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It’s not weird, it’s not. (Say that fast.)

Lately I’ve been having this conversation with my dogs –

What? You don’t have conversations with your dogs? Really? I find that hard to believe.

I’ve been talking to Valentine and Theo about change. After all, there are going to be some pretty big changes coming up. There have all ready been some little changes; all our stuff has disappeared into big boxes and the cats are gone. So I explain this to them, and then I tell them about how we’ll be driving a big truck across the country, and we’ll spend the nights in campgrounds and friends homes, and then we’ll be in California! California, where the sun shines year-round, the sidewalks glitter with mica, and the markets are cornucopias of fresh fruits and vegetables.

I say all of this to the little dogs, who blink, yawn, and promptly fall asleep.

When I was a little girl, my brother, who’s birthday it just was, worked on a video for a kid’s TV show about a little girl who learned a lesson about change. After all, there is only one thing that doesn’t change, and that is the fact that change is inevitable. Just when you think you’ve found your groove, things change. Just when life gets cozy, things change. Everything is always changing. The girl learns this lesson and at the end, she gets a red cape and a red crown and she becomes Captain Change! And she learns to feel really good about all of the opportunities change presents.

I feel like that kid in the red cape. Change is wonderful! It gives us an opportunity to grow, and learn, and figure stuff out all over again. Change keeps life exciting, presents challenges, keeps us limber. And the changes coming up are awesome changes, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that change is also really scary and frustrating and is making me grind my teeth at night. Which is why I talk to my dogs about change. I’m really talking to me.

Mish Mash

This photo isn’t really related to this post, except that it is. I love this photo; my friend Christine took it at the after-party for her gallery show, and she has perfectly captured a moment when we were out enjoying a night with friends, having fun, and not thinking about canceling ConEd, or finding movers, or whether or not we can live without the salad spinner for the next eight days.


I am Captain Change, embracing the discomfort, and moving forward with an open heart.

Valentine has a new boyfriend

They met by accident. She was summering in the catskills with her family and he was a local boy. Her parents had done everything they could to keep her away from him.

He’s dangerous! They said.

He’ll eat you for dinner!


The first time they met, she was in the garden, playing with her brother. Off to the side of the house she saw him — the one her parents had warned her about. In a heartbeat she was at the fence, baring her teeth and growling. He yawned, placed one paw gently on the fence between them, and wagged his tail.

The day afterwards, as soon as she’d finished her breakfast and  had her morning toilet, she ran out to the garden again. She was looking for him, she had to see him again, she couldn’t help herself.

And there he was! Tall and proud, broad chested and beautiful. Before her mother could call her back, she ran to the fence and leapt into the air, twirled about and landed, her yellow body a happy, belly-up curl on the grass. So this is love!

V and P 1

If you know dogs, then you’ll recognize what Valentine is doing in these photos as a “play-bow”. If you’re into yoga, a play-bow is the position that gave “downward-facing dog” it’s name. It’s basically dog-speak for, “Hi! Wanna play?”

Valentine is the best rat-dog in the world. She really, really is. I can’t imagine a more wonderful, perfect, yellow, rat-dog. But she is a little, yellow, trash-digging, ratty-assed, pound-dog with the attitude to match. When we met her she was practically hairless, stank of pee, had a missing toenail and a broken tooth. She was also super crazy, froth-at-the-mouth, dog aggressive.

Val Portrait

We have spent the last four-and-a-half years training her and socializing her and working with her and we’ve gotten her to a place where she’s usually ok with uber-submissive male dogs who are smaller than her. In the dog park she tries to start fights with any dog even slightly bigger than her. On-leash walks are terrible, every big dog she leaps at takes a year off my life. However, off-leash in any of our city’s beautiful parks (dogs are allowed in many NYC parks everyday from sunrise to 9:00 a.m.), she will generally ignore a bigger dog, as long as it keeps it’s distance from her. Any dog who approaches her from behind gets a faceful of teeth. Not a bite, just a snarling and swinging of the bared teeth.

V and P 2

So when Valentine invited Printer, a dog who is easily five times her size, to play, I was so happy I cried.

Then, since Malamutes are wolf-like dogs with incredibly high prey-drives, I called my friend, who’s dog Printer is, and asked if it would be ok to let him play with my bite-sized rat-like dog. And she said yes, they should be fine, and they were. They were absolutely wonderful.

V and P 3

You’ve come a long way, kid.

(P.S. We pack up our truck three weeks from today. Holy. Sh**.)

