Hangin’ at the hospice

Small dog on hospital bed being petted by patient

Twice a month, my PAL Jelly and I go to visit the seniors at a retirement home. Adjoining the home is a hospice, and often we stop in there along the way. Because Jelly is vertically challenged, it is hard for her to visit with people who are bedridden, but she does her best, seeking out chairs and couches so she can raise herself up within reach.

I admit that entering a hospice isn’t easy. I never know who I’ll meet and what condition they’ll be in. Others must feel the same because somedays there are very few visitors, if any. Some of the patients are so close to dying that they are not up to company.

The past few visits, we’ve been watching a dog-adoring hospice patient become increasingly frail. From the pictures hanging on the wall, I can see he was once a strong and vibrant man. On the wall, there are several pictures of him with his dog. Over time, he is having more and more difficulty moving his body and speaking clearly. Imagine the frustration of not being able to communicate easily. Despite his challenges, he greets the PALS dogs with a broad smile, even if he needs to be woken from sleep to visit.

Since this patient is missing his dog terribly and is unable to reach down to pet our dogs, we lift our dogs up onto the bed with him. When Jelly’s turn on the bed came yesterday, she was more than glad to oblige. She snuggled up to the patient and kissed his face repeatedly. He laboured with his little remaining muscle strength to raise his hand to pet her. I was moved watching his effort to be with the dogs.

While we were visiting, two granddaughters walked in to see him. One of the girls immediately started crying when she saw the dogs and bent down to pet them. She told us she had had a bad day and she was so glad we were there. She didn’t elaborate, but I was glad seeing the pups comforted her.

I tried to imagine how hard it would have been for these young girls to enter the hospice not knowing what condition their grandfather would be in that day. From one visit to the next, like us, they have been watching him die. What would they find to talk about? Would they even be able to decipher what he was saying? Could they find some way to communicate? Hopefully the brief PALS appearance facilitated their visit, which I’m sure wasn’t easy.

This experience reminded me that we bring our dogs to the hospice not only to see the patients. The staff caring for these patients day in and day out–the nurses, the aides, the cleaning staff–anticipate our arrival. The family and friends who arrive when we’re there appreciate the wagging tails as well. Some even schedule their visits when the PALS dogs will be there. I’m happy knowing that the dogs make the day a little bit easier for many of these people. They deserve at least that.

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Respecting privacy: a case example

Have you heard of Elements Calgary (formerly Calgary Association of Self-Help)? Elements provides support to people with severe and chronic mental illnesses, including people who are under long-term psychiatric care. They may have schizophrenia, severe depression, bipolar disorder, or some other debilitating mental illness. These people are often poor or have unstable housing, and sustaining employment, whether temporarily or permanently, is often beyond reach.

Elements provides a warm, supportive environment where these people can socialize with others and access services. They have access to mental health counselling, life skills and vocational training, and opportunities for social interaction.

I have never been disabled by my supermarket-variety anxiety the way these people have been by their malfunctioning brain chemistry. I admire them deeply for plugging along despite their mental-health challenges, and I’m relieved that agencies like Elements are available to them.

PALS visits Elements once a month. Jelly and I have signed up for the Elements visits for several months now. We have met many of the regulars at Elements. These people are often unable to care for a dog themselves, so they’re always grateful for a visit with a PALS dog.

Jelly and I went there yesterday for the first visit since June and were greeted by many familiar faces. One fellow was especially pleased to see PALS. Mr. Success Story shared that he was doing so well he was readying himself to return to the workforce. At one point, his illness interfered with his capacity to work, but he had made great strides in recent months with Elements’ support.

Mr. Success Story wanted us to know how much Elements, and the PALS visits, had helped him through his darkest period. I imagine that he is still alive because, when he was at his lowest, he found an accepting place where he could go. He realizes that physicians and mental health workers may refer clients to Elements without fully appreciating the good the agency does. He plans to find a way to get the word out through social media.

As you can imagine, there are strict privacy rules in an agency such as Elements. We certainly cannot share people’s names or identifying information, and I’ve been so vague that you could walk by Mr. Success Story on the street without realizing I was speaking of him. I wanted to share his story nonetheless because I was moved by it.

