Monthly Archives: January 2013

Why Dogs Are Good People.

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Dogs, especially those who’ve lived with other dogs before moving in with people, must find our kind a very strange beast. If we could look from inside a dog’s eyes we could be fairly sure we’re having a nightmare. Even though we love our favorite furry friends, do we really want to know what it’s like to do our business in the yard and eat dinner with no opposable thumbs at the mercy of a creature who has no idea what your favorite meals are? You’ve smelled canned dog food, right? (You don’t get extra points if you tasted it.)

What first got me thinking about this subject was when I recently had to cram a pill down my little dog’s throat. By now, she most likely thinks it’s some sort of weird hobby, but the first time I did it, she must have given some thought to checking in at the local dog shelter.

Consider someone you really like, someone who strokes you, tells you’re pretty and generally seems to enjoy your company, like your spouse. Now, say this person after 13 years of marriage-in dog years-strides into your bedroom, wakes you from a pleasant dream and then, with no preamble, forces your mouth open and crams his hand down your throat, removes said hand, pats you on the head and walks off.

How would you react to this? I don’t know about you, but I was pretty angry and I told him it was unacceptable. But your dog can’t do this. All she can do is hope you’ve got it out of your system and, tell your dog friends that your person seems to be on crack.

What about barking? Every day my dogs stand guard as the last line of defense between me and the evildoers who could potentially break into my home, leaving nothing but blood and guts and nobody who knows how to use the can opener. They must be proud of their ferocity; pleased that there will be dinner tonight. And what do they get for their trouble, “SHUT UP!” It’s possible, since their English is limited, they think I’m saying, Good Job! emphatically, but, really I hope they know I mean, “SHUT UP!”

My husband once wrote a blog post on the subject of perception based on a conversation we had, where he wondered why our dog friends didn’t give up barking at the mail carrier as he only returns the next day. I told him the dogs most likely think they are overdue for an award for successfully protecting their house on a daily basis from the guy who drops his weapons and runs from the porch every day. I can’t confirm or deny this is true, but I like to think I’m always correct, so it’s true.

Then there’s the toy thing. Dog’s have few possessions, mainly because they have no pockets, but most have a toy they enjoy. Being the generous near-people they are, they often bring their best thing to their owners-who they think are their parents and wonder when we will admit the adoption secret. In response, we yank the toy from their mouths and throw it as hard as we can, forcing them to retrieve it. This must be puzzling, especially the first time it happens. There must be a sense of, Dude! WTF?

Once again, in the context of human relations, imagine your friend comes to your home and, in the course of your conversation, you show her your grandmother’s vase, passed down for generations and now in your capable hands. You show it to your pal who wrestles it from your fingers and tosses it into your dining room, then turns to you with over-the-top excitement and says, “Go get it! Go on! Good Girl!”

You would, of course, run happily into the next room and pick up whatever shards remain and quickly deposit them into your friends outstretched hands, all the while laughing and prancing about.

No you wouldn’t, because, if you’re reading this, you’re not a dog. You’d most likely demonstrate your displeasure through violence and you’d be found not guilty be a jury of your peers, which is why dogs are better people.

Despite having to assimilate to a world where the inhabitants seem to consider them an inferior species, but still demonstrate love and affection despite the “SHUT UP!” thing, our canine companions love us intensely, even sleeping in our beds with us, even though they’d probably prefer the comfort and roominess of their own. You know, like marriage.

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My dogs on patrol.

 

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Why TMZ is unhealthy for me

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I was merrily skipping through my exorbitant amount of TV stations (skipping being a deceptive word as I have Direct TV and trying to surf their channels is very much like the unlikely event of my mother literally surfing. (Up! And she’s down…Uh, uh, up, no she’s down, etc.) when I came across TMZ, a show populated by third grade graduates, wait…I’m being told they are, indeed third graders, who seem to think they have a career in journalism when in fact they are simply bed bugs dressed like wannabe hipsters.

These six-legged pests crawl into the world, bother people and then return to their nests with tales of how angry people get when they are annoyed by biting insects.

