Recently, I spent a marvelous Sunday morning with Victoria Marshman and Celeste and Don Miller at Appalachian Great Pyrenees Rescue Kennel in Varina, Virginia. Nestled off the beaten path, this sanctuary is a haven for rescued dogs, where they are taken care of before being adopted to new homes. These great big balls of fluff, with happy personalities are mood-elevators, as they bound about, snuffling, walking, barking and playing.  We walked Michael, Bonnie, Sarah and Milo, Judge and Jury and I met Happy, Bones, Murphy, Gracie and four fabulous 10 week old furballs who wiggled their way into my heart.  Going to the dogs was the best time I’ve had in a long time!

Victoria Marshman and the puppies.

It was interesting to learn a little about the history of the breed.  I had always thought of them as being large, affable companion dogs, but they were bred to be protectors.  The Great Pyrenees Club of America has this to say about their history,

“…The breed likely evolved from a group of principally white mountain flock guard dogs that originated ten or eleven thousand years ago in Asia Minor. It is very plausible that these large white dogs arrived in the Pyrenees Mountains with their shepherds and domestic sheep about 3000 BC. There they encountered the indigenous people of the area, one of which were the Basques, descendants of Cro-Magnon Man. In the isolation of the Pyrenees Mountains over these millenniums, the breed developed the characteristics that make it unique to the group of flock guardian dogs in general and the primarily white members of that group. ….

A Peasant’s Dog

The Great Pyrenees is a mountain shepherd’s dog. Over this long period of time the Great Pyrenees developed a special relationship with the shepherd, its family, and the flock.

In 1407, French writings tell of the usefulness of these ‘Great Dogs of the Mountains’ as guardians of the Chateau of Lourdes. In 1675, they were adopted as the Royal Dog of France by the Dauphin in the court of King Louis XIV, and subsequently became much sought after by nobility. ….”



Don and Milo going for a walk.


Passion for the Pooches!

Established in 2006 the Appalachian Great Pyrenees Rescue is a 501 (c)(3) charitable organization that is affiliated with the Great Pyrenees Club of America. Its’ mission states that it “rescues, rehomes and places Great Pyrenees dogs within Virginia, Maryland, D.C. and parts of West Virginia.” As a “rescue” chapter, they are focused on taking in and rehabbing the animals, as well as placing them in new homes.

Victoria and Celeste talk with beautiful Bonnie.

Passion for the Mission is evident in every aspect of the kennel and is a byword among the all-volunteer staff. When the dogs come in their histories are taken (as much as is possible), they are medically evaluated and receive appropriate treatment. All rescue dogs are spayed and neutered and they receive Shots (Rabies, Distemper/parvo, Bordatella, etc.) and are microchipped before leaving for their forever home. All of them are dewormed, groomed, checked for heartworms and, if necessary, medicated for them. Most of all, they get the love and attention that they need.

Victoria Marshman, Executive Director, lives close to the Kennel and is with the Pyrenees on a daily basis.  She always loved dogs and, thus, came to the organization a number of years ago as an interested party and, over time, became entranced with the wonderful-ness of the dogs. Since then the Pyrs have become like additional members of her own family.

Milo and Sarah are devoted to each other and love people!

According to Celeste Miller, AGPR Adoption Coordinator and Newsletter Editor, they assist roughly 100 pyrenees each year.  Getting to know their dogs well and developing an understanding of each animal’s personality is paramount in making sure that they are “well-placed.”  Not surprisingly, the dogs are adopted out at a pretty steady rate. AGPR’s high standards insures that every pet will be a perfect fit for its’ new home.  They are conscientious and attentive to detail when meeting potential owners and discussing each dog.  This makes for happy and secure futures for the adoptees.

Adoption Requirements include:

*having yards that are securely fenced-in

*current household pets are spayed/neutered and up to date on shots

*the ability to provide proper housing/shelter for the dogs (typically indoors)

*providing regular veterinary care

*understanding that the dog will live in the potential owner’s home and not be a gift for someone else

Veterinary Help is Key

Efforts on the part of the local Veterinary Community undergirds the work of the AGPR volunteers.  The animals often need surgery (major and minor) and basic services like Spay and Neuter.  They would be hard-pressed to keep the dogs healthy without the help of local Veterinarians like the Varina Veterinary Clinic, Dr. Erin Barron of Barron Surgery, and the New Market Veterinary Clinic.

