Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dog Show, Part 2: Not What I Expected

This is the back end of an English Sheepdog on the way to the ring.

        Being at a dog show is not all that different from watching one on TV or watching “Best of Show”. Except that it’s real. Seriously: there are the giant puffy English Sheepdogs parading to the show ring. There are the severe women in suits and flats holding dog treats in their mouths. There are Border Collies running agility right in front of you. I don’t know, maybe I didn’t really believe dogs could do all that weaving and jumping, like it was CGI or something. In person it’s unbelievable, but you know it’s not a digital effect.
        There were vendor booths set up around the perimeter of the place, hawking goods that only crazy dog people would buy. When I saw an exercise ball for dogs I knew I was in another world. “It can be used by our four-legged friends for core strengthening, increased range of motion and flexibility, neuromuscular facilitation, sensory and perceptual stimulation, joint alignment, and balance control.” I shit you not.
        Doggy treadmills, for those days you just can’t drag yourself outside. Handcrafted sterling silver jewelry: what self-respecting breeder could resist a giant brooch showing two Great Danes in profile?
        “We’ve been specializing in Danes for over forty years,” the jewelry guy told me. Awesome.
        Huge tapestries of YOUR BREED HERE only 250 dollars. Or maybe a purse with YOUR BREED on it. Grooming tools: coat rakes, clippers, $200 shears.  Sanitary pads for your “bitch in heat”: look it up, it’s a serious term. Dog people throw the word “bitch” around no problem, like nobody uses the word to describe anything other than a female dog ready for breeding.
        Dan and I said goodbye to our Cardigan breeder friend and wandered over to the booth for the Cardigan Welsh Corgis. Every breed had a booth, and on Sunday morning there were dogs at every one. The Best in Group judging was taking place a little later and the crowds were thickening.
        At the Cardi booth, the three ladies volunteering there had four beautiful dogs (okay, maybe some were bitches, but I wasn’t going there) and lots of admirers. Cardis are the kind of dogs that make people go “Awwwww, look how cute!”  So I was busy being one of those people while Dan started chatting with one of the ladies. He told her about Nathan, and me, and how much I love the breed.
        “Here’s my Nathan,” I said, pulling some photos out of my bag.
        She clucked over him (“such a beautiful brindle boy!”) and said she was sorry, they are never with us long enough.
        “I’m Sherilyn,” she said. “I’m the head of the Cardigan Rescue here in California. You know, we have a beautiful 2-year-old boy who needs a home…”
        She pointed to a photo of a tri-colored dog with a wistful face and great big ears. The caption underneath said “Bowie 2 years Good w/other dogs”.
        Dan heard the word “rescue” and his face lit up. Sherilyn had her prey in her sights. The fish was on the hook. Time to reel him in.
        “We found him up in Atascadero, running around with an old black lab. No tags, no microchip. And he’s still got his dewclaws. Most breeders remove those early on, so we didn’t think he was from anybody we know. Nobody claimed him.”
        Dan nodded excitedly and I scowled at him. Too late. Hook in mouth.
        “He’s a wonderful dog,” she continued. “So sweet. He’s with a foster family up in Lompoc now.”

        By now Dan was holding the picture. “Is he good with kids?”
        I started to hiss at him under my breath. “Don’t do this. Don’t.”
        “Oh, he loves kids. And he’s great with other dogs. He really needs to be with a family with kids.”
        “We’ve got three! And a little dog who’s been very lonely since Nathan died.”
        Sherilyn reached for a clipboard with a xeroxed form on it. It was the application to adopt. She handed it to Dan.
        “Hold on there, cowboy.” I placed myself between the two of them. (“Excuse me just a moment, will you please?” I murmured politely over my shoulder to Sherilyn.)
        “What?” Mr. Wide-Eyed-Innocent-It’s Just-A-Piece-Of-Paper asked.
        “IT”S TOO SOON!” I said. “It’s only been a month. It’s too soon.” And besides, I have my heart set on a puppy, I didn’t say. Puppy puppy puppy.
        Sherilyn piped up behind me, driving the sale home. “I’m telling you, Bowie is a special boy. Probably the sweetest dog I’ve ever rescued. A real lover.”
        I squinched my face at Dan and whispered, “Don’t do this. Do not. I hate you for doing this.”
        But I was outnumbered.
        He’s already housebroken, they said.
        He’s neutered, chipped and has all his shots.
        He’s socialized to kids and other dogs.
        Yes, he’s a beauty.
        Yes, he’s definitely a purebred Cardigan.
        Yes, he’s a fantastic dog, but Melissa (the foster mom) already has three Corgis and a female she wants to breed.
        Also, the adoption fee is about one-third the cost of a new puppy.
        No training. No pee and poop in the house. No frayed nerves over hyper Claire being too crazy with a little pup. No AKC fees.
        Plus – and this is big –
        He’s a rescue.
        Dan is all about rescue dogs, and I’m all about Cardigans.
        We both get what we want.