Now, I am not a celebrity and TMZ seems completely uninterested in accosting me as I go about my life, no matter how many times I call ahead to give them a heads up as upcoming whereabouts. So, one might assume that my displeasure, bordering on simmering disgust is out of proportion to the situation and that I would choose to ignore them since there has been no legislation enacted requiring me to suffer fools gladly. You’d be wrong, because on this particular day, TMZ was harassing Coldplay’s frontman and my pretend gentleman friend, Chris Martin.

I know what you’re thinking, aren’t you a middle-aged woman who should have matured beyond crushes on rock stars? A: Is this the first blog post you’ve read of mine? Go back and do your research before accusing me of teen-aged behavior B: Shut up.

Anyway, this post is not about Mr. Martin as much as I’d like it to be. This post, eventually, will be about misplaced anger and why it is unhealthy. Now, back to Chris Martin.

The reason I paused to watch TMZ (which stands for, you rat bastards, you’re going to hell,) was that I glimpsed Chris Martin getting into a car at an airport, which naturally needed immediate attention from the press and never fails to garner mine.

As he was stowing his luggage, wannabe arachnoids skittered towards him, throwing out the kind of questions that are completely appropriate to yell at human beings who write music, sing and put on a sensational show. “How many times do you go to the bathroom everyday?” “Is there a sexual position you prefer when cheating on your wife?” “Can we see your feet?”

Chris attacked ne’ery a one of them and hopped into a car with a smile and a wave. This is where I should have changed the channel, but instead, to my everlasting regret, I lingered, having never had a close up view inside the nest of nuisance insects.

At this point, the “reporters” discussed what was surprisingly evident to them: that the questions asked were less than professional. Then-get ready for irony to make a guest appearance-a female of the species offered, that given the opportunity to accost Chris Martin, she would have asked, “… how he stays married to that insufferable woman,” (Gwyneth Paltrow, presumably.)

Now, I have only achieved an Associate Degree in Ms. Paltrow in the course of getting my doctorate (cyber stalking) in Chris Martin studies. Much to my chagrin she seems to be quite cute, smart and funny, so much so that I almost hate to put my fiendish kidnapping plan into motion.

Even given that information, however, there is absolutely no reason for me to borrow rage from her loved ones, and yet I made the decision to gnash my teeth and carry that insufferable woman (insect girl) with me for more than a week, to my admitted detriment.

(OK, here comes the social commentary portion of tonight’s entertainment.) There are many things which should anger humanity as a whole: injustice, war, and why we can’t cure static electricity, but still, we feel the need to drop coins into the anger vending machine and take whatever random item that drops into a less than sanitary receptacle slot, holding our dubious treasure tightly in our hands and wandering off eating, even though it tastes like the stuff your mother used to make which could only be made relatively palatable with large doses of catsup or ketchup, whichever makes you less angry.

Of course, indignation on behalf of celebrities is a purposeful exercise of which we should all indulge, but do we have to turn our stomachs into acid milkshakes over our neighbor’s rickety fence? (And we’ll be working on it this summer, neighbors, FYI.)

My mother is the queen of random anger, (which is a good name for a band). High on the top of her list, which rivals the government’s Facebook files, are high heels and the women who wear them. On the bright side, neither she, nor I, nor anyone we visited while she was here, wears them. Plus, we agreed that the huge lifts that pass for an elegant shoe these days resemble what The Bride Of Frankenstein might wear to The Bride of Dracula’s open bar wedding reception.

I argued that, since we were neither shopping for these items or are required to wear them to avoid a fine, we might as well laugh at them and then go about our business in the closest thing to slippers we can legitimately wear out of the house.

Instead, my mother chose to grunt like an amplified tennis players every time a woman on TV or in a magazine slipped on these monstrosities and stumbled into view before careening into the next available wall.

My mother has the same reaction to women in low cut dresses, men in low cut dresses and women who dress very modestly (Ellen Degeneres). She hates teenagers, Ann Margret, the idea that she should have to pick up her dog’s poop (She doesn’t. Feel free to become infuriated if she lives in your neighborhood) and the other political party, when she figures out which is which.

