Sunday, November 30, 2008


We awoke this morning to find this lovely message left on our fence. The police officer said this was at least the seventh report of gang graffiti over the weekend.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Alley oops

Let’s just say bowling is not my game. Ben’s mom bought him a ball for his birthday, (the Earth ball, above), and we finally got around to trying it out today. I bowled a 48, followed by a 46. Yeah. The sheer number of gutter balls was staggering. Plus, I use a neon pink kid ball with a T Rex on it. Glad I’m not easily embarrassed.

I think my dismal performance may have been due to leftover soreness from playing Wii on Thursday. Yes, I am pathetic.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Music video flashback, pt 2

I may have watched more MTV in 1989 than any other year. Highlights for me included “Like a Prayer” and “We Didn't Start the Fire,” but Prince’s “Batdance” figures heavily in my memories. Let me warn you: This is a complete piece of crap. It’s shockingly bad, even for Prince, whose sense of good taste is always in question. But watching this transports me right back to my friend Jennifer’s basement rec room, with the wood paneling and leather sectional and endless hours of MTV, back when MTV played music.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankful today

My mother’s laughter; fresh linen and embroidery floss; food that makes me go “mmmmmm”; house/home/husband; red sneakers; love notes; President-elect Obama; sleeping in; J Crew sweaters; furry little dogs; reruns of “House”; flannel sheets; joyful, fulfilling love.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Lamest duck

Joe Klein has summed up my feelings about President Bush.

While you're over at TIME, check out this collection of LIFE Magazine's classic photos. Fun.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I love this guy

OK, I know he chewed up my shoes last week. But when you've worked from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., it's really nice to have a warm, furry, blond boy to snuggle on the couch.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Day 24

My God, isn't November over yet? This is getting ridiculous.

An update: I finally watered my plants last Thursday. Kudos to me for only letting them die a little bit.

A celebration: I filled up my car with gas today for $21. Awesome.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Friday, November 21, 2008

Peace out

The election is over, I know. But I just saw this, and I still think it's worth sharing.

You can read the story here.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Family time

Saturday is my sister Tracie’s birthday, so my mom, my aunt Sue and my sisters went out to lunch yesterday. The W-loving birthday girl made only one disparaging remark about Obama, which was plenty, but not more than I could successfully ignore. (She insinuated that everyone would be on welfare under his leadership. Out in the parking lot, my mom grabbed my arm and said, “Did you HEAR what she said about Obama?! HE’S not the one who got us into this mess!” My mom, the big liberal. Hehe)

My relationship with my sisters has definitely been tested the past few months. I really can’t imagine why they keep sending me all kinds of cringe-inducing religious e-mail forwards -- despite the fact that none of them go to church. I just delete them, usually after no more than a passing glance. But I couldn’t ignore it when I received the “Obama is the Anti-Christ” e-mail. It wasn’t a particularly brave response -- I just said the e-mail was false and included a link to Snopes -- but it was something. Maybe it kept them from forwarding any other hysterical racist smears. Still, it made me want to yell, just like at lunch yesterday, and sometimes I wonder whether I keep quiet too much in the interest of keeping the peace.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Variations on a theme

First I’m nearly poisoned by noxious roofing tar fumes, then my stupid dog chews up my favorite shoes.

This morning, I filled my big travel mug with the rest of the coffee, topped it off with milk ... and then discovered the milk was curdled. Horrifying white chunks floating in my delicious coffee.

I’m going to rename this blog “Poop on my parade.”

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

His terrible 2’s

Oscar has given me a reason to buy new shoes:

Also, it took me two weeks to burn through that bag of fun-size Twix. Is that good pacing?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Tar wars

City Hall is getting a new roof -- has been for the past four workdays -- and I'm being slowly asphyxiated by the fumes. The noxious smell threatened to ruin my morning coffee, and I've spent the rest of the day slightly nauseated and woozy. Google has revealed that huffing roof tar is no big deal, so there goes my workers' comp jackpot. I'll be fine as soon as the fresh air returns. In the meantime, my productivity is in the tank. I'll bet they didn't figure that into the cost of the roof.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Advice from Mom

(inspired by Mighty Girl)

Smile. People will think you're a nice girl.

