Category Archives: Life

Volunteer time

Another distraction to add to the list of reasons I hadn’t updated my blog (to continue from my last blog post) was my volunteer work with Slighe nan Gaidheal and the every-other-year Fèis event (a five-day festival) in June.

I have been Slighe’s volunteer treasurer for almost six years. My second, three-year term on the Board of Directors ends on October 31st. And then I will retire.

The Scottish Gaelic language, or Gàidhlig (sounds like GAL-ik) as it’s called in that language, fascinates me. I feel that understanding the gaelic languages gives me a window into the Celtic mind and heart.

Gàidhlig was very nearly wiped out, in the systematic way that languages spoken by the poor and powerless often are (*). But in recent years the language is experiencing a resurgence. That is due to several factors including UK government support and the willingness of many families to enroll their children in the new Gàidhlig emersion schools. Also, all over the world there are individuals and groups learning to speak Scottish Gaelic. For the last twenty years, Slighe nan Gaidheal has nurtured a persistent community of Gàidhlig learners and speakers in the Pacific Northwest.

So after my husband and I began taking classes in Scottish Gaelic through Slighe’s excellent education program more than seven years ago, I wanted to give back to this little community. So I enthusiastically volunteered to help with the 2010 Fèis. Then I ran for and was elected to the Board of Directors.

The treasurer position is not difficult, insofar as anyone who can balance their checkbook and learn to use QuickBooks could do it. The critical requirement is consistency – checks have to be deposited and bills have to be paid on time. Slighe is a small non-profit with no employees, so there are not that many transactions to keep track of. Except during a Fèis – then it gets insanely busy and sorting out the financial end of things can easily take up every spare minute for several weeks.

My enjoyment in working with this volunteer organization has been strongly influenced by the dedication and attitude of the other volunteers. When all the volunteers show up for meetings and do their jobs to the best of their abilities when they say they will do them, it can be a wonderful and energizing experience.

I don’t enjoy this volunteer gig anymore.

I feel that the best reason to volunteer my time to an organization is because I love what the organization does or stands for. For almost six years I have accomplished an ongoing task that is critical to the continued existence of Slighe nan Gaidheal, so I feel good about that. Slighe has many responsible and devoted volunteers whom I have enjoyed working with over the years.

It’s time for me to retire from the Slighe board. Three months left to go.

Fort Worden, June 2016

Fort Worden, Fèis 2016

(*) The majority of Scottish Gaelic speakers are, now and historically, white. In my opinion that is the main reason it survived compared to, for example, Native American languages.

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Still here and blogging (sort-of)

Reasons I have not updated my blog in four months:

1. I was putting all my writing energy into finishing the Novel.
(And on 5 June 2016 I DID finish the 115k-word, zero draft!)

2. End of school year chaos.

3. My husband and I took our twins on a family vacation in northern India for three weeks.

4. The illness I picked up in India came home with me and has been hanging around for one-and-a-half weeks (so far).

5. My oldest daughter is getting married four weeks from now.

More blog posts to come…

Miriah Hetherington visits Tak Thog Gonpa, photo 15 July 2016

Statue at Tak Thog Gonpa, photo taken 15 July 2016

Another Teddy Post

Yes, this is another blog post about my dog.
My kids occasionally entertain themselves and me by saying what they think our dog, Teddy, is thinking. Speaking in a voice that sounds to me like Dexter in an animated show called “Dexter’s laboratory.”
Now I find myself imagining what Teddy is thinking.

Teddy:
Where is boss-Mom going? The room where they keep food! I will follow her.

What are you doing? What is that you took from the big cold box? Is it peanut butter? It’s PEANUT BUTTER isn’t it? I want some. Give it to me. I want some.  Please. Please. Please.

Yes!

Oh. Ugh. What is this awful green thing Boss-Mom has fed to me? Celery. Yuk. I will leave it here on the floor. No, no, don’t pick it up. I will eat it later. If I get bored.
Listen, Boss-Mom. If you must eat green stuff, I will hook you up. There is a nice patch of grass outside in the back yard. I will share it with you.  Long blades of grass. Nice and green.
But while you are out there, do not eat the rabbit poo. I will not share. The rabbit poo is mine. All mine.

dog_teddy

 

Life with Dog

We’ve had our dog Teddy for over two months now. One thing I can say as someone who’s never owned a dog before – it’s not what I expected.

My twins had been begging for a dog for years. Finally, they persuaded my husband and I to get one. At 14-years of age, they convinced us that they would be responsible for most of the care-taking.

Miriah Hetherington's dog Teddy

Teddy in the backyard

I imagined life with a canine companion… a long pleasant walk with him in the morning, whilst thinking about my current work in progress. Followed by sitting at my desk writing as the dog slept peacefully at my feet. In my day-dream, after school one of the twins would take the dog for another walk. We’d all get more exercise.

