November 22, 2015 by Karin Fuller

There are times when I happen across a story so touching that learning of it leaves me feeling wrenched. What I’m about to share hit me like that.

One of my friends, Aimee Figgatt, who serves as the Conservation Supervisor for the Capital Conservation District (and “farmerette” of Tyler Creek Farms), lost her nephew Tyler recently from an ATV accident. Just 19 years old, Tyler was her brother, Henry’s, only child. Though I’d never met Tyler, I had seen many pictures. He had a charming, bright smile. A mischievous gleam in his eye. Wooly beard. Kind eyes. The stories Aimee shared about Tyler made me feel as if I’d known him, and it hurt to watch she and her family try to manage their grief.

gc-cake-2Last Sunday evening, Aimee shared that she was baking a double layer German Chocolate cake for Sal Rossi, the owner of Quality Woods in Buffalo. And she shared why she was making the cake.

“In the hours following my nephew’s death, my brother had to make decisions no parent ever wants to make regarding arrangements,” wrote Aimee. She said Henry was in so much pain from hearing he’d lost his only child he could barely stop shaking his head, but it was while in that state that he made the most amazing decision. Tyler had recently become Henry’s apprentice in Carpenter’s Local 1207, and Henry said he wanted to build his son’s casket.

There could be no greater honor for a young man who planned on becoming a carpenter than for the carpenters in his family to build the place where he’d rest. Their Uncle Gene, a master carpenter, and cousin Chris, also with Local 1207, joined the effort. Relatives, Betty and Bill, donated rough cut walnut that they’d cut and stored decades earlier.

After getting the walnut back to their workshop, the men tried to run it through their planer, but their equipment couldn’t handle the wood. They had such limited time to build the casket that what might’ve normally been a fairly simple problem to solve was instead making their project seem impossible to complete.  Even a short delay would likely put them too far behind.

Determined to find a work-around, Henry called the owner of Quality Woods, where his sister had recently made a custom wood purchase, to see if they could help. Although the company doesn’t plane wood for others and said they’ve always turned down those who ask, they understood that this was different.

“Within two hours, our wood was planed, edged, sanded, and loaded back in our truck,” Aimee said. “And Sal would not accept a dime from us. All he would accept was a German Chocolate cake.”

As soon as the wood was delivered, the family went to work—and kept working, non-stop, for the next 49 hours. Their Aunt Janis even stitched the coffin’s liner, customizing it to showcase Tyler’s passion for fishing.

“All those hours, we all worked together, some cutting, others sanding, running to the hardware store, bringing food, drinks,” Aimee said. “Friends came to help. Gene never slept. I think he only stopped once or twice to grab a snack, and our cousins Elizabeth and James, too. Everyone worked until they were delirious.”

As the group stood in the same driveway that, over the years, had been used by generations of their family before them, Aimee said they wondered over how many times their grands, greats, and great-greats had the job of building caskets for their loved ones.

“No, we didn’t have to do what we did,” said Aimee, “but we wanted to. It was the most emotional, gut-wrenching and horrific—yet proud—moments I’ve ever seen from my family. We loved each other more than we’d ever realized, and shared enough tears to fill a river. I got hugs so tight I can close my eyes and still feel them.”

There are no pictures to share of the casket, as the family feels it’s too private, but Aimee swears it was the most beautiful she’d ever seen. I didn’t need to see it to agree. I’d never heard of a more moving and respectful and loving tribute to a lost loved one than this.

In this world of so many fresh and senseless sadnesses, it’s reassuring to know people like these still exist.




November 16, 2015 by Karin Fuller

I had a nice moment recently. A friend texted to say hi and as we were chatting, she remarked that everything in her life was going really well.

“The worst part of my whole week was when I bit into a cookie that I thought was chocolate chip, but it was actually raisin,” she said. “After the year I’ve had, I decided it was something to celebrate.”

Turns out I had similar celebrating to do. Just the day before, I’d put pickles on my plate at the salad bar, thinking they were dill. They were sweet. But I kind of like sweet. After months upon months upon years of bad luck, could that brief pickle debacle have been the low point of my week?

“You know what?” I texted my friend. “I just realized things are going good for me, too. I’m sort of ashamed I didn’t notice it sooner.”

