Thursday, December 27, 2007

ok, so the last post was more or less a recap of the post before it.
And that was, what, 4 months ago now?!
Pathetic, i know.
And, due to my laptop's untimely demise in Florida last month, there are no pictures for this post...

So this is just a quick review of the past few months here in Pigville:
I'm still alive, more or less healthy.
Still married, still living in WVa. We still have Bran/Jillian living here too. We're still not done building out the apartment above the studio for her. We're still broke. We're still making pots & leather & are still really disorganized about paperwork.
D & i are still fat. We still have 2 dogs. One cat seems to have gone missing though. That's sad.
We're telling ourselves that she just moved over to the new neighbors, but we haven't verified that, cause we're afraid it won't be true.
I have a few new tattoos, but no pics, cause of laptop death.
We bought a 16' travel trailer in October & took it down to Florida in November, where we attempted to sell pots & leather. Didn't do very well sales wise, but had a great vacation & got to know some good folks better- that was great!
The trailer is tiny as these things go (a 92 Sunline i think) and very sweet. It was owned by a boat builder before we got it & he put in all sorts of cool storage bins & other boat like modifications. It's our WVa version of a little houseboat/sailing sloop. We've named her the Eddie T. after Blackbeard aka Edward Teach.
The other big news is that i've got dreadlocks! Yep, Darrell cut his off & i missed them so much that i had to get them for myself. Sorry, again with the no pictures. Will try to remedy that soon. The dreads look pretty good, if i do say so myself. They fit well into my master plan of not aging gracefully. And i'm sure i'll rock at the Fairie Festivals this spring. I've already exponentially increased the strange looks i get in the local Walmart & i count that as a "GoodThing"
On the Darrell front, he's happily preoccupied with building up his leather business (which saved our butt saleswise in FL this past trip) and brain tanning & hanging out with his Native American pals. He shaved off his dreadlocks when he did his affirmation ceremony/ sweat lodge this past September. He's now a card carrying Indian, a member of the Munsee Delaware Indian Nation based in central Ohio. I went with him to the ceremony & was very glad to have gone. The whole hanging with the Indians has made him pretty happy & much more spiritual & grounded than i've seen him in a long time. This, also, is a "GoodThing" in my book.

Not much else to report, at least for now. I'm gonna sign off for the time being with the usual promise of more frequent (& picture filled) posts to follow.
Remember though, if you want to contact us in any sort of a timely fashion, phone is the only way to go: 304-377-1952
Missing all my online pals!
I gotta go make pots so Mamma can get a new laptop! (and thus, stop having to invade Jillie's private sanctuary to get online)
Love & cyber hugs & kisses & seasonal wishes of good cheer.
Blessings too.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Hello Friends. It's been awhile since i've updated this blog. Much has happened, but as is typical, i haven't made time to sit down and post.
So, let's try to catch up:
I don't think i've mentioned it here yet, but Darrell had dreadlocks for most of the summer.
I do use the past tense, cause the dreads are gone.
It was like this. He wanted dreads cause his hair is pretty curly & knots up alot if left to it's own devices, which it is when i'm not around. So, we ordered lots of stuff from and followed their instructions. Bran & i invested three days (ok, really evenings) of our lives to getting the dreads in & started. They looked good. Very piratical!
But D. didn't spend anytime keeping them up. And it turns out that dreads need alot of time and attention to get started & just to not look like shite. Who knew? And we just didn't have that kind of time. And then MDRenn Fest started. And it was hot hot hot opening weekend.
That was enough for D.
The dreads went two weeks ago.
i miss them, but i don't miss cringing every time i look at my husband & wondering when i'll find the time to fuss with his hair.

Other news. hmmm.
I've got yet another new dog.
He's amazing. I'm really hoping this one will take.
He's a purebred German Shepherd. He came to us with the name of Triton. That's more or less been changed to Tristan.
It was like this:
My neighbor who is also my electrician, has this amazing German Shepherd named Bob. I've had a serious doggie crush on Bob since i met him 2 years ago, when Rick showed up with Bob in tow to put in the 220 lines for my kilns. Such a serious crush that in complete violation of all my "don't breed or buy while homeless animals die" beliefs, i told Rick repeatedly that if he ever bred Crazy (Bob's Mom) again, i wanted a "Bob dog" of my very own.
So, in June i guess it was, Rick shows up at our place with "not Bob", another beautiful German Shepherd in tow. It turns out that this is Triton, Bob's littermate.
Triton's owner was having a rough time & Rick was watching Triton for a few weeks while she (the owner) sorted stuff out.
Rick told me he was working on getting her to give Triton to me, for purely selfish reasons-- it would mean that Rick could come visit Triton/Tristan whenever he wanted, we could watch each other's dogs, all sorts of good stuff like that.
And so it came to pass. In mid July, Tristan came to stay with us. It took about a month for Tristan to figure out that he was staying, but now he's very much my dog. And an amazing being at that.
I've never had a pure bred dog. It's a very different thing from the mutts i've owned & loved in the past. I don't know if it's the breed or just this family of dogs, but Tristan is so smart and funny & loyal & neurotic. I love this guy with all my heart. I think i've become a GSD devotee after just a few weeks with one homeless, not at all housebroken, neurotic, noble, sweet, devoted, aloof & totally dependent upon me representative of the breed.
Tristan is so madding & wonderful all at once.

And that's the doggie news update. I still have my Bug-a-loo, my WVa mutt with her sweet eyes & snuggly demeanor & i wouldn't give her up anything. But i also wouldn't let Tristan go either. Our canines seems to have completed our family in a wonderful way & i'm really happy with the doggie status quo around here right now. (though i will confess that Tristan & Bug make a pretty funny looking doggie pack when they hang out together).

There's lots of other news, but i think i'll save it for another post, as i'm still stupid busy with Renn Fest-- in fact, i should be making pots RIGHT NOW.

Let me just sign off by mentioning that i've become a twitter-aholic. It's great fun & if you ever get sucked into it, let me know & we can keep in touch with that. It's just about perfect for my attention span these days. Check it out: my homepage there is:

Hope to see you soon in the twitter-o-sphere!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

hah! it is as i suspected/feared/hoped:
according to this, i AM a southern girl. I AM!!!
I suspect this is all due to D's influence...
What American accent do you have? (Best version so far)


People used to hate Southern accents but now everyone wants one.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

i can haz cheeseburger new dog?!!!

hopefully, i can!
This is Tritan.
He's a goof, a great big galumphing mutt & for the moment, at least, he's all mine.
It's like this:
I've had a really, really bad dog year. You can review some of the stuff below, on this blog. But after our most recent rescued dog had to go back from whence he came, ie, Cincinnati, i resolved to take a break. No more doggies for me for at least 4 months, till after Renn Fest. I needed to work out some doggie karma. Obviously this whole rescuing adult dogs thing wasn't working so well for me, and my one remaining dog, Budgth, could really use some one on one time and attention.
So, resolution made.
Two days later, my whacked out (in a good way: hi Rick!) neighbor & electrician, Rick, shows up with an amazing German Shepherd in tow.
I should mention that Rick has the Best. Dog. Ever. in the form of Bob, Rick's German Shepherd. From the moment i met Rick and Bob, two years ago, i have had a HUGE doggie crush on Bob. This crush is so severe that in violation of all my beliefs and principals, i have repeatedly told Rick that if he ever bred Crazy, aka Bob's Mom, again, i needed one of the pups.
So, about a month ago, Rick shows up with "notBob" gorgeous German Shepherd. And Rick tells me that this is Tritan, Bob's littermate. Tritan was spending some time with Rick cause Tritan's owner was going through a rough patch in her life at the moment. Rick told me that day that there was about a 50% chance that i might be able to adopt Tritan.
I was ecstatic and stunned, overwhelmed by his offer.
And today, almost exactly a month later, D & i came home from dropping off the recycling to see Rick and Tritan in our yard, hanging out with Jill.
Rick asked me if i was ready for my dog.
I stammered, hemmed & hawed and said "sure, i'll give him a try"
So, as i type this, i have an amazing, only slightly skunky smelling dog sleeping at my feet.