Keeping the FUN in FundRaising

Bones is beautiful!


How Do they Do it?  Keeping a roof over the animals’ heads, maintaining the Kennels, feeding the pooches and meeting the medical and daily needs of the dogs is a tall order.

I was so impressed with the approach to raising money and awareness, obviously there is some funding that comes through small grants and there is lots of in-kind giving from previous adopters and supporters, but the fundraisers emphasize the Pyrenees’ warmth and joyfulness:

A Photo Calendar Contest that allows entrants to pay a small price for submitting photos of their fabulous furry friends garners lots of attention and donations.

The Great Pyr Picnic in the Fall sounds really fun! Held at the Kennels, AGPR charges a small amount per car so that anyone can come out and dine with the dogs!

Crowd-funding to assist with medical emergencies is another way that this organization spreads the word and makes much-needed money.

Any and All Volunteer Efforts are Appreciated!

As an all-volunteer organization, AGPR works very hard, but, also understands the demands that we all have.  Celeste told me that they have several work-groups come out from businesses to help at the Kennels. But they also welcome individuals to come out, walk and brush the dogs. This is a great way to satisfy your “big dog fix.”  Celeste told me that she had become involved a little while after they had lost their Samoyed.

“I missed the white fluff! We weren’t ready for another dog at the time, so when my husband mentioned going to the Kennel, I went along to ‘chaperone’ him to make sure he didn’t adopt one. After I saw these dogs, I was hooked.  We now have two!”

Here’s a link to their website, so that you check out these amazing animals and learn more about the breed:   www.apgrescue.org

I must admit, I’m going to need to go and visit the kennel from time to time, because they are just soooo CUTE and sweet!

This says it all!


Cracked nails, tough cuticles, dry hands, you know the drill! And, cold weather doesn’t necessarily produce this sorry state of dry digits.  Dehydration and damage can happen at any time of the year making our grabbers rough to the touch and nails more like flaky talons. It’s water that does the drying out!

This universal problem has been plaguing me for eons. But, recently, I discovered something that really helps — especially with the chronically calcified cuticles.

It’s regular old vaseline. And, you rub it into your cuticles every night before going to bed. In the morning your cuticles will be pliable enough to be pushed back and your nails will be smoother to the touch!

Voila! You’ve had an easy mini-manicure!



DIY Home Decor Home Projects Lighting Uncategorized

Light Up Your Life, or, At Least Light Up Your Room!



I think it’s a pretty safe bet to say that the unadorned lightbulb, hanging from the ceiling casting harsh light is not a pretty picture. Memorable and stark, maybe, but not beautiful. We all want to suffuse our rooms with gracious lighting, but, lamps are expensive. There’s no doubt about it. Even when you go to purchase a light fixture at a discount store you can plunk down a lot of jingle. The one possible exception can be Goodwill or the Salvation Army, but, it’s often hard to find something that you want.

So, I have forayed into the “Land of Lighting” and stopped at the nexus of “self-reliance” to figure out and EASY and inexpensive way to make my own lamp.

I’m emphasizing EASY because I went in search of an attractive vessel that has a hole on both ends — because otherwise I would have to hollow out the middle from top to bottom. I can do that, but, BABY STEPS….

So, I found this glass wasp trap with a cork at the top. It’s PERFECT for a lamp! It’s a nice size, nice shape, has a hole in the bottom and has “feet” which lift it up from the surface.  This is important because otherwise I would have had to make base or some other accommodation for the cord.

Other ideas that I entertained were:



Flower Pots

Piggy Banks

Baskets (if the weave is large enough, you could slip the cord through…)

Wine Bottles (although you’d have to drill a hole through the glass)

But this wasp trap is a great place to start!


