Archive for the 'Animals' Category


A dog’s life

Okay, first of all, you have to promise not to laugh. I bought First Son a digital drawing tablet for Christmas, and it looked like so much fun I just acquired one for myself.

I’m just in the early stages of learning how to use it though, and have been completely surprised by how hard it is to draw on one surface while looking at another. Despite my obvious hand-eye coordination, it’s like I don’t really know where the tip of that pen actually is.

Anyway, here’s my first attempt at illustrated humor:

You removed my boy parts. I will never forgive you. Instead I will just lie here, dejectedly, and blink my sad little puppy eyes at you every time you look at me. You should be ashamed of yourself.

Must dance.

Too bad we can’t all get over all of our traumas so easily.


p.s. Hopefully by the next time I will have learned how to at least form legible letters. Or maybe I should stick to impossible yoga poses and Bach.


Goldberg, Variation 1, Take 1

After taking Dex to the vet for his ahem gender revision surgery, spent the morning doing yoga

I will do this. I don't know when, but I will. I'll be sure to let you know

and being Martha Flipping Stewart making Roman blinds for my front windows.

I have some group classes starting soon, so thought I’d calm myself down preemptively get in the mood by practicing a little Bach.

Recorded this on my iPhone on the first take. A little rushed in a couple of places, a little sloppy here and there, but not bad for the first run.

Recording quality isn’t the greatest. . .but I’m going to put it up anyway to try to get me off to a good start.

And, in addition to the order from chaos, it just seems so darn joyful.

Hope you like!

Goldberg variation 1


A not-so-soupy Sunday

I know I “promised” at some point to post a soup recipe every Sunday, but we didn’t make soup today.

I did make some kick-ass oatmeal bread recipe yesterday, though. I’ll put the recipe at the end.

Just some observations for now.

1. Veterinarians should seriously reconsider using anesthesia for any surgical procedures involving dogs. I’m thinking peanut butter in a Kong is sufficient.

2. Apparently, the line between political candidates and organizations known as “PACs” is getting blurry, casting doubt on whether it is actually possible that the one hand does not know what the other hand is doing.

Um, duh?

3. Many of the leaders in our government seem to think that the U.S. offers some kind of moral compass; an ideal for the rest of the world to strive for.

This, in retaliation for American soldiers openly burning copies of the Koran. (If, as they say, they contained “messages,” couldn’t they have been burned maybe a little more discretely? How would Americans react to Islamists burning Bibles? Sheesh — a little respect wouldn’t hurt anybody.)

This, depicting American soldiers urinating on slain foes.

Or how about this, where our rights of due process etc., etc., seem only to apply to American citizens.

Wouldn’t our arguments about human rights have a little more validity if we applied them to, well, humanity?

4. Mod*el:  perfect example: an excellent example that deserves to be imitated

At the risk of repeating myself.

Um, no.

The last thing I want my daughter to be “modeling” herself after. How about, instead,

5. Started using the “Fitness Tracker” app on Friday. Decided that it was appropriate for me to compare how much I’m actually eating to how much I think I’m eating. It’s been very revealing. You do “earn” calories by exercising, so that’s a good motivation, but most of the calorie information comes from prepared foods and we prepare most of our food ourselves, so that’s a bit of a bother.

Have also discovered that higher-than-expected percentage of my daily caloric intake is in the form of alcohol. That sounds bad. Mostly wine with dinner, but I do enjoy a little tippet of cognac (for medicinal purposes) as well, especially on these cold February nights. Am thinking I can balance it out by walking further or doing more vigorous yoga. Not sure what it says about me that I need to think twice about whether I want cheese on my chili or that 2nd glass of wine. . .

Anyway, according to the tracker, if every day is like yesterday I will have lost 8 lbs in 5 weeks. We’ll see.


Oatmeal Bread (Husband claims this is the best bread he has ever eaten. He might just be being nice, but still.)

Prepare 1.5 c. of steel cut oats (dry) for breakfast, following instructions on the can.

Leave 2 c. of prepared oats in a separate bowl. Eat the rest (giving the lion’s share to Husband, who likes porridge a heck of a lot more than you do), sprinkled with dried cranberries and with maple syrup and soymilk.

Soften 1 pkg. of yeast in 1/3 c. warm water.

When the 2 c. of remaining oatmeal has cooled, with the flat paddle on the mixer and the mixer running, add 3 T. canola oil, 1/2 c. brown sugar, 2 tsp. salt, and the yeast/water mixture.

Beat well.

Add 2 c. whole wheat flour; keep beating until the dough begins to get very stringy/stretchy.

Switch to the dough hook; add another 2 c. of unbleached flour.

Allow the dough to knead until completely smooth — 5-7 minutes.

Add another scant 1/2 c. of unbleached flour and let knead just until flour completely incorporated.

Allow to raise in a buttered bowl, punching down twice.

Divide and place in 2 buttered 8″ bread pans.