Never let your car get below a quarter-tank.

Shoes have to be real leather. The fake ones will make your feet stink.

Kids are jerks.

Be careful, because like can turn to love real quick.

Wouldn't you rather have a steak?

At least make an appearance.

Never go out with wet hair. You'll catch pneumonia.

Men are just like that.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Dear Oscar

Today is Oscar's birthday. He's 2.

Friday, November 14, 2008


I saw Oliver Stone's "W." last week, and I keep thinking about it every time I see a news photo of George Bush. It's sometimes confusing to remember what was the movie and what is the real president.

As movies go, it wasn't great. It was fairly boring in the middle, during W's young adulthood as a perpetual screw-up and drunk. The portrayals of Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell and Tony Blair bordered on caricature. It was also full of expository dialogue and unnecessary repeating of characters' names, as though the movie were made for people who weren't really paying attention in 2002.

The movie goes pretty easy on George, painting him as just a dumb frat boy forever trying to win his father's respect. And also extremely self-centered and lazy and over-confident. Which, I grant, is not exactly what you want in a president, but it's still a more sympathetic picture than Bush deserves. In the end, I felt kind of sorry for him, which just feels wrong.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Healthy and sassy

The state health foundation conducts a phone survey with my mom:

Interviewer: Are you active?

Mom: Just watching the grandkids. And ugh, they're about to have another one.

Interviewer: How often do you go to the doctor?

Mom: I try to avoid it.

Interviewer: When was the last time you went to the dentist?

Mom: Uh, I don't think Medicare covers that.

Interviewer: When was the last time you had a pap smear?

Mom: Well, you don't have to have pap smears if you don't have sex.

Interviewer: You're funny.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Rarrrr! (I’m a Lion)

After months of cajoling by a work acquaintance, I finally gave in and joined the Lions Club.

It was a moment of weakness. It’s not like I don’t have enough to do, enough meetings to go to. And it’s not like this is really my kind of thing, with all the socializing and community involvement and so forth.

But I know and enjoy several of the members, and community involvement is good for my job, and the meetings are over lunch, and the Lions do some good charitable work, and I couldn’t think of a good excuse. And so, I’m a Lion.

The Lions are extremely corny. The lion puns are everywhere: the Lion Tale, the Lion’s Roar, the Tail Twister. They address each other as Lion Dan and Lion Carrie and Lion Kevin. When they call the roll, they say, “Proud to be a Lion.” When they take a vote, they say “Rarrrrrrr!” for yay and “Meow” for nay.

Yeah, not really my kind of thing. And yet today I took the Lion oath to support the mission of the club and contribute my fair share to its efforts. I’ll be ignoring the puns for right now.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Monday, November 10, 2008

A nice offer for a Monday afternoon

I was on the phone with the fire chief this afternoon, and I was trying to ask if he wanted me to put him on hold. Instead, I said, "Do you want me to hold you?" He said, "Do I want you to ... what?"

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Music video flashback

Cher in 1989. “If I Could Turn Back Time,” featuring a ship full of sailors and Cher in a bizarre fishnet ensemble. I remember MTV only played this video after 9 p.m. because of her ass cheeks. It was deliciously scandalous for 10-year-old me.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

I need houseplant therapy

Several of my plants appear to be dying. This could be because I haven’t watered them in a few weeks. Which makes me think: Why haven’t I? I walk past these plants several times a day, and I often think to myself that they need water, that they’re on the verge of death. But I do nothing about it. Even now, I’m writing about watering them rather than doing it.

I really do care about my plants. I like them a lot. I think plants add texture and life to a room. I used to be so obsessed with them that I could hardly get out of Target without bringing home a new variety. Maybe it was that overkill that brought me to my current state.

So I want the plants to live, I know the plants need water, and yet I don’t water them. Is this a mental disorder?

Friday, November 7, 2008

The British are coming!

Since the election, I’ve heard a lot of people talking about renewed pride in their country. That reminded me -- I’ve never been a sucker for patriotic emotion, but there is one patriotic song that’s been known to choke me up for some reason: Schoolhouse Rock’s “Shot Heard ’Round the World.” Go figure.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I love it

I love that Barack Obama is going to be our next president. I love that children in America are going to grow up seeing a black family in the White House, a black man leading the nation. I’m really excited about the prospect of this presidency, the impact it will have on the U.S. and the world. A woman should be next. (But not Sarah Palin.)

