Sunday, November 29, 2009

Picture Sunday

Hello, end of long weekenders, and welcome to a rather succint round of Picture Sunday.

I had a nice weekend, and I just realized that it's 11:00pm and I haven't put up any pictures for you, so let's sort of, well, truncate things.

I spent Thanksgiving with Mr M and the DeepFatFriar at the DeepFatFriar's new home. It was a lovely day.

Aaaaaaaaaand, let's get to the pictures.

1. A nice Thanksgiving table.

2. I made deviled eggs...

...and pumpkin pie.

3. A brain! (Actually, it's a cauliflower.)

4. The Carving of the Brain (DFF looks just a little too happy).

5. Sherman liked DFF's biscuits...

...and loved his blueberry pie.

6. This is the trivet you have for your table if 1) you're the DeepFatFriar, and 2) you've been painting at your new house.

7. After the excellent dinner, I enjoyed some coffee...

...Milo enjoyed some Sherman...

...and Sherman enjoyed, well, let's not show that to Mr Peabody.

7. And afterwards, Milo ate my entire face.

It was a nice day. I was sitting at the table, and it occurred to me - everything was so wonderful because we all brought our best dishes. I did the eggs and pie, Mr M brought his amazing stuffing and $21 salad, which has now escalated to $28 salad, and DFF did his turkey and homemade cranberry sauce. And we had a brain.

Friday I spent some of my day off on a little project. I made Milo his very own Hi D Ho Academy bandana!

He actually wore it for an afternoon without tearing it apart. That's not bad!

Now it's trash duty and bed and back to the crappy old work week.

Happy crappy work week to you all, too!

Betland's Olympic Update:
* OK, no band, no Hi D Ho - I'm going to try to get things back to normal here, whatever that constitutes. Hopefully an acro tomorrow.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Milo's School Days

Hello, blogees.

Life's been a little busy here in Betland. You know those hamster wheels that go round and round and round? And round? Yeah, that's about me.

But along with all the regular stuff, visiting Mom (she gets sprung from the rehab facility Saturday), taking care of Dad, work, stuff at home, etc etc till you want to puke, I of course have also been taking my boy Milo to obedience school at the Hi D Ho Academy.

Funny thing, that. I remember the blog I wrote when he got accepted. It was all about how I'd recite his valedictory address for you all.

And then.

And then, well, we got to class.

It was a tough seven weeks. Well, actually, it was a tough six weeks. The first week was without doggies, just the people, and we sat around talking about our pets. The second week we brought our dogs, and in a stunning coincidence, that was also the week my mom went into the hospital. So she's been confined for six weeks.

That second week we got to meet all the doggies. There was Dozer, the Bull Mastiff who at age 7 months weighed 80 pounds. Golden Retriever Duke, Golden Retriever Bruiser, and Weimeraner Buster. The only girl was a tall black, sleek doggie named Delilah. Cormac was the most adorable Newfoundland you ever saw in your life. And Riley, and Milo.

It became apparent immediately that Milo was not going to be Class Valedictorian. In fact, he was the second worst dog in the class. The worst dog, Riley, was very much like Milo. He was a pound puppy too, adorable, a bit high strung, and he and Milo were the only two dogs in class who didn't have the benefit of attending the Hi D Ho's Puppy Kindergarten. In other words, we were both at a disadvantage.

He and Milo also had the problem of not knowing any other dogs, so the minute they got out of the car for class, pandemonium ensued. Milo lunges. The Milo Skip, Taylor calls it. Hopping on hind legs as tight on the leash as it will go. Riley, however, barked. He barked so much that even our teacher, Miss Rosie, couldn't make him stop. She dropped clipboards and metal pails and everything else, and for the first few lessons (which were outside), Riley's mom finally just took him to a secluded piece of grass to work him where he could bark away.

And so Milo and Riley became very good friends, because they (and their moms) liked each other. And the owners of the well-behaved dogs didn't really want us playing with them. Ahhh, school can be so tough. (That's a bit of a lie - Cormac played with everyone. He was like the huge kid in class who played with you and knocked you out. *Whoomp!* with the paw.)

The learning went quickly at the Hi D Ho, and in the first few weeks we were working on sit, down, sit and stay, down and stay, not pulling on leash (the bane of my existence), and targeting. Targeting is where you hold out a palm and your dog touches his nose to it. I never thought Milo would have any interest in such a thing, but it turned out to be one of his favorite practice games.

Then came "distractions" (making your dog do all the above while people were running around trying to get his attention), and heel, and come, and stand and stay, and down from the standing position. And some weeks Milo and I would do good and some we'd not.

