Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Many Things Help

The lovely golden leaves have fallen since we last talked but I was grateful for them while they lasted. I was also grateful for your emails, thank you so very much.

Family and friends help in a heartsick time, don't they?

Even when it doesn't feel as if your heart is in it, just seeing precious faces around you, hearing them laugh and talk, lightens the sadness. 

We celebrated one son's birthday here with local favorite Centerpoint Barbecue and their amazing barbecue beans. That left me with only potato salad and coleslaw to make. I'm really becoming a believer in make some; buy some company meals.

And have you noticed that more and more we're being encouraged not to "entertain" but to simply "have people over?" I love that, how about you?

I've even noticed a following for a new type of hospitality called "scruffy entertaining," meaning not waiting until everything is perfect before inviting people to your house. Don't deprive yourself of good times breaking bread together just because you haven't done a spic and span clean beforehand.

I know some people are always party-ready but I'm just not, never will be, but I'm going to make a conscious effort not to let that stop me from making memories with my loved ones around the table.

A good dessert goes a long way to finish out an average meal, and the Hershey Bar cake I made for our firstborn's birthday was a hit. He's requested it for his birthday cake ever since I first made it when he was a teenager.

I didn't get a picture of the cake I made for our other family gathering recently. My sweet potato cake was a flop. I'd made it perfectly recently for another son's birthday. I'm blaming it on the oven, another reason for getting a new one soon, right?

The big pot of chili I made the Friday night after Thanksgiving was delicious, even without all the toppings piled on it by one grandson.

We managed to get two sons and their families here for chili that night.

And two grandsons came, one with his wife and son--you know what that makes me and RH, don't you?

I just realized that I don't have a picture of our other grandson who was here, I think because I had him taking pictures for me. Next time, Caleb.

But our great-grandson ate his chili, with onions! Then he got distracted by my new Morvarian Star light hanging over the table when I tried to get him to smile for the camera.

Our local families went home but we were blessed to have our granddaughters and their parents here for the weekend.

And in the mornings were barefoot breakfasts.

Some things do help when you're missing two little dachshunds so very much.

Having loved ones around helps, the beauty of nature helps, for me even baking helps. Maybe it's smelling cinnamon and other spices, maybe it's the beauty of the finished cake that comes out of the oven. Eating a small slice helps, well maybe a big slice. With vanilla ice cream on it.

Getting sympathy cards help because it is a bereavement in the family, make no mistake about that. RH and I even got one from thousands of miles away. 

And beautiful flowers for Thanksgiving from a son helps.

A lot of things help and I've appreciated every one of them during these weeks without our darling Otis and Milo.

"Life renews itself, no matter how much we may suffer.

Whatever beautiful and precious we may have is always ours to keep.

Losing one we love is possible only if we let it be."

Gladys Taber in Stillmeadow Seasons

Our son Zack faced that same loss this week of his beloved Bentley. The coming weeks will be difficult for him and Courtney. They worked hard from June when Bentley was diagnosed with nasal cancer to give him the best of care, and Bentley soldiered on, trying his best to stay here. He stayed as long as he could but then it was time to say goodbye.

It will be a while, Zack and Court, before anything helps. But there will be things that help eventually, so watch for them. 

And Bentley will always be there for you to keep in your heart. Gladys Taber was right about that, as she was about so many things. 

Friday, November 17, 2017


This is the most difficult post I've ever had to write.

Because the unthinkable has happened.

Nineteen days after we had to say goodbye to Milo we were forced to let his brother Otis go also.

On December 14, 2013, we drove up into Kentucky horse country to adopt two miniature long-haired black dachshund brothers who were nine years old and had been surrendered six months earlier.

It had been one year exactly to the day that our dear 15 year old dachshund Penelope had died. 

We walked into the shelter and saw dachshunds running around. Which were the twin brothers Otis and Milo who we had come to see? As soon as I sat down on the couch Otis jumped in my lap and growled at any other dog that tried to come near. My heart was his from that second on.

RH claimed tiny Milo and before long we were on our way back to Nashville, our son driving while we each held a dachshund in the back seat who had no intention of getting out of our laps.

Otis did reach up a little later after we bought burgers at a drive-through and in the blink of an eye bit off half of the hamburger I held in my hand. 