Allow to raise again (this is a good time to take a nap, or a “nap,” whichever you prefer).

Bake for 35 minutes at 350˚, 325˚ if using a convection oven.

Cool out of pans on a wire rack. If you can’t wait and must slice it while hot, turn it on its side first.

Really, really good.



sniff sniff sniff

Nothing demonstrates a true commitment to evaluating all available options like watching your dog decide where to poop.

Just sayin’.


does anybody know? Now with video

When a dog chases his own tail, does he know it’s his own tail which he is chasing?


the end of the week

1. Dexter the Dancing Dog will go to great lengths to lick the cayenne-laced-butter I’ve applied to the pole that holds the bird feeder (trying to discourage poaching by the resident squirrel population), but will not eat a salt-and-vinegar potato chip. He seems to think it’s trying to attack him.

He also will play outside for an hour and then come in and pee on the kitchen floor. Any suggestions? I’ve just about had it.

2. Nothing tells internet sites to make your passwords not work like your being in a hurry.

3. Komen backed down, and has reinstated funding to Planned Parenthood. Girl power!

(We need a salute — anybody got any ideas?)

Although I just found out that Planned Parenthood doesn’t do mammograms. Why not? Maybe they should.

4. Only Daughter came to me last night with a dental flosser and a request to remove the “seed” from behind her last tooth. It was a new tooth. And lo and behold, there was another one on the other side! She’s 11. Barely. A very tiny 11. Aren’t these supposed to come in around 12 or 13? Hope there’s room. Plus she wanted to know if these were her “smart teeth” like her brother just had taken out.

5.  A girl around 12 fell off the balance beam last night at Only Daughter’s meet, and hit what seemed to be seven points on her way down. She laid on the mat for what seemed to be a really long time while the coach leaned over the beam and encouraged her to get back up. (O.D. sat, a handful of feet away, hands over her mouth in horror.)(She’s terrified of the beam, as well she should be. But still.) The girl stood up, gave the coach “ten,” got back up, and nailed the rest of her routine. I had tears in my eyes. Granted, I was a complete sap yesterday to start with — I also cried over  Billy Collins’ line from On Turning TenI used to believe there was nothing under my skin but light; if you cut me I would shine” while attempting to read it to a student. (It is a really good line. But still. Get a grip forcryin’outloud.)

During the meet First Son called asking for my homemade macaroni and cheese recipe. I emailed it to him. That was kind of fun, in a “look at you all grown up” sort of way. (I can write that because he tells me he doesn’t read this blog anymore. So much for my captive audience.)

6. O. D.’s friends for her birthday sleepover finally just arrived — 13 minutes late. She stood at the window, Dexter in her arms, wondering if they were going to show up or not. I made her a heart cake with chocolate frosting and lots of different kinds of sprinkles, thinking about a colleague of mine whose son just died of complications from Hodgkins disease and a rare blood disorder. He was 26. I was picturing her making him his 11th-birthday cake, and envisioning his life, and not seeing this in a million years. Meanwhile Jeff Buckley sang about how, when his time comes, he knows he will leave the world with a satisfied mind. I wonder how many weeks before he died it was when he recorded that song.

Life’s too short. And too busy.

I suggested to Husband that we quit the ratrace and start an alpaca farm. In Italy. I think he thought I was kidding. I’m not. Well, not completely.

In a not-really related story; a conversation from earlier in the week:

Husband: I think we need to get a more “manly” dog like a German Shepherd or a Wolfhound or something. I feel like such a whimp walking Dexter.

Me: But he’s so cute.

Husband: I know. That’s the problem. He’s all puffy, and plus he doesn’t really walk, he kind of prances and bounds around. It’s humiliating.

Me: Maybe we can put a leather vest and one of those collars with the spikes on him.

Husband: Well that might help a little. Like the really long spikes?

Me: Sure. But think of the attention you can get from women who see you; we’re all saps for cute dogs.

Husband: I saw some women while I was walking him. I think they were laughing at me.

Me: What made you think that?

Husband: Well, they were walking and smiling, and kind of talking out of the corners of their mouths like I wouldn’t notice that they were talking, and then when they met me one of them said, “Okay, that might be just about the cutest dog I’ve ever seen.”

Me: See?

Husband: Exactly. Completely emasculating.

I’m thinking this:

rather than this:

Any thoughts?


Something worthy of the 501st post. . .or maybe not

Politics: Is it really possible that the Republican party can’t come up with someone more viable than Mitt Romney and his millions and his condescension, or Newt Gingrich and his volatility and personal and professional unreliability?

Religion: Read this post by the Circular Runner. (Another one of those “what he said” moments.)

Home: Dexter the Dancing Dog has seriously backslid on potty training. I hope it’s just a teething phase or something. He was with Only Daughter at Only Daughter’s Dad’s (ODD?) house for the weekend — complete upheaval, probably, and I think he missed me. He won’t get out of my lap this morning. He’s very soft and cuddly, so it’s okay.