And it was about week four that I started to worry.

Because every time Miss Rosie mentioned something we'd be doing for graduation and it seemed impossible to me, I imagined getting that phone call the night before graduation telling me I really didn't need to make the trip for the ceremony.

Then something happened.

It happened around week five. That was the night in class where we were doing the sit to greet exercise, where we take our dogs up, one by one, to a sitting Miss Rosie, make them sit nicely, and if they stay sitting she will pet them. If they don't, she takes her hand away and they get no love.

So I took Milo up to Miss Rosie and he sat on command, but the minute he caught her eyes, he hopped up to get some love from her. And she smiled and said, "Oh, Milo, you are so cute, how can I not?" and patted him on the head. Then as we walked away, she said, "We need to get Milo his own TV show. He's just too cute."

I'd spent all my time in class up till then thinking that Miss Rosie didn't really like Milo or Riley because they weren't "worth saving," and I came to realize that that I think she liked them more. They didn't come into the course already knowing how to sit and stay and lie down. They were learning from scratch.

Two weeks before graduation Miss Rosie told us we were to teach our dogs a trick for graduation night. It could be anything, she gave us a list of suggestions, but a list without teaching methods, just suggestions. I was pretty freaked out about this, because I'd never even been able to get Milo to shake hands.

Of course, he has some neat tricks, some even on the suggestion list, but they were either things I didn't really teach him (fetching, singing to the clarinet), or things he couldn't really do in class (go into his crate on command, not jump on my lap till my dinner's done and my lap tray put away).

I got a couple of good suggestions, though. Mr M suggested his trick should be to sniff out truffles. I could take him around the room, let him sniff everything, then say, "OK, no truffles here!" Taylor suggested I get a Rubiks cube, take it to class, and say, "His trick was supposed to be working the Rubiks cube for you, but he got so excited he worked it in the car on the way over." I liked both of those, but, you know, I was still worried about his graduating, so I wanted something a little more substantial.

So we spent every day for two weeks learning a trick. He got shaking hands in one night. I was amazed. But I wanted more! I got him to climb up on a stool and shake hands, but that would require schlepping a stool to class, and besides, I had something else in mind.

What I wanted was for his trick to be "How a Good Doggie Greets People in Society Circles." He would shake hands for greeting the men, and give me a peck on each cheek for greeting the ladies.

He wasn't keen on the kissing, though. I thought targeting (remember? touching nose to palm) would be a way in, but he was having none of it. So every night during Cuddle Time in the chair, I'd just grab him, put my cheek on his nose and say, "Kiss!" Lo and behold, a few days later standing in the kitchen I bent down and said, "Kiss!" and up he popped to put his nose on my cheek.

So we had a trick. Now we had to practice all the other stuff! There just wasn't enough time, and the day of graduation I was seriously nervous. I have to say that Miss Rosie kind of hinted that there'd be no failures, but I had no idea what to expect, and, well, I wanted us to do well.

So we got to graduation a bit early, and I got Milo out of the car to have a pee and get some energy out of him, and we met Dozer and his mom. I said, "Can we play?" (you must ask!) and she said yes, so those two jumped and played and we talked. Then the doors opened and the 6pm Graduating Class tumbled out, and we all went inside. We took a place beside Riley, and things started.

It turned out to be so much fun. Everybody was loose and happy, and Miss Rosie already knew she was graduating everyone, so it was all good. We did certain things on the honor system, like getting four sits and four sits and downs out of our dogs with no treats to lead them. (We only got three sits and downs, but hey, that's not so bad. That's a B+, right?) We did sits and stays and downs and stays and she timed us, and Milo was just excellent there.

We did sits and stays while Miss Rosie walked around and tried to distract us, good job there ("Give that dog a treat!" she said after walking by Milo), then we had to, one at a time, do the dreaded sit to greet exercise with Miss Rosie in the chair. Lo and behold, Milo sat and got a pat on the head. (I credit quick thinking with success here - instead of sitting him facing her, I sat him in profile to her.)

I have to tell you my most heartwarming moment was during the "come" exercise, where you have to give your dog to Rosie, then go across the room and get him to come to you. Both times we did it, Milo just burst across the room in such a headlong run to me that the entire class went, "Awwww!"

Then we played two games. The first was to see how many "push-ups" (going from sit to down to sit to down) our dogs could do in a minute. We got five, not bad for us, but the winner got eleven. Then we played Doggie Simon Sez, which I thought was an adorable idea, because it tested the dog (could he do the moves?) and the person (could we remember if Simon said it?). She gave smiley stickers to the last three teams standing, and Milo and I were one of them. Woooo!