Any parent reading this knows exactly where this is going…

Sleeping-in on the weekend is right out. Somebody has to let Teddy out of the crate for a potty break, and that somebody is me, the mom.

I hardly ever see our two cats anymore, and I miss them. They come out of hiding only to eat and use the litter box. There is no doubt in my mind that Teddy would kill them if given the chance. I asked the private rescue organization if the dog had been tested for compatibility with cats, and they told me “it’s all about how you introduce them.” I should have known what that really meant was: “He loves cats, he just can’t eat a whole one.”

Walking Teddy is hard work, and requires constant attention. So of course, it’s my job. He weighs eighty pounds and lunges away at the least whiff of a rabbit, or the sight of a bird or squirrel. Teddy’s current body count is two: he’s killed one rabbit and one bird, so far. We’ve been working on leash-walking in obedience class. He’s getting better, but walking him is a long way from a pleasant, relaxing experience. In fact, for now training means no long walks at all – I’m stuck in ultra-boring up-and-down our street mode.

Teddy with one of my kids

Teddy with one of my kids

Other than his enthusiasm for murdering small animals, Teddy is a very sweet guy. He’s very gentle with people and doesn’t pay attention to other dogs. He’s smart and quick to learn. He’s motivated more by attention than treats. Except for the cats, we all love him.

I have hope that eventually, he will get used to our cats and see them as companions rather than potential chew-toys.

Do your pets help or hinder your writing efforts?

Canine Adventures, part 2

Four questions I wished I had asked in advance when we adopted Teddy from a private rescue organization:

1. Are your dogs neutered or spayed before being adopted out?
Teddy’s estimated age is two years and he was not neutered when we adopted him. Public animal shelters like the Humane Society always neuter an animal before putting it up for adoption. I was surprised that wasn’t the case for private rescue.

2. When will my dog be neutered and by whom?
All of the information regarding the neuter was in the adoption contract. This private rescue organization utilizes a local veterinary technician college, and the pet owner is not allowed to interface with the vet tech college at any time during the dog’s four-day stay there. The rescue organization has until the date hand-written on the contract to arrange to have the neuter/spay done. In our case that was three months after the adoption date.

3. Why haven’t you sent me the adoption contract (in advance)?
The contract was emailed to me exactly 75 minutes before our appointment, a thirty minute drive away.

4. What arrangement do you have with the high-kill shelter(s)?
I don’t know the answer. The dogs on this organization’s web site are all attractive, much more so than the ones at my local shelter, and they have a lot more puppies. I like the warm fuzzy satisfaction of believing my dog might have been killed if he had stayed at that Nevada shelter. I just can’t help but wonder if these dogs are really “the cream of the crop” instead of “unwanted on death row.”

It was not in Teddy’s best interest or ours to wait three months, so we had Teddy neutered by our regular, licensed veterinarian. The private rescue organization is doing a very positive thing, and they are sincerely dedicated to their mission. I’ve asked around and discovered that private rescues are becoming common, and if that means more homeless dogs find forever homes, then the net result is a good thing. We love Teddy, and are happy to have him join our family.

My advice to potential dog-owners considering adopting from a private rescue: ask more questions than I did. Carefully read anything hand-written on the contract after you signed it, before leaving with your new dog. Clarify all information conveyed verbally and check for consistency with the written contract.

Here’s a photo of Teddy a couple days after he was neutered.

Miriah Hetherington's dog

Teddy in the car, wearing the “cone of destruction”

If you adopted your dog from a private rescue, did everything go as expected?

Canine Adventures, part 1

One month ago we adopted a dog, named Teddy by one of my kids.

Miriah Hetherington's dog Teddy

Teddy in the back yard

Neither my husband nor I have ever owned a dog before. So this is a learning adventure for all of us.

We adopted Teddy from a private rescue organization that brings dogs from high-kill shelters to the Seattle area. He came from Nevada. According to the shelter documents his breed is “border collie mix.” Since we brought him home I’ve learned what that basically means is “black and white dog.” There could be some border collie in his genes. But likely there’s some bull-dog or pit-bull and maybe even some great dane in there also.

Teddy weighs 75 pounds, so he’s pretty big. He’s a very sweet guy, calm most of the time, and loves belly rubs and squeaky toys. He’s learning to walk on a leash, but still tends to forget everything when he sees (or smells) a rabbit or squirrel – critters we have in abundance around here. We are still keeping him separate from our two cats, who are both rather unimpressed with the newest member of the family.

Microsoft Campus trail Sasquatch sign

Teddy poses for a selfie with me

A Frosty Transaction

It’s December already. Where did the year go? In honor of December and the holiday/Christmas season, I’ve decided to share a Christmas-themed, horror-flash, fan-fiction story I wrote.

I’m linking this story in the comments on Chuck Wendig’s blog, where he posed a challenge to write a Flash Fiction Challenge: Holiday Horror Extravaganza.

