Thursday, April 2, 2015

Not Your Grandmother's Trumpet Vine

I am a people-pleaser. There. I said it. And I am sending myself to people-pleaser rehab.

     I came to this realization while hacking away at the trumpet vine that ate my house. The more I hacked, the better I felt, and I figure that’s got to mean something.

    Twelve years ago, when my husband and I moved into our modest little tract house, the back yard was manicured. It was pristine. Three lilac bushes filled the yard with their heavenly fragrance. An enormous mulberry tree sheltered the nests of hummingbirds and mourning doves. There were no dandelions in the lush, green lawn. There was pea gravel with no landscape bark in it, and areas of landscape bark unsullied by pea gravel. All this was watered by automatic drip irrigation that actually worked. On the north side of the house, there was a trumpet vine.
You could see the trumpet vine from the kitchen window. It climbed coquettishly up a white plastic trellis.
 The previous owner of the house told me she started it as a cutting from her grandparents’ garden. She had planted it right after her grandmother passed away. She wanted to make sure I would take care of it always, and I said I would.
That was a mistake.
 The trumpet vine knew it was invincible. It knew how guilty I would feel If I dug it up, cut it down, or set it on fire.
 Oh, how I wanted to set it on fire.
Trumpet vines assert their dominance in several ways. They grow long curly tendrils that whip themselves around vertical objects. They grow sneaky underground suckers that pop up yards away from the original trunk. They have gluey little fingers that stick to walls and tree trunks and won’t come off, no matter how hard you pull.  And to top it off, these guerilla tactics are camouflaged by an exquisite profusion of flame-colored flowers. They worm their way into any available crack or crevice, kind of like guilt. They push, seduce, demand, pout, flirt, and generally take advantage of people-pleasers like me.
    Within three years, the trumpet vine had swallowed up the plastic trellis and a good portion of the wall that held it. After five years, the neighbors were at my door demanding that I cut off the snakelike tendrils that had escaped the yard and were heading for their bathroom window. I made a few half-hearted attempts to control the thing, but life tends to get in the way sometimes. Unlike the previous homeowner who apparently had lots of time to pristine-ify the yard, I had a full-time job, a part-time job, two elderly parents, two horses, several dogs, a cat, and a brand-new husband that needed attention as well.
 But those are just lame excuses. After twelve years of benign neglect, the trumpet vine had engulfed the entire north side of the house.
 One afternoon last month, our Bordeeler (half Border Collie, half Blue Heeler, all trouble) began to bark hysterically at something in the kitchen.
 “Oh, great,” I thought. “Mouse."
 Now, I may be a pushover, but I’m an old farm girl. I’ve successfully evicted snakes, skunks, and poisonous spiders from my property. I can deal with a mouse. I slowly opened the cabinet doors and peered into the compartment under the sink.
 It was not a mouse. It was worse than a mouse. It was the trumpet vine. It had pushed its way through a gap in the baseboard and was oozing out into the kitchen!

It must have sensed that I have absolutely no boundaries and was planning a coup. It had crawled under the outside wall along the plumbing, and was clearly aiming to strangle all of us as we slept.
The trumpet vine had to go. I got out the shovel, clippers, nippers, trimmers and saws. I started hacking away at the trumpet vine, berating myself for letting it get this bad. As I hacked, I began to get angry.

 I wasn’t angry at the vine. The vine was just a plant. I was angry at the part of me that promised a total stranger I would be nice to her grandmother’s invasive, obnoxious, intrusive trumpet vine for as long as we both shall live.
I realized that the trumpet vine was only one symptom of a much more dangerous malady. I had spent my whole life remaking myself in the image of everyone else. From the time I started using my middle name in third grade (so the girls with good hair and exotic names would like me) to the twenty years I wasted, married to the wrong guy because I was afraid to wait for a better match.
 In my desperation get girls to like me and guys to date me, I pretended to be an atheist. I pretended to smoke marijuana. I pretended to read stuff by Ayn Rand, and after pretending to enjoy it, I pretended to agree with it. I pretended to like Richard Nixon, for God’s sake! From third grade on, I learned to make Amy invisible. I pretended to be politically this, religiously that, philosophically the other thing. I reinvented myself so often in the pursuit of other people’s approval, I had completely forgotten who I really was. I was a blank slate for others to write on. An empty patch of dirt in which I invited other people to plant their obnoxious, invasive, intrusive seeds.
So there I was, beginning the second half-century of my life, all tangled up in someone else’s grandmother’s trumpet vine.
 Six hours later, my back was sore, my arms were scraped, and my hands were bloody. I had plant debris down my shirt, in my socks, and stuck in my hair. I felt great. I could see not only the north side of my house, but the rest of my life, cleared of the entanglements of others’ expectations.

And there, against the concrete block wall, was the stub of Not My Grandmother’s Trumpet Vine. It is already growing back. But, like all the other relationships in my life, it will grow back on my terms.

(This essay was actually published here in 2011. But I entered it in a contest that said it could not be in a contest and in a blog at the same time. So I did what any self-respecting people-pleaser would do, and took it down. As for the contest, it lost.  So... it's back. Take that, silly contest persons who don't know a good trumpet vine story when you see it!)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Hoofprints and the Dust

I wrote this back in 2002, and a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then. But I just can't think of a better way to say it. Be sure to click on the link to the song "Overcome" at the end. It still brings tears to my eyes and, oddly enough, hope to my heart. We can be better people -- if we only remember to watch where we step.


When I was a very little girl, my mother came early one day to pick me up from school. All the mothers were whispering, some had been crying. It didn’t take long to realize from the whispers that President Kennedy had been killed. I’ll bet everyone my age or older can tell you exactly where they were on That Day. In 2001, there was another such Day, and I swore I’d never write about it. I guess I lied.

I get funny looks when I tell people what I was doing on September 11. I know some people consider me selfish and shallow when I tell them I was riding my horse.
Things were just starting to look normal again after a miraculous and terrible summer. My horse,  Fox, had recovered from emergency colic surgery with no complications whatsoever, and I had even started riding him again.  I had returned to work for another school year, and life was good.
I don’t usually listen to the radio on the way to work, but on that day, for some reason, I did. Stunned by the news, I pulled to the side of the road for a moment. I thought, "It’s time to get busy." Talk about déjà vu – that is exactly the phrase that popped to mind when I was awakened early on a Sunday morning three months earlier and told they’d already called the vet and I’d better get to the barn quick. The difference was that this time there was no panic, no welling up of tears, just "It’s time to get busy."