But still, it wasn’t all roses last night. Two more states voted to ban same-sex marriages, and California’s Prop 8 is still undecided. And Arkansas passed a measure banning gay couples from adopting or becoming foster parents. How despicable.

That news is fucking depressing, so I’m trying not to think about it. I’m trying to focus on the change that’s coming, this defining moment in our history. As Arianna Huffington wrote last night, “tonight’s outcome is a declaration that we are once again a nation more driven by hope and promise than a nation driven by fear.” And I love that.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The big day

And I’ve never been so jazzed about it. Even though I’m voting in solidly red Kansas, I felt really excited to cast my presidential vote. For the first time ever, I feel pretty confident that the best candidate will win the day. A very conservative acquaintance of mine predicted over coffee this afternoon that the race would go late into the night. I’m thinking this was wishful thinking on his part, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed this evening anyway.

Monday, November 3, 2008


How is it possible that three days after Halloween all the half-price candy is gone? A rack of candy corn and a few wrinkly Peeps ghosts are all that’s left? I’m sorely disappointed in the store’s restraint in stocking Halloween candy.

I just encountered my first douchebag buyer on eBay, and I really could’ve used a fun-size Whoppers.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Hope triumphs

Samuel Johnson supposedly said that a second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience. I feel the same way every time I plant a bush.

A long series of bushes and shrubs have bought the farm at my house, beginning with two barberry bushes in 2005. The only things I’ve been able to keep alive are a bunch of boring boxwoods. This time I’m taking a chance on two moonshadow euonymus. Godspeed, little bushes.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A story by my mom's cousin Diane

(You'll have to imagine her two-packs-a-day voice and intermittent cackling.)

Hey, Joyce! Do you remember that time when I called you wanting to borrow some toilet paper? Do you remember that? Bob had to go to the bathroom, and we were out of toilet paper, so I called Joyce and asked her if I could borrow some from her. And she said, “Sure.” So I went over to Joyce’s, and she had just made some of those goddamn brownies. And she says, “Hey, do you want to have a brownie?” So I sit down and have a brownie, and we get to talking ... and pretty soon I realize, oh shit! Bob is at home on the toilet waiting on me to get the toilet paper!

So I rush home and tiptoe in -- and do you know Bob was sitting in there ASLEEP on the toilet! He was SLEEPING right there on the toilet! So I set down the toilet paper and go in the bedroom, real quietly, and put on my nightgown and get all ready for bed. And then I went in the bathroom -- after I caught my breath -- and I said, “Good God, Bob! Are you going to sit in there all night, or are you going to come to bed?” And he didn't even know I’d been gone all that time!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Rush Limbaugh is a fucking idiot (and he’s not the only one)

Rush Limbaugh’s insistence that Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama was “totally about race” has to be one of the most overtly racist arguments I’ve heard in a long time. Pat Buchanan gets thrown in the racist category, too, along with all the other conservative gasbags making that claim.

Yeah, General Powell probably makes all his decisions based on race. I’m sure it’s what made him spend decades working in the Republican Party in the first place.

And hey assholes, what about the scads of white Republicans who have endorsed Obama? Perhaps they’re all secretly black? Daily Kos has a nice photographic essay on this point.


What I loved most about Colin Powell’s endorsement was what he said about the “Obama is a Muslim” rumors:
I’m also troubled by, not what Sen. McCain says, but what members of the party say, and it is permitted to be said. Such things as: “Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.” Well, the correct answer is he is not a Muslim. He’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian.

But the really right answer is: What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is: No, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some 7-year-old Muslim-American kid believing he or she can be President?
I hear this point surprisingly rarely. Kudos to Powell for making it so well.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Go read this.