Thunder Storm

T with T and tea

Yesterday we had another huge thunder storm, so huge that for about seven minutes Trouble and I were huddled on the floor in the middle of this beautiful glass house wondering if the wind was going to blow all the windows in. I call this house a “glass house” because most of the walls are windows. I love that about the house, love that no matter which room I’m in the woods and lake are all around me, but in the middle of a fierce thunder storm, with rain pounding the glass and the trees bent by the wind, it’s a little terrifying. Mike took the picture above on his BlackBerry moments before the rain started, when the rolling thunder had first made itself known. Twenty minutes later all the power went out. The wind didn’t blow the house down, but it did blow over several trees, which knocked several power lines across the roads, which meant that we couldn’t leave the house, which meant I wasn’t going to make it back to the train station in Poughkeepsie, which meant I’d be spending another night in Esopus. Which was fine with me!

However, the downed power lines also meant we couldn’t turn on any lights or watch TV or get online or flush the toilets or wash our hands.  The water for this house comes from a well and is pumped through the pipes with electric pumps, so when the power goes out, so does the water. We had about a dozen gallons of bottled water in the basement, a bottle of wine, a lot of food, and a grill, so we decided the rest of the night would be kind of like camping in a super luxurious three-story tent.

We grilled meat and vegetables on the outdoor grill, in the rain, and we drank wine and when the sun started to set we lit candles and curled up with the dogs and whispered about the TV we would be watching if we could turn on the TV. And it was all fine and dandy until the sun completely set and the house was pitch-dark and suddenly I couldn’t relax. I was totally on edge.

“What was that?”

“What was what?”

“That sound.”

“I don’t hear anything.”

“I think there’s someone upstairs.”

“There’s no one upstairs.”

“THAT! You didn’t hear that? That scraping sound?”

“It was probably one of the dogs.”

“Shhhh. Listen.”

“… …. …. …. … …”

“Ok, so it stopped. But I definitely heard something.”

I’m always afraid that with the loss of electricity will come the loss of civilization and before you know it, we’ll be attacked on all sides by brain-hungry zombies with gnashing teeth and rotting flesh. Even while Mike was roasting marshmallows for s’mores I was a nervous wreck. Even with chocolate and graham cracker crumbs dribbling down my chin, my hands were shaking.

Around ten o’clock we put all the dogs to bed and crawled in ourselves, a flashlight between us so we could both read. I was too jumpy to sleep, too jumpy to lay in the dark, but burying myself in a nice fictional romance was just the ticket. Then, at ten forty-five, I heard a strange sound. I froze, held my breath to listen. It was a low buzzing sound, so low it was barely audible. Was it a swarm of flies? The sound of a car coming up the road? When you’re in a glass house on the middle of eighty acres, the last thing you want to hear late at night during a power outage is a car coming up the road. I sat up and looked over at Mike, who’d fallen asleep with his face in his book. I was about to shake him awake when I realized what I was hearing: the gentle hum of central air. I reached over and flicked a light switch and the unnatural, gorgeous glow of electric light filled the room. I shook Mike awake anyway.


I turned the light off. Turned it on again.

“The lights are on! Great! Now will you turn them off and go to sleep?”

He smiled at me and pet my hair and I felt like I could breathe again. So we turned off all the lights, made the house pitch-dark again, and I fell fast asleep. I do love my first-world trimmings.

And speaking of first-world trimmings, I suggest you head over to Kim’s Kitchen Sink and enter to win a $30 CSN gift certificate giveaway!

Yesterday — This and That

We started packing this weekend. Not Michael and I, Adam and I. Michael is taking care of eight Alaskan Malamutes who live on eighty acres of land in Esopus, New York, and so Adam and I spent Saturday in Central Park, then we went to SoHo to do a little shopping, and then we went back to my apartment and started packing. I didn’t want to. We’d shared an idyllic New York afternoon and the last thing I wanted to do was ruin it by packing my home into cardboard boxes. I hemmed and hawed and insisted on cooking a three course meal, which is laughable considering I only starting learning how to cook within this last year, I was obviously just procrastinating. However, Adam is the kind of guy who organizes his underpants by color and cut because he thinks it’s fun, so by the time I had the first course on the table, he’d all ready packed up several boxes of stuff. And I was relieved. It was little like ripping a band-aid off a wound, but once the book shelves are empty, what’s the point in putting off the rest? So we packed and we packed, until we ran out of boxes and only then did I realize how much crap Mike and I have. Seriously. Adam and I packed twenty boxes of stuff from the living room and the only reason you can tell is because now there is a huge stack of packed and labeled boxes along one wall. Mike and I have really got our work cut out for us.

