28 July 2009

My Dark Series

I have hit a bad patch and don't feel much like waxing poetic. Today my friend Cecile, who is from France, called it a dark series. That is exactly what I'm going through: a dark series. It sounds like a fantasy trilogy, and it feels a little like that too.

Ian Aspen's Really Good Thinking today was about being grateful. I realized that I've been so tied up with everything that's not working for me right now that I haven't stopped to look at it from the other side: Many things in my life are just fine. Still, it is a bit difficult for me to see it that way at the moment.

Go on over to Ian's blog if you are interested in increasing the quality of your life, reaching out to the world, and decreasing your stress level. I'm taking what he says very seriously, and while pondering it today I realized that I have lost the habit of looking at things from a positive perspective. And that's not the person I want to be.

So I have some work to do on myself. Big surprise.

Thanks, Ian, for the well-considered post you shared today. I'm sure I'm not the only one you've challenged. I'm grateful for how you made me think.

26 July 2009

Blog awards ceremony

Irene at the Green Stone Woman gave me a blog award. It's my first one, and I'm proud of it. Thank you, Irene.

Irene's instructions said to post it on my site with a link back to hers and to give it to 15 deserving bloggers. Well, I would be here all night if I were to try to find 15 awardees, although I know there are so many deserving bloggers out there. If I don't mention you and you want the award for your blog, let me know, or just claim it.

I know Irene will forgive me for not following the rules, because she doesn't follow them either.

The envelope please... a drumroll... and tonight's winners of the One Lovely Blog award are:

Gary at Excelsior
Rose at powdergirl

Don't feel obligated to display or pass along the award unless you feel like it. I just wanted to use this opportunity to mention some blogs that entertain and teach me.

25 July 2009

Birdie and I have a crash

I had a magnificently maddening day yesterday. Herein lies the story of my morning. There is a lot more to tell about the day, but I'd simply go into a coma if I had to tell it all at once.

I got out of bed with a neck ache more powerful than usual, and the day went downhill fast. I was late out the door for work, but I only work 2.2 miles from home, so I didn't worry much. I backed out of the drive and tooled the car in first gear out to Nicholasville Road, where I stepped on the brakes.

There were no brakes. Nothing but a hard pedal that would go nowhere. I stood on it.

Funny how your brain slows everything down when you think you're going to run into five lanes of morning traffic without control of your vehicle. I had time to think of shifting gears, and time to reject that notion on the grounds that there is nowhere down to go from first. I had time to realize that all I had to do was pull the emergency brake hard.

Which I did.

I drive a 17-year-old car, so I expect it to malfunction. Actually, the car holds up her end of the bargain better than I do because I forget to check her fluids and provide new supplies until she coughs or spits, but she cheerfully functions as transportation, book storage, canine wagon, and an extra closet for shoes and jackets. She rarely refuses to give me what I ask. And she has a super charger and a low center of gravity that makes her hug curves like a pro.

I don't own this car. I don't even think that the Woodsman knows she's a girl car. I call her Birdie.

So I'm dead at the stop sign with my blinkers on, trying to decide what to do. I carry my bags back home and call the service center just a few blocks away, where I've done business for twelve years or so, to ask if they have a wrecker. They don't, but they recommend one. I grab my little purse out of my bag and leave the rest of my work things in the chair. This is where I really went wrong, but I don't know it them. I walk back down to where the car is still blinking blinking blinking and waiting.

The wrecker comes and hooks her up and drives me and the Thunderbird a few blocks to the service station. But I'm a diabetic and I realize I don't have anything in my tiny purse to eat. I thought I was going to go straight to work and eat something there. I left my big bag of comfort sitting in the chair.

The walking and the stress have lowered my blood sugar, and I need a couple of starlight mints or a Coke. I start to feel like the wrecker seat is swallowing me, but I keep making small talk with the very nice wrecker driver because I want him to take a check from me, when a lot of times they won't. I have experience with wrecker drivers, and this is the way it's done. They have to connect with you to take a check; he'd already said how cozy and nice my neighborhood was, so we were well on the way to striking an understanding.

Oh, Mr. Wreckerman, do you have to write so slowly? He's so conscientious and neat on his invoice, but I start to wonder whether I should tell him I'm about to keel over or just let him find out on his own. Finally we're finished; he took a check.

Thank goodness I know the co-owner of the service station, and she fed me Fritos and let me sit around until I felt better. Boy, a big infusion of carbs when you haven't been having them sure tastes luxurious. I never thought I'd be waxing poetic over a lunch-size bag of Fritos. Lesson learned. A cowgirl never goes on an adventure without some high-protein snacks.

I got a ride home and sat around trembling and thinking of what might have been, which is never productive or calming. I got to where I couldn't tell whether it was blood sugar or shock that had me so disoriented. I finally emailed my boss to say I couldn't come in. I don't know if anyone ever used the excuse of being trembly and unsettled as a reason to take a vacation day.

Maybe I'm a wimp.

23 July 2009

What do men want?

Today our post is about makeup. But don't go running off, boys. You all can do womankind a great service if you answer my questions.

I got to wondering what men want when I started cutting my makeup requirements to nothing. My mama wears makeup every day. Because she has no eyebrows (allergic reaction!), she figures she may as well do the rest of her face after she draws on her brows. But I just can't do that full-face full-coverage start-from-scratch routine anymore.

For one thing, it's so blasted hot lately. Sweat and makeup don't mix. Well, actually they do mix, and then they run down your face and into your collar. Then - skip this line, guys - there's menopause, when some days power surges raise my body temperature to about 110 degrees F.

These days my makeup practices run somewhere between none at all and about one minute of color. I hope that my wardrobe of earrings will draw the eye away from my lack of makeup. If not, I'm out of tricks.

Here's the most I do: Moisturizer is a necessity when you get my age. I'm really pale, so blush is good. I have little bitty eyes, so a smudgy dash of eyeliner makes me a little more defined. I don't have any eyelashes to speak of, so mascara is a farce. And I love lipstick.

Some women wear a lot of makeup. And usually the complaints I hear are from men. They always say they don't like for a woman to wear too much makeup. But how much is too much? A lot of guys I know don't wear makeup, so how do they know what's too much? Let's get a definitive answer about the quantity.

Okay, everybody pick the appropriate question for themselves.

So, boys, what do you really want? Do you want a woman who wears no makeup at all and just goes around with her little bitty eyes undefined and her lips a nondescript flesh color and her cheeks pale and wan, but oh, so natural? Or do you want a woman who wears makeup but doesn't look like she does, thereby saving you from looking at the flaws and imperfections that we think you don't even know are there? Or do you like your girls a little slutty and fast, with blue eyeshadow up to the brow bone and nails to match her lips? Do you like that sparkly party makeup that we have a lot of fun applying for festive occasions?

Women, how much is too much? How long does your everyday makeup routine take? Do you care what your partner thinks about your makeup? Do you know what your partner wants to see? Do you look better with makeup or without? Do you sparkle up for festive occasions?

