Wifey

Nobody's Little Mrs.

Category: Engaging

Being a “Spiritual Gangster” in an Irreverent World

Recently, I posted this photo of myself in my Spiritual Gangster tank and while of course, I really like the shirt, I never thought it would get so much attention.

Interesting term, spiritual gangster.

What does it mean exactly? If you’re not sure, Webster’s won’t be any help. The term isn’t included in our trusty reference.

But I think Urban Dictionary  sums it up nicely:

Someone who lives life to the fullest. spiritual gangsters are so magical, they have the ability to manifest anything they want instantly just by their ability to release resistance and allow pure positive energy to flow through them. The universe always has their back!! They are enlightened deliberate creators of spiritual evolution and the expansion of consciousness. They focus on the positive and always reach for a better feeling and a higher vibration. They always seek the greatest good possible for themselves and others…. They are hardcore lovers. They love the entire world very deeply and passionately. But make no mistake, they are fierce warriors who will handle any situation like a badass!
(I took the liberty highlighting some of this definition’s many assets of being a spiritual gangster.) I don’t know about you, but  I’ll happily associate myself with this term!
 
 
While it’s become very popular for people to claim enlightenment and profess how #blessed they are, many of those people are not being true to anyone, least of all themselves.  Many of those same “#blessed” people also troll the internet and insult, name-call, and shame other people, all the while righteously proclaiming their “strong faith.”
 
Hypocritical, no?  Because it’s exactly that kind of intolerance and irreverence that directly opposes any true faith or spiritual path. There is an obvious lack of not just respect for other people, but a lack of mere consideration of others. What happened to “live and let live,” to “smell the roses,” to “appreciate the little things”?
 
Listen–social media is lousy with the “blessed” hashtag, but unless people actually, honestly, and indiscriminately embrace a positive attitude and an appreciation for all things on a spiritual level–unless they seek the goodness in all things–then  I would suggest taking a holiday from the social media hamster wheel and stop misusing it so blatantly.
 
In the meantime, if you can identify as a spiritual gangster–or if you want to be one–wear it proudly and share it widely! Then you can sincerely feel #blessed.
 
Namaste, friends!
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Ask Wifey: Part-Time Housemates or Full-Time Relationship?

Dear Wifey,

My boyfriend never finished the home projects he starts. We “part-time” live together and when I first saw his home I thought many of the home repair/rehab projects had just been started. Boy, was I wrong.

It is his marital home, where his now-grown kids were raised. My opinion about what’s to be done is not welcome. I’d like him to sell the house so we could possibly get an “our house” down the road. When I bring any of this up he gets angry.

What do I do?

Frustrated in Philly

 

Dear Frustrated,

One of the ways in which relationships can be challenging when we are older (from you telling me your boyfriend has grown children, I’m guessing at least he is at least 40), is that most of us are less eager to change and/or compromise. I’m not saying this as a criticism, rather as a fact. By middle age, most people have already made compromises, learned lessons, and have decided what they like and how they want to live.

You mention that you are “part-time” living together in his house and I would imagine he would want you to contribute your opinion and make the place yours as well, rather than make you feel like an unwelcome guest. I gather that you have your own place too, and I wonder if he feels the same about your place.

My understanding of the situation leads me to believe that one of two things is going on here: Either he is feeling the same way about you and your place–like you don’t want to include him in your place–or he is just very set in his ways and unwilling to fully share his home with you–or anyone else for that matter.

Before you do anything, I would figure out which situation is happening, and the best way to do that is simply by asking him directly.

If it’s the first scenario, maybe you need to spend more time together at your place too and hopefully, you will both feel more comfortable in each other’s homes and will learn to find your own place in each other’s space. Personally, I think buying a place together is the best idea so you can have a fresh start at creating a common home and life and a full-time relationship.

The second scenario is more troublesome, unfortunately. It’s entirely possible that he simply is very comfortable with his solo living arrangement and–other than having you as a part-time housemate–doesn’t really want to change his life or his routines in any way. If this is the case, I would seriously consider how much more effort you want to invest in this relationship.

