All posts by verily sherrilee

Directionally challenged, crafty, reading mother of young adult

The Day of the Wild Dogs

Today’s post comes from Verily Sherrilee

The safari experience in South Africa is amazing. At most camps there are two “runs” a day, one right at dawn and one as night falls. They pile you into large stadium seating jeeps and head off into the bush, complete with blankets and sometimes hot bricks for your feet. The drivers and guides know a tremendous amount about the animals in each of their reserves, including where the “cut line” is – the seemingly invisible boundary of each park.  They constantly radio back and forth with other jeep drivers about what animals they’ve seen and where they are.  It’s quite a ride.


On the last day of my trip back in 2007, the client wasn’t feeling well and decided she didn’t want to get up for the last run before we had to pack up and head back to Johannesburg. That left just me and the program Account Executive on the jeep. As we were heading out, our driver Million said that he had heard some chatter the day before from another reserve just to the north of our reserve that they had seen wild dogs. Solee Wild dogs hadn’t been seen for a couple of months on “our side” of the cut line but did we want to take a chance?  Million was very clear that #1, we’d have to hightail it up to the cut line in order to make it back in time for breakfast and #2, we absolutely could not cross the cut line so if the wild dogs were in the next park then we’d be out of luck. Account Exec and I both agreed we should go for it.


Luck was with us. We actually saw some animals on the way and then the whole pack of wild dogs was on our side of the cut line. As this wasn’t enough luck, the pack had quite a few pups. Million parked the jeep about 20 feet away and we sat still and quiet for over an hour, watching the dogs come and go from the clearing.  Some of the pups were very curious and advanced pretty closely on the jeep. All of my pictures were taken without a view finder as I’d dropped the camera the night before and damaged it; I just kept holding it out and clicking away.  My luck continued to hold as I managed to get several fairly decent shots that morning.

We practically flew back to the lodge and tried SO hard not to gloat to the client about our morning’s experience. I don’t know how successful we were.

When has luck been on your side?

Show Me the Money

Today’s post comes from Verily Sherrilee

(Part 2 in a Baboon Fantasy Series)

I’ve heard many people say “I know money doesn’t buy happiness but I’d like to be part of the test group.” Everyone can point to lots of examples of money being the root of all evil but still think they could handle extreme wealth better than others.

In my fantasy dog-free world, I do not want to win a billion-dollar lottery and have to hire an entourage the first week. Give me just enough cash so that I can #1: not have to work, #2: travel to an exotic place at last once a year and #3: write some nice-sized checks to a variety of my favorite causes.

I love my job but if I didn’t have to sit in a cube and arrange things for others, I don’t think I would miss it. Having no job would give me more time for gardening, reading, volunteering and maybe my house might get clean.  I already volunteer at a few places, but I’d love to volunteer at the library and maybe an animal shelter.

Although I’ve traveled quite a bit and been to some fun and exotic places, it’s always been on the client’s agenda; I’d love to do my own thing and take Young Adult along with me sometimes. Australian Outback, Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu, Alaska, Rio de Janiero, Prague…. this could go on for a bit.

One of the reasons that I volunteer a lot is that I don’t have much cash to spread around to some of my favorite causes. But I know that in addition to volunteers, organizations need money to keep them going. I’d like to be able to write a nice check each year to both of our zoos, Planned Parenthood, Feed My Starving Children, UNICEF, Haiti Mission, malaria prevention, Cantus, my daughter’s education.

I could probably add on to all these lists easily but I don’t want so much money that I have to spend a boatload of time managing it and I certainly don’t want to have to hire someone to manage it. So add a bit more for some meals out and a bit for my stamps/glitter/ribbon and I should be good to go!

What would you use a little extra cash for?

Well, I’ll be Dog-Gone

Today’s post comes from Verily Sherrilee

(Part 1 in a Baboon Fantasy Series)

At Blevins Book Club yesterday, tim said if I couldn’t think of anything interesting in my life to write about, I could just make up an interesting life. So here goes.

First and foremost I would like to be dog-free. Not dog-free as in “I never want to see another dog on the planet” but as in “I don’t want to be responsible for a dog in the house”. I adore dogs; I always have. My first dog was a mutt named “Mister” that my family acquired when I was four years old. Unfortunately when I was five we moved to an apartment and Mister moved to another family. When I was six and we were back in a house, Princess the Wonder Dog joined our family. (She wasn’t actually a wonder dog until after her death, when my father’s stories of her exploits became increasingly more epic.)

