Friday, December 28, 2007

Post-Holiday Post

My family's collective hangover from our Christmas travels and associated adventures seems to finally be wearing off. We were all up at 4:15 a.m. Christmas morning, on the road by 10:00 for celebrations #3 and #4, then all "slept" (tossed and turned) in the same bed at my parents' house because a 13-month-old who shall remain nameless refused to sleep in the crib. I think we all finally got a good night's sleep last night and life is returning to normal. Or will, as soon as I dispose of the shreds of wrapping paper still littering my living room floor.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I got 3 hours of sleep last night. Can a one-year-old have insomnia? The kid just didn’t want to sleep. I, however, might be passed out on my keyboard by 10 a.m.

In other news, today’s (actual) online headlines that fall under the “and that’s considered news?” category:

  • Rocker Scott Weiland charged with DUI
  • Britney skips child custody deposition
  • Liza Minnelli collapses on stage during performance in Sweden
  • Sweatshops crank out Wal-Mart ornaments
  • Naked men shop for Skittles

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

"Can I refill your eggnog for you? Get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead?"

The holiday letter. Like so much fruitcake, it’s an oft-maligned symbol of the holidays. Everyone loves to make fun of it but it just wouldn’t be Christmas without it.

I’ve never sent one, but I always like reading them. No one sends me ones that make me roll my eyes, except maybe my uncle who is filthy rich, has his own business, a lovely wife, a cheerleader daughter and a football player son who are both musically gifted and academically advanced. They travel all over the country/world every year, go to football and baseball games that no one else can get tickets for, have a summer home…you get the idea. The best letter I get is from an old college friend who must keep track of funny things her kids say during the year because she lists them in her letter and they are hilarious (especially considering she’s married to a minister and she doesn’t attempt to edit the quotes at all). I will post an example when her letter arrives (usually a week or two after Christmas—another reason why I love her; no attempt at Martha Stewart-like perfection for her).

Anyway, I decided to send a letter to that old roommate and another one. I have great memories of lots of fun with these women, but we don’t keep in touch except by exchanging Christmas cards so we really have no idea what our day-to-day lives are like, and I truly enjoy hearing from them. They each have 4 kids and maybe I felt like I didn’t have much in common with them anymore until Lauren arrived. I tried not to make it all about Lauren, but honestly, I don’t have much else to say about the past year that’s not about her or work, and no one wants to hear about the trials and tribulations of a Cincinnati ad agency.

So, I wrote them a letter. Okay, it was the same letter but I did personalize the greeting and actually signed my name instead of typing it. Maybe next year I’ll send it to everyone on my Christmas card list. But I doubt it. I just think there are too many people who think all such letters are cheeseball.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

This is my life

I really want to do a better job of blogging regularly, but I suffer from the old “who wants to read about what I have to say?” thinking so I just don’t post very often. I think there are 2 or 3 people who read this anyway, so I wonder what the point is. Maybe it’s just to be more disciplined with my writing, forcing myself to post something (nearly) every day.

I mean, seriously, do people really want to read about my actual life? That I changed 3 – count ‘em, 3 – poopie diapers on Sunday? That the maids did a decent job last week but it seems that they sprayed Pledge on my kitchen floor in a not-so-subtle attempt to do me in while I’m coming around the corner in my socks? Or do my 3 readers want to know about how I spend my Monday evenings watching A Shot at Love, while unread classic novels collect dust on my bookshelf? Or that the All Bran commercial that simulates pooping (do you see a trend here) cracks me up?

‘Cause that’s all I’ve got, people.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

End of the month wrap-up

Good Thanksgiving. I ate seconds of the sweet potato casserole my uncle made and I don't even like sweet potatoes. I suspect it had something to do with the 2" thick crust of brown sugar, butter and pecans it was wearing.

Everyone in my house is still sick. I finally went to the doctor today who diagnosed me with an "atypical bacterial infection" (of course) and sent me on my way with some drugs. Thank goodness.

My girl turned one yesterday and because Grammy was sick, I got to spend the day with her. We shopped, ate and napped. Pretty much how I like to spend my birthday, too.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

My last football post of 2007. I promise.

My beloved Buckeyes beat Meat-chicken once again. Such fun. I work with 2 U of M fans who've been avoiding me (and the poor suckers both went to the game). I ran into one of them in the kitchen and the best he could come up with was "Oh, great, it's another Ohio State fan." I took the (moderately) high road and said, "I just want to say how sorry I am to see Lloyd go. I'd really prefer if he'd stick around for a while."

Now I just have to wait to find out who we'll play in the Rose Bowl. I'm actually glad we're not going to the National Championship. Too stressful for me.

In other news, everyone in my house has been sick. I got it last and now sound like Barry White and/or Marge Schott, depending on if I'm just speaking or laughing. I really hope this is gone by Thursday because I don't want to be sick for the long weekend. We're going to my mom's and for once are not doing a whirlwind 24-hour trip. I'm looking forward to relaxing and visiting with people and eating...and eating...and eating. For all his, uh, quirks, my stepfather is a fabulous cook, so I'm very excited to eat the feast he's no doubt already working on. And I'd like to be well so I can actually taste the food. Right now everything tastes the same -- like the inside of my cotton-lined mouth.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Let's Make it 1-6

Sorry, I have nothing to post about except sports. God help me after this Saturday.

After last week's humiliation, thought we could all use a little something to get us hyped up for the big game. Take 7 minutes and 40 seconds to see why Ohio State owns Michigan.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

If I watch any more sports, they're going to take away my woman membership card

Haven't posted in a while because I'm still trying to recover from my beloved Indians' loss to the Boston Red Sux. I work with some particularly obnoxious Sux fans and it's bringin' me down, man. The only thing worse would be if OSU loses to Michigan in a few weeks because I also work with some obnoxious UofM fans. I've so been enjoying my beloved Buckeyes' winning streak over the Loserines.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Things which have eluded me into adulthood

  • How to microwave something on Medium Power
  • How to drive a stick shift
  • Why people don’t know the difference between its and it’s
  • Doing math in my head (if I don’t have a piece of paper, I can’t carry the one)
  • Keeping Kleenex in my purse, or anywhere on my person, despite year-round allergies
  • The ability to dispose of a spider without using the vacuum cleaner
  • How to separate an egg
  • Why anyone in their right mind would run, unless they’re being chased

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Eat it, Yankees!!!

Boston, you're next.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday.

Yesterday was my 10th wedding anniversary.

The first thing that always comes to mind when I tell people about my anniversary is that I’ve been married longer than my birth father’s 5 (or is it 6?) marriages combined. That might be a slight exaggeration, but only slight.

Ten years is a long time to be married these days. And I’m proud of that. I’m proud because my parents didn’t make it three years, and have each been married multiple times, yet I managed to figure it out and make the right choice. I’m proud because I couldn’t have picked a better human being to spend my life with. He hates it when I say this, but Bret is truly a better person than I will ever be. I am selfish, moody, loud, prone to self-pity, and a host of other unattractive traits. He is none of those. I’m proud because the 10 years has been almost entirely delightful. That might be a slight exaggeration, but only slight.

Anything else I say about my marriage is going to sound cliché. I am married to my best friend. We make each other laugh. He snores too much. I nag too much. He’s a fabulous father. All true.

When we went on our honeymoon, I got the biggest kick out of using the word “husband.” I felt both too young to have one (ha – at 28) and old for having one. And I would say to Bret in my best Butthead voice, “You have a wife. You’re married.” It just seemed strange. We knew each other for 5 years before we got married and to call this funny, caring, silly, smart guy my husband cracked me up for some reason.

I’m used to it now. I’m proud to call him my husband (oops, another cliché).