Culture: Saw two great movies on DVD over the weekend — Contagion and The Conspirator. The whole time I was watching Contagion I was worrying about picking up my own wine glass in case I was going to catch something. And Marion Cotillard has the most beautiful accent I’ve ever heard. Robin Wright was absolutely amazing in The Conspirator, and the issues addressed: the rights of civilians to civilian trials, the beliefs held by people in power that law can and should be suspended in times of “war,” hit way too close to home and the Bush/Iraq era.

Books: Just finished reading Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending. Loved it. Don’t know what to read next. Any suggestions?

Music: Does anyone know how to use Ping? I want to be able to post music for my piano students to listen to. I thought that was kind of what it’s for but I can’t figure out how to use it.

Music part 2: Just finished putting the whole book of Honk! on CD for an area high school for rehearsals. Nothing like trying to learn and record an entire musical in a week, not to mention the 2-hour long argument I had to mediate last night between my digital recorder and iTunes. (I prevailed, finally.) Does anybody know why iTunes insists on reordering things when importing? I had to manually drag all of the tracks around (3 times, because the first two times didn’t seem to transfer correctly) and then when I burned it to the CDs it removed all of the labels from the tracks. REALLY FRUSTRATING! Although I’m sure it has a lot more to do with me not really knowing what I’m doing than about the limitations of the program itself.

Blogging: Two blogs I’ve recently discovered which I’m really enjoying: Redamancylit, where the blogger posts excerpts from various writings, many of them profoundly beautiful; and musicandstroke, written by a friend of mine, a percussionist, who suffered a stroke about a year ago, and who writes about the recovery process and how different life/the world looks afterwards. Check them out!

Family: First Son is about to turn 22. Why does that sound so much older than 21? And Only Daughter will be 11 on Wednesday. Sheesh.

Some pictures from the last week of facebook postings:

And this, just because you can never have too many boots, or cats:



stop me if you’ve heard this one

It’s made its rounds, I’m sure, but as an owner of a very uppity Siamese cat and a very enthusiastic puppy, this is really hitting home these days.

Dexter the Dancing Dog

A Dog’s Diary……..

8:00 am – Dog food! My favorite thing!
9:30 am – A car ride! My favorite thing!
9:40 am – A walk in the park! My favorite thing!
10:30 am – Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!
12:00 pm – Lunch! My favorite thing!
1:00 pm – Played in the yard! My favorite thing!
3:00 pm – Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!
5:00 pm – Milk Bones! My favorite thing!
7:00 pm – Got to play ball! My favorite thing!
8:00 pm – Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!
11:00 pm – Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!

A Cat’s Diary…

Day 983 of my captivity….

My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets.

Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet.

The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape.

Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a “good little hunter” I am. Bastards.

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of “allergies.” I must learn what this means and how to use it to my advantage.

Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I will try this again tomorrow, but on the stairs.

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released – and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded.

The bird has got to be an informant. I observe him communicating with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe. For now………


a winter’s walk

The poem/observations is/are from a couple weeks ago. The pictures from today.

Hannah strides in front of me in her cupcake fleece pajama pants
and purple parka;
the puppy bounces springily through the snow
as indifferent clouds drift,

and a single tear glitters frozen
on my cheek,
not felt but seen,


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The week, so far, in pictures

Dexter Dog loves peanut butter in his Kong, but I have a real problem with a) paying the boutique prices to buy it in those fancy spray cans and b) putting a knife back into a jar of peanut butter after having stuck it, peanut-butter-laden, into the center of the toy that my dog has licked the previous peanut butter out of. So, we bought Dexter Dog his own peanut butter. As part of my “Truth in Advertising” campaign:



Also, it’s January 11. Even the 12 days of Christmas were over 5 days ago. Unless you’re having a party, and we’re all invited, take down your Christmas lights.


I always wonder if these are the same people who were shopping for presents and listening to carols in October, or their “opposite.”


week 4, but who’s counting?

Many interesting things have been learned in the past few weeks.

Dexter would like to share some of them with you:

1. Sniffing nonchalantly all around the kitchen as a decoy from the true destination — the cat’s food dish — has not been entirely effective. Thinking in a Mr. Magoo voice “What, I’m just wandering around, and just happen to be over here by the cat’s food, but that doesn’t mean anything” doesn’t seem to help either.

2. They still want me to pee outside, even when it’s raining. This seems unreasonable, and I would like to appeal, but I’m not sure of the proper channels, nor that my case would be heard with impartial minds. The cat seems to think I’m a Philistine, but I’m too frightened by all those stairs to see where it is she goes, which leads me to

3. The cat seems to think I’m a Philistine, which reeks of discrimination, and to resent the fact that I “get” to go outside, while she seems to have earned some type of privileged status, of which she does not seem to be the least bit grateful. She stays in the warm comfort of home, and to add insult to injury, gets to eat whenever she bloody well feels like it, whereas I have to wait for The Superior Beings to deign to put my food dish down for what seems like, like 10 seconds? This does not, on the whole, seem to be fair. I would present this argument, but imagine there might be a pithy, meaningless response such as “life’s not fair,” and no meaningful action taken. One must choose how one spends one’s energy, after all.