But for now twenty boxes will have to be enough, because on Sunday morning I hopped a train to Poughkeepsie and Mike picked me up at the station and drove me to Esopus, and now I am sitting on a deck with my feet up, laptop perched on my knees, a cup of peppermint tea at my elbow, and I am looking at this:

My View

I don’t know if you can tell from the crappy photo I took with my computer (I forgot the cord that connects my camera to the laptop, so had to use Photo Booth instead) but there is a lake beyond those trees. A perfectly lovely shimmering lake, full of fish to fish if you like to fish, and snapping turtles, and frogs, and all kinds of other wonderful things. There is space for the doglets to run around, so long as I keep them separated from the herd Malamutes, who, friendly as they are, see ten pound dachshunds and fifteen pound chihuahua mutts as snack foods. Of course, if I did let them mingle, we wouldn’t have to worry about driving cross-country with two dogs.

Sunday afternoon it was very hot and so I put our doglets in the air-conditioned, furnished basement and spent my afternoon like this:

P and Ish.

That’s Printer, and he probably weighs about a hundred pounds. He likes to rest his head on your knee for a scratch behind the ears, and if you don’t comply, he will take one of his giant paws, and he will place it gently on your shoulder and push a little. And then huff an exasperated sigh, as if to say, “I ask so little of you, human. PET ME ALL READY.”

This place is heaven. The space, the green, the crickets, the humming birds, the dragon flies, the wind in the trees, it’s all absolutely heaven. It’s a perfect reprieve from our impending move.

Malamute Footrest

Malamutes make good footrests.

T and TT

When Trouble wants to sit in your lap, you let her. All ninety-five pounds of her.

EDIT: This is my 100th post at A Serious Girl! (Just felt like I had to mention it.)

How to work from home

how to work from home

p.s. I added a Twitter widget to the sidebar. Check it —>

Little F*cker

The other night Mike was doing his homework at the bedroom desk while I put together pricebooks* on our bed. Valentine was curled up on the bed, so Theo started doing the thing he does where he bounces around on the floor and pants, his tongue lolling out the side of his mouth, his face framed by his long and lovely ears. It is both obnoxious and endearing, it is an attention-seeking maneuver from a little dog who’s mama’s been working a lot of long hours and so even though Mike has asked me, over and over again, not to put Theo on the bed, I picked him up and put him on the bed.

Mike has good reasons for asking me not to put Theo on the bed. For one thing, Theo communicates with his urine, meaning, he’s peed in our bed so many times that by now I should know better, I really should. It’s not that he isn’t housetrained, because he is. It’s that he doesn’t speak English, and he has very strong canine opinions that need frequent expressing. But when he starts bouncing and panting my heart goes soft and I give in.

So he’s in the bed, and everyone’s happy. I’m working, Mike’s studying, Valentine is napping and Theo is doing that cute little thing where he burrows under all our pillows and makes a nest for himself. Next he’ll be snoring, I think to myself, as I assemble catalogues. A few minutes go by and he reemerges, snuffling and panting, tail wagging, and he pounces across the bed and starts bouncing in circles all over my assembly line of catalogue material. Pamphlets and pages go flying and, in an effort to save my work, I pick him up and a stream of urine blasts me in the face.

He’s lucky I have good mom-instincts, because instead of dropping him, I placed him carefully in his dog bed on the floor before I started hollering and scratching at my face. I had ripped off my pee-soaked t-shirt and was clearing damp pamphlets off the bed when I noticed Michael, watching in horror.

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry! You’re right! The dog shouldn’t be on the bed!”
“There’s pee all over the comforter.” His face was so grim you’d have thought I’d just peed in the bed. For fun.
“It’s just a dribble and it’s on my side and I’ll wash it tomorrow. I promise.”

He nodded and went back to his essay on human genome patents. And then I discovered that all that snuffling under the pillows? When I thought Theo was burrowing and getting cozy? He peed. He squatted like a girl and peed all over our pillows and then he peed in my face.

It’s a good thing he’s so pretty.

Lil' F*cker

*for the job where I sell dog food.

