get out and walk).

A few pics of the beautiful campus:
 The view from the front porch of my daughter's cabin. 

View of Cardinal Creek. 

 Interior view of the Culver Memorial Chapel, from the balcony. 

Exterior view of the Culver Memorial Chapel, from the northeast corner. 

Lake Maxinkuckee and the Culver Ledbetter

So. . . in looking for a few pics to share I got carried away browsing through all the photos on my phone, remembering good times from this past summer. 

My prompt for sitting down and writing this post, though, was an actual detail my husband and I are working on in planning for next summer. We are looking for a dog-friendly rental for us to stay in while we spend some of our time out in Indiana, in Summer 2018. A little earlier this morning, I had gotten an exciting text from our realtor friend who has a fantastic house available for us. We stayed at it before - for the last week of camp in 2016, and we all liked it. Plus, it was in a convenient location in town.  

Unfortunately, it was not available for us at all in 2017. Rentals go FAST in this town in the summer (it's close enough to both Chicago and Indianapolis, and on a beautiful lake, so people go there to spend their summers in a beautiful lake town), so you have to plan well in advance to secure a reasonably priced place. Also, people like getting rentals for the school year (approximately Sept - end of May), if they have children attending the boarding school. 

We are getting a head start, and lining up a rental NOW (or rather, soon after the holidays), so we have a place to spend with our daughter and Therapy Dog Jock. 

The realtor's text got me all excited about heading back next summer! I think I'm as excited as my daughter. She gets fun in the sun with her friends, and I get to go back and walk a beautiful campus, and seeing my daughter have a blast, and catching up with my own friends who are back with their children and/or nieces and nephews, and some who are there in an administrative capacity at the Academies. Plus, there are some good restaurants in the area. 

Anyway, now I have to try to be patient for the summer! 

Anyone have plans of their own for next summer?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Jock's Therapy Updates

Hi all! Thought I'd give an update on the therapy animal visits Jock and I do.

So, we had a few visits in October and November to the University of Iowa College of Law, where Jock provided much needed stress relief for future lawyers in the midst of their fall semester midterms and preparations for finals.

The students often get down on the floor with him. I usually have a towel for him to sit on, but he moves off it, as he sees fit, if he needs to cuddle up with someone.

He really seems to enjoy our visits to the law school. He usually has "repeat visitors" that love getting down on the floor and sitting with him for a few minutes, as time allows between classes. He also seems to have a "Corgi Fan Club" because there are a number of law students who LOVE Corgis. 

We even had a visit one day, when a bunch of students had called over one of their professors (in between classes) to introduce him to Jock. This particular professor actually got down on the floor - flat out on his back! - to get a selfie with Jock. He was excitedly uttering, "OMG, it's a Corgi! We have a Corgi here! I've got to get a pic!" SO FUNNY! 

I was impressed, though.  I guess I think of law professors as being straight-laced, in suits (or other very lawyerly outfits), and being quite stern or serious - not the kind of person in a nice sweater and corduroy pants, who laughs a lot and gets down on the floor with the visiting therapy dog. 

We weren't able to get out there during December, while they have finals. We will be back during the spring semester, though. I'm looking forward to it, because the students and faculty/staff appreciate it so much. They get so excited!

Jock and I also do regular visits, about once a week, to a local assisted living facility. We actually volunteer through a hospice service, who placed us with a few patients at this particular nearby facility. At this point, we're down to one patient assigned to us, with whom we visit once a week. We also stop and say hi to a few staff members who like to greet Jock as we walk down the halls. 

They usually have seasonal decorations both inside and outside the facility. I usually try to get a pic of Jock next to one of their cute decorations, when the seasons change. 

And lastly, Jock and I have an interview of sorts at the University of Iowa (UI) Stead Family Children's Hospital in January. I've been wanting to take him to visit a pediatric ward at the local hospital, but they apparently have a wait list or something at the two local hospitals. And the one has very limited hours in which they allow therapy animal visits (during the evenings when I'm busy taking my daughter to extracurricular activities). 