        The next weekend we brought him home. He was perfect, even his name. We’d been talking about a rock star name for the next dog: Joe Strummer, maybe, or Chrissie Hynde if it was a girl. Charlie lit up when we told him it was Bowie. He loves Ziggy Stardust.
        In about 15 minutes he owned the place and won Clementine over. The kids didn’t faze him at all. He has a look in his eyes that’s part wisdom and part mischief, and when they got to be too much he just walked away. Smart. Except when it came to using the dog door; that mystified him. How does that other dog walk through that wall? I don’t get it.
        That night, I put his bed on the floor next to ours. “Here ya go, Bo,” I said, patting the cushy part.
        He looked at me, tilted his head, and then somehow with his stubby Corgi legs he leapt up onto our bed and curled up next to Dan.
        “No, no,” I said. A dog in the bed? Never. No way. That’s why we had a tall bed anyway. Plus Dan hated it when the cat (rest her soul) had slept up there. (“There’s cat hair on my pillow!”) I picked Bowie up and set him on the floor.
        Pulling a sleeping bag over to the side of the bed, I said, “Here you go. I’ll sleep with you down here tonight.” I patted the pillows. "Come on, Bo!"
        He looked at me, tilted his head, and then used my reclining body as a step to jump back up on the bed. This time, he turned around and peered at me down on the floor, his tongue hanging out, smiling.

        And now we need a bigger bed.

Bowie cuddles with the Dogwalker-In-Chief.
"Merry Christmas, Lady! Where's my cookie?"

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Dog Show!

Yep, I love dogs.
I love dogs.
Like a lot of dog lovin’ people, I knew that I was gonna need another second dog after Nathan died. Little dog Clementine became even more neurotic in the days after his (as she undoubtedly saw it) disappearance. She started out at our house with both a cat and a dog for companionship. The cat died in August ’08, and now her dog buddy was gone. So she’s been shaking a lot more, and unfortunately her nervous peeing has increased. She needs a friend.
I especially love Cardigan Welsh Corgis.
Nathan was a purebred. Clem is a rescue mutt; Dan has a thing about rescue dogs. I’m all for it too, but I’m sorry, I’m going to need a Cardi in my life forever. Which is okay. Because I don’t ever want to have fewer than two dogs. Three would be great but we’ll need a bigger house. Oh yeah and I want a couple of cats, too.
But I digress.
I started looking for Cardi breeders out here in Southern California. Going through the CWCCA (figure it out), I found a few. Most of them did not have websites, so I clicked on the two that did. One of them had a pretty nice site, including a page for an upcoming litter. There I saw that she had posted the pedigree (the record of the dog’s bloodline) of the parents (the technical terms being “sire” and “dam”).
I couldn’t believe what I saw. The sire’s pedigree went back to Nathan’s bloodline. In fact, one of Nathan’s littermates was in there if you went back far enough.
Now what are the odds of that? Really?
I contacted the breeder and told her the whole story. We went back and forth a bit, trying to set up a visit. She lives in Ventura, not too far away. But we couldn’t get our dates right. We wanted to come up on Sunday, December 5th, because it was a day the kids were with their dad, and I didn’t have my writing group, so Dan and I had the whole day to ourselves. (It happens occasionally.) But the breeder told me that she was showing a friend’s Cardi in the Eukanuba Dog Show in Long Beach that day.
For those of you unfamiliar with the wacky world of dog shows, the Eukanuba is pretty much the second biggest show in the U.S. after Westminster. Unlike Westminster, which is always at Madison Square Garden, its location changes each year. (Next year it’s in Orlando.)
So this huge dog show just happens to be in Southern California on the one day we have free, when we’re looking for a breeder, and it’s the day the Cardigans are being judged. Again, what are the odds?
I would like to attribute all this to an angel doggy in heaven who’s helping me move on. I really don’t know. But it’s a nice thought.
I’ve wanted to go to a dog show ever since I fell for the breed almost 15 years ago. Dan could see how excited I was; so, being a good sport, he got us to Long Beach that Sunday in plenty of time to see the little Cardis in the show ring.
I expected to have a great time, and I did. But I was not prepared for what happened that day. Stay tuned… I’ll tell you the rest of the story on Sunday.

"The corgi with a tail" - Cardigans on parade!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened.

I'm really glad I wrote the previous entry when I did. Nathan let me know it was time on November 15th, and I was kissing his sweet head when he drew his last, peaceful doggy breath. Up until the last day, he was smiling and shadowing me, if slowly and with extra effort. In fact, he was like that until the last few hours.