Early on in her visit, I explained that anger is a destructive thing which turns in on ourselves unless it’s directed at my middle brother. However, for whatever reason, she chose not to change her lifelong view of the world because I told her to and continued to harrumph at an alarming rate for her entire visit.

I suppose we all have our triggers which we should be able to ignore but, instead offer a rent free room in our mind so we can conveniently visit at our leisure. Whether it’s politics, sports, who lives in the stupidest state, (I won’t name names, but it starts with In and ends with ana…I’m KIDDING! Can’t you take a joke? Why are you Hoosiers so angry all the time?), we choose our own destruction via pointless temper.

Maybe as a New Year’s resolution, we can all attempt to release our anger and find the peace which would replace it.

But don’t @#$% pick on Chris Martin or his circle of loved ones or I will torture myself with unfounded fury. I’ll do it! Don’t think I won’t!

Namaste, dammit.

Why Mothers Would Ruin Les Miserables

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Like many Americans, I capped off this year’s joyous Christmas season with a trip to the multiplex to watch Les Miserables. The title should be a tip off to the unrelenting despair set to music which is Les Miserables, literally translated as “please don’t commit suicide in our theater.” Still, I settled in with my husband and unsuspecting mother who probably expected more Boy Meets Girl than Everybody Dies.

As a side note, I’ve always wondered who reads an epic novel about class inequities, sacrifice, French nationalism, death, death, death and wacky inn keepers and thinks, Musical! Then again, who plops down millions of dollars just to stuff up their sinuses and lose all faith in humanity. Me, that’s who! Me and my soggy ilk.

Anyway, after I sat shiva on the movie version, I began to consider a small detail of the musical which, in terms of how I look at life, just didn’t make sense and it wasn’t why a factory full of women would attack one of their own because a guy impregnated her and then went back on tour with the cast of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat, not only leaving Fantine without child support but participating in a show where people don’t need to salt their popcorn with Prozac.

My problem is the idea that a large group of students would not only skip school on a regular basis, even before schools texted parents about unexcused absences, but could build a barricade with items most likely procured from their mother’s homes without even one mother calling another and asking, what’s up with that?

Nobody notices that their little Marius is coming home from a hard day of learning how to speak French, with beer on his breath and no new conversational French beyond Viva La Revolucion!

Anyone who has ever mothered would call her son’s friend’s mother and say, “Hi Alice. Have you noticed a distinct lack of French where Brian is concerned?” ( I know these are not typically french names, but I took Spanish in high school when I actually attended high school and therefore speak only English.)

Now you wouldn’t contact Ben’s mother who would leap to his defense and assure you that her baby would never plot a revolution when he was supposed to be in school as Ben’s mother’s a bit of an idiot. You, would, however track down Pierre’s’s mom, as she is reasonable enough to know that any kid will plan a revolution with the wrong friends and a bartender who has never heard the term “under aged drinking”.

This conversation would start a chain reaction and soon all of the mother’s would be springing little questions on their misbehaving sons like, Parlez Vous Frances?” to which the little buggers would reply, “Umm, do you hear the people sing?’ before running out the door with your red table cloth.

And let’s face it; these kids are going to make a barricade with stuff they take from their homes and god knows it won’t be their beds or their laptops. No, these kids are going to take a chair here, a table there, your grandfather’s piano.

There is no way that this would continue to the point where they are downtown in the middle of the day, taunting soldiers while peering through the rungs of your mother’s settee. No. You’re going to say to yourself, “Wait one darn minute. Where is my mother’s sofa?” and then you’re going to lean over the fence and say, “Alice. Are you missing any large pieces of furniture from your hovel?”

And Alice is going to say, “No, but Jaques (that’s a french name, right?) loaded up our best wheel barrel and told me not to wait up. You don’t think those monkeys are blocking off the main street again, do you?”