CIMG2525I talked my family into an Irish Setter in junior high and I’ve had Irish Setters ever since then. I even traveled to California once to get “Tristan” after searching over hill and dale for an Irish Setter locally! My current Irish Setter is 11 and my plan was to not get another dog after she was gone. I have friends in lots of places and I’d like the freedom to be able to visit more often.  I’m not joyfully anticipating her demise, just looking forward to a time when the house is quieter and cleaner.

59Of course, this plan has taken a detour with the arrival of Young Adult’s puppy last year, so now my “plan” seems more like a fantasy. In my fantasy world, I’d wake up hearing the birds singing out the windows, not the barking of a dog that sees another dog out the window. I’d be able to walk to the bathroom without having to avoid stepping on dog toys.  I’d go down the stairs without reminding any four-legged beasts that “I got first” so they don’t barrel into the back of me.

I could let the pizza delivery guy onto the front porch without fear of them jumping all over him. I set out a muffin on the kitchen counter, leave the room and have the muffin still sitting there when I return.  I wouldn’t have big muddy paw prints all over the place when it rains.

Since Young Adult (and her dog, Krakatoa 2) will most likely be living at home a few more years while she finishes school, I don’t see my dog-gone fantasy coming to pass any time soon. But I can keep dreaming!

What would be your perfect pet?






The Troupe

Header photo by Tambako the Jaguar via Flickr
Today’s post comes from Sherrilee

As the emails fly back and forth this week about straw bales and manure, I’m reminded again about what a wonderful community has sprung up here. When we first started hitting the trail, some of us were immigrants from the Trial Balloon blog; we were fans of Radio Heartland and before that the LGMS (Late Great Morning Show).

As the months and years have gone by, we’ve lost some and gained some. We’ve written more as Dale has amped up his activity in other areas. We’ve developed some verbiage of our own and the days we talk about food, books and music are usually run-aways.

But what I love most about this group is its spirit of community. Here just SOME of the things that we’ve done over the years:

  • When a baboon needed help around the house, a couple of us showed up to do some chores.
  • When another baboon was in a car accident, a dozen of the troupe showed up to do spring gardening at her house.
  • When a HUGE tree fell over during a storm at someone’s house, we had chain saw party and got the tree chopped up and hauled away.
  • When one of our own was in an ice cream development contest, we all voted and when she won, we had an ice cream social to toast her victory.
  • When a baboon’s child was needing some help with math, another of us tutored her.
  • When a baboon’s husband was traveling west for a project, another baboon offered her home for part of his stay.
  • A kitten became part of another baboon’s family after being found on the farm of another baboon.
  • We started a book club. Meets every 2 months and still going strong.
  • When a founding member decided to move to the West Coast, several baboons helped get everything sorted for the estate sale and then helped pack up what needed to go to Portland.
  • We’ve had more than one “plant” transfer – plants from one baboon home being transplanted to another baboon home.
  • One baboon has given heirloom seeds to others in the troupe (and also provided multiple gardening tips over the years).
  • Carpooling to various baboon fetes has been arranged

I’m absolutely sure that I’m missing quite a few interactions between baboons over the years and I’m not even including all the various social engagements and field trips that we’ve organized.

Although we are a social group most often convened in virtual space, we may still be a worthy subject for study by some enterprising anthropologist. Just as Jane Goodall observed chimpanzees in the wild, someone with a grant to document the behavior of Internet baboons would find plenty to write about here.

Goodall’s groundbreaking book carried the rather dry title “The Chimpanzees of Gombe – Patterns of Behavior.”

What title would you give a scholarly study of the Trail Baboons?

Prell & Ralston

Today’s post is from Verily Sherrilee

I’m not much of a shopper and I’m pretty sure if there is a shopping gene, then mine is either deficient or non-existent. My favorite places to shop are either strip malls (park in front of store, go in store, buy item, leave store, drive away) or a place like Target, where you can park once and purchase an umbrella, a tank top, vegetarian sausages and aspirin all in the same place. I’m also “frugal” and a lower price point almost always appeals to me.