No one should get angry with someone who loves them–and whom they love–and who wants to share a home and a life with them. On the contrary, it’s often the path many people hope their relationship takes. I think you owe it to yourself to find out if he is one of them. Once you do, you can decide what path you want to take and whether you’re he’s the right person to walk it with you.

 

 

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If Wishes Were Horses . . .

iF-WISHES-were-horses-art-two2

The first time I heard this expression “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride,” I didn’t get it right away–I thought I was missing something. Then I realized it tells us “don’t bother simply wishing for something if you’re not going to do anything about making it happen.” In other words, wishes alone are folly.

Sounds like good advice. After all, a wish is often described as a “goal without a plan,” and I don’t know about you, but in my experience, not having a plan is a terrible plan.

CarefulWishGenie

Then there’s the cautionary proverb that tells us to be careful what we wish for, lest we get it.

It’s true we need to take actual care in choosing our words. Our words are powerful because they are expressions of our thoughts, and because they become our actions. Our actions determine our reality.

When talking about wishes, it’s difficult to forget the traditions of wishing upon shooting stars or breaking off the better half of the wishbone on a Thanksgiving turkey.  Think about that, though–the idea of having a wish come true is considered so unrealistic that it’s been  simply left up to the random chance of seeing the elusive shooting star or having a better grip on the fourth Thursday of November.

So I’ve tried to not use the word wish so often. I’ve curbed that kind of thinking and made an effort to replace it with a thought process that is more creative, one that will help me actually create my life the way I want to live it.

In practical terms, there’s no more waiting for opportunities to present themselves, no more wishing for things or experiences; there is only creating the opportunities for myself and making my own plans.

But I don’t mean to imply that wishes are bad,  or that I’ve stopped wishing. Having a wish or a dream is important–anything really is possible. It’s just that I think it’s a good idea to do more than wish. Only sometimes it can be difficult to remember that . . .  old habits do indeed die hard.

Wish necklace

Recently I came across this necklace in a shop.

And as much as I had been thinking about wishes, it made me smile.

There is was–a way to remind myself that wishes are good–and pretty. But they are things of which we must be conscious, with which  we must be careful, and which we should actively wear if we want to see them realized.

So, yes, I bought it.

And when I put it on I think about what I wish for, what my goals are.

Most importantly, I think about how I make wishes, and what I will do to make my wishes and goals as real as the one around my neck.

Sig.Melaina

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Are you there, Apple? It’s Me, Wifey. (Or: Why My iPhone Makes Me Sad)

I’ve been both an iPhone user and an Android user. I waited a bit from the start to hop on the iPhone bandwagon, but once I got on I was hooked on the myriad apps that were “there for that.” (Seriously, I had so many apps I ran out of room for more.)

I loved my iPhone, but Android phones were catching up (and overtaking) iPhone really fast. I was seduced by the size and resolution of the Samsung Galaxy Note II’s screen and its stylus.

Sprint-Samsung-Galaxy-Note-2-Phone-IMG1-LG

 

It took a little while to get used to, but the brilliance of the screen kept me transfixed. Finally it looked like Apple was reclaiming their spot at the top of the smartphone food chain. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus were as big, or bigger, in size than most of their Android counterparts, and whispers of an Apple Watch were being heard.

 

While I love my Note II,  it was getting on in months (let’s face it, when was the last time your smartphone lasted for more than a couple of years?) and not working at top speed. After a good deal of fence-sitting, I broke down and went the way of iPhone 6 for my personal mobile phone, while keeping my Note II as a backup.

iphone6.6plus

Apple had won me back.

And though Apple may be happy with my and other’s reversion back into the iPhone fold, I’m not. At all. On the contrary, I am gravely disappointed in iPhone, and Apple in general.

Now let me tell you why.