How did we mark the occasion? I got roses (very lovely, I’m enjoying them right now), he got a card. We decided that the appropriate gift for year 10 is “Air” – we replaced our entire heating and air conditioning system last month and it cost more than the first 3 cars I owned. Bret had class last night, so I spent the evening with Lauren, then watched the season premier of The Office after she went to bed. Tomorrow we’re going to a winery about an hour and a half away – no baby! First time in ten months that we will have been alone (not including the time I took him to the emergency room a few months back). I’m very excited for my date.

So, here’s to 10 years. Your contract’s been renewed, Chief. Keep up the good work.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

It’s taken 3 visits to 2 different doctors in 2 days but we finally have a diagnosis—ear infection. The first doc said Lauren probably just had a virus and sent us home. Luckily the second doc caught it and now she’s got some antibiotics. I’m hoping she’s feeling better by this evening. She (and by extension, we) haven’t gotten much sleep the past 3 nights. Her fever’s been as high as 105. It’s heartbreaking to see her suffer.

Thanks for your rallying cries of “no guilt!” I guess now I feel not so much guilt as I just wish I could be with her. I know she’s fabulously well cared for by Grandma, despite her (Grandma’s, not Lauren’s) hysterics (and it’s not just me saying that; she told Bret today she’s been a “basket case” over Lauren being sick). I just want to be the one cuddling her (Lauren, not Grandma) when she’s not feeling well.

And this is just the first of 18 years of illnesses…

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Worst. Mother. Ever.

I left my kid at grandma’s. With a fever. It’s not terribly high, and she’s had some Tylenol, and she has no other symptoms, and she ate her breakfast with her usual gusto. But still. I know there’s nothing I can do for her that grandma can’t do, but I still cried when I walked out the door. Oy, the guilt.

And, it’s compounded by the fact that last night she woke up crying and I was adamant about not picking her up and rocking her. Because she has been known to cry for a long time in order to get what she wants – someone to pick her up and rock her, whereupon she will fall peacefully back to sleep with a smug little grin on her face. And then after you put her to bed, a few hours later she’ll wake up again and start the whole thing over. So we quit picking her up in the middle of the night to teach her that she needs to go back to sleep on her own. I thought she was just being particularly persistent with her crying last night, but after an in-bed argument with the hubby (he wanted to rock her; I said no way), he went in to get her. He rocked her for a while, then I heard him head down the hall and into the bathroom. He was getting the thermometer and of course, she had a fever (100.6). So I felt like quite the Mother of the Year. We gave her some Tylenol and she was up for another hour or so before going back to bed until 6:00. Her temp was down to 100.2 this morning – the Tylenol had worn off so we gave her some more and I took her to grandma’s. Who, by the way, looked at me like I had two heads when I told her Lauren had a fever. In the whole Good Witch/Bad Witch scenario, I am clearly the Bad Witch. Glenda the Good Witch would NEVER have left her children when they were well, let alone when they had a hot little forehead. The Bad Witch has copy to write so she can help pay the mortgage.

The smart ladies over at
Working Mothers Against Guilt would tell me it’ll be okay and not to fret. It’s not like Lauren’s puking her brains out or dealing with a raging case of the flu. Can’t help it. I still feel guilty.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Reunion Recap

* Detail from the band uniform I wore (1983-1987); the same style worn by my aunt 10 years earlier and my mom 10 years before that.

I had a blast. It was truly far more fun than I imagined it would be. I’ll start at the beginning. I got there late. I thought it started at 7:30, so I arrived at 7:45. It actually started at 6:00. My friend Scott, who I had threatened within an inch of his life to be there or else, just about killed ME when I finally walked in. He said he’d tried saving two seats forever and finally gave up and gave them away. No biggie, I didn’t end up sitting down for another 3 hours because I was too busy running around and hugging people and talking to them. Actually, people were coming up to ME, which I found kind of strange. I wasn’t the most popular person in high school; I mean, I think people knew who I was because I was in a lot of activities and because I’m 6’0” tall and kind of hard to miss. But I just don’t think of myself as the kind of person other people flock to, and certainly wasn’t in high school. Anyway, it was just nice. Not only did I talk to people I’d been good friends with but hadn’t seen in literally 20 years, but also childhood friends who I didn’t talk to in high school because we’d drifted apart, joined different circles. That was just as nice.

I talked to so many people. My dear band friend Scott, who lost most of his hair and is even funnier than he was in high school. We talked about our mutual love for
David Sedaris and hate for Republicans. I saw Brenda, another band buddy who is now divorced and has been living with a woman for the past 9 years (Scott still thinks it’s a “phase.”) I saw Jennifer, who I went to summer camp with every year, and who I played Barbies with, mostly at her house because she had a room just for her Barbies and their accessories (including the coveted Townhouse). Her house was so cool (her dad was an architect; one of the few dads with a professional-type job). I saw Liz, a lawyer who now stays home in Connecticut with her 9-month-old daughter (that was the other thing—how many people have babies and kids under 5—I thought for sure I’d be the only one that didn’t have teenagers). I saw John and Tricia, who I’ve known since before I can remember. He had a George Hamilton tan and still wears sweater vests; she had the same haircut. They are still best friends. I saw Mel, who’s in much better shape than she was in high school. She has 3 kids and is married to a farmer, and she is raking in the cash doing pharmaceutical sales. I saw Mark, my Hearts Dance date, now an optometrist and father of two. He said I looked exactly the same, god love him. I saw Connie and Troy, friends from band and church who’ve been together for probably 23 years and have 5 kids. She’s the music director at the church I grew up in; he’s lost most of his hair and reminds me of his dad. I saw my elementary school friend Terri, who was a “C” cup by the time we were in the fifth grade. She married a guy named Terry. I saw Missy and Leslie and my cousin Shanna, all from Girl Scout Troop 473. We laughed remembering all our times camping together as little girls and then teenagers, the number of times Shanna’s mom, our troop leader, yelled at us in her raspy smoker’s voice for the hours we spent talking instead of sleeping.

There were people that weren’t there I would’ve liked to have seen. Mostly Laura, my high school BFF whose Christmas cards are now my only contact with her.

There were moments of weirdness, like seeing Angel, a girl I’d admired in the first grade because she wore cute little smocks with cartoon characters on them (my mom never let me wear clothes with characters on them, something for which I am now grateful). She was probably the most popular girl in my class, had always been popular even back in elementary school. She was very nice to everyone and, of course, the head cheerleader our senior year. Everyone loved her. I really didn’t speak to her by the time high school rolled around; she was a cheerleader and I was a band and choir kid. She married a guy from the class ahead of ours shortly after high school, but it ended quickly in a nasty divorce. I was so surprised that she approached me, gave me a big hug and said she was so happy to see me, that she always wondered what had happened to me. She is remarried and has three kids and lives in Columbus (one of about 4 people I talked to that night who doesn’t still live in our hometown or at least in the same county). She looked exactly the same, except for the deep wrinkles on her forehead and around her mouth. (She was very tan and always had been. Let that be a lesson to you, girls: wear your sunscreen)

That’s the other thing—the way people looked. A couple of people looked exactly the same. Most people looked like an aged version of their high school selves. And then there were several who looked nothing like they did in high school. I spent a good part of the night with old friends playing “who’s the guy” (as in “who’s the guy in the blue shirt…” “who’s the guy in the suit…”). Eventually one of us would figure it out and the whole group would yell out “OH!!!!” All of this, of course, was fueled by much alcohol. The best place to stand was back by the bar, so I could talk to everyone as they waited for a drink. (I had three vodka tonics on an empty stomach, which might explain why I had such a good time.)