Tritan was a city dog. He's spent most of his life in Charleston, chained up in an urban back yard. The last month, he's been getting into trouble out here in the country.
Apparently, Tritan is not Bob's favorite guest. Bob has taken Tritan on some adventures involving skunks & sharp rocks and at one point, while we were in Chincoteague, i got a call from our cat sitter telling us that Tritan was sitting on our porch, very muddy, skunky & content. Bob had lead him off, and gotten him skunked & then lost him out here in the sticks. We live 3 miles from Rick & it seems that Tritan recognized our porch from his previous visits with Rick & settled down to wait for Rick to come pick him up.
A sign, i tell you, a sign!
So, here we are, a girl & her dog, both newcomers to this whole country lifestyle, trying to figure it & each other, out.
Tritan chases rocks, is fascinated in a not healthy (at least, from the cat's point of view) by cats, loves to swim & is regal, aloof & very gentile & posh, except when he's not.
I really like this dog & am very much hoping that between us, we can make this work. I'd like to have another dog & Tritan seems like he could become not just an amazing being, but might actually become OUR dog.
Typing with fingers & paws crossed...

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

damn, i'm tired.
i know, i know, it's not really news.
But it is true.
Overworked, underfunded, overstressed.
My life & welcome to it!
Got back from an all too brief beach sojourn with my family on Sunday. (above, a portrait my nephew Will took of me-- uncanny, huh?!)
I had an awesome time, hanging with my sister & her kids who came all the way from Colorado. It was amazing, relaxing & too short. Will try to get some pics up soon.
(below, D & Will, the red croc wearing men of our family!)

After an almost tearful goodbye on Sunday morning, we crammed ourselves (including the awesome Jillie in this, she of 'platonic girlfriend' fame) into our tiny car & headed back west to our river valley. It was great to be home, but didn't get to savor it for very long. Had to get to work that evening. (nothing says panic quite like spending 7 hours in the car and then sitting down at the potter's wheel for an extra 6 hours of work on a Sunday evening) I really have become the 'mad potter wot pots at midnight'
Worked my butt off for a few days in the studio & now i've got to head up to Canada for my best friends wedding.
I am really glad that she's getting married, i heartily approve of this, but damn, the woman's timing sucks!!! She knows this is my busiest time of the year and yet she goes ahead and plans her wedding anyway. The nerve, i tell you!
Plus, my sweetie is getting sucked deeper and deeper into this whole Native American thing. He's going to an Sundance this week. He's not dancing, but he is helping his friend who is dancing. So Sweetie, aka TwoWolves, gets to literally carry water for his friend who is dancing for 16 hours a day for 3 or 4 days before he gets to the hard part of the dance, the description of which i haven't been able to sit through without cringing and whinging yet... i'll spare you the details, but what really freaks me out is that this version of the dance has been scaled back and is considered 'easier' than how it was done in the old days. {shudder}
Fortunately for the tattered remains of my sanity, Sweetie hasn't ever mentioned the possibility of HIS dancing a Sundance to me. Yet.
I'm really glad that he's getting in touch with his Native American roots & the spiritual side of him is re-emerging... he's much more the blue eyed Indian that i fell in love with 4 years ago, but it's also just one more thread in the very tangled, complex cloth of our life.
(above, the happy couple at the beach)
I remember a year or so ago bitching to Sweetie that he had become spiritually numb & that i wanted my 'blue eyed Indian' back. Well, careful what you wish for, cause i've got him & life is just more complex and complicated now, instead of less so.
Don't get me wrong, i wouldn't have it any other way. I just wish that while the universe was filling my requests (i've also gotten some wonderful for me dog news, more about that in another post. With pics, i promise!) that the one for financial stability, fiscal fitness as it where, had been closer to the top of the list. Cause things are very wonderful in life these days, except that the money issues are kicking our collective arse out here right now.
We're trying to coast through till Pennsic, but it's a hard run at the moment. Sort of like trying to coast UP a particularly steep grade this year.
Still, i'm pedaling and pushing with all i've got. And, while Terry Pratchett is right: "this isn't life in the fast lane, it's life in the oncoming traffic" and i do occasionally wonder where we're going and why i chose this particular handbasket, it has been an interesting and wonder-filled ride these past few weeks.
Will try to get some pics up from the beach and the wedding & pics of us dreading Sweetie's hair soon. But now, i'm going to sleep.
Love & exhausted, muddy hugs.
~Va aka the mad potter wot posts at 1:30 in the morning!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Toilet Mouse!

About a month ago on one of the numerous yahoo groups i belong to, someone posted about a renegade squirrel that had made it's way under their stove or fridge?! The poster was looking for suggestions about what to do to remedy the situation...

Well, this morning i woke up & stumbled into the bathroom only to find a juvenile mouse in my toilet.
He was alive, hanging out above the waterline, twitching his whiskers at me.
I had a horrible headache (pollen/sinus related) so i just flipped the rim of the toilet up, hoping he could then hop out. I then closed the bathroom door, used the other bathroom in the house, took some pain meds & went back to bed.
Got up about 4 hours later, cautiously peeked into the bathroom.
Yep. Still there.
Closed the bathroom door, went about my business.
About an hour later, my housemate/Jillie woke up. (brief aside) Apparently we've been doing, as she puts it "experiments in vampirism without the blood drinking" meaning we've booth been staying up all night & sleeping till 2 or 4 in the afternoon, then repeating this. One of the few perks of being self employed; you can work half days all the time & you even get to pick which 12 hours you want to put in. But i digress.
Jillie is up and about for an hour before i remember the toilet mouse. (my partner/husband Darrell was making his way home from a show this weekend, so no help from the male of the house)
Jill & i discuss options & come up with a plan.
We lock the dogs away at the other end of the house. Clear an escape route from toilet to door. Get the long leather gloves from the studio & pick up a croc (rubber clog/shoe). Ready for "Operation Toilet Mouse"
Wait. We need pics!
Pause for picture taking. (will post as soon as i figure out how to w/ my new to me camera)

Deep breaths, think calm thoughts. Approach toilet, murmuring reassuringly at frightened mouse.
Offer croc as potential sanctuary.
Grateful mouse climbs in & i begin a slow walk towards the open door.
Almost there, the mouse climbs out of shoe & up my arm, towards the gaping opening of the glove.
I think "if i were a frightened mouse, that glove opening would look like a good place to hide"
So, i brush at the mouse with my other hand.
Mouse drops from my arm to the floor & quick quick quick is under the sofa.
So, now the mouse is free, but we are imprisoned with just a bit of worry about whether it made it's way outside or is still lurking under the sofa.
The released dogs are unconcerned about the potential mouse harboring sofa, so we're trying to be as well.
But it's sad, really, to have spent all this time trying to free the mouse only to end up with it *somewhere* in the house.
I'm sure there is a zen parable in this somewhere.
Jill & i (ok, mostly Jill) did come up with some haikus about our adventure which i will now share:
1st haiku about our day:
alive but not calm
the mouse is in the toilet
waiting for our help

2nd haiku:
gloves & rubber shoe
almost to the door, but no
mouse loose in the house

and finally:
3rd haiku/ epilogue
mouse still in the house?
freed from latrine jail
but we are wary

And that is our day, so far at least.
Wishing everyone else a more mouse free day/evening than we have had so far...
Bright Blessings
~Virginia/Amber in WVa

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

This beautiful painting came from here:
and the artist is apparently Robin Street-Morris
it's titled Firefly watching II
The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

I've posted it because the fireflies have shown up just recently & i can't figure out how to capture their ephemeral beauty. I was poking about on Google Images and came across this so here i am, sharing it with you.
I am also sharing with you an invitation to come on out to Hearth Hill & experience our fireflies for yourself. It's amazing out here on summer evenings. The stars, the fireflies and the river, not to mention the incredible peaceful quiet.