Next, I went to my local ACE Hardware and purchased this lamp kit.  I was THRILLED! They have done the heavy lifting for me! It really is sort of “Plug and Play.”

The cork in the opening of the wasp trap comes out easily and makes an excellent “base” for the neck of the lamp.


Here are the tools that I used:

A ruler




Philips head screwdriver

Regular screwdriver


Use the ruler to find the center of the cork.


Open the lamp kit and find the post that will fit into the cork. Drill a hole a hole into the cork that will accommodate the post.

Put the post into the cork.

Put the neck into post, using the washer (found in the kit) to set the height of the neck.

Screw in the socket.

Take the cord and


put it up through the hole in the bottom of the vessel.


Pull it up through the neck of the lamp.

Pull the cord apart, so that it you have two wires.

Wrap the wire around the screws on either side of the socket – going clockwise.

Using the Philips Head Screwdriver, tighten them firmly (but don’t overtighten) going clockwise.

Put the cap onto the socket. It will “click” in.

Screw in the light bulb and you have MAGIC!!!!

Shades….Another story!

I did a little research and basically, you should match the shape of the shade to the shape of the base. And, in terms of sizing, your shade should be about 2/3 the size of your base. The shade that I chose might be a little big, for the base, but, I still think it looks nice with the patterned glass.

When it came to attaching the shade, I opted for EASY again. This shade, which I purchased at Bed, Bath and Beyond, just screws onto the socket. Easy Peasy, Lemon-Squeezy!



Death and Taxes, Literally, Part 3: Wrapping Up

Paying Bills

You will need to pay off the bills with monies from the estate account. You will also need to close out credit card accounts, etc. You must send them “your” documents, along with a letter telling them that you are the Executor/Administrator. I recommend sending each packet Return/Receipt or at least Registered Mail.

A couple of things that are important for you to know about bills and accounts:

*The debts should be paid first

*A decedent’s debts do not follow the heirs. That means, if you run out of money, you (or the other heirs) are not personally responsible for taking up the mantle and paying off the debts. If this happens, I would meet with an attorney to decide how to handle any remaining creditors.

Debt and Demand

In many states there is a procedure called “Debt and Demand” where the Commissioner of Accounts publishes an advertisement asking all creditors to come forward within a given period of time.  The Debt and Demand typically comes late in the process, not long before the estate is closed. It’s a last-ditch effort to pay off any bills that are hanging out there in the stratosphere.  If no one comes forward within this period, then they can’t come back and sue the estate (or the heirs).

Credit Cards, Insurance Policies, etc.

You are going to need to send your “documents” to each credit card company, insurer, AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, etc. so that you can close out the account and pay the balance.

This may take some time, because you may not be able to find bills, etc. right away. Just keep at it…..

Also, you will need to contact online sites such as Facebook and Genealogy.com to let them know that your loved one has passed away.  They may want to see the Death Certificate and your “Appointment” letter from the Clerk of the Court.


I would recommend that you use a professional tax preparer or a CPA.

The IRS requires some specific documents, in addition to your documents (letter from the court, IRS EIN, death certificate), you will need to send them:

*Form 1310  Statement of Person Claiming Refund Due a Deceased Taxpayer

*Form 56 Statement of Person Claiming Refund Due a Deceased Taxpayer

These forms are available on their website, irs.gov and lets the IRS know that you are the Administrator or Executor.

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to submit Forms 1310 and 56. Apparently the IRS is extremely concerned about estates and are unwilling to release refunds until they  have received these forms and your documents.

You can contact them by starting with the office in your state.  Those telephone numbers are available on the IRS website.

Two important tips: Have all your information in front of you when you call and call early in the day.  The offices open at 7:00 a.m. (in every time zone) and calling at 7:00 will reduce your “wait time,” etc. dramatically!

Commissioner of Accounts

In most states there is a Commissioner of Accounts (or the equivalent) for each locality.