4. The cat also does not like to “play.” I don’t understand this. I’m nothing if not a barrel of monkeys. I prance, I jump, I prowl, I chase things around the kitchen and bite at their legs. This is “fun.” She, on the other hand, only minces around the kitchen on her dainty little paws, and yowls and hisses at the slightest provocation, and seems particularly perturbed when I try to initiate the bite-her-legs game while she is eating from her omnipresent cat dish. On second thought, perhaps she just does not like to have her meals interrupted. I will try again tomorrow.

5.  There are yummy things to be found out in the greenery out by the back fence (near where the “hammock” whatevertheheckthatis used to be), and under the deck. I can’t understand why my owners are so distressed when I try to bring bits of these things into the house, nor what they mean when they say I have “dog breath” and “might end up with worms,” or perchance need to have something called “greenies.” Note to self: research this at the first opportunity. I think they might be overreacting.

6. They give me these stick things I like to chew, (Yum!), but they won’t stay in my crate. I need either solid walls, or opposable thumbs.  I also need to learn how to spell opposable.

7. I hate to keep returning to this peeing thing, but sometimes, when I pee outside, I get a treat, and sometimes I only get pats and cheers. This inconsistency is confusing. Does anyone know if something could be done about this? I also like to pee and poo where I choose, and having to be on this thing called a “leash” is really messing up my mojo. Even if I run over to the neighbor’s yard, I’ll come back, eventually. What’s the worry?

Finally, here’s a clip of a humiliating moment from this morning. The things I do to make these people happy.

Dancing Dexter, kind of


(cats and) dogs and what Cesar doesn’t tell you

Those of you who have been here before know we have recently acquired a dog.

He’s a very sweet dog, and very fun. He springs around like the little dog in the Foghorn Leghorn cartoons and dances on his hind feet when he’s excited and as soft as a puff of cotton, and, when he’s doing the things that puppies do, like pee and poo in the house or whimper in their crates at night because they’d rather cuddle up with you on your nice warm down comforter, he brings out the impatient side of me I haven’t seen since my children were toddlers. It seems to be kind of mild rage that surges, just below the surface, when they — puppies, small children — refuse (!) to behave in a rational manner.

Such as: Dexter hates to get his feet wet. It’s November, in Michigan. This means, when we go out to the “potty place” he has to walk across a deck and out into the leaves, and it being November (and now December) in Michigan, it’s often raining or trying to snow, and the deck and leaves are therefore cold, and wet. So I coax him out the back door with the smell of bits of hot dog in my hand, and coax him across the deck with gentle tugs on the leash, and then he stands there, shivering on the leaves, looking at me pathetically over his shoulder, and not peeing. I try “calm/assertive” (Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer; CW: “Cesar’s Way“): “Dexter, go potty.” (I say this every time he goes potty. I try not to feel ridiculous. Like, Duh? Why else would we be standing out here shivering in the rain at 3:30 a.m.?) I try calm/very assertive: “Dexter, go POTTY.” I try beseeching: “Dexter, go potty, PLEASE?.” Then I try reason: “If you’d go potty we could go back in the house.”

It doesn’t work.

CW: Don’t use too many words. Words aren’t words to a dog, they’re just noises, so keep the commands simple: go potty, no, tsssst (bad), click/click with your tongue (good), etc.

He also doesn’t eat much. I measured out 3/4 c. of food yesterday morning, there’s still 5/8 c. in his bowl. We don’t give him that many treats. He had 2/32 of a hot dog this morning to get him across the deck (after he peed on the deck step), and a half of a Kong (the smallest size available) worth of peanut butter yesterday. This is not enough food. I put the bowl down 3 times a day for 15 minutes each time; I coax him over by shaking it, he eats three kibbles. He then sniffs the whole perimeter of the kitchen, while I try to decide if it’s benign-dog-investigating-the-terrain sniffing or a I-wonder-where-is-a-good-place-to-pee sniffing, which means I don’t get a single thing done when I’m home because I’m constantly craning my neck trying to keep him in sight. After 15 minutes I put his food up, and then spend the next 5 hours trying to keep him from eating the cat food.

CW: Stand in front of the cat food, make eye contact with the dog (the dog is 5″ high, btw) and say, in a calm/assertive way, “No.” You should only have to do this 3 times.


Maybe he means three times per half hour. Maybe the eye contact is important, and would work better if the dog weren’t 5″ high.

