New day dawns outside the kitchen window

Thought I’d send what seems to be my annual blog post, maybe even a bit early, maybe a 11.2 months post. The time during my last Rodney Street Laundry blog foray until now did mark the beginning of Truth in Progress, my new endeavor with Gil Caldwell, but I have missed my own unchartered no-destination writing.

Much has changed  in the last 11.2 months. I’ve changed from aol to gmail, PC  to Mac, dumb phone to smart phone, smart phone user to dumb phone user, among the minor transitions.

Helpful hint: it’s not well advised to get a new phone that has only been on the market for 6 weeks and is called Devour. I did not see the signs when the young Costco saleswoman told me that this was the next phone she was going to get and that I’d get the phone, chargers, case (that didn’t fit), and bluetooth, all for $39.99. Three weeks in, I did not feel any smarter, I had gotten to know the Verizon store too well, and met Verizon and Motorblur personnel around the globe. After a V/M software update on Devour, things did become more tolerable. However, they didn’t like my suggestion of spa points for every hour I spent in their store, time on phone to them, and the number of curse words per minute, actually seconds, including darn and shoot. I would also say that doing things fast without thinking through the ramifications -a difficult tendency that I bring to all things electronic- starting with buying a phone and onward to the rapid syncing of all the damn contacts on my phone, gmail and facebook, is not advised. I dare not try to fix what is what, because I no longer know where the contacts originated or which list is the starting point for the syncing. If you move without thinking, there are things you must accept, communication catastrophes not withstanding. I have however, for the most part, stopped pocket dialing my friends, but my cheekbone did find the mute button just the other day during a call, hearing my friend who could not hear me was most confounding. (For those of you who think you can tell me how to fix my contact list, my eyes are already glazing over.)

Right before the lunge at the guacamole

Bigger change: Emma the Wonder Dog passed on to doggie heaven in January, where she can now lick road kill off the middle of the street without me holding my breath as cars pass slowly on either side of her. She was 13 and caught in a series of seizures (still gumming down food in the seconds between them), her time for departure was clear. One special thing about Helena is all the dog lovers. I was allowed to sit with Emma on the floor of one of the vet’s two exam rooms all morning while it became clear that Em needed to move on. Then the vet joined me on the floor for the before and after, shedding tears and stories with me. I felt extremely lucky, all and all, that Em had done very well up to that point, and very grateful for our long friendship of 11 years. One can expect vet’s offices to be dog lovers, but there’s more. I did not look forward to the day I would go through the bank drive-thru and be asked where Emma was or tell the many people at the Myrna Loy Center where Emma worked in the two fields of quality popcorn and  nap control. Those days passed. I did cause an awkward moment when the bank teller asked where Emma was, and I said, “she died.” It sounded more abrupt to the teller than to me and I was left apologizing for the shock, “she was old.” I didn’t seem to be relieving her so I left it for another banking moment. One more dog moment to tell, a few months before she died, Emma decided to take a little ramble on the snow and ice. We had gotten out of the car at home, and I had decided to let her take her time coming inside. After not seeing her for a while, I went outside to check. A man was holding her collar and asking if this was my dog. He said he had  pulled his car over when he saw her because dogs can get cold very quickly on the ice, and he was afraid she was lost. He’d gone to a lot of trouble for an old dog winding her way (she had lost the balance to walk a straight line) diagonally across the corner. She seemed unfazed by the attention and the stop to her adventure. The end of our journey together was very difficult, and I had an underlying sadness for a long time. Again, with plenty of dog lovers around, I had plenty of company to share that grief that is particular to losing a really fine dog.

How to take a picture of a dog

Now nine months later with a little bit of hesitance I have adopted a new dog, a very tall white 80-pounds of enthusiasm, curiosity, and need-to-be-petted canine. His name is Lucky (changed from Langy). His breed is up for a vote. The shelter said Akbash mix, the vet white shepherd mix, but a picture on a dog catalogue and description online has him more like a Borzoi Russian wolfhound. I’m settling on a Turkish Akbash, which means “white head,” and the Russian wolfhound mix, which makes him a Turko-Russian white headed wolfhound, which is short for “gentle giant with no boundaries who dances with porcupines.”