While I'm on this topic, I have a few more words about makeup.

We have these ghoul mirrors at work. They make your skin look sallow and your eyes look sunken and your hair look like it's barely covering your skull. You can look perfectly fine in your makeup mirror at home, and you go to work and see your zombie self looking back at you from mirrors that are probably as old as the building, which is old. Somebody needs to do something about that lighting (they won't) before some woman in a PMS rage breaks every last mirror with her shoe.

Another thing. Don't ever tell your friend that she wears too much makeup. I have done that twice, and they will not believe you anyway. I had a friend who wore make up that looked as though she applied it with a trowel. People were suggesting that I gently push her in the direction of the fresh-face look. I had to practice what I was going to say; it's not an easy thing to tell someone.

I screwed up my courage and blurted something out. I really don't remember now. But it didn't matter, because she just frowned at me and said, "Get outta here."

The second time I had to do it, my victim shook her head at me and said, "I do not wear too much makeup."

Yeah, I know. I should have learned the first time.

P.S. I have some friends whose lifestyles don't fit into the questions above. I'm sorry I couldn't figure out the wording to include you properly. You can answer any of the questions you want.

My baggage and the horse I rode in on - and a note on monkeys

My mind sometimes fastens on a metaphor and rides it to the very end of the road.

Irene, the Green Stone Woman, blogged about an image her therapist gave her. She "imagined me climbing on a healthy horse with my disorders as a little bit of baggage hanging off my saddle," Irene wrote. This metaphor struck me and hovered in the back of my head all day.

I started thinking about my baggage, which wouldn't be just a little bit hanging off my saddle. I'd need a big Pony Express bag to carry my stuff along. I know my horse would behave better if I'd lighten the load, but every time I start to discard something, I get bogged down in the provenance of the item. This is the anger I carry in the inside pocket, and a little bit of blame I keep because no one else wants it. Here's a chunk of stupidity that I've learned to live with, and the guilt from that one period when I wasn't a good mom. Down in the bottom I carry a heavy regret for a fork I took in the road.

I know everyone has baggage. I've been trying to get rid of some of mine. The funny part is that I don't need to have a rummage sale or take it to Goodwill or rent a storage unit to keep it in. All I have to do is take it out of the bag and drop it. Toss it over my shoulder. Ride on without it. But I hoard the things in my saddlebag like treasures.

The part that I dislike most about the baggage I'm carrying is that sometimes I try to make other people responsible for it. Some innocent action or response makes me angry or sad - because it reminds me of some resentment I've been hoarding in my bag. That's not fair to anyone, because I'm likely to take out one of those little stones and chuck it at the head of someone who doesn't deserve it.

I don't know why we cling so desperately to attitudes and pain that we don't need and would be better off without. My horse feels a little tired from carrying useless baggage and would appreciate my cooperation, so I'm going to empty this bag into the first convenient Dumpster. Wait - maybe I can just toss the whole saddlebag into the trash bin and ride on fresh and renewed.


My monkey post from a couple of days ago got me into trouble. So I learned that there are some monkey lovers out there, and they seem to think that I find their monkey teasing amusing in some way. People never seem to believe me when I say I am afraid of monkeys. Pictures of them give me the creeps. The noise they make is something I hope I never hear again. I won't even watch a nature program if there is a chance a monkey figures somewhere in the story. Otherwise likeable people can't seem to grasp this. (And I'm not talking about people who comment on this blog; I love every one of them for giving their opinions.)

Some people seem to think I'd like to participate in conversations about kissing monkeys, which upsets my stomach. I don't care one bit whether you couldn't tell a monkey kiss from a dog kiss if you were blindfolded (although I don't believe that for a minute). I said it was an irrational fear. I cannot explain it, and I wasn't writing an endorsement of my position. I'm sure a hypnotist could cure me, but since I'm not likely to encounter a monkey on my daily rounds, I don't feel that my fear reduces the quality of my life that much.

There are people who are afraid of water, and I wouldn't push them in the pond. Some people fear snakes to the point where a photo of one makes their heart beat faster. Others scream when they see a spider in the house. My aunt Thedis was so afraid of cats that she used to wet her pants if one got too close to her. I don't see the point of torturing any of them.

22 July 2009

Massage is the message

Have you ever had a therapeutic massage? I don't mean the kind where the masseuse plays tinkly music and powders your feet and tickles them with a feather duster. I once received a gift certificate for a massage, and it turned out to be a little more new agey than I'm able to appreciate.

What I experienced yesterday was nothing related to the bell-ringing incense-burning chickie who scared me. Her massage, although it made an hour seem like a day, did nothing but make me tired and cranky. My muscles didn't even realize they'd been massaged. It was a skin rub.

Today I visited Ollie Layne, massage therapist, at Elswick Chiropractic over on Custer Drive here in Lexington. I chose a half-hour treatment because I was skeptical. I have a combination of conditions that we'd both be bored to hear described. Suffice it to say that I have a lot of pain and can't go flying around on pain killers, much as I might like to, because I have things to do. So my doctor suggested I find out if massage could give me some relief.

I can't say that I really enjoyed the massage per se; it was painful, but the relief I felt was indescribable. And yet, I'm going to try to describe it.

The setting: The office is nothing special, just wood and black leather and short carpet. The waiting area is very green. Manly forest green. The office is up about a half a flight upstairs, and I always feel better upstairs. I grew up upstairs.

I met Ollie, and I had that feeling of recognition you sometimes feel with someone new whom you can't possibly recognize. It's usually a good feeling for me. So I liked her right off. She took me into a dim and quiet room with a comfy padded table and a soft rolled pillow to put under my knees. A boombox on a chair softly played a repetitive loop of music, and I found that calming.

Ollie applied some sort of warmish lotion to my skin, and this allowed her to stick her strong fingers completely through my skin and into the heart of my muscles to wake up whatever was in there. Really. I felt as though I were having a psychic surgery. And I mean this in the best possible way.

I was comfortable the whole time because Ollie spoke quietly during the process, telling me what to expect, warning me of pain. I don't know about you, but I'd rather know what's coming than be surprised. And there were only a couple of times when I found the pain intense. Most of the time it was less than the pain I have in my neck when I get up in the morning.

The first thing she did was push her arms under my shoulders and press her fingers into my back muscles (imagine me on my back the way the woman is in the photo above) while she pulled her hands up toward my neck. She had me at that moment, but then she did a thing that I would pay for every day: the pillow of heaven.

This pillow of heaven wasn't that pleasant of itself. In fact, I wanted at first to resist. I was on the edge of pain. Ollie pressed her fingers at the base of my skull and held my head up a bit on her fingers. But what was nearly unbelievable was that I physically felt tension releasing from my muscles. It felt as though a thick liquid was running out of the muscles, down and off the table. Like a magic trick. Within a few seconds. Heaven. Pillow. O.M.G.