Dexter also doesn’t like to be left alone. If I leave the kitchen (where he is kept for now, until he can be trusted not to pee wherever the urge strikes him, which, as far as I can tell, might be NEVER), he stands at the door and whimpers. Of course, if I’m in the room with him he pays very little attention to my presence. The same thing happens outside. We have a pretty big yard, and a fair portion of the back of it was fenced by a previous owner, and he loves to run around on the deck and sniff the knothole that serves as the entrance to the chipmunk’s home*, and scoot acorns around with his nose, and jump through the leaves (wet or not; it doesn’t seem to matter if the leaves are wet unless he’s supposed to be peeing). But if I go inside, even for a minute, he gallops to the door and stands there and whimpers. Of course, if I come out, he runs off and completely ignores me, so I guess I’m supposed to just stand there with my hands in my pockets.

CW: A dog can be cured of his/her separation anxiety very easily. When he/she is distracted by play, walk around a corner or to another side of the fence. When he/she begins to display anxiety over your absence, step into view, say “Quiet,” and wait for him/her to calm down. Then walk away again. After doing this a few times, your dog will learn to relax, comfort themselves, and go about their play.

I tried this today. He was outside, running around through the puddles (it was okay, he didn’t need to pee), scooting acorns around with his nose, etc. I walked into the house so I could peep through the front windows to see if Only Daughter’s bus had come, and he ran to the sliding glass door and pawed at it with his paws and whimpered. I came into view, said “Quiet,” he stopped whimpering, etc. We did this twenty seven times over ten minutes. He would wander off for 20-30 seconds after he could see me. But then some little puppy voice in his head would say “Wait; Where is She? Is She Still There? What if She’s Left Me All Alone or Never Lets Me in the House Again?” (If only that voice would say, “This would be a lot less likely if I stopped shitting on the kitchen floor, chewing on the kitchen table legs, and whining at 3:00 a.m.” I can dream I guess.)

I want a level of rationality that I’m just not going to get. I know this.

Cesar claims that, if you are completely consistent in your housebreaking habits, it can happen in a few days. Cesar is lying. We try to take comfort that he (Dexter, not Cesar) now whimpers in his crate if he has peed in it (so we can clean it up for him, I presume), and that occasionally he paws at the sliding door to go out, and sometimes this means that he needs to go out to go potty. Sometimes he’s just trying to get us to let him outside to play, so now we somehow have to teach him the difference between pawing at the door to go outside to pee, vs. waiting for us to take him outside to play.


And the cat, Sophie, is pissed.

She’s a Siamese. I think she might have played the role of the one on the right.

I can imagine her complaints:

First of all, he just got here, and gets to go outside already.

If she wants to eat she has to climb over the wall of boots or shoes or towels we’ve created to keep Dexter out of her food.

And she looks at him with utter disdain. She thinks he’s a total cretin. “You pee and poop in your house? You don’t clean up after yourself? What’s the MATTER with you?”

I mean, think about it — you show a cat ONCE where the litter box is, and you never need to show him or her again.

This ought to at least get her some kind of elite status or something.

She does balance it out by her insistence on trying to climb the Christmas tree, so it’s not like she’s perfect or something. She just thinks she is.

Dexter just wants to play. That’s probably not helping.

Anyway, puppies are cute for the same reason babies are cute. It’s the single most important factor in their survival to adolescence. Not sure what kicks in then; investment of time, I guess.

Dexter asleep in my lap. Look how cute he is!

And now a brief tribute to Husband. He didn’t really want a dog. They are a lot of work, and he likes for us to have freedom to come and go if things come up on weekends or road trips, etc. He also likes life to be as regular and calm and predictable as possible, and none of these things are true when you have a puppy in the house. But he conceded that if we really wanted a dog, he wasn’t going to stand in our way, and that he would be perfectly fine with taking care of the dog when I or Only Daughter were unavailable.

Every time the dog wakes us up at night, or pees in the kitchen, or whatever, Husband is calm and patient and just does what needs to be done. He also comforts and reassures me in the middle of the night when I am upset or worried that puppyhood is going to last forever and I’ve ruined our lives. He is the Best Husband Ever, although I sometimes wonder if maybe we would all be better off if, rather than comforting and humoring me, someone tempered my Pathological Optimism a little wee bit.

But maybe not.

In any case, as Husband says, we now have a dog. We will Make the Most of It.


*These chipmunks are, in his own words, Husband’s “Mortal Enemy.” They burrow around under trees and plants and weaken foundations. Every once in a while we’ll be talking in the kitchen, and he’ll look out the back door and get this pensive, distant look in his eye, and I imagine he is thinking some profound thought or discovering the cure for cancer or something, and then he suddenly, quietly leaves the house. I have learned that this signals a chipmunk sighting, and wait expectantly for the sound of the pellet gun (or whatever it is; what I know about guns is only exceeded by what I know about everything else) and either his victorious reappearance or a prolonged absence as he lurks in the shadows, waiting for the little rodent to reappear.


midlife crisis stage 7 (8? 135? who’s counting?)