Evidently, in his first home, where he was thought to be the sheep-guarding Akbash, he turned on the livestock, which wasn’t such a good thing to do. He ended up in the doggie slammer where he sat with the loud barking dogs when I found him.  I wanted a dog that would look me in the eye. I’m not sure I had in mind a dog that could literally do that but that’s what I got. I also wanted a dog that was pretty settled and could adjust

New Domain

to my schedule and mine to its without much loss of sleep or property. Those needs have been met, and I’ve gained a nutritionist and fitness trainer in the mix. He looks back at me on the hiking trail when I want to go back to the car with a look of  “come on, you can go a bit farther.” He also lifted some great bakery rolls that I’d been relishing and took them to the backyard where I found him finishing them off. Damn dog.

We’ve just about sorted through him standing on the table to eat the cat food. After repeated scoldings, he actually brought me the cat food dish with food in it. I could here a scattering noise in between his claws clicking on the floor from the back of the house to my front bedroom. I wondered what the sound was until he arrived with the dish. As we went back to the kitchen, he was happily surprised to see a trail of cat food just for him. Days later he carried the dish into the yard and demolished it. I’ve moved the cat food to on top of the washer, which would seem a much easier place to get his mouth around it, but so far he’s leaving it alone. Now we are onto keeping him in the car when I run inside to a store or when a squirrel happens by as we’re driving down the street. I have to carefully measure how far down (or up) the window is so he cannot crawl out, one inch off and it’s a game changer. Last weekend he

This is all the space I need for an escape

crawled out and came through the automatic doors into Walgreens where I was looking at cards. At the familiar sound of his tags jingling I looked up to see a white streak shooting through the store. I got to the end of my aisle yelling out “Lucky,” but he’d already hit the photo shop and turned toward the pharmacy, so I’m looking like a woman in the middle of Walgreens yelling “Lucky” for no reason. I got to the photo editing machine just as he skidded to a halt at the cold/flu section and was able to get his attention. As he barreled towards me, a man standing in Lucky’s line, said, “What kind of dog is that?” Not a quick answer so I said, “Russian wolfhound” that might have sounded a lot like “rushing oops hounds.” Another dog lover.

Dog on cat

He must have made quite an impression when he was at the shelter because all over town people have asked about him, “Is he the big dog that was at the humane society?” “Was he in the paper recently?” “I think I saw him at Starbucks when they were doing the adopt-a-pet day.” A friend knew a 12-year old girl who had walked Lucky at the shelter and r-e-a-l-l-y wanted to adopt him. Her parents wouldn’t let her because they already had 3 at home. The girl has already called me to check to see how he is doing. And when he was having a howling throw-himself-at the-window attack in the car while I was in the bank, the clerks asked if he could come inside where he was bathed in attention. No wonder he doesn’t like being left out, his fan club awaits. Buuzedeaux (booze-dough) the cat is not as moved. He likes the dog, but Lucky’s head is about the size of the entire cat and then there are the sheer weight and velocity issues.

At home in Montana

Lucky gets to ride around in my new car, the final change this year. It’s also white and seems to go with him, him with it. I fetched it from Texas in May. My sister and brother-in-law had been on the look out for a car for me, a task that was very helpful to me as I hadn’t given it much thought. My sister, however, was given pause to think about it a couple of years ago when she came to help me through surgery. This is when she sat in single digit temps in the hospital parking lot at midnight waiting for my old car’s automatic shift to go into gear. There was a certain low temperature that when gone under, the button to press to get the shift to go to D wouldn’t budge. Sometimes it would on the first shot. If not, it was a 5-10 minute wait. It was a friend of Liz and Max who had the car for sale. Picking it up in Texas gave me a fabulous road trip home with the pleasure of meeting two officers of the TX law (to my credit, they were 500 miles apart). They both gave me warnings for my too-fast driving, but the second one asked if I would do him a personal favor and drive the speed limit. From that point on, I used Cruise Control, in the literal sense.

So my 1996/1997 model car and dog have passed on and now I have a 2005 model car and dog. Fall is settling in. The light seems to melt away this time of year, just as it seems to pop on in March in Montana. We have long, long days, and then really short ones, always hoping our bodies and spirits will move right along with the seasons. I like the green grass and blue sky but am heartened that even when the ground is covered in snow, most days we still have the bright sunshine –even if just for a short but lingering taste each day.

Montana skies

Some changes melt from a moment to another moment, others are abrupt in nature, some accompanied by intense grief. I won’t wax poetic, change is the reality of life whether human or the perennials my mom planted this summer. The poetry and prose of change are in the finding of ways to live with it with acceptance and the “why’s,” with heartache and humor, excitement and hesitance, slowly settling and sharply turning. And we live, I live, with the awareness that external changes signal internal ones, but I don’t always have to know what those are in the moment, another season will teach me.