We're having hoping to break up some of that quiet with a Summer Solstice Party/Campout. And basically, if you're reading this, you're invited. We've got lots of room for campers, both outside & indoors if you are of a more delicate disposition. Bring your kids, your dogs, yourself, some food to share, any music making devices you've got, fireworks if you've got those & come on out for a summer solstice celebration you won't soon forget.

I'm not going to get more specific than that in this forum, because i do have some worries about folks that i or my friends don't already know showing up, but if you are interested just drop me a line: and i'll give you directions, dates, etc.

Hope to watch some stars, fireflies & fireworks with you soon!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

What are you reading this summer?!
don't know yet?
well, allow me to give you some suggestions...

Myself, i'm a big reader of actual books & unabridged audio, which i listen to in my studio as i work (another advantage of being self employed!)
I've spent most of the past year in the 1920s & have really, really enjoyed it. Here's how you could spend the summer in 1920s era Britian
For me, it happened like this:
i picked up, on eBay, a cheap unabridged audio book by Laurie King which is a revisiting of Sherlock Holmes, set in the 1920s. Sherlock Holmes is in his 60s & he's now married to a 20 year old who is his match in both intellect & cranky quirkiness. I love these characters & set out to read the whole series from scratch.
In one of them, Dorothy Sayer's sleuth, Lord Peter Whimsy, makes a cameo.
So, i tracked down some Dorothy Sayers books & loved them.
In one of those books, Lord Peter tells Bunter not to "go all Jeeves" on him. So now i'm reminded of Jeeves & Wooster & Hugh Laurie & Stephen Fry's excellent take on them in the BBCs series from the 80s. I netflixed them & then i started reading PG Wodehouse: awesomely funny books also set in the 1920s & 30s,
It's so much fun to spend time with the original stories & great fun to see Hugh Laurie having fun in the TV series. (he's sooo serious in House these days)
I'm having so much fun mixing and matching Sayer's more serious sleuth & the really moving & sometimes emotionally wrenching Laurie King/ Mary Russell/ Sherlock Holmes books and then jumping over to Wodehouse when i need a complete comic break.
Between the three authors, it's a great way to spend the summer in 1920s era Britain!
Having seemingly started a novel with this post, let me recap:
if you haven't discovered Mary Russell (Laurie King's wife of Sherlock Holmes) well, what are you waiting for? If you enjoy mysteries, historic fiction, are an Anglophile &/or simply enjoy smart strong female protagonists, you NEED to read these books.
The first book in the series is The BeeKeeper's Apprentice.
The first Dorothy Sayers/Lord Peter book is Whose Body?.
And you can start anywhere with Wodehouse, though My Man Jeeves, or simply Jeeves are good places to find early Jeeves & Wooster stories.
Great good stuff. Brew up a nice cuppa & settle in for a great summer away!
And let me know if you enjoy the pairing of these 3 very different takes on a fascinating time & place as much as i have!
I've gotta go-- got another great book waiting!
~Virginia, huddled in the A/C avoiding the studio on Memorial Day weekend!
PS now it's your turn... what's on your summer reading list?!

Monday, April 16, 2007

the river is rising!!!

OK, actually, the river rose & then fell back again. But it was an exciting way to spend an afternoon, i tell you what! Mykl & i went out into the rain & cold to take pictures several times yesterday afternoon & then i went back this afternoon & took some after shots. I've got a few here, but the majority of the pictures are on my KodakGallery site.

There are also some videos of the flooding that Mykl took on the Hearth Hill website.

Other than dealing with the river & now the wind, it's been a peaceful week here at Hearth Hill.
Hope things are well with you also, wherever you are!

added bonus picture below: this is a cool snap i took of the two trees in front of our house in the mist yesterday. No flooding visible, but i liked the atmosphere...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

About a dog: Saying goodbye to Spike.

it's another sad news day here at Hearth Hill.

We ended our search for a new home for Spike today-- he's staying here, in a grave in the backyard above the river.

We struggled with what to do about Spike for a month at least. And then, just after i had started looking for a new home for him, Spike bit my landmate/neighbor. It was a terrifying event for everyone involved, including Spike. With that bite, Spike became a repeat offender and as i was told by several folks i reached out to, that label made Spike into a huge problem in terms of finding him a new home.

Over the past two weeks, since that 2nd bite, i've seriously considered lying about the bites, pretending that they never happened so that he could go to a terrier rescue group. But lying about Spike would put the people who were trying to help him into danger and would probably end in tears anyway, with Spike going to yet another inappropriate situation. And, as i rapidly learned, no rescue group will take a dog that is known to be aggressive.

So, i tried to find him a home with friends or friends of friends or even with someone on Craig's List or Petfinder. That didn't work either. I thought about getting rid of one of our other dogs, the large guy that Spike had issues with . But even if CuMor went back to the rescue group we got him from, i would still have a dog living at my house that i couldn't trust. A dog who had bitten Mykl, a human who lives here too. A dog that i wouldn't trust around my niece & nephew, or even my Mom, who is a wonderful dog person. I can't do that.

So, i had resolved to take Spike back to the local shelter that i got him from in November. I figured it would give me "plausible deniability". I wouldn't have to KNOW that he had been killed, instead i could imagine him happy in a new home.

Then i reread a wonderfully caring and compassionate email that i had gotten from Candy, the volunteer with HART, the rescue group in Cincinnati that we got CuMor from. I'd asked Candy if HART could take Spike in. She explained to me why they couldn't and then she said to me:
" I hate to say this but I don't think you'll find any legitimate rescue group willing to take Spike on. You may find someone wanting to use him as pitt bull bait. If you place him with someone yourself, you're setting yourself up for a law suit since you know he has this issue. If he bites someone they can sue you since you know he has this issues even if you tell people about his issues. The laws make aggressive dogs very much a responsibility of the owner. You can't give him to the spca. They can't adopt him out! They'll just shove him in a cage where he'll stress out for a few days, lord knows how they will treat him then they'll put him to sleep anyway.....many shelters still gas instead of injection and that's a gruesome way to die. Why don't you do him a favor and just take him to your vet and have him put to sleep. I know this sounds terrible to do but you've really done everything you can for him. You cannot feel guilty that the outcome came to this!!!! You've done much more than most people try to do. Nobody will hold that against you.....even doggie heaven!!! The reality is Spike is a lawsuit waiting to happen. Even if you find someone willing to take him, then he becomes their lawsuit and yours waiting to happen. Even if you get rid of him, you can still be sued. You've given him a great chance at a great life and the time he's spent with you has been wonderful and way beyond the life he would have had if you never took him in to begin with, but I really think it's time to say we've done all we can as hard as it is to do.