Two weeks ago, an 82-year-old Texas woman named Helen wrote a post on her personal blog titled “Sarah Palin is a bitch ... there I said it.” Here's a taste:

“Look. I am going to say what everyone at CNN, CBS, ABC and NBC is thinking but is afraid to say. Governor Palin is a stupid, conniving bitch. And it’s not because she is a strong woman -- I like strong women… worship them… It’s actually the opposite. She is a weak, pathetic woman who thinks big hair, winking, baby talk and self deprecation is somehow becoming of a woman who wants to lead the free world. My god, where is Margaret Thatcher when you need her!”

She’s become a minor celebrity since -- her blog now has more than 320,000 hits. She has continued to post about the election, repeatedly calling “bullshit” on John McCain, referring to Sarah Palin as “Governor Good Hair from the North,” and emphasizing the absolute importance of this election. She’s a goddamn hoot.

Go check her out:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

God bless the toilet

A short break from all the politics to think about one of life's other burning matters.

Let's talk crap
Our frank interview about human waste may horrify you about how the world cleans itself down there.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Scary stuff

Fantastic op-ed piece by Frank Rich: The Terrorist Barack Hussein Obama

And this, from a Palin rally in Pennsylvania:

Monday, October 13, 2008

Pay no attention to reality

“Well, I’m very, very pleased to be cleared of any legal wrongdoingany hint of any kind of unethical activity there. Very pleased to be cleared of any of that…. He did what any – I think — any rational person would do. So, again, nothing to apologize there with Todd’s actions and again very pleased to be cleared of any legal wrongdoing.”

— Sarah Palin


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Campaign 2008

I know I’ve been posting a lot about presidential politics lately, which I understand can get old. It’s unusual for me, too, to be thinking and watching and reading so much about politics, which I’ve always found to be depressing in its divisive sliminess.

This year, though, I’m feeling different. I’m fascinated by it all. I’m engaged. Even four years ago, when I felt very strongly about the presidential election, it didn’t engage me like this one has. Maybe I just hadn’t yet been sufficiently horrified by the Bush administration. Or maybe it’s because of the slate of candidates this year.

I didn’t really pick a favorite in the primaries. I thought Obama and Clinton were both fantastic candidates. It’s a shame, in fact, that they had to run against each other. Seeing candidates out front that you really believe in can make a huge difference.

Then there’s the opposition. I’m so sick of the sneering contempt of John McCain and the know-nothing arrogance of Sarah Palin. I used to have a little respect for McCain, back when he opposed his party on the Bush tax cuts and drilling and especially torture. Now he’s trying to have it both ways: toeing the party line and still claiming the “maverick” label.

But others have said it more eloquently than I can — that’s why I’ve been posting so many links. Please bear with me. My appetite for this stuff is insatiable, and I have to stop myself from linking to every thoughtful analysis and apt comparison I read. I’ll almost be sad when this election season is over.

The Mavericks beg to differ

Who You Callin' a Maverick?
The original mavericks, the Maverick family of Texas, apparently don't take too kindly to John McCain.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

More recommended reading

The Palins' un-American activities
Imagine if the Obamas had hooked up with a violently anti-American group in league with the government of Iran.

Bear facts about John McCain
Despite his lip service to science, the GOP candidate continues to ridicule a major study of America's grizzly bears.

Sarah Palin's museum of trite right-wing tactics: 1980-2008
The face that the McCain/Palin campaign is showing now has one significant benefit: it's a vivid reminder of who has left the country in the state it's in, the way they've done that, and why it is so urgent that, in four weeks, they not just be defeated, but crushed and rendered powerless for a long time.

Ladies' Man
The backslapping, bloviating hero of women's rights.

Rolling Stone on John McCain

Indeed, many leading Republicans who once admired McCain see his recent contortions to appease the GOP base as the undoing of a maverick. "John McCain's ambition overrode his basic character," says Rita Hauser, who served on the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board from 2001 to 2004. But the truth of the matter is that ambition is John McCain's basic character. Seen in the sweep of his seven-decade personal history, his pandering to the right is consistent with the only constant in his life: doing what's best for himself. To put the matter squarely: John McCain is his own special interest.

"John has made a pact with the devil," says Lincoln Chafee, the former GOP senator, who has been appalled at his one-time colleague's readiness to sacrifice principle for power. Chafee and McCain were the only Republicans to vote against the Bush tax cuts. They locked arms in opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. And they worked together in the "Gang of 14," which blocked some of Bush's worst judges from the federal bench.