Leading up to the night, I had some attitude about it, thinking that I had something to prove, that I needed to show I was now better than “them,” and that “they” should feel bad for making me feel “less than” back then. I had none of those feelings that night. I was amazingly unselfconscious. Just genuinely pleased to see people. It was nice to see everyone paired off, with families and jobs and homes. The squirrelly little kids who did goofy things like toilet papering each others houses, now all grown up. It was nice to see us excited to see one another, despite all the years that had passed. Even the popular kids, the party kids, seemed nicer (although the really hard-core ones stuck together and didn’t make an effort to talk to anyone else; I’m quite certain they all see each other regularly, all still drink together). Even so, I found it amusing and rather endearing, instead of annoying. Good for them—they found their people back in the day and have remained loyal to them ever since.

Lots of my friends now tell me that they give me credit for going, that they couldn’t imagine going to their high school reunion. Too many bad feelings about that time, or feeling too much like a loser now. I do understand that. But I highly recommend going. If the too-tall band geek can go and have a good time, anyone can.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What's Goin' On

  • Dishwasher was delivered and installed. She's beautiful and very quiet and I have yet to load or unload her (since that's not one of my chores), but it seems as if I could get my entire collection of Crate & Barrel dinnerware, circa 1997, in there at one time.
  • Our central air went out sometime last Wednesday and was just restored yesterday. The temps on the six days we were without air were as follows: 100, 102, 100, 93, 88, and 91. We survived, thanks to four fans, one hotel stay (for me and my friend Trina who was visiting for the weekend—a big shout out to her husband for giving us his Marriott rewards points—thanks Jim!), one stay at the in-laws' (for hubby and baby), and eating out most meals over the weekend to take advantage of the AC. We had to replace the whole shebang, to the tune of about half of my kitchen renovation budget. So that little project is on hold for quite some time. But at least it was just 6 days without AC; I know plenty of people suffer through these temps all the time.
  • Just got back from yet another shopping trip and I think I finally found something to wear to the reunion. I bought white linen pants (which I would never have thought would look good but they do) and a chocolate brown top that's a silk blend but not shiny silk, more like crepe, I think it's called. It's got a draped neckline and is in general flattering, even though it’s short-sleeved. I like white and brown together—a very Ralph Lauren, WASPy, party-in-the-Hamptons look. But I also bought a pair of khaki pants in case I decide to go with the white shirt I bought yesterday. That would be the safe choice. I hope I’m brave enough to go with the white and brown outfit because I think it’s more “me.”
  • Got Lauren's 9-month pictures taken this weekend (see above). Isn't she perfect? You need to click the photo to get the full effect.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Not good with headlines these days

I was hoping to be able to report in about my new dishwasher, the lovely GE PDW7880NSS, which was delivered Saturday morning. Sadly, she had some dents right on the front of her, so we sent her back. Her replacement arrives this Saturday. And no, I didn’t pay MSRP for it – it was $50 cheaper at Home Depot, plus 10% off, plus the $300 refund, plus a delivery refund, plus a $75 gift card, plus the $350 I made freelancing, which I’m considering found money. Gosh, it’s like they’re paying me for the privilege of having her.

Still no luck on the reunion outfit. Why is it that all clothing made for women “of a certain size” takes one of the following approaches to fashion:

Friday, August 17, 2007

I went shopping at lunch today for something to wear to my 20th high school reunion in a couple of weeks. (Let’s not get into the whole 20 years thing right now; let’s focus on the important thing: fashion.)

The main event is dinner and music (the invite did not say dinner and dancing, which is just as well; I wouldn’t dance and I don’t want to watch a bunch of almost-40-year-olds I went to preschool with dancing, either). The invite also said the dress code was “casual.” Where I come from, “casual” could easily be interpreted as your best NASCAR shirt and going-to-church jeans. In my book, a 7:30 dinner/music event calls for, at the very least, black pants and semi-fashionable top, heels, etc. So it’s hard to know what to wear—dress up too much and people will think you’re all puttin’ on airs. Dress up not enough and you won’t look like the successful, savvy woman that you are. Or something.

So I’ve been looking for an outfit that says:

“I’m better than you now because I haven’t lived in this stinking town since 1987 and you married the guy you sat next to in algebra and you live a block away from your parents’ house where you grew up. And I actually left not just the county but the state for college. And I make more money than you. And I’m still a band fag at heart and damn proud of it, you stupid jock.”

It must also must disguise the fact that I’ve gained a hundo since they last saw me (L-baby is 9 months now; I’ll just say it’s baby weight).

Perhaps that’s a bit much to ask of an outfit.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

I find myself feeling bemused around the young women in the office. How young, you ask? One day an e-mail went around with a link to a site that tells you the number one song on the day you were born. One of these girls said hers was Van Halen’s "Jump." (In case you’re wondering, mine was "I Heard it Through the Grapevine," and I don’t mean when it was part of the singing raisins commercial).

Oh, they’re so young, so fresh, so full of hope and optimism about the future. So eager to get their careers off on the right foot. And I, I am the sad, old, cynical married woman who remembers what that felt like. I, too, had a first job once, when the ink was barely dry on my diploma. I remember driving away from my Loop office in the big city and seeing the skyline in my rearview mirror and having my very own Mary Tyler Moore moment. Now,
this song queues up on the old iPod and I think, "No shit."

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

More than one way to get a new kitchen

Turns out the solution to my obsession (see entry below) is to have the appliances at a time.

I opened what turned out to be a love letter from GE yesterday, saying my
dishwasher had been recalled. They'll come out and fix it for free, or give me $150 toward a new one (or $300 for one of their fancy-pants models). I've never been so happy to find out that one of my appliances might catch on fire.

I ran to Lowe's at lunch today to check out the GE dishwashers. They only had two. I couldn't even open the door on one of them because a display sign was in front of it, bolted to the floor (kinda discourages one from purchasing that particular model). The other was nothing exciting.

What was exciting were the $998 Bosch dishwashers (mmm...stainless steel interior...). Costs more than my first two cars combined.

Now if I would just get a letter saying that my cabinets are about to explode...

Monday, July 9, 2007

So many bad things going on in the world—the war rages on and people keep dying, babies are falling out of windows, a heat wave grips much of the country, Bush gives the finger to the judicial system and the whole friggin’ country, the Reds are still in last place (or close to it; I don't really know)—and all I can think about is how badly I want a new kitchen. I am obsessed.
The previous owners of our house had trouble selling it because of the kitchen. Nobody wanted a house with such an outdated kitchen. Except, apparently, me (But in my defense, I wanted the house for the yard and was willing to overlook the kitchen. Until now).
The cabinets are original, 1977 dark, ugly (oak maybe?) doors with laminate exteriors and particleboard interiors. Many of the plastic clips holding up the bowing shelves are missing or broken (I tried to move a shelf the other day to accommodate my cookbooks to get them off the counter and managed to snap off two of the clips, rendering the shelf completely useless.). They are not only dark, but also stubby, rising up only as tall as the soffit (which I would love to remove and replace with 42” cabinets soaring all the way to the ceiling, but alas, there is plumbing and/or wiring in them and I’m not going to pay to have that all re-routed, despite the fact that, if anyone should have 42” cabinets it’s a 6’0” woman who can reach the top shelf without a step stool).

The floor is peel-and-stick vinyl in a “wood” parquet design. It’s bowed up in places where the dishwasher leaked.

The walls are painted not a terrible shade of green, but the paint job is very sloppy. A slightly different shade of green was used over patch jobs, and the patch jobs look like they were done by a 2-year-old. Clumps of patching material were slapped on the wall and not sanded very well.