After many years of volunteering with the local county shelter I came to realize that even if an aggressive dog is friendly to one person and not the other....there's a thousand other dogs that would be friendly to all and they need a home too. Unfortunately a choice has to be made and it's up to you to do right by Spike and by any future potential victim of Spike's."

This is me, back again. Candy's reminder that even if we did find a rescue group willing to work with Spike he would be taking up space, time, money and energy that would otherwise go to a dog who's NEVER bitten anyone was what finally made my mind up for me.

So, last night, after talking to Darrell & my friend Jill about it, i realized that it was time to let Spike go. We spent last night & this morning as normally as possible. Spike slept on our bed as he usually does & when he woke up this morning he had a growling, barking fit about CuMor's existence. I called the vet & they couldn't take him in until 2:30. So Jill & i worked in the studio, Darrell worked on leather, the dogs came in & out of the house, wrestled and napped as always. At 2, we took Spike for his last ride to the vets.

Our country vet, who is gruff and no nonsense asked us a few questions & prepared the injection. Darrell held Spike & i held his head & rubbed his ears. Dr. Cain gave Spike his injection & Spike whimpered, then slowly left us. Dr. Cain left us for a few minutes, and i read the Navajo night chant for Spike & D & Jill & i cried alot. The vet tech came in, distributed Kleenex and we wrapped Spike up in a towel & took him home.

I picked out the spot for his grave, out our back door, within reach of the dog run, just at the edge of the ridge the rises from the river. All the dogs like to lie there & just bake themselves in the sun & i though Spike would enjoy the company. D & Jill dug the hole, i carried Spike from the car & laid him out. CuMor and Bug came out & sniffed at him and then went on with their doggie lives. Rigel, our orange cat who Spike was obsessed about (& not in a good way) came over & sniffed at Spike's body. Rigel didn't trust that Spike was really dead. He kept coming over to sniff at Spike, then sort of shying away, then coming back for more sniffs.

We put Spike in the grave with a few chew toys & covered him over.
It was a wonderful, warm sunny April afternoon. We left Spike sleeping by the river & went back into our lives.

Jill said to me "it's better already" and i agree. I know that Spike is in a better place & he went there knowing he was loved & respected. I told him why we had to do this to & for him. Jill helped me with that too. Last night she said "i think it's like it was with Mike Lea. He has a good soul, an amazing one even, but he can't cope with this world the way it is. He needs to go back and try this again." We told Spike we would lodge a complaint with management over putting such a keen intelligence and a shiny soul in a terrier brain that couldn't tolerate strangers or change or not being in control. It sucks ass.

Spike was a great terrier. Sadly, we didn't have enough foxes or rats for him to hunt & we couldn't find a suitable job or place for him.

I loved Spike. I learned alot from him in the short time he was with us. I'm sorry that we couldn't give him what he needed & i'll miss his keen intelligence and his sense of humor & i'll probably even sometimes miss his sharp piercing bark.

I hope that the next time his soul comes back he gets a better deal. He certainly deserves it. And the next time a bright eyed, smart & shiny dog comes into my life i pray that i will be able to repay his love and trust adequately. I hope that i'll be able to give that dog everything he needs. And i pray that he can stay in my life for much longer & happier time.

This is from an article i found online titled "How Do Animals Perceive Death?"
by Ellen B Katcher. You can read the whole thing here:

Here's the part that really moved me:
One grieving pet owner told me that the love she shared with her departed companion was greater than any she had shared with a human in her life. I suspect it actually was of a different quality. Dogs do not indulge in deceit, selfishness, or any of the other frailties that we humans must fight to suppress. The love of an animal is a pure love, with little ambiguity, and thus is a thing of beauty akin to truth. It is no surprise, then, that when one mentions a departed pet ten years after the event, the owner may shed some tears. Like all truths, the love remembered is a thing of beauty, and great beauty makes us cry.....
"I think animals perceive death much as we do -- as a fearsome, unknown change, a loss of control, that one undergoes alone. This implies that their consciousness is, in this instance, very much like ours. Generalize this, and you see that animals feel much the same as we do about most things. They do not want to die “to get to a better place”. They fear the unknown, just as we do. They want the comfort of those they love around them as they do the hard work of dying.

I know from experience that living up to this is no easy task. Watching my dog’s decline sent me on many lone, tearful walks and needless trips to the market to escape. If I had it to do over again, I would have stayed with her for every last second, no matter how badly it hurt.

She absolutely would have done as much for me.

My only excuse for this regrettable lapse is that I, alas, am only human. I was not able to live up to the standard that she set."

Me again. I agree completely with this & am glad that at the end i was able to find the courage to be with Spike as he died. He absolutely would have done the same for me.

I have somewhere in all the important papers of my life a very battered & yellowed newspaper clipping on an old Peanuts cartoon. Snoopy is sitting on top of his doghouse, in front of his typewriter. He writes: "All his life he tried to do the right thing. /next frame/ Many times, however, he failed. After all, he was only human./ last frame/ He wasn't a dog."

Spike WAS a dog. And he was great at being a dog. The whole time he was with us, he tried to do the right thing. But we were only human and we couldn't live up to that standard. I hope & pray that at the end of my life i will be forgiven for being, in the end, only human.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Take my dog, please!

In case you don't already know, I'm looking for a new home for my rescued project dog, Spike.

We love this dog & he has many good qualities, but it's just not working out between us. It's one of those "it's not you, it's me" breakups.
He's a great dog, he's just not OUR dog.
So we're spreading the word-- please pass this on because someone out there NEEDS this dog as much as he needs them.

Here are the details:
Spike is a young adult (best guess he'll be 2 in May 07) Fox Terrier Mix. Around here (west central WVa) he'd be called a pure bred Squirrel dog aka Mountain Cur.
He's a neutered male, about 35 lbs, white with tan ears & spots & a docked tail. He looks like a large Fox Terrier and uncannily like Nipper, the RCA logo dog.

We got Spike from our local dog shelter the day after Thanksgiving, late November 06. He was a stray who'd been beaten up very badly by a pack of dogs or coyotes &/or shot. He's fully recovered from his injuries & is friendly, alert & very active. He's neutered, housebroken, crate trained & microchipped.

He's super smart & very responsive. He's very easy to train-- my trainer says he'd be fantastic at agility or as a trick/ frisbee dog and i totally agree. If I had the time i'd totally be training him as an agility dog & i'd be making plans for domination of that world. He's that good. Spike is everything a terrier/squirrel dog should be.

Sadly for us, those traits include a hyperactive territorial instinct & and a very high prey drive. That's a polite way of saying that he's, well, territorial & he can't live with cats.

Spike is also human aggressive. A polite way of saying that he has bitten people. Spike has bitten 2 people while with us. The first time his bite drew blood, the 2nd incident just scared us all. On both occasions, the victims were bearded adult men that Spike didn't know & both were attempting to come into our house. (they are friends, we'd invited them in, but Spike didn't get the message). I honestly believe this could be overcome, but i also want to be upfront and honest about Spike's bad qualities as well as his good ones.

Spike seems to be able to tolerate living with a female dog, but he's having trouble coping with our newest pack member who is another neutered male. I suspect that Spike one of those rare dogs who'd be happiest as an only dog. I would very much hesitate to place him in a home with another male dog, unless that dog was a confirmed beta. Spike is all about being the alpha. That's a polite way of saying he has some control issues.