From the moment they ran into our house and headed straight for the kitchen and looked up at me as if to ask, Where's din-din?, they made themselves right at home. There didn't seem to be any adjustment period ever.

They were home and we were their mama and daddy. They loved our 24-acre yard and explored it happily with us, on a leash the first six months there and then were able to run leash free with us when they weren't in their big pen in the front garden.

Whatever the weather they were always glad to put on their collars and go for a walk with us, sometimes a hen or two along for company.

While little Milo gladly wore his sweater in cold weather, Otis preferred not to wear his. And he loved the snow.

When we moved to a beach town in Florida two and a half years later, they handled the whole experience just fine. Even the large house we lived in didn't seem to faze them. Otis just got a lot more exercise following me from room to room.

Our evacuation to Destin six months later during a hurricane? That was a piece of cake, no problem, no worry.

As long as Mama was there with them 24/7 and Daddy came home every night after work, Otis and Milo were happy.

But we were all thrilled to come home to Tennessee last January 6 where the big fenced pen in our new house gave them more room to play outside, and the house was small enough that it was a cinch for Otis to trail Mama from room to room all day long.

During the days after Milo's death, Otis became even more my shadow. 

Which was fine with me as I could hardly bear to have him out of my sight.

None of us wanted to be away from each other and he would snuggle between me and his daddy on the sofa where we would rub his tummy and silky ears and watch HGTV with the sound off.

There were lots of walks outside to his brother's little grave in the butterfly garden. And we went out on the front porch to watch daddy work in the yard, each wanting to be close to where the others were. Because our family had shrunk.

Every day when RH would come home, if it wasn't raining, we would take Otis out in the yard for a good walk.

We would walk down near our neighbor's pond, letting Otis have time to stop and sniff as much as he wanted to. We were in no hurry.

And then 15 days after his brother left us, Otis would hardly eat his breakfast.

We took him to his doctor where they said his abdomen was uncomfortable and he was guarding it. But he also seemed to have a spot on his back that hurt so they did x-rays and found that he had one slipped disc.

We thought we had a plan. We brought him home with meds and Otis and I would rest as much as possible, not moving from room to room unless necessary. No more walks outside for a while, pee pads in the laundry room were good enough for a boy to do his business.

Three days later after trips to the vet every day and changes of medication and IV fluids and more blood work, Otis, just like Milo, had sky high kidney values and was in complete kidney failure. 

That last day, last Saturday, we brought him to his doctor so hopeful because he seemed so alert after the IV the day before. His eyes just seemed to say that he would be okay. I never dreamed we wouldn't be leaving with him alive and on his way to recovery. 

Over the decades we have of course had to make that hardest of decisions for beloved dogs. Making it for Milo just 19 days before was heartbreaking but saying, Yes, go ahead and sedate Otis, was almost impossible to do. I wanted to take him home and squeeze out a couple more days of just holding him but it didn't seem right to put him through more days of pain.

These days without Otis and Milo have been agonizing. We've never not had a dog except for the first couple of years of marriage. 

If you've been through this before then you know how empty your house is, how lonely you are for the sound of little toenails clicking behind you, how hard a meal is without those little eyes below you hoping a crumb will fall to the floor. 

You know how it hits you within seconds of waking up in the morning and there's no one to want to go potty, no breakfast to fix before you fix your own, no one to tuck in bed at night.

And no one to tell "You stay, I love you, I'll be back soon" when you have to go to the store.

I wish I could end this here and just leave a final photograph of our handsome Otis, but I have one more thing to tell you, just in case you have dogs of your own.

Four days after Otis died the doctor called with the results of final blood testing that was sent off. Otis, and most likely Milo, had died of a bacterial disease called leptospirosis grippotyphosa.

I'm telling you this so that if you have dogs and don't know about this disease that you'll be sure to inform yourself and question your veterinarian.

Our doctor who we'd seen for decades and love apologized for not having run the test earlier but he hadn't seen a case in a very long time. 

Evidently the marshy areas around ponds are breeding grounds for it from infected wildlife. All it takes is for a dog to sniff or lick the urine of an infected animal, in our case it was probably a raccoon. 

After questioning the doctor about risks to people--watch for fever or chills and at the first sign see your doctor--I asked him if this meant we could never again have dogs here.