Thanks for the good times, old man.

The kids were going to their dad's that night, and I let them know Nathan was probably not going to make it. So they were able to say their goodbyes, and I was able to be the grownup and make the decision to help him before he was suffering too much. Outside the vet's office, I sat with him in the car an extra moment, listening to the sublime irony of R.E.M.'s "It's The End Of The World As We Know It" playing on the radio.

My wonderful vet, Dr. Speas, stayed after office hours for us and Dan and I were both there. Anyone who's had to make that decision knows how sad and painful it is. My friends, I will not revisit that scene, because I have cried enough and I know you did too, when it was your time.

Since he's been gone, there have been a number of very interesting and serendipitous events. I'll be writing about them soon. Stay tuned and thanks to all my readers for your compassion and support.

Much love to you all.

(title quote by great American philosopher Dr. Seuss.)

Friday, November 5, 2010

In Praise of the Old Dog

Are you kidding me? Who could resist that face?

Once upon a time, there was a woman who wanted to have a baby. This proved to be a difficult thing, and when the doctors told her they couldn’t figure it out, she said to her husband:

“Well, if we can’t have a baby, can we at least get a dog?”

So with the same fervor she had once reserved for studying fertility books, she set about researching dog breeds. They wanted a big dog – her husband wanted a Boxer – but they had a small yard. One day, as she pored over her dog books, the little Corgi caught her eye.

But not the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, the more popular tan-and-white fluffball with no tail, the Queen’s dog of choice. No, she noticed the lesser-known Cardigan Welsh Corgi: larger than the Pembroke, in more colors, and sporting a splendid brush of a tail. Hm, she thought, this is a dog who thinks he is big, but has little stubby legs. Just right for our yard.

There happened to be a Cardigan breeder in a nearby town, so the man and the woman went out for a visit. As soon as she saw the sweet smiley-faced big-eared dogs, she was in love. And so, not too much later, they found themselves matched up with a little brindle boy of their very own.

They named him Nathan Junior, after her favorite movie, Raising Arizona. Nathan Junior is the name of the baby stolen by Hi and Ed when they could not have one of their own. So the name was ripe with meaning.

They loved their little Nathan Junior. He was sweet and happy and made them laugh. He came with them to parties, and their friends fawned over him, because he just had something special. People had never seen a dog quite like him: a long stout body, but with short legs and big feet, giant bat-ears crowning his head, and that thick sweep of a tail. Nathan was a show-quality dog, brindle-brown with a white ruff and beautiful symmetrical markings on his face. But they didn’t show him; he was their devoted pet.

The woman was very happy with her new companion. And then – when Nathan was just about to graduate from puppy kindergarten – she found out she was pregnant.

Now fast forward 14 years. Nathan has been by her side through not just one but three babies, all of whom he treated with patience and love. Nathan moved with the family to California, where after a time the woman and her husband divorced, and his unfaltering devotion and happy doggy smile helped her and the kids get through it. He was loved, inexplicably and for all her life, by a black cat named Alabama, until she died last August. He now has a vivacious two-year-old rescue mutt named Clementine as his constant companion.

Nathan is old now. He's hard of hearing and has cataracts. He barks a little too loudly, as if to say, “I’m still here… right?” The beautiful symmetrical markings on his face are spotted with grey hairs. The damp, leathery surface of his nose has spots that are hardened and dry.

Recently he has developed a pronounced head-tilt, which the vet says is a sign of neurological damage: maybe a stroke, a tumor, or just old age. He looks at the woman with his head cocked to almost 90 degrees. Sometimes his tongue lolls out of the side of his mouth. He can’t always get those stubby back legs underneath him without help, so sometimes he pulls himself around with his front legs, cheerfully, like it’s no big deal that he's dragging his butt. He still asks to go outside and can walk, with help, to do his business.

Now that he’s old, he sleeps a lot, but always in the room she is in. If she leaves the room for more than a few minutes, he struggles to his feet to find her. “Oh Nathan,” she coos, “you’re my little shadow. Come on, let’s go lie down in here,” and she strokes his graying hair and kisses his big ears.

And he sleeps.

The woman doesn’t know how many more days or weeks or months she will be able to look up from her writing and see him snoozing across the room. She cares for him as if he’s a beloved grandpa in hospice care. She spends extra moments beside him rubbing his tummy and thinks about the years they’ve had. She is not the same woman who cuddled a brindle pup near a whelping pad at the breeder’s home: she has lived through the bliss of her babies’ birth and the heartache of a failed marriage; moved across the country and started her life completely over, watching her fortunes rise and tumble; lost old friends and found new ones; helped her children grow into young vibrant human beings; and even found a new love.

