Thursday, January 30, 2014



We call them the baby boys, even though our canine family members are anything but small, or young, for that matter. The two Siberian huskies dominate our house with the authority of any pet that captures the heart of its owner.

Aspen is a big dog, almost ninety pounds big. Part of this can be attributed to the weakness of his indulgent owners, who can’t resist sharing a bite or two of whatever they happen to be eating with him and his brother, Scar. He has also been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, which contributes to his weight problem.  Scar, on the other hand, is a skinny guy. He has a habit of taking his bone treats outside and hiding them for later. He’s even been seen burying his dog food!

When we went out of town for a few days last year, our daughter fed and watered the boys. The night we were due to arrive home, she called to tell us it was storming and they were scared. Neither of the babies is likely to earn awards for bravery, especially during a thunderstorm. We told her to let them inside since we were only about an hour away.

When we arrived home, we found a trail of trash on the kitchen floor. Our daughter and granddaughter had deposited paper napkins and empty containers from a fast food restaurant in the trashcan. The baby boys decided to investigate those delicious smells. The top of a pill bottle lying amongst the debris made my heart race with fear.

My husband and I both take medications, but they were stored in a cabinet behind a closed door. What could they have possibly gotten into?

I found the pill bottle in the next room. Aspen’s thyroid medicine! Scar, much younger and more agile, must have jumped up and swiped the bottle from the back of the kitchen counter. We had just filled the prescription prior to leaving with a 90-day supply for 180 pills. My hands shook as I counted out a mere 45 tablets. I searched frantically in hope of finding the medicine strewn on the floor somewhere, but there wasn’t a sign of a single pill anywhere.

Our vet is off on Thursdays, and when I called her answering service, I was told she shuts off her pager at midnight on Wednesdays. It was now about 12:45 AM. I was referred to a vet in Pueblo, the nearest big town, eighty miles away. She recommended we take the dogs to a clinic in Colorado Springs, located one hundred twenty miles away, for overnight monitoring.

We weighed that option and decided it was time and cost prohibitive. We consulted the Internet, read all the side effects and complications, and watched the boys with bated breath while we said a few prayers.

Our vet called Friday morning. She had done some research and informed us that if we hadn’t seen any signs of toxicity within nine hours, Aspen and Scar would be fine. We were very fortunate that neither of our “babies” suffered any ill effects from the overdose. Who knows which took how many pills?

Every once in a while, when I look back on that incident, I can imagine the two of them sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor, dividing up those pills like children sharing jelly beans. “One for me…one for you.”

We learned a lesson that night. Pet proof your home with the same attention that you would childproof your home. Keep medications behind cabinet doors, even if they are prescribed for them! Lock up chemicals and household cleaning products. Keep foods that can be harmful out of reach. For example, chocolate is lethal to a dog. Food packaging poses a danger to your pet.

Be aware that pets can jump up on counters and tables, so remove breakable items to prevent cuts. Secure dangling wires. Keep houses plants inaccessible. Close toilet seats to prevent possible drowning. Put items away that may pose a choking hazard, such as children’s toys, game pieces, and sewing articles, especially needles and thread.

Children, especially, love pets. Taking responsibility for another living thing helps them feel more grown up. When life seems so unfair and adults just don’t understand, they find comfort and understanding in the special bond they build with their pet.

Pets become an integral part of our lives. They weave their way into our hearts and take their rightful place as members of the family. They provide companionship and sometimes fill a spot that no human can. Your pet is totally dependent on you for his safety and well-being. Show your love by keeping her out of harm’s way.

Patti Shene had enjoyed writing since childhood. She is published in two anthologies, Love is a Verb Devotional and Angels, Miracles, and Heavenly Encounters, as well as in local publication
She served as Executive Editor for Starsongs, a publication of Written World Communications (WWC), written for kids by kids from 2010 - 2013. She also held the position of Division Manager for YA and Children’s Imprints with WWC for several months.
She has three novels in progress. Patti enjoys encouraging other writers by judging contests and featuring writers as guests on her three blogs, located at
Patti is a retired RN, formerly from Long Island, who resides in a small Colorado town with her husband of thirty-six years. She has two wonderful adult children and one amazing 12- yr old granddaughter. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

I Will Absolutely NEVER— Live in Florida

It started with our honeymoon in Miami Beach in 1965.  Remember Hurricane Betsy?  She came roaring at us from the Caribbean, hung around off shore long enough to churn up the surf, and made a sharp right turn.  Close call - but wait.  Around Jacksonville, she changed her mind, made a U-turn, and came back.  Another right turn and she barreled across Florida, built up steam in the Gulf, and killed seventy-six people in Louisiana. 

A few years later, we were visiting my wife's parents in Boca.  The multitude of octogenarian northern transplants was the same annoying people they'd been back home, only older and crankier.  They all drove cars as big as ocean liners in the left lane, which caused the local rednecks to try to run them off the road.  And then there were the early-bird specials. 

The frogs that serenaded us each evening turned out to be alligators in the lake behind my in-laws' house, and one morning, I found a coral snake curled up on their front walk.  In summer, the weather was unbearable and the medical care was so horrendous we had to fly them up to Johns Hopkins whenever something went wrong.

My brother moved to Disneyworld to escape northern winters, went through two horrible marriages, and died there last year.  Attending his funeral, we met Hurricane Sandy who did her best to blow the funeral tent down.  We had to fly through her to get home, but she wasn't done with us, aiming right for our area on her way north to wreck the Jersey shore.