I really can't describe the rest of the process. I just gave in to that wave of relaxation. Even when Ollie said, "This'll probably burn like fire" - and it did! - I didn't care. I just shut my eyes and listened to her voice and felt wave after wave of relaxation as she worked on various muscles that have hurt for years. In a few minutes I could move my neck much further to the right than I've been able to do for a year or more. I was amazed. She massaged my scalp and I felt the tension break into a million cold splinters.

I think I saw angels flying around the room. No, I think it was butterflies, honeybees, and hummingbirds. Or maybe it was just the glittering behind my eyes. I kept my eyes closed and leaned into the pain until I felt that release. Blessed release.

When the session was finished, I made another appointment. This time for an hour. I'm no longer a skeptic.

Here's something I find appalling. If this sort of relief is available to people like me, why won't my insurance pay for it? I'm not going to a day spa. This is really hard work, and the benefits are almost immediate. But according to Ollie, they only last for a few days, so of course I'll want to go back. I'll have to dig into my pocket, but therapeutic massage seems such a healthy, relatively inexpensive, drug-free solution to chronic pain. Why wouldn't it be covered by most insurance plans?

Ah, don't bother to answer that question. I have had dealings with the dicks at several insurance companies.

Which of the massages would you enjoy? The tinkly powdery crystal woman, or the deep, painful, joy-inducing hands of Ollie? I think it all depends on what you need.

A note about customer service: You know I've been bitching about how I hate the customer service at most of my local stores. They could take lessons from the office staff at Elswick Chiropractic. First, I was given directions over the phone covering every turn between my office and theirs. Easy peasy and I, known for making wrong turns and driving miles out of my way, was there in no time. When there was a mix-up about who was making my next appointment, the professional woman at the desk looked me right in the eyes and apologized for leaving me standing there while she helped a client on the phone. I swear I was standing there for all of four minutes. I really appreciated that acknowledgment, though. It makes me feel happy to go back. Take a note if you own a store: Treat people nicely and you won't have to spend so much money on television ads with dancing scissors and smiley-face - whatever.

I asked for a photo, but Ollie didn't want that. Still, I highly recommend her hands.

21 July 2009

Monkey fears

Have you ever had an irrational fear? I am afraid of monkeys. I can't even stand a monkey sock doll or stuffed animal. People think it's so funny to give me birthday cards with monkeys on them; they don't know I'm seriously afflicted with monkey fear. I don't think that this fear was irrational when it first developed. I blame it on my parents.

Part of the reason I don't like monkeys is because they look so much like people, and I find their little hands and their gestures and facial expressions to be a creepy mirror of human behavior. For example, this is me at my doctor appointment last Friday. Don't you hate it when they make you undress and put on one of those silly gowns?

And I particularly hate it when monkeys wear clothes. That is really too much. Then they look like little messed up humans, and that is also creepy. Remember that Lancelot Link show where monkeys chewing gum acted out the parts, and they dubbed in the dialogue? Oh, I could not stand to watch that. Lancelot looked exactly like George Burns.

Once when my son was about three years old, I left him with my mama and went over to my friend Nancy's house to see her newborn baby. He had been delivered prematurely, and he was this little bitty squinched up kid about the size of a Thumbelina doll. When I came back home, Mama said, "Was he cute?" I said, "No, he looked like a little monkey." The next time Nancy came over to visit, she was carrying little John wrapped up in a blanket. Jaybird tip-toed up to her and whispered, "Can I see your little monkey?"

Once I was in the mall, passing outside the toy store. A battery-operated monkey about a foot and a half tall came dancing out of the store and made a beeline for me. He was toddling along with his little hands raised up at the sides of his head like a baby. In fact, he was wearing a pair of white baby shoes and carrying a half-peeled banana. Before I even had time to think, I just kicked that monkey right back into the store. "Well, that wasn't very nice," the clerk told me. At least they didn't make me buy it.

Look at this little hand. It reminds me of my Dad's hands when he got old. See what I'm saying? Monkeys are just too human.

Now this one is almost cute, and I don't find him all that scary. You guessed it. It's because he looks like a monkey, not a kid.

Now, this is why I blame my parents for my monkey fear. When I was four years old they got me all excited about staying up past bedtime and watching a special movie. Mama popped popcorn and we all sat down to watch The Wizard of Oz. When I saw those evil flying monkeys, I went completely out of my skin. They tried talking me down. Then they tried threatening me. All the time they were bent over at the waist, holding their sides and laughing until tears flowed from their eyes. It served them right that Mama had to poke a broom under my bed and check in the closet and out the windows every night after that before I'd go to sleep.

Here's the kind of mama I am: I did the same thing to my son. We were snuggled up together on the couch watching the movie when the dreaded monkeys came on. I shivered and said, "See? I told you they were really scary!" Jaybird patted me on the cheeks and said, "It's okay, Mommy. They're only little people dressed up like monkeys."

Also, monkeys are biters. There's nothing you can do about it. They're wild animals. It's not their fault that people want to treat them like babies.

For some reason, just in the past few years I've been getting over my fear of monkeys. But I'm still not planning to go to any continent where they run around unfettered. My brother's girlfriend Julia went to India, and she came back with a million stories about the trouble monkeys can get you into. There they run around in packs like juvenile delinquents.

I've recently met a monkey girl I like. She paints wicked little animals that smoke cigarettes and act like humans, but they're so cute that I can't get mad at them. You can visit the Patti Monkey blog and see her little demons here.

Do you have any irrational fears, or am I the only one holding on to my little childhood traumas?

20 July 2009

Frankie is dead and there's nothing to be done about it

Cover the mirrors and stop the clocks. My dear Frank McCourt is dead.

The author who changed my life by making me want to write again, who taught my son that a good book is a good friend, who showed us all that no matter how mean or dirty or short your life is, there is always some meaning to the story.

"Imagine if you'd had Mr. McCourt for a teacher," my son said. "I'll bet you'd be a writer then."

That hurt. I was a little bitter back then, believing that I'd settled for editing and a paycheck when I should have suffered for my art and produced a masterpiece. And single parents don't do that. Then there I was, skating toward middle age.

Hey, wait a minute. Frank McCourt's first book was published when he was 66 years old. There were no rules about when you could be brilliant.

"But I did have Mr. McCourt for a teacher," I told the Jaybird. I realized that I'd better get busy. I started writing again the next day.

My mother, who grew up poor and ashamed of it, could not read half of Angela's Ashes. It pained her so. "Those worthless parents!" she raged, and I had to agree in a sad way. After all, I had read all of Angela's Ashes and McCourt's second book, 'Tis, so I knew a lot more than she did about just how worthless the parents were. But those worthless parents made Francis McCourt, just as my parents - who weren't shiftless but did have a rather unconventional approach to childrearing - had made me. Just as my sweet grandmother and her bigamist husband had made my mama.

"You just don't like to think about growing up poor without a father," I told her.

"No, I don't. Who would? But we weren't hungry, or dirty, or dressed in rags. My mother worked hard."

"Then you were lucky," I said.

She looked away so long I thought she wouldn't answer. She was known for that.

"Yes I was," she finally said.

