Goodbye, Beautiful Nutmeg

Much has gone on in life since I last blogged. I'll do a formal post later. Tonight is a memorial.

Nutmeg lost her battle to cancer this evening. It was a sudden thing that started around Christmas and quickly blossomed into sorrow. We saw her veterinarian, Dr. Johnson, on Thursday and then... that was that.

Nutmeg was many things. She was my shadow and forever at my side. She was the dumbest German Shepherd Dog to ever walk on earth and thus earned the title Village Idiot. (She was actually rather smart but played the "clueless" game well.) She was the kindest animal, loving towards all and in love with her veterinarian. She was rough and tumble. She was annoying and demanding when she was in the mood for attention, often rotating my office chair to the left as she leaned in to me for petting and hugs. In fact, she always demanded more love after getting love, one paw raised and prying at a knee as if to say, "Hey, you're not done giving me attention." She was Porch Dog. She was goofy. She had many nicknames and came to them all: Nutterbutt, Buttpeg, Goofball, Nutters, and so many more. Nutmeg loved food. She loved her ice cubes. She loved bread and raw veggies. She was always so happy, even when she knew she was being naughty and leaving a puddle on my floor.

She grew too weak towards the end. She couldn't hold down even a teaspoon of water. I stayed up with her last night, all night, petting her and singing "You Are My Sunshine". She loved that. She knew. I knew. We said our goodbyes and resolved our differences and asked each other forgivness for all those times we disagreed on who was right.

This evening, she insisted on going outside and down the concrete steps to poop rather than doing it in the house. She was in the yard before I could slip my jacket on. She could barely manage and needed my help up the stairs. Better Half had to help me get her inside because the whole effort left her exhausted. Cell phone calls were exchanged throughout the evening with Dr. Johnson. It was kinder to let her slip from earth peacefully than to have her endure agony during the last moments of her life. Dr. Johnson was in Canton today, but met with us at the clinic around 9 PM.

I can't think of too many vets who would be willing to tend their patient after spending a long day on the road, yet there he was, waiting for us at the door. His words and his compassion brought us peace. Now Nutmeg is at peace. The sorrow in my heart leaves me breathless and drained, yet I know we made the right decision. One of the greatest gifts we can give our pets is kindness.

 Some photos:

Nutmeg loved snow. She'd bark her head off the moment you formed a snowball. I regret not playing with her this last snow storm. There was never a chance. It was too bitterly cold outside.


 When we first brought Truffle home, Nutmeg knew she had a buddy.

Zephyr, Gennaker and Nutmeg greet the new pup.

Nutmeg knew she had to be gentle.

Her cancer two years ago nearly took her from us. We don't know how or why she survived as long as she did. I think it was in part due to her playful spirit and the talented hands of Dr. Johnson.

Cone of shame!

Alright guys. I promise to not lick my stitches. Take this off me!

Holidays with Nutmeg were always magical. She loved lamb at Easter and duck at Christmas. She loved turkey at Thanksgiving. Most of all, she loved greeting trick-or-treaters on Halloween. She'd sit patiently on the porch, or by the door if it was cold, and greet them.
What's your costume?

Please take this bow off. I'm not a Christmas gift.

Nutmeg knew when you were under the weather. She ghosted Better Half in the month leading up to the discovery of his arterial blockage. She just knew and was there for you, no matter what.

Faithful Girl.
She loved the landing. I have so many pictures of her hanging out there, but this is my favorite. This was shortly before her cancer surgery, I believe.

The porch was her spot. She'd hide behind the couch if it was raining (she hated thunder) or if you were watering the plants. She watched the birds just like Mattie used to do. She'd lift her ears at watch the children playing across the way. She was at peace there. She never barked or bolted.
Porch Dog

But her favorite thing (besides stealing Truffle's Heffalump and squeaking the crap out of it) was to chill with us. No matter where you looked, there she was. That will be the hardest part of all this. I type this and look to my right and there's an empty spot on the floor where she always rested while I was online. I look to the hallway where she parked herself if Better Half was in bed, and I realize that no one is standing guard tonight. I listen for the jingle of her collar and almost want to call out to her to see if she'd off somewhere getting into trouble, or else I strain my ears to hear the loud sound of her lapping water. But she's gone and I mourn her passing.

Ears that could tune in Tokyo

 Goodbye Nutterbutt. Thank you for being such an awesome companion and friend.

