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.