  1. If you’re on a call on the iPhone you can’t use any other app requiring data.  Really? Android makes multitasking easy–put your call on speaker or Bluetooth and you can surf the internet, use your GPS, post on social media. On your iPhone you’ll just have to wait. (Can you imagine?!)
  2. iPhone’s keyboard is not user-friendly. This is really surprising to me since Apple has always been so proud of their user-friendly operating system. Android’s keyboard includes the row numbers above the qwerty keyboard as well as  “.com” and “@” keys so there’s no constant switching back and forth between keyboards. (It’s seamless, really.)
  3. Android has a “back” button! I don’t know about you, but I find it inconvenient to have to constantly close out and reopen apps and windows on my iPhone. With Android’s handy “back” button, there is very little of that senseless back and forth. Back on an iPhone now it’s not at all rare to see my trying to tap a “back” button that’s not there. (It’s rather sad.)
  4. iPhone has terrible auto-correct and is very slow to learn your frequently used words (if it ever does). My name is not a common one. I won’t be finding any cans of Coca-Cola with Melaina emblazoned on them. That’s fine. However, I’ve had my iPhone 6 all year and it still doesn’t remember my name or automatically capitalize it. (Thanks, Apple.)
    On the other hand, Android has a row above the keyboard which suggests three words as you type. But here is the best part: Android actually learns your writing patterns and if you use the same phrases often it will automatically suggest the next word (among the three choices it provides) in your phrase. If you often text “Be there in five” before you know it you will simply type “Be” and then just tap on “there,” “in,” and “five.” (Who doesn’t like being catered to?)
  5. Android remembers your info to fill in forms; iPhone has amnesia. When you need to fill out a form for a mailing list or enter your shipping address Android has your back. Each time I tap on a field labeled “email”  to fill it in, my email address magically appears above the keyboard as one of the suggested word choices. I don’t remember the last time I had to type it out in full on my Android. On my iPhone? Every. Single. Time. (Bad Apple!)
  6. FaceTime exclusivity. Last, but not at all least: why can’t Apple let iPhone users FaceTime with people on other smartphones. I’m sorry, I know I’m not a hardware or software designer, but I refuse to believe that video-chat across platforms is unattainable. (Get on the inclusivity bandwagon, Apple!)

So while I may be an iPhone user, I’m not at all a happy about it.

To be fair, Android phones aren’t perfect, but they are much more user-friendly, much more intuitive, and quite frankly, smarter than the iPhone. Considering Apple was on the cutting edge with the original iPhone, how much have their products really evolved?

They’ve become bigger and faster; the camera resolution has increased; they’ve developed ApplePay, sure. But what innovation is there really? And the Apple Watch? Please…Samsung has had a watch for years and it’s a standalone device so you can leave your phone at home.

And by the way, the minute that Apple Watch was released an Apple Watch app magically appeared on my iPhone and I cannot delete it! (I don’t know about you, but I don’t like anyone forcing me to have anything I don’t want.)

But maybe the most frustrating thing about iPhone is that other than wallpaper, everyone’s phones look exactly alike: page after page of app icons, maybe a folder or two.  I much prefer Android’s customizable features (especially the available widgets) and their motto of  “Be together, not the same.”

Is is just me? Any other dissatisfied iPhone users out there?

Are you listening, Apple?

 

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Rainy Day Reading

It’s been raining on and off all week (mostly on), but today the rain has yet to stop. Personally, I don’t mind at all. I like the rain; I like way rain makes everything smell, the coolness of the air, and I love the sound of the rain on the roof. If I can get a thunder and lightning as well, I’m in heaven.

rainydayMost of us don’t have much during our busy week to curl up and read a book, but the downpour changed my mind about riding today and so I’ve taken the opportunity to catch up on my reading (no matter how much I read, I never seem to keep up!).

While it’s no matter to me how long or short a book is, sometimes it’s especially satisfying to be able to start something you can finish in one sitting. So I’ve compiled a short list of good reads that you can read in one sitting (though I guess that depends on how long you’d like to sit, I suppose).

The following are older titles, all of which are rather short (novellas, really).