And every day he has been there, the big-eared smiley-faced dog, wanting nothing more than her presence and a good meal and the occasional cookie. The thought of losing him lies dormant now in her mind. She knows it is coming, but she's waiting until the very last moment before she must face it. For now, he is comfortable. For now, she wants only to remember what a good dog he has been. So she writes about him now, because she doesn’t want to write after he’s gone.

And he is there, snoozing across the room, one stumpy foot twitching as he chases squirrels in dream land, one giant bat ear to the ceiling. There's an old Irish proverb that says “a dog owns nothing, yet is seldom dissatisfied.”

He owns one thing and always will. He owns my heart completely. I will love you forever, Nathan Junior, the best dog ever.

Cornerstone's Nathan Junior, eight months old, was the star of our Christmas card in 1996. 
You can see why I was so crazy about him. Look at that smile! Look at those mitts!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Class of '80 iMix

Well, I'm not through living in the past just yet. The music at our class reunion came from my own iPod; by popular demand I've published an iMix, and about 3/4ths of the songs are on here. (iTunes won't allow songs from your personal music collection to go on an iMix.) You can buy 'em or just copy the list down.

Here's the link. Boom boom... out go the lights!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Voted Most Fun to Be With

(Note: the following story is COMPLETELY fictional, and all the names have been TOTALLY changed, because why would I – a mature, responsible mother of three – ever admit to engaging in behavior of this sort?)

As the evening of our 30th High School Reunion wore on, Paul would sidle up to one or a few of us and say, “so, ya going tagging with us tonight?” And even though most people scoffed at him and dismissed it as another one of his crackpot ideas, no one really doubted that Paul was going to follow through. That’s just Paul.
He pulled a can of red spray paint out of his car and started shaking it, the look on his face exactly like a hyperactive 8-year-old boy who is conspiring to steal all the cookies – not one cookie, all of them. Late into the night, a group of the curious congregated at one of the plastic patio tables on the outdoor deck.
“Okay. I’m gonna need three lookouts.” Paul grew more animated as he started hatching his elaborate plan. “Dan? You in? Okay, you’re one of my lookouts. Now. Here’s what we do. First we’ll drop the lookouts off and you climb up to the top of the underpass, one on each side. Got it? Okay. Okay. And we’ll need a signal.” He was pacing back and forth as he talked, swinging his arms and gesturing broadly, really putting on a show. “Right. A LOUD signal, you guys, I’m serious. I need to hear you.”
“What happens after you drop off the lookouts?” someone asked.
“Okay. Then we swing around” — he jerked his body in a 180, hands holding an invisible steering wheel – “and when everybody’s in place, I’ll jump out and do the deed. Amie, you’ll keep the car running right there. Then we’ll get the fuck outta there and swing back” – another 180 – “for the lookouts.”
He stuck his head forward as he looked at us, raising his eyebrows, looking for a sign that we understood his plan. He did not get one.
“How many people are we talking about, here?” I asked, trying to figure him out. Which was something I had never succeeded in doing since the day I met him in 9th grade.
“Right.” He started pacing again. “Three lookouts on top. Two on the road, one for each side. Driver. Me. That’s what, eight?”
“Seven. Right.” His pacing grew more energetic, almost a line dance he was doing alone. “Okay. Now, a signal. It’s got to be loud, people! Loud!” And with that he cupped his hand alongside his mouth and looked off into the distance, yowling in a booming, high-pitched voice,
He looked back at us with that raised eyebrow again, and as a group, we collapsed in laughter. Which is, of course, Paul’s drug of choice. So he raised his hand again.
“GookgookgookGOOOOOP! GoopityGOOOP!”
The people at the other end of the patio, fifty feet away, turned to look at this 48-year-old man in an oversized tie-dyed t-shirt, hopping around like a loopy bird doing a twisted mating call. I had tears squeezing out of the corners of my eyes and bent over to try to stop laughing.
“Paul the goop-goop bird,” deadpanned Brian, sitting next to me.
“An exotic, endangered species native to West Chester, Ohio!” I sputtered.
One of the nominated lookouts told Paul there was no way he was going to yell goopity goop from the top of the West Chester Road underpass at 2 in the morning. There was agreement that the plan would have to be modified.
And so after way too much discussion, during which every single one of us wondered “would Paul notice if we just got in our car and snuck off?”, the hooligans were narrowed down to five. I was among them.
As we got ready to leave the bar, I noticed Paul had gone missing. When he returned to go over the plan, his eyes were pink.
“You’ve been smoking weed,” I said.
His Rodney Dangerfield eyes widened in mock surprise. He paused and then said, “Why on earth would you say that?”
“Because you smell like weed.”
“Oh. Well, there’s that.”
We left a small group of intrigued classmates, along with Dan, my husband, in the parking lot of the nearby Waffle House. Amie was driving, her husband Tom in front. He, along with Cam, would be the lookouts. Paul would commit the actual crime. I had the camera to document the action.
All the way there we made cracks about who would post bail if the West Chester cops came along. We even passed one on the road, so we knew they were out. As the others made jokes about a bunch of almost-fifty-year-olds getting arrested, I wondered what on earth had possessed me to come along on another one of Paul’s crazy batshit schemes, 30 years after we had graduated together. 
But that was Paul. He had always been the guy who made everyone laugh. Senior year he was voted Most Fun To Be With, probably unanimously. We were drama geeks together; sophomore year, we put on a home-grown production of “M*A*S*H”, based on the television show. Paul was the only guy who offered to play Klinger, earning him the nickname Man In A Dress for the rest of his high school career. He would drive us around in his Big Blue Boat and yell “Baja!” and swerve up onto the dirt, laughing maniacally. He became so close with my family, my mom used to call him her third son. He was like a brother to me; the little devil that sat on my shoulder and easily, confidently pushed me out of the box.
And now here we were 30 years later, me and my emotionally stunted third brother, about to perform a misdemeanor crime at the old underpass where high school kids in our hometown have been making their mark for decades.