The school was filled with tears and whispers that day. Some parents kept their kids home. Others came and stayed. The news unfolded on a TV in the teachers’ lounge. The kids asked what we were going to do, and all I could say was, "Well, I guess we’ll be here, and we will go on." I’m not sure if I believed it or not.

After school, I couldn’t listen to the news for one more second. I did the ultimate selfish thing – while the world sat glued to CNN, Fox and I went for a ride. It had been months since we’d done anything more than walk and trot, but that day, I just let him dance. Back swinging, ears forward, mouth soft – this was not a sick horse. This was my partner of eighteen years, moving like a metronome, just like he always did. I had worried all day about my friends in New York: The middle school teacher; my friend in the wheelchair; the struggling actor who had a day job on the fifth floor of Tower Two. The metronome blotted out all of that for a little while and replaced it with circles, shoulder-ins, and hoofprints in the dust. I’m almost ashamed to say it was the ride of my life.

Relief drifted in gradually over the next few days. The friend in the wheelchair was nowhere near the WTC, but he couldn’t tell anyone for quite a while because his phone was out. The middle school school teacher had to take on students from schools that were closed because of the dust -- a thick, gray layer that had to be removed by men in biohazard gear because, she said matter-of-factly, "They don’t know who is in that dust." My actor friend reported that he had escaped Tower Two in the nick of time. Only an Armani suit fell victim to the attack.

I felt surprisingly different after that ride. Where were all those niggling little peeves that seemed so important only a few days earlier? I still think about the dust – how many times had I been so focused on some goal or other that I didn’t even bother to notice what was under my feet? Could it be that too much focus might be a bad thing? Watch where you step, folks, I thought. You don’t know who’s in that dust.


SAF Foxfire 3/14/80 - 8/6/04
*This  song by Live became associated with the September 11 attacks on the United States. Proceeds from the sale of the single were donated to charities to benefit the victims of the attack. (Source: Wikipedia)

Friday, May 2, 2014

Rescue Me

“On the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons.” - Douglas Adams

I have decided that being a human is way too much work. This isn’t about the work we need to do like scrubbing toilets and making sure our socks are put away in matching pairs. It’s about all that stuff we pile onto our agendas because we think we have to. We think we have to because, deep down, we are all control freaks.

Our penchant for control freakage is pervasive and all-encompassing. We run ourselves ragged trying to accomplish this, buy that, make sure someone else doesn’t beat us to the other thing. We even expect our Superior Beings to micromanage everything. I won’t get into whether or not Superior Beings exist.1 That’s not the point here.  The point is, there are people out there who think God has nothing better to do than send tornadoes into Kansas trailer parks because gay people want to get married.  I mean, really?  I have at least one friend who prays for a good parking space on a regular basis, and fess up -- I know some of you have made repeated, impassioned entreaties to at least one deity regarding your lottery tickets.

Now, I understand culture, tradition, and heritage -- all those things that make us who we are as a species. But think about it. Some of this stuff is really silly.

Case in point: I was raised by Old Southern Women. This means I was brought up within a culture of well-defined and highly-detailed expectations.  Little Southern Girls are expected to know, by our fifth birthday, that one never ever wears white shoes before Easter or after Labor Day, and we must be able to make cotillion-worthy chicken salad by the age of twelve.2 

Most of us had the pattern for our wedding flatware chosen for us while we were still in the womb.  My mother had so wanted me to be a Gorham Chantilly with long, delicate fingers and polished nails worthy of her gilt-edged, pink porcelain teacups -- and here I am, a confirmed Towle Wickford with stoneware from Sears and big square farm girl hands.

Needless to say, the girly-girl micromanagement plan backfired. All it did was drive me into the garage with my dad, the duct tape, and the power tools. Despite my female relatives’ best efforts, I refused to be rescued from my tomboy tendencies.  While I grew up civilized enough to know the difference between a shrimp fork and an oyster fork, I have used neither since my grandmother passed on in 1989.  I fully expect her to come back from the afterlife someday and smack me upside the head for eating last month’s Easter dinner off a paper plate with a spork.

Lately the “R” word has somehow become a big deal. Everybody and their dog’s dead grandmother has been, or will need to be, rescued from something or other. It somehow makes us feel noble if we can say we’ve “rescued” something. I can even lay claim to that word myself, having adopted a mare from a rescue ranch and a dog from an animal shelter.

Gabby, my mare, really is “a rescue.” She was bought at auction with two other emaciated,  pregnant mares who were almost certainly destined for slaughter. Kiki the Bordeeler3 was caught as a stray on the ditch bank and taken to the local Humane Society. She comes by her “R” word legitimately also.

Nobody asks me about those two.  However, anytime I take our 100-pound greyhound out in public, the first thing to leave people’s lips is not “wow, he’s gorgeous,” (he is) or “what’s his name,” (Hoover) but “is he a rescue?” (No.)  When I say, “No, he’s just adopted. He didn’t need to be rescued,” the smiles grow wooden and the voices turn sour.
What’s up with that? Hoovie was the product of an accidental breeding, and as such, never raced. Even if he had, he still wouldn’t have needed “rescuing.” He was loved as a puppy, just as his mother was loved and respected as the elite athlete she was, even after she became pregnant with him and his four sisters. Once the litter was born, they were not abused, thrown away, or put to sleep -- they were signed over to an adoption group through which they all would find good homes.4  Hoovie has been in our home for over eleven years now. Is it a bad thing that he wasn’t “rescued?” What’s wrong with being loved your whole life?

Micromanagement. “Rescue” is just another word we use to feel good about controlling our environment. If we can point to a real or imagined “bad situation,” sticking our grubby little fingers into all the world’s pies seems more justified.

Case in point:  A rabbit (in an uncontrollable fit of micromanagement, I named her “Lucy”) decided to have five babies in the middle of our horse corral. Dali, the pony occupying said corral, belongs to one of my customers. Now, if I were a rabbit and had to choose a roommate, quiet, elderly Dali would be the perfect choice. But I am not a pony or a rabbit. I am a human being, and as such, I immediately went into Control Freak Mode.
Mama Lucy

Rabbit!  In with the pony! In the corral! With babies! In a burrow!  I immediately began to picture horrible scenarios in which the pony stepped on and smooshed the baby rabbits, or the rabbits spooked the pony into hurting herself.  How was I going to get those babies out of there? Should I call the rabbit rescue people and have someone come and get them all?  Before I could formulate my Brilliant Human Hero Rescue Plan, Lucy had nursed her quintuplets and covered the burrow back up, leaving not a trace.  She hopped away. Dali sniffed at the spot where Lucy had been, and calmly went back to her breakfast.