"On all three — sadly, sadly, sadly — McCain has flip-flopped," Chafee says. And forget all the "Country First" sloganeering, he adds. "McCain is putting himself first. He's putting himself first in blinking neon lights."


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Glenn Greenwald on Sarah Palin

"Sarah Palin's performance in the tiny vignettes of unscripted dialogue in which we've been allowed to see her has been nothing short of frightening ... One of two things is absolutely clear at this point: she is either (a) completely ignorant about the most basic political issues -- a vacant, ill-informed, incurious know-nothing, or (b) aggressively concealing her actual beliefs about these matters because she's petrified of deviating from the simple-minded campaign talking points she's been fed and/or because her actual beliefs are so politically unpalatable, even when taking into account the right-wing extremism that is permitted, even rewarded, in our mainstream. I'm not really sure which is worse, but it doesn't really matter, because with 40 days left before the election, both options are heinous."


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A real peach

My uncle Chuck's wife, Susie, passed away last week. She was funny and sassy and sweet. I'll miss her.

Susie had always been fascinating to me. She had been raised Amish in the little community southwest of Newton. She left that life when she married Chuck but remained very connected to her family there. I remember she said that she and Chuck had to sit at a separate non-Amish table at family gatherings.

Susie also had polio as a child, followed by a couple of botched surgeries as a teenager, and had to wear a leg brace to be able to walk. She had a very pronounced limp, and it took her a little longer to get in and out of cars, but it was never a big deal to her. She raised six kids, did all the cooking and cleaning in her old two-story house, did all the yard work and mowing, and worked in the catalog department at Sears for years. She was always in a good mood.

My parents and I visited Chuck and Susie practically every weekend when I was a kid. I sometimes ventured upstairs to play with their collection of great old toys, but I usually just sat and listened to the adult conversations. My mom and Susie became pretty close over the years. They always called each other "sis." I remember many conversations on the subject of Men, What Are They Good For? (Absolutely Nothing). They bonded as the long-suffering wives of often-selfish Gough men whom they loved in spite of their many flaws. It was a common theme. Also common was the latest gossip about the various "weird" members of the Gough clan, followed by unbridled laughter.

Susie took exceptional pride in her grandkids. She talked about them a lot, and her living room was filled with their photos. I think she was a fabulous grandma.

Susie and Chuck's middle daughter Cindy had gotten pregnant as a teenager and decided to give the baby boy up for adoption. Years later, as an adult, he contacted Cindy and became re-acquainted with the family. When he came out as gay a few years later, his adoptive parents turned him away. Susie was among the first to say he was welcome as a Gough. Hers was not the kind of love that came with restrictions, despite her conservative roots. (I remember her talking fondly about her grandson Scott and his boyfriend, whom she always described as "goooooooooood-lookin'.") Bigotry is often a generational thing, which makes me doubly proud of Aunt Susie. Scott sang a solo at her funeral.

My brother gave the eulogy, as he had at Chuck's funeral 10 years ago. He did a nice job, focusing on what made Susie special and well-loved. He talked about how she loved Coca-Cola and M&Ms and her grandkids and pristine flower beds and her dog, Freckles. He talked about her perfectly infectious laugh.

It was nice to see my dad's sisters and my scads of cousins, whom I sadly only seem to see at funerals. And it was neat to meet Susie's Amish relatives, all dressed alike, with their bonnets and beards. And her coffee klatch of Sears retirees. And her Sunday school class, "The Doers," who made us lunch. Absolutely all of them loved Susie. And so did I.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Talking myself into a blog

So I've got this defunct blog that I'm not sure what to do with. Do I admit that blogging isn't for me and put it out of its misery? Is that better or worse than only posting once a month, if that?

For the past two months, I have purposefully not posted. I even had several ideas for posts recently and just let them die. I had "almost decided" to quit. It basically came down to a few things:

  1. I think maybe about two people read this blog. Why bother spending time typing out my thoughts and anecdotes in a semi-literate way when I could just tell those people directly?