Some prior stories: The Village Idiot. 21 Aug 2011 August Contemplation
I crack the seal on my can of ginger ale and Nutmeg’s overly-large ears perk at the soft hiss the carbonation escaping the can. She cocks her large head and arches an eyebrow. She’s a coward, really. Her resounding German Shepherd bark should invoke visions of noble police dogs mauling the Michelin Man. Nutmeg wouldn’t maul in intruder. Quite the opposite: Nutmeg would insist that the intruder stroke her fur and, having failed to gain his affections, she would squat in my dining room and have a spite pee. Thus her bark is reserved for the Truly Dangerous Things in this world such as the sound of the doorbell from the television. She often hurls her bark towards the Invisible People that only the idiotic Pomeranian can see.

20 Mar 2011 Nutmeg's Recovery (post surgery for cancer)

And a few memories:
She told the entire neighborhood that she'd eaten her dinner. Every night, without fail, she would bound out the door and bark. It almost sounded like she was saying, "Hey, hey, I got my food. I got my food." Without fail.

She hated fetch. Instead, she'd whine and stare at you until you threw the toy, and then you had to fight her to get it back. The whole process would start anew the moment you actually got your fingers around the slimy thing and teased it out of her mouth. She was always gentle when she played.

She loved tennis balls. She'd run after them if we threw them for her. Truffles would usually fetch them back for us.

Nutmeg would dance around the kitchen at feeding time. You had to park her on a sit/stay in order to put her food down or she'd bowl you over. Then she annoyed us by licking all the other dogs' bowls and the floor when they were done. It drove us nuts.

She was a positive animal, never aggressive. Even when recovering from surgery and even tonight when she was too weak to function, she'd wag her tail to tell you she was happy. She wagged it for Dr. Johnson tonight, as well, and was so happy to see the clinic and her favorite vet.

Final Countdown

We have nearly everything done in preparation for Mum and Dad's move here. There are some little odds and ends that need to be given homes, and I have to spring clean the entire house as well as make a little room for extra groceries. It's well worth it.

I'm exhausted.


A Day Off: Shaker Woods Festival

It's been an exciting 24 hours. We had an early appointment this morning, my haircut afterward, breakfast and then an impromptu trip to the Shaker Woods Festival.

Better Half and I have been toiling to get the house ready for Mum and Dad, who plan to stay with us. We have two rooms to go (and a bathroom to sort) before we can call the job done.

To top it off, I had to run to Maryland last night (yes, the state) for a cadet. I'm fueled on two hours of sleep at the moment.

The Shaker Woods Festival was a welcomed break. I'm too tired to go into details so I'll provide some snapshots taken while there. The high note was finding an astrolabe for the front yard. It is beautiful; handmade by Dave Anders of Colonial Wagon & Wheeler, it adorns the front bed. 


Please forgive me for not captioning anything. I can't even see straight at the moment.                                     

Pomku II

A haiku...

Wet, you tremble on the stairs…
Don’t roll in shit again! 


Pandorus Sphinx Moth

Better Half and I drove out to Ferda's Garden Center this afternoon in search of more heliotrope. This has become our favorite gardening destination. We enjoyed visiting with Bob Ferda and he sold us the very last heliotrope on site - a beautifully arranged basket. (I swear, I will cover my entire yard in concrete and throw away my gardening gloves if FGC ever closes down.)

On our way out, we spotted a gorgeous sphinx moth clinging  to a window screen. Bob didn't mind us taking a few snapshots of the little fellow.  The Sphingidae family interests me and I've blogged one sighting before. Without further ado...


Pandorus Sphinx Moth, © 2012 T. Mininni-Totin.

CATEGORY: Butterfly or Moth
OTHER NAMES: Pandora Sphinx Moth
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Eumorpha pandorus

ADULT SIZE (Length, not including legs): 82mm to 115mm (3.23in to 4.53in; males smaller than females
IDENTIFYING COLORS: tan; brown, white, pink, green/olive green; yellow; orange

 KINGDOM: Animalia
  PHYLYM: Arthropoda
   CLASS: Insecta
    ORDER: Lepidoptera
     SUPERFAMILY: Spingoidea (Dyar, 1902)

      FAMILY: Sphingidae (Latreille, 1802)
        SUBFAMILY: Macroglossinae (Harris, 1839)

         TRIBE: Philampelini (Burmeister)
          GENUS: Eumorpha (Hubner, 1807)
            SPECIES: pandorus (Hubner, 1821)

The moth's upperside is light brown with shades of olive green to green. The forewing has pink streaks along vein ends and near the inner margin, and a dark squarish mark at the middle of the inner margin. The area from the base to the squarish mark is dark green. The underside usually is yellow-green, but sometimes is pale brown. 1  Additional coloration may include orange in place of pink, or deep chocolate/black.