Some people called Frank McCourt a liar, including his own mother. Well, that has happened to me too. And who cares if you lie a little if you write of the absurdity of your position in life with humor and goodwill? I don't. Even the saddest passages in a Frank McCourt book are underpinned with the music of language and the charm of a little laugh choked down behind the sorrow. So he hasn't written a history book. I don't care.

"I did not like the jackdaws that perched on trees and gravestones and I did not want to leave Oliver with them. I threw a rock at a jackdaw that waddled toward Oliver's grave. Dad said I shouldn't throw rocks at jackdaws, they might be somebody's soul. I didn't know what a soul was but I didn't ask him because I didn't care. Oliver was dead and I hated jackdaws. I'd be a man someday and I'd come back with a bag of rocks and I'd leave the graveyard littered with dead jackdaws" (Angela's Ashes).

See what I mean? The beauty is in the telling, and the Irish are famous for that.

Frank McCourt made the world better with his words. He made me better with his words.

Open one of his books anywhere, any page, and you will find something to cry about while you're laughing about it too. Life is hard. We agree on that. Life beats some people down; some people it enriches in the most amazing ways. You're lucky if, like Frank, like my mama, you get most of your beatings and starving and death out of the way during your early life so you have the rest to decide what it all means, if you can. And he did.

I cannot do him justice. I do not have the skills for eulogizing Mr. McCourt. I only tell you how his words ran through our family and caused us to pass our feelings from hand to hand, sharing them and giving them their freedom.

All of Limerick might have once been mad at you, but I love you for that, Frank McCourt.

P.S. Lydia at UnderstandBlue wrote a grand tribute, and her brother, Bob Blakley, traveled on a bus with the author for an entire week and took a wonderful photo of him. Lucky duck.

19 July 2009

Poetry for Sunday

It's that time again: this week's poetry post. I don't know if I can pull this off every week. I think I hear some of you saying, "Yay!"

I was inspired by one of my best blogger friends to write this poem. She's given me a lot of support, and she knows who she is, so we'll leave it at that. If you've given me a lot of support and don't see yourself in this poem, wait your turn. I'm a slow writer.

I also must admit that I've taken a bit of poetic license with the geography, since she's not really all the way around the world from me.

The Wolf of the World

A woman on the other side

of the world sleeps when I wake

wakes alone without map or net

and watches each way while I sleep.

A candle burns on both ends.

A harsh note on the other side

of the dark vibrates up my last nerve

and sets me humming in my spine.

Speak now. You will not be allowed

to forever hold your peace.

I must stand with the woman

who stands with me, because

women can do these things: pull

each other up by the boot buckles

carve each other out sin by sin.

I send notes to the other side

of the void to say: yes

I have not only heard of the wolf

I have seen him from the corner

of my eye, that sly worn devil

nearly toothless in the light of cold day

but often so large and so patient.

I hope your weekend has been poetic.

18 July 2009

Wanted: Big old personalities blogging frequently

I just love some of the blogs I read, and the bloggers who write them. I will share three of my favorites with you today. I hope you'll recommend others to me, because a lot of my regulars are taking it easy this summer, and I need a lot of reading to be happy.

As I've said before, I like a blog that is pinned to a big old personality; creative use of the English language and frequent blogging are also highly appreciated.

powdergirl. This woman - demolition expert, mother, sassy girl, big-shoe lover, and hell of a writer - is just GOOD. She is high-strung and good hearted and hails from British Columbia. Tough with a soft squishy heart in the center. This week she wrote about her regret at having killed a hummingbird. No tiny bird has received a more poetic eulogy. She has a fine sense of language and priorities. Every post is a delicious mixture of laughter and truth, and she is a master of the short character study. And she's got a mouth on her. The fuse is lit... and it ain't gettin' any longer.

Irene, the Green Stone Woman, writes about mental health. She does this by posting daily about her own mental state and her quiet life in the Netherlands. Irene has the added perspective of having lived in the states for a number of years. She is open, humorous, and deeply insightful. She is in tune with current events, and she comments on all manner of cultural and political phenomena, but most of what she writes is deeply personal. Her life has not been easy, and it still isn't. Because I suffer from depression and mood swings myself, I read with interest as she discovers and reveals herself. To read Irene's blog is to go on the interior journey with this remarkable woman because she has the ability to lay herself bare without apology. I don't suppose I'll ever meet her in person, but I deeply admire this strong and unique woman and would love to share coffee and cigarettes and a piece of cheese with her. I feel love and concern for her. I feel better because of her. I have learned so much from her. Thank you, Irene.

Lilly's Life. Lilly is an Australian woman with an interest in world affairs. She's smart and funny and has good journalistic instincts. She usually ends her blog posts with a question or assignment, which generates a lot of interesting comments from all over the world. She writes about Rupert Murdock and Mark Sandford and the world economy and her wonderful father. I'm half in love with Des, who is in poor health but not so that he can't play matchmaker and guest blogger. She also writes messages to her grown daughter and comments on the everyday things with humor and insight. The most beautiful post I've read on Lilly's blog is The Day Isaam Came to Live with Us. If you don't cry when you read this story, Lilly's probably not for you. She's on vacation right now, but there is plenty of good back reading there.

One of the things I love most about the blog universe is that it is global. Yeah, most of my life I've heard people lament the state of American education and how we don't place a high value on learning about other cultures. But I never realized the size of this lapse until I started reading blogs of people in other countries. The simple things I have to look up! Facts I should have known since sixth grade. I'm appalled at the gaps in my knowledge - and happy to learn. Always.

Next time I recommend blogs, I'll tell you about a group of crafty people I adore. In the past I've reviewed a few other blogs:

Tristan Robin Blakeman and his Enchanted Revelry
Dave King's Pics and Poems

So, who do you love reading?

17 July 2009

Casual Friday

It's casual Friday again already, so here are the pieces and parts for this week.

It's beeeeeeeeg! Yesterday I was sitting at the computer, frustrated because it wasn't working the way it was supposed to. Someone pounded on my door... once... twice... The dogs went wild but that didn't deter him. He knocked a third time. I looked out the peephole and saw a dirty smiling man of about thirty in a ball cap and coveralls. At the curb was a jalopy worthy of the Clampetts.

I went back to the computer. He began knocking again. The dogs were throwing their usual fits, and Pixie was furiously running circles on the rug in front of the door.

"I'm wondering if you want me to cut that oak tree," he said when I opened the door a crack and held the dogs at bay with my foot.

It's a huge beautiful tree, one of the tallest on the block, and it shades the whole front of the house. "Why would you want to cut that tree?" I asked.

"Well, it's BEEEEEEEEEEEG," he said.

I just stared at him for a moment, visualizing him driving his truck through the city toward the biggest trees he could find, then asking whoever was home if he could cut them down.

"I don't think so," I told him.

He looked so disappointed.

Janitors overheard. I heard our three janitors in the break room discussing the pros and cons of vampirism.

A: It would be great to be a vampire. You could live your life over and over again.

B: No! I'm too tired to have eternal life.