The appliances are okay, nothing terrible but nothing great either. White, circa 1990 or so. Except that the dishwasher has rusty racks and we’ve sunk a couple hundred dollars into it already due to a stuck food/overflow problem that was made worse by the repair (long story).
The counters are a gray laminate, also not terrible, although they are laminate. The sink is some kind of strange, hard plastic composite material, not like Corian, but more like what toys are made out of. The newer faucet was nice, until we pried the hot water label/cover off the handle while putting in or taking out the baby tub. It went in the garbage disposal and got ground down to nothing. The light fixtures are fairly new and l like them. Black wrought iron. The pantry is fine; not much we can do about it and although I would like a bigger one, it works. There is no backsplash, just drywall which is always getting wet from the faucet right in front of it.

I have never had a beautiful kitchen. All the rentals I’ve lived in over the years—ugh don’t get me started. I stayed out of those as much as possible. Then the first house we owned was built in 1947 and the kitchen had original everything—including floors (greenish linoleum with tiny indents all over it from a 1950s housewife’s pumps). We replaced those, and I painted the cabinets a cheerful apple green with darker green trim, cleaned up the original hardware, painted the walls a pale yellow, hung white eyelet curtains and it was charming.

No amount of paint or curtains is going to make my current kitchen charming. It’s a disaster and needs to be gutted. It’s not going to happen anytime soon, which is okay because it’s going to take me a while to figure out exactly what I want. Kitchen makeover shows and design magazines have become my porn. I drool over the stainless steel appliances, the pull-out shelving, the integrated sinks. I dream about 1" glass tiles, hardwood floors, a peninsula. I obsessively collect paint chips, mark pages in cabinet brochures, research design and installation companies. I lurk about the kitchen section of Lowe's, running my hands over the clean, smooth cabinets and sleek granite counters. I read page after page of cabinet manufacturers' Web sites, learning about materials and construction. Oh, that I, too, might one day know the pleasures of a new kitchen. It's good to have dreams.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Lauren has her first tooth!

I haven't seen it yet; Grandma called to tell me she saw it this morning. Can't wait to get home and check it out.

How pathetic is it that when I heard the news I immediately thought of Hermie?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Mine. All Mine.

Okay, and Bret's too. Lauren Elisabeth's adoption was finalized on Friday. It was not so much a relief for me as a graduation of sorts. We're official. It was all a done deal a week after she was born, but it is nice to be finished with the legal stuff and social worker visits. Especially the social worker visits.

During the court proceedings, Lauren proved herself a true member of our family by noisily taking care of her ongoing constipation issues. Besides the red-faced "Nnnnggggggg" grunting, she also managed to pass a man-sized fart that made even the judge chuckle a little. That's my girl!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Grandpas rule

My daughter has the best grandpa. (I know what it's like to have a doting grandpa and it's pretty great.) He takes good care of her when he visits. We call him The Sandman because he has a magical ability to sing or soothe her to sleep (unlike the rest of us who just hope she won't cry when we put her down). He always wants to feed her and can't wait until he can take her for her first ice cream cone and her first train ride.
Bret told me that he overheard a conversation recently between Grandpa and another guy:
Guy: I'm taking my daughter to swim lessons tomorrow.
Grandpa: Oh? How old is she?
Guy: Nine.
Grandpa. My granddaughter's taking swim lessons — she's six months.
He later said he wanted to tell the guy that she's also taking music lessons, but didn't want to seem like he was bragging. She is a lucky girl.

P.S. No, Grandpa doesn't look like Grandpa Munster. But Grandpa Munster does look an awful lot like Paulie Walnuts.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Not a post about the gynie

Friday I had my annual gynie visit. A couple of years ago I found a new doc so I could go to a practice that was just GYN, not OB/GYN. I was tired of sitting in a waiting room surrounded by pregnant women, with all the associated literature, magazines, posters and imagery regarding pregnancy. So I found a new practice that, I’m fairly certain, is by lesbians, for lesbians. Which makes sense, since not a whole lot of lesbians are having babies. It’s nice not to be hassled about pregnancy or lack thereof, or confronted with pregnant 16-year-olds. Anyhoo, the visit was uneventful as usual. But when I de-stirruped and got off the table, my back bothered me a little bit, and slowly got worse as the day went on. By the time I got home Friday evening I couldn’t stand up straight and decided to lay on the floor, which usually helps. Bad idea. Every time I tried to roll on my side or lift up on an elbow to get up, I felt like I’d been tazed. Or what I imagine it feels like to be tazed. Waves of pain shot all the way down to my feet and brought tears to my eyes. (If childbirth is anything like that pain, I’m glad I didn’t have to experience it.) I couldn’t get up for 45 minutes, and feared that I was going to have call the fire department to come get me, à la those TLC shows where the squad comes to get the morbidly obese guy out of his house and into an assisted-living facility. Anyway. I was finally able to get up, but was in bad shape all weekend. Bret said I looked like Fred Sanford when I walked.

I was diagnosed with a herniated disk 12 years ago, but this was the worst flare-up I’ve had in years. In a haze of pain over the weekend I pleaded with God that if I would just get better, I’d promise to start exercising again. I am feeling a bit better today, but still a little hunched over. I guess that means I’ll be bringing my tennies to work again soon to resume my lunchtime walks. Darn bargains with God.

Friday, June 1, 2007

I have been thinking a lot about working and being a parent. The two things consume 99.9% of my time, so there are many issues to explore, but the overall question to consider is “why do I work?” The obvious answer is the paycheck. Having two incomes means I’m able to give my child experiences outside of her little world in the suburbs. Among other things, I want to expose her to big cities and national parks and camping and skyscrapers and everything I can—hopefully even other parts of the world someday. Now I can afford to take her to swim lessons and music classes to expand her mind and help her learn to use her body and feel good about both. (I keep hearing critical voices saying she doesn’t need classes to experience music or swimming. We sing and play music every day, thank you very much, but I don’t own a pool or know anyone who does, so I would have to pay for that somewhere!).
So I'm working just to pay for “extras?” No, not quite. Just the basics—reliable transportation, housing in a safe neighborhood with good schools, the ability to pay for college—are expensive. It’s sad but true that you can’t live just anywhere and be assured of these things anymore. If we tried to live on one income, we would be living in our old (unsafe) neighborhood (did I mention the crack pipe we found in our yard?) with the really bad schools and I will not subject my child to that just to have a stay-at-home parent.
There’s also the issue of my future, my family’s future. What kind of retirement would we have if we were only putting away money from one paycheck instead of two? What about life insurance? College?
But it’s also more complicated than that. I have realized how much I need to make my own money to feel secure. I am not anticipating being single anytime soon, but I would feel very much on shaky ground if I didn’t make my own money, if I didn’t know I could provide for myself (and now my child) if (God forbid) anything happened to Bret. It’s a psychological thing, partially tied up in my mother’s experience of being trapped in her marriage because she wasn’t working. But even more so, because she wasn’t working she had no power in her marriage. I know that sounds cynical, and why should draw the comparison to myself? After all, I am not in a crappy marriage like she was. Who knows. Who can account for how these things play themselves out in our psyches. All I know is that I would feel useless to the world, to myself, to my family, if I weren’t making money. I know, I know. Someone (a lot of someones) out there will say that staying home to raise your child is the most important thing you could be doing for the world, for her, blah blah blah. Maybe I am just too much like a man in this regard. (How many fathers do you know who’d be truly happy, who would feel fulfilled, not earning a paycheck?)