Spike craves training and attention. He will reward your time and effort with unwavering devotion (& lots of agility awards, if you wanted to go that route).

Currently Spike lives with us in west central West Virginia. I'm willing to travel to get him to the right home (and we're frequently in the DC metro area already) but i'm going to need some recommendations if he's going to someone who i don't already personally know. A modest adoption fee of $50 is requested (will donate it to our local, high kill shelter which is where Spike came from) Spike comes with a brand new, still in the box, only used once crate that cost us $85 two months ago.

Please consider taking this extraordinary dog. Or at least tell everyone you know about him. He's truly an awesome dog. He's just not our dog. Maybe he's yours?!?

If we can't find an appropriate home or rescue for Spike by the end of April, we'll very reluctantly take him back to the high kill local shelter he came from. They'll temperament test him & if he passes they'll try to place him. If he doesn't pass the tests, he'll be euthanized. I'm guilt ridden & grief stricken about this, but i've come to understand that it's the only option we'll have left if we can't find the right place for him.

You can reach me at 304-377-1952 or
I fervently hope that Spike can be saved. Please help us find the right situation for this extraordinary dog before it's too late!

Hoping to find a home for my problem child very soon.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Dog food Diatribe
the following is from an email i sent out to my friends and family tonight. I thought i'd share it here too, in case i forgot anyone. & because it's what i've been thinking and writing about lately....
And enjoy!

Anyone who has talked to me face to face lately knows that i've been prostelisizing about how we feed our dogs and how that needs to change. I've been on this particular soapbox even before the widespread petfood recall started a few weeks ago.

I've undergone my conversion experience because i've been listening to a pod-cast called Dog Talk. The woman who does this show is Tracie Hotchner-- she's the author of The Dog Bible, and she has very strong views on how we should feed our dogs & why.

What follows here is alot of information that you might or might not agree with, but both my mom and sister have been asking me about this & especially about what brands of dog food they can use. I'm sending it to you because i thought you might find it interesting &/or helpful, as you wonder what the hell you should feed your dog now that seemingly every brand on the planet is being recalled. Feel free to read further or delete now as you see fit.

Tracie's view is that the majority of dog kibble is basically fried corn product. It is low on protein & high on fat & carbs. We wouldn't feed our kids exclusively on Fritos and expect them to remain healthy, so why do we do this to our dogs?

Tracie has a website with some useful links about nutrition on this page, about halfway down:
but the most useful information i've gotten from her was listening to a pod-cast of Dog Talk: The Radio Show where she talks to Sabine Contreras.
This is episode #14 which aired on March 10 2007 and you can download it for free here:
Tracie doesn't get to Sabine till about halfway through the show, but keep with it, or fast forward to about the 30 minute mark, it's worth it, i promise.

If you are too busy to manage this, here's my very abridged version of what i've learned:
Your dog needs protein, lots of it, to be healthy.
The ideal diet for a dog is one with 60% protein or more.
Most kibble (esp. the kibble sold in grocery stores) is about 20% protein & alot of that 20% isn't in a form that's easily digestible for dogs.
As Tracie says (i'm paraphrasing here) 'When we feed kibble, we're feeding our dog as if she were a feedlot animal; a cow, pig or chicken. That type of highly processed grain based diet just doesn't work for dogs'
Kibble should be a side dish, not the main meal.
The less processed the protein source, the better.
You CAN feed your dog human food. In fact, your dog would be much healthier if you did feed her human food.
Good unprocessed protein sources include chicken, fish, beef, lamb, venison, cottage cheese, raw or cooked eggs.
I'm not going into the whole cooked vs raw debate, that's for you to decide. But never feed your dogs cooked bones of any kind & be careful when feeding them raw bones.
Avoid feeding organ meats too often-- once a week is a good rule of thumb, for people as well as dogs.

If, like me, you don't have time enough to feed yourself a healthy whole food based diet, let alone produce one for your dogs, there are brands of dog food that Tracie and Sabine recommend, though they are adamant that you should NEVER feed "lite" or diet kibble to your dog, even if one of the following companies make them.
A partial list of brands:
Flint River
Newmans Own
Merrick (Tracie is especially excited about Merrick, who apparently have a new kibble that's 40% protein- a big leap in the right direction as far as she's concerned)

Check out Sabine's website:
She's great about teaching you how to read dog food labels. Look for whole grains, ingredients like brown rice or white rice. Avoid kibble with lots of "rice flour" (which is basically rice with the protein stripped out) or wheat gluten. Again, the less processed the food, the healthier it is for both you and your dogs.

As for me personally? Well, we're extra special "just before the start of the spring show season" broke right now, so we can't afford to switch over to a kibble free diet. These days, my dogs are getting a reduced amount of high quality kibble, one that has 26% protein, lots of chicken and brown rice in it. This is about 50% of their bowl, the rest is Merrick canned dog food (we're getting it for about $1.50 a can & we're going through 2 cans a day between 3 dogs) and supplementing with cottage cheese, eggs and occasionally cheap meat that D. finds on sale & cooks up for the gang.

In closing, i thought i'd share some quotes from a letter Tracie Hotchner sent out to her mailing list this evening regarding the whole Menu foods recall situation:

"I was particularly disturbed and distrustful of my fellow journalists, who were silent across-the-board on this story - and apparently lacking any interest in doing investigating into what was really going on. The blatant muddling of facts, switch-and-bait excuses and stories, and lack of logic about many aspects of the situation should have had all of their ears perked up to get to the bottom of it.

And then I figured it out: Procter and Gamble OWNS both Iams and Eukanuba. P&G spends an awful lot of money advertising all of its products on television and in the print media. We’d like to think that their financial support of the media empires would not put a sort of gag order on the editors and writers –we’d like to believe we have a free press, not influenced by advertising dollars. It would be so reassuring to be able to think that is the case."


"There are still many more questions than answers in this debacle but some things seem sure. It is not just those styles of foods made on those dates that pose risk. If tainted wheat and/or wheat gluten entered the food chain at Menu Foods, then it makes more sense to assume that any of their foods – dry or wet – could have been tainted. Especially given the resounding silence and refusal to step up and take responsibility and be pro-active, you can safely bet that the cover-up, keep-your-cards-close-to-the-vest mentality is still functioning. However, now they have finally told the public to avoid all of the “cuts and slices in nasty gravy” (my addition of “nasty,” sorry, I couldn’t resist) no matter when it was made."


"Why aren’t more people asking questions like:

"How can it be that we were subjected to more press about Anna Nicole Smith than the death of any head of state – but the media machine does not think that 90 million cat owners and 68 million dog families need to know about this? "


"Why haven’t real numbers of the losses been ferreted out and published? Why has the press swallowed this magic “only 13 animals” number – which is the test animals who died within days? (emphasis mine ~Va) Why did the media single out only one afflicted cat, belonging to a woman who was suing the food companies with a case that sounded shaky – she had a 9 year old cat who had never been to the vet and she waited through four days of dire illness resulting in the cat’s blindness and then death. Why has the media only shown a few Yorkies feeling poorly instead of what has got to be the thousands of aggrieved and enraged citizens whose animal family members suffered fast or slow deaths that might even have been avoided?"


"How can it be that NONE of the companies involved have yet to take responsibility… say they are sorry… explain how much we and our pets matter to them (oh yeah)… and how they will be looking at compensating losses?