I don’t mean to make myself sound ungrateful because mostly, I’m not. But sometimes, I get distracted by the constant catastrophe theme of my life that I fail to notice the odd little gifts life sometimes gives. I determined to start noticing my victories, no matter how small, and to celebrate them, Snoopy-dance style.

For instance, Victory #1 came after I went into a crowded yet quiet waiting room and sat down in a vinyl chair. As I sat, the chair made a long and obnoxious whoopee cushion-like sound, the kind you can never replicate when there are people around. Except this time, I stood and sat down again and the chair made the same sound just as obnoxiously.



Victory 2. I managed to grab the cat as he was hacking and successfully transfer him from carpet to linoleum without said movement causing him to immediately Heimlich that hairball onto the carpet.

Victory 3. I held open a door at a fast food restaurant for the woman behind me, enabling her to arrive at the counter before me. Historically, this would mean she would then place an order for her entire office and pay separately for each item, but this time, she ordered a single black coffee and paid with exact change. And I celebrated.

Victory 4. I wore new socks and no shoes all around my house for hours without once stepping in water.

Victory 5. Many businesses with double doors tend to leave one side locked at all times. I have a gift for finding the locked side first to the point where I feel a kinship with birds that fly into windows.  Last week, I went to a business with double entry doors and the side I shoved first was unlocked. I’m fairly certain this has never before happened in my life.

Victory 6. I drove on I-64 during rush hour on a sunny morning without traffic coming to a complete and total standstill for such a long time turtles would zoom past on the berm. That same evening, it happened again. In 30+ years of commuting, I suspect this was a first. I celebrated.

Victory 7. I scrubbed the kitchen floor and did not immediately spill orange juice.

Victory 8. I stopped to purchase some hard apple cider. The cashier said he’d need to see my I.D.  He did not preface this request with the deflating statement, “They make us ask everyone.”

Victory 9. I took a bite of what appeared to be a chocolate chip cookie. And it actually was a chocolate chip cookie. Not a raisin in sight.

And I danced.

snoopy dance




November 8, 2015 by Karin Fuller

blue lives matterIt’s difficult for someone like me to fathom, having spent all my working years safely behind a desk, protected from all but the occasional paper cut. My commute to and from the office providing my only real danger. It’s hard to grasp what it must be like to have a job where you put your life on the line every day to protect total strangers.

Who aren’t always grateful. Or respectful. Or compliant.

With Veterans Day approaching, I was in a “thank you for your service” line of thinking, except my thoughts kept getting sidetracked toward those who wear a different kind of uniform.

One that’s blue.

It got me wishing there was a day set aside where police officers were thanked for their service, instead of vilified as a whole for the few bad in the bunch. I’m not saying there aren’t any bad cops. There are. And there are bad lawyers, bad doctors, bad teachers, bad members of clergy. Every profession has its share of misfits. But not every profession requires its workers to put their life on the line pretty much every minute they’re on duty, and for such paltry pay.

In an average day, officers contend with suspects who lie and witnesses who keep changing their story. With drunks who insist they had only one beer. With people who misrepresent their identity or take so long answering questions it raises suspicions. Officers must be on the lookout for concealed weapons, drugs and other contraband. They must deal with addicts and the mentally ill. With abusive parents and sexual deviants. With children who are afraid of them and teenagers who are disrespectful and adults who are attempting to taunt a reaction they can capture on film.

Thanks to Hollywood, the public expects officers to have martial arts skills that would enable them to take down assailants a foot taller and 100 lbs. heavier, and be capable of shooting a gun out of the hand of the raging crazy that’s rushing toward them.

And expects them to somehow intuit we’re harmless, even if our demeanor and situation suggest far more strongly we’re anything but.

It’s hard to speak in absolutes, but it seems like most every adverse situation that’s been in the news of late involving the police could have had a completely different result if the person had simply complied with the officer’s request.

Case in point, the South Carolina teen who was slammed to the ground by a resource officer after refusing to hand over her phone. Granted it’s a convoluted case with points to be made on both sides, but simply put, the situation never would’ve happened if she’d complied. She went looking for trouble and found it, and the fame she’s gained from her obnoxious behavior is likely to trigger emulation from others wanting similar celebrity.

That kind of thing worries me, and I think it should worry all parents who give a damn. Instead of patting themselves on the back about how fiercely they’d react if an officer laid hands on their child, they need to be using this opportunity to teach about the importance of respecting the law and complying with an officer’s request.

