To Pippin: A Proper Goodbye

To Pippin: A Proper Goodbye

Pippin, age unknown but probably around 12 or 13, a lemon beagle of questionable parentage, departed this earth the day before Valentine’s Day in time to be reunited with her one true love, Monty.

Pippin came from humble beginnings. In fact, she had to be sprung from jail (animal control), her bail set at $25, refundable if we had her spayed. We did have her spayed but never collected the bail money because her friends in jail needed things too, like cookies and blankets. That $25 and yearly donations at Christmas were Pippin’s gifts to the jailbirds she left behind. She never forgot them. Or perhaps she did. She never really said.

Pippin loved chasing rabbits. She dug under the fence regularly and escaped to gallivant around the neighborhood, often stopping in to check on Mr. O’Brien three doors down. He’d take a break from working in his garage, snap a leash on her and walk her home, and if Monty happened to be out and about with her like the truants they were, he’d trot along home as well, needing no leash because he’d never leave her side. One fine day, Pippin and Monty went for a swim in Mr. O’Brien’s pond, likely trying to catch the ducks. An immediate trip to the groomer for baths greeted them both when they returned. On another fateful day, Pippin got stuck so utterly in the mud that Joe had to pull her free, losing a shoe in the process. That must have been a very unpleasant event (for Pippin, but maybe for Joe, too), because she never attempted escape again.

Pippin loved to eat. In addition to her daily meals and regular treats, she ate full bags of peanut M&Ms, my students’ homework, and my copy of the Chicago Manual of Style. She climbed onto the kitchen table to devour an unopened bag of baking flour and ripped into innocent lunch bags—whether there was still food in them or not. They only had to smell like food to attract her insatiable appetite.

Pippin loved belly rubs. She’d grab hold of your hand with her paws and not let go while you rubbed her fat belly, ensuring the happy exercise would last much longer than you had originally intended, because she was magically irresistible and really, what is more important than a belly rub? Just keep going, Mom.

Pippin made friends with all and sundry, but especially the mourning doves who called to her each evening at around 5 p.m. After supper, Pippin would scratch to go out on the deck, where she would howl intermittently for about 20 minutes. It took a very long time for us to figure out what she was doing, but it turned out that she was talking to the mourning doves, who cooed their replies. If I spoke beagle-mourning dove, I would swear she was complaining that her humans never left the food pantry door open and were treating her most cruelly. I hope the mourning doves were sympathetic listeners. We all need good friends.

Pippin was an excellent friend. She was a bad dog, a very good girl, and the prettiest of princesses. In lieu of flowers, which she would most likely stomp on, dig up, chew and spit out, donations can be made to your local animal shelter. Peace be with you.

 

Christmas 2009

Dear Friends and Family,

As beautiful and heartwarming Christmas cards from those we love pour into our mailbox this time of year, my children look at me with recrimination in their eyes and ask, “Where is our Christmas card?”

Kids Christmas 2009

So, here goes:

The year 2009 was crazy hectic but truly wonderful for the Russo family.

In August, Joe achieved a lifelong dream by opening his own optometry practice, Attleboro Vision Care Associates, at 550 North Main Street in Attleboro. He is very happy with his new practice and I think he is clever for giving it a name that starts with A. He is easily found in the Yellow Pages. I work part time as a writer for our local newspaper and a substitute teacher for our local school system. I like to keep things local.

Elsie Christmas 2009

Elsie celebrated her 16th birthday by traveling to England, France, and Scotland on a trip with her mother, grandmother, and aunt, but not her suitcase. The loss of her belongings and an allergic reaction to salad dressing on the Eurorail notwithstanding, Elsie says she had a wonderful time.  This year, Elsie performed in High School Musical with the Bradley Playhouse in Putnam, Conn. and Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail with Swamp Meadow Community Theatre.

Nick Christmas 2009.jpg

 

Nick is 13 and in the 8th grade.  In the summer, Nick spends a week at Boy Scout camp where he swims, camps, hikes, and shows off his mother’s pathetic sewing skills on his Class A uniform and merit badge sash. He runs really fast and likes hitting things with bats, so we signed him up for the cross country team and baseball team at Scituate Middle School.

 

Ben Christmas 2009

Ben, age 10 and in the 4th grade, also likes to hit things, so he too plays baseball. He also plays competitive basketball and soccer in expensive uniforms that have his last name written on the back. He joined Elsie in The Quest for the Holy Grail production as the iconic Killer Rabbit. Make no mistake, he’s not just a harmless bunny.

 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Love, Kristin and Joe, Elsie, Nick and Ben

When This Happens . . .

I should warn you, I’m in a terrible mood. I didn’t get enough sleep and I woke up too early and then, worst of all, my phone broke. Okay, not my actual phone, just the ring that I use to support the phone while taking selfies and to prop it up while using my yoga app, but I can tell you, old Kristin (especially bad-mood old Kristin) would have found this grounds to replace the entire phone, because how exactly am I supposed to get the phone ring off the phone case without causing astronomical damage?