Then we did our tricks. There were some shaking hands and a kiss, and my favorite was Duke, who actually went and got a newspaper and brought it to his owner. There was a high five and a turn around in a circle.

The weekend before graduation I was out shopping and actually found a Rubiks cube, and I couldn't resist the chance to use Taylor's joke. I took it with us and when it was our turn to do our trick, I said we were doing our "fall back trick." I pulled out the cube and said Milo was supposed to have worked it for the class but got too excited and did it in the car. There was a smattering of chuckles, but Miss Rosie thought it was hilarious and laughed out loud, slapping her knee. Then we did our shake hands and kisses, and the whole class "Awwww"ed again.

Then it was graduation time. We were all pronounced graduates. And Miss Rosie, I swear to you this is true, went to the corner, got out a cassette player, and played a round of "Pomp and Circumstance" while we all got our diplomas. She gave the person the diploma, and the doggie got to dip into a big bin of toys and pull one out. Milo couldn't decide, so I helped him choose a nice green moon.

And so it was over. And suddenly we were all equal, and Milo got to play with all those dogs and people that initially weren't so keen. We said goodbye to Riley, and the most adorable thing - the two were running as hard as they could on their leashes, on the slick tile floor, so they weren't going anywhere. It was like a race with no distance.

And so it's time to sum it all up.

I'm glad we made it through, but I wonder if we'd have done better without a hospitalized Granny and a spate of Oktoberfest performances to deal with. Or would it have mattered, because I still feel like all his high-energy jumping and all is just that he's still full of puppy.

I made a decision to do something completely different from anything I've ever done, and met some nice people and doggies in doing so.

Milo and I had a really good bonding experience, and I've even used some of what we've learned in real life.

I realized I have more patience than originally thought.

And most of all, we had fun. I didn't bitch a single time about tearing out of work, grabbing Milo's things, and heading down the road. I looked forward to it, even on those nights when I wasn't particularly prepared. The times I made a total fool of myself (and there were two major ones), I just laughed and tried to forget about it. And I kept telling myself that Milo and I may not have done our exercises the best, but we surely liked each other the most.

After that first week when I was feeling kind of hopeless, my sister took a turn at dogsitting Milo. When I went to pick him up, all she did was rave about what a good dog he is. "And I told Milo something, too. I told him when he goes to the Hi D Ho next week, he can just tell Miss Rosie to suck it, because he's a good dog!"

Well, of course, I now know that Miss Rosie's good people and she did have a soft spot in her heart for Milo after all. But that one statement really helped me go to the next few classes. Because I had a think - and I realized I don't want an agility trials dog, I don't want Rin Tin Tin. I want a nice doggie who can learn a few new moves and not maul people when he meets them and not pull me all over town from his leash. And I have that.

But I also wanted to graduate the class. I have that too.

After hearing about intermediate obedience class, Milo and I have decided maybe higher education isn't for us. We're going to learn a trade, join the union... and wait for our chance at a TV show.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* I blogged. Maybe now with Granny home and no traveling, I can do it more often. I'm making no promises, though!


Sunday, November 08, 2009

Picture Sunday

Hello, end of weekenders, and welcome to another edition of Picture Sunday.

It's been a bit of a busy week here in Betland, as you may have noticed by the distinct lack of blogs. Yet again.

The good news is that my mom (Granny) got out of stir (the hospital) on Monday. She wasn't released to come home, however. She was sent to a rehab facility where they're working her quite hard. This is a good thing. She's getting around better, seems to be of better spirits, and even went outside a while today to sit in the sun. I'm not sure of a release date, but she's come through a long patch and seems to finally be on the mend.

Milo has two weeks left at the Hi D Ho. His teacher Miss Rosie sprang some news on us this past week, and that news is that for Graduation Night on the 17th, we are to teach our doggies a trick they must perform for the class. Now, I'm making an assumption here that there will be a Graduation Night for us, I'm half-expecting the call the night before telling me there's no need for us to show up.

So Milo and I have been working on a few things. I've taught him to shake hands, so there's a trick right there, but it's a little boring for a dog who needs a dynamic finish at the Hi D Ho. My dream would be for me to teach him how a gentleman greets people - the men? [shake hands] the ladies? [give me a peck on each cheek] The kissing thing isn't working, and Stennie suggested we try a bow for the ladies, so I might do a little research to see how hard that would be.