So I reached out to the UI Children's Hospital, to see if Jock and I can start volunteering there. They actually have a therapy animal program called "Furry Friends," where they have therapy animal volunteers come in on a regular basis to visit with the kids in the hospital. 

There is a detailed process to become a therapy animal team with the "Furry Friends" program, including a detailed application, background check, some training, and this interview. 

So, hopefully, we'll be able to start volunteering to cheer up the children at the hospital early in the new year! Keep your fingers crossed that it doesn't take too long before Jock starts brightening these kids' days. 

Okay, that's it for now. Hopefully, I can do these therapy visit updates a little more regularly, and they won't all be this long. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

It's That Time of Year

Hi, Santa! I want some squeaky toys, and more tennis balls, and treats, and time to run around, and . . .

Will you play with me?!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

A "Welcome Back" is in Order

Hi all: I know, I know! It's been MONTHS since I've last posted.

Gotta explain: my desktop computer died earlier this year, and it was my only computer. Didn't have a working laptop or tablet, either. Just the smart phone. And it's a pain in the you-know-what trying to do blog posts on a tiny screen typing with just my thumbs. So I "gave up" posting while I was temporarily computer-free.

I mean, I can use the public library's computers, but when I'm at the library, I only have limited time to get other, higher-priority things done, saving the blogging for "when I have time at the end" . . .which usually ends up not happening. And when I'm rushing through my limited computer time, the "creativity muses" don't tend to stop by. Hence, no blogging occurred for me at the library.

However, thanks to the recent generosity of my mom, she helped me buy myself a new laptop as a Christmas present from her (and myself).

So, this is a "welcome back" post.

Now, I know the last thing I posted about was about our dog, Jock, being a new Therapy Dog. Well, he's now got a year's experience under his belt! And he's getting really good at it.

As a matter of fact, we were visiting one of our regular hospice patients recently, and the fire alarm went off (it ended up being a false alarm). As I'm sure you know, it's an ear-piercing, uncomfortably loud sound, those fire alarms. Jock was a very good boy, though. He didn't cry, whimper, bark, or freak out in any way, during the fire alarm! He stood next to me quietly, but in an "on alert" stance, ears up.

When the alarm was silenced, one of the hospice employees commented on how calm Jock was during the alarm!

Here's Jock next to the bed of one of our regular patients. 


He and I have also been to the University of Iowa's College of Law a few times, providing law students with stress relief. Now, thats a lot of fun! They get really excited to see him, and so do the faculty members. One law professor even got on the floor and took a selfie with Jock! And we have some "regulars" who are HUGE Corgi fans, who always spend a few minutes with him. 

Bt the way, if you're on FaceBook, you can look for "TherapyDogJock" to find his page, where I post pics of him, and informational tidbits from his veterinarians' office and Pet Partners

I'll be back again, soon, to post something new! It's nice to be back. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Jock the Therapy Dog!

Hi everyone! I'm here! I'm here! I haven't gone away forever. I have been busy doing some important community service with handsome Jock, our Pembroke Welsh Corgi. We are now a therapy animal team. Yep, Jock is a therapy dog!

In the autumn of 2016, Jock and I started our special journey. I actually had to start it on my own - I signed up with Pet Partners, a national organization that registers therapy animal teams and provides therapy animal handlers with learning opportunities via classes like "Infection Prevention and Control: Therapy Animal Visitation in Healthcare Settings" or working with specific sets of folks, such as veterans, or patients with dementia or Alzheimer's. 

I first had to take an animal handler course. Since there wasn't an in-person workshop available near me, I had the opportunity to take the online class. The class objective is to teach a (potential) therapy animal volunteer how to work with his or her animal in a variety of settings, as well as teaching the volunteer the basic ground rules of being a therapy animal team. The class also teaches the difference among: therapy animals, service animals, and emotional support animals. (You can read the full explanations here, on Pet Partners' "Terminology" page.)