"How is it conceivable that the companies involved have made no attempt to even try to reassure us that they want to revamp their system of food production to avoid such a horrific tragedy in the future? But wait – they hadn’t yet even acknowledged there was a tragedy, had they? "

This is Virginia again. Not that Tracie's angry or upset or anything!
You can see her complete letter here:

Now, go hug your dog & give her some better quality food. You'll both feel better!

With love and respect for all beings

Monday, February 26, 2007

if the first step is admitting you have a problem... then lets get this post started by saying:
"Hello, my name is Virginia & i am a dog rescue addict."

There, are you happy?! I've admitted it.
& even though i have put a link to Petfinder on both of my blogs, i'm seriously considering locking myself out of that wonderful site.

It happened like this: last week i was cruising around on Petfinder, you know, like you do. I was looking idly at extra large dogs, cause even though Budgth & Spike make me very happy, i still find myself very much missing the bulk of a large dog in my life. I had been getting a massage two weeks ago, when i was at my Mom's house & the masseuse commented on the large knot in my back, on my left side, just behind my heart. I told her "that's my Barnaby lump" and just started crying.
I really miss that big dog.
I was telling the above story to Lee, my Mom's partner just after i had my massage & Lee just sort of blurted out: "you need a Wolfhound! Or a mastiff. A big dog. You need a big dog in your life again." And then we both got sort of misty eyed.

So, a week or so later, i'm wasting time on Petfinder & i see him: Rufus. A mastiff/lab mix. In Cincinnati. (which for reasons i can't quite comprehend, Petfinder considers local for me. It's 250 miles away people).

I was instantly smitten. I spent hours filling out the online application. I sent bonus pictures. I whine & beg & plead. I do my whole "how can you resist my cuteness and charm" stitchk. And in only two or three days i managed to wear down the poor volunteer who was dealing with my emails. And in the end, i loaded a still sick, road weary Darrell & the rest of my pack into the truck & we set out on a rainy Saturday to "visit" Rufus.

As anyone who knows me could have told you, i fell in love at first site. Even Spike was impressed by Rufus. He's an awesome guy! A huge head, big ol' mastiff jowls, a silky funky coat that seems to be undecided if it belongs to a chocolate lab or a black mastiff. And these funky, slightly worrisome bowed back legs. We haven't determined if they are bowed because he's got some bully breed in the mix or if he was actually deformed by spending the first 18 months of his life mostly in a crate that was too small for him to stand up in.

But, regardless of his heritage or history, this man is 130lbs of cuddle,love, & drool, baby. Just an amazing, lovable mooosh. And he and Budgth are sooo damn cute together. Rufus/Haggis (of course we're trying to change his name: Rufus seems to mean red head and that this boy is not) will lie down flat on the couch or bed and sort of hop about, growling & wriggling as Budgth darts in close to wrestle with him. They wear each other out and then collapse into a big ol' puppy pile. Very cute. We're calling Haggis/Guinness "maxi-me" since Budgth was here first!

Spike is less enamored by this change. He's not sure he wants to give up his status as the "project dog" in our house. So Spike spends his time barking at Haggis, trying to get some sort of reaction from the big guy. But Haggis has the big dog blindness to all things small and yappy & Haggis just keeps on keeping on with whatever he's doing, despite Spike's very vocal objections to the process.

We're forming quite a pack here & it's pretty
damn awesome. I'm really enjoying this expanded dog life & hope that they all 3 work out. Though i must confess, if anyone's not going to make it in our pack it will probably be Spike, who still has issues with human strangers in his territory. Spike is also still fixated on cats, much to Rigel's annoyance.
We're taking the canine members of the pack to Boot Camp in two weeks. That's right. When D & i go down to Gulf Wars the dogs are going to Walton Mountain Canine Camp. This is a boarding and training facility about 40 miles from me. It's run by very cool folks who promise us that they'll not only keep my dogs happy & healthy while we're away, but for a modest additional charge, they'll also train them as well. How cool is that?!

We've told Spike it's his last chance with us. If Kimberly can't get him to behave with strangers (& Fred, who while technically not a stranger is stranger than most) (Fred, in addition to being our self appointed caretaker is also our very wonderful, fantastic, couldn't do without him dog sitter. Who Spike bit. Hard.) Anyway, if Spike can't figure out how to get along with Fred, then Spike is going back onto Petfinder-- we'll become his foster parents while looking for a forever home for him. We've been joking that because he doesn't seem to like men, he's obsessed with cats & he'd make a great squirrel or coon dog that he needs to find a home with a nice anti-social lesbian squirrel hunter who's allergic to cats. Shouldn't be too hard to find, should it?! If you know of anyone who meets this description, let me know, cause i have the dog for her!

In the meantime, i'm going to take a nap with Haggis/Guinness/Rufus etal.
(and of course, i'm happy to take name suggestions for the new big guy). We're also considering Alvin (from the hellhounds in Christopher Moore's A Dirty Job) or Al'am which is an Algonquin word for dog. Or CuMorDubh which is Gaelic for dogbigblack. or.... well, you get the idea.

Naptime for me & the dogs.
over & out for now!
My river, an insomniac deer & the plumbing faerie.
The early spring river report: Being an account of my life at Hearth Hill this February.
A few stories about my life with the river this winter & early spring:
(but first, a pic of my hommies, hanging out on the couch--
aren't they just the cutest?!)
now, on to the stories!

For the first time in my admittedly brief experience of valley life, the river that flows through my valley froze over in late January.
It was a strange sensation. The feeling was caused not so much by the loss of sound, rather the lack of motion, lack of flow, through my life.
A classic case of not noticing something until it's gone. The valley seemed suddenly very still. Very much, well, frozen.

It was an expectant feeling, as if the whole valley was holding it's breath, waiting to exhale.
We crunched around over ice coated snow, made sure that the bird feeder was kept full.
One night i was working very late in the studio & i finally turned out the lights & headed to the house & bed around 3 am. My studio doesn't have a functioning outdoor light & usually this doesn't bother me, as it's just 15 feet or so from the front door of the studio to the side of the house. Then another 15 feet along the side of the house to where the front porch light kicks in & i'm only say 20 feet to the porch steps & the front door.
I've only been aware of the dark in a scary way once before, late last spring, when some coyotes were traveling through & howling on the other side of the river one night when the moon was dark.
This time, i came out of the studio not thinking about much more than some tea and toast before bed when i heard very close to me a very loud "whuffle snuffle whuffle" Puffs or snorts of breath. From something very large. Very close. I ran to the front porch. I didn't wet my pants, but it was a near thing.
I realized, as soon as i rounded the side of the house & pounded up the porch steps, that it was a deer in the backyard, between the house & studio that had been as scared by me as i was by her. Who knew a deer could breathe so loudly?!? Not me! But in the brittle quiet of that late winter night, one deers' snort of surprise was as loud and as resonant as a gunshot. A very eerie experience.
As a result I've increased my nagging on the "get me an outdoor studio light" front. Let's just say that it's moved waaaay up into the "number one with a bullet" position on Darrell &/or Fred's to do list!