In Texas, the first great niece Adelaide Claire Smith, who makes me a truly great aunt.

Adelaide Claire Smith

The Rodney Street Laundry is for sale, the B&B Market has changed hands again and thus the Jailhouse Sandwich Shop & Soup Kitchen is no longer, and the Main News turned Capital Perks is now Cafe Zuppa and newly located in the lobby of the Placer Building.

Things that have not changed: Belmar Bakery thumbprint cookies in Amarillo, TX

The BIG question: what kind of dog is Lucky?



White Shepherd

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Emma Jean Grande, the golden wonder dog, passed on to doggie heaven on Wednesday afternoon, January 20. She’d been having trouble on and off for a couple of months, and her body had had enough. I’m super grateful that she was around to entertain us with her antics for 13 years. She went very peacefully, resting well before the final send off –she had a really rough morning before that. I know she would want me to thank you for all the food you slipped her under the table over the years and for not getting too mad when she ran off when under your care or when she stole your pizza, popcorn, avocado, cake, juice, ribs, kitty’s poop, and the other things you don’t know about. Emma was an amazing gift to me and to so many others. Remember her joyous love and slobber, and wish her open fields and a buffet of tasty treats easily within reach.
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Pride Weekend in Helena
Mount Helena Hike

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As promised, here is the announcement of the new project that I’m working on with the Rev. Gil Caldwell. Some of you may remember our work together on the book Selections from Truth in Progress: Letters in Mixed Company and some of his writing I posted on my old blog (April 10, 2008, He is a 76-year old straight African American male retired Methodist/United Methodist pastor and Black Civil Rights Movement activist. I’m not. I’m the 48-year old white lesbian not-so-tired-anymore activist and writer. DSCN0669

We are now embarking on a three year multi-media project, Truth in Progress, that includes an interactive web site, documentary film, and book. Besides our continuing correspondence, we will be interviewing activist and leaders in cities significant to the Black Civil Rights and LGBT Equal Rights Movements. Clips of these will be available through our web site throughout the three years. The film will be available in 2013.

While we work on launching our web site, you can check out our blog and join the conversation with your comments. (WEBSITE UP:

Also, an article appeared in the Windy City Times, the Chicago LGBT newspaper this week about Truth in Progress.  Here is the link.

I will continue to publish my blog. There are just too many funny things to write about to let this go. Also, there are other announcements, see posting below.





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Dance_yallIt’s Saturday night. The Dance Hall’s aglow.
Call Gramps and our friends. Head to town for the show.
We worked hard all week. The chores are all done.
A country band’s playin’. Let’s join the fun.

Step-step, glide, glide,
Kick up your feet.
Dance, y’all, dance
To a two-steppin’ beat…

Told in a rolicking two-step rhythm, Dance, Y’all, Dance, tells the story of one perfect night at the dance hall. The whole community drops their cares and comes together for some foot-tappin’ action. It recreates the excitement of Saturday nights way back when. People of all ages gathered together, sharing news, enjoying each other, caring for and supporting each other. Country music and dance are threads that wind through America’s pioneering years and still bind us together.

BE SURE AND LOOK FOR AUNT MAY IN THE STORY (and floss, always floss)!!

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At the Corner of Old Dog Road and Route H1N1

So far so good, I’ve been sitting here for five minutes, and I haven’t been struck down by disease or stopped by an old dog ailment. The two seem to have in common me working on my blog or even jut setting aside time to write. I’m referring to two different days in the last six weeks that I had actually reached my computer without procrastination, distraction or all the other -ions luring  me away from my creative passion. It was regular old life that struck.

About a month ago, I got hit by the dreaded, much-worried-over swine flu. I understand that the pig farmers don’t want us to relate it to their smart farm animals, but, really H1N1 sounds like a nice scenic alternative to the interstate. It’s not. Not at all. In fact, I propose that the nasty virus critter be called “Chihuahua Flu.” It bites you in the ass as soon as you turn your back on it. I’ve seen this little-dog phenomenon. I used to walk a fiesty chihuahua named Max on the sidewalks of Chicago. We’d pass someone, and all of a sudden he’d be launched at the unsuspecting person’s backside. (I think their anger comes from their ancestors being buried alive with royalty in a long-ago era. A breed doesn’t get over that.)Max

So it was with swine/chihuahua/scenic-route flu. I had been fighting off a low grade cold, fever, something for about two weeks, but then felt better, even good enough to start drafting a post. The next day, bam, kapow, down you sucker, I was blasted by the flying pig disease. You don’t want this even if it is trendy and all over the news, and even if you don’t know its name.