Basically (to quote Pet Partners' "Terminology" page), therapy animals (like Jock) provide affection and comfort to various members of the public, typically in facility settings such as hospitals, retirement homes, and schools. These pets have a special aptitude for interacting with members of the public and enjoy doing so. Therapy animal owners volunteer their time to visit with their animal in the community.

Service animals (or assistance animals) on the other hand, are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. So a guide dog would fall into this category. These animals are allowed by law to go wherever their humans are allowed (restaurants, airlines, etc).

Emotional support animals, are also known as "comfort animals" and provide emotional or therapeutic support to their individual humans. (They don't have the same rights to go anywhere service animals go.) These animals are often dogs, but can be other animals, as well.

Speaking of other animals, did you know that Pet Partners registers nine species of animals as "therapy animals"?! Not only do they register dogs, they also register rabbits, certain breeds of birds (like parrots), horses, llamas, alpacas, rats, cats, and guinea pigs! Cool, huh?

Anyway, after I took the online class and passed the exam, I had to schedule an in-person evaluation for myself and Jock. We did that on November 20, 2016.

We had to follow the rules for a therapy animal visit (for canines), so within 24 hours of the evaluation, I had to ensure that Jock was bathed. I also had to be sure his nails were trimmed to an appropriate length, and didn't have any sharp spots.

He had to have his collar and leash that he'd be wearing on visits (just a standard nylon collar and leash - no training collars). He'd passed his AKC Canine Good Citizen test a couple years earlier, so this evaluation wasn't really "new" because the evaluation tested for similar things.

The evaluator had us perform various exercises, such as:
  • walking a pattern (to ensure Jock would "heel" appropriately and with good manners and not pull on the leash), 
  • sit (or down) and stay, 
  • not get upset at a sudden loud noise (a heavy (or metal) object was dropped a few feet behind him, and they watched to see his reaction - he could startle, but if he got scared or aggravated, that wouldn't be a positive thing), 
  • walking past a "neutral" dog (a calm one that couldn't care less that another dog was in the room with it), 
  • being brushed and handled by a person unfamiliar to him, 
  • his reaction to meeting someone in a wheelchair or walker . . . 
 and some other things.

Well, we passed! And within a few weeks, after ensuring Pet Partners had Jock's health form filled out by his veterinarian (detailing that he is in good health and is up-to-date on his vaccinations), we had our ID badge that I need to wear on all visits.  Therapy teams, by the way,  need to be re-evaluated every two years to ensure we remain equal to (or exceeding) necessary therapy animal standards.

So, what have we done as a therapy animal team so far? Well, our first therapy dog outing was to the University of Iowa School of Law (in Iowa City, IA) during finals week in December 2016, to provide stress relief for the University's law students. Jock really enjoyed having all these students coming up to him and petting him. And they were so grateful to have a few minutes with a cute dog.

There was one student in particular who was SO THANKFUL we were there. She couldn't stop telling me how much she appreciated having a therapy dog there, even if she could only spend five minutes with Jock. That right there made me so happy I decided to become a therapy dog team with Jock!

We have also started going to an assisted living facility near our home, to visit with a couple residents whose families requested a therapy dog visit. When Jock and I go there, we make sure to visit these two residents, but we also visit with other residents who happen to be in the day room/living room during our visits.

We need to wear special name badges at the assisted living facility. Jock gets his own badge, and his title is "Friendly Visitor." Awwwww! Here is his ID's photo (awwww!):

At the assisted living facility, there are two residents in particular who now seem to recognize us; their faces light up with joy when they see us. It is truly a special thing. The lady gets so happy and is so excited when I take Jock over to her to pet him. The other resident, while he seems to have no interest in petting Jock, seems to get a lot of joy simply by watching other residents (this "senior" lady in particular) fawn over Jock.

I'm hoping in the future (within the next couple months) to start volunteering occasionally at the nearby hospital - hopefully in the pediatric section. And, as a veteran myself, maybe Jock and I can start working with veterans in the future.