So I think it’s interesting that there are a few products that I am loyal to, going out of my way to find them or spending more to have them (or both).


I grew up in St. Louis where Ralston Purina products proliferate. As a child Ralston Hot Cereal, which is a whole wheat cereal, was a cold weather staple at my house. My mother served it with butter and brown sugar, which is how I still like it.  When I moved to the Twin Cities you could still find Ralston in the cereal aisle, but eventually it faded out of the market.  For several years my mother would buy it at her local grocery store and ship it to me. When her grocery stopped carrying it, I called Ralston and they sent me to a couple of online sources, which is where I still buy it today, even though it’s more expensive than picking up something at the store. It’s not significantly different from a few other whole wheat hot cereals, but there’s just something about it that makes it special to me.

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The other product I stubbornly cling to is Prell Shampoo. I can still remember the old Prell commercials with the pearl sinking slowly through the green shampoo. Prell smells great to me and even though I know in my brain that more suds don’t actually make my hair cleaner, I LOVE the suds. Not too many places carry Prell anymore so I find myself making a separate trip to Walgreens to buy my shampoo.

I’m guessing that some of my loyalty to these brands is the positive memories that they invoke from my childhood. Or we could go with the simpler “I just like what I like”.

What product are you loyal to, no matter what?

Coloring Books

Header: Michael Maggs [CC BY-SA 3.0 ] via Wikimedia Commons

Today’s post comes from Verily Sherrilee

I’m a meeting doodler. I discovered years ago that if I doodle during my twice-monthly department meeting, they go faster and I am less frustrated. I used to sit in the back corner of the room so that my doodling wouldn’t distract anyone but several years back, my boss invited me to sit at the main table, doodles and all. Last fall one of my co-workers brought me a mandala design and a couple of colored pencils (with my boss’ permission). It was fun to do something a little different than my usual doodle designs.

Since that day, I’ve seen quite a few news stories about the new coloring book fad for grown-ups. Every book store and craft store has piles of coloring books and Fortune magazine published a bit about coloring books being a big boost for book sales in 2015. There are also plenty of articles about why coloring books are such a big hit right now. Some say that it lets adults to be more creative than their daily lives allow. Others say that coloring relieves stress. Another theory is that coloring books allow people to ditch technology, a return to their gadget-free childhoods.

So what does it say about me that I received THREE different coloring books for the holidays, complete with colored pencils, a huge set of markers and even some sketch `n sniff pencils?

What takes you back to your childhood?

The Uniform

Header photo: © Jorge Royan / / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Today’s post is by Sherrilee

I’ve been thinking a lot about ties recently. Last week while I was waiting for the tech guy to figure out my computer, I noticed that the online support tech icon was a male figure wearing a tie. It made me laugh a little that the support company would think I would feel better to be helped by someone in a crisp white shirt and a tie instead of a scruffy guy in jeans and a sweatshirt.

The tie does definitely seem to be the uniform for men. Everywhere you go, dressed up men wear ties: at work, at church, late-night tv. For some job descriptions, like debate candidates, it’s not just any tie; if you want to really be part of the crowd, it has to be a red tie.

I wore a tie once. One Saturday, when I was still in the bookstore, I wore a denim skirt and vest to work. I borrowed a tan knit tie from my wasbund (he had to tie it for me); I thought I was pretty darn cute. At the Southdale B. Dalton store we had a huge stepped table for all the bestsellers and Saturday was the day we received the new lists for the following week.

That meant that big piles of books needed to be moved around, with the new and hot items toward the front. That day with my list in hand, I spent about an hour moving all the books around, beefing up some titles, moving other titles off the table. As I straightened up to take a look at my handiwork, I realized too late that the knit tie was stuck between two books. It was like a mountain of falling dominoes; the top stack of books collapsing onto the stack beneath it and then spreading down and out from there. People walking by the store stopped and clapped.

I went to the backroom and took off the tie; I’ve never worn one since. But I have felt really sorry for men who have to wear a tie day in and day out.

Have you ever had to wear a uniform?

The Egg Carton

Today’s post comes from Verily Sherrilee.

I found the egg carton today.