The message couldn’t have been any clearer if Grandma Louise had come back from the afterlife and smacked me upside the head with a spork.  This wasn’t a Heroic Rescue Opportunity.  This was the settled order of nature. It’s not my job to put bunnies in a cage so they don’t get smooshed. They’re not “poor little things,”  they’re normal baby rabbits, and they already have a mom. She didn’t “abandon” them -- she would be back to nurse them twice a day, as rabbits instinctively know to do.5  Odd as it may look to me, she put them in Dali’s pen for a reason. The reason is NOMDC6, and I need to MMOB.

Dali the pony and Lucy the rabbit are coexisting peacefully. Every morning between  6 and 7 AM, the (growing!) quintuplets get their breakfast, and Lucy covers them back up again. No one has been spooked or smooshed.  All is right in that quiet little corner of the world.


If you feel the need to be a hero, save something that really needs saving. Adopt an animal from the pound. Give those extra cans of gooseberries to a food bank. Volunteer at a homeless shelter.

As for all that other stuff you’ve been stressing about? The universe has it under control, y’all. Really. Butt out. Watch and learn.

If anyone needs to be rescued, it’s us. We need to be rescued from ourselves. We need to spend less time worrying, manipulating our surroundings, and squeezing the life out of everything we touch in the process. We need to spend more of it mucking about in the water, having a good time.

1 I'll leave that to Douglas Adams, who said, "'I refuse to prove that I exist,' says God, 'for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.' 'But,' says Man, 'The Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn't it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so, therefore, by your own arguments, you don't. QED.' 'Oh dear,' says God, 'I hadn't thought of that,' and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic. 'Oh, that was easy,' says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed at the next zebra crossing."

2 With grapes. Those big purple ones with the seeds. I never understood the grapes.  Truth be told, I don't understand chicken salad. I despise it, with or without grapes. Always have, always will. Sorry, Grandma.

3 As I believe I have stated before, half Border Collie, half Blue Heeler, all trouble.

4 They also came into my life and wrecked everything that was smaller than a car. See previous blog post entitled "Land Shark Revelations."

5 I stopped freaking out for a minute, and actually looked this up. Wonderful comforting thing, the internet.

6 None Of My Damn Concern.  A phrase I learned from my dad, amid the duct tape and power tools. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


They say  the devil’s in the details.  I understand this.  When I do something, I like for it to be done well, and that rests largely on my ability to take all the little details and turn them into something that makes sense.  For years, I couldn’t imagine how this could be a bad thing.  Recently I learned that little details tend to make more details, and that can turn into a big-ass mess. 
We lived twelve years in our cozy little tract house with nary a problem.  Except for the time the puppies demolished the back yard.  And that little incident of the trumpet vine that invaded the kitchen. The colony of lizards in the water meter doesn’t really count as a problem, does it?  OK, so we lived there for twelve years with nary a BIG problem.
Then we started talking about moving.  And the house heard us.
It started in early February of last year.  One of the horses got sick, and I had to make three trips a day to the boarding barn in order to give him his medications.  It also happened to be the week we had a blizzard, and the temperatures dropped into negative numbers for five days in a row.
Wouldn’t it be nice, I thought, to have the horses right there in the back yard again, where I could take care of them myself?  Then I learned that the owner of the barn was planning to move out of state.  I took it as a sign, and started looking up available horse properties on the internet, just for the hell of it. 
When I got home from work next day, water was dribbling down one corner of the den.  Paint was bubbling up and peeling off in soggy sheets. Apparently the snow had begun to melt on the roof, and the extreme temperatures had opened up a slow leak in the flashing.
“Help meeeeeee,” the house began to whine. “You can’t move now! I’m leeeeeaking!”
Just a little glitch, I thought. Just one of those devilish little details I’ll have to tend to if and when we put the house on the market. I printed out a list of more places to look at.  I called a realtor.
Two closet doors fell off, one right after the other. Then a towel bar fell into the toilet.  (You know what’s coming, don’t you? I didn’t.   I mean, I spent an entire decade watching situation comedies in the 1980s, and I didn’t see this coming?)
We looked at some houses.  We narrowed our search down to five or six, with our hearts set on one special place we really loved, but could not afford.  The seller was motivated, said the realtor.  We decided to watch and wait. I took pictures of each room in our house and e-mailed them to the realtor, just in case. 
“Hisssssss,” said the house. “HISSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!”
What now?  I went through the house, searching for the source of the sound.  I didn’t have to look far.  A puddle of water was spreading across the kitchen floor. The dogs were lapping it up and tracking it elsewhere. I opened the cupboard under the sink, and got a faceful of water.
The polybutylene water pipes had finally given up the ghost.*   There would be five of these incidents before we finally had to repipe the whole place.  We also reroofed. And recarpeted. And repainted.  And replaced.  The more “re” we did, the more details popped up that needed redoing before we could list the house for sale.  Being a detail-oriented person, I carried around a yellow legal pad with a what-to-do-before-we-list list.  The list contained three pages of devilish details. Single-spaced.  
Our low-maintenance little house had become a full-blown Money Pit.  It was money that had to be spent, however. It’s one thing to live in a Money Pit, but nobody wants to buy one on purpose, unless you’re Tom Hanks and Shelley Long, who are actors and were only pretending to be that crazy.
About halfway through the list, the house we loved dropped in price.  A lot. It dropped below appraisal, and we bought it.  We moved in. We were ecstatic.  We’d finish The List From Hell while the house was vacant.  Easy-peasy!
I really enjoyed going up to the Money Pit and working on the list. Painting is easy when you don’t have furniture to worry about. Without a house full of dogs and people, you can polish the floor and it stays polished. You can clean the bathroom and it stays clean.  I happily carted my boombox and my favorite CDs up there after work every day and checked off each detail with a real sense of accomplishment.
The list was down to three items by the time the “for sale” sign went up in the yard. Piddly little stuff, like tightening door knobs and pulling some weeds.  Easy-peasy, right?
Remember when I said details make other details? It’s true.  The roofers had knocked the cap loose on the dryer vent, leaving a gap between the cap and the opening of the duct.
The roofers didn’t notice this little detail, but a squirrel did. For whatever reason, it thought coming down the ductwork into the laundry room would be a good idea.  
It couldn’t get back up.  It freaked out, or got pissed off, or maybe it asked its friends over and had a party.  I don’t know.  But whatever squirrels do in such situations, it did it, and it did it really thoroughly.  
Well, we went up to the Money Pit as we usually do on the weekend to tend to details like watering the plants and making sure everything was still clean.  
You know how sometimes you come into a place and it feels weird?  When things just don’t add up to normal?  This was one of those days.  There were little shreds of weatherstripping littering the entry hall.  Weird.  The pull cords were missing from the window blinds, and all the draperies were torn.  Not just torn, shredded.  Really weird. Blobs of lint made a trail from the living room to the laundry room, where there was one big blob in the middle of the floor.  There was another big fuzzy blob in the vent itself.  I bent down to take a closer look.  And it moved. 
“Yaaa!”  BONK!
I smacked my head on the bottom of a shelf, which set the squirrel desperately trying to scrabble up the dryer vent. 
Now, I’m not scared of a squirrel, but you have to admit, having one in the dryer vent is a little startling.  Having one un-do my to-do list just pissed me off.
“Get out of there!”  I banged my fist on the wall. “Come out, you nasty little rat bastard!  Look what you did to my drapes!”
I banged, hoping it would get scared and run back up to the roof.  No such luck. The squirrel held its ground, scratching, shrieking,  and scolding.  The fuzzy blob appeared again at the base of the vent.  Squirrel butt.  I swear, that little monster mooned me.
We got a trap from Animal Control.  We baited it with peanut butter and put it in the laundry room.  Ha.  Take that, you trespassing little shit.
Next day. Trap sprung.  No squirrel.  No peanut butter either.  Curtains from the kitchen window are shredded and lying in the sink, and two honeycomb blinds are destroyed in the living room.
Trap goes back to Animal Control.  Phone call is made to Professional Varmint Catcher Guy, who brings bigger traps.  Ha.  Take that, you trespassing, window-treatment-shredding little shit.
Next day.  One trap untouched.  Other trap missing its peanut butter but not sprung.
Squirrel-zilla has splintered the top of a baseboard, opened all the drawers in the bathroom vanity, chewed up a Smith & Noble custom accordion-pleated window shade, and had one side of a Shoji screen for dessert.
This. Means. War.
I re-baited the traps with peanut butter crackers.  Yummy.  Wayyyyyy at the back of the cage. No more of this nibble-the-bait-off-the-trigger bullshit.  He’s gonna have to step on the spring to get the goods.  I put duct tape over the spaces between the bedroom doors and the floor so he can’t crawl under. I taped the closets shut.  Squirrel will have a straight path from the dryer vent directly to Jail.