My other scary "winter life in the country" story is about frozen pipes:
Darrell went to Arizona-- 2,200 miles away-- in early February. A road trip to sell pottery at an SCA event out there. He had a great time.
I opted out of the three days of driving each way: thanks but no thanks. Instead, i loaded up the dogs & headed down to my Mom's house in Maryland, a mere 300 miles away.
I was planning on spending 4 days there & then wandering up to Gettysburg to bother my pals Rob and Sherry and Luke at Ambrosia Farm for a few days before turning for home. Instead, i got trapped by snow, ice & a broken tractor (which was supposed to plow her long driveway) at Mom's house for a week. It was fun, but i was anxious to get home by the time i managed to reach escape velocity from Maryland. On my trip home, i stopped in to check my email (no high speed internet at my Mom's-- & she thinks _I_ have a primitive lifestyle!) and got a message from my neighbors/self appointed caretakers, Fred & Cindy. Cindy's subject line read "Houston, we have a problem"
Apparently, it was as cold here in WVa as it was in Maryland. No worries, unless the gas goes out.
Well, guess what happened on the day i headed home. Yep. Gas went out.
Thus, no heat. When Fred stopped in to check on our cat, he realized that the water in the toilet bowl was frozen! It was frickin 8 degrees that night. The high that day was 12 degrees. Fred didn't know when the gas had been out, but it was long enough that all of the water in the house & presumably all of the water in the pipes as well, had frozen. The gas had come back on, but the pilot lights were out. Thus, it was still freezing cold in the house as well as outside. So Fred re-started our furnace & shut down all the water & then went home & hoped for the best.
I came home that night at 10 pm. It was a balmy 10 degrees outside, but fortunately the furnace was cooking away & the house was a tropical 70. But no water for me that night-- i couldn't risk turning it on not knowing what the pipes were doing. And D. was in Arizona. And Mykl was either in Florida or NJ. Just me & the dogs, camping in the house. I called Cindy for some consolation & advice which consisted of "hope for the best & don't use the toilets". We got through that night & the next day the temperature soared to above freezing! Fred came by around 2 in the afternoon & we very cautiously turned the water back on.
The plumbing faeries were in a generous mood! We actually didn't break any pipes!!! A minor & very welcome miracle!
So, i must keep on making offerings to the plumbing devas. I like to think of my plumbing faerie as looking not unlike me in my laundry faerie incarnation: my plumbing faerie is a short, fat, balding man with a stubbly beard, a cigar & work boots. He grumbles alot. But he also really likes water & mud & enjoys jokes & good Belgian beer & stinky cheese. He has calloused hands, but he gives a great foot rub & is generous with his stash of single malts. Not unlike a mechanic i used to date, but that's another story. I've poured a beer down the drain as a thank you & moved on.

My last story this time around is about the river. It was frozen over for about, hmmm, 4 or 5 weeks maybe. Still very solidly frozen when i came home from my Maryland trip. I was here alone, recall. Just me & the dogs & the plumbing faeries & the snorting insomniac deer. Very cozy out here. Well, about a week ago it got a bit warmer & started raining. It rained alot. All day, into the night. Rain. Melted the snow & the ice on the ground, typed on the roof. I didn't go outside very much-- it was wet, muddy & icy. Not fun. In fact, i took an extra long nap that afternoon. It was a great nap day.
Well, that night i paid for my sloth with a killer bout of insomnia. I could NOT get to sleep. I wanted to. But noooo. I was too hot. It was 3 am & i'd been trying to sleep since midnight. I finally turned the thermostat down to 55 and opened the bedroom window. I laid back down, trying to sleep. And then Bug woke up & started looking out the window & growling, low & quiet. I was freaked out. Home alone, just 2 midget dogs & me & i still hadn't gotten D. to show me how to use the .22!

I told myself i was being foolish. And then i heard it. This really eerie creaking and crunching noise, like a very large bear walking through leaves right outside my window! Except it was wet & muddy under my window, not dry & crunchy. I laid there, freaked out with Bug growling quietly next to me in the dark for what felt like hours and was probably only 5 minutes when i finally realized what it was: the ice on the river breaking up! Once i figured it out & told Bug what it was, we both felt much better. But i swear, the noise went on and on-- it took at least an hour for the ice to break up & stop with the moaning & groaning. And even then it didn't go back to the frozen quiet of the past few weeks. Now the river was up, almost out of it's banks (lots of rain, remember?!). When the sun came up a few hours later, it was an amazing site: all the ice chunks rushing down the swollen river. I kept checking for a polar bear or at least a penguin to go floating past, but we only got tree branches and plastic bags... as Fred says: "When the river comes up it's trash day in Calhoun County"
The breaking of the ice signaled a definite change in the mood of the valley.
We've gone from the still waiting quiet of late winter to the energetic expectant hush of early spring. We're rushing into mud season out here, which is the prelude to the almost painful yellow green of early spring. We had rain again all afternoon & into the night yesterday & the river is up again. This time muddy & bossy, almost frantic as it speeds by, washing away winter & ushering in spring.
Last night I even heard, faint & far off, but still there, the first tentative peeps from the tree frogs. Spring is coming & my valley is no longer quietly waiting. We're stirring out here, ready to push through the mud & into the splendor of Spring's welcoming light & wind!
I hope and trust that spring is finding & stirring you as well!
May the bright early spring breezes bring you blessings & the first stirrings of new growth.
I'm off to make some pots!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Featuring everything you never wanted to know about my life of woe &/or intrigue!

If you are here, you are probably a friend or family member. Welcome!

On the advice of my Mac geek & friend, Mykl, i'm creating this as my more personal blog: from now on, i'm going to put my longer more personal posts here & i'm shifting the existing pigfutures blog over to a more professional/ pottery & business oriented focus.

I've got alot of folks who i care about and want to share my life with, but like everyone else, i'm pretty busy. What's more i'm very easily distracted, either by the TV or by gossip blogs or yahoo groups: if it's on a glowing screen, i'm very quickly paralyzed and i become a bump on the sofa. But i also really enjoy writing and want to do more of it, more often, thus, this blog.

To start out, i'm going to cheat and post a copy of the holiday letter i wrote last month but never got around to printing or mailing. (hey, at least i wrote the sucker!)

So, without further ado, here's my take on 2006:

My year in review: being a short look at a long year.
Well, for me it's been one of those years. The kind you want to kick in the arse as it leaves, scream "and don't come back!" and then loudly slam the door.
I'm going to try to brief, cause i don't want to linger over the painful parts, and there were alot of them on this trip around the sun.

The year started out fairly promising. Morna and i made alot of Newgrange pottery in February and March. My time with her was bittersweet, because we had agreed in advance that it would be our last year of working together for awhile. We had a few rough spots during Morna's stay-- it was hard to be together 24/7 in such a rural setting, without other folks around to dilute our personalities, but by the time spring rolled around and we realized that we weren't going to do this again anytime soon, we both began to really treasure what the other contributed to the beautiful and unique pots we made together.

February was also when we got our wonderful puppy, Animosh, at the local flea market! It was all Ceit's fault. She picked her out for me as an act of revenge (I had helped to sucker her into adopting her wonderful/terrible 'project' dog, Ashe) Ani was Ceit's revenge.