I was in Chicago at the end of September, and on my first afternoon, I was greeted with a hug by an old acquaintance. He then said, “Oh, I should have asked first.” I was confused and thought to myself, “sexual harassment awareness was more of a 90’s thing and besides, we’ve hugged before.” I asked why, and he said that it was because of H1N1. I’m not a big news watcher or newspaper reader so somehow I had missed this letters and numbers combo or more accurately letter/number/letter/number name. Besides, Helena hadn’t really been hit by the virus. So I happily shared my ignorance, and he explained it to me. “They don’t want you to call it Swine Flu.” Okay, note to self. Love the swine, hate the sickness. By the time I arrived back in Helena ten days later, the not-S flu epidemic had begun.

I don’t know if I picked it up on the plane coming back with the recycled coughing-spit air or on a cart at a Helena grocery store. No matter, I had a lot of time to think about it during the week that I made my way from bed to couch to bed. I pictured a new seating arrangement on planes. First boarding group would be the ones with a cough from the depths of their lungs and those feverish-looking. They would be seated in the front section where they could cough forward. Pilots would be safe because of their sealed compartment. The airline could assign an infected flight attendant. It would be like a “swine flu party” that is mentioned on FAQ on the internet. “Is it good to go ahead and get infected to get it over with by having your infected friends come over with your non-infected ones?” (Stupid question because of the expense of the stretchers to get the sick people there. Anyway, the answer is no.)

Postcard I received while I was sick from my health insurance company about fighting the flu.

Postcard I received while I was sick from my health insurance company about fighting the flu.

Second boarding group would be first class. They are most likely to have good health insurance so no special treatment, and they already get free champagne and warm cookies.

Final group would be the well middle-lower economic or frugal-with-good-health-insurance-rich-people class. There would be a $20 fee, but they would get a face mask with the airline’s catch phrase (“Delta Sky Team”) printed on it, some handi-wipes, and a Flu Marshall monitoring coughs and sneezes with Lysol spray. Hopefully the masks would help with any allergies to lemon freshness. For another five dollars you could get extra wipes or rubber gloves to go with your ten-dollar meal to kill any lingering germs from food prep to flight attendant handling. Passengers would be on their own liability dollar for pillows and blankets. These are for the gamblers, usually smokers, that have a “health-be-damned, I-will-survive” attitude. Just you wait, when you’re down with the chihuahuas calling for your mommy, you’ll think again.

Many friends asked via telephone what my symptoms were: aforementioned “I want my mommy” cry not uttered in 40 years; sudden onset of high temp with aches in every bone, cell, nerve ending, etc.; tight chest that feels like every air pocket is full of rubber cement; loss of appetite (this is where it veers off from pig-like); and lethargy, which is actually good because if you stand up too much, you pass out. There are other intestinal maladies which I was spared. Then after one feels better, the attention-grabbing deep cough goes on for about two weeks while the ability to sit up for more than 6 hours increases. Three weeks or so it’s done unless you do too much and the chihuahua is lurking. Don’t ever turn your back on one of them.

For the time being, keep some 12-hour Mucinex, cough syrup, Advil, Tylenol, kleenex, thermometer, salt water, bland soup, ginger ale, tea, honey, lemon, and saltines in stock (with this, whiskey doesn’t even sound good). CVS would be smart to have these at the front of the store in an emergency pack so no one passes out in their building while gathering all the items. Get cough drops early because when I went, the cheaper ones were all out, and I didn’t have the strength or nerve to knock down fellow flu sufferers to get the last of the Riccolo. We knew each other by our glassy eyes.

Three weeks pass and it’s last Thursday when I’m almost back to health, can sit in front of the computer with a nearly clear mind, and Emma the 100-year old golden retriever that owns me starts having trouble with her back legs. I’ve been told by other owners of old goldens that this can happen suddenly, but it seemed too sudden so off we go to the vet. She gets a spine adjustment treatment during which the vet feel the lump just under the surface of her skin. This is alarming to her and says Em needs to have it taken out right away. Blood test follows and reveals acute pancreatitis and high glucose level, which could be why her legs are weak. So $700 and 24 hours later, I get a dog back with tumor removed and instructions to give her insulin shots every morning. Those who have spent any time with me know that I have a “benign familial essential tremor” (meaning it’s no big deal, my brothers have it, but it’s weird) so the mix of my shake and a needle are a bit daunting and humorous. Good thing it’s a tiny needle and Em isn’t a young bouncy golden. TIME TO GO, ALREADY.