84 Charing Cross Road  by Helen Hanff

Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The End of the Alphabet by C. S. Richardson

Walks with Men by Ann Beattie

Disquiet by Julia Leigh

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

The Alchemist by Paul Coelho

If you’re in for hurricane weather, here are some longer titles that nonetheless, kept me sitting still through to the very last page.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

The Silent Wife by A. S. A. Harrison

Superstition by David Ambrose

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (it was a very rainy day–and night!)

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s* Stone by J. K. Rowling (*I read the Canadian, aka British editions of the series)

For even more suggestions, visit this link at Read It Forward–a great source for finding your next good read!

What books kept you reading until the very last word? Please share!!

Sig.Melaina

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Leave Your Mark, by Aliza Licht: Are You Willing To Do the Work?

My “to read” pile is big. Huge, really. I am definitely behind on my reading. But as soon as I read a pre-release excerpt of  Leave Your Mark, by Aliza Licht, I knew I would have to fall just a little further behind. Ms. Licht’s approach and tone hooked me and I immediately navigated to Amazon and pre-ordered the book, which instantly landed at the top of the ever-growing tower of titles.

You see, while Leave Your Mark is a perfect read for a twentysomething just figuring out their passions and their career paths, it’s also an ideal read for someone like me, who finds themselves in need of some inspiration, and a change of  course. A re-launch, so to speak.

The advice in Leave Your Mark is the best, most serious you’ll find available. But what sets this career guide apart from the rest is that beyond being so sensible, it’s highly accessible and engaging as well.

Ms. Licht shares many stories from her career and highlights myriad examples of what to do, what not to do, and essential “Insider Tips,” not one of which should be ignored. As the author states herself, this isn’t a “how-to” book, it’s a “must-do” book.

Like Ms. Licht, I started working in New York in the same pre-internet era and went through many of the same career growing pains. Those starting out today can’t comprehend how different things were, how much more effort was required for the most basic tasks.

As she describes in her book, in order to land a job in the magazine industry she had to load up on recent issues from her local newsstand and find editors names in the magazines masthead (no Google!). Resumes and cover letters were actually printed out on paper, and the process from application to offer seemed endless.

Reading Leave Your Mark reminded me of where I’ve been and all that I’ve accomplished. It inspired me to review and reevaluate the various phases in my career, and  it reaffirmed the value of the workplace wisdom I’ve accrued over the years. (Thank you, Ms. Licht!)

Leaving your mark in today’s job market almost always requires some kind of social media presence, and by presence I don’t just mean that you have a Twitter feed or a Facebook or LinkedIn profile void of content.

A social media profile is something that needs to be curated in order yield results, and there’s no better person than Aliza Licht to help you engage and and build your network online.

Ms. Licht is honest (at times, I’m sure, painfully for some) about what it takes to get where you want to be in your career and encourages that honesty from the reader, providing opportunities for self-evaluation.

Throughout the book, Licht includes “Take a Selfie” sections in which she asks the reader questions essential to figuring out when and if to take the next step. It’s so easy to compare ourselves to others–especially when we are all sharing so much online–that self-evaluation is especially vital now.

Ms. Licht offers the best kind of constructive criticism: the kind that points out the potential problem while simultaneously offering the reader a solution. She also urges readers to discover and foster their own strengths and creativity.

You may not know why what you’re currently doing isn’t providing you with the results you’re seeking. After reading Leave Your Mark you will. You might even have a brainstorm or two.

Another critical issue that Leave Your Mark addresses is the (often overlooked) difference between social/casual communication and professional correspondence. It’s easy to forget in this era of text-speak that even though you may be using the same medium to communicate with both friends and potential employers and colleagues, there remains a vast difference in the way one should construct these messages. Take a cue from Ms. Licht on what to say and how to say it.

Just because Ms. Licht is a social media maven, the voice of twitter’s DKNY PR Girl (with over half a million followers), don’t think for a second that she accomplished all that she has using the same friendly (and sometimes cheeky) tone that she uses in her tweets.

I won’t go on and on (though I could) because Leave Your Mark is simply a book that you #MUSTREAD (and learn from) for yourself, and I won’t presume to paraphrase Ms. Licht any further.