At this point, these kids have bigger concerns than an armed militia, pissed off that they’re trying to take down the government. At this point, the mothers are heading downtown with absolutely no singing involved, armed with facial expressions that could stop global warming if utilized ten years ago.

Before you can say, “I liked this musical better when the mom’s weren’t involved,” the barricade would be cleaned up and every boy would be forced to apologize to the nice army men before going to bed without supper. And Marius would be forced to tell that nice Cozette that he wouldn’t be able to take her to the prom as he is grounded, mister!

Don’t let this stop you from seeing Les Miserables, however. There’s still plenty of suicide and tragedy even without the barricade and that’s just in the audience.

How to have a Perfect Marriage in Six Easy Steps

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As a person of advanced years, one might think I have valuable advice to offer on any number of topics. One would be wrong. There are few subjects of which I feel I have the expertise to offer up with certainty and a whiff of condescension, but, as a rule, since no one listens, I just wake up in the middle of the night and go over the details while begging myself to go back to sleep.

Don’t get me wrong, with little to no encouragement, I will offer my opinion, but I’ve grown to know that, although my opinions are almost always correct, they are seldom recognized as the rule of law; it has been a hard truth to accept, but we all have all cross to bear.

There is one area, however, by virtue of my thirty-four years in the trenches, that I feel I can offer a few words of wisdom, keeping in mind that, because it’s aimed at people younger than me, it will be completely ignored.

The following is my six point guide to a perfect marriage. Follow it to the letter and every day with your significant other will be better than the last, especially if you spent yesterday with your in-laws. (Just kidding in-laws.)

Rule One: Don’t get married.

Marriage is a lot of things, many of them not awful, but marriage is not a magical wand and it will never make a relationship improve. If your fiance is surly, squirrely or a goat herder by trade, he will, most likely, remain so after the wedding you’ve planned all your life and fear will never take place if you don’t settle for sharing your kitchen wt a herd of goats or maybe sheep, either way, it’s just not sanitary. Remember, it’s better to be alone than to wish you were or so I’ve been told by people who aren’t alone.

Rule Two: Always go to bed angry.

 So you’ve been fighting, or not speaking, whichever annoys your partner the most for hours and now you’re tired and long for sleep. Your mother told you to avoid going to bed angry and you’ve heeded this advice so I have no sympathy for you. Now listen to your Aunt Jamie; go to bed, sleep, live to fight another day. What is worse than being just this side of coming up with an alibi for the last night your spouse was seen alive and then growing delusional with lack of sleep? Sleepy anger is the cause of more near misses than any other phenomenon. (It’s hard to precise while aiming a deadly object, bleary-eyed with exhaustion.)

Rule Three: Your Spouse is as annoyed as you are.

 This is related to rule two and should be considered a cautionary tale. Say your birthday has arrived and your spouse either completely forgot or presented a gift which illuminates his preference for watching football when reputable stores are open. Now further suppose he goes out the next day, to a store, while football is on and returns with a super deluxe wood chipper for himself.

You’re angry and then you’re hurt and you cry and then you’re angry once more and you lie awake at night wondering if anyone would think he accidentally fell into said chipper and thereby relieve the inevitable suspicion the officers of the law might have when pieces of your beloved are found in your garden mulch.

I promise you, your significant other has spent as many nights plotting your demise for some slight you innocently and without malice perpetrated. Every marriage is going to run the gamut from devoted love to murderous rage; if you’re lucky it ebbs and flows through out the years on both shores. If the ebbs outnumber the flows consider not killing your spouse. There are a number of other options, including holding a grudge.

 Rule Four: Never do anything because your parents did it.

Marriage is personal. If you and your spouse agree that party hats should be worn during love making or that neither of you mind buying new dishes every week rather then washing them by hand, do that. I don’t care what they do on TV and I don’t care if your neighbor who watches you from between the slats of the blinds thinks you’re weird (and who’s he to talk?) make your own rules and get better curtains.

Rule Five: Do not have children with your spouse or anyone else unless, two decades from now, you are prepared to come face to face with a person who looks, thinks, talks and walks exactly like the person with whom you decided to throw caution and articles of clothing to the wind on a random night when there was nothing on TV.