White Devils and Stolen Dogs

Monday afternoon was sunny and gorgeous and because we knew rain was predicted for the rest of the week, Mike and I decided to take the dogs to the off-leash park.  We stuffed our pockets with treats and poop bags and tennis balls and were on our way.  A few blocks from home, while Valentine was crouched to do her business, a homeless man with a long grey beard walked up and reached out for her.  Thinking the man was trying to pet Valentine, who does not like to be touched by strangers, Mike leapt between them, laughing and warning to be careful because the little yellow one bites.

She doesn’t, actually, but she is an unpredictable little dog and while most days she’d froth at the mouth and lunge at anyone trying to pet her, that day she just squatted by the tree, doing her business.  She didn’t seem at all bothered when the homeless man began chanting and petting the tree under which she pooped, but I was not pleased and neither was Mike.  We couldn’t wait for her to finish and when she was done we couldn’t walk away fast enough.  Then I glanced over my shoulder and saw that he was following us.

I wanted to believe he was just headed in the same direction, but it was a little disconcerting that he insisted on walking so close to us.  When he started chanting about white devils and stolen dogs I got a little nervous.  I looked over at Mike and he grinned and suggested that when we get to the market, I give him the dogs and go inside, and let him talk to “our friend”.  So I stayed calm, because my husband had a plan, and it was a good plan.  The market was less than a block away and I could all ready see the usual crowd gathered in front.  I was sure that once we were surrounded by people the whole thing would dissipate and Mike wouldn’t even need to address the guy.

For the next part of the story to make sense, I need to explain that our neighborhood market is not like those sprawling, glittering Mecca’s of rare wines and organic canned soup you find in suburbia.  Our market is a tiny, dingy market with aisles so narrow you can’t fit a cart through them.  It’s so small it could fit in the deli section of most suburban super markets.  It’s so small that when I stand at the checkout paying for my groceries, my butt rubs against the butt of the cashier at the checkout behind me.

So when I got inside the store and realized the man had followed me in, I kind of freaked out.  I ducked into the cereal aisle, walking so fast I was practically running.  I looked over my shoulder and he was there.  I started feeling claustrophobic.  My heart was racing, my breath quickened and my limbs tingled.  I turned into the canned food aisle and the man followed me.  The next time I looked over my shoulder he waved his hands in the air, bared his teeth and growled.

To be continued…

Curlicues of what smear?

Today I had to stick my finger up my dogs butts.  It was a little more awkward than I expected it to be, I had to cut my nails and everything, but the whole thing went off without a hitch and I saved about fifty dollars expressing their anal glands myself instead of having a vet tech do it.

They really needed their anal glands expressed.  It had gotten to the point where I could tell the dogs were scooting even when I couldn’t see them doing it.  When the dogs walk around the apartment their toenails make a comforting little clickety-clackety-clickety-clackety on the hardwood floors.  But when they scoot, they sit on their butts, hind legs sprawled, toes pointed at the ceiling, and drag themselves along using their front legs, click-k-k-k-k-k-k-k-k-k-k in rapid succession.  I hear that noise and I know that the next time I walk into the living room I’m going to find curlicues of butt smear all over the floor.

It’s been one of those weeks when the dogs are so demanding, so exhausting and so needy that I wonder why we’ve put off having children.  And then I remember how nice it is to give the dogs a treat and lock them in their crates so Mike and I can *go over our finances* in private, and I’m glad we’ve only got dogs.  Dogs are enough, for now.

And it’s not their fault, poor little things.  It’s just that their anal glands are full and the pressure is kind of uncomfortable and it feels so good to drag your bottom around the floor!  This morning when I heard a double set of click-k-k-k-k-k-k’s and found the dogs scooting frantic circles around one another, I knew I couldn’t put it off anymore.  There’s only so much butt smear I can stand to wipe up in a day.

So I put on some gloves, lubed up, and stuck my finger up their butts.  I did Valentine first and then Theo, and while they didn’t protest the violation, neither one of them will look me in the eye now.  In fact, Valentine keeps running out of whatever room I walk into.  That’s the kind of thanks I get.

And all this had to be written on the Internet because this week my mother-in-law is visiting from Florida and I can’t decide if I should hide rubber gloves and lube, or leave them in the shower.

St. Paddy’s Wiener

*No animals were intoxicated during the making of this post.*

St. Paddy Wiener

St Patricks Wiener

St Pattys Wiener

St Patricks Day

beer goggles

Happy St. Patrick’s Day from all of us at A Serious Girl.

(Watch out for the beer goggles.)

On their way to Narnia


Harlem, NYC — February 2010