He said not at all, that it just meant that at least three weeks before coming to us they would need to have the lepto vaccine and that we should have boosters given every 4 to 6 months. He told us that more and more dog groomers are requiring that their customers' dogs have this vaccine before bring theirs to them.

This is what we hope to do because we are dog people. If you've ever read a book or article that tells you to list your defining words then you know what I'm saying when I tell you that dachshunds are one of my top defining words.

Life just seems empty without a couple of dachshunds in my life. I envy my friend Josh who has three, or maybe it's four.

But most of all I envy, long for, those almost four years when we had Otis and his brother Milo in ours. 

I'm turning off comments on this post. I know that each of you would as lovingly express your sorrow for us as you did in the previous post when we lost little Milo, so please know that I know that and it means the world to me. But I just don't have the heart for any more blogging this soon. Thank you for understanding and I wish a bountiful and blessed Thanksgiving Day for each of my dear friends who visit me and RH here. 

Sunday, November 5, 2017


It's been over a month since I've written here. For almost the first three of those weeks there was no reason other than that life was just too wonderful to spend sitting holding a laptop, October too magnificent not to enjoy with my full attention.

Then October 19th came and Milo began shivering. The next day his doctor ran blood work and said his kidney values were high. The plan was for three days of fluids under the skin, meds and a special diet and then to run blood work again. 

On the 24th we carried Milo in for the fourth time knowing that something was very wrong. And it was, his kidney failure was off the charts. And so once again we went through the heartbreaking time of holding a beloved fur baby until the light went out of his eyes. 

RH and I have spent the time since that day remembering our little Milo and consoling his twin brother Otis.

We've thanked God so many times for the gift of these two brothers who were nine years old when we adopted them from a wonderful rescue organization on December 14, 2013, exactly one year to the date from when we'd said goodbye to our 15 year old dachshund Penelope.

Milo and Otis were twins but different. Milo was so much smaller. He got cold easily. He always had to be coaxed to eat. I played many foolish games with Milo to get him to eat. 

He was so attached to his brother.

He would often climb into one of the many nests scattered throughout our house that was already occupied by his twin.

But there were times when he could be a loner, too.

Often when Otis would run back inside, Milo would stay outside and just sit in the sun and watch the birds, chipmunks and squirrels.

Both Milo and Otis handled well our move to Florida last year and back to Tennessee after nine months. 

They even handled an evacuation to the Gulf coast last year during a hurricane. Honestly, they were always fine if their Mama and Daddy were near.

Milo was my talking dachshund, my singing dachshund. He and I would give concerts for the neighbors while Otis was so embarrassed, Really? Must you, Mama?

Milo always loved for me to hold him in my arms and would lay his head on my shoulder.

We did a lot of that.

We all miss Milo so much.

Otis spent the first few days just watching, waiting. And the next few with his head on his front paws, looking sunk in sadness. 

He's just wanted to be in the same room all the time with us, as close as he could get next to us.

We've developed new routines, routines for three, not four.

Three go on walks now, three come home.

And I spend a lot of time looking out my kitchen window over to a small resting place for our Milo in the corner of the butterfly garden. 

"What Monsieur BĂ©liveau needed was to feel bad.
And then he'd feel better."
Louise Penny, from The Cruelest Month

Dear friends,
It is with a heavy heart that I publish this post about Milo because I just turned on the television and learned of the horrific news of another church shooting, this time in Texas. I would not ever want to compare our sadness to those families who will now be going through the worst heartbreak possible.

As RH and his family have had bad news about dear ones this last week, I know others are facing their own challenges. 

I pray we will all be a compassionate and loving community to those who are hurting in ways we can't even imagine.

Sending love to each of you,

Saturday, September 30, 2017

I'll tell you mine if you'll tell me yours...

Those of you who have visited me here and at my other blog for almost five years now might think I'm slightly obsessed with the 1950s and earlier, and you wouldn't be far wrong.

There is one subject I cannot get enough of, am besotted with, and that is:

The Life of the American Family
in the 1950s and earlier,
as portrayed in vintage women's magazines

A sure cure for the blues for me is pulling out a few of the old magazines from my collection and sitting down to lose myself in the pages.

These old magazines inspire me and I get up a better and happier woman after my time with them, more cheerful, more optimistic, more motivated.