C: I guess it would be okay as long as you didn't have to work.

Mercury rising. When I was about nine years old, I broke a thermometer on the floor and picked up all the little balls and put them in a doll bottle. I played with that mercury whenever I'd think of it, and it took me a long time to grow tired of breaking the quarter-sized shimmer into BBs and then putting it back together. I eventually lost the bottle, or maybe it simply consumed itself.

Revenge. Never lie to your hair stylist about cutting your own hair. They resent it the way the cops on Cops get pissed when anyone lies to them. Okay, buddy. They take people to jail for lying.

If you break down and admit that you've been cutting on your own hair, your stylist may take pity on you and work with you to make it look as good as it can.

But if Bonnie Lee says, "Ummmm mmm mmmm... Who has been cuttin on this hair?"

And you say, "It's been awful dry. It's probably breakage..."

She will take her revenge by what stylists call "evening it up," which means cutting every hair on your head to match the shortest one you cut.

Speaking of hair. Growing older is like being in one of those fairy tale movies where nothing makes sense. Why can't I just keep the hair I like? I never had what I considered my fair share of hair already, and now it's disappearing in places I don't want to ask my friends about. And yet it continues to try to get a foothold in places it clearly has no business.

Strange beds. Usually when my parents went socializing, they took me along. I was well trained to be seen and not heard and to play games in my head and not call any attention to myself. If my parents stayed late, they would put me to bed in a strange bedroom with strange shadows and strange smells. That would give me the willies. I absolutely hated to lie there staring at whatever articles were on the night stand, trying not to breathe deep and almost wishing I'd fall asleep. And I hated to sleep.

Survey says. I hate surveys. I don't even know why. I guess because I feel inconvenienced for no return. I often lie if I can't get out of taking a survey. I got my one and only obscene phone call in the form of a phone survey.

My clinic sent me a survey. The letter accompanying it said that I'd been chosen to be in a small elite group of people who were asked their opinions on the clinic and its services. I didn't feel special, particularly when I saw that the survey was as long as the old grade school achievement tests. I threw it away.

Two weeks later I got the same survey booklet, and the accompanying letter was stern: explaining how the survey would only be valuable if everyone who had been chosen participated. I murmured something about how their survey wasn't going to be valuable then, and threw out the second mailing.

Two weeks later I received the third booklet, and the letter wasn't messing around: I was to return the enclosed survey in the accompanying addressed and postage paid envelope by such and such a date.

They reminded me at every turn of the process that it was completely anonymous. So... I did what I was told. I returned the survey booklet in the envelope provided. They didn't say anything about completing the survey, just returning. This petty little action made me feel better than it should have. I figure I wasted an hour dealing with the junk mail.

For at least a decade, Exley was scanning every purchase he made and transmitting it weekly by phone to some company gathering marketing data. He filled out surveys on products and services. He earned points that were worth prizes. I couldn't stand the thought of scanning every item I bought after I'd stood at the store watching someone scanning them all just a while before. Sometimes Exley would nag until I filled out some survey that was meant for the lady of the house. "Can't you just make up the answers?" I'd ask. Exley was like one of the Neilson families for shopping.

Just wondering. Real bad. How did Michael Jackson get white? Please don't make me read one of those thousand books that will be out next week. Someone must know the answer.

16 July 2009

I feel all twittery

I guess it happens to all bloggers who are fans of Twitter. Sooner or later, we have to blog about the social network that challenges you to answer the question What are you doing? in 140 characters or fewer.

I tried MySpace for a week. I skipped Facebook altogether. I signed up for Twitter because I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. Now I know.

And I still like it. I didn't think I would, but I do.

I get news by following my local newscasters and my national favorites. Often Twitter is the first place breaking news is discussed, and being able to tweet pundits and reporters makes the news interactive. People in trouble post amazing video. People fighting for freedom in far-off countries update us on their progress.

I learn about my city by following local go-getters and councilwomen and people who work where I work. I follow Governor Sarah Palin because she tweets hilarious things such as, "Mama bear's gutteral raw instinct" and "constant thumped-up ethics charges." Poor Sarah. A script would help her a lot, and I hope she finds one that's been well written by someone else.

I send a link when I update my blog, and some people who follow me go and read it; sometimes they even send a tweet of encouragement or tell me a story (very short) of their own experience. I've "met" numerous people that way.

Just recently two artists in my special group collaborated at lightning speed. @AuntiePrincess, one funny broad, tweeted one of her smart mouth but so true sayings. @crookedstamper shot back that she'd like to make a card using the sentiment. Auntie agreed. The next day, @crookedstamper has the card up on her blog. We all felt a part of it.

I make friends, and that's the part I like the most. Oh, sure, they aren't like face to face friends you meet in real life; they're much less annoying. By trial and error, following and listening, I've built a little community of people I like. A collection of minds who entertain or inform me. People who tweet about politics, and those who talk about art, and those who scour the internet for interesting visual delights.

And now we come to unfollowing. I've been in trouble for this. I really don't understand it; I feel that if we are entering into a twittery relationship, either of us has the right to discontinue it at any time for any reason. We're not married. I do not believe my unfollowing you gives you the right to demand a reason. But some do.

I'm a Gemini. Maybe my attitude is just a little too airy for some of you. I come and go. I change my mind. I like to take an independent approach. I unfollow people who bore me or offend me or make me angry, and I don't know why you don't do the same.

I've been told that I should follow back everyone who follows me. Now, why would I do that? I am not competing in a popularity contest, so I don't care about the numbers of people who follow me or whom I follow. I twitter because I find it enjoyable to cast a net and surprise myself with what I uncover. People can be very interesting. If they aren't, that's the reason for the unfollow button.

Following are my tweet peeves, the reasons I'll unfollow/not follow you:

Tweeting in all caps. I don't care if your name is Kirstie Alley. It's annoying.

Talking about Jesus. No argument. We're just not for each other.

Asking me to vote for any part of your body for any reason.

Tweeting only about the products you want me to buy. If your tweet stream looks like this:

Sold and relisted...
Sold and relisted...
New product...

I'm probably not following you anyway. Throw in something of value. Like an opinion. If you don't have an opinion, maybe you can re-tweet someone who does.

Using the term "I likey" or "me likey." Come on. If I already know you and love you, I will sigh and overlook that one, but it's not English and I am not amused.

Claiming to be doing something you can't possibly be doing while tweeting. Like changing a dirty diaper.

Squealing about how many followers you have, or asking for a few new ones to make a particularly significant (to you) number.

Sharing anything about bowel movements. Anything.

Not bothering to use a photo. If I see that little brown square that looks like a bag you'd wear over your head, I'm not following. Well, okay. A few relatives.

Never tweeting. What's the point?

Becoming tiresomely dramatic or overly quarrelsome. It's a social network, and I don't enjoy constant bitching. Except about politics.

Showing a photo of the meal you're about to eat. Unless it is the most beautiful arrangement I've ever seen. Or you are @understandblue and it's the Fourth of July and you have artfully arranged your hotdogs.