Ms. Licht should not merely be respected for her success, she should be admired for her work ethic, her dedication, and her generosity. The advice and experience shared in Leave Your Mark is a rare gift to anyone who is serious about their career success, and who is both humble and hungry enough to earn it.

If that sounds like you, click here and get on with it! (What are you waiting for? GO!)

Sig.Melaina

 

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Good, Fast, and Cheap

When it comes to goods and services,  most people want three things: they want good quality, they want fast service, and they a deal–they want it cheap.

However, anyone who has tried to get all three of those attributes in one item or service know the truth: it’s nearly impossible to get all three qualities in any product or service.

So you can get something that’s good and cheap, but it will take a while.

You can get something good and fast, but it’s going to cost you.

And you can certainly get something fast and cheap, but it won’t be very good.

Visually, it looks like this:

 

 

For the most part I completely agree with this rule–for everything from a home remodel, to a haircut, to lunch, we get what we pay for…and what we wait for.

But there must be exceptions to this rule. Personally, I know that a cup of chickory coffee and beignets at Cafe’ du Monde in New Orleans fits the bill for all three. But there must be more!

Do you know any other exceptions to this rule? Please share them in the comments!

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The Power of the Pen

I’ve moved around quite a bit in the last several years. So often, in fact, that I have boxes that I haven’t opened in years. In one of my last moves I came across a box that was labeled “MBP/Personal,” which could quite literally have contained anything private, intimate, or sentimental.

I shouldn’t have bothered to open it. After all, if I didn’t know what the box contained it was likely that I didn’t need the contents anytime soon. But I did open it, and out poured years’ worth of letters. Yes, letters. Before email, cell phones, Facebook, and facetime I actually corresponded regularly by mail with friends who lived everywhere–from all over the US to Italy, Spain, Japan, Australia, and South America.

The other now-extinct oddity I found, were notes. Notes left on my door when someone dropped by my apartment and I wasn’t home; there was no cell phone on which to call me. They were the texts of my college days. (Either that or someone would call and leave a message on your answering machine and then you would have to call in and listen to your messages…) Here’s a particularly entertaining one:

 

Or how about this impromptu bit of poetry:

 

What I probably should have done was read a few letters, get a little nostalgic, then put them all back, re-tape the box and move on to more pressing things on my to-do list. What I did instead was spend hours sitting on the floor, poring over my correspondence. There were postcards from all over the world; cards for every and no occasion; letters from friends with whom I’m still in touch; letters from old school friends I had lost contact with (until Facebook for some); and letters from old beaus–some even tied with ribbon.

 

 

There are no less than thirty cards plus letters from one of my best friends and, believe it or not, some friends and I used to exchange…faxes. Fax. Machine. Well, here’s a fun fax–and it printed out on that thermo…whatever paper that feels really weird and from which  all the printing fades away eventually. If you’re curious as to why my nice Jewish friend was affecting an unusual dialect, I think it had something to do with a movie that we had be watching and re-watching at the time.

Oh, and in case you’re curious as to the article my friend sent me, here it is. Just don’t ask me to explain it–I couldn’t possibly–but “Robbi Jeffy” (not his real name, but I remember is a joke related to the dialect) always did have a good sense of humor.

I know that it sounds old-fashioned, but I miss corresponding by mail. Personally, I still try to write notes and letters whenever the opportunity presents itself–and sometimes for no reason at all–but usually the reply comes in the form of a phone call or an email. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate how many different ways and how quickly we can get in touch with one another, but sometimes I wish our correspondence was slower and more thoughtful. There is also something about not needing a wifi signal to sit down and read the thoughts that someone wanted to share with you.

What might be just as interesting though, is sitting down to read the thoughts that someone wanted to share with someone else. While there are several books out there that are collections of correspondence, here are two titles with which I’ve recently been engrossed.

The first book is Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience. This collection of letters to and/or from the notable, famous, and celebrated caught my attention from the first entry.

In this first letter, Queen Elizabeth II writes to President Dwight D. Eisenhower. In her missile the Queen writes to the President because she realizes that she “had never sent you the recipe for the drop scones which I promised you at Balmoral.” Priceless.

