Abacus

“Red and orange, green and blue, shiny yellow, purple too, all the colors that you know, live up in the rainbow!” This tune from from my kindergarten class plays in my head when I see the enticing object in the corner of the coffee shop.

A child’s abacus sits atop an antique safe, sandwiched among other old-fashioned items. It’s on my “To Do” list. Learn how to do math using an abacus, that is, the centuries-old computer still used in some Eastern cultures.

abacus

I anticipate the pure tactile joy of playing with the colorful wooden beads. I’ve always loved the classic toys and still have many in the attic for the hopeful day a new little one will call me “Nana.” There’s the goal, then! Learn the basics of abacus calculation before my grand-babies are old enough to toddle over to me with the colorful little tool I will surely buy for them before they’re ready to use it!

We bought many toys for our boys before they were ready for them, anxious, ourselves, to play with them, to capture something from our youths, or something we never had.

Ritual

7:10 a.m. and I’ve slept through the night, the first time in months. This amazes and delights me. I hit the pillow at 10 last night feeling drugged. Maybe popcorn, white rice, M&Ms and Campari over ice make the perfect pre-sleep meal.

My dream lingers. I’m at my cousin’s funeral and there’s a young boy there talking incessantly, oblivious to his somber surroundings. I’m really irritated at this child, but there’s nothing I can do without making the situation worse.

I allowed myself the indulgence of waking without an alarm because my walking buddy isn’t available this morning. Typically we’re on the road at 7 and home by 8. I shake off the dream-webs and stretch my legs over the edge of the bed. Ranger stretches as well, yawns noisily and licks my toes.

After peeing like a rhino, I wash my face, slather on SPF 15 and fill in my gray-blonde eyebrows with brown eye shadow. “Don’t leave home without your eye-browns” is Mom’s beauty tip this year, as if anyone will notice my “eye-browns” under my visor and behind my mirrored glasses. I know it helps to frame my eyes, and I might as well do it now since I probably won’t shower today. It’s part of my morning ritual.

I throw on my walking clothes and let Ranger out the back door. I was too tired to take him for his routine evening stroll last night and I feel bad. He, too, pees like a rhino in the back yard and wants to come back in immediately. He’s my shadow.

I make the bed, though no one would notice that either. Admiral McRaven delivered a speech to UT graduates this year in which he told them to make their bed every morning. If you can’t do a little task like that each day, how can you expect to accomplish anything greater? It’s a simple concept, and I do like walking into a neat room.

Mike has already been working for an hour. I sip hot coffee with him and we chat about the upcoming day. I throw together rice and eggs and cheese before his first meeting, and since he can’t eat it all—he rarely eats breakfast—I finish it with a second cup of coffee. “Laurel never has a 2nd cup.” I think we should watch Airplane tonight to offset the sadness in the world.

By 8:30 Ranger and I are out the door and noticing the 90-minute-later temperature difference. I generally wear a light jacket and am comfortable until we get home, but this morning, I remove it almost immediately. Last week of July and it finally feels like summer in Leadville.

photo 3 (3)We hustle up the hill and Ranger is happy when I stop to take photos of whatever catches my eye: wispy grasses, sun pouring through bridge beams, clover patches buzzing with bees. Inappropriate Army cadences come to mind: “Roll me over in the clover do it again, do it again.”

Turning at the bridge to head back home, I check out the Mt. Massive skyline. It’s beautiful. It’s always beautiful, but by 9 a.m. the brightness of the day washes away the crispness of the earlier contrast between mountains and the just-rising sun.

“Beautiful dog!” someone yells from an ATV. I get that a lot.

Back home by 9:30, my beautiful dog pants in the shade out back while I tidy up in photo 4 (4)preparation for my writing group to arrive. I do a speed-vac of the downstairs, enough to pick up the dusty clumps of dog hair gathered in corners and around chair legs, and pour M&Ms and peanuts into bowls.

My group, two high school girls today, meets me on the deck and we write and chat and challenge one another for two hours. They don’t know it, but I’m honored by their presence each week. It’s something they don’t have to do. Much like my morning walk, it has become a ritual I relish.

Thunder clouds roll in early today and by 4 p.m. the ground is soaking up the drenching rain. The couch is calling me. Time for a nap.