I’m not sure what compels people to choose such dangerous work as law enforcement or why they’re willing to put themselves on the line daily to deal with violent, combative and unappreciative people, or why they’re willing to endure physical and verbal abuse in order to do it. But I’m grateful they do.

So to those wearing the blue—please accept my thanks for stepping up to the plate. Thank you for racing into situations most of us wouldn’t in a million lifetimes be brave enough to take on ourselves.

The only voices you hear shouldn’t be the ones criticizing how you’re doing your job, so please know there are still so many of us who appreciate what you do. Who remain in awe of your courage.

And who thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for your service.




November 6, 2015 by Karin Fuller

While roaming the aisles at the Book Festival, I ran into an old friend. We hadn’t seen each other since shortly after her father’s funeral a couple years back. When our children were small, her family and ours had been nicely intertwined, before divorces and moves and differing work schedules took their toll.

I’d been especially fond of this friend’s mother and asked after her, as I hadn’t seen her since that same funeral. Her parents were one of those couples who fit so perfectly it was hard to imagine one without the other. Her dad had this loud and powerful personality, while her mom was quiet and modest, the eternally flawless hostess.

They’d been together since their early teens until he died suddenly, just weeks before their 55th wedding anniversary.

At the visitation and funeral, I heard comments like, “I can’t imagine she’ll last long without him,” or “it wouldn’t surprise me if she doesn’t go soon, too.” Their own children even said as much. He’d been her world. Without him, she would be like an untethered shadow.

Except that’s not how it played out.

“A couple weeks after Dad’s funeral,” said my friend, “Mom cut off her hair. She got this trendy, spiky style like Jamie Lee Curtis had in one of her movies. We barely recognized her.”

Turns out their dad loved long hair so their mom seldom cut hers in order to please him. But that wasn’t all. She switched to jeans over dresses. Traded their big Buick for a little Fiat. Got a dog and a cockatiel. Even changed political parties.

“It was like Mom never lived until Dad died,” she said. “Instead of losing both parents close together like we were thinking might happen, we were given this cool new version of the one we had left. Mom became a vibrant, curious, opinionated woman.”

She couldn’t grow while in his shadow. But out of it, she bloomed.

Thinking about my friend’s mom reminded me of a dog my parents once had. They already owned several other dogs when Shorty joined their herd. He was a quiet, well-behaved little guy who, for years, showed no interest whatsoever in toys, until the other dogs began to die off. When it was down to just Shorty and one other, it was as if that little dog was reborn. He was suddenly playful, would even toss toys in the air and chase them himself, even though by then, he was something of a senior himself.

All the other dogs had loved Shorty. They’d been an inseparable pack with none so much as growling over a shared bowl of chow. Yet Shorty couldn’t shine with them there.

Much like my friend’s mom.

It’s impossible to say how her dad might’ve reacted to those changes if they’d occurred while he was alive. Whatever she anticipated was enough for her to constrain herself.

And for Shorty to watch from the sidelines while the other dogs played.

I’m curious about the power we give others that cause us to inhibit ourselves. I was recently in a situation where I realized, for the gazillionth time, that I didn’t fit in. It bothered me for a while. More than I’d care to admit.

But after talking with my old friend, I realized how easily her mom might’ve missed out completely since we aren’t always given the time to recreate ourselves. We can’t all wait until our perceived naysayers and competition is gone.

Besides, do we really want to scrub off our color to the point where we’re indiscernible from everyone else? Since we generally don’t remember the ones who fit in, but those who stand out.



October 23, 2015 by Karin Fuller

I wasn’t one of those parents who got wildly costumed for Trick-or-Treat. I’d sometimes wear orange and black or a crocheted sweater that seemed web-like, paired with a furry tarantula pin, but that was generally the extent of my ensemble. It wasn’t that I didn’t like dressing up, but rather I knew over the course of the evening, I’d gradually end up wearing more of my daughter’s costume than she.

The mask was usually first to go, then the hat, then accessories. It was often the same with most of the parents in our group. We’d start off empty-handed and dressed rather dull, but soon be wielding discarded shields and swords and guitars, wearing witch hats paired with Smurf gloves and Powerpuff wigs, while our sugared up children shrieked up the street ahead of us.