At first, I feel I have a right to be alarmed. The ring won’t budge. There is no way to get it off, and my sour mood make things seem far worse than they really are. I am without hope. But maybe, just maybe, the answer lies within the phone itself. And by this I mean I could simply use the phone for one of its many purposes: look up “how to remove a ring from a phone case.” And so I did.

And now you’ll see why I thought, even for the briefest moment, that tossing it out and starting over was the best course of action. The first YouTuber I encountered thought using lighter fluid to remove the stuck-on ring was a good idea. Naturally, I disagreed entirely.

But–and you won’t believe this–apparently, there are many, many YouTubers who can teach you all sorts of things from how to apply fake eyelashes to how to play the ukulele  and quite a few of these YouTubers are also avid iPhone users (who’d’ve thought?) and several have advice to share regarding what to do in an emergency like mine. Though some wanted to show me how to put a ring on the phone (though my search clearly indicated that that was not what I was looking for–nice job, Google), others had ideas that showed real promise.

I chose one that suggested I use a credit card (or a card of similar size and consistency. Don’t worry, I did not risk my library card on such a foolhardy quest; I used my Dick’s Sporting Goods rewards card) to scrape the ring from the back of the phone case and, using background knowledge garnered from another YouTube video, I understood the properties of adhesive would allow me to peel, not pull, the white foamy glue off once the ring had detached.

It all worked according to plan. My Dick’s rewards card worked like a champ, and most of the foamy white adhesive did, indeed, peel off, but there were still a few sticky spots left.

The credit card YouTuber suggested I use toothpaste and a toothbrush to remove the last of the stickiness, but another cautioned against using anything that could scratch the case. Another thought using nail polish was best, but that smacked too much of the lighter fluid idea for my comfort.

And then, it came to me: what is strong enough to remove waterproof mascara but gentle enough to not blind me when I swipe it over my eyes? Yep, you guessed it, makeup remover. Lo and behold it worked! In the end, it was my own ingenuity, coupled with the collective wisdom of YouTube influencers from all over the world that saved my phone.

And also put me in a slightly better mood.

I’m Back!

I’m back with exciting news! I finally surrendered to the notion that I will never remember my WordPress password and decided to reset it. I can now log in and post new posts. I have found my way back home.

Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, I always had the power to do this, but I put it off. Oh, yes, that’s a thing I will do, I would say while I busied myself not doing it. I will revisit my blog and raspberries3connect it to my new website and keep writing about the things that happen day-to-day. The raspberries are ripening. The dogs are growing older (but seemingly no wiser). The kids are moving on. I have much to say about all of this. Why did finding my way back to the spot where I say it take so long? I’m not sure. Why do many seemingly simple things take so long?

Perhaps because I’m too spent from doing the hard things. I’ll get to it, I tell myself, right after I climb down from this mountain. But there always seems to be another mountain. My mountains are work deadlines (Who doesn’t have these? No excuse!); anxiety and delight for the people I love who were once tiny humans but now have their own lives (two quite far away); the need to clear and reorganize the basement and closets of 18 years worth of living; the time to repaint faded walls and replant the flower garden; the desire to sit and be and remember. Remember important things, like my WordPress password.

My mountains are worthy mountains all, but they have not kept me away for good. I’m back. I’ve found that even forgotten things can be reset, and I can keep going.

 

From the files . . .

I found an old interview I did years ago for a student completing her senior project for high school graduation–I think from 2011. She asked some pretty cool questions about writing. It’s fun for me to revisit my answers. It reinforces for me why I love what I do.

  1. When did you first become interested in writing?

My interest in writing came about rather by default. In school, it was the only thing I was good at; but fortunately, this helped with all the other subjects where I was weak. In honors biology my freshman year in high school, we had to do a genetics-probability type of experiment where we kept a journal of our findings. My journal had really nothing of any scientific value in it, but my teacher enjoyed the lively story about my penny collection. He told me I should consider being a writer when I grow up, and the next year I was dropped from the science honors program.

Later, after I had married and had my first child, I watched horrified as footage of baby victims of the Oklahoma City bombing were pulled from the rubble. I vowed to leave my full-time job in banking and find a career I could do from home. At around the same time, my mother gave me a box of stuff she had saved from my childhood and in it was an award I had won for writing in the first grade. I decided to give writing a try. I started by selling articles about family life and child care to local baby magazines, and was soon hired as a reporter for the Brockton Enterprise, where I worked for about seven years before I moved to Rhode Island.

2. Do you ever get writer’s block?  How do you overcome it?

First, I eat. I’ve gained 15 pounds since I went back to work as a newspaper writer last spring, after moving away from the teaching profession. As deadlines loom, I panic, eat, and chew my nails. It’s not pretty, but there it is.