Meanwhile back at the Waffle House, a couple of drunks pushed each other out of the door, threatening to really fuck each other up. Another guy moseyed over to Dan and Brian and introduced himself. There are two kinds of people in a Waffle House after the bars close: drunk and fighting, or drunk and friendly.
“I just ordered a giant potpourri of food in there, man,” said the drunk guy.
Brian considered the statement for a moment and decided to go ahead and take him on. “Well, you know, the word ‘potpourri’ generally refers to perfume or scented dried flowers.”
The drunk guy looked taken aback. Dan added, “I think the word you’re looking for is ‘cornucopia’.”
Drunk Guy brightened immediately. “Yeah, that’s it!” he said, and went back inside to enjoy his cornucopia of two a.m. eggs and pancakes.

There were no cars to be seen on West Chester Road. Amie pulled up right inside the tunnel and Paul yelled “go! go! go!” and we tumbled out.
Cam took the front and Tom took the back. I had the camera ready to go and as Paul got to work, I snapped away.
C. (Snap.)
L. A. S. (Snap.)
“Car!” yelled Cam.
“Back in the car! Back in the car!” Paul hollered, and ran for the back seat.
“Where’s Cam?”
“I don’t know. Go! Go!” Tom and I piled in and Amie took off. The oncoming car had caught up to us by then and she pulled down a side street, turned around and went back, all of us hooting at the adrenaline rush.
Back in the tunnel we yelled for Cam, who had jumped into the bushes when the car came, and Paul shook the can.
I snapped away as he sprayed a huge 80 on the left side of his writing. As soon as he was done he ran for the car. Tom and I jumped in and we both said to him,
80 CLASS OF WAS HERE? Why’d you do it like that?”
Cam hopped in and we sped off, Paul’s bizarre choice of graffiti layout left behind us. Elated and relieved, we joined our comrades in the Waffle House parking lot, shouting victory and showing the photos of the deed in progress. The five of us posed for pictures and were almost immediately exposed as criminals on Facebook via Paul’s Blackberry.
Two days later, I was safely on a plane back to the west coast. I nestled into my travel pillow and closed my eyes while Dan flipped through a magazine next to me. At the other end of the flight, my everyday life waited for me: three kids, two dogs, a too-small house, the new school year and the PTA. But at that moment, I was a fugitive from the law; seventeen again, with tales to tell of friendships old and new, bars we closed down, fireworks and riverboats. So many new memories.
You could even call it a cornucopia. 

This is a totally photoshopped image of a person who does not really exist, in front of a fictional work of vandalism. Really.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Happy Talk

If you ask me, there's been a little too much discord out there lately. I’ve gotten into a few too many ideological debates on Facebook (okay, even one is too many for me, really, gives me such a headache). I’ve recently received two "chain" e-mails on subjects that raise my hackles, from people who either don’t know me very well or don’t care if it raises my hackles. In the news today, there was yet another story of suicide bombers killing American soldiers, another billboard somewhere comparing Obama to Stalin and Hitler, and oh my gosh, don’t forget the oil spill in the Gulf. On top of that, it was 103 degrees in Burbank today as I ran my usual errands. And that got me to thinking.

How do we not go crazy train these days?

So here's what I did. In a fit of defiance against the barrage of bad stuff, I started thinking about the little things that make my life happy. And it’s my blog so I’m writing it all down and perhaps you, dear reader, will start to think about the good things in your life. And so, in no particular order, these are some things that make me happy:

  Morning coffee from my French press. I’m serious, it’s the best way to make coffee. You should get one.