It wasn’t until a few years back that I attended a few Halloween parties aimed at adults. I had no idea what to expect costume-wise, so was stunned by the expensive and elaborate outfits. Most of the women’s costumes seemed to include the word “sexy.” Sexy nurse. Sexy secretary. Sexy cowgirl. There was even a sexy Hazmat worker, complete with goggles and a mostly unzipped yellow jumpsuit.

My costume wasn’t sexy, though. It was merely confusing.

It began with a gothic-looking jacket that seemed the perfect foundation for a Victorian era vampire costume. I cobbled together random pieces on the cheap and was so tickled with how affordable the outfit was that I splurged on an $18 set of fangs that would adhere directly over my teeth, along with false eyelashes with teeny bats at the tips.

I was fully dressed when I attempted to put on the lashes, something I’d only once before worn in my life.

To say it went badly is an understatement. By the time I gave up, my eyes were thoroughly bloodshot and my upper lids, sans fake lashes, were now adhered halfway up to my brow line. I looked full on demented. Visualize a Victorian pug.

It wasn’t quite the look I was after.

pug eyesHoping to salvage the outfit, I then tried to glue on the fangs. If I’d been able to see, following the instructions might’ve gone better. They weren’t as simple as I’d hoped. No “squirt glue, press to tooth.” Instead, there was water to be boiled and powder to be mixed and timed and dried and layered and pressed. Fake fang and tooth needed to mingle and decide whether they wanted to spend time together.

They did not.

By the time I gave up, my canine teeth were layered with a gummy adhesive that wouldn’t come off, causing my upper lip to frequently catch on my teeth like a speedbump.

I looked even more like a Victorian pug.

Didier assured me my outfit looked fine without fangs, except when we got to the party, I couldn’t go anywhere without someone attempting to guess who I was.

“I’m a sleep-deprived vampire,” I said. “Post dental procedure.”

I was recently telling a friend about the evening and she shared how she’d once gone to a costume party dressed as Charlie Chaplin. She had the little black bowler hat, baggy pants and a black top coat, and she’d practiced her little waddley walk. It was dead-on Chaplin, right down to the little mustache.

“The little mustache was all people saw,” she said. “They’d spot me and clack their heels together, raise one arm above their head and salute. ‘Sieg heil!’”

We’ve been invited to another party this year. I considered revisiting my Victorian pug, but might just grab some random costume pieces and go as Trick-or-Treat Mom.



October 11, 2015 by Karin Fuller

jelloIf I’m feeling low, I have a few go-to TV shows I sometimes watch to cheer myself up. Among them are old episodes of The Office, mostly because of the pranks between Jim Halpert and Dwight Schrute. A swiped stapler left wobbling in a mound of yellow Jell-O. A workspace moved into the bathroom. A phone handset gradually weighted to become heavier and heavier, then the weights abruptly removed, causing the answerer to whap himself in the head when the phone rings.

Strange as it may sound, I’d like to be doing my time in an office like that. Work days are more interesting when broken up with a prank here or there.

Years back, I worked with a man named John who was constantly playing jokes on most everyone in our office. As I can be terribly gullible, I was his most frequent target. One time, John pinned a tail to my coat that was so light I didn’t notice it, flipping perkily along behind me, until I’d finished every one of my many errands and was getting back in my car. When I promptly sat on the tail.

I decided to return the favor by sneaking John’s charcoal-grey dress coat from our office closet and stitching the sleeves shut. Except moments after I’d hung the coat back in the closet, two things happened at once. John walked in wearing a different coat. And a customer who had been in our office retrieved his charcoal-grey coat from the closet.

I’d actually managed to prank myself. (Not to mention that poor man.)

Few are immune to workplace tricksters, however. Just recently, a friend from my writing group, Charlie Dennie of St. Albans, shared about a time when his dad worked at Union Carbide.

homburgThe workers in his dad’s area had a common locker room, where they’d change each morning to go out into the plant. One morning, the men were milling about, getting ready for work when one of their coworkers arrived wearing a snazzy new hat. I believe Charlie called it a “Homburg,” which is a little like a fedora. He said it was stylish and classic, something a businessman would wear more so than a plant worker.

Since the man wearing the hat wasn’t typically a slave to fashion, it drew the attention of his coworkers, who wanted to know more about it.

“I got it from Kelley’s Mens Shop,” he said.