Oh, and if you want to learn more about Pet Partners, please check out the Pet Partners website.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

My Year in Books (for 2016)

Hi everyone! Happy New Year! 

I know my posts have been few (VERY few) and (VERY) far between during 2016. But once again, I’m back with my annual “books for the previous year” post. Lisa from the Two BearsFarm blog originally got me started on this meme a number of years ago. I can’t seem to find the blog that had originally hosted this meme, so I’m posting this as a stand-alone. But please! Feel free to visit Two Bears Farm because she has a lovely blog covering everything from rural living, kids’ adventures, exercise, horses, and more. . . .

I usually like to post my "My Year in Books" on December 31st, so my list is reflecting "the current year's reading," but Andrew was on the computer a lot these past few days. And we had been at my parents' for Christmas. Since I don't have a laptop, I wasn't able to work on this post until now. But here it is, finally - my "My Year in Books" for the year that just ended. . . .

Here’s the deal with this post: using only titles of books that you read during the year that just ended (2016), complete the prompts below. Try not to repeat any book titles.
Describe yourself: 

The Horse Whisperer, Nicholas Evans

(Note: This is a re-read for 2016. I’d originally read it when it had first come out in 1995. So, a 21 year period between the first and second readings! I love the movie, which I re-watch once in a blue moon, and wanted to revisit the book. There are always extra (sometimes minute) details in the book that I sometimes forget about.

How do you feel: 

The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd

(This is another 2016 re-read. Well, I actually listened to it, to be exact. I was going back and forth between eastern Iowa and Northwestern Indiana a few times during the summer, and had already had the audiobook. I’d first read the book in, oh, probably 2007, after it was already in paperback, and I loved it! And then I’d seen the movie with Dakota Fanning and Queen Latifah, and loved the movie, too. I felt that it was true to the book’s essence and not just “based on” the book. I’d listened to the audiobook in 2015, but listened to it again in 2016. It’s obviously a favorite.)

Describe where you currently live:

The Professor’s House, Willa Cather 

If you could go anywhere, where would you go:
Off the Grid, CJ Box

Your favorite form of transportation:

The United States Pony Club (USPC) Manual of Horsemanship, Susan E. Harris

Your best friend is:

The Highwayman, Craig Johnson

You and your friends are:

A Monstrous Regiment of Women, Laurie R. King

What's the weather like: 

Havana Storm, Clive Cussler

(Again, a re-read via audiobook. I did a lot of driving during the summer of 2016, so my library’s audiobooks were MUCH appreciated. When driving alone, I especially like listening to stories I’d thoroughly enjoyed having read in the past. Occasionally, I wasn’t able to really pay attention to the audiobook, like during heavy traffic in the Chicago area. So having read the book already (even if it had been a few years ago), I felt like I didn’t miss anything by not having paid attention for a certain section of the audiobook. When driving with my husband, I try to get books that we will both enjoy, but also I like getting books that I maybe haven’t had the chance to read, yet. When I’m the passenger, it’s easier to dedicate my full attention to the audiobook, because when I’m driving, I’m mostly focused on the driving part.)

Favorite time of day:

Night Fall, Nelson DeMille

(Yep. Another re-read via audiobook, checked out of our local library. My husband and I listened to this on our way from Northwest Indiana during our trip there July 22-31, 2016. I’d originally read this when it had first come out in 2004 and knew it would be a book he’d enjoy listening to, during our 8-hour one-way drive.)

What is life to you:
An Obvious Fact, Craig Johnson

Your fear:
The Emperor’s Revenge, Clive Cussler

What is the best advice you have to give:

Age is Just a Number: Achieve Your Dreams at Any Stage in Your Life, Dara Torres

Thought for the day:

Christmas in Absaroka County, Craig Johnson

How I would like to die:
Cross Justice, James Patterson

My soul's present condition:
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, Laurie R. King

So there it is. 

And now for a couple resolutions: keeping this blog from drifting away from me, like it has in the past few years! And continuing to read more than I did last year!  

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