  Playing peek-a-boo with other people’s babies in stores and restaurants. Especially if the parents aren’t looking. I have no qualms about making goofy faces in public, as long as it makes a baby smile.

  Watching Dan fall asleep on the couch while we’re watching television. He’s just so darn cute. And then he wakes up with a start and says, “I’m a little tired!” like this is news. So darn cute.

  Listening to the Classic Rewind channel on Sirius radio in my car (channel 15). I'm listening to David Lee Roth do that wild shriek in “Running With The Devil”, which transports me in time to the back of the bus in high school, where that cute but slightly dangerous senior blasted it from a tape deck. Oh, heavens, he looked just like that stoner dude Dawson from Dazed and Confused (green shirt, below). He never knew I had a crush on him. Since now I can’t even remember his name, I guess he never will.

 All right, check ya later!

  Related: Dazed and Confused. And Grosse Pointe Blank, and The Big Lebowski, and Raising Arizona. Among some others. I like the funny movies.

  Picking up my daughters from camp or school and Claire leaps into my arms, not caring that I now have a 48-year-old lower back. And I don’t care either. (Until later.)

  The hummingbirds at the feeder outside my kitchen window.

  A cool California evening spent on the back porch with the fountain on, sharing a glass of good red wine with my neighbor Irene. Or maybe one of her killer raspberry martinis. (But only one.)

  Spending time with my new friends in the We Don’t Suck writing group. Because they are smart and talented and they think I am too. Which is awesome.

  Sweet potato fries. Dipped in ranch dressing.

  Reconnecting with a couple of old friends on Facebook. Especially Karen, who sent me some Skyline Chili. If you are not from Cincinnati, I’m sorry, you will not get what a big deal that is.
  Speaking of Cincinnati: oh, how happy I am when the Bengals win! This, of course, is tempered by the frequency of their losses. But that’s another blog post.

  Related: I love football. American football.

  Related: Dhani Tackles the Globe on the Travel Channel. Best show on television. (That's super hunky Dhani over there.)
  AirTalk with Larry Mantle on KPCC. Especially FilmWeek on Fridays at 11 a.m. He is the smartest guy on the radio and he talks about everything and has fascinating guests. And it’s usually not politics, but if it is, he is Switzerland, if you know what I mean. You can listen online at kpcc.org or on iTunes radio.

  Sedona, Arizona. My favorite place. Especially hiking the Red Rocks with Dan.

  Related: Dry saunas.

  Volunteering in the girls’ classrooms, teaching them art through the Meet the Masters program. At the end of this past year, I received a big thank you note signed by the second graders. Kate wrote: I like you a lot. Seriously, does it get any better than that?

  Shopping at Von’s and having my stuff rung up by Aaron, who babysits my kids. He is working his way through UCLA – working his ass off – and he is smart and kind and hard-working. Basically, the kind of young person who gives me hope for the future. So it’s always nice to see him. He always asks me how the kids are doing.

  I love it when my son Charlie, who is 13 and pretty much wants nothing to do with me, comes out of his cave to tell me something funny that happened. He has a great smile, that kid.

  I also love hearing him play the piano. And watching him. Makes my heart want to burst.

  Okay, I’ll say it: I love it when the kids are with their dad for a whole week in the summer, so I can be totally self-absorbed and go shopping, and then do the annual clean-and-purge in the girls’ room. (Yes, seriously, I look forward to that. Go figure.) They have gotten into the habit of asking me, before they go to their dad’s, “what are you going to do to our room?” because one time I painted in there, one wall in bright turquoise, moved the furniture and replaced the nasty carpet, all in one week. Mostly, though, I just throw stuff out, which they don’t notice.

   Wimbledon. I love to watch good-looking men in tennis whites. (Or even out of their tennis whites. Oh, Rafa...) So sue me.

  Office supplies make me happy. That’s weird. Also school supplies and new candles.

  Wedding shows on TV. I want to work at Kleinfeld’s with Randy Fenoli. Or be David Tutera’s assistant.

  Getting an idea for something I want to write about, then rushing home to write it, sitting on the couch with little dog Clem curled up next to me. Like right now.

I could keep going, but I only gave myself one hour to write down as many happy things as I could (and a little more time to find some pictures of the really hot ones). (Sorry, I didn't have a photo of Dan falling asleep.) Now it's your turn to write your own list. Better still, share with me in the comments section below. Please?

It will make me so happy if you do.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Things I want to know, but probably never will.