As far as I can remember (being too lazy to walk into the other room and get “the book” in order to cite it directly) women go through various “brain” stages, almost entirely dependent upon hormonal changes. (I know, right? So much for thinking we’re “making decisions” or “finding ourselves.” Apparently we’re all just victims of estrogen and/or testosterone and/or progestogens; oh, that’s funny, at first I typed protestogens — Dyslexics of the world, untie! —  is that Freudian?)

So teenage years are rebellious, as burgeoning women fight for freedom and independence and search for sexual identity. (Again, I’m not quoting, I’m “remembering,” and probably citing as much from personal experience/memory as from anything any psychiatrist or sociologist said.)

The twenties are dominated by an ambitious tendency, gradually ceding into “mommy brain.”

In her thirties, a woman is wrapped up in nurturing her children, while perhaps trying to hang on to (by her fingernails, probably, if the first priority is any priority at all) her professional identity.

In her forties a woman begins to look beyond all of the people she has been taking care of and starts to think about taking care of herself.

In her fifties (supposedly, I am despitewhatyouallmightthink NOT THERE YET), a woman becomes quite “selfish” — looking to have HER needs met, and a last sprint/gasp professionally, so to speak, before the retirement years set in.

I don’t even want to think about what might happen in the sixties. I’m having a hard enough time with the fact that I’m going to be 47 in a few weeks, which is a helluva lot closer to 50 than it is to 40 and actually seems a helluva lot older than 46. Just sayin’.

Is this funny? I think so. But maybe that’s just my “Indecision Nucleus” talking. Oh, and btw, women can spell. Snap!

Anyway, I find I’m belying the 50s expectations in that my professional ambitions are waning. Yes, there’s a part of me that is kind of tired of being “mom” (sorry, Hannah) and ready to move on — looking forward to years with Husband and travel and beautiful meals together without anyone wrinkling up his or her nose and asking if it’s “spicy” or why we can’t eat hamburgers like normal people. (At the same time I would likeitverymuch if Only Daughter stopped trying to figure out how to be 18 and was just 10 for at least a little while longer.) But I’m finding that I just kind of want to do my job, be respected and paid fairly for it, and then come home and take a nap on my couch or knit or beat OD at Rummikub or get a dog or something.

Speaking of which, we might be getting a dog.

I’ve found a breeder that I know of and therefore trust who has a new litter of Coton’s — hypoallergenic, good temperament, small, and local, so I can visit and become acquainted with the puppy rather than adopt from a rescue (enough of that, have been on that emotional roller coaster for several weeks now) or buy from someone in another state and have the pup shipped sight unseen.

I’d post a picture, but the breeders aren’t very “techie” so there aren’t any available. Am hoping to visit next Thursday, so will keep you all posted.

Here’s a “generic” Coton”

Can a dog be cuter than this? I didn’t think so.

ANYWAY,  see? I can’t even keep my mind on my “work.”


I’m supposed to be planning Friday’s seminar right now.

Instead I’m drinking way better Scotch than I can afford (thank you, Husband dear) and wondering if there are 30 Rock reruns on cable.

So much for professional ambitions.

And the funny thing is, I don’t really care.

Although maybe that’s the scotch.


this week from the road, seen from Saturday

the starlings swarmed and swooshed
around their favorite overpass

and the fog drifted in waves across the road
like from a machine on a dark and windy stage,
while leaves flung themselves from branches
and danced around the car

I drove you to the airport Thursday
morning and sometime around this afternoon
tired of the company of my own silence

on my way to dinner with a friend
the moon slipped through a snip in the fabric of the
pale-blue metal of the sky,
the sun having laid its ribbon of pink
along the horizon
and that big oak on the right side
of the road shone with its black shadow light
as a single handful of rain slapped against
my windshield

I used to long to be alone
and now you are always here
glowing like a coal at the center of me

when I put my steak into the pan last night
on its bed of salt and pepper
the flame caught a drip of fat or
a grain of salt, and
seared a thread of my sweater,
I noticed it from the corner of my mind
and then it was gone;

is the edge always, just, right there?

come home


comfort food

I think I’m having a midlife crisis.

Okay, I won’t soft-pedal it; I’m having a midlife crisis.

I can’t alleviate this crisis by leaving my husband and taking up with someone younger/richer/more handsome because I love him dearly and right now he seems like maybe one of the few things I’ve “done” right in my life, and I can’t imagine a day without him.

Besides, the crisis is mostly professional. For the first 10 years after my masters degree I mostly raised children. I couldn’t figure out how to practice 4+ hours a day, teach enough students to help make our budget more-or-less balance-able, and take care of busy toddler boys, so I just did the latter 2 out of 3. I played when I could, a little collaborative work here and there for area graduate students and miscellaneous faculty, accompanying my bff Jackie’s violin studio when she took them to contests or played recitals, that kind of stuff.