BURN

Burn

Disappointment kills
Any hope I might have for
Our future success

Watching my husband
Work selflessly for others
Just to be shut down

Unsupported by
Frightened politicians who
Bow to ignorance

Things don’t burn, they say,
In fires at elevation
Above ten thousand

Are they serious?
Are they really serious?
Tell me it’s a dream

With silly people
Who selfishly get their way
At others’ expense

That tomorrow morn
I’ll wake to find my nightmare
Gladly unfounded

But I know the truth
Things will never change in town
When witlessness reigns

When those who can, won’t,
When, “We don’t want this to turn
Into Breckenridge”

Becomes our slogan
Though leveling town would not
Be enough to start

Transforming hovels
Into proudly-owned houses
With junk-free front yards

How will we move forth
When so few see our town is
Struggling to survive?

When so many look
Only through their front window,
Only at themselves?

Motivation drains
From those who try to improve
Where it’s not wanted

Resources wasted
Ignorant voices spew lies
Sad reality?

Fire mitigation
Project doused, so don’t call me
When flames lick your door

Friend’s book

I met Stacey Gustafson at this year’s Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop and enjoyed her humor! If you’re looking for something entertaining this summer, check out her newly released book “Are You Kidding Me?”

Gustafson_Cover_FRONT_72dpi

Going to the Dogs

“My dog’s friendly!” That’s what they all say, right? So is the 85-pound German Shepherd we adopted from a shelter recently, and I’d like him to stay that way. I don’t want to get bitten. I don’t want my dog to get bitten. Even more so, I don’t want my dog to bite. Once a dog has to bite to defend itself or its owner, every approaching dog or person becomes a potential enemy.

This past week I called the Police Department after a close call with a snarling, barking, advancing dog on a dirt alleyway where I walk my dog routinely. The dog would not back off and it took a kind man carrying a big stick (I’ll call him Teddy) running from his backyard and hurling it to turn the dog away. Thank you, kind man.

Sitting in my front yard to calm down after this incident, I was then approached by the owner of the still-at-large dog. She proceeded to unload on me a verbal assault calling me every name in the book—including one that, if true, would secure my infamy alongside the wanton women of Leadville’s colorful past. After recovering from the fear she might jump over my fence and bite me, I pulled out my phone and managed to record a bit of her abuse. I included this with the report I submitted to the Police Department.

I would like people to know that living on a street or alley doesn’t give you or your dog free reign over that public space. I, and every other person in town regardless of dog ownership, should be able to walk down any public street or alley without fear of being accosted by someone’s unrestrained pet. We should also be able to enjoy the peace of our own property without fear of being accosted by unrestrained pet owners, some who believe it is our fault when their loose dogs attack.

Several people have mentioned to me that Leadville needs a dog park. I do my best to hold my tongue lately when I consider what our town needs. Having a dog park, however, will not solve the problem of irresponsible dog owners, who would likely open their front doors and tell their dogs to be home by dinnertime.

Sadly, I’ve seen what happens to victims of dog aggression who have defended themselves in the past. It’s not pretty. Victims have been put on deferred judgment and told to behave for a year, and they’ve gone to jail—for protecting themselves against vicious dogs.

But that won’t stop me from protecting myself should this happen again. Sure, dogs will get loose from time to time, and I know the difference between a goofball dog who tromps up ready to play and one that’s a menace. The next dog to approach with snarling teeth on public grounds will get a blast from my new pepper spray, and if that lands me in jail, well, I guess I’ll have another unique experience to write about.

Leadville is going to the dogs and it’s past time to take action. We have only one code enforcement officer doing the best he can, but there’s no way he can keep up with the number of blatant violations occurring with increased frequency on our streets and alleyways.

If you own a dog, friendly or not, it’s your responsibility to ensure that it remains secure on your property whether you are home or away. Even a friendly dog can be provoked under certain circumstances. If you witness roaming or neglected dogs, please report them immediately. Perhaps after a fine or two, irresponsible owners will think twice about neglecting their dogs.

I would suggest carrying something with you for protection when you are out walking, with or without a dog. I was thankful for the kind man with the stick who came to my rescue.

Even if you are walking your friendly dog on a leash, please don’t assume my dog wants his butt sniffed while we’re out taking care of business. I’ve witnessed friendly initial greetings escalate to aggression when one dog decides he’s had enough. And as a side-issue, there are no poop fairies in town, so please don’t pretend you’re unaware of the piles your dog dumps every day.

I won’t walk my dog again without pepper spray, so if you love your dog, keep him safe. If I end up in prison for defending myself, I might be authorized one call. It will be to someone who’s willing to walk my dog. Any takers? Don’t worry—my dog’s friendly.