I want to know why oil companies aren’t required to have emergency shut-off mechanisms in offshore oil rigs. I am required by my insurance company to have an emergency shut-off earthquake valve on my home’s gas line. Seems like the scope of the prospective disaster should dictate the scope of preventive measures, right? Here’s a hint: the company in charge of Deepwater Horizon “objected in 2000 to a proposed requirement to use blind-shear rams, a type of blowout preventer which seals out-of-control oil wells by pinching off the pipe.” Their excuse? The rate of accidents was “approaching zero”. (Read more here.) Approaching.

I want to know why BP didn’t get out there THE INSTANT that oil rig blew to stanch the flow of spilled oil.

I want to know how many times BP can be responsible for spilling oil and killing workers without somebody going to jail. 2005: 15 dead, 170 injured in Texas. 2006: 267,000 gallons spilled in Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay, after ignoring warnings to check the pipeline for FOUR YEARS. Just an example.

I want to know what BP is going to do to compensate the fishermen and tourism industry for their loss of income. What are they going to do about the devastation to the ecosystem? I want to know how you put a number on the economic destruction this event has created. Did you know that BP has generously (sarcasm) offered Gulf Coast residents a $5000 payoff if they promise not to sue? Five grand? Really? From a company that earned over 70 BILLION dollars in revenue in the first quarter of 2010 alone?

I want to know if Sarah Palin and her “drill baby drill” cohorts have got their waders on yet. No, of course not. Sarah’s response to the disaster? Blame foreign oil companies. Yeah. That really helps with the clean up.

I want to know where the environmental groups are. I support Greenpeace, but I’d sure like to see them helping out instead of being indignant.

I want to know why some people are calling this “Obama’s Katrina”. How is the negligence of a money-grubbing oil corporation in the same category as negligence by Bush’s administration? Answer: it’s not. So, why, Rush?

And while I’m at it, what kind of person would actually posit that President Obama is happy about the death and destruction so he can now cancel his offshore drilling plans? Or that the explosion was the result of an evil plot by "hardcore environmentalist wackos"? Oh yeah… Rush again.

Most of all, I want to know how many people have to die (coal miners, oil rig workers, Americans with no health care), and how many people have to go bankrupt because of unscrupulous financial institutions, before Americans will realize that the unfettered greed of unregulated free-market capitalism will utterly and completely destroy this country. I’m all for responsible capitalism. I want to know what happened to the “responsible” part.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Clutter Busting

Trying to get my ducks in a row...

My first “real” job out of college was at an office supply company. This was in the mid-80s, before the days of mega office supply stores. Businesses would order their paper clips and Scotch tape and copier paper from the Boise-Cascade catalog, call it in to me, and we would deliver it the next day. It was billed if they were good customers, COD if they were not.
I grew fascinated by the seemingly endless array of doodads needed to make an office run smoothly. Clean plastic stacking shelves in so many colors. Pristine manila file folders, identified with color-coded, neatly typed labels, resting primly in proper green hanging folders inside 3-drawer, 5-drawer, or credenza style file cabinets. The huge variety of pencil cups, some with matching desk protectors. Cases and cases of 24-pin computer paper (remember dot-matrix printers? anybody?), legal or letter size.
One winter some co-workers and I earned extra money by meticulously labeling hundreds and hundreds of new file folders for a doctor’s office. They were changing to the system that’s the norm today: the first two letters of the patient’s last name on large colorful labels, with a separate sticker for the whole name. We sat in the cold warehouse with fingerless gloves and created an ordered world.
Ah, the promise of an ordered world. Now here I am, twenty some-odd years later, and I’ve just purchased yet another magazine which has filled my foolish heart with hope and desire:
“Secrets of Getting Organized!”
Oh, yes. To crack that code. Like the office supply catalog of yore, how I love the promise in those magazines: the photos of mudrooms and home offices, the memo boards decorated in rickrack, the kitchen chalkboards with “Timmy’s soccer game 9 am” written in a delicate hand. Little white wicker baskets, neatly labeled, hold the children’s SHOES, TRAINS, LEGOS. I’m not kidding, I get misty-eyed with the notion that my own home could somehow be like this.
Ask me how many books I have (in a box in the garage) on the subject of organizing. Hmmm, let’s see if I can remember. Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat? Organizing From The Inside Out. The Family Manager’s Everyday Survival Guide. (Okay, that one’s inside the house. Somewhere.) Now let’s look in the basket for magazines! Oh wait… I have to pull the dog toys out first… there you go. Storage Solutions. Better Homes and Gardens: get organized! 50+ ways to pare down, cut clutter, store more. Hey look, here’s an Oprah magazine from 2007.
Looking around the living room, where I do my writing, there is a basket of un-paired clean socks on the coffee table in front of me. Stacks of kid art poke out of the basket for the dog toys. (Oh yeah… that’s where they go.) My daughters’ laundry waits to be folded; in the meantime it rests on the back of the big chair. The Swiffer broom is, for some reason, on top of the dining room table.
Look, I’m busy, right? Who isn’t? Three kids, two dogs, and a tiny house. I’m exhausted the minute I walk in the door: it’s like there’s a vortex of disarray, threatening to suck me down in it, and I swim against its current madly and ineffectually. Last Christmas, when the kids were at their dad’s for a week, I spent the whole time cleaning and organizing the girls’ room. It’s April and you’d never know it. The cute little wicker baskets are in there; they just lie in the middle of the floor serving as houses for stuffed toys. The color-coded hangers are on the floor of the closet. The milk crate for Emma’s shoes is now a mini-bookcase that she keeps on her top bunk permanently. The shoes? Floor of the closet. Or in Claire’s milk crate. The toy chest just for dress-up clothes is now home to every Littlest Pet Shop playset that Target has to offer. Dress-up clothes?
Floor of the closet.
The girls really don’t care. They’re happy. My husband gets by, as long as the kitchen is navigable. My soon-to-be-teen son: haven’t seen him. He’s in his room until graduation, I guess.
But I continue to dream, because you have to have a dream to make it come true, right? If I just had the right baskets… if I just had those little color-coded thumbtacks…
So the lure of the Get Organized scam continues. Not long ago, I cruised the aisles of The Container Store, almost orgasmic at the possibilities. Oh, the sugar and flour canisters... a whole wall of them…
Somebody get me a cart.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Thunder only happens when it's raining...