The same privacy rules do not apply to us: PALS members are shameless about having our pictures taken. Not knowing this, and wanting to respect our privacy, Mr. Success Story kindly asked the PALS volunteers (human and dog) whether he could take photographs during the visit. I may not like looking in mirrors, especially the side view, but I will pose for a PALS picture with Jelly without hesitation. If Mr. Success Story felt that those pictures might help him to garner publicity for Elements, we’d be in there like a dirty paw. “Snap away!” I said.

Best of luck, Mr. Success Story. You deserve all the credit for how far you’ve come. I’m glad Elements was there to help you along in your time of need.

Calling all impatient toddlers

I have bad news. I left the muffins out again for Mr. RAK, this time on our landing, but he didn’t come. He must have been spreading his good cheer to another neighbour, which is great. Upon realizing he was not coming, J. promptly put the muffins in the freezer, where they remain untouched. Anyone want a decent banana chocolate chip muffin? Let me know.

More than enough about that. Let’s move on to great news.

Since retiring, J. has been applying for volunteer opportunities far and wide. She readily jumps into one-time stints, including as PALS special events I cannot do, but she wanted a steady commitment of her own, preferably with kids. Kids love J.

Last year J. applied to the local children’s hospital, and was dismayed when there were no volunteer openings there. Because persistence is one of her middle names, along with punctual and efficient, J. applied a second time, got an interview, and, finally, a placement. She will be hanging out in the inpatient toddler playroom every Tuesday afternoon.

To prepare her for her duties, she practiced with a friend’s infant on the weekend. For four hours, this little tyke was all smiles. J. changed diapers flawlessly, and was a master with that baby’s bottle. That stint was only a warm up, since there won’t be any dirty diapers or bottles during her shifts with toddlers. There will only be unbridled fun in a well-outfitted playroom.

When we told our friend, who is sharper than any tack I know, about J.’s assignment, she asked, “Aren’t all toddlers impatient?” Well yes, Dr. Sharp, they are indeed, and I would be too if I were stuck in hospital. J. is the perfect playmate for them. She has no end of creative ideas, she can roll with the punches, and she’s fun. She can’t help it. She’ll make them relax and giggle and forget their worries, whether they want to or not. And she’ll probably make them clean up after themselves before they leave.

Last week, J. spent her first shift hanging out with the one toddler who was available for playtime, a little girl J. described as a bit shy. No wonder. This youngster hadn’t been in hospital long, and the disruption of a hospital stay, including sleeping away from home, must have been stressful. She was improving every day and was headed home soon. Before she left, she had time to play with J. Thank goodness, since J. would have been heartbroken if no one wanted to play with her on her first day.

I’m not sure who had more fun, J. or her little playmate. They spent most of their time shopping at the make-believe grocery store, until the girl suddenly realized she had to go. She told J., “I have to pee.” J. responded, “Well then, let’s go find the washroom.” To J.’s surprise, as they approached the playroom door, this shy one put her hand out for J. to hold.

Not all J.’s stories will be happy ones, yet I know there will be many sweet moments like this one. I can’t wait to hear what happened today. I know the kids will have fun. I hope J. does too.

 

Child's pretend groceries in two baskets

 

The luck of the draw

Toddler sitting on sidewalk with little puppy kissing his face

I love my PALS visits with Jelly. I get to go to new places and meet new people and watch them adore my dog. Of course I love to tell them funny stories about her, but I don’t go on and on about her because it’s not all about us, especially during these visits. I have to find other topics of conversation instead.

I’ve long accepted that I’m terrible at small talk. Getting-to-know-you conversations are hard for me in general. I was particularly stumped at a PALS outing last week.

We had volunteered to visit a special nursing home. The residents there are hard-to-place older folks who would not otherwise be accepted into seniors’ homes. Many are alcoholic and/or mentally ill, and many once lived on the street. The alcoholic residents are given controlled amounts of alcohol at regular intervals. Without access to alcohol, these people would likely continue to live in poverty on the streets. The residence’s goals are to reduce these people’s run ins with the police and their need for emergency health care.

I’ve been in many seniors’ homes with Jelly and this one was more run down than others I’ve seen. (Imagine the challenges gathering funding for a place like this.) So were the people there, many of whom were socializing in the common area when we arrived. Still, this special residence gives them a roof over their heads and three meals a day, access to laundry facilities, and on-site medical care. There are significant daily supports in place, so they don’t need to be trying to survive on the streets anymore.