And I also realized this: my whole life it was assumed I’d go to college. I was badgered by my parents throughout my school years (including college) about my grades, about “applying myself” and getting As. I was kept out of activities when my grades weren’t what my parents wanted them to be. And for what? So that I would be a success in life, I assume. So that I would get into a good college and grad school and get a good job. (Otherwise, what’s the point of all that pushing?) I did marginally well (although never did truly “apply” myself), and three and a half years ago finally got a good job—one that is challenging, uses my talents and pays me well. And now I’m looked down on for actually keeping—and liking—this job because I have a child. Family members, friends and acquaintences have implied or stated outright that I should be staying home. No one would EVER question a man this way. (If a man chooses to stay home with his children, he’s looked down upon. Thought of as lazy, or not a real man. A woman who chooses not to stay home is thought of as selfish. Not a real woman.) No one has ever implied or suggested or said outright to Bret that HE should quit his job and stay home—despite the fact that I contribute a great deal to our family’s income, despite the fact that I have my advanced degree and he’s working on his.
I got my education and worked my way through several jobs for the same reason anyone does—to get a good job. Why is this different for a woman than a man? If it is, then it means that her education is…what? Finishing school? Just a way to pass the time until the man and the babies come along? I feel a responsibility to my family just like a man does—to PROVIDE for them. And anyone who’s seen my house or my clothes knows that I am not living an extravagant lifestyle. In fact, of all my friends, I am sure I have the crappiest house, the crappiest furniture (hello 1985 wallpaper and 1973 dining room table).

Is working a choice for me? Yes, because I choose to live in a safe neighborhood with good schools. I choose to drive a reliable, fuel-efficient car. I choose to be prepared for retirement, and not be a burden to my family or society in my old age. I choose to expose my child to as many good things the world has to offer as I can. I choose to be able to save for her education so she’s not saddled with the enormous debt I had when I got out of school. I would never try to tell someone that my way is best. I am tired of the media’s focus on the so-called “mommy wars” between work-at-home and work-outside-the-home moms and I have no interest in putting someone down for their choices. I’m just tired of being judged for mine.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Girlz in da 'hood

I stumbled across this funny Web series called In The Motherhood. There are three Webisodes posted so far, and more to come. I got a kick out of all of them. They're written by (or at least the story ideas come from) real moms. You can just enjoy the series, or vote on your favorite stories for upcoming episodes, or even write your own. I have to say that I'm not a big fan of Leah Remini (years ago I saw some show on VH1 or MTV or something about her planning her wedding and, ugh, is that chick high maintenance). However, I think she does a good job on this, and Chelsea Handler (formerly of Girls Behaving Badly, a sort-of female version of Jackass) is good, too.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

More Gray Hairs, More Babies

Apparently that first gray hair was not a fluke. Just like last time, I found this one while trying to do something with my hair upon arriving to work. It’s right near my part, about a third of the way back from my forehead. A squirrelly, wiry little thing, glinting in the florescent lights of my office. Crap. And here I thought I was actually going to make it to 40 without needing to color my hair. I know it’s not that big of a deal. I mean, I’ve had these horizontal forehead wrinkles for at least, what, five years? Ten? And those certainly don’t give me a youthful, dewy glow. So what is it about the hair thing? I guess, given that my self-esteem is probably lower than that of your average junior high school girl, it was the one thing I had going for me. Okay, maybe the second thing. I do like my eyes (but only if you don’t pay attention to the dark circles/deepening wrinkles under them). Since most of my friends, both older and younger, have had some (or a lot of) gray hairs for a while, I think I felt a little smug about not having any. And now here they are. I will have to ask my stylist to do a thorough inspection of my noggin (kinda like what the school nurse used to do when looking for lice) and give me a report.

In other news, my brother and his wife are expecting again. Their firstborn, Caleb, turns one on Friday. I am so excited for them, and it’s really nice to feel genuine excitement not at all tinged with jealousy or resentment (unlike the first time they announced their pregnancy, which hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks, since they’d been married for maybe three years, tops, and my sister-in-law was all of 24 at the time and I had been trying to become a mom for nearly 5 years by then). I’m also fairly certain that I am stopping with the one (perfect) child that I have, since my second thought after being excited for them was “Suckers!” Caleb will only be 19 months old when the baby comes, still in diapers, and they’ll have to do the whole not sleeping through the night thing for yet another, what, six or more months? Better them than me, I say. The next kid I have will be the four-legged kind who pees in the yard.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Rant o'the Day

More things that drive me crazy: people who throw cigarette butts out their car windows. This makes me insane. I drive 48 miles to work and back and I swear I see this at least ten times a day. I just don’t get it—why is that okay? No moderately educated person today (okay, very few people) would throw a fast food bag, soda can, or even a tissue out their car window (at least in the midst of rush-hour traffic!)—so why is a cigarette okay? Is it the size? Do these people think that a butt is so small it won’t matter? Because it’ll just disintegrate? Or that there are already so many of them there, why not add another one to the pile?

A quick search on this topic returned dozens of stories of people causing fires by throwing their butts out car windows. One guy in Washington threw a cigarette out and caught the grass on fire in front of a state employee mowing and just about killed the guy and set the mower on fire. My favorite story is of the guy who set his own car ablaze when the cigarette he discarded landed in his backseat.
Then there’s the cost to REMOVE the ciggy butts from the sides of roads (‘cause they don’t just magically disappear, Mr. Inconsiderate Smoker—or end up in our rivers via storm drains, which would be oh so much better for you, as you wouldn’t have to see them again). According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, it costs $2.3 million to remove the more than 11.7 thousand tons of litter from Ohio’s state highways each year.
An ODNR study finds “about 21 percent of the total litter weight on interchanges was comprised of cigarette butts. The majority was on urban interchanges where 25 percent of total tons of litter were cigarette butts.”
I really don’t care if people smoke; that’s not the issue. I don’t particularly want to stand next to you while you’re doing it, but if you want to smoke, that’s your right. Lord knows I have my own addictions (as my dealers Ben and Jerry would confirm). But you don’t see me throwing empty Chunky Monkey pints out my car window.

I don’t know what it’s going to take to make smokers stop doing this. Maybe we can take matters into our own hands, literally, like my friend Katherine did years ago. We were in line at the McDonald’s drive-through when a guy in the truck in front of us threw his cigarette on the ground. Katherine stopped mid-sentence, hopped out of my car, picked up the butt and handed it to him, saying, “You dropped something.” He was speechless. (I was speechless.) I guess that’s what it’ll take for these inconsiderate smokers to realize that the rest of us don’t appreciate them using the great outdoors as their ashtray. Or maybe we’ll just have to bring back those crying Indian commercials from the ‘70s.

Friday, May 11, 2007

First Mother’s Day

Sunday will by the first Mother’s Day that I celebrate not just as a daughter, granddaughter and daughter-in-law, but as a mom. I guess I hadn’t thought a whole lot about this, but other people kept mentioning it to me – “HEY! Happy MOTHER’s Day, MOMMY!!!” (wink, wink) Interpretation: “Hey, you finally have a kid! Thank goodness, I was starting to wonder if you were EVER going to have one.” Yeah, you and me both.

Mother’s Days from 2001-2006 became progressively more difficult to endure. The imagery, the cards, the commercials for a month before the big day, the church services where mothers were “allowed” to wear a flower and/or stand to be recognized…I just wanted the entire weekend to be over quickly.

For the first time in six years, I will not prefer to spend the day in bed. I will not avoid restaurants or parks or going anywhere else mothers and their children will be. A beautiful spring day will not be wasted indoors this year.

I don’t mean to sound overly dramatic. I was never one of those women who said, “My whole life, all I ever wanted to be was a mother.” It was one of the roles I planned to have, one of the ways I wanted to invest my time and talents and love, but certainly not the only way. So why did Mother’s Day became so painful? Basically, the day became one giant, Hallmark-approved slap in the face of what I was not, of what I didn’t have, what I wanted so much.