Professional Varmint Catcher Guy called the next day. He’s got one trap containing one very pissed-off squirrel.  Squirrel is relocated, but one trap is left in case he’s got, you know, minions.
All is quiet today. I wedged a big ball of crumpled-up chicken wire up into the dryer vent and sealed the opening with more wire and duct tape.  Tomorrow I’ll go up on the roof to critter-proof that one seemingly insignificant little detail that caused the whole mess.
Moral of the story: Details matter.  But the ones you think are important may not be, and some little thing nobody noticed might end up being a really big deal.  So what can you do about it?  Not a damn thing. You can’t control everything in your life, and even if you could, you’d miss out on a whole lot of funny moments.  
All you can do is grab de devil by de-tail and fling him right back to Hell where he belongs. The devil may be in the details, but a squirrel in the dryer vent will mess you up every time. 
*Polybutylene pipes are Not Good.  They were installed in all of the houses in our subdivision, and they all began to burst at once.  Plumbers got rich. There was a class action suit against the polybutylene pipe company. Our pipes burst three months after the filing cutoff date.  Crap.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


“She lived down by the stables, and all the horsemen knew ‘er.”

As an educator,  specifically a teacher of The Smart Kids*, I spend a good part of my day thinking about thinking.  The Educationese word for this is metacognition.  If any of you were persistent enough to actually read all the stuff in that link, you’re probably thinking, “Wow, it’s getting deep in here.”  I totally understand. That thought crosses my mind a lot. I’ve noticed that my new role as Equine Waste Removal Technician gives my mind loads of time to wander.  This may or may not be a good thing, but I do enjoy it.
For example:  Have you ever thought about how many words there are for Number Two?  Let’s brainstorm a few:
Doo-doo, doody, dung, dump, dreck.  Plop, poop, poopy, poo.  Kaka, crap, crud.  Shit, shite, scat, sewage and “stuff.” Turd. Load.  Your basic BM.  I stopped counting at 47, but there’s a website, aptly titled The Poop Thesaurus, **  that lists over a hundred, and that’s only for the human variety.
Time to face the feces, folks.  Everyone poops.   Somebody even wrote a book about it.***

Now that I live on a horse farm, scoopage of the poopage is an integral part of my existence.  Now, I usually don’t spend lots of time actually thinking about manure, but I do find myself surrounded by copious quantities of pasture pralines on a daily basis, so it’s no wonder they started metamorphosing into metaphors.
For some reason I don’t fully understand, we primates think feces are funny.  Anyone who has ever made the mistake of trying to tease the monkeys at the zoo knows this. Monkeys and apes don’t mess around when insulted. They will gleefully fling their feces at you without a second thought, and if you’re smart, you’ll move out of the way. Human-type primates do this in a less literal way, and, like the proverbial frog in the saucepan, we often don’t react until it’s already hit the fan. 
We use excremental**** metaphors as social commentary. We also use them to punctuate our positions,  to add emphasis to our errors. 
I’ve discovered that there is a rather complicated etiquette to this.  For example, when we drop the casserole, we don’t say “bullshit.”  We reserve that for blatant falsehoods.  “Horseshit” refers to useless nonsense and non sequitur.  “Tough shit” is  what the hot-shit CEO tells you when you inform him that his edicts from on high just aren’t working, and “eat shit” is what you say under your breath when said CEO isn’t listening.
Never underestimate the power of poop! Because of poop, I have lost ten pounds of fat and put on a whole lot of muscle.  It’s done even greater wonders for my mental health.
I love the fact that when the bullshit from the batshit-crazy politicians and the horseshit from the hot-shit Powers that Be gets too deep, I can go out to my peaceful barn with its wonderful horses and shovel the real thing.  And when I’m finished, there’s no question that it’s a job well done.  I mean, it's not exactly rocket science.  There's either poop on the ground or there isn't.  
I love spending time outdoors where I don’t have to answer to any “No Roadapple Left Behind” laws. I love spending time where  “batshit” is merely something that is good for the garden.
So there you have it, folks. My life is full of shit, and I’ve never been happier.  Really. 
*For those cocky enough to think this is a cushy job,  I have ten fourth graders and a classroom with a really good lock. I dare you to let me shut you in there for an hour or so. 