I didn’t know what brought these folks to this residence and my asking them would have been inappropriate. Of course I wondered about their pasts, though. Sometimes their mental-health issues were apparent, but others simply appeared poor and downtrodden. I hope my discomfort wasn’t obvious, but I felt even more awkward than usual finding common ground for conversation.

I often fall back on one strategy when I have no idea what to say. On all our PALS outings, people can choose to visit with the dogs or not, so those that do attend are clearly dog lovers (or cat lovers who are willing to accept second best). Their interest in animals gives me an easy inroad: I ask them about their experiences with dogs. That breaks the ice, probably for me more than for them. People love to talk about their dogs–I can relate to that–even if they may be sad recalling better times in their lives.

On this visit, our dog conversations reminded me that our lives may not have been all that different at one point. These people weren’t born mentally ill, although they likely were harbouring bad genes that would reveal themselves later. They likely lived with family when they were younger, just like I did. But at some point, poverty or mental illness or addiction derailed their lives. I expect they’ve had bad luck, while somehow I did not. Life is truly unfair.

I’m glad this special residence can provide these folks a home. Everyone deserves at least that, no matter what.

The problem with dogs with balls

Terrier with tennis ball in its mouthJelly and I have been heading to the off-leash dog park most mornings. Whenever we go, I am struck by the number of people who are fixated by a tennis ball. Their dogs are excited to be at the park not to see their compatriots but to chase that ball relentlessly, drop it at their owner’s foot, only to chase it again. These dogs live to fetch.

Bassets and fetching? Not so much. If I threw a rabbit, they’d run after it. Bunny chasing is in their blood. Ball chasing? Forget it. Jelly has learned to ignore dogs with balls because she knows they will not be interested in playing with her.

I’m getting off track. It’s dogs with the other kind of balls, the kind attached to their bodies, that pose the problem. Jelly can spot those dogs a mile off. She doesn’t run much at the park anymore, except when she sniffs out an unneutered male. Then she’s emits a whimpering cry unlike no other and chases relentlessly after that dog until I manage to snag her, leash her, and take her away.

I no longer ask the owners, “Does your dog have balls?” I can tell by Jelly’s squeals and rapt attention that the dog does indeed, whether or not his wares are on display.

I often tell the owner that Jelly is very fond of intact males, which begs their question, “Is Jelly spayed?” What do you think? We adopted Jelly from doggie jail. Dogs don’t get released from jail until their reproductive parts are removed, thereby ensuring they do not add to the unwanted-dog population. “Yes, Jelly is fixed,” I respond, “although I’m not whether Dr. Animal finished the job.”

I say this because recently I learned that when girl dogs are spayed, only part of their parts are removed, ensuring that they cannot reproduce. But other parts remain, leading dogs like Jelly to be tormented by their desires for the rest of their lives. No wonder girl dogs, spayed or not, just want to have fun.

When these incidents occur, I bite my tongue rather than telling those ballsy owners, “Why must you bring your unneutered dog to an off-leash park?” (Jelly is not the only dog tormented by dogs with balls. Balls breed fights, and puppies, although any owner who brings an intact female to the park deserves a very large litter of puppies 58 to 68 days later.)

After an incident like this, we head to the balls-free zone of the park, where Jelly can frolic in peace. Those other balls may fly overhead, begging to be fetched, but Jelly ignores them.

During this week’s PALS visit at the retirement residence, Jelly and I crossed paths with a visitor who had brought along her dog with balls. No, I couldn’t see them, and they weren’t neon yellow, but Jelly quickly became entranced. Everyone nearby was tickled by Jelly’s relentless interest in this dog. I immediately pulled Jelly away from this dog before her squealing escalated to howling in the echoey hallway.

Jelly may be a doggie senior, but some days she acts more like a teenager with a crush. They say hormones can rage at any age. If you don’t believe me, join us at the park one day.

 

Volunteering by proxy

Calgary Stampede midway crowded with people

That’s me in the top right corner.

I must apologize for not writing yesterday, especially since I know how you hang on my every word. I spent the day carousing at the Stampede grounds. Just kidding. I’d rather sleep than watch adults young and old embarrassing themselves in public.

Stampede is a time for reckless alcohol overconsumption. With that comes an increase in philandering, and of course, STIs and unwanted pregnancies, despite the local campaign to “put a condom on your cowboy.” Not surprisingly, divorces spike following the week-long party. Stampeding sounds too risky to me, so I hunker down at home instead.