You will need to supply that person with the valuation of estate and an accounting.  The valuation is typically required after about 6 months. In terms of finding the values of your loved one’s assets, you’ll need to research the values and total them to come up with a total amount.  Some ways to conduct this research are:

*hiring an appraiser,

*eBay is an excellent resource for finding items which are similar and then using their valuations,

*looking at Blue Book values for vehicles, 

*and, using the most recent real estate assessments for property. 

The Commissioner of Accounts will most likely have a form for you to complete and submit.

The Accounting will include every financial transaction that you have conducted for the estate. It is typically due 16 months after the estate is opened. You must submit it before you can close the estate.

KEEP ALL YOUR RECEIPTS AND COPIES OF YOUR CHECKS. KEEP COPIES OF EVERY FINANCIAL TRANSACTION! You will need to show exactly what came in to the estate account and what went out. This is a Very Big Deal!


It is absolutely ok to consult an estate attorney.  How to find one?  Start by asking your friends. You don’t have to go to a huge firm — there are many fine lawyers who will not charge you “an arm and a leg.” They can guide you through the maze of estate rules, regulations, disbursements and more.  You can do a lot of the legwork yourself, in order to save money, but I highly recommend working with an attorney at some level.

Last Words

I’m still working on my mother’s estate.  We have a large family and there are lots of opinions, which I am taking into account as we lurch forward. Grief is powerful and very often, not obvious — even to the people who are grieving.  It leaches silently into your (and everyone else’s) spirit and can make everyone defensive and snappish, causing behavior that is incomprehensible at the time.

*Be kind to yourself and patient with yourself.

*Everything can’t be done at once, nor should it be.

*Try not to say the mean thing that springs to your lips, try to maintain the  relationships.

*Do some nice things for yourself — and others — it will lift your spirits.

You may feel like your family or group is splitting apart. It’s amazing how powerfully the passing of a friend or relative impacts the people around them. It’s hard to anticipate how relationships change in a group when one of the members passes on, but the dynamic does change.  You hear folks say things like, “I don’t know if I’ll ever see some of these people again.”  Those feelings and the fog of confusion that descends after the your loved one has gone is completely normal. “The Orphaned Adult: Understanding And Coping With Grief And Change After The Death Of Our Parents” by Alexander Levy is a very good book about navigating the new dynamic among families and friends after the passing of a loved one.

Carry on and know that my heart is with you.

Death Estate Legal Documents Uncategorized Wills and Trusts

Death and Taxes, Literally, Part 2


Starting from Scratch-1

There is a lot to take in here, so, I’m breaking this up into 2 parts.

On the other hand, if you are like me, starting from scratch as Administrator, was entering more uncharted territory. Here are some basics that will be helpful. It is MUCH easier if there is a WILL and you are appointed Executor. It would be wonderful if your loved one had given you financial Power of Attorney, because it will speed the process for you.


The hospital or hospice caregiver or coroner will send the death certificate to the funeral home. The mortuary usually will get a few (10 ?) copies for you. You may need more, and they are not cheap — approximately $12 each.

If you need to get additional copies of the death certificate you can go to the Bureau of Vital Statistics. Generally, this office is part of the state Health Department.

In many cases, the funeral home will send the death certificate to the Social Security Administration. It is very important that you know that they have done this for you, because if they don’t send it, you are responsible and you need to see to this right away.

Your other family members must petition the local court (locality where the decedent lived) and unanimously agree for you to be appointed Administrator and that you have complete ability to sell any of the properties and pay the bills. This is extremely important, because if you don’t have full responsibility, then every expense (bill) that is related to the estate will have to be equally divided among the heirs — meaning that each heir is responsible for paying her/his portion of each estate related bill. This is a nightmare scenario, because it is so logistically difficult. You need to have all the control over the estate account.

The court will require that you submit an accounting of the value of the estate at the date of death.You find this amount by looking at balances in checking and savings accounts, money market accounts, as well as the valuation of cars, homes, furnishings, etc. at the time of the decedent’s passing. The best way to figure those is to look at real estate assessments, and DMV records. In the case of household furnishings, you can look at EBAY or other prominent online auction sites.

The court will require you to pay them a percentage of the total value of the estate and require you to contact a bondsman and pay a bond.  Usually the court will have a list of approved bondsmen.