Advising me to go to your blog without including a link. I don't have time to look it up.

Disclaimer: The purpose of this post is to report on my Twitter experience. I am not trying to convince you to take it up, because it is not for everyone. I know bunches of people who think it sounds stupid or who tried it and didn't like it, and that's okay with me.

Okay. About those hairless cats from yesterday. A lot of people were interested. Some found them creepy; some thought they were cute. (I'm in the latter group.) Because of the questions, I read more about them. These cats are called Canadian Sphinx cats. Tristan pointed out that they look like gargoyles (forgive me, Tristan, if that's not what you meant), and now I can't stop thinking that.

One thing I found absolutely heinous is that people in Moscow have these cats tattooed. Yes, needle and buzz, tattooed. I have been tattooed, and it is not really all that pleasant. I do not know how they would subdue the poor animal for several hours so they can do something that unnatural to a cat who already looks like it comes from another planet. I am not going to show you a photo of these "designer cats" I am so outraged about, although you can find them yourself online if you want.

Yes, Irene, you are right about them being very sensitive to temperatures. They need clothing when they go outside because not only can they easily catch a cold, but they also sunburn. They do have a little coat of peachfuzz, but not enough to protect them. Their skin is said to feel like velvet. They need to be bathed a couple of times a month to keep their skin healthy.

15 July 2009

Brief post for today

I feel a little like this today. Did you know that such a breed of cat exists? I didn't, until my Twitter friend @crookedstamper turned me on to the fact. You can visit her crooked blog here.

I've never understood cats, but if I ever get one, it will look like this. Look at that face.

Who knew there was so much to say about shoes? People have been twittering and emailing me about them since I wrote about my love of shoes Monday. Zip over to the UnderstandBlue blog and see Lydia's favorite pair of shoes. She describes shoe passion. Or click over to Inspiration Beyond Reason and see some ridiculously useless shoes. And Tristan Robin sent a link to these shoes, which look as much like delicate chandeliers as they do sandals.

14 July 2009

The Waitress Dude

We went out to dinner on Friday, at the same restaurant we usually visit on date night. But our experience was distinctly different than usual.

Our waitress was clearly experiencing a reality of which we were not part.

I felt as though I was a character in A Clockwork Orange. If you recall that dystopian novel (or the Kubrick movie), Alex the antihero and his droogs speak in a slang that is not explained in the book, at least not in the first version to be published, the version I read. But after slogging through a few chapters, I found myself understanding the lingo and reading faster and faster as if the text was written in ordinary English.

But I really didn't have enough time at dinner to learn to understand our waitress.

I don't believe that we have been served by this girl before, but I have seen her there. She was dressed in a t-shirt, as all of the wait staff are, but hers was as long as a dress. Long seemed the theme of her ensemble: her dark pants were at least four inches too long, and her shoes were somewhere in the stringy mess of cuffs, although I never saw them.

She moved quickly with some ghostly power, across the room as though she were gliding a couple of inches above the floor. Her face was propped open on the verge of confusion. Her eyes had a shine you see on animals hiding in ditches beside the road.

Everything she said we had to ask her to repeat. Everything.

Because she was talking ninety miles per minute.

Doyouknowwhatyouwanttodrink? We looked at each other, and I could see the Woodsman tamping down a smile, as I was myself. I felt as though I was a stranger in a strange land, not understanding the common customs of the planet.

Areyoureadytoorderordoyouneedmoretime? I truly listened very hard, but I could not decode the sounds she made.



Finally came the one that made me laugh out loud. Poof. She appeared next to my elbow and said, Wouldyoulikeformeto getyoua--

She couldn't think of the word. The name of the thing she was supposed to provide that would allow me to take my soup home with me.

In broad gestures she mimed the container. About this tall, about this big around, with a lid... and then she said--I kid you not--


Yes, I told her, swallowing my smile, I would like one of those leftover dudes.

We giggled and snorted until we saw her coming back toward the table with the leftover dude, and then we tried to pull it together and act like grownups. Which we look like. But we're not.

You know that saying: I'd like to have some of what she's on?

Neither of us said that.

I hope she got home okay. The way she was moving, she could have started walking and ended up in Chicago by morning.

13 July 2009

Bad girl shoes make the world more fun

I love shoes. Bad girl shoes. Big, sexy shoes. Shoes that make noise. Shoes with accoutrements: ties and buckles and taps and bows. I mean, I absolutely love shoes. Why? Because I don't have a crown and an ermine cape.

Who cares why? I used to be much larger than I am now, and at that time I didn't want to look at myself in the mirror. But I could look down and if I was wearing hot shoes, I felt a little better about myself. Because there was something cute, flashy, noisy, right there on the ends of my legs.

I get tired of Imelda Marcos jokes. Once because Exley said I couldn't do it, I went for an entire year without buying a pair of shoes. That didn't hurt me a bit. I must have had at least fifty pairs, so I could just shop around in my own closet and find something that felt new.

Now I choose not to buy new shoes, because I have put myself on a strict budget and that's where I'm staying until my bills are all paid off. But I don't care. I have shoes and boots and walkers. I have more shoes than I have clothes to go with them. I have Fat Babies and Candies and Bongos and Mudds. Cowboy boots, ankle boots, platforms, and even a pair of wedgies that look like they are made out of an old grey gym shirt. None of my shoes are expensive, because inexpensive means... MORE.

My son says that if he were rich he'd wear a new pair of socks every day. But if I had a big stack of cash, I'd have a lot of expensive shoes. I'm not interested in owning a giant wardrobe because I don't like to shop for clothes, but if you have enough moolah, you can get people to make handmade shoes to fit your feet. Can you imagine the luxury of that?

I clean house in my platform heels with the stereo blaring. That's just the way I roll. If I can't make a job fun, I can't do it. And, because I'm home alone most of the week, there is no one here to roll their eyes or smirk. And what difference does it make, as long as I get done what needs to be done?

It worked for June Cleaver, and it works for me.

If I'm going somewhere special, I start with the shoes and build the ensemble from the ground up. When I buy a pair of shoes, I know what they should be worn with, whether or not I own that article. Thank goodness my mama made sure I could sew.

I know I'm going to get hurt someday. Don't think I don't. I know that you can fall off your shoes and twist an ankle or fall in the street or even pitch headfirst down a flight of stairs. But I take that risk for one clear reason.

I love big bad girl shoes.

I have big feet - size 10. But so does Liz Taylor, and it hasn't stopped her from wearing some of the most exquisitely styled shoes I have seen. Big feet, big shoes. And big shoes are the bomb.

I think I've told you that sometimes I work up a sweat following the moves on a Christina Aguilera video. I wear my favorite platform heels for that. Oh, I love how she jumps when she sings "Ain't No Other Man Like You" - boom boom boom.

Bad girl shoes. Big bad shoes. They make the world go 'round and 'round.