Then there was the travelling back and forth getting Dad to the rehab center and back, making sure he has what he needs, and my sister and I are trying to keep him in real food so he won't have to keep eating out of boxes. My contribution this week was a nice pot of soup, and I surprised him with a pumpkin pie.

Mr M came down on Saturday for clarinet duets and TV and movies. I can't even remember the last time we played clarinet duets, certainly before Oktoberfest, and that was some seven weeks.

So, there you go, that was my week.

Now as for Picture Sunday, I thought I'd try something a little different.

See, way back when, it was about a month ago, when Mr M and I took our trip up to the wilds of Ohio so he could go back to Bowling Green and I could see the Giant Rubber Stamp, I kept a few notes of blog ideas. And on the back page of that, I kept a running list of signs I saw along the way that made me giggle.

Of course I couldn't have my camera ready to take pictures of those signs, so I thought maybe I'd try to give you my take on the visuals. No, they're not the signs ver batim, but they're a pretty good reproduction. And so welcome to Picture Sunday - The "Sign, Sign, Everywhere A Sign" Edition.

It all started with this little campaign sign in someone's front yard. I don't know about you, but I'm not sure this is the greatest name for someone running for office.

Yes, vote for me. I'm a Dick, and I'm Covert.

Then I saw this on a marquee at a convenience store. Now, I know we were in Hocking County, Ohio, but this was just a little disconcerting.

Remind me not to take a tour of their schools.

Along the interstate I saw a lovely billboard for a local hospital. I find it odd that hospitals advertise anyway, but this one, as ads go, was enjoyable.

I guess if it's your gallbladder, your brain, or your ingrown toenail, you need to look elsewhere.

Now, the next one made me giggle the entire trip. I'm sure we were supposed to just assume, driving along at 65 mph, that an EKG across a sign meant "heart." However....

And all I could think of was, "You know, they're absolutely right. Abortion certainly does stop a beating. Some four or so years down the road."

We saw this sign on the highway in Columbus.

Certainly nice of them to volunteer, but imagine the jeers and trash hurled their way, known atheists right there out in the open in the Great Midwest.

And finally, this billboard was right next to a large plant close to Bowling Green.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, our safety comes first. If you die, we don't give a damn.

And so there you have it.

Happy week.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Oh, "Mad Men," how am I going to live without you till you decide to have another new season?


Sunday, November 01, 2009

Picture Sunday

Can you believe? Picture Sunday is back!

As you all probably know, the past few weeks have been a bit of a trying time here in Betland. My mom in the hospital (she still is), and not doing well, my sister and I splitting duties of getting my dad where he needs and wants to be and seeing to him, Milo's once-a-week lessons at the Hi D Ho Academy in B'burg, and, of course, Oktoberfest.

My house is a wreck, my car looks like a family of four has lived in it for a year, and my brain is on vacation. And Betland got neglected.

So most of the above is all still the case, but Oktoberfest ended last night and I got about 1/4 of the crap out of my car this afternoon. And may I just say that the reason for that is because, using the "sit and stay" exercises learned at the Hi D Ho, I can now get Milo to stay at the door while I go in and out to the car. Doesn't sound like much to the non-Milo Owner, but is a big deal for me.

So maybe things are looking up a bit.

So, Oktoberfest. For the most part, Oktoberfest kicked my ass this year. I was tired through a lot of it, the traveling started to get to me, worrying about Milo's arrangements was a bit of a headache (many thanks to Mr M, my cousin Jacob, and my sister for helping out there), and on Saturday I was so tired I was about an inch away from calling the whole thing off. But hey - it's the last night. The last night is always something special.

I started off the day by trying to get into the Halloween and Oktoberfest spirit by getting some pictures of Milo in the great Oktoberfest hat I bought him up on the mountain. "Trying" became the word of that little photo session, because, and let me make this perfectly clear, Milo hates hats. Hates them. However, a cute photo did come out of the morning.

This is titled "I Will Not Pose."

Then, holding Milo in one hand and the camera in the other, I got one for posterity.

Then it was into the dirndl and to Mr M's. He drove me up the mountain, Milo in tow, dropped me off, and headed to the DeepFatFriar's for a while. (He was coming back up the mountain later on to celebrate a little and drive me home.)

When I got out of the car, I realized two things quickly. First of all, seems I wasn't the only one who'd brought a few Halloween fun things for the night, and second, the "costume contest" Ed had mentioned the week before seemed to be for real.

Band member Russell had really done up the stage. He had put little tombstones on the stands of all the players on the front row. Then he'd put up engraved signs for those of us on the back row: clarinets were the "Insane Asylum," trumpets beside us were the "Dead Zone," and the trumpets at the other end of the stage, the trumpets who normally make our knees go weak with their gaseous activities throughout the night, well, their sign said simply "Toxic." We added my police "caution" tape to that, hoisted Mr M's vulture Hiram up on a rafter, and things were looking pretty spooky.

Now, the costume contest - I found out at the judging that the prizes were pretty spiffy, and so that's why the partygoers went all out, I suppose. There were people there with some serious Halloween costumes on. I mean, store bought stuff costing big bucks. Of course, my personal taste runs to the more, "Hey, let's be this and head out to the rummage store," and there was some of that too.

So this is Picture Sunday, right? Let's get to some pictures! Halloween Oktoberfest!

Yoko brought her Walrus, there was magic in the air.

And speaking of musicians, we were honored to have Slash with us.

(I loved Slash.)

Popeye and Olive Oyl made an appearance.

I thought probably the cutest idea of all came from a fellow who works the drink ticket booth Mountain Lake. He's such a nice guy, and when he came up the mountain last night, he was dressed as - our Fearless Leader, Ed!

Ed even let him count us in with an "Eins, Zwei, Drei, Vier" to start the first song of the show, a rare honor indeed.

However, when it was down to the finalists, there were, let's see, four girls dressed as the Village People, cute idea and homemade, but not enough people, and a little girl dressed as Pippi Longstocking, which I loved, my clarinet-mate and friend Mary and I were screaming for Pippi.

And when it was all over, the winner was...

...wait for it...


Then it was much fun and frivolity, drinking (I threw out the Goldschlager for whiskey shots and beer - good idea), lots of solo pieces ("Clarinet Polka" twice, once without Mr M, once with), many hijinx, and a final drunken breakneck rendition of "Unter Donner und Blitz," (which we do only on the last night), and it was over.

Afterwards Milo, who'd been sleeping the car, came in to meet everyone, got fed a sausage by Eddie (bad Eddie, bad!), and then we headed down the mountain and it was all over. If only all the nights had been as fun as the last one.

The last night always makes me realize how much I love the Sauerkraut Band. We're like a gang, really - we always have each others' backs.

OK, more pics!

Fun and frivolity on the patio. Crazy glasses pic!

Mary, Susan, me (in cat ears), Leslie, Deidre (visiting us from her new home in DC), Tim (or Binky McBinkerson, as I call him), and Tom.

This picture either needs no explanation, or needs more than I could ever give.

Mary and me. We've had those mustaches since Halloween about four years ago. They're pasted in our music books, both on the same page - 70B, "The Baby Was Born With Lederhosen."

Of course, Sherman and Peabody joined in the fun. Sherman wore a fez instead of his normal Bavarian hat. BTW, the Skull and Clarinet Crossbones was printed by Russell from a creation of Mr M's.

And Mr Peabody went as "Monsieur Peabody," with beret. The glasses? Well, color me surprised he'd don those.

Here's a question - what do SKB members do between dinner and the performance? Well, throw knives, that's what.

(That's a season full of knives. How the fork got there, I've no idea.)

And finally, and I promise I'll let you go, a couple of pics not from Saturday night.

Back before the season started, the band had a gig down in Raleigh, NC. Russell, Susan, and I stopped on the way home at a Steak 'N Shake, and Russell got a bunch of their hats. I like to call this one, "You Want Fries With That Polka?"

And finally, Marla (marlamarla) asked for one of these, so I'll see if I can salvage a halfway decent one (there weren't many).

See, Susan had this hat, she found it at a thrift store. It was a magnificent hat. In fact, I'll show you the hat.

(Hi, Jude the Corruptor!)

Mary and I fell in love with this hat, and we decided we needed official SKB Chicken Hats (for the Chicken Dance, of course) along those lines. We started surfing the 'net looking for beanies and figuring out how we'd make them, which is fine, but this was with only one week of the season left. So I took it upon myself to see if I could come up with something makeshift for the last weekend.

I worked on them all week, found some kids' Halloween hats at a craft store, did some painting, feather-adding, rubber chicken spearing, hot-gluing, and spring stretching. Frankly, I'm surprised they lasted the two final shows, but they did.

Hard to see, pictures on the stage are always iffy.

So there you go. Oktoberfest over. Three more weeks of Hi D Ho Academy left. Granny still in the hospital. This is life. Things are, well, things. But it's OK.

Happy week!

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Good God's Hat, "Mad Men" rocked tonight.