Bank Accounts

Once you have your “papers” (official designation and death certificate) you will need to close out all your loved one’s accounts and open an interest-bearing estate account (the fact that it is interest-bearing shows good stewardship on your part.)  An estate account is one that has been assigned an IRS EIN (Employer Identification Number). I asked “my” bondsman if he had any advice (I thought he might know because he was definitely a ‘veteran’ of thus process) and he told me that I should work go to a local bank to establish the estate account. He said that smaller, local banks tended to be less bureaucratic and easier to work with than large banks.

Anyway, take the counter-checks from the previous accounts and use them to establish an interest-bearing estate account. 

This estate account is CRUCIAL, because it will allow you pay the bills, the first one being the funeral home.

Here is additional information from Virginia Estate Law that gives more a detailed explanation of this process. I recommend you research your own state’s procedure for getting started. The address is: http://www.virginiaestatelaw.com/main/chapters/qualification/procedure.shtml

Place for Qualification. The personal representative must qualify in the Circuit Court located in the City or County where the decedent resided at the time of his death, or, if the decedent did not reside in Virginia at the time of his death, where the decedent owned real estate, or other assets estate assets in Virginia.

Who May Qualify. The personal representative must be an adult (age 18 or older) and must be able to obtain surety on their bond, if required.

A personal representative my be a nonresident of Virginia, but surety is required on the bond of a non-resident personal representative, unless a resident co-fiduciary is appointed.

The Clerk must also be satisfied that the person seeking qualification is suitable and competent to perform the duties of his or her office.

Preferred Person for Qualification. If the decedent had a will, the person(s) named as personal representative(s) in the will are normally appointed.

For intestate decedents (without a will) the law provides certain preferences within certain time frames. Generally, during the first 30 days after the decedent’s death, a sole distributee of the estate, or his or her designee, has preference. After 30 days, the first distributee who applies for qualification, or his designee has preference. After 60 days the clerk may grant administration to one of more creditors of the decedent, or any other person, provided that it can be shown that appropriate efforts were made to locate the preferred parties.

Factual Information. At time of qualification, the clerk will require information about the person seeking qualification, about the decedent, an estimate of the value of assets of the decedent’s estate, a list of the decedent’s heirs at law, and other information.

The clerk will also require proof of death of the decedent in the form of a death certificate or possibly an obituary published in a newspaper, if a death certificate has not yet been obtained.

Oath and Bond. The personal representative will be required to give their oath that he or she will faithfully perform the duties of their office to the best of their judgment, and if a will is probated, that the writing is the true last will of the decedent.

The personal representative will be required to give their bond in writing to secure their oath to property perform their duties, with penalty in a monetary amount at least equal to the value of the personal estate of the decedent, and if there is a will that authorizes sale of real property, the bond amount must include the value of the real property.

Surety. Unless surety on the personal representative’s bond is waived by will, corporate surety will be required (normally issued by an insurance company) to secure the bond. There are limited exceptions for banks, very small estates, and cases where all the beneficiaries of the residuary estate are also personal representatives.”


Funerals are expensive. For a conventional funeral you can expect to pay anywhere

  from $7000 – $18000 depending on the casket, any services at the funeral home, etc.

  Here are some services that they may offer:

Providing facilities for memorial service or funeral

Dealing with necessary paperwork to enable burial or cremation

Providing information to family and friends

Placing obituaries in newspapers

Setting up a catered meal at another location following the funeral

Arranging special musical requests

Ordering and caring for floral tributes on behalf of family and friends

Accepting donations for named charities

Arranging for vehicles and staff for funeral and graveside services

Making arrangements for transfer of remains for funeral and burial services

Recording donations received

Keeping record of persons who attended any funeral or memorial service at the funeral home.

I am not sure about green funerals, and what is offered in conjunction with those rites, but, for me, the fact that the funeral home helped with some of the ins and outs of paperwork concerning the death certificate, etc. were extremely helpful.  I had way too much on my plate as it was. 


Next Up – Paying Bills, Closing Accounts and the IRS