J., on the other hand, plans two visits to the grounds with our good friend, Triple D. They will be there from supper time until midnight both nights, but they won’t have time for drinking or philandering; they’ll be selling lottery tickets for fancy cars. They are volunteering for this task in support of PALS. J. noticed that PALS was seeking people for this fundraising event, and not only did she volunteer for two long shifts, she signed up Triple D, who is known for always making time for a good deed.

When I became a PAL, I learned that, in addition to our regularly scheduled visits, I’d be expected to support the organization in other ways. This included, for example, interviewing new recruits, helping out on the multi-station dog-assessment day, or attending fundraising events with or without my little pal in tow.

Most of these activities involve longer hours than I have the stamina for, so I pass. I do my part by volunteering for one-time visits–last week’s parade is a recent example, although that day felt more like a gift than an obligation–on top of our regularly scheduled visits with the old folks.

The same is true for Calgary Blood Services. I can’t donate blood, so I feed soup and cookies to those who can, and try to encourage healthy others to donate in my stead. I’m grateful to J. for persisting in giving despite her fainting after her second blood donation, and to my dear friend known affectionately as Spongebob (for reasons that will remain a mystery to you) who donated for the first time last month with no ill effects. Anticipating the milkshake he’d be buying on his way home probably helped him through the itty bitty pin prick.

Maybe I shouldn’t say that I pass on the volunteer duties I can’t fulfill since the truth is that I pass them on to gracious and willing others wherever I can. I wish I could volunteer myself, but I know my limits. A 6-hour sales shift ending at midnight–assuming I did not sleep through the chaos like Jelly did at that parade–would knock me out for days. I also know that the screening interviewers at Canadian Blood Services would laugh at me if I tried to donate blood despite my leukemia. I know what my limits are, and that there are some things I can’t do, however much I wish I could.

Kudos to those folks, J. et al., who donate their time or their gift of life (blood, that is) in my stead. Their generosity makes my heart sing, and I’m not the heart-singing type.

Pride comes nowhere near the fall

Woman who has fallen off bike, bike lays on ground

If a woman stops eating in the forest, will anybody notice her pants falling off? Does it matter?

I am here to confirm what the research has been saying for years: your stair master is lying to you. Weight loss is about eating less, not exercising more. Trust me, I know. But keep exercising because it’s good for you in so many other ways.

Many moons ago, I was dating an avid cyclist. I made the mistake of trying out one of those fancy road bikes with the skinny wheels at the prohibitively expensive cycling store. Of course this bike had fancy clip-on pedals, so I sported an ill-fitting pair of those absurd looking clip-on shoes for my trial ride down the block. Needless to say, I did not make it far before I teetered over and, unable to unclip my shoes, fell to the ground. It was not pretty. No bikes were purchased that day.

Things haven’t changed all that much over the years. I no longer need the fancy bike or the clip-on shoes to fall to the ground, however. On Wednesday, for example, I took Jelly out for her morning constitutional. As we returned to the house, I failed to properly negotiate the small rise from our lawn to the driveway, a rise that has been there since the cement was poured 15 years ago. Somehow I found myself flat on my face, with skinned hands and knees and badly mangled glasses. Surprisingly, my recent weight loss did not seem to lighten my fall.

Thankfully my trusty therapy dog was at my side, as she often is when I fall, since I do most of my walking with her. She sighed, “Oh mom, not again.”

Jelly has has been PALSing around for 6 months now. She has visited retirement homes, hospice patients, university students, and a variety of special-needs populations. She has offered wags and kisses far and wide. People marvel at how calm she is in even the most chaotic of settings.*

She had an especially successful visit with a hoard of high-needs preschoolers. Somehow, in the midst of all the activity, she napped. One of the children saw Jelly sleeping, and observed, “She looks dead.” He repeated this statement several times. I was ineffective at disabusing him of this notion. I even placed his hand on Jelly’s belly so he could feel her breathing, to no avail. At least he wasn’t upset about Jelly’s apparent demise.

When she has her little PALS outfit on, Jelly is an equal-opportunity love sponge. She will take affection from anyone who will give it. I wouldn’t say she’s one of those miracle dogs who is drawn to the person who needs the comfort the most, but I may need to reconsider in light of my mishap.