Ask yourself, do I like this person well enough to accept his DNA to create a mini-him which I will be required to love with all of my heart and soul despite the sneer of my darling child’s face that screams “Perhaps I should have built a baby with the goat herder?” If not, don’t procreate. You’ll thank me years later unless your lack of children develops into a lack of grandchildren which we all know is fatal.

Rule Six: Don’t take advice from anyone unless you agree with them somewhere inside of you. When I was engaged I was taken aside by members of my church warning that my future husband would not let me go to church. My dad told me Italian guys go bald and get fat and beat their wives. My mom told my husband to make sure he cooked chicken thoroughly. My mom was right, (who’d have thought.)

I think that pretty much covers things. I have some advice on child rearing which you can also ignore if the mood strikes you, but for now; go to bed.

 

Why I Allow My Mom to Visit at Christmas

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So, my mom threw out my Christmas presents when she came to spend the holidays with me last week. I know what you’re thinking, “So? Doesn’t everyone’s mom throw out their Christmas presents?”

No you’re not thinking that. Although everyone’s mom has her idiosyncrasies; your mom may correct your grammar and another mom may try to give her adult child a bath in the kitchen sink since it worked well when they were a kid, my mom, however is, well…quirky. Yes, let’s use that word.

In this case, my mom tossed two gift cards while in the course of her duties; disposing of everything she doesn’t deem important in my home, i.e. everything on every flat surface. Unfortunately, having just opened my gifts, I set them in a decorative bowl on my coffee table, not realizing that the bowl did not circumvent the flat surface rule.

After sifting through my recycling and some stomach churning garbage, (turns out Christmas dinner looks way better on the dining room table than it does three days hence at the bottom of a plastic bag, just FYI,) I found my gift cards in a third garbage location and retrieved them. I have hidden them in a place so secret I will absolutely never remember where they are, but at least they won’t end up in a land fill along with all of the other things my mom intends to dispose of.

My mom is currently throwing things out at her girlfriend’s condo so I’m able to jot down a few words before looking for my dog who must have settled on a flat surface for just a moment too long.

I can’t help but wonder what I will someday do while visiting my son’s home which will make him wonder why he continues to invite me to stay. I can, however, share why he’ll open his door rather than pretend he’s in Fiji, a place he knows is too far for me to fly; he is alive.

Most everyone who belongs to that less than exclusive club owes a debt to a primary caregiver, most often a mother, for keeping them alive for the first three years of their life when the average child spends most of its waking hours testing the agility, mind and body, of the woman responsible for bringing them into the world.

Despite this bit of proprietary information, many of us continue to reproduce, secure in the idea that we, as the next (better informed) generation will find a way to raise versions of ourselves without repeating the words which have been passed down, generation after generation just before another sun rises on our precious baby’s newest day. “Just go the !@#$%^ to sleep you little !@#$%^,” a phrase first uttered by Eve resulting in her expulsion from paradise along with Adam, who was pretending he was asleep. The apple thing was invented to avoid using blue language in Genesis.

Once a child is mobile, a stage for which many parents inexplicably long for reasons only evolution can explain, children become tiny drunks and drug addicts, stumbling from one misadventure to the next with nary a backward glance at their harried caregivers who are charged with coming up with funny stories about their child’s near death experiences twenty years hence.

My son, who was apparently a light drinker, had few near death experiences. The most vivid in my mind was when he was a new walker and had followed my husband and I into our walk-in closet. Why we were compelled to meet there, I no longer remember, but I do remember glancing in the direction he normally occupied (south) and finding a dog, which held many of his endearing properties, but none of my DNA resulting in my preference for the baby who was standing thirty feet away at the top of my winding staircase.

He was a charming fellow even then, and before I could react to his precarious situation, he smiled, waved (if he’s been wearing a hat, I swear he would have tipped it,) and said one of his newer phrases, “Bye-bye,” before stepping out with no apparent deference to the lack of solid footing. (He also said, hi, mama, Dindy and Ernie, none of which suited the situation, but I don’t want you, the reader, to consider him a dolt, which you might after the following paragraph, so I added them.)