She is fine now, back to her happy self, legs stronger, and the tumor wasn’t the really bad kind. I still have a lot of gripper rugs in a line on the wooden floors so she can get places without sliding down with legs in all directions. It hurts to watch even though it doesn’t seem like a big deal to her. Dogs really don’t sweat the small stuff, just smell the hint of meat from three rooms away.

Stay well, smell the meat (roses for you vegetarians) along the way, and never ever turn your back on an ass-chomping chihuahua.

Please note: if you’re not already on my email notification list for when I publish a new post, send me your email address and I’ll add you to the list. Thanks, MB

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I knew my eyesight had gotten a bit blurry, but I didn’t know how it had effected my age until I went to the eye doctor last Saturday. It was my first eye-only doctor appointment. I remember the charts of letters I had to read at the doctor’s office when I was a kid, but I’d not experienced all the diagnostic machines that they’ve now come up with. However, with all that modern technology, it seemed to me that the ultimate diagnosis came after I was tested on the eye chart. Maybe it was because I exclaimed, “Damn, things have changed since I was 6.” I was truly disappointed at how blurry they now make those small letters, and tiny, so tiny.

At that point, the technician left and the doctor entered. I told him that this was my first eye check-up, and he asked if I was nervous.

“Kind of”


“No, but I could be. I really don’t want to be here.”

And so it went. I told him that I had the 47-year old eye thing going on. “Really, that usually happens at 40. Your eyes are younger than…”

As I thought to myself, “Hold it right there buddy,” my vision cleared and I could see that he was 12 years old. He must have skipped a slew of grades to be his age and legally allowed to wield the drops that dialated my eyes. He kept asking about the party I was going to later (which, by the way, the dialating ruined those chances for a nice sunny BBQ) and how I looked familiar to him. I couldn’t claim that I worked in a nursery school, so I figure he had me mixed up with one of the other adults in his life.

He concluded that all was well with my eyes and commented again on the young eyes thing. I was sent away with instructions to come back for glasses, progressive lenses so that I would have a natural flow between long distance and the up-close kind, since both are on the fuzzy side. I guess “progressive” is preferred over bi-focal , not exactly liberal but better than black and white, this and that.

I waited a few, maybe several, days to go back to try on glasses and got there near to closing time –by design, I wanted a definite ending to my first experience. Good decision. The older (add 50 years to doctor’s age) male salesman with professional initials that had O. in them talked me out of the cheap section after I’d already seen that the available frames weren’t going to work so well. We got to chatting and I said that I’d never worn glasses before.

“So that’s not really your natural hair color?”

He did, he said that. What is this, upside-down day? Wouldn’t my 20th set of glasses mean I was getting old and my hair gray? I told him in my most polite I-will-ignore-that-you-just-said-something-really-stupid voice, “no, it is natural.” Even though it is irrelevant to my consideration that a man would say that to me in that I’m not part of the Mars-Venus coupling world, I still felt the “a man is never supposed to say that to a woman!” Soon one of his female co-workers started to help out.

He said to her, “This is her first pair of glasses, and she still has her natural hair color.”

I didn’t look up to see her expression. Who knows if I could have with my young old eyes. She did eventually work into the conversation how young I was. I thanked her and said that our family lives a long time, like 99 and 103, and in the big picture, 47 is nothing.

He says, “Oh, your family has (pause) longevity?”

He also said that he had a meeting to go to and I could take some glasses home with me to try out. So they got a parcel for me and I left. The next day I went during a busy time with lots of people there, tried on more with the help of yet a different salesperson, and left with additional pairs to try out on my friends and famly (these by email photos). They all looked like safety glasses to me and had a terrible way of framing and thus accentuating my tired eyes. When the saleswoman said that the bottom of the lense was to rest on the bone under my eyes, I asked if that meant on the puffy part or on the actual bone.  

By late afternoon after consulting my visual expert, I went back with my choice and suffered through the natural-color guy once more. Finally, we came to the end of my much-put-off appointment with eyecare with him saying,

“Just think of all the money you’ve saved not having to pay for glasses all these years, and if you pay in full today, you will save10%. That would be $57. ”

Though my eyes may have more blur to it than 41 years ago, my gaze did not. He quickly got me to the desk with a “Brenda, she wants to do the payment plan.” No mention of my hair color.Here they are

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Coming soon!

Meanwhile, go to to see my present blog, which will very soon be obsolete but still kind of interesting.

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