  2. I'm not a born blogger. I tend to agonize over posts for some reason. Perhaps I'm going overboard because I hate the notion that nothing on the Internet needs to edited. Plus, I get blogger's block. A lot. I've tried all the writing prompts that are out there, but that always feels so forced and phony. I just don't find much in my life worth noting, and that makes for a pretty boring blog.

  3. So many people are so much better at it. Fucking EVERYONE has a blog now. And a few of those people are really great at it. They write about their lives or various specific topics with humor and wit and insight, and they take often beautiful photos to go along with it. I feel silly and lame in comparison. Skilled bloggers can take a mundane moment, something I would deem "not worth noting" and turn it into a funny or moving or fascinating story that other people in front of their computers are interested in reading. I admire that. That's what I was going for on this blog in the first place, but I'm not sure I ever really hit it.
But maybe I'm overthinking the whole thing. Maybe it's just a fucking blog and I should just go with the flow. Post when I want, whatever I want. Stop worrying about whether it's "good" or who's going to read it. Yeah, maybe so.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Friday, May 23, 2008


My next-door neighbor, the one with the bed and breakfast, died yesterday. He had cancer and had been sick for the past few weeks. He was 72.

His wife said her kids had been helping her prepare, get things settled. Her son bought her a little electric mower since the gas mower was too heavy for her. I'm sure she'll try to continue her husband's relentless maintenance of their yard and property.

She seems like the type of wife who let her husband handle all the "man jobs" around the house -- yard work, household maintenance, car maintenance, finances. I'm sure that's how things are for most couples of that generation. But it makes me a little worried for her. They had been married for almost 53 years. I can't imagine the emptiness she'll be feeling.

I wonder whether she'll continue to run the bed and breakfast. I imagine the frequent overnight guests, even strangers, might help fill the empty time and space.

I wish I could do something for her. When she told me and my mom about her husband's cancer, we went down to the nursery and bought her some geraniums. She accepted them with typical Mennonite stoicism. Then she planted them outside the living room window, where her husband could see them from his hospice bed.

Their house is full of people right now. They had four sons and 13 grandchildren. But none of them lives in town, so they'll soon clear out. And that's when I'll worry about her. I mean, clearly this is not a woman that I'm close to or that I even know very well. But her sheer proximity makes me feel a certain kinship.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Notes from the road

A few noteworthy sights from recent Kansas travels. Wish I'd gotten pictures ...

  • A personalized tag that said "MILF." Now, according to the Department of Revenue, Kansas statute prohibits "combinations deemed, by the Director of Vehicles, to have a profane, vulgar, lewd, or indecent meaning or connotation." So you won't see any tags in our fine state that say 10INCHDK or FL8ME. Personally, I would find those kind of funny to see out on the highway somewhere, but it's OK. I understand why the state wants decent, G-rated plates. So what about MILF? What does the Director of Vehicles think that means? Monkeys I'd Like to Fight? Maid In a Lovely Frock? Man, I Love Frankfurters! So how did this presumably hot mama slip this one past the meticulously prudish Director of Vehicles?

  • A semi-trailer that said, in 2-foot-high red letters, "Jesus Christ is Lord - not a swear word." Holy shit, I thought. And what is Jesus Christ hauling today? That's all the truck said. Not even a trucking company name. So what, Bibles? Holy water? Sandals?

  • A bumper sticker that said, "I'm only speeding because I really have to poop." The driver of this car was a nondescript 20-something white guy, and he was, in fact, going about 15 mph over the speed limit. And I couldn't help but wonder whether he intended to drive that car to his first job interview. Whether he intended to park it in the lot of his employer and allow his boss and everyone else at the company to associate him with rushing home to poop. But perhaps that prospect sits OK with him.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

New dog in town

This is Oscar. He is a 1-year-old Westie/cairn mix.

Oscar's been living with us for two weeks. Here's what we know so far:

  • He gets along great with Maggie. They started wrestling and chasing each other around the house almost immediately.
  • He loves snow. He wants to roll around and bury his face in it.