About 30 years ago I began throwing a holiday party – a silly gift exchange. I’d been to one at a co-worker’s and thought it was a lot of fun. Then 28 years ago I met Alan; he’d been hired as the loss prevention specialist at my company. He had just moved back to the Twin Cities with Julie and their three daughters so I invited them to the party that year. After a lot of gift swapping, Alan got stuck with a red plastic camping egg carton. As I was cleaning up I found it stuck back behind a couch cushion.

This began a 28-year campaign of dumping the egg carton back on each other. EggCarton1 It’s been delivered in a box of flowers, left in an Easter basket, sent to an office via a software company in Boston, buried in an ice lantern, left under a mattress, in the dog food barrel, left in the laundry room of a new house. It’s even been to Sweden and Switzerland!

Twenty-eight years ago it was just a prank; I didn’t know at the time that it would also be the beginning of a wonderful, life-changing friendship. Alan and Julie are kind, generous people, sharing their lives with me and Young Adult all these years. We spend our holidays with them and it’s been a joy to see their three girls grow up, get married and start families of their own.

I had a full house at this year’s party and I was pretty sure I would be in possession of the egg carton by the end of the night, even after I frisked Alan and Julie at the door. The last two weeks have been spent poking into cabinets, opening drawers, checking under the sofa, even looking into the dog food barrel again. This morning I took all the ornaments off the tree and as I pulled the lights off, I found a package wrapped in green paper and “decorated” with greenery boughs – the egg carton!

I’ve now sent off the obligatory “You Rat!” text and am busy thinking up how I can dump the carton on them!

Do you have a “new year” ritual?

Fa La La La …

Today’s post is by Sherrilee.

People hate me this time of year. This is how I got here.

As a newly married young gal, I had lots of ideas about how we would start our own holiday traditions and celebrate together. We agreed that we would spend the holidays on our own in Milwaukee as we both had grueling schedules (me in the bakery and him at grad school). It was right around Thanksgiving when his parents called; I could hear him in the other room sliding down the slippery slope. By the time he got off the phone, he had agreed to go home to Kansas City for Christmas. I made him promise that if we spent time with his family, we would split that time with MY family. On the 23rd I worked until 2 p.m., rushed home and we took a night flight to Kansas City. Spent a day and a half with his folks, then we flew to St. Louis on Christmas morning and spent a day and a half with my folks. Home on the 26th and back to work on the 27th. I hadn’t done holiday cards, done no baking, hardly purchased any gifts and no down time. I cried for 3 weeks.

As the year progressed, I promised myself I never wanted to go through that again. I bought holiday cards on sale in January, purchased gifts through the summer and even baked cookies in early November, putting them in the freezer. By Thanksgiving I was all done. The whole holiday season was less stressful and there was also no yelling and cursing at my Wasband. The next year I wasn’t at the bakery, but got everything done early anyway.

It’s been decades but I still work hard to get everything done by the beginning of December. It means being organized, thinking about it throughout the year and working on the projects months before the holidays. Even though I now celebrate Solstice and also now make all our cards and gifts, I still get done early and then thoroughly enjoy the whole holiday season. taking plates of cookies everywhere, going to every party I’m invited to and watching all of my holiday movies. I love it.

So go ahead and hate me; that’s the spirit!

What would it take to make your end-of-year stress vanish?

The Peanut Butter Conundrum

Today’s post comes from Sherrilee.

My father wasn’t as funny as he thought he was.  Don’t get me wrong; he had a lot of wonderful qualities.  He was kind, thoughtful, intelligent, generous.  But Billy Crystal he wasn’t.

When I was a teenager, he would answer any call that came in after 8 p.m. with “Joe’s Morgue.  You stab `em, we slab `em.”  He thought this was endlessly funny.  My sister and I ended up getting our own phone.

I was thinking of him tonight when I opened a new jar of peanut butter.  When I was growing up, if you scooped out the first peanut butter from the center, he’d gasp “Oh, no, you took it from the center!”  Of course if the next time you scooped from the right side, he’d throw up his hands in mock-horror and say “Oh no, you took it from the wrong side.”  Then when you chose the other side… you guessed it, “Oh no, you didn’t take it from the middle!”  Every jar.  Every single jar.

He’s been gone for 13 years and while I’ve always missed him, it wasn’t until tonight that I realize I even miss his stupid peanut butter joke.

I scooped the peanut right out of the middle!

Who’s the funny one in your family?