**Don’t look at me that way. I didn’t write the thing.
***And it’s freekin’ brilliant, I might add. I highly recommend it for anyone who reads to toddlers on a regular basis, and even those who don’t.
****Is that even a word? If it wasn’t before, it is now.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Confessions of a U-Haul Virgin

I am half a century old, and until today, I have never rented a U-Haul.  Ever.
How odd is that?  Upon reflection, I can clearly see why I’ve never rented one, but it still kind of weirds me out.

 We used to have an SUV and a horse trailer. Anything big that needed moving got moved in that.  Furniture, garbage, hay, stuff for the yard, stuff from the yard.  Yes, even horses.  In it all went, no problem, no $19.95 a day, no 7 bucks extra for the dolly.

Then we traded in the old Dodge Durango for a little black Volvo, and since it’s really hard to pull a horse trailer with a Volvo, shortly thereafter the trailer got sold too.

I stopped showing horses years ago, so I really didn’t need the trailer.  Or so I thought.  True, I didn’t need the trailer for its intended purpose, but I needed it for everything else.

Big piles of tree branches, busted furniture, uprooted dead bushes, dog poop, leaves?  Hitch up the trailer, fill ‘er up,  and haul it to the dump.

Blizzard! Snow!  Ice! Spoiled rotten diva horses are making “I’m not comfy” faces. Must buy many bales of bedding! Into the trailer it went, and I was a hero in the eyes of my equines.

So here I am, grandmother of three on the ground and one on the way, fixin’ to retire soon, driving a minivan.  I don’t know how I came to this shockingly stereotypical middle-aged, middle-class state of being.  But I do know exactly how many bales of hay, sacks of grain, bags of bedding,  fourth graders, and greyhounds will fit into my minivan.*

I also know that the piles of boxes in my office will not fit unless I choose to take a few at a time and make many, many trips.  Six miles is not a long trip, but multiplied by double digits, it does start to wear on you.  The vast majority of our furniture is not minivan-friendly, either.

Enter the U-Haul truck.

This is a beeg-ass truck.  It’s only the medium-sized one, but it is big, inside and out. I expected it to be big in the cargo area, but it seems awfully oversized in the people compartment as well.  Am I just feeling punchy, or does this seem rather discriminatory to you?  Now, I am not supermodel height, nor am I particularly short.  In fact, if you consult the insurance charts, at 5’4”, I am dead-on average.   I have no trouble driving minivans, pickup trucks, even my husband’s Volvo.  But sitting in the driver’s seat of this thing, I feel like a five-year-old.  My feet don’t even reach the pedals.   Just lower the seat, you say?  Tried that. With the seat lowered so I can reach the pedals,  I have to peer through the gaps in the steering wheel in order to see the road.    Frustilation* ensues.

My point?  Clearly, this is a boy truck.  Clearly, I am not going to be able to drive the thing, and that bugs me no end.  What’s the fun of having a beeg-ass truck if you don’t get to drive it?

I have had this feeling before.  I remember being in Kindergarten and wanting to play with the pretend hammers and stuff at the pretend tool bench, and being redirected to the pretend kitchen area.  WTF? What an outrage!  My dad let me use the real hammer at home, thankyouverymuch.  My dad didn’t mess around. He had even introduced me to the wonders of duct tape.  Face it, no plastic flob of scrambled eggs is ever going to hold a candle to that.

Thank God for my forward-thinking dad, who, while the rest of the world sat glued to Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best, never divided the world into rigid ideals of boy-ness and girl-ness.  In my world there was only person-ness, and I consider myself blessed.  I grew up believing that I could be and do anything I set my mind to and held fast to that belief,  even if I got sent to the corner for pounding the plastic scrambled eggs flat with the pretend hammer.

It’s funny how certain situations can take you straight back to pivotal moments in your childhood. The U-Haul smelled like the inside of our garage, where things got built and hands got dirty. I had really wanted to drive that truck.  My inner tomboy was crushed, but there was no time to rail against the unfairness of it all.  There were many, many boxes of all sizes, and not one, but two seven-buck-a-day dollies just waiting for me to assert my manly-woman-ness on them.

My long-awaited transition from frustilated, slightly squishy, minivan-driving suburban grandmother to lean, mean rural farm girl was not going to be thwarted by any discriminatory, male-biased, beeg-ass orange truck.

Technically, I suppose I am still a U-Haul virgin. But I did get to throw in the first box.  I didn’t even use the dolly. And it felt good.

So it begins!

*3, 6, 4, 4, and 2. A medium-sized blue heeler will also fit in addition to any of the above, but only if she rides shotgun.
*Frustilation (n) fruh-stih-LAY-shun: Word invented by my granddaughter, Lily, to express just about anything having to do with her little sister.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Exceptional Schmutz