The mudslides destroyed this home in La CaƱada Flintridge. (photo, Glendale News-Press)

The sudden rumbling took me by surprise. I peered out of my car's front window, squinted through the rain, and said out loud, "is that thunder?"

See, we don't get many thunderstorms in Southern California. When I lived in Orlando, thunderstorms were almost a daily occurrence during the summer, and I loved to sit on my back porch and watch them. Spectacular events, they were: sonic booms that would rattle the windows, jagged shocks of lightning, and thunder cracks so dramatic that you'd swear a tree just landed in front of you. But here, the thunder is more sedate. Plus, you have to worry that it might be something else, like an earthquake or a mudslide.

So I had to double check the thunder. And it makes me think (although this is certainly not a scientifically proven fact) that this new rainstorm is going to wreak even more havoc.

You see, four days ago, Mother Nature caught us all offguard. The initial rains a couple of weeks ago had those of us in "the burn areas" prepared for the worst, and the worst never came. So when another rain was predicted for overnight Friday, everyone figured it would be no big deal.

Everyone was wrong.

For a number of homeowners about two miles from me, the worst case scenario came true. Rivers of mud, sidetracked by a boulder the size of a Volkswagen blocking the catch basin, barreled down their street and into their homes. Several homes were destroyed, many others suffered extensive damage. Cars left parked on the street were swept downhill and into the cement k-rails, which were no match for the mud. In some cases it flowed as high as the running boards of big SUVs.

It happened so fast and so unexpectedly; and unfortunately for the TV stations it was news on a Saturday morning. They scrambled to get reporters to the site, but only ABC-7 had the freedom in their programming to devote the whole afternoon to the story. And you know what that means.

I was glued to my television.

Later, I was able to pull myself away from the interviews with distraught homeowners and geological experts, and my stepson Sam and I went to the grocery store for Super Bowl supplies. The cel phone rang in the produce section; it was my Dad calling from Florida. "We're fine, no mud where we are," I said by way of answering the phone, and he laughed. Five minutes later I got a text from a friend up in Newhall, making sure we were okay. Sam, who lives out in Ventura County, didn't know what to think of it all, so I drove him up my street to show him the barren hillsides and to see if there was any damage there.

Where the fire devoured the earth, skeletons of trees reach up like claws from the dirt. "Dave should come up here and take pictures of this," I said, referring to Sam's brother, an accomplished photographer who is especially gifted at shooting landscapes. The rain had pushed some decent sized rocks and a bit of mud into the streets, but nothing newsworthy. We drove back down through a residential street, where an L.A. County Sheriff's car was parked across the road. The deputy motioned for me to roll my window down.

"We just need to let you know, if you leave this area, you won't be allowed back in. We're starting evacuations," she said politely.

I nodded and said, "that's okay, thanks," and we headed back home to make dinner.

Now it's Tuesday, and a new storm is rolling in. They're saying another two inches of rain could fall. And the evacuation orders, issued last night, went into effect at ten this morning. It's raining steadily outside; I have to pick my girls up from school in about an hour, and we're going to have popcorn and hot chocolate. I'll probably get on Facebook and compare notes with my friends back East who are dealing with the massive snowfall.

I'll be listening for more thunder and of course watching ABC-7. Sorry girls, you'll have to watch the TV in your own room. Mother Nature demands my attention.