I know that sounds crazy but Jane Davison and Lesley Davison understood the popularity of the early women's magazines in their book How to Make A House A Home:
And all of us who were turning the pages were receiving parts of the same message: we can make ourselves, our homes, our lives better by working and buying, by caring enough."

I get up from reading a vintage issue of Woman's Home Companion or Ladies' Home Journal or McCall's or more obscure magazines feeling that I've taken a magical antidepressant--without any bad side effects!

And sometimes I am inspired to cook a meal or even bake a cake.

This Brown-eyed Susan Cake from the September 1937 issue of McCall's magazine was fun to make and decorate.

Guess who made the brown-eyed Susans on it? RH did! He used almonds for the petals and chocolate covered raisins for the eyes.

But I'm not going to give you the recipe here because it was not that great. After all, it is a recipe from The Depression years, and recipes from those years are often very skimpy on sugar and other ingredients. So this is what I'll do when I make another one.

I'll take my best Devil's Food Cake recipe, which happens to be a fabulous one from RH's mother and has buttermilk and twice the sugar, and bake that.

The banana cream filling was okay but nothing to write home about so nix that. The coffee icing that I boiled to a soft ball stage was not sweet enough or intensely flavored enough so next time I will find a richer recipe for that online and use it for both filling and icing.

Because we can keep the good things of the old days and discard the bad. It's just deciding what is good and what is bad that's sometimes difficult, isn't it?

I made this cake and shared it with a brother-in-law and sister-in-law, along with a dish my mother often used to make when I was a child, Swiss Steak. As good as my mother's Swiss Steak was, 

                           I used Alton Brown's recipe instead.

I've never had an Alton Brown recipe to fail and his Swiss Steak is fork tender and full of flavor. 

RH helped me make it because we doubled the recipe so we could share it, and it required trimming the fat from two large bottom round roasts and then slicing them in 1/2 inch slices, dredging them with flour and seasonings and browning them for a few minutes on each side. That took some time, and knife skills.

Then we had two pan loads of thin sliced onions to sauté, next celery and garlic.

(And yes, I'm a messy chef.) Then we cooked the sauce, tripling it because the leftovers from this dish make the base for a wonderful vegetable-beef soup.

The day after I made the cake and Swiss Steak, I found a recipe for Swiss Steak in the October 1951 issue of Ladies' Home Journal. It was identical to Mama's, good but not as fabulous as Alton B's.

What was fabulous though was the pretty presentation of the dish, of the entire meal. The picture sure makes my Swiss Steak look pitiful. I hadn't even put a sprig of parsley on to serve it.

Get my point? That recipe needed improvement but a 1951 magazine inspired me to next time put more effort into the beauty of my meals because we also eat with our eyes, don't we?

Yes, I adore my old magazines, even though not everything in life then was as good as it is today. We have to take the good from those days for our lives now and change what was bad, I believe. And we certainly could take some of what is bad now and return to what was good in The Old Days, amen?

I admit that I am obsessed with The Old Days, the 1950s especially.

Evan Jones, in his biography of my favorite chef from that time, James Beard, quoted this from the New York Times:
"A typical American family then could afford three children, a house, two cars, three weeks at the seashore, a television set, and meat seven times a week, all on a single wage earner's income."

Ah, those were the days, my friend...

So I will continue to read and research and dream about the 1950s and earlier. I think that in my retirement years I've earned the right to immerse myself in the study of this time period. And often I will share my passion here at Dewena's Window.

Are you rolling your eyes at me?

I could pick a stranger topic to be passionate about, for example:

"ancient Scottish grasses"

That's what a minor character in one of my favorite Louise Penny books, Bury Your Dead, was passionately interested in and spent his days in the library studying. The elderly man told Chief Inspector Armand Gamache:

"Ironically, now that I'm so near the end of my life
I seem to have all the time in the world."

I've adopted that stance too. I have all the time in the world now, and if I want to spend it in the first half of the 1900s, that's what I'm going to do, by golly.

Now, my very dear friends who are reading this, I shared my passion with you. Would you please share your passion with me?

What is your "ancient Scottish grasses"?

And many many thanks to a dear blog friend, Peggy of Season to Season,
who sent me some delightful magazines from the 1920s--Modern Priscilla--for my collection....just because she felt they wanted to be with me.

Wasn't that nice!

See there, if people know what your passion is they just might send you a gift of it sometime........

Unless your passion happens to be George Clooney, maybe?