After my fall, Jelly immediately rushed to my side, started kissing my face, and then waited patiently until I got up. I collected myself and arose slowly. Other than a few bruises, I’m absolutely fine. J., on the other hand, believes, for good reason, I am unsafe to venture out so I’ve been grounded.

Happy Canada Day! And be safe.

 

*I too marvel at how calm Jelly is in these special settings, since she’s often utterly frenetic at home. Remember the dining room table incident?

 

How to be a bad mother in one easy step

Basset with hot water bottle on head and covered in blanket

Remember how hesitant I was to start volunteering because I feared my precarious health would make me unreliable? I had visions of calling in sick on a regular basis, but I should have known better. I am a reliable person. If I say I’m going to do something, I do it. I don’t cancel any commitment unless I’m strapped to a hospital bed.

I am pleased to report that, several months in, my health has not affected my volunteering. I’ve had to cancel only one date because of illness, and legitimately so: I didn’t want to risk sharing an infection with an unsuspecting blood donor.

I’ve been feeling under the weather the past few days–am I still allowed to say that if I’m in remission?–but I had a PALS visit with Jelly scheduled yesterday. Of course we’d still go. I’m not contagious, I’m just not feeling 100%. What does the U.S. Postal Service say? “Through gout, fatigue, anemia, and fluid retention….” (That doesn’t sound quite right.)

It never occurred to me that one day Jelly might have to bow out.

Upon awakening at 7 a.m., I realized that Jelly had slept late. (She’s up with the birds, remember?) Most mornings I send her back to bed once or twice before we all get up. She didn’t wake us? t naively believed Jelly had finally overcome her early-morning awakening.

Then J. gave her breakfast, and I realized how wrong I was. When our dog is disinterested in food, we know she’s unwell.

Normally Jelly eats in record time. Those dogs who pick at their food all day? Jelly ain’t one of them. In fact, she has a special dog bowl that slows down her eating. Before she had her special bowl, she’d inhale her kibble so quickly that, soon after she finished, she’d leave her breakfast, each little kibble intact, all over the kitchen floor. (I’ll let your imagination fill in the blanks here.)

So J. and I both tried to recall what Jelly had scrounged in the backyard the day before, other than kale. There was the occasional blade of grass, and a quick nibble on some grass patching that J. had spread. For whatever reason, Jelly has always loved grass (no, I don’t mean marijuana) in any form. Could her gardening have caused her stomach upset?

Sadly, despite our stellar attendance record with PALS, Jelly had to pass on yesterday’s visit. I emailed the organizer early yesterday morning to apologize for the late cancellation. What I neglected to tell her is that a lawn is currently taking root in Jelly’s stomach, causing her some discomfort, and that if she’d only vomit, she’d feel a lot better. Some things are better left unsaid.

If only I could end this post here.

I am a terrible mother, joking about my sick one. While I was busy minimizing Jelly’s tummy ache, J. determined Jelly needed to see Dr. Animal. Turns out our pup has an infection, hence the fever, lack of appetite, and lethargy. She has shown some improvement today, thank goodness, as evidenced by a few fleeting tail wags.

Hopefully Jelly will forgive me someday for neglecting her care. If not, I’ll find her a good therapist, one who will let her up on the couch.

Increasing my blog’s readership, one visitor at a time

It was a record week with two real live clients. For whatever reason, my second client found the session helpful and decided to rebook. At this rate, I may actually have a bit of income to declare at year end. Do you think her rebooking had anything to do with the despairing look on my face as the session neared its end? Or my begging? I thought so too.

I commended this client for making contact since we hadn’t seen each other for some time. I can’t imagine calling my therapist not knowing if she’d died since we’d last met. Kudos to her for taking the risk. I believe she could see, once she arrived, that my death is not imminent, or at least doesn’t seem to be so.

On a much triter note, I’d love my writing to find a larger audience. All writers would, wouldn’t they? Sometimes my narcissistic side wonders why my blog hasn’t garnered more attention over time. Is it my abrasively opinionated stance? My biting humour? How about my many random syntax errors? You’re probably wondering whether I’ll ever learn to stop my participles from dangling.

Despite my ongoing efforts to keep you entertained–“Enough already,” you say, “I wouldn’t have committed to this blog if I knew we’d be forging a long-term relationship”–I haven’t yet garnered any publishing contracts, I’ve had no requests for guest articles in esteemed newspapers, no talk-show appearances, not even any invitations to relocate to L.A. Perhaps my fame will follow my death, just like that of Bach or van Gogh.

It would probably help if I used social media to broaden my reading audience, but, because I don’t live with a teenager, I’m at a loss. I’ve taken a more primitive approach to expanding readership instead: I awkwardly tell people about the blog and ask them to take a look.

Sadness doll

Can you see the resemblance?

Take, for example, Mr. Platelet at the Calgary Blood Services clinic, the regular platelet donor who likened me to Little Miss Sunshine a few weeks back rather than my soulmate, Sadness, from Inside Out. You know Sadness, who’s forever trying to bring Joy down. (As a side note, notwithstanding the pale blue facial tone, I bear a striking resemblance to Sadness, even when I’m happy. The higher-than-average BMI, the frumpy sweater, the glasses, and the eyes that are always wide open. Hey, maybe that’s why Sadness is always sad. She’s tired all the time!)

I caught up with Mr. Platelet–would “Little Mr. Sunshine” be a better moniker?–this past Monday when I was volunteering and, while he was quietly eating his soup, I told him how touched I was by his kind words last time he was in. And then I clumsily directed him to the recent blog post where he’d played a starring role. In yet another act of kindness, he gamely read the post while consuming his soup. And just like that, I increased my readership that day. Poor fellow probably didn’t know what hit him. Even my clients would say I’ve never been known for my delicate touch.

No wonder my blog readership is increasing at a snail’s pace. Should I reconsider the social media approach? It’s less intrusive. Now I just need a teenager….

Social media icons (twitter, Pinterest, youtube

In certain circles, I’m known as Little Miss Sunshine

Stuffed toy of Little Miss Sunshine

If you think Sadness and Fear are my constant companions, I beg to differ. Sure, I’ve been a little off kilter lately due to my gouty complications, my unrelenting fatigue, and my difficulty handling doctor change, but the rest of the time, Joy prevails.

If you know me only by what I write, you may envision my holding back tears all the time. You may even wonder how I ever managed to become a psychologist. Before you write my provincial regulatory body to rescind my license lest I harm the public, I beg you to hear me out.

Despite your negative preconceptions, under the right conditions I am an unimaginable bundle of joy. I bring light and life to those around me. People can’t help but smile when I enter a room, and not only because my fly is undone.

To demonstrate my point, I’d like to share a story from earlier this week, before I became unduly distracted–and distressed, I might add, in case you didn’t pick that up–by the Trauma of the Changing of the Doctors. My moment of unbridled happiness took place on Monday afternoon while I was volunteering at Canadian Blood Services.

I’ve been on the Monday shift since I started volunteering at the clinic last September. It turns out that donors often set their appointments on the same day of the week, and that over the months I’ve become familiar with many Monday donors. I haven’t yet gotten to the point where I can anticipate their soup preferences or cookie choices, but I do see them on a fairly regular basis.

Earlier in the shift, I was feeling somewhat verklempt because I had met a donor who was profoundly hearing impaired. I did not realize her impairment until I noticed her reading my lips and heard an unusual lilt in her voice. Her hearing was impaired, but her blood was not, so in she came to give. The range of people who attend the clinic never ceases to amaze me.

Then Mr. Platelet entered. Mr. Platelet is a lovely fellow who donates frequently. Platelet and plasma donors often attend the clinic more often because they can, and thus we get to know them better. For the first time, Mr. Platelet called me by my name, which is on my little red volunteer vest. We had never chatted before but we spoke briefly as he was leaving. During this conversation, he told me he liked donating during my shifts because I am “all smiles and sunshine”. Not wanting to disabuse him of that notion, I thanked him warmly and told him he was very sweet.

And in truth, I am Little Miss Sunshine at the clinic. I look out upon the donors slurping their soup each week and imagine, “Are you the one who saved my life when I needed blood (or platelets or plasma)?” Thanks for that.

After Mr. Platelet left, I broke the volunteer code of conduct: I neglected the donors while pulling out my phone to text J. I wrote, simply, “I am all smiles and sunshine.” She promptly responded, “I know.” And so, too, should you, dear readers, in case you sometimes forget. I’d forget too if I were you.