“If this was Heaven, there wouldn’t be dust all over everything.”
                                                          --Barbara’s Ghost, Beetlejuice
I killed the Dyson.  That’s right. I killed the Dyson, and it sucks – or rather, it doesn’t suck. Not anymore.
I did what any panic-stricken human being would do in such a situation.  I posted on Facebook.
“I killed the Dyson.”
My friend Elaine was horrified. “What the hell? You can’t kill a Dyson! Replace the filter! Let it cool down and then try again!  Clean the rollers!”
There was hope!  I replaced the filter. I cleaned the rollers.  I let it sit around a while. I flipped the switch.  Nothing.  Back to Facebook I went.
“I killed the Dyson.”
Another friend piped up. “Calm down. You cannot kill a Dyson. They have that ball thingy! They have that guy with the foreign accent!”
“Well, my Dyson doesn’t have a ball thingy, and I am pretty sure I killed it.”
“You should have gotten the purple one. You know, the one specifically for Homes Containing Animals.”
“That’s the one I have.”
Yet another friend felt sorry for me and tried to help. “What does it do when you switch it on?”
“Nothing. It does nothing.”
This revelation scares me.  Not because I have a half-vacuumed rug in my living room and a dead vacuum cleaner sitting on it.  It scares me because I am having serious misgivings about the nature of our schmutz.
Now, everyone’s house has schmutz at some level, except maybe Kim and Aggie, (and God only knows what’s doing with them now that their show has been cancelled).  But I am starting to wonder if my schmutz is somehow schmutzier that everyone else’s.
I have good reason to fear. Elaine has bigger dogs than I have.  Elaine has more dogs than I have.  She must be familiar with dust bunnies of greyhound origin, yet her Dyson is still intact.
I have always thought dirt had it in for me. No matter how many times a week I vacuum, the canister is always full.  The brush rollers are always clogged with thread and grass and hair.
Hair I understand. We have three dogs who shed. Until two months ago, I had waist-length hair, and I shed too.  The part I don’t understand is thread and grass.  I used to sew a lot.  When I was in college I made most of my own clothes.  I was always working on some theatre piece for which I was making costumes. Lately, though, my contact with thread consists of replacing the occasional button. The last time I sewed anything  of consequence was last Christmas when I made poodle skirts for my granddaughters.  And what’s up with all the grass? It’s been almost a decade since we’ve had grass.
I don’t think I am a pig –- and I know it's not schmutz of reality show proportions. We don’t have piles of junk everywhere, we take out the trash when it’s full and most of the time we remove stuff from the fridge before it turns into a science project.   I’m pretty sure we have no old pizzas or dead cats lurking under the beds. I have receipts from Target showing that I purchase Environmentally Friendly Cleaning Products on a regular basis, so I must be using the stuff somewhere.
You’ve all seen the commercials – there’s a nice neat line of confetti, coffee grounds and  Cheerios on the floor, and the advertised machine comes along and sucks it all up.  You know it wasn’t a trick because you can see the schmutz swirling around in the transparent bin.  Sometimes, you see someone chasing a cat off the sofa with the vacuum and neatly sucking the hairballs off the cushions.1
Here’s my theory. I am not a pig. The fault does not lie with me, but with the Dyson company. We have a Tassimo machine3, which means we never have cause to suck up any coffee grounds. The grand-girls are not toddlers anymore, and furthermore, they live in a different state. Suffice to say our Cheerio spillage is next to nothing.  We don’t have a cat.  And confetti?  Who has confetti problems on a regular basis?  Nobody, that’s who.
Clearly our Dyson was out of its element. Our schmutz is not the Dyson’s idea of schmutz.  When we brought it home, it was expecting a white carpet, chrome-and-glass furniture,  high rise penthouse, guy with foreign accent household.  What it got was  three big dog, three active grandchild, too busy to get a proper haircut, wind that blows the entire west mesa into the back yard chaos.
Conclusion?  I no longer berate myself for my exceptional schmutz. I embrace it, secure in the knowledge that I did not kill the Dyson. It committed suicide.
The new Bissell seems very happy here.

1 In my opinion, this person is not cleaning a mess so much as creating one. If you were a cat and someone came at you wielding a suckage device, your hair would fall out too.
2 Pun intended.
3 Rather, we had a Tassimo machine, until PNM thought Intel needed our electricity more than we did and killed it along with our dishwasher, but that’s a story for another day.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Any Syrup with that Waffle?

Click the picture -- kinda cute.
Remember, in my first awkward post, when I said stuff was going to get scary? Well, it has. Remember when I talked about being too much like my mother and I hated it? Well, I am. And I still do.
We’ve been looking at horse properties since early Spring.  Many houses. With many barns.  There are 82 houses for sale in Corrales right now, and I feel like I’ve tramped through every single one of them. Beds and baths and kitchens, oh, my! 
My mom had a stroke in May, and the house search veered off into the ditch. When she got out of the hospital and into rehab, it veered back out again.
If this summer had a soundtrack, it would be from a movie with lots and lots of car chases.  Lurch! Screech! Zoom!  Waffle!
Yes, waffle.  My mom is a waffler. While in the rehab facility, Mom learned that the stroke had left all her mental faculties intact, but it had weakened the left side of her body.  She decided she might not be able to stay by herself in her 2,400 square foot home anymore.  We agreed. It’s not enough to have all your marbles if the body that is transporting them falls and hurts itself.
We started looking for properties with guest houses or in-law quarters, where Mom could be close to us but still maintain her own private space.  I worried about money. She said not to, she had money.
I hate talking about money. I especially hate talking about other people’s money. I hate talking about my parents’ money even more. I wish they had spent it all in Las Vegas or something, but my mom hates to leave her house, so it never happened (hold this thought – it will become really important later.) 
"How much money are you willing to put in," I asked.
"$(Insert obscene amount here).00," she said.
ZOOM! A call to the realtor, and off we went.  We looked at a bunch of places, and settled on one to show my mom.  She loved it,  and we made an offer.
SCREECH!  The seller laughed at the offer.
Off we went again, in search of similar properties.  Found one. Showed it to my mom. She loved it.
"So Mom, how much money do you want to put in?"
WAFFLE! "$(Insert precisely half the obscene amount stated above).00."
OK, I thought, this is no surprise. Whatever.  We started writing up another offer.
LURCH! While I loved the grounds and the barn, the house needed lots of work, and it looked like something from the Northeast Heights. (Not that there is anything wrong with the Northeast Heights, mind, you, but they look kind of funny in Corrales.)  Plus, my mom would have to share the house with us, and she kept calling me and asking for more rooms, which my dogs would not have access to. She worried about my big dogs knocking her over or eating her terrier.  I had the feeling a call with “your dogs will have to live outside” was coming next, and that was so not going to happen.  Plus, the house was a short sale. No matter what the inspectors said, the sellers would not make any repairs. We might not be able to take possession for months, and the owners were demanding that we let them stay in the house for 60 days (!) beyond closing. A lawyer friend said he wouldn't touch the deal with a ten-foot escape clause.
I kept waking up in the middle of the night, in a sweaty WTFAYD* panic. The offer never got completed.
Guess what? Waffling is hereditary.
My husband is not only funny and adorable, he’s a really smart guy.  He asked me why we were suddenly willing to be held hostage by my mom’s money.
SCREEEEECH!  Holy  crap.  It’s one thing to want to take responsibility for the safety of one’s elderly relatives, but letting them control your whole life is a whole ‘nother can of worms that is so not going to be opened.
There is an immaculate little horse farm at the south end of the village. The house is small and quirky and shaped like a triangle. Not too many people want to live in a quirky little triangle house, so the property has been on the market forever.   I could totally see myself living there, and I’ve been drooling over it for months. Owners of said quirky house finally decide they aren’t going to get what they’ve been asking, and drop the price.  A lot. They not only drop the price, they drop it into We-Don’t-Need-Mom’s-Money price range.
Eureka!  Halleluia! Yahoo! ZOOM!
But, you ask, what about Mom?
“I’ll just stay here,” says Mom.
“I thought you said you couldn’t afford the caregiver?” I say.
 “I’ll look at Senior Living apartments,” says Mom.
I ignore the bait.  “OK. Which ones do you want to go look at?”
“What happened to my living with you?"
“The offer still stands, but my dogs are not going to live outside. There will be horses. There will eventually be a goat and maybe chickens. And don’t forget the septic tank.”
“I’ll just stay here.” 
“Fine,” I counter. “But you’ll have to agree to the caregiver at night and wearing the Life Alert button on your person during the day.”
“The button is on my nightstand.”
Waffles. Loads of them. Multiplying! It’s starting to look like an IHOP in here.
“OK, here’s the deal.  We found a place we love. You may like it, you may hate it, but we want to buy it. If you want to live with us, it has an enormous garage, which could be converted into a really nice guest house for you if you want to pay for the construction. You can help with the down payment if you want to be on the deed.”
We took Mom to see the place.  She likes the idea of building her own space. (If  she can build it for $[Insert precisely one-fourth the original obscene amount].00.) She hates the idea of a septic tank. She likes the city-water hookup. She made it clear that she does not want to live in a triangle house (good!)
We made an offer. The sellers accepted. An architect friend has started drawing plans for a lovely guest house that may or may not get built. Mom is still waffling, and that’s OK.
I dream panic-free dreams of horses and goats and chickens and happy people taking riding lessons.  I dream of peaceful evenings spent lounging in the hot tub or on the porch with my husband.  I dream of uncharted territory and leaps of faith.  I wake up (WTFAYD?)  laughing and terrified at the same time.
*What The F*** Are You Doing?!?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Just For The Hell Of It