UNITED STATES: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin.
CANADA: Nova Scotia, Ontario. They are reportedly rare in Quebec.

Photograph of Virginia Creeper by Aydin
Adults remain relatively quiet during the day, taking flight at dawn and dusk. They tend to gather close to vineyards, forested areas or river edges where their caterpillar's food plants are plentiful. Courtship is initiated by the female via the release of pheromones; males fly into the wind to locate the female. Eggs are laid one at a time. Caterpillars are dedicated leaf-eaters, hanging out on the undersides of leaves.2   Fully-grown caterpillars pupate in shallow chambers in the soil.

Grape (Vitis), Peppervine (Ampelopsis arborea), and Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)

Nectar from flowers including petunia (Petunia hybrida), bouncing bet (Saponaria officinalis), and white campion (Lychnis alba) 3
Pandorus Sphinx Moth, © 2012 T. Mininni-Totin.

1 "Sphingidae of the Americas" website, Bill Oehlke

Virginia Creeper photograph by Aydin Örstan



Chaos in the Dungeon 2012

The Dungeon, and all things Chaotic!

Main Entry: cha·os
Pronunciation: 'kA-"äs
Function: noun
Etymology: Latin, from Greek
1 obsolete : CHASM, ABYSS
2 a often capitalized : a state of things in which chance is supreme; especially : the confused unorganized state of primordial matter before the creation of distinct forms
3 a: a state of utter confusion b: a confused mass or mixture.

Ah, my life. It cycles, resplendent in all its mundane trappings. June 2006 found us working frantically to get the basement into shape. It was a cluttered mess then, and now. We hardly use it unless it is to work on laundry.

Now that my parents are moving here, it will need to become dad’s computer work space as well as store our surplus furniture (we are clearing out our main floor so they can keep their antiques and other furnishings).

The floor was atrocious. Dust was everywhere. The concrete was in need of painting. Manthom boxes littered the floor and all of Better Half’s books, toys and other objets d’crap ran rampant. Ugh.

We should have the basement finished, replete with sealed concrete, by tomorrow. This frees us up to begin transitioning the cluttered upstairs into a serene bedroom and office for my mother. Our current “spare room” is a repository for books, workout equipment and treasured antiques. It must be completely cleared out for her bedroom suite (if it doesn’t fit, I’ll scream. The only other room large enough for a suite is >drumroll< our own). The tiny office has to be purged to make room for the workout equipment. All of our books have to go into tubs (destination: dungeon) and our book cases need a new home somewhere in the house. The carpets in both rooms need a nice cleaning, and their new bedroom needs to be painted.

We have two weeks.

I’m a tad stressed.

SS #219: Superhero

Rain droplets stippled her glasses and partially obscured her vision as she ran. Her bare legs pumped beneath her, falling out of synchronicity with her arms whenever her toes encountered a rut in the asphalt. The white and pink cotton dress clung to her. Mama wouldn’t be happy. It was her newest dress.

I can fly. She said this to no one in particular. It was her mantra. It had sustained her from the creek to the Johnston Diary, and that had to be a whole mile. She had another mile to go. Maybe. She wasn’t sure. She’d ask Dad to clock it the very next time they drove home from the mill. No matter. She swallowed back a lump and pulled off her eyeglasses, slipping them into her dress pocket where they jangled alongside some fishing weights and the tiny bottle Grandpa had handed to her.

She could have sworn her legs belonged on a sock monkey by time she crested the hill. She set off across the pasture, the humid air saturating her lungs. Feels like the oil on the news, she thought. She’d watched it plume in the Gulf and become fascinated by all the fuss. Now she felt like one of those birds, breathing heavy and wishing someone would come along and make the air come in the right way again. No matter, her mind whispered. I can fly.

A bark of thunder heralded the floodgates of heaven opening above her head. It was like sprinting through the world’s biggest waterfall, or maybe like running in a swimming pool. Water pressed weeds and grass to earth and her toes couldn’t find traction. She took to scrambling, tiny arms pulling and pushing, a water bug dance gone horribly wrong.  She doubted herself. She felt her strength waning. She felt those weights rattling around her pocket and knew they would pull her into the earth, down, far down below where even the worms were afraid to go.