You know how, in movies, when something is going to happen to Bruce Willis’ or Samuel Jackson’s family, the action turns to slow motion and the hero screams, “nooooooooooooo,” as he runs to save his beloved family at the pace of a LA traffic jam? There’s a reason for that, it’s called reality. As my newly upright son stepped out without the smallest clue that the largest percentage of household accidents are caused by the lack of ability when it comes to descending stairs, (sticking your wet fingers into electrical sockets is the second most dangerous of household injuries, both of which are seldom experienced by the over two set,) my son had tumbled all the way down the stairs and I had yet to complete the final o! even as gravity released him.

Obviously, he turned out OK and that’s the story we’re sticking with (and you’re welcome, Jesse.) I credit his diaper. We’ll never know how many injuries have been evaded by a lack of potty training.

There were other near misses, most of them caused by me with complete lack of malice, such as attempting to cut his baby nails and taking a bit of pinkie with them and letting the young boy place the palm of his hand on the automatic folding headlights of my car which, surprise! close when you turn off the ignition even if a small hand is still exploring.

Every parent knows that the terror involved with raising a child, coupled with the crippling love, ages a person, which would be a great deterrent to premarital sex if we could only convey the nauseating reality to teens. On the bright side, it guarantees an open door policy at our grown child’s residence when they make the mistake of publicizing their address.

Whether our moms were the squishy, puddled adoration type, (me) or the practical you’ll do-as-I-say-or (insert vague threat here) kind, they loved us and still see us as kids. How do I know? Because my little man is the most darling and precious Angel Bunny in all the land, plus he looks even cuter when his beard grows out.

There are times (like when I spit on a finger and clean a whoopsie from his face after following him in a car while he participates in an adult ritual with a hussy) he probably wishes I was the alternative mom, which is, in essence, more what my mom is, but there’s no changing horses mid-stream or leaving your mom in a rest room in London, which wouldn’t really bother me that much, because I know where Paul McCartney’s house is and where Coldplay’s office/rehearsal space is, so…

Anyway. My mom flies in from Atlanta where she moved while I was on my honeymoon in London thirty four years ago. (It’s kind of theme.) Since I live in Chicago, this an example of how different we are as mothers. Get this, my son wants to move to London, (See? A theme!) but has been unable to, thus far because I have shackled him in the basement, where I intend to keep him until he realizes he can’t bear to live outside of a half a miles distance from his mom.

OK, you’re probably thinking, “Poor guy. His mother’s a @#$% nut.” You should know, however, that I’m just making a literary point with exaggeration. He probably could live as far away as say, the post office without breaking my heart. (This is called mommy guilt of which I am Elvis.)

Here we find ourselves returning to the original premise of this missive and by the time you read it, my mother will have arrived and will have been telling me the same stories for at least 72 hours, if you take out for sleep and disapproval of how much money I spend taking her to nice places and after-Christmas sales. (She will also tell family members about what a nice time she had after the fact, so it’s a yin yang sort of situation.)

Other certainties of my mother’s visit: she will claim credit for any talent I have as a writer. (This is not the time to criticize.) She will claim credit for my son’s talent as a musician. She will clean my house (and I will be grateful once she tells me where the dog is). She will sort the gargantuan pile of what I consider single socks and find at least fifty pairs. She will sing songs she doesn’t know by repeating the lyrics a beat after the singer. She will chew and we all know how irritating THAT can be. She will tell me about an ailment she believes can be cured by something she read in the back of the National Enquirer and she will cry when she has to go.

I will cry too, naturally. I will also feel guilty for any irritation that I feel during her visit because I realize by virtue of my own motherhood that someday my son will choose to move someplace where seeing him will be a sometime thing and while I visit, I’ll find ways to irritate him even though I only want to be in his presence.

Also, I owe her for getting me through the first three years of life, relatively unscathed, if you don’t count my unfortunate habit of setting items on surfaces.