“The heat is on, so arm your soul.”   ---Ziggy Marley
It’s Summertime here in the high desert. High desert summers are different than other summers. I was reminded of this during a recent trip to the tropics. Yes, New Mexico summers are hot, sometimes with three-digit temperatures for days at a at a time, but as we Southwestern grammas say from our curmudgeonly lawn chairs, it’s a dry heat.
Those ain’t just gramma words, folks.  Here in New Mexico, shade means something. It makes a difference.  If you get too hot, you find a shady spot and cool down. If there’s a breeze and a beverage involved, it’s absolute Heaven. 
I was sitting on my porch last night in my private little Heaven, mojito in hand,  thinking about Hell.
I didn’t realize there were so many different concepts of Hell. Of course the first thing that comes to mind is what I call Cartoon Hell.  This is where red guys with horns, pointy goatees, and pitchforks poke hapless sinners as they slog through a lake of fire.
I dismiss this literal view of Eternal Damnation.  I figure after I die I will no longer have a physical body, and it takes a physical body to experience physical pain such as Phoenix-in-July heat and pitchfork pokeage. If you listen to guys like Pat Robertson, this version of Hell is full of gay people,  feminists, free thinkers, and Democrats.  Hmm.  Sounds kinda like Heaven to me.
Moving on.
When I was fourteen, I discovered another kind of Hell.  I’ll call this one Hell that Sneaks Up On You. A made-for-TV movie titled Haunts of the Very Rich introduced me to this concept.  The film opens on a mysterious airplane filled with minor celebrities from the 1970s and some really cheesy music.

                                                      (Click picture to view the full film)

(Are you scared yet? I am.) These folks are headed to an equally mysterious resort that looks a whole lot like Fantasy Island.  This resort appears heavenly, with rooms specifically designed to fulfill each guest’s every desire. BUT!  None of these people remember booking their vacation, and none of them have any luggage, except what they had with them when they died.  Oops – did I just say that out loud? Don’t you just hate it when someone spoils the movie for you by thoughtlessly announcing how it ends?  Scratch that.  No one knows how they got to the resort and each one appears to be the embodiment of one of the Seven Deadly Sins,* but there are drinks included, so who cares?
As the story unfolds, a hurricane arrives and wipes out all the amenities, leaving the guests stranded. Various means of rescue are promised, but never materialize, and it quickly becomes apparent that this version of Hell involves giving hope, then taking it away. For eternity.
This is a pretty strong concept, given that it comes from a big slice of television fromage. It dug its way into my teenaged brain and seriously creeped me out for years to come.  I could and did buy into the concept of Hell consisting of an eternity without hope.

Without leaving the 70s, we can travel to Hell for the Goose.

I used to love Rod Serling's Night Gallery.  My high school friends and I would watch the series in our pajamas, eating popcorn in the dark, alternately laughing at the black humor and attempting to creep each other out. There were several episodes that dealt with various concepts of Hell, but the one that sticks in my mind was one titled "Hell's Bells."  A badly-bewigged John Astin plays a hippie who dies in a car accident and is transported to Hell. Here we find that Hell has a waiting room, and the waiting room has rules.   No sleeping. No talking. No smoking. No standing. No breathing. No littering.  A cranky housekeeper pops in (literally) from time to time to make sure the rules are enforced.  Soon the protagonist, anxious to begin his exciting fire-and-brimstone-acid-trip experience, finds himself ushered into a room that contains a phonograph, hundreds of vinyl records, and some old people. The music is all straight out of an elevator, and the old people want to do nothing more than show thousands of slides from their recent vacation.

Slowly it starts to dawn on our hippie that this experience is not at all what he expected it to be. In comes the Devil (see Cartoon Hell paragraph above) who assures him that this is indeed Hell. He will be stuck in this room, with this music, these people, and their vacation for eternity. "You know," says the Devil, "It's a curious thing, but they have exactly the same room Up There."

Poor hippie.  He finally gets it.  "Bummer,"  he wails.  "Bummer, bummer, bummer!"

Hell for the goose can be Heaven for the gander, and I heartily agree.