Ani was 3 lbs of attitude what we got her, a 4 week old jack russell/ cocker spaniel mix. Darrell and I fell in love with her at once. Barnaby was more reserved, but within a week, Ani ruled our house. Her energy and enthusiasm were contagious, and she was a wonderful snuggler. It was wonderful to watch her discover and conquer the world. The love in our house flowed through her. The reason i am speaking of her in past tense is that we only had 7 wonder-filled months with her. Ani went about all of her life head first and in a hurry and that's how she met the car that hit and killed instantly on a sunny late September afternoon. That was one of the most painful afternoons of my life. I don't want to talk about it further-- if you want to know more about Ani's short and awesome life, check out my blog:

But i'm jumping ahead. In April, Darrell and I got married at my Moms' house in the woods of Mount Airy. We had a wonderful, disorganized, lovely and love filled ceremony. At least, that's how i perceived it! It was amazing to stand in a circle surrounded by family and friends and tell Darrell how much I love him, and hear how much he loves me and then to hear how much our friends and family love us. Getting married is wonderful! I heartily recommend it to everyone! It's like being drunk and stoned on love. What an awesome day! The memory stands out like a bright planet in a very dark night sky. A brilliant point of light. I just need to say thank you again to everyone who helped us with that wonderful day, especially my Mom and Lee, for hosting us and putting us with our taking over their home and life for a week.
And my sister and her family, who came from Colorado and made sure that i was surrounded by my natural family as well as by my wonderful chosen one. And to Ceit who came down from Canada to perform such a great ceremony. And and and... , well, everyone who made the effort to come out and walk up that long driveway and witness and bless us on that wonderful day. Thank you all.

I did say this would be a brief letter, didn't i? Well, it seems i am wrong yet again. What i recall about the spring and summer of this past year, other than the joy of my wedding, is simply working hard in the pottery studio, struggling unsuccessfully to sell my house in Damascus, and playing at several fairie festivals. I'm loving the fairie festivals. If i haven't prostellised about them to you yet, i'm sure i will soon. For now, i'll just say that if you get a chance to go to one, especially the Maryland Fairie Festival, you should come out and play. So much fun!!!

My summer was fun, especially the not long enough visit from my sister, niece and nephew. We had a great time in West Virginia and then got to spend a week at the beach together. And then Pennsic, which was good, at least as far as i can recall. It turns out that i wasn't just tired all the time yet unable to sleep for the past two years from being stressed and overworked, but rather because i had Lyme disease. My doc and i figured this out just before Pennsic, and so i was on the heavy duty antibiotics (& avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight) for all of War. That meant that i basically had a mild reoccurrence of the onset of the disease while camping, trying to sell pottery and also trying to avoid foreclosure on the house in Damascus. Feverish, achy, light headed and stressed out all the time. A pretty typical Pennsic experience! It was lucrative and i even got to arrive late and leave early. For the first time ever-- & i've been going to War for 22 years-- i got to avoid both set-up and take down. I'm only sorry it happened because i was pathetically worn out and sick-- i didn't get to savor the experience. I've had hazier, more fuzzy headed Pennsics in the past, but i was drinking back then. This just wasn't as much fun, somehow.

Maryland Renn Fest was much better for me. I had a good year, and since Darrell and my wonderful booth monkeys (Gigi & Chris & Kimmie) had things running so smoothly that i only went to Faire 5 of the 9 weekends. Once again, i sat at the great end of season dinner Chris arranges on the closing night of Faire and wished it wasn't over so soon. That, my friends, is a good Faire season.

Sadly, autumn was also when we both of the wonderful dogs i had got hit and killed by cars, within 6 weeks of each other. Their deaths are still resonating with me. They were both so important to me, so much a part of my immediate family. I will always miss and love them. My Mom also had to make the difficult decision to say goodbye to her old and wonderful dog, Blaze, this October. Blaze was a great dog, a good sibling. I miss her and the contagious joy she brought to everything she did.

Also, this fall i've had to follow, mostly at a distance, the struggle of my friend Scott as he has been recovering from liver transplant surgery. Scott was blessed with a living donation from his cousin and he is further blessed by a wonderful wife and support crew, but it's been a long and difficult journey to recovery for him and his family, from surgery in early September to finally getting home (hopefully for good this time) in early December. I've learned lots about courage and stubbornness watching him go through this, but the most important message for me it that we are all morally obligated to pass along the gift of life. If you aren't already an organ donor, why they hell not?! Sign that damn card today! No excuses. Just do it! You won't be using your parts anymore-- don't be selfish-- share your life & recycle yourself! Ok, enough.

We do have two new dogs who are doing their best to remind me that life goes on and there is plenty of living left to do. We got our Budgth (pronounced Bug and spelled in a pseudo Celtic style) at our local animal shelter in early November.
She was so excited to meet us-- she bounded out her cage and into our laps and into our hearts. She was very much "what took you so long?!? I've been waiting and waiting for you!" when she met us. She is a boston terrier mix, with some lab in her somewhere. She looks alot like Ani but she's very much her own being. We took her home and had 2 1/2 very happy days with her and Barnaby. But on our third day with Budgth, Barnaby was taken from us by another car on the road in front of our house. He didn't die right away, but there was no blood and no pain and we were able to say goodbye to him. He died surrounded by love and compassion. And even though he left too soon, it was a good death.

D. & i had already planned a trip down to Florida that was part work, part vacation and we were going to take Ani and Barnaby with us. Now, without those dogs, but with Budgth we drove down to the Gulf Coast and sold pots on the weekends and walked on the beach and shopped at flea markets during the week and we cried alot, mourning our missing dogs. But we also bonded with Budgth, who is an awesome snuggler. And we came home a smaller but healing family.

And then we got our newest dog, the day after Thanksgiving. Spike is a JRT mix.

He also came from our local shelter. We'd met him when we got Budgth, but we still had Barnaby and Spike had just come in to the shelter a few days before. Spike had been beaten up pretty badly by a pack of dogs or coyotes and he desperately needed medical attention. But i couldn't walk away from him, so i sponsored him. I paid for his medical treatment and promised i'd check back in on him when we got home for Florida. Well, we got home and he was still at the shelter waiting for us. He's a daddy's boy. He and D. have bonded hard and they spend happy hours together on the couch, both of them slouched on their backs, rubbing each other's exposed bellies, watching tv together. Very cute, those boys! Spike is definitely Budgth's bitch. She's in charge of our family and we're all fine with that.

To finish out our year, we did the Holiday Open House/Studio Tour at Art of Fire in Maryland the first 2 weekends in December. It was cold, but fun-- we reunited with our friend Mary from Tuatha and got to see lots of friends and perhaps more of Mom and Lee than they might have liked, as we stayed with them for 10 days while we did the show. Still and all, i found it a very satisfactory way to start the holiday season.

While we were doing the Studio Tour, Mary and i spent alot of time talking, and as i talked with her, i realized how much my life has changed in the past 18 months, since i've moved to WVa and married Darrell. And i realized how much i love MY valley in those ancient hills. It's very much home and being there i feel so grounded and safe. I am so blessed to have found such a beautiful, peace-full home. You need to come see it, and to think about moving out there, because the only thing that my valley is missing, aside from easy access to good pizza and indian food, is enough friends. I can get pizza and indian food when i travel, and i can see friends that way too, but i need more friends at home. That's where you come in. Or at least, come to visit!

And as i write this, i'm up in Ontario visiting Ceit and Storm for a Rozakii Holiday gathering. We brought our two dogs and we've been having a great doggie and people blender/rumpus/visit. Then it's back to Maryland for a brief pre-Christmas attack on Mom and Lee, and finally home to West Virginia for the actual holidays. We're going to host a few friends over the New Year's holiday and then i'm actually looking forward to getting back to work in the studio as we start the new year and as i said at the beginning of this now epic account of my year, finally and formally bringing to an end this year which has had for me, personally at least, of far too many downs compared to ups.

I'm planning on changing that in the new year, thank you very much. And i hope that your past year has been much better balanced, or perhaps even full only of good things. And i plan on that being the case for both of us in this coming year.

Sending you sincere wishes and strong intentions for peace, prosperity and great health and happiness for all of us in the next year.
And abundant blessings and love,