My heart breaks for women who are still waiting and hoping (or feeling hopeless) that they’ll get a chance to be someone’s mom one day. Strange as it might sound, I feel a little guilty that I’m not one of them anymore.

For moms like me, for whom motherhood came with a price – time, tears, dozens of doctor’s appointments, blood draws, daily injections, thousands of dollars, more time, crushed self-esteem, bruised body, broken soul, paperwork, paperwork, paperwork, fingerprints, annoyingly inept social workers, more tears, and gallons of Häagen-Dazs – this Mother’s Day will be a day to celebrate. In a way that a woman for whom motherhood came easily can never understand.

This might all sound completely ridiculous to you. If you haven’t experienced it firsthand, there’s really nothing I can write to help you understand it fully. But if you know a woman who is struggling with infertility, or awaiting an adoption, please be extra kind to her this weekend.
RESOLVE is a wonderful organization that helped me a great deal – check out and pass along this article to someone you know who might find this holiday difficult to endure.

Friday, April 27, 2007


My mother-in-law said recently that she wouldn’t want to bring a child into the world today, what with all the school shootings and whatnot. She probably wasn’t aware of it at the time (being all of 22), but the year she brought her firstborn into the world wasn’t exactly a peaceful one. Here’s a list of some of the goings-on in 1967 (not all of them bad):

  • January 12 – Dr. James Bedford becomes the first person to be cryonically preserved with the intent of future resuscitation. [“Yeah, baby!”]
  • February 14 – “Respect” is released by Aretha Franklin.
  • March 7 – Jimmy Hoffa begins his 8-year sentence for attempting to bribe a jury.
  • April 28 – In Houston, Texas, Muhammad Ali refuses military service.
  • May 1 – Elvis Presley and Priscilla Beaulieu are married in Las Vegas.
  • June 1 – The Beatles release “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
  • July 23 – 12th Street Riot: In Detroit, Michigan, one of the worst riots in United States history begins on 12th Street (43 killed, 342 injured and 1,400 buildings burned).
  • August 30 – Thurgood Marshall is confirmed as the first African American Justice of the United States Supreme Court.
  • September 17 – Jim Morrison and The Doors defy CBS censors on The Ed Sullivan Show, when Morrison sings the word "higher" from their #1 hit Light My Fire, despite having been asked not to.
  • October 17 – The musical “Hair” premieres Off-Broadway.
  • November 21 – Vietnam War: United States General William Westmoreland tells news reporters: “I am absolutely certain that whereas in 1965 the enemy was winning, today he is certainly losing.”
  • December 15 – The Silver Bridge over the Ohio River in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, collapses (46 dead). It has been linked to the so-called Mothman mystery.

And of course, the most important event in 1967, on April 28, was the birth of my beloved. Happy 40th, darlin’. Hard to believe you were but a lad of 25 when we met. Hope living with me all these years hasn't aged you too much.

(Damn, I'm married to a 40-year-old guy. How did this happen?)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Sleepy, Sleepy

I almost hate to write about this for fear that it will stop, but here goes. My sweet girl is sleeping through the night. Pretty consistently. She started doing it three or four weeks ago, but only about twice a week. Now it’s almost every night. If she does wake up, all it takes to get her to go back to sleep is to pop the pacifier back in and maybe reposition her or cover her with another blanket.

This is a child who would not sleep unless she was being held. Day and night. For four months. I don’t mean that she would cry a little if you put her down, I mean she would scream nonstop. Holding her constantly was not that big of a deal during the day, and not that big of a deal at night when I was on maternity leave, but by the time both Bret and I went back to work, it was a huge deal. We split the night in half – one of us holding her until 2:00 a.m. while the other slept, then switching for the 2:00-6:00 a.m. shift, after which we’d pass her off to Grandma and drag ourselves through our morning routines and to work.

More than one person has given me the old “Well, babies don’t come with instruction manuals – ha, ha” speech. But that’s not true. They do come with instruction manuals – about three dozen of them on any given topic – and they all say different things. How do I know which book is right? Which philosophy should I follow? Am I going to damage my child for life if I follow the wrong one?

Then people say to just ignore the books and follow your instincts. Instincts? What instincts? We humans might be born with an innate desire to care for our young, but certainly not the knowledge. Why else would there be so many damn books? So I went to the bookstore.

For sleep, you’ve got your “cry it out” school of thought (most commonly known as “Ferberizing” after
Dr. Richard Ferber) and there’s the “let them sleep whenever and wherever they want” school (popularized by Dr. Bill Sears and other “attachment parenting” proponents).

I agree with Sears that babies’ wants are their needs – they’re not being manipulative by crying and wanting to be held. It’s what they truly need. But I also think that at a certain point, I’m doing my child a disservice but not teaching her how to fall asleep on her own, without being held. When she was old enough, it was time for her to learn that her bed is a good, safe, warm, happy place to be and that that’s where she should sleep. I wasn’t about to become one of those parents on "Supernanny" who has to hold her six-year-old all night or he won’t sleep.

Even Ferber says not to try his method on very young babies (under four months) but people thought we were nuts for holding her every night, all night. I suppose part of the reason I was willing to do so was because of our social worker. She believes in co-sleeping and holding adopted babies a lot because otherwise they’ll have attachment issues. She told us in our classes that the baby will know from the minute she’s born that my voice was not that of her birth mother so I’d better do everything I could to make her feel safe and comforted and taken care of and to me that sounded like I’d better never put the kid down in her crib or she’d be scarred for life. (The social worker, by the way, has no research to back this up, just her own experience as a mother of two children she adopted, one of whom she freely admits was a holy terror for much of her life; the social worker clearly believes if she’d held her more as a baby, things would’ve been different).

Everyone said we’d get through it but there were times I wasn’t sure. Getting 2-4 hours of sleep a night, every night for weeks (months!) on end, and then having to get up and go to work (and be creative and write) felt like some kind of sick joke. The only way I got through it was massive amounts of caffeine and sheer will. And a very kind husband who, when he saw me starting to crack, told me he’d take over so I could sleep.

So, we are now on, I believe, day 4 (maybe 5? 6?) of baby sleeping through the night. I’m like a new woman. Okay, I still feel tired all the time, but not in that “I’m going to break down and cry if there aren’t any diet Cokes left in the fridge” way. And, irony of ironies, I kinda miss holding her all the time.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Haven't Had a Dream in a Long Time

Don't you hate it when your friend says, "Hey, I have a blog and you must read it and I will post all the time and you must read it" and then you go to the blog every day but she hasn't posted anything new in days?

Yeah? Tough. Get off my back. I'm having a very Morrissey-esque week. I'm going to visit my family of origin this weekend. A visit that is sure to provide some blog fodder. So check back next week.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Haven’t posted all week because I’ve been too busy doing the writing that I get paid to do. It’s good to be busy, but I’m burned out on having to come up with tag lines for real estate developers, goofy signs for investment companies and sales promotion themes for tool manufacturers. That’s not the part of my job that I’m good at—I’m better at the bigger projects, condensing and organizing information, picking out the most important pieces and presenting them in a logical manner. Having to be creative on demand is so much pressure! I need some sort of Viagra for creativity. I guess that’s called “Scotch.”

Friday, April 6, 2007


The last nine episodes of The Sopranos begins airing this Sunday (why on Easter I don’t know; there’s got to be some symbolism there but I’m not going to try to figure it out).

I don’t have HBO, so I’ve watched all the episodes on rented DVDs from Blockbuster. There are 4-6 episodes on a disc, and on many a Friday and Saturday night (pre-baby), we’d put one in and end up watching all of them. The only drawback to these Sopranos marathons was that we’d get a little desensitized to the language and talk like Tony and the boys all weekend (“Hey, asshole, pass me the fucking butter.”).