I’ve since spent the last 14 years as an adjunct at various colleges, while adopting my daughter from Korea and completing my DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts) degree in 2005. This was prompted by the realization, as I worked as an adjunct in various college/university music departments, that I was as good a performer and probably a better teacher than a lot of the people I was working with, who had full-time, tenure-track jobs, so why shouldn’t I go for it? But you won’t even be considered for such a position without a Doctorate these days, so, after 5 years of 100-mile-each-way commutes, reading and writing and practicing and studying and performing while still being the primary parent (oldest son was 10 when I started), I had a DMA. And now I’m a fully-credentialed musician in a world with way more fully-credentialed musicians than there are jobs, and in an academic climate which favors piece-work-paid adjuncts over full-time professorships.

I don’t know the numbers on how many pianists graduated with DMAs in the past year, but there is currently ONE tenure-track position in piano posted at the College Music Society. One. In the whole country. One.

So, I’m having a crisis, and as far as I can tell, there are two things I can do about it:

1.) I can suck it up, be grateful I have any work at all, and continue to work at ~ 25% pay for the rest of my life (when compared to what full-time, tenure-track faculty are paid) or

2.) I can find something else to do, and by this I mean something for which I will be paid, which does not include such activities as writing a blog that 135 people read every day or eating my weight in potato chips. Fun as these activities may be, they do not contribute to paying the mortgage.

So. What are my options?

1.) Areas I am interested in and could maybe make a living at:

a) Nursing. Would have to start from scratch, reconcile myself to being a complete “newb” at the age of 50, and probably do things like hold bedpans and inject people with needles.

b) English/Language Arts for secondary school instruction. Would have to  start from scratch, reconcile myself to probably 4 years of school while still paying off loans from my DMA pursuit, still teaching, which can be rewarding, but is also frustrating as there seems to be a general dearth of curiosity/interest in learning amongst “students” today. And are there any teaching jobs anymore?

c) Writing for Pay. Have written two children’s books that start “Nicholas Picholas Tickle-Me . . .” and based on the mischievous antics of my now 18-year old. Also started one called “Hannah’s Hungry,” but haven’t finished it. Don’t know how to get them published, can’t seem to find anyone else who knows. Presumably this is done, routinely, given the number of books out there. And some of them are really dreadful. Have also considered trying to write articles and submit them to magazines, but have not done so, partially in interests of time. Also have a few short story ideas and a family history/memoir/birth-order-memory-what-makes-us-who-we-are book idea but not enough time to really pursue them. Would have to take some time off from earning actual money to see if these lead anywhere, and no windfall/lottery wins/inheritances in sight. Also feel like it’s an act of supreme arrogance to think that I have anything to say that that many people would want to read, and yet here I am. . .

d) Opening some kind of bed-and-breakfast. What I would really like is to move to Italy and buy a few acres and a little villa somewhere and grow my own grapes and host and cook for tourists. I could even teach piano lessons to all the little Italian children in the area, but would have to improve my Italian first. Or offer it as piano -and-English-lessons or something. Although sometimes I don’t even want to teach any more.


Lots of ideas, lots of ways to talk myself out of them.

I joke sometimes that my life’s goal is

2) to be a kept woman.

I don’t think I would be very good at it, though. This is the first semester in a few years I haven’t taught a Music Appreciation class, and, despite still having a pretty full teaching schedule, the lack of this prep has made my days seem rather long.

I’m trying to talk Husband into a dog. A little white Havanese, named Zuzu.

What do you think?

Meanwhile, I can always cook. Am making gumbo today. Have thought about starting a second blog called “Soupy Sundays,” and making a different soup every Sunday and writing about my life, my week, what’s going on with my “crisis” although it seems a little too Julie Powell.

Maybe just a new category then.

Today’s soup:


Heat 1/2 c. canola oil in a large cast-iron soup pot, then whisk in 1/2 c. whole wheat flour and lower the heat to low/low-medium. Allow to brown for 5-10 minutes, whisking occasionally.

Meanwhile, chop:

1/2 large onion

3 stalks celery

1 large red pepper

1/2 lb. okra (slices)

2 cloves garlic (slice, then mince)

Add the vegetables to the roux, stirring to coat, and allow the vegetables to begin to soften.

Add 8 c. chicken stock (recipe below), 1/2 tsp. cayenne or 1 or 2 dried red chilies, snipped into flakes, or 1/2 tsp. dried red pepper flakes (use both cayenne and pepper flakes/chilies if you like it really spicy), 1 tsp. kosher salt, 1/2 tsp coarse black pepper.

Bring to a boil, then add

12-16 ozs. andouille sausage (the nitrite-free kind if you can find it)

and allow the soup to simmer for as long as you’d like — 1 – 3 hours.

A few minutes before being ready to eat, add 1 lb. of peeled shrimp (the big ones are great, but cut in half so you have bite-size portions in your soup spoon), bring soup to boil and boil just long enough to cook the shrimp.