 

Her Highness writes two double-sided sheets to Eisenhower noting that when it comes to the scone recipe “I generally put in less flour and milk, but use the other ingredients as stated.”

I don’t know about you, but I love imagining her in the palace kitchen, her apron dusty with flour.

Signing off as “Elizabeth R” (R as in Regina)…

 

she includes the following recipe:

 

I’ve already made a copy for myself, which I plan on trying when the occasion presents–after all, I found my recipe for Yorkshire Pudding in another book of letters, 84, Charing Cross Road. (It’s delicious, in case you were wondering.)

But in addition to this very friendly and politics-free letter from Elizabeth R, Letters of Note shares Elvis Presley’s five-page in-flight letter to President Richard Nixon. He offers his services as a “Federal Agent at Large” on page two:

 

 …

 

Then there’s the 1956 letter twelve-year-old Jim Berger wrote to noted architect Frank Lloyd Wright commissioning plans for a house for his labrador, Eddie. His father promised to build it if Wright would design it. Mr. Berger completed construction in 1963:

 

Well done, Jim!

Marlon Brando was no stranger to fan mail, I’m sure, but how about these letters from authors Jack Kerouac and Mario Puzo. Both were efforts to woo the actor to bring their books to life on the silver screen.

 

“I’m praying that you’ll buy ON THE ROAD
and make a movie of it.”
“I wrote a book called THE GODFATHER which has
had some success…”

There are dozens of letters penned by the likes of Eudora Welty, Clementine Churchill, Mick Jagger, Mark Twain, and Fidel Castro. But even if the writer or recipient isn’t famous, it’s still curious to get a glimpse into the minds and relationships of others.

Several years ago I picked up another collection of letters entitled Other People’s Love Letters: 150 Letters You Were Never Meant to See.

 

These mostly modern love letters include emails, post-it notes, messages scribbled on napkins and phone message slips, drawings, collages, as well as cards and some good, old-fashioned love letters. Some are syrupy sweet, some snarky, some sexy, but all are sincere and meant to be secret.

This particular note made me smile:

And I have to applaud the creativity of this one:
There’s not always time for creativity, though, but any slip of paper will do…
And  you don’t need to use personalized, embossed stationery to create a letter that will be cherished.
Considering how much of our day we spend sending emails and texts, taking the time out to put pen to paper and write someone is in itself a meaningful gesture. It’s a gesture that I think we should make more often.
If you need another reason to write, check back here tomorrow for a correspondence-inspired giveaway!




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Figs This Exit!

My father was a gardener. He loved to plant vegetables from seeds, cultivate grapevines, and tend to his  fig tree, which grew the most sweet and delicious fruit. All summer long his crops would fill baskets on the kitchen counter and table in my parents home.

 

 

Often, after weeding and tending his garden he would sit on the patio and relax, satisfied at his plantings progress. One summer day, while sitting with him there, I noticed a fixated stare and followed it to the power cables that bordered the property.

I asked him what was so interesting about them and he said in Italian “Scoiattoli.” Squirrels. Still confused I looked up to see a couple of the bushy-tailed hoarders confidently traveling back and forth on the high wire.

“It’s like an autostrada (highway) for them,” my father would say. But he was not at all amused by this.

As it turns out, squirrels would take the exit for our garden, jump from wire to tree, cross the garden and scurry up the fig tree. The uninvited guests select a fruit from among the tasty offerings, examine said fruit and either remain in the tree to dine or choose another “table” al fresco. Sated, they simply discard whatever remains of the fig–skin, stem, what have you–around the garden.

Not good.

Now, the fig tree had grown well beyond expectations, and there were plenty of figs to go around, even after sharing some with the scoiattoli. But my father believed that this was not a good precedent to set. It was the principle of the thing.

How to discourage the squirrels from feasting on the figs and solve this problem?