I’m no TV critic, but this show is so addictive, so well-written, so smart. It is, by far, my favorite show and I can’t imagine that anything will ever be better. Every episode was like a mini-movie—in fact, better than most movies.

I’m in awe of the writers for creating and developing characters and stories that are so complex, dark and human. The writers have always assumed the best about their viewers rather than talking down to us. While Hollywood has usually resorted to turning mobsters into caricatures, the writers of The Sopranos never failed to show you the many facets of each character, and never included violence just for shock value. Everything was a vital part of the story.

While you never really root for Tony (you’ve seen him do too many horrible things), you also don’t want to see him lose (self-destruct, get divorced, get whacked). You end up having a complex relationship with him, and all the characters. This is, after all, a show about guys who regularly cheat on their wives and hang out at a strip club, and—oh, yeah—kill people. And yet. Good stuff.

Yes, it’s violent. Yes, it’s misogynistic. But damn, is it good.

*What Would Tony Soprano Do?—bumper sticker seen on a car with Jersey plates.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Some cereal. S’posed to be good for you.

Baby Girl is now on day three of cereal. You’d think she’d gone to the prom or graduated from medical school with all the hoopla surrounding the event. It is a big deal, of course. A milestone and all that. I was so excited to buy the cereal (as well as organic fruits and veggies, but we won’t start those for a couple more weeks). I felt like I felt the first time I bought diapers and formula, like “Hey, look at me! I have a baby!”

With Daddy, Grandma and Grandpa looking on, and the video camera rolling, she took right to it (after I fed her some of her bottle first to take the edge off her hunger). She seemed to understand the concept of the spoon right away and knew to open her mouth for it and swallow this foreign substance. My mom said some babies even cry the first time they have cereal because they’re so freaked out by the taste or the spoon or both, but not my girl (which only goes to prove that she’s in the right family—we have no problem with food, except in excess, but that’s a different story).

I hear people say that they’re sad when their kid reaches a milestone (sleeps through the night, learns to walk, starts school) because it means she’s growing up and no longer needs her parents in the same way. I have had a twinge of that once or twice, but for the most part I’m really excited that The Girl is growing up, learning new things, becoming more of who she really is (as opposed to being pretty much a meatloaf for the first several weeks). I’m fascinated by the thought of watching her personality unfold and develop.

I think one of my most important roles as her mother is to help her become who she’s meant to be, to expose her to different things and see what she gravitates toward, where her talents lie, what her strengths and weaknesses are, what she’s passionate about. (Right now she’s pretty passionate about having her pants off—let’s hope that doesn’t continue. Seriously, if she’s in a bad mood, all you have to do is put her on the changing table and take her pants and diaper off, and 95% of the time she’ll start smiling, cooing, or just calm down and chew on her fingers. The kid loves to air out her business.)

Anyway. I don’t always do a good job of appreciating the moment, of enjoying the stage she’s in right now, instead of looking forward to the next one. Everyone says it all goes so fast and in a way it has, but in another way, it seems like it’s been a long time since I slept through the night. I am reeeeaaaallly looking forward to that. I hear the cereal might help. Let’s hope.

Monday, April 2, 2007

GUS July 15, 1996 – March 30, 2007

We bought him for $40 from a guy in Kentucky. There were as many kids coming out of the house as there were puppies living under it. We zeroed in on him immediately—almost all black, he looked like a black bear cub. “We call that one Bear,” the guy said (pronouncing it “bar”). He was the only puppy who looked healthy, whose fur wasn’t chewed off his tail (no doubt because he was the one doing the chewing on his brothers and sisters and keeping all the food for himself—this didn’t occur to me until later when I realized that we’d chosen the alpha male of the litter).

He was six weeks old, and so little he couldn’t see out the truck window on the drive home. We debated the entire weekend about what to name him, and for no particular reason finally settled on Gus. He went by various nicknames over the years (Gussie, Schtinky, Schtinky Dog, Poopy, Stinker Pete, Gustav VonSchtinkenhoffer) and thought his name was “Gusdammit” for the first two years of his life while we attempted to train and socialize him.

We took him to puppy kindergarten—a near disaster. I think the instructor gave him a “diploma” just because she didn’t want him in her class again. He was much better than other dogs at some things (never freaked out or even flinched when she opened an umbrella in his face) but much worse at others (couldn’t sit still and keep quiet—ever).

He was a quick study when it came to house training, but until he figured it out, would quietly find his way under the dining room table to do his business (well, who doesn’t want a little privacy for such things?). The only way to the yard was a long flight of outdoor steps that we carried him down for the first several months of his life because he was too little, and then too afraid, to walk down them himself.

He never jumped up on the furniture without being invited, never stole food off the counter, never chewed up a pair of shoes or anything of value. His one weakness was paper products from the trash (particularly tissues and Q-Tips), so after several instances of coming home to find shredded tissues on the floor and a guilty-faced dog with his ears pinned back, we put all our trash cans in cabinets or closets (much to the dismay of guests). Like most dogs, he was prone to vomiting, but unlike most dogs, he never ate it. He never humped anyone’s leg—or anything else for that matter—except his “baby” (a fleece toy in the shape of a gingerbread man) when he was a baby himself.

He loved to play and invented his own version of “Fetch” that was more like “Keep-away.” He loved to retrieve whatever we tossed (ball, toy, old sock, stick) but then run past us with it, hoping we’d reach out and miss trying to grab it. Then he’d circle back around and do it again, almost grinning.

He was not particularly fond of getting a bath (whether inside or outside) or having his nails trimmed. He was regularly muzzled at the vet and given a tranquilizer once when he got his ears cleaned—after he got the shot all he could move was his lips to reveal his teeth, which he made sure to do, letting the vet knew he was still unhappy about the whole thing.

He loved people food, and was particularly fond of vegetables and fruit. As soon as he heard the sound of a knife on the cutting board, he’d come running and squeaking for a piece of carrot, potato, or pepper. He also liked apples. When I was finished eating one, I’d hold it by the ends and turn it for him. He’d eat daintily with just his front teeth, like he was eating an ear of corn. His absolute favorite food was bananas—he’d start to tremble and drool when I peeled one. I never could resist sharing one with him.

He probably would’ve made a good drug-sniffing dog. He was extremely tenacious—he once stood in front of the stove, staring, for who-knows-how-long making plaintive squeaking noises because a sausage link had rolled under it. I think he would’ve stayed there all night if we hadn’t retrieved it. He loved the hide-and-seek game where we’d tell him to stay in the kitchen, then hide a cookie in the living room and say “Okay” and he’d come running to sniff it out. He once caught a squirrel in his mouth but didn’t know what to do with it, so he just spit it out. It lay on the ground terrified and wet with dog slobber, then got up and ran away.

He learned words so quickly that we had to keep changing the word for “supper.” In addition to sit, stay and lay down, he knew so many words I can’t remember them all—squirrel, cat, chewie (compressed rawhide bone—his favorite and the only way to get rid of doggie breath), fishie (a toy), cookie, mommy, daddy, upstairs, bath, ride, treat, walk, outside and the phrases “trim your nails” and “they’re here.” (That last one would send him running to the front door barking before anyone even rang the bell.) He figured out that when I offered a cookie and said “Gentle” it meant not to take my fingers with the cookie. He would lift his head and—gently—take the cookie with just his front teeth. I think if he could’ve gotten his lips in the right position he would’ve spoken.

He was attuned to moods and facial expressions. He knew when I was sad. He’d stand near me, like a friend who listens without offering advice or trying to fix things, somehow knowing that his presence was enough. I could get him to lay down with just a look (the kind your mom gives you when you’ve done something wrong and you’re about to get it). If I ignored him and he wanted attention (or, more likely, for me to get up and get him a chewie), he’d lay his head on my lap or chest and look at me with his big, golden-brown eyes. Oh, he knew how to work it.