He proudly brushed off his hat before storing it in his locker for the day and when the work day was over, Charlie said his dad recounted. And the men watched as he carefully brushed it off again before putting it on. The next day, same thing. He clearly cherished that hat. Walked a little cockier when he had it on.

So the chance for mischief was ripe.

When payday rolled around, the men decided to pitch in a few bucks each and they went to Kelley’s Men’s Shop and purchased the same hat, except in a larger size. They smuggled this new hat into their locker room and, after their coworker put his beloved hat in his locker to go out into the plant for the day, they quickly swapped his hat for the larger one.

When the man returned at the end of the day, he brushed off his hat as always and placed it on his head. And it dropped down over his eyes.

After looking momentarily confused, he sort of tilted it back a bit and headed for home. He continued to wear the larger hat every day, saying nothing about it to anyone about it. They said nothing to him.

When the next payday rolled around, the men again pooled their money and headed back to Kelley’s. This time, they purchased the same hat in the smallest size it was made and then they swapped out the hats. At the end of the workday, when their coworker placed his prized hat on his head, it just sort of perched there. Balanced on top of his noggin.

The men had planned on trading back to his original hat the next day, except their coworker wasn’t at work.

They called his house. His wife said he’d gone to the doctor, concerned because his head was shrinking and swelling.

With me, it was only a tail. Compared to him, I think I came out ahead.



October 7, 2015 by Karin Fuller


Just-Because-Youre-Offended-Doesnt-Mean-Youre-RightSo often, when sitting down to write a column, I’ll be all charged up by an idea.

And then find myself abandoning one line or approach after another because it might offend someone. Most writers–at least most of the writers I respect—don’t do that. They write unapologetically, without fear of stepping on toes.

I avoid conflict, and I avoid it in a way that’s probably not entirely healthy. Not just in my writing life, but in most every corner. Somehow over the years, I’ve developed this stifling fear of upsetting others to the point where I’ll carefully rearrange and rephrase and stay quiet in order to avoid making waves.

These days, the offended have so many platforms for spouting their outrage while we, the meek, are constantly searching for ways around potential conflicts. Sometimes, though, we the meek are also searching for crockpot bean recipes. Once in a great while, when the planets align just right, we find both in the same place.

Considering the part beans can play in Things Some Find Offensive, it shouldn’t have come as a total surprise for there to be a discussion about being offended intermingling with beans, yet in this instance, one had nothing to do with the other.

The discussion I’m referring to was on a website called Christy Jordan’s Southern Plate. Her discourse about being offended (that led into the bean recipe) was a little like the opening credits that run before a TV show. She was giving readers a taste of who she is prior to getting to why they were there (the beans).

Her website is a goldmine of recipes and conversation. As I read her piece about the easily offended, I found myself copying several of Christy’s adages for my ever-growing collection.

Among her rules for not being offended:

“Don’t take a paper cut and turn it into a sword wound.”

“When you assume the best in someone and they disappoint you, it is a reflection on who THEY are. When you assume the worst of someone, regardless of how they behave, it is a reflection on who YOU are.”

“Folks who complain about always having their toes stepped on need to look at how far out they’re sticking their feet.”

She shared one of her aunt’s favorite sayings, one that originated from Dolly Party, “Get down off the cross, honey. Somebody needs the wood.”

Which is a quote I probably wouldn’t have previously shared for fear of offending, but it’s a new leaf, people. I’m turning it over.

I know a woman who seems to exist in a constant state of outrage. The people who drive in front of her, who pass her, who park next to her—they’re unfailingly inept. Most every waitress, cashier, teller and teacher is incompetent. Politicians send her into a tizzy and parents are loathsome, as most every child she encounters is unfit for public presentation.

If there was a prize for Most Offended, she’d have a case full of trophies. But she’s also one of the unhappiest people I know, and one of the loneliest.

I know another woman, Diane, who lets it all roll off her back. She looks at least a decade younger than her age. Has a bounty of friends.

“What’s the point of being upset all day long? Does that change anything or make you feel better?” wrote Diane. “Allowing someone else’s actions or opinions to affect you is giving them your power.”

And adjusting every word out of your mouth, or from your fingertips, so that it doesn’t offend gives up your power as well.


September 27, 2015 by Karin Fuller


Although I’m fairly new at golf and not very good, I still love to play. Occasionally, I’ll complain when I have a particularly bad hole. We weren’t too far into our game this past weekend when I grumbled about my score for the hole.