While my father was no fan of the squirrels’ pesky behavior, neither did he mean them any harm. He set out some humane traps that would simply catch the gluttonous offenders. Loading the full cages into his car he drove the squirrels to the park and set them free to forage among the vegetation there.

Back on the patio with a satisfied grin, my father proudly surveyed his flourishing garden and the absence of half-eaten figs on the ground. A job well done.

Well, yes . . . for a while.

Unfortunately, the park was a mere block away and our epicurean squirrels’ internal GPS soon led them back to the autostrada and to the exit at the garden.

My father was not pleased. But being a foodie himself, he understood the attraction to his garden and its fruits, so he couldn’t really blame the squirrels.

Last fall, while having breakfast at my parents’ house, movement my attention was caught by a small visitor on the patio outside the breakfast room . . .

 

I feel quite certain that if my father had seen up close how much his uninvited guests enjoyed his figs, he might not have minded so much.
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Walkin’ the Dogs . . . Well, Hounds.

Foxhunting is something that I’ve been intrigued with for years now. While I’ve not had a lifestyle that permitted me to join the field, living somewhere again with an active hunt club (two, actually, here in the Lexington area) makes the opportunity to learn about the sport very accessible.

Recently, compliments of a foxhunting friend, I went on my first Iroquois Hunt hound walk. Simply put, a hound walk is a walk through hunt country with a pack of hounds of varying ages and experience to teach them the lay of the land and to learn about their individual personalities.

While the Master of Foxhounds (MFH) and huntsman will walk with the scent-hungry hounds, there will also likely be a few mounted foxhunters along to turn the hounds should they not respond to the call of the MFH, or to seek out the occasional wandering novice hound.

On this particular day we were five on foot and three mounted with eleven couple (hounds are counted in pairs, so twenty-two) of foxhounds. And tried as I might have, I couldn’t resist uttering the words “Release the hounds!” when I saw the doors of the trailer open and the pack burst out.

Photo by Melaina Balbo Phipps

We walked across the field over the hilly landscape while the hound advanced and retreated to the sound of the MFH’s prompts and horn blows.

    Photo by Melaina Balbo Phipps

They will survey the land . . .

Photo by Melaina Balbo Phipps

and when they come back in . . .

     Photo by Melaina Balbo Phipps
 they are amply rewarded by the MFH with treats from her bottomless leather satchel. And it’s every hound for himself!
Sometimes a hound–or a couple–will stray. It’s understandable for the novice hounds in the pack–so many scents to follow! 
To facilitate the tracking of wayward hounds, each one is outfitted with GPS collars, like these . . . 
Photos by Melaina Balbo Phipps

The fields were wide and very inviting to roam . . . 
   Photo by Melaina Balbo Phipps
    Photo by Melaina Balbo Phipps
and, understandably, we were not the only ones enjoying the countryside that day. 
It seems that as much curiosity as was aroused in the hounds by the scents and the sights was also aroused in the herd of cattle that decided to take a break from their grazing and stalk us around the fields . . . 
    Photo by Melaina Balbo Phipps
They were definitely interested in what we were doing out there, in what I can only surmise they considered their land.
For such a large herd they were fairly stealthy.
    Photo by Melaina Balbo Phipps
and they kept their distance . . . mostly.
    Photo by Melaina Balbo Phipps
But for as gentle as these bovines can be, there is something very imposing about turning around and seeing this . . . 
    Photo by Melaina Balbo Phipps
And I’ve learned that you shouldn’t let their languor fool you, they can catch up pretty quickly when they want.

                     Photo by Melaina Balbo Phipps
After a couple of hours and with all hounds accounted for we made it back to the trailers and cars, a successful hound walk complete.
Hounds were happy to relax after a good morning’s work . . . 

    Photo by Melaina Balbo Phipps

    Photo by Melaina Balbo Phipps
but the cattle seemed to want us to stay a bit longer . . . 
                      Photo by Melaina Balbo Phipps
I guess that means they won’t mind if we come back. 
A great many thanks to my friend for taking me out, the MFH for the beginnings of my foxhunting education, and our host for the access to enjoy his beautiful piece of pasture!
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