A Taste of Christmas Spirit
By Miriah Hetherington

Ethan rubbed his hands together and blew into them with steamy breath. He looked from the tip jar to his watch. It was six o’clock. Time to close up the espresso stand, and his tips barely covered the bus fare home. At least the boss was paying him double for working the Fourth Avenue cart on Christmas Eve.

He made two large mochas before closing up the stand. He was half-way to saving enough money to buy his own coffee cart, and someday he hoped to own his own restaurant. Ethan decided to save his meager tips and walk home, but stopped by the bus shelter to give one of the coffees to the homeless guy who’d been sleeping there for the last three nights. He wasn’t there, and Ethan hoped he’d found a better place.

Ethan turned the corner next to Macy’s on Main Street and joined a throng of foot traffic crossing the street. On the corner sidewalk, an older woman in a heavy white coat and ear muffs was busy setting up a vintage snow cone vending cart with a snowman painted on the side. As he got closer he heard her humming the Frosty the Snowman tune.

“Hello,” he said.

She turned, and Ethan could see that she was older than he’d first thought, but her eyes were lively and bright. “Sorry, my boy. I’m not open yet.”

“Uh, I wasn’t-” Ethan looked around. Other passers-by seemed to ignore her, and the old woman appeared to be alone. She opened a box full of snow cone syrup bottles and put one on the counter. “Ma’am, nobody’s going to buy snow cones tonight, it’s too cold.”

“I’ve been doing this for over fifty years — every Christmas Eve.” She winked. “Is one of those hot drinks for me?”

Ethan looked down at the two mochas he still held in his hands. “Sure.” He handed over the cup he’d intended for the homeless man.

“My name is Karen.”

“Ethan.” He shook her hand, a little surprised by how firm her grip was. “Would you like some help?”

Karen’s smile widened. “I would be delighted.” She took a sip of the mocha and gestured to the box. Ethan began unpacking the syrup bottles while Karen lined them up on the counter.

An overhead street light flickered in the early evening gloom. The light made the syrup bottles glimmer. He unpacked five shades of red, from blood-red charitable cherry, to wispy pink wise watermelon. Kindness kiwi glowed a tempting green, next to generous berry blue and orange tropical contentment.
Karen placed an empty gallon-size jug on the counter, and Ethan read the sign taped to it. “Pay what you wish?” He snorted, remembering his mostly empty tip jar from earlier. “Really?”

Karen shrugged and began filling a paper cone from the snow bin. “I’m serving Christmas Spirit. Who can put a price on that?”

“Uh-huh.” Ethan regarded the oblivious shoppers waiting at the corner for the street light to change. The old woman was clearly reality-challenged. But he couldn’t leave her here in the cold alone, waiting for customers all night.
Just then, a middle aged woman wearing a stylish overcoat and designer shoes stepped up to the stand. “I’ll take jolly raspberry.” She dropped a twenty dollar bill in the jar.

More customers began to stop at the snow cone cart. Karen poured grateful grape for a sullen teenager texting on her cell phone. A grey-haired man who announced he was a retired traffic cop chose playful peppermint.

A crowd surrounded the cart and Ethan filled paper cups with snow as fast as he could while Karen poured the syrup. Finally, the snow bin was empty except for a corncob pipe, button, and two lumps of coal. Ethan’s announcement that they were out of snow was met with a flurry of disappointed sighs as Karen sent people away.

Ethan stretched and looked at the gallon jug. It was full of bills, none less than twenty as far as he could tell. “I don’t believe it.”

“I always save one cone,” said Karen. She opened a side compartment and took out the last snow cone and an old silk top-hat. “I’m getting too old for this, Ethan. How would you like to take over?”

“Are you kidding?” It was Ethan’s dream come true. “But, I don’t think I can afford it.”

Karen pressed her lips together in a thin smile. “Consider it a Christmas gift. The cart, everything — the jar of money too. But you have to accept the responsibility. The snow bin can only be filled once a year, on Christmas Eve.”

With the money in that tip jar and his savings, Ethan could buy his own coffee cart. The unflavored snow cone glittered red and green, probably reflecting the changing traffic lights. Ethan’s mouth watered in anticipation as he reached out.

Karen pulled it back. “You must accept responsibility for the cart and agree to sell Christmas Spirit yourself, every Christmas Eve. Do you accept?” She held out the hat and the snow cone.

“Absolutely, I accept.” Ethan grasped the hat and brought the snow cone to his mouth. It cooled his tongue with a burst of sweetness like nothing he had ever tasted before. All at once he felt everything each syrup bottle had promised. He slurped charity, wisdom, kindness, generosity, contentment, gratefulness, playfulness, and joy. Everything the holiday season was supposed to be about. Far too soon, the cone was empty.

Ethan regarded the empty snow bin. “Just tell me what I have to do.”
The End

frosty-the-snowman-12
Frosty the Snowman is not in the public domain and doesn’t belong to me, so this story is fan fiction.

Thanks for reading. I hope you liked it.