  • He chews things. The tally so far is a newspaper, a bunch of mail, two houseplants, a paperback copy of "Into the Wild" and two pairs of shoes.
  • He suffers from "submissive urination." This means that if you scold him for something (like, say, chewing up your shoes), he pees a little. It's like a pathetic little apology. Somehow this does not cause me to be any less upset with him. Especially when I'm scolding him for being on the couch. The sad part is, this behavior probably means he was abused at some point in his life. The peeing is to show the alpha dog (i.e. human) that he is submissive. It's a last-ditch effort to avoid being attacked. I'm hoping he'll grow out of it as he gets more used to us.
  • He eats poop. Ewwww. I know this isn't uncommon among dogs, but this is my first experience with it. I tend not to be too prissy about dog things, but jeez, this dog wants to lick my face. The other day Oscar brought a half-chewed turd into the house and spit it out at my feet. Gosh, thanks.

  • He has a bit of a flatulence problem. (Boy, I'm really painting a lovely picture here, aren't I?) It's not the worst dog farting I've ever experienced, but, uh, it's not the best. I'm sure it'll be cropping up at inopportune and embarrassing times in the future.
So despite the body function issues, he's really super cute and a lot of fun. For instance, this kind of stuff happens several times a day:

Thursday, January 24, 2008

For Charlie

Have you seen this Pedigree commercial? Chokes me up every time.

Almost four years ago, Ben and I walked into the Topeka animal shelter and walked out with a little black mutt we called Charlie. And he was a good dog.

Charlie wasn’t sure about us at first. And I wasn’t too sure about him after he peed all over my house. When he lifted his leg on my new couch, that was it. I shut him in the spare bedroom when I went to work. When Ben got home that night, Charlie had nearly destroyed the bedroom door. Luckily our landlord never noticed. And luckily, Charlie got over the peeing thing.

Charlie never barked before we had Maggie. He made a groaning “arrrr” sound and a low “uh, uh, uh” when he wanted something. Later he would bark anytime Maggie did, even if he had no idea why she was barking.

We noticed right away that he was afraid of everything. Any moving object would take him by surprise and scare the crap out of him. He thought everything was going to hit him. He was also quite bad at predicting people’s movements. If he was in your direct path, he would walk backwards in fright until he hit the wall rather than step aside.

He loved our house in Lawrence. He loved sleeping on the couch when we weren’t looking. He loved roaming the jungle that was our back yard. He loved taking walks around the neighborhood. He loved Lucy, the chocolate Lab who lived next door.

Charlie’s favorite spot in our old house was on the toilet rug in the tiny bathroom. If we ever didn’t know where he was, he was usually on the toilet rug. It was the only time he wasn’t relentlessly following us around.

Just a few days after we got him, I took Charlie to the dog park with Kim and her dogs. We walked around the park, and Charlie mainly stayed on the path with Kim and me, while Mabel and Rupert went gallivanting off in the wilderness. Then, just as we were about to get back in the car, Charlie took off running down the road. I ran after him, shouting his name, which he didn’t know yet. (This was also before we knew he was almost deaf.) He kept on running. Eventually, some very considerate people driving by stopped their car and caught him. We didn’t let him off his leash again until three years later. He stayed right with us. It was Maggie we wound up chasing for 20 minutes.

Charlie didn’t much like the move to Newton. He expressed his feelings by peeing all over the new house, too. He moped, he was agitated. It took him a while to adjust. He did enjoy, however, the almost daily trips to Grandma’s house, which involved not only a car ride but also treats and a huge back yard -- sometimes with dead, stinky things in it. And also Valerie, who adored him. She showed this by hugging and squeezing and petting and patting and dragging him all over the place. He was afraid of her but was endlessly patient and good.

After a few months, we started thinking about getting another dog. Maybe Charlie would feel better, we thought, if he had a little friend around when we weren’t there. Maybe he wouldn’t follow us around so desperately.

So we went out and found Maggie, another little black mutt. And then I felt horribly guilty.

Maggie was a menace. She bossed Charlie around from the first moment. She had to be the first down the stairs, the first to get a treat, the first through every doorway. One day right at first, Ben was petting Charlie and she leaped in and bit Charlie. Charlie walked around the house looking dejected, as if we had ruined his life. It was heartbreaking. Poor Charlie.