Then, I start writing anything at all. Often, when I’m really stuck, my opening sentence will look like this, “I really hate this stupid assignment and I wish I hadn’t said yes to it, but I did, and now I have to write about stupid people who make money selling crafts on eBay…” And then I go on to write the story, making absolute certain that I erase the first sentence before I submit it.

And sometimes, I just type in all the quotes I’ve gathered from my research in no particular order. After they’re all on the page, I cut and paste them into a flow that I like, and then I fill in between with my own thoughts and connecting paragraphs.

And when I’m done, I eat some more. I’m thinking of replacing the “eating to break writer’s block” technique with exercising, but I’m not there yet.

3. What’s the most interesting story you’ve ever written about? 

Cool question.

One story I’m most proud of wasn’t actually that interesting to write. It was about a woman who had been a physician in Ukraine before she moved to the U.S. She was collecting money, food, and baby items to send to her former colleagues who ran an orphanage in Ukraine. I just wrote a small piece about what she was collecting and where donations could be sent.

I didn’t know this at the time, but the story was translated into Russian and reprinted in a Ukrainian paper, and Russian officials thought that the U.S. was publishing stories about the government not caring for its children.

A government official was prompted by the article to investigate and visited the facility to make sure the children were getting proper care. The official had recently been at an orphanage 100 miles away, noticed a child who resembled and had the same last name as a child in the orphanage I had written about, and brought the two boys together. Each had thought his brother had been killed in the same accident that killed their parents, and of course were delighted to find each other again.

So while the story itself wasn’t all that interesting at the time, it felt good that my writing had made such a difference in the lives of those two boys.

As for the most interesting story I’ve ever explored and written? I just don’t know. There have been hundreds. I’ve written about former CIA agents, a 9-year-old high diver who was blind (can you imagine???), a young man who survived a rare, often fatal form of brain cancer who went on to graduate from college and become a naturalist and a teacher. I’ve also covered drug busts, political scandals, and murder scenes. Not one stands out as “the most interesting.” I think, in general, I find them all interesting because people fascinate me.

A Healing Summer

Hello All!

I’ve been busy having all my innards surgically removed and–good news! It worked! I’m happy and healing and nearly healthy again. But while you’re healing, just so you know, there is a ton of things you can’t do. It’s a pretty long list. Like, you can’t move furniture, so decorating is out. You need to leave your outdoor chairs right where they are and just sit in them.

Also, you can’t vacuum, so cleaning is out. Boo hoo. You can’t do laundry, so wearing clothes . . . no wait . . . that’s a solvable problem. Other people can do your laundry, so you can wear clothes, but you can’t wear attractive clothes. No fancy duds like these guys. You can only wear comfortable clothes that have elastic waist bands and are a couple of sizes too big.

I know some of you are wondering how exactly that’s a problem, and I’m tempted to agree with you, but it does raise another issue. Since you can only wear comfortable clothes (i.e. jammies), you can’t go out in public. So, like, walking the dog can be a problem. But this is a solvable problem too.

Once you have all the “problems” under control, it is quite nice to stick close to home, surrounded by summer prettiness, especially when you’ve had your innards removed and you need extra time to be happy and grow healthy.

In 2018, I hereby resolve . . .

It’s that time again, time for New Year’s Resolutions. This year, I’m not fooling around. I have some serious resolutions to get to. Number one: stop ending sentences with prepositions. The rest I’ll share with you in case you need a resolution or two. No need to feel left out. They are as follows:

  1. Eat the chocolate. All the chocolate. Right now. Today. You won’t regret it. (Well, chocolatemaybe you will, but it will be worth it.)
  2. Don’t worry so much if you forget a, um, don’t help me . . . um, word. If you forget a word, just replace it with another one. No one will notice (probably). Best case scenario: they will run out of patience and supply your missing word with their own and you can stop searching for it.
  3. Take naps. Do you have any idea how wonderful naps are? If you don’t, this is your chance to find out. I tried them as part of my new Hygge lifestyle. I’ll never go back to that old fashioned, staying-awake-all-day thing. That just does not work for me.
  4. Don’t be afraid to throw things away. Like the living room rug. If you mistakenly 170904 Pippin restingbuy a green one and your senile beagle thinks it’s grass and pees on it several times a day, it’s okay to let it go, even if once upon a time you really liked it (before it got smelly) and you’re pretty sure some store somewhere sells something that will get the stench out. No. Let it go. Throw it away and buy a cheap one so that your senile beagle can pee in peace and you can have peace of mind.

That’s all I have for now. If I come across other issues that need to be resolved, I will post them here, or I will vague-book about them causing unnecessary intrigue and concern across the social medias. What are your resolutions?