12 July 2009

Poetry for Sunday

I haven't written much poetry in the past ten years, although contemporary poetry was the subject of my master's thesis long long ago. But it's a wonderful habit to have, writing poetry. It focuses and disciplines the mind, and it allows the poet to crystallize a philosophy or thought into images that can be transferred to the reader. A poem says so much more than it says.

I was inspired to get back to this healthy habit by reading Dave King's blog Pics and Poems. If you would like more poetry after you finish here, today Dave has posted these beautiful lines:

Unreal, I thought, him being dead,
with all that life, those plans still unfulfilled.

And more.

I would like to know what you think of the following poem. I drafted it only this morning, and I usually write in layers, going back and over the words to find exactly the ones that most convey my meaning. So this may not be the final incarnation.

(I can't make the poem look the way I want it to. I'm going to have to ask my computer geek mentor Lydia to help me with that.)

Old Love

I may need a stout rod

for the journey but

I can walk it on my own

because of the scent of your skin

because your eyes are the same

sea glass shade as your laugh

because you are here.

I expect certain considerations

a touch on the back

a brief clasping of hands

a kiss that has nothing to do

with a peck. An opening:

your mind into mine, an emptying:

your baggage, the polished suitcase

in which you carry your heart.

And then we fill each other gently

with secrets torn apart and shared

like bread. Spread like a net to keep us

each from falling into wilderness.

Know that I choose

exactly this.

You may expect me

to be more of a trellis

than a blade. More of

a rich dark vein and less—

not at all—of a potion mined

in the crevice where conceit

intersects with air. Forget the old

except for the parts that contain us.

I will keep in my heart for you

a small portrait, a mirror that shows

you standing in your finest pose.

We are too old for games of chance.

Some seeds don’t open

until fire and heat have brazed

the useless outer layers.

May the remainder of your weekend be poetic.

Don't forget that my friend Lydia is taking reservations for her next webinar. In the webinar I took, I learned so much about how to refine the design of my blog and how to use various analytics. And it was a lot of fun too. I blogged about it here.

10 July 2009

Casual Friday

I always have a lot of little notes in my journal that don't turn out to be big enough thoughts to make a blog post. So I thought I'd just give you a random sampling of the things that run through my head. If it turns out to be entertaining, I'll do it again next Friday.

Acorns. The giant oak tree outside is dropping acorns. They started falling slowly, and now it sounds as if someone is throwing handsful of gravel on the roof. We're having a big rain storm now, so that may take care of the rest of them. These are the tiniest little acorns I've ever seen. Even the squirrels don't seem interested.

Name calling. I love it when Keith Olbermann calls Karl Rove "turd blossom." Turd is such a derisive thing to call a man.

Customer service. Why is it so out of fashion to treat customers properly? I don't have to have my ass kissed at a store in order to feel satisfied with my shopping experience, but there is a woman at my Kroger store who practically throws the grocery items across the scanner and down the ramp to the bagger, accompanied by huffing and eye-rolling. (This isn't an isolated incident; it's her ordinary behavior.) I go to WalMart, a harrowing experience at best, and I have to wait for the checkers to stop bitching about their manager long enough to check me out. Attention retailers: If you need someone to give your employees a workshop in common courtesy, I'd be happy to do so.

Ouch. Last week my body decided that it could do without my right arm. I was carrying several big tote bags out the door, and I hit my funny bone so hard on the door knob that I dropped the bags and began to dance around in a circle saying, "Ouch, ouch, ouch, oh, oh, oh." The dogs thought it was a new game. Whoever made up the term "funny bone" was a sadist. The next day I parked the car under a tree and tried to duck out of the door without closing a tree branch in it. I raised up and slammed my shoulder into the side mirror. "Ouch, ouch, ouch, oh, oh, oh." My shoulder looks like an eggplant now. I think I'm leaning to the right. What do I need this shoulder for if it can't hold a tote bag?

Nancy Grace. She's a mean little woman with a blonde helmet of hair who gave birth to twins at the age of 49. She is a former prosecutor from the South, Atlanta I think, who comments on HLN about crime and punishment. She says some of the most outrageous things. Last week she said, "I just had to bless out a guy who was in front of our building smoking." I'll bet that guy quit smoking cold turkey; when Nancy doesn't like something, her face looks like she's holding a tiny piece of shit on the tip of her tongue. It scares me, and I'm just sitting out here in TV land. Yesterday she called the people at Michael Jackson's funeral "star suckers." She talks a little like powdergirl, only she's not funny and powdergirl is.

Glass globes. We found the glass globes that belong on our dining room chandelier in the garage wrapped in newspaper from 1984. That was when the old guy who built this house for his family was still living in it. I wonder what made him take those globes and store them in the garage, so that the dining room light fixture looked bare and the light bulbs showed. I just can't think of a plausible story to cover it.

Cheryl. I went to high school with a girl who wanted to be a vampire. That attitude wasn't as common as it is today, with all the vampire literature available. Back then we had Dark Shadows and Nosferatu and some Christopher Lee movies. (I loved Dark Shadows because one of the characters was a beautiful witch named Angelique.) Cheryl wore black and was as pale as a ghost. She may have invented the goth look. One day when we were out on the street after dark, Cheryl started screaming and crying because the bats came out of Virgil Roberts' chimney (as they did every night), and she thought one of them was going to get tangled in her long dank hair. Now, what kind of vampire would be anything but loving toward those little creatures? I lost track of her, but I often wonder if Cheryl ever got her wish.

Peanut allergy. I have an allergy to packing peanuts. I hate them. Those little things are so charged with static electricity that you open the box and - boof - they're all over you. You can't even shake them off your fingers without throwing a fit. Don't ever send me a box full of those things. I don't care what else is in the box. Just. Don't.

Market research. I didn't do enough research before I settled on the name "Sugarcain." I chose it because (1) my last name is Cain, and (2) I was half-way raised in Honolulu (where they have a lot of sugarcane). Make a google search and you'll find several other people already using the name. (Yes, I like to google myself and everyone else I know.) There is an entertainment company, whatever that is, with a blog design by Sebastian Schmeig, which I find to be a comical name. Then there is Sugar Cain, "actress, model, and spokeswoman," who directed and acted in a movie called "Rama." They probably don't have it at Netflix. Then there is Merrit Patrick "Sugar" Cain, a pitcher in the major leagues during the 1930s. Then a guy calling himself Sugar Cain who has two pictures on Flickr. Then, finally, me, my Etsy store, my blog, and an old stale entry for me in some business directory that clearly hasn't been updated since 2004. If I blog hard, I ought to be able to get to the top of the google page, because none of these other sugars are anything to tweet about. It's only a small dream.

Pixie. Little Pixie wanted her own Twitter account. She will be tweeting about life on the street and how she found her forever home, and she'll be looking for ways to help other shelter dogs. She's @PixiePuppy on Twitter. I'll put up a link when I remember how to do it.

Well, reading over this post, I am not sure that casual Friday has been a big success. But what else am I going to do with all my little thoughts if I don't tell them to you? What do you think?

09 July 2009

What's My Line?