“So do you know what a 6 isn’t?” Didier asked.

“No,” I said.

“It isn’t a 7.”

He was right. And it was exactly what I needed to hear. No matter how bad I was playing, it could have (and has) been far worse. What was interesting was as soon as he said that to me, my attitude changed, as did my game. Something lifted or lessened. I had more fun playing the remaining holes than I’d had at the start, when I’d been beating myself up for each whiff, top, slice, and chunk.

While I’ve long believed that having an attitude of gratitude makes life sweeter, I didn’t know until recently that there’s actual physiological reasoning behind how that works.

According to UCLA neuroscience researcher Alex Korb, author of The Upward Spiral, scientific studies have shown being grateful affects the brain at a biological level because it activates the brain stem area that produces serotonin, an antidepressant.

A person doesn’t even have to actually FIND something specific to be grateful for. Just the act of trying triggers that part of the brain.

Wrote Korb in his book, “Trying to think of things you are grateful for forces you to focus on the positive aspects of your life. This simple act increases serotonin production in the anterior cingulate cortex.”

Even though I had to reach a bit to find something to be grateful about—that I’d shot a 6 instead of a 7—just the act of looking got my brain to treat me to a little shot of serotonin.

“It’s not finding gratitude that matters most; it’s remembering to look in the first place,” wrote Korb. “Remembering to be grateful is a form of emotional intelligence. One study found that it actually affected neuron density in both the ventromedial and lateral prefrontal cortex. These density changes suggest that as emotional intelligence increases, the neurons in these areas become more efficient. With higher emotional intelligence, it simply takes less effort to be grateful.”

Attaining a grateful attitude isn’t difficult for me, but maintaining it is. It often feels as though the moment I get my feet back under me, someone tugs again at my rug. A friend said life is going to keep doing this to me until I truly learn the lesson it’s trying to teach. I can grasp the concept briefly, yet have trouble keeping hold.

Less than a day after having my eyes opened with Didier’s “It isn’t a 7” line, I was revisiting the Land of Grumbledom because I couldn’t sleep and was up before dawn. The dog was bouncing off the walls, so as soon as it was light out, I took him to the park and we started walking the trails. I was tired and grumpy and his retractable leash refused to retract, so it was like walking a Macy’s Parade balloon through a tornado. Ash would lunge left and race right and catch a scent that mandated an instantaneous reversal so he could inspect.

We were at the farthest part of the trail when he startled a grasshopper. It sprang. Ash sprang after it. Except his long legs tangled in each other and he somersaulted onto the path. He looked up at me with this amused “Did you catch that?” expression. I grabbed my camera and tried to record his look, but he’d reassembled his dignity and I missed the shot.

raySince the camera was out, I began snapping pictures. The sunrise through the trees. Dew on a mushroom. Park benches tinted with moss. By the time we made it back out to the car, I’d decided to take another lap.

I was no longer grumpy or tired or stressed. Instead of being annoyed over being up so early on a Sunday, I felt grateful not to have missed all that I saw and smelled and felt on our walk.

It could’ve been a 6. But it was a 10.







September 21, 2015 by Karin Fuller


ash bed 1Just last month, I wrote proudly about the intelligence of Ash, my daughter’s new pup. I’d been inspired because I’d been making the bed with Ash observing me flip the bedding into the air, then adjust it down over the bed. Bottom sheet, top sheet, blanket. By the time I reached the comforter, Ash had the process figured out. He decided to help by grabbing the corner opposite me and tugging it down over the edge, which he then released. As though he’d been making beds for years.

I’d never had a dog help with housework before. The possibilities had me euphoric. This Disney dog was going to be dusting and carrying groceries and sewing me a gown for the ball.

But I believe I can safely say now that the bed-making was a single occurrence. A fluke.

In the weeks since then, I’ve made the bed with Ash rolling under the covers, stealing pillows, uncasing pillows, and depantsing the bedmaker. This very morning, moments after I made the bed and headed downstairs, the comforter passed me going down the hall at an impressive speed.

Superman has a canine counterpart. Who dons a down-alternative cape.

I’m enjoying the process of getting to know Ash and his many quirks. He’s an interesting dog. For instance, he doesn’t just make a deposit in the yard, he dances it out. And he doesn’t stand in the kitchen, quietly eating his Kibble, but rather fills his mouth and carries it wherever we are so he doesn’t have to eat alone.

He has a way of charming, or at least attempting to charm, even the most uninterested or anti-social dogs.

ash and duckAnd he has to, at all times, be surrounded by toys.

For the past few years, I thought I’d been converted into being a cat person, mostly because they’re such convenient pets. With cats, there’s no rushing home from work to let them out, like with dogs, and they can be left alone for a weekend instead of boarded, if need be.

Plus there’s something about having a cat like you that’s so much more of a compliment than when a dog seeks your attention. With dogs, it’s expected. With cats, it’s high praise. The entire feline species is known for being finicky and disinterested snobs, so to have one grace your lap is a flattering endorsement.

Our cats have always been good about greeting me at the door when I return home from work, but they go straight from the door to their food dish. Ash, on the other hand, will ambitiously greet me for as long as I’ll allow without once asking to be compensated for his affection.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever met anyone besides vet techs because of our cats, but in the few months we’ve had Ash, I’ve met dozens of people. Dogs are proven catalysts for interacting with others, with studies showing that walking around with a dog leads to more social interactions than walking alone.

According to the Milk Bone Human-Canine Health Study of 3,000 dog owners, 55 percent of those who own dogs describe their lives as being “full of happiness and joy,” as compared with only 39 percent of non-dog owners.

I do know that since getting a dog, there seem to be more hours in the day. Probably because there’s no sleeping in. I’ve also noticed that I’m eating less. (Sharing more.) I’m outside more, walking more, meeting more people, buying more shoes.

And looking oddly forward to making the bed.


September 16, 2015 by Karin Fuller

showerI was talking with one of my daughter’s friends last week when he mentioned the kinds of creative thoughts he has after being disconnected from technology for even a short while. He said the world is so noisy he sometimes has to unplug so his brain can rest.

It’s a feeling familiar to me. There’s so much clutter and commotion, so many funny YouTube videos and interesting articles and clever Pinterest ideas to explore it’s not unusual for me to drop through that black hole for ages. And judging from the friends I’ve talked with about this, it seems more the norm than the exception for us to drive with music blaring from here to there, and then many of us work and work out and walk with headsets on, our own thoughts drowned out by someone else’s. We have the computer running, the smart phone in hand, the television blaring in the background. We’re exhausting our brains, which believe it or not, needs quiet to do its best work.

Research indicates people are most likely to have creative epiphanies when doing a monotonous type of activity, like jogging or showering, since we’re on autopilot when we do the routine. And when we do these things without the influence of auditory stimulation, like headsets, the mind is most fully able to wander, allowing the brain to relax and create.

I’ll spare you the scientific details about the research conducted by the journal Thinking and Reasoning, but it basically said the ideas we have while doing something like showering will be completely different than the ideas we come up with while we’re at work. Work Brain tends to be more close-minded and focused, while Shower Brain is uncensored and unconventional.

The study found that since most of us shower in the morning or at night, when we’re most tired, the groggy fog weakens the brain’s censors, keeping us from “blocking the irrelevant, distracting thoughts that make great ideas possible.”

But it was while further researching the term Shower Brain that I was then tossed completely off track, as it landed me on a web page where people share random thoughts that have occurred while they showered.

For instance, the first thing I read was, “Head and Shoulders should make a body wash called Knees and Toes.”

In that instant, I was hooked. I went shiny. Kept reading.

“Cheerios are like really small, really stale bagels.”

“In order to fall asleep, you have to pretend to be asleep.”

“Gyms should offer a membership package where you pay for every day you don’t go.”

“Scooby-Doo taught us that the real monsters always turn out to be humans.”

“Since smart watches can now read your pulse, there should be a feature that erases your browser history if your heart stops beating.”

“Spilling a beer is the adult equivalent to losing a balloon.”

“According to the Monkeys’ theme song, the only thing preventing them from putting people down was their hectic schedule.”

“Clapping is just hitting yourself because you like something.”

“Going to college just so you can party is like paying $40,000 for a steak with a side of potatoes, and then only eating the potatoes.”

“Ticks should be called Land Leeches.”

It wasn’t until I’d perused the last of the lists that I was able to pry myself away and get back to the business of researching my subject. Except by then, my thoughts were muddied and my eyes had begun to glaze over.

And it was time to disconnect and recharge my brain.