“Lori!” Mama’s voice carried across the yard and into the field. The house loomed behind Mama and Dad’s truck sat in the drive.  Suddenly the ground didn’t matter. The humidity and the water couldn’t touch her. She really could fly, just because Mama was so close, and nothing in the whole world would be able to stop her. She reached the fence separating the yard from field, and then was across the yard, and before she could draw a breath, she felt Mama’s warm hug.

“Where’s your grandfather?” the woman asked.

The child pointed back the way she’d come, feeling stupid, feeling worn thin like old cloth, unable to articulate what happened, and afraid to say what she thought might have happened while she was running. She clutched at her dress and felt those horrible lead weights grinding against her glasses. Her finger touched something else. Her eyes widened.  The bottle. Grandpa’s heart pills. She held it up for her mother to see.


The paramedics had proclaimed her a superhero. Dad and Uncle sat in the parlor that evening and took turns trying to come up with a proper name to go with her various powers, each more wild than the next. She lay with her head in Mama’s lap, sleep flicking at the edges of her mind as Mama stroked her hair.

“What do you think, Lori?” Mama murmured. “What’s your superpower?”

“Love,” she whispered back. “Grandpa always says that nothing was more powerful than that.” And then she allowed herself to smile. Grandpa was alive because love gave her wings.

Reprinted from my Pembroke Cottage blog (14 June, 2010). I'm cleaning it out to re-purpose it into a home blog.

A Day Off in June

Better Half and I have been so tied up with squadron duties that we haven’t had a day to ourselves in a very long time. Mum and Dad are moving here at the end of August and we have so much to do but we needed to take a day off from daily life.

Today was the second day of Holy Trinity’s Greek Festival in downtown Steubenville. We’ve attended six years straight to savor fried smelts and calamari, delicious gyros with cucumber dressing, and handmade dolmades.  The parishioners are delightful and always make visitors feel at home. Hey, opa!  

We brought Piper with us (third year in a row for her). 

Mmm-mmmmm, good.

Afterwards we took a drive to Cadiz and beyond. Many quaint towns sprinkle the area… “Main Street, USA” takes on invigorated meaning when passing through them. This is small town. This is apple pie. This is the heady laughter of a child playing in a sprinkler, or an elderly couple nestled together on a porch swing. We love it.  

We found our way down winding highways and stumbled upon Ferda’s Garden Center. It’s a shame that it took us so many years to find it; they are in the process of selling the business. I fell in love with the center immediately.

For one brief afternoon, Better Half and I daydreamed of what we would do if we could purchase the property. We envisioned a coffee and spice shop nestled in a garden setting. We would rent out space to the community, small “plots” in the greenhouses where people could start their seeds early. We’d invite Phipps interns to work on their programs. We’d hold teas, host book reading groups and dedicate a small area of the upstairs portion of the main building to used books. Harvest festivals, pumpkin patches, rambling leaf-strewn trails and mulled cider would liven up a dreary fall day. Christmas would be an event to be celebrated rather than nightmarishly commercial. Winter would be a time of reflection and hope, and we’d offer horticulture classes as well as invite children to plant their own treasure (which, for $5, would give the child a pot to decorate, a plant to put in it and a lot of dirt to take home for mom or dad to wash off). Spring would be a rainbow of new plants and garden accessories. 
Daydreams are nice. This has been my daydream for nearly two decades. It’s rare to find a property that would make that dream a reality yet here it was, mine for the taking, provided I could secure a loan for $400k. Hey, it would include three vehicles, three of which we wouldn’t need.

We continued on through Colerain, Bridgeport and parts far beyond. It seems that every town boasts an ice cream parlor.  There are small shops that beg to be explored. Old churches rub elbows with derelict homes and gaily festooned cottages.  

The Riverside Restaurant in Powhatan Point was our suppertime stop. Better Half ate a thick-slab Ruben while I picked at his fries. Good, inexpensive food. We sat outside and watched the barges travel the Ohio River. More wistful daydreams about that property. 

We’ve been married nearly eighteen years but the conversation never gets old. I suppose there aren’t many people out there who can spend an entire day with their spouse and still have something meaningful to say to each other. Thankfully, we’ve never run out of things to say. It helps that we’ve kept a sense of humor over the years. 

We wrapped up the day by returning library books (and renewing the one I haven’t had time to read) and finding some pots to tuck plants in. We discovered heliotrope during our garden center exploration and I’ve added it to the front porch. I’ll have to remember to take cuttings at the end of the season – this scrumptiously scented plant (not for eating!) will grow in a mason jar on the window sill, easily transplanted back to the yard come spring. 

All-in-all, it was a very nice break from the normal routine.