I get paid to read. Yep. If you are a serious reader, you recognize how cool that is. There's a little bit more to the job of editing - correcting computer files and styling them for the designers, negotiating with authors without alienating them - but the heart of the job is reading critically and uncovering all manner of infelicities.* Editors make writers look good. It's an important job, although not highly compensated, except sometimes intellectually.

But, if you can believe it, I'm fortunate enough to be able to say that reading for a living is not the coolest job I've ever had. Not by a long shot.

I used to work at Old Frontier Town. We had donkeys and goats on the streets, a shootout every noon, a hanging at two, and gift shops in all the little buildings of the town. A steamtrain was molested by outlaws on the hour. The guy in the jail sold t-shirts, and the couple in the trading post sold penny candy and all manner of hillbilly paraphernalia (such as the hillbilly switchblade, which was made from one and a half clothespins and a rubber band). I was in the undertaker's selling handmade baskets.

I dressed in a prairie dress with an apron - yards and yards of pastel cotton print - and wore a bonnet when I went out on the street. It was if the baskets I made were magic. No matter how many I made after hours, I could never keep my shop well stocked. Baskets, cradles, chairs with caned seats flew out of the shop and went home with tourists from all over the world. No one told me what to make or how to make it. I kept raising my prices, and customers kept buying. It was a charmed life.

Was that the best job I've ever had? No.

I once worked as an assistant to The Amazing Gregor, magician extraordinaire. His wife was pregnant and had to stay off her feet, so she coached us, lying on an antique chaise in the back of the theater. I got the job partly because I fit the wardrobe, and every day I got to choose whatever gown and fancy heels I wanted to wear on stage.

Twice a day and three times on Saturdays I was cut in three parts and reassembled. Two blades of surgical steel! Gregor would shout and crash the blades together like cymbals before he pushed a blade across my knees and another across my chest. For that illusion, I screamed on cue. I agreed not to disclose his secrets.

We had rabbits and doves and self-lighting cigarettes. Umbrellas with hollow handles and magnetic playing cards. A box with a false bottom and a carton with a hinged door in the back. A box that made Gregor's head disappear. Flash paper and Chinese rings and a straightjacket.

And applause.

Well, I can't choose. I've had great jobs. Jobs you wanted to be on time for. Jobs that were more fun than not. Jobs you can't believe someone would pay you for.

What is the best job you've ever had? What job would you have if there were no limitations on your imagination? Whose job would you like to do for a day?

*Other kinds of editors exist, but this is not a lesson in publishing, so I'll leave that subject for another time.

08 July 2009

Pixie and Taz: I Didn't Know You Cared So Much

I think the first time Taz became really aware of Pixie's existence was when he was gaily galloping through the house, joyous and oblivious, and she shot out of the kneehole of the desk and took him to school.

She kept schooling him for six months or more. Every day. He could do nothing right. She bullied him into giving up his food, stole his treats, and tried to scare him into packing his bags and leaving. He was long-suffering. He was humble. He did not put up a fight about anything at first.

Taz loves attention. He wants to camp out on humans as often as possible. This was completely disconcerting to Pixie. The poor little neurotic thing, she would trot in circles with her tongue hanging out, worrying about change and its implications.

Finally, she decided that she could not let the boy get all the human affection. Perhaps she could enjoy a little of that too. She started to jump up in a chair with us and after a year or two even learned to give kisses, although if she stops to think about it, she cannot possibly kiss anyone. Kissing can be frightening.

Pixie's shell grew thinner. Sometimes I would see her looking at something Taz was doing with a look on her face that on a human would mean, Oh, that's how we do it. She did not know how to be a dog, but with Taz's joyous example, she was learning.

You would be amazed at the number of people who torture my dog until I get mad and take the dog and refuse to let people touch her. Strangers, relatives, friends, acquaintances. I say, "She is afraid of people." If you ask me, anyone with a little bit of empathy would not try to scare her further, thereby proving to her that her suspicions are well founded.

Taz is very clever, makes up his own tricks, hates to wear clothes, loves to play hide and seek, and hates dry dog food. The way he plays is a treat to watch. I can't imagine feeling that much abandon. He is a fierce hunter in the small backyard, terror to birds, squirrels, and snakes. One day I saw him on his back legs trying to jump up into the sky and get the traffic helicopter.

So Pixie's shell melted little by little. She began to let Taz into her bed, and they'd lie side by side with their heads resting on rumps. Pixie would groom and groom Taz, cleaning his whole face and inside his ears, until he would make a noise that meant, Alright already.

Taz began to settle down and care about what we think. He's very sensitive and can't stand to be spoken to harshly. He minds well unless he's in the presence of other dogs. We don't know what's up with that. I think he needs good citizen classes. At home he's quite hen-pecked.

Pixie still jumps on him sometimes when he's playing with abandon. He will be chasing a ball or just dashing through the house, and little bitty Pixie launches herself at him. Even though she's starting all the trouble, I still get mad at Taz for squeaking her.

Once a little girl at the dog park looked down at Taz and said, "Oh, hi, little wolf guy." I think that's really cute.

Taz claiming the Woodsman as his own.

He still prefers men, and if he gets loose on the street, he runs up to women and barks. I don't know what's up with that either. God forbid he ever gets loose. He leaps about the streets barking with joy and accosting people with dogs on leashes. I have to keep running after him saying, "He's not vicious, just stupid." He chases bicyclists and children on Big Wheels, barking and trying to herd them. He went into the house of a neighbor who left his front door open and the Woodsman had to track him down.

The funniest thing he does: He runs up to the front door of every house, smells the doormat, and pees on the bushes. He continues down one side of the block and up the other, barking, sniffing, peeing, leaping, ever joyous. He knows where he lives and comes home when he feels like it. I try never to let him run out the front door.

So Pixie is becoming a real dog now. She is still easily scared but she has learned the basic commands - sit, down, stay, come, wait. Taz refuses to lie down on command, although he is often eager to lie down. When he is ready for bed, he unmakes my bed and crawls between the sheets. We took to calling him B(eauregard) Tazwell because he isn't really a tasmanian devil anymore. He's older and smoother now.

When we went to the family reunion a few weeks ago, I asked Exley to babysit for Taz. Two little dogs are a lot to handle with thirty people, a lot of them kids, and Taz has a habit of whining nonstop in the car. Exley's backyard is fenced and overgrown with the sort of things that interest a joyous dog. He thinks it's a canine wonderland and Exley likes him, so I didn't feel bad about leaving him.

Exley took this self-portrait for me so you'd know who I'm talking about.

I never expected this to happen, considering the way she acts, but Pixie was bereft without her partner. She hardly wanted to eat, and she just lay at my feet except when she needed a walk. She seemed so sad, and she wouldn't let me get two inches away from her. I imagined she was thinking, Well, she got rid of that other dog, so she could be planning to leave me here.

She was so happy to see that crazy joyful boy again. She twirled and twirled with joy. Somewhere in the past two years she's learned to love him. Some of his habits still annoy her, and you know how it is when a guy gets on your last nerve... you have to school him.