Did I need more reasons to hate Florida?  How about the gun culture?  The reactionary, intolerant politics?  And now, the Burmese pythons that have virtually destroyed the fauna of the Everglades and turned their ravenous eyes northward?  I was justifiably righteous when I smugly swore I would never be a Florida Snowbird much less live there.  Damn right, I was.

Then, last summer, my son and daughter-in-law decided to move to Orlando instead of San Diego.  We were especially horrified because they took seven-month-old Nate, our only grandchild, and Tessie, our favorite dog with them.  In September, we bit the bullet and flew down to visit them - missing them convinced me that adaptability was a more attractive quality than stubbornness. 

While we were there, my son suggested a trip to the beach.  With unpleasant memories of South Florida Atlantic beaches, I wasn't excited, but he assured us this place would be different.  He introduced us to New Smyrna Beach, a lovely, artistic town that lies between Daytona and the Canaveral seashore.  My wife had announced that she was retiring at the end of the year, and we both knew an idle winter in Maryland was not a good way to transition into the next phase of life.

Three hours after arriving in New Smyrna, I found myself signing a contract to rent a beachfront condo for January.  So here I am, writing this as I look out at the ocean.  I'm inside because it's too cold out on the deck. Nineteen days here and there have already been four hard freezes in central Florida.  But I'm not complaining.  Up north they're talking about this new thing called a Polar Vortex.  I think they're up to Polar Vortex 3, now.

We have to leave early because my mother is in hospice in New York.  There's almost a foot of snow at home today and there will be a negative ten degree wind chill when we exit the Auto Train in northern Virginia two days from now. 

Considering everything, three weeks here with Nate and Tessie never more than forty miles away have trumped five decades of certainty.  We've engaged a realtor to find us a place to buy in New Smyrna.  Like I said, never say NEVER.

Alan Zendell spent more than thirty years as a scientist, aerospace engineer, software consultant, database developer, and government analyst, writing really boring stuff like proposals, technical papers, reports, business letters, and policy memoranda.  But trapped inside him all that time were stories that needed telling and ideas that needed expression, so with encouragement and cajoling from a loving baby sister he plunged into fiction.  Since then, he has written mostly science and extrapolative fiction with three-dimensional characters.  It’s the things they believe in and how much they’re willing to invest to preserve them that make a story worth telling.  It’s convincing interactions and well-researched credible plots that make a story worth reading. And, of course, like any writer, Alan loves having an audience.  You may find Alan’s books here

Friday, January 17, 2014

Expeditions ‘R Us 
By Dr. Jeri Fink
Do you believe that expeditions aren’t for Boomers?
Think again.
I’ve been on two expedition cruises – celebrating my 60th and 62nd birthdays – on the Linblad/National Geographic Explorer and Endeavor.
Now I’m thinking about celebrating my 65th by following Lewis & Clark on the Snake and Columbia Rivers, searching for Orangutans in Indonesia, exploring the Amazon, or checking out Loch Ness in Scotland.
Expeditions are a special brand of travel. You tour on small, tough ships that are comfortable but without the amenities of luxury cruises. Instead of a cruise director and staff, there’s an expedition team, naturalists, and science-oriented speakers who give presentations on everything from politics and geology to ecotourism. There’s no art auction or midnight buffet – hikes, explorations, zodiacs, snorkels, and destination-appropriate adventures are the entertainment.
My first expedition cruise was to Antarctica. People asked me why we wanted to go to the icy bottom of the world. The next generation smirked.   “Why wouldn’t you go to a beach?”

We were starry-eyed explorers behind our sunglasses!
Antarctica was a breathtaking experience, filled with icebergs, penguins, whales, and a sense of what the world looks like without human intervention. (see August 20, 2013)
 When we returned with photos, videos and life-changing experiences, the kids were impressed. And curious. Everyone wanted to know what it was like at the bottom of the world.
Two years later my son and his wife joined us on our next expedition to the Galapagos Islands. We sailed on the Endeavor to a magical place with strange and beautiful creatures. There were King Angelfish, Yellow Warblers, Great Blue Herons, and Orange Land Iguanas. Not to mention our favorite, Blue-footed Boobies.

We saw Sea Lions cavort in the water and on land, watched a flock of Pelicans begging for scraps from a local fisherman, and visited prehistoric-looking Galapagos Giant Tortoises, who “smiled” as they moved along in slow motion.
Sally Lightfoot crabs sunned on volcanic cliffs while Great Frigate Birds puffed up their red finery in a colorful mating ritual.
The world would never look the same!
Now our kids have kids – along with mortgages and lawn mowers. They’re no longer free to travel the world – like us.
There’s pure joy in seeing places where few venture.  So much awaits beyond the beaches and resorts of conventional travel destinations. If you prefer to stay domestic, consider expeditions that follow breaching Humpback whales in Alaska, a living Aquarium in Baja California, or the land of the Nez Perce Indians in the Pacific Northwest. Or stay in your "backyard" with a DIY expedition, visiting caverns, strange land formations, ancient settlements, and nature's anomalies that surround all of us.
There’s so much to see and experience – no bottom to our bucket list. So why stay home?
If your kids think you’re crazy, don’t worry. Your grandkids think you’re heroes. Look at it this way - why do they need explorers like Lewis & Clark, Marco Polo, and Christopher Columbus when they have Nana and Poppy?

Dr. Jeri Fink is a proud boomer and the author of hundreds of articles and over nineteen published books. Her new series, Broken, re-invents the art of storytelling in six separate thrillers that follow dramatic, related paths through genealogical time, from the present back to the 15th century. Each novel focuses on psychopaths, their prey, and heroes trapped in their zeitgeist. Broken will be launched in Spring, 2014.
Visit Jeri at her website: or email her at