Serve with a crusty bread, and over cooked rice if desired.

I’d include a picture, but the shrimp aren’t in the pot yet, and I’m drying 7 bags of leftover bread bits on my stove, so I’m a little embarrassed. Maybe next time.

Homemade chicken stock

Every self-respecting cook should make this themselves. Way too much sodium in even the low-sodium kinds, and it’s easy. I like to roast a chicken for an easy meal, and then make the stock overnight.

In a large soup pot, put one chicken carcass, and add water to cover by several inches. Add coarsely chopped onions and celery (the top part with the leaves is the best), a handful of whole peppercorns, a couple bay leaves. You can leave the skin on the onion if you want a golden broth, and add garlic or carrots if you want it more flavorful, but this will make it a little less adaptable for certain recipes because the garlic especially adds a very distinctive flavor. I don’t use any salt, so I am free to salt the final dish.

Cover and bring to a boil, and then allow to simmer for HOURS. We often leave this overnight and put it in a bowl to chill the next morning.

This part is important: Pour the stock through a strainer into a large bowl, and chill the broth thoroughly; then skim the fat off the top before putting into 4-cup containers to put in the freezer.


Meanwhile, if anyone has any life- or career advice: Please share!








cool beests

Check this out:

The best are the video clips of Ordis 2007, Umerus 2009, and the Rhinoceros.

A little like tall ships meets George Lucas.



The joys of contact dermatitits

Do deer get poison ivy?

Just wondering.

(I was going to post pictures of the rash from my Google images search, but they’re disgusting. Don’t do it. And if you do anyway, you have only yourself to blame; don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I do think it’s interesting that the human species has managed to bring about the extinction of thousands of species of plant and animal, yet we can’t quite figure out what to do about poison ivy.


Birds of a Feather

I love it in the fall when the birds start to flock.  There’s an intricate set of over/underpasses near my home, and they always seem to play there, swooping and diving; great waves of bird. I imagine them all getting together and having these roaming discussions about whether it’s time to head out or not, practicing their formations, battling for hierarchical position. As I was heading home tonight at dusk there were thousands of them all in perched in rows on the power lines, and then this little group of about 11 off at the end like they’d been shunned or something — geeky birds with their pocket protectors and no social skills who weren’t allowed to sit with everybody else.

When I was a young girl in Catholic school we were taught that human beings were God’s chosen creatures, and that this was proven by the fact that we had language, social networks, and superior intelligence — demonstrated through our use of tools. Apparently this overlooked evidence such as apes and orangutans using long pieces of grass to get ants out of anthills or sticks to get bananas out of cages, and their elaborate familial societies. Elephants will stand over their compatriots as they die; geese will fly down and stand guard over a dying member of their flock, and swans mate for life; birds seem to sense when it’s time to go and have evolved an elaborate system for ensuring their success.

(About a year ago 30 deer stood in a line along the edge of our yard and waited while the lead deer looked repeatedly in both directions to wait for traffic to clear. [“gonna look both ways when I cross the street. . . .left. . . .right. . . .] She gave some sort of signal, and most of them crossed, one at a time, in an orderly fashion. A few at the back seemed to have realized that just because the traffic was clear when the line started didn’t mean it was clear still, and hung back. We watched as the last few deer to cross realized that they weren’t being followed, turned around to look at the stragglers, and then came back across the street as if to encourage them to follow. We narrated the conversation: “Come on, George, it’s fine.” “Nope, I’m not goin’, saw little Sammy get taken out by that dump truck just a week ago and it just doesn’t look safe to me.” “But Maud gave the all clear.” “Yeah, but that was over a minute ago, and who knows what’s comin’ over that hill.”  After a few more seconds, the 4 of them turned around and went back from whence they came.)

Who’s to say who’s smarter? A Michigan winter looms just around the corner, and I don’t even have my bags packed.

Continue reading ‘Birds of a Feather’


This Close!

Okay, thought I’d dodged it because Toby of the previous post has apparently been adopted. But then I saw this:

I am in serious trouble.

Isn’t there a 1-800-what-am-I-thinking number I can call?


A New Kind of Hotline

Help! I need a hotline to call to help defuse an emergency situation.

I want this dog

I have time for a dog from May until August. From September through April I don’t have time to pee. I need someone to stop me from doing something rash.

(But look how cute he is!!!)


Do you want fries with that?

These beautiful, destructive creatures have been on my deck almost every afternoon for a week. They barely flinch when I try to shoo them away. It’s like they’re looking at me, standing in the doorway waving my arms, thinking: “Look, she doesn’t have boots on. There’s no way she’s coming out here. Maybe if we just stand here and stare at her she’ll go away.” Meanwhile they keep digging around in the snow looking for tulip and hostas sprouts to devour.

I keep waiting for one of them to poke its head in the window and order a cheeseburger.

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