(click picture to view full episode)
In another slice of Hollywood Hell,  the feature film What Dreams May Come depicts an eternity where you choose your own torment.
This one I understand.  For anyone with a conscience, the idea of having to relive all your mistakes, unkindnesses, and transgressions over and over without end would truly be Hell.  But people with a conscience are good, right?  And don’t only bad people go to Hell?

In the film, this actually turns out to be the case. Even if you are in Hell, there can be forgiveness. But first you must choose to forgive yourself.  (And then you can go to Heaven and see all your dogs.  Good movie. See it.)

I asked my friends for their thoughts when I decided to write about this. I asked,  “If you were to die and wake up in Hell, what would it be like?” Responses ran from a very fundamental Biblical version of Hell, to an eternity of doing stuff you hate with people you hate in places that you hate,  to the idea that there is no Hell and why the Hell was I asking.  Then came this one from a fellow writer:
“Hell would be not waking up.”
BINGO!  This is the one that scares me the most.  I’ve lived my life believing that I am here for a reason, that I am here to learn things, to become a better, more enlightened being before I move on to whatever is next. What if  we make a mess of what we have right now, and this is all there is?
Yikes. I guess I’d better do better while I’m here – just in case.
*For those who may be interested but don’t want to think too much as they watch the movie, Ed Asner is Greed, Cloris Leachman is Vanity, Lloyd Bridges is Lust,  and Anne Francis is Annoying (not a deadly sin, but it should be.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Land Shark Revelations

I get to retire in one year, two months, six days, and fourteen hours. It has always been my dream to retire to a horse farm and give riding lessons. This means: 1) I need to find my farm, 2) I need to have enough money to purchase my farm, 3) In order to get said money, I have to sell my house, 4) In order to sell my house, it has to look nice.

When I bought my house, it was owned by a family of anal retentive…. obsessive-compulno-fun clean frea… extremely neat persons. The yard was pristine, grassy, flowery, perfect.

Therein lies the problem. It isn’t anymore, and this is why:

I have dogs. Multiple dogs. Multiple BIG dogs. Greyhound dogs, to be exact. I also volunteer with a local greyhound adoption agency. This means I not only have greyhounds, I try to make sure as many other people as possible have them as well.

Greyhounds can run fast – 45 miles per hour, in fact, but they are sprinters. They run like crazy for about a quarter of a mile and then they’re done for the day. A greyhound is basically a cat in a dog-shaped body. They sleep most of the time, only bothering to get up for food or to find a squishier couch. You would be hard-pressed to find a mellower, sweeter, more house-friendly pooch.

Unless they are puppies. The greyhound community calls puppies "land sharks." Eight years ago, I discovered that they call them this for a reason. Greyhound puppies, I discovered, are busy. I discovered this when we decided to provide foster care for three of them.

Morning Glory. Daisy. Dandelion. Two petite black girls and one big yellow boy from a "whoopsie" litter of five. They had all been named after flowers – a good move on the part of the adoption agency, who clearly knew they were gilding the lily, so to speak. Sweet-faced, cuddly, round little spuds who had not yet grown into their streamlined greyhound shape. They licked our faces and squirmed charmingly as my friend and I put them in a crate in my car. Their brown button eyes shined calmly at us from their crate and they seemed eager to begin this new adventure.

Until I turned on the ignition.

Then all hell broke loose. They screamed. They whined. They peed. They pooped. They drooled and barfed. For forty-five minutes the puppies added new and increasingly offensive sounds and smells to their repertoire.

Immediately upon reaching my driveway, they stopped screaming. They wagged their spindly little tails and asked to be picked up and cuddled. Oh, how they stank. They stank to high heaven. And they were laughing at us. They laughed as only greyhounds can laugh, with a wide, eye-crinkling, tongue-lolling, ear-to-ear doggy grin.

Holding each filthy, grinning bundle at arm’s length, my friend and I rushed them all into the bathtub. We were followed by John’s border collie, Lacy, and Miss Sissy, my mellow, beautifully behaved princess of a greyhound.

Sissy made sure nobody hurt any puppies during bath time. Sissy licked them dry afterwards. Sissy had raised puppies before, and it looked like she had volunteered to raise these as well.

As Sissy dutifully herded them out the back door, I turned to my friend and said, “Wow, this is going to be easy!”

I lied.


Sissy stepped off the porch and promptly began teaching the puppies how to dig up my moss roses. She’d break the ground, then step aside and let the little ones have a go. Lacy decided she also enjoyed this game, and dug herself a clubhouse under the concrete slab. Dandelion was bouncing along, happily wolfing down clumps of the loose dirt.*

Morning Glory, the smartest of the three, became bored with digging holes and discovered that pulling up the drip irrigation system was much more fun. And look! A garden hose! What happens if I bite it? A fountain! Pretty!

If I grabbed one, the others would dance away and start digging someplace else. What fun, this silly lady who tucks you under her arm like a football and runs around the yard chasing after your siblings and uttering colorful metaphors!

It had only been a few hours since the Land Shark Invasion of 2003, but the Pristine Family’s manicured back yard was a real mess. There were holes in the pristine lawn. There were flowers missing from the pristine rose bushes. The pristine porch was sprayed with sand and debris. There was dirt where there should be grass, and divots of sod where there should be dirt. There was irrigation tubing spouting, leaking, sticking up everywhere.

Mr. and Mrs. Pristine would have been horrified. I felt a pang of guilt for ruining all their hard work, but only for a second.

As I surveyed the wreckage, I saw Lacy adding some square footage to her newly-dug den. Sissy was grinning her best greyhound grin, lying upside down on the remnants of the lawn with her new foster children climbing all over her.

“No, no," I laughed. "Bad dogs!” I laughed until I got the hiccups. “No, no, no, no, no!”

It was then that I realized something very important. Mr. and Mrs. Pristine no longer had any say in the matter. I am not a pristine person. I much prefer sharing the couch with my dogs to fur-free upholstery. I’d rather come home to goofy greyhound grins in my slobber-covered windows than a spotless museum of a house any day. From the moment those puppies arrived, my house became my home.

Now it’s time to sell my house, and I understand that it will have to be made pristine again for a new family.

I hope they have puppies.


*When my husband came home that evening and met the puppies, Dandelion proudly pooped a poop made entirely of the sand he had sucked up earlier. “We’re keeping this one,” John said, and promptly renamed him “Hoover.” (He was not named after the president.)


Morning Glory and Hoover

Daisy and Lacy

Hoover and Sissy