He was fairly healthy, and just had a few minor health issues throughout his life. Worms and fleas when he was young. A quick recovery from getting neutered (when he came home that night he made doggie circles and tried to lay down, but found it to be too painful, so he put his head on Bret’s lap and napped standing up). A tumor removed from his anus (which coincided with the release of “Borat” so we kept saying “His an-noose is broken.”).

He shed like crazy. There was no “shedding season” that I could determine; it was constant. I never did win the battle with dog hair in any house we lived in, or any car he’d been in, despite purchasing special pet vacuums, a Swiffer, and a sponge-like thing that was supposed to remove dog hair from the furniture (it didn’t). His hairs were long and black on one end, white on the other. Every day I carried some of him to work with me on my socks or pants and suspect that long after he’s been gone I’ll be doing the same.

He hated riding in the car. We had a disastrous drive to the in-laws for Thanksgiving one year—he whined during the entire three-hour trip there and most of the ride back. He loved going for walks. He hated being left at the kennel, wrapping himself around whoever dropped him off in an attempt at keeping us there with him.

Like most German shepherds, he was very attached to his people. We were his pack. He didn’t think he was a person, he thought we were the big dogs with access to the Prize Closet (pantry where his food, chewies and toys were kept). When I sat or lay on the floor at home, he’d park himself right beside me, and nothing made him happier than when both of his people sat on the floor so he could have the whole pack together in a puppy pile.

He loved us, but didn’t much like other people. He was fine around a couple of our friends, and a few family members, but that’s about it. He hated the mailman, of course, and anyone who rang the doorbell.

I always said if he had been human he’d have been Rain Man—highly intelligent with few social skills and unable to cope with changes to his routine or environment.

I’ll always be a girl who needs a dog, so I’m sure I’ll have others in my lifetime. I hope they’ll be more social, less headstrong, more easygoing, less crazy. I doubt that they’ll be smarter, or have more personality. His quirks were part of his charm, what made him Gus. I’ll miss having him around, especially when I finish an apple, or peel a banana.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Dude Falling

Here's a little something for your amusement.

You can ask yourself if it's just a silly Flash site, a metaphor about the downward spiral that is life or something in between.

Personally, I just like it for the house music.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Why the World Loves Americans

One day at lunchtime I went to the grocery store. While I was standing in the checkout line, I noticed three Hispanic men in front of me buying a pre-cooked deli chicken. I was only partially paying attention to them, until I noticed a lull in the usual checkout line action. The cashier had finished scanning their purchase and was leaning toward them, saying something for the second or third time. When the men didn't respond, she sighed heavily and leaned a little closer. In a loud, slow voice she repeated herself.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Is it pathetic that the biggest self-esteem boost I’ve gotten in weeks was from the very cute, very young, very gay boy who handed me my mocha at the Starbucks drive-thru today? (don’t answer that, Blobby) He spoke a few pleasantries like “Have a great day!” and I drove away happy, thinking “He likes me—he really likes me.” Then I realized his barista training probably included “How to Get Bigger Tips by Flirting with Aging Suburban Women.” Whore.

Anywho, my life is one personal crisis away from becoming a country song. I’m not getting into all of it. Let’s just say there are ex-wives, mothers-in-law, dogs, sleeplessness and emergency room visits involved. I’m just waiting for the pickup truck to stop running or to lose my job. Then I’m calling Nashville.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.*

I’ve had various interests in my lifetime, most of which (making hooked rugs and potholders, roller skating, Chinese jump rope, improv, and a fascination with the Civil War) I no longer care about. The one pastime that’s still with me is reading. Books have been an eye-opener, an obsession, a comfort, an escape and a teacher for as long as I can remember (don’t ask my mother or she’ll tell you the whole story about how I learned to read when I was 3).

For years I said I wanted to get paid to read all day. From July 1994 until July 1995 I came close, with a full-time job at Borders Books & Music. I had dropped out of the real world that year, having quit my first post-college job because I knew I wasn’t on the right career path, but wasn’t sure what to do next.

Despite the pay ($5.50 an hour) and the customers, working at the bookstore was, in all other ways, the perfect job for me. I spent my days wearing jeans and flannel shirts (hey, it was the tail end of the grunge era), drinking “free” coffee (depending on who was working in the café), surrounded by books and smart, witty people who loved books.

At that time there wasn’t a Barnes & Noble on every corner, there was no, and although Borders had been purchased by Kmart a few years prior, it still had an independent bookstore feel to it. The displays in the windows and throughout the store reflected the employees’ personalities, interests and knowledge – not a store diagram sent by Corporate once a week to make sure the stores in Los Angeles looked just like the ones in Des Moines.

My co-workers were like me – over-educated, complete book nerds/snobs willing to suffer the customers and low pay just so they didn’t have to work in a cube. We each had our own sections of the store to take care of and become experts on, based on our education and experience. A woman with a PhD in art history was in charge of the art section; a divinity school student had the religion section. My degrees are in psychology and education, so naturally I was assigned the section with books on psychology, education, sociology, anthropology, self-help and addictions – and also sex and erotica (which I neither have degrees in nor claim to know much about, but I did enjoy watching customers furtively grab those books and scurry to other parts of the store to lust in relative privacy).

I loved to be in the stock room when the boxes of new books arrived. I got to know a little something about nearly every book on The New York Times best sellers lists, the new releases, the hot new cookbooks and juicy biographies, the overly sentimental customer favorites (“Chicken Soup for the Soul” came out in 1993 and spawned a whole slew of similar dreck that people couldn’t get enough of) and whatever was featured on “Oprah” and the “Today” show.

Besides being responsible for stocking and organizing my section, I also had to take my turn at the three information stations and the cash registers. Spending time at the information station often resulted in exchanges like this one:

Customer: Do you have that book that was on the “Today” show last Wednesday?
Me: Do you know the title?
Customer: No.
Me: How about the author?
Customer: No.
Me: Um, can you tell me what it’s about?
Customer: No. But it’s got a blue cover.
Me: Oh, yeah, it’s right over here. [and I was actually able to take the customer to the right book]

When a customer did request a book by title, s/he usually got it wrong – sometimes more wrong than others. One time a woman asked for “A Thousand Years of Solid Food.” My coworker looked diligently on our various computer systems, but could find no such book. He then asked her where she heard about the book, what it was about, etc. What she was actually looking for was “One Hundred Years of Solitude.”

I worked Wednesdays through Sundays and my favorite shift was Fridays 2:00-11:00 p.m. That shift had the best mix of employees, the store always had live music, and the place was buzzing with customers who tended to be more serious book lovers than the weekday crowd. After work on Fridays my coworkers and I often went to The ‘Dube, a true dive bar in existence since 1940 that brought you your bottle of beer with an orange juice-sized glass to pour it in. Most of us had to be back at the store the next day for the 9:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. Saturday shift, hateful because the store was overrun all day with ill-behaved children and their snotty parents. So we stayed too long and drank too much, and made fun of the customers we’d dealt with that week.

I only stayed at Borders a year. Changes came down from corporate and it wasn’t the same place it was when I started. Besides, I had tens of thousands of dollars of college loans that were coming due, and I needed a real job to pay the bills.

Even though I’m now as likely to buy my books from Amazon as a brick-and-mortar bookstore (probably more likely), I still love bookstores, and books. So look for future posts about what I’m reading, and feel free recommend books you like. I promise not to make fun of them.

*from "Work: A Story of Experience" by Louisa May Alcott