And then things settled down. They got used to each other. They still fought for petting, but there was no biting, just jockeying for position. Maggie got Charlie to start playing with her, something Ben and I had never been able to accomplish. And Charlie did stop following us around so pathetically. And he did seem less lonely when we were gone.

They even came to love each other, I think. They ate out of the same bowl, sometimes at the same time. They often slept side by side on their blanket. Charlie, who would leap in the air if one of us stepped on his tail, didn’t bat an eye when Maggie did it.

In September of last year, we took the dogs in for their annual exams. Charlie, who had always weighed between 19 and 20 pounds, was now 15.7 pounds. He also had a tumor in his ear canal.

The next time we brought Charlie in, to get his teeth cleaned and a biopsy, he was 15.1 pounds. The tumor was benign, but then a series of digestive problems began that had me in and out of the vet’s office every few weeks. And Charlie didn’t want to eat. He was less and less interested in food, even his favorites. We fed him several times a day, pleading with him to eat just a few bites. The dog who used to snatch food from our fingers with such gusto now just sniffed indifferently. It was so strange. Charlie seemed otherwise healthy. All his tests came back clear.

Charlie always loved food. And he could be quite sneaky about it. One day I was sitting on the floor eating a bowl of soup and some bread. Charlie waited until I had my bowl in one hand and my drink in the other, then sneaked up and grabbed the bread off my plate. Another time I got up to answer the phone and returned to find him greedily lapping up my White Russian. The only time he ever bit anyone was when I tried to take a tortilla away from him.

But now he was uninterested in canned dog food, and only slightly more interested in people food. We assumed it was related to the digestive problem. So we kept treating that, and Charlie kept refusing to eat. He was getting weaker. The stairs were hard for him. He seemed stiff and unsteady on his feet.

We’d had health scares with Charlie before. He had vestibular disorder a couple of years ago, which caused him to stumble around, vomit and tilt his head to one side. That required a late-night trip to the emergency vet. Then last year he had an intestinal obstruction after swallowing a big piece of rawhide. More vomiting, more trips to the vet. In both cases, Charlie pulled himself through with minimal treatment.

This time, though, nothing seemed to be helping. At his next appointment, Charlie was 13.8 pounds. He was having trouble walking. He couldn’t jump up into the car. He felt bony and emaciated. All his tests were still clear. The next day, he completely stopped eating and drinking.

On Wednesday, Ben took Charlie to K-State. The whole team of vets examined him, giving him X-rays, every blood test, an eye exam, you name it. In the end, they said he might have a thyroid problem, which would explain the lack of appetite, the weakness, the weight loss, and which would be easily treatable with medication. Or he might have something wrong with his brain. We would find out Thursday afternoon.

But K-State didn’t call Thursday. In the meantime, Charlie was worse. He was stumbling in circles, falling to the side. I didn’t want to admit it, but I could see what was coming.

On Friday morning, Charlie couldn’t walk at all. He seemed only half-conscious. We called K-State, and the doctor told us what we already suspected: It was almost certainly a brain tumor. Charlie probably wouldn’t make it through the weekend. We knew we should let him go quickly, without any more suffering.

His little body was so frail and tired. I knew he was ready to go. But it absolutely broke my heart to say goodbye.

Sometimes it seems strange to me that we invite these little furry animals into our homes to live with us. But wow, the love that is given and received is really remarkable. I dearly loved that little guy, and I know he loved us. I miss him so much.

I know that soon we’ll be heading back out to the animal shelters. We’ll never replace our Charlie, but I know there’s another good dog out there for us to love.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Catching up

My, how the blogging ideals of November have passed. The holidays are a busy time, sure, but my slacking has been egregious.

You might think a weekend jaunt to New York City would merit at least a mention on the blog. And hosting my first-ever family Christmas dinner you might think would be noteworthy. But you’d be wrong, apparently. You’ll get neither of those.

One of my Christmas gifts, though, was a new scanner. So now I’m able to go slightly farther back in time to bring you my grandpa (far right) and his siblings, circa 1925:

My dad as a baby with his sister Toby, circa 1931:

My dad on a motorcycle, somewhere in Asia in the 1950s:

And my dad (back row, second from right) and his siblings, circa 1965: