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A Little Bit Anxious

frisky

When Valentine feels anxious, she humps the pillows. It’s a lot more awkward if I do it.

I don’t even know how to begin this post. Except, maybe I do. I just feel sort of weird getting all honest about my feelings up in this hizzy.

You guys mean a lot to me. Like, a lot. It’s kind of hard to explain, but the other day I read a post from Heather at The Extraordinary Ordinary where she talks about how blogging not only gives her a creative release, but it has helped her create a little community in her heart, full of people she knows and cares about, even if she’s never met them in real life before. She described perfectly how I feel about this place, this blog I write in and once in a while pour my heart into. Ok, maybe not once in a while, maybe all of the time, even if my heart is all about new apartments and wieners, it’s still my heart. And I put it here on the Internet and you come by and check it out and then you’re all, “Hey, I totally understand what you’re talking about.” Or maybe you’re like, “Dude. Don’t get it at all, but that’s cool.” Whatever you say, you pretty much always say something that makes me feel good, even if I started out feeling bad. And I can’t find words enough to accurately describe how much that means to me.

The other day I thought my MacBook died and it made me feel like someone had just pulled my stomach out through my nose. This is the opposite of that.

So when I disappear for a few days, like I did last week, it’s not because I don’t care or I’m too busy or anything like that. Maybe it never even occurred to you, I don’t know, but when I disappear for a few days, I always feel like I’m letting you down. Or like I’m letting me down. After all, I am the one who needs this, needs you.

Last week was kind of tough. Not because anything horrible happened, nothing bad happened at all, it was actually a really nice week. Off the top of my head I can think of more than fifteen awesome things that happened, and yet? I spent nearly every day with a constant feeling of impending doom crowding my heart. And I was having panic attacks. Dear Goldfish, panic attacks are awful. If you’ve never had a panic attack, I hope you never have one. One minute I’m wandering around with a feeling of impending doom, but it’s a dull aching feeling of impending doom and I’m basically able to go about my business, mostly ignoring it, and then, out of nowhere, a thought will pop into my head. Usually it’s something ridiculous and farfetched like, “I only have a period every forty days, so I must be infertile. Normal healthy women have their period every twenty-eight days. My ovaries are drying up. I’m never going to have a baby.”

Was that TMI? Too deep of a glimpse into the inner-crazy that is my head? Maybe it was. But how do you think I feel? I have these thoughts and then I think, what’s wrong with me? Why am I obsessing over something that I basically just invented? The thought of having kids right now is not even on our radar – ok, it’s CONSTANTLY on my radar, but we’re not in a position to have kids, so it’s a big fat moot point. Do you see? Even just telling you about this makes me feel like a crazy person. And then I hate myself.

I just threw up in my mouth a little.

So I have these thoughts and then the next thing I know my heart is pounding so loud it’s taken over the space in my head where the thoughts used to be and my limbs are vibrating with adrenaline and I can’t draw a breath or see anything but static. That’s usually when I start wandering around the house freaking out because someone left socks on the floor and why the hell did Michael leave my bra on the table?

He didn’t, I remind myself. I left it there. But it’s so much better if I can blame it all on him! I argue with myself. I am losing my mind.

And that’s why I haven’t written anything for the last few days. Because I was afraid if I sat down and said hello, I’d start writing all this crazy talk about all of the f-ed up stupidness that makes me wake up in the middle of the night with a pounding heart and electric shocks of adrenaline rushing through my legs. Fight or flight, even in my sleep.

I’ve never been diagnosed with anxiety, so my saying I have anxiety isn’t a medical diagnosis or whatever, it’s just what it f-ing feels like. Horrible, awful anxiety. For no real reason. Yes, there’s anxiety about work, there’s anxiety about money, there’s anxiety about everything. That’s life, I totally get it. You can’t live a normal life and be free of anxiety. But this is anxiety over stupid shit, and so it makes me feel like I have a mental illness.

What do you think? Do you hyperventilate over stupid stuff like I do? Or do you have no idea what I’m talking about and suggest I seek therapy?

Meh

It’s so windy today! And also, it’s 85* and oh-so-sunshiney, so I am not complaining about the wind, not one little bit. It’s a gorgeous day in the valley and I wish I could spend it frolicking outdoors, but instead I’m cooped up with my face pressed against a computer. Bummer.

There’s a lot of life going on right now and I’m very tired and anxious and exhausted so how about we don’t talk about anything else today and just take a break to look at some wieners?

wiener

Maybe if I lay real still, she’ll give me some cheese?

sleepy

He’s awfully pretty for someone that eats poo and likes it.

And let’s not forget this one:

P1010003

Whatever you do, DON’T FEED IT AFTER MIDNIGHT.

Close Call

my wiener

I was chopping tomatoes at the kitchen counter just before family dinner the other night, when I heard my brother yelling, “Where’s the wiener? Where’s the wiener?”

The fencing in my parent’s yard is just wide enough that both little dogs can slip through without any effort at all. The first day we were home we found Valentine sniffing around in the front yard of the house across the street and down two. An hour later we caught Theo lapping water out of the next-door neighbor’s pool. As a result, those little dogs are no longer allowed in the backyard unattended.

On this particular evening, I’d spent the entire day working in the yard with the dogs off leash and they hadn’t tried to go through the fence, not once. When I went inside to chop tomatoes, I didn’t think anything of leaving them alone in the yard. They’d done nothing but sleep in the sun all day and I could see them right through the kitchen window. It wasn’t like they were going to slip through the fence while I watched.

But I wasn’t watching the little dogs asleep on the shearling cushion. I was watching the tips of my fingers. So when Ty started yelling, “Where’s the wiener? Where’s the wiener?” my heart leapt into my throat. Most likely drowned in the neighbor’s pool, I thought, because I am the worst dog-mother in the world. I dropped the knife and ran into the yard.

“Wiener! Wiener! Wiener!” Ty yelled.

I joined in, “Theo! Theo! Theo!”

Nothing. Not a sound.

Usually when I call Theo, the tags on his collar jingle. He doesn’t always come right away, but at least his tail starts wagging, and on that hot dog body of his, a little tail wagging goes a long way. His butt gets going and the movement travels down his long spine and his tags jingle till they sound like church bells to my worried ears. But not that night.

That night we called him and called him and the yard was silent. We ran around the yard, our calls getting louder and more frantic, but he was nowhere. I rounded the side of the house and there he was, safe and sound under the roses, happily eating a pile of shit like it was a fresh london broil. I couldn’t kiss him for a week.

Dark and Twisty

Oh man, you guys. I am in a rough spot. There is a lot of anxiety happening all up in my shiz. Lots of teeth grinding and fingernails raking and brows furrowing. My face hurts from all the frowning I’ve been doing in the last three days. I have got to lighten up. I want to, I really do, I am trying to stay positive, but I am seriously bumming out.

What do you do when you get into this kind of head space? Like, when you just. feel. lonesome. And a little bit worthless. And like kind of a failure.

I know it’s silly, I really do. There are people in the world who really are alone, and who are sick and starving and cold. And I’m fine. I’m living in suburbia and I have a fantastic job and a wonderful family, I know. I am blessed. But tonight I feel sad and lonely and scared and confused. And I just need a friend. Someone to listen while I cry and then say something stupid so I’ll laugh.

I hate it when Mike works nights. I hate that it rained and was dreary all day. I hate that I’m doing a job I don’t know how to do. I hate that Valentine had to have six teeth pulled out of her head.

Fine, there it is. My big shameful secret. One of many. We never had Valentine’s teeth cleaned, not the whole time we were in New York, and she started spitting out teeth a couple of months ago, and as a result of our negligence that poor little dog has no front teeth.

How is she supposed to be ferocious with no front teeth?

It’s shameful, it really is. It’s shameful that I didn’t take better care of her and it’s shameful that I just spent a months worth of savings on a doggy dental visit. And its shameful that I’m upset about the amount of money I spent. It’s all just terribly shameful.

And also the weather and Mike working nights and not knowing how to do my job. I want to know how to do it, I really do. I would absolutely love to know how to do my job, to be good at it. That’s what’s killing me. The feeling like I’m a giant stupid idiot who can’t do anything right. A giant stupid incapable idiot who can’t do anything right and doesn’t take care of her dogs.

And it’s pouring rain and gray and cold and I miss Mike. I haven’t seen him, except in passing, since Sunday. I hate having opposite schedules. I wish we could just run away together and disappear on a sunny beach somewhere on an island in the middle of the ocean. Somewhere where the sun shines year-round and the weather never drops below eighty except at night when the air is cool and crisp. Somewhere where we wouldn’t have any obligations except to relax in the sun while unicorns dance under rainbows at the edge of the sea and Valentine chases them with a mouth full of healthy teeth.

I keep telling myself that the dog will be ok with six less teeth, that I’ll learn how to do the things I’m being taught, that Mike and I will realign our schedules so we have more time together. That this is all temporary. And it helps to get it off my chest, out into the open. I feel a little bit better now. Lighter. A little bit hopeful. So thank you. Seriously. Thank you.

sunlight

Coyoting

This weekend we dogsat for my brother and his fiancé. They’ve got this funny little dog who looks just like this stuffed toy I had when I was a kid. He’s exactly my favorite kind of dog. Gorgeous, smart, and scrappy.

Internet, meet Smelmut:

Smelmut!

If only I’d managed to catch a photo of Smelmut playing with his new cousins! They are adorable together. Whenever Smelmut comes over for Thursday Night Family Dinner, there is much bouncing and dancing in small circles and play bowing. The three little dogs tussle and frolic and fight over scraps. They take turns curling up in each other’s beds and in the laps of each other’s masters. It’s wonderful to see them together.

This weekend was no different, only this time I got to spend some one-on-one time getting to know him. I also almost got him eaten.

Thursday and Friday were really hard on sweet little Smelmut. It was his first time away from his family, and we made him sleep all alone in the kitchen. Except it’s not like that, we’re not evil. Valentine and Theo sleep in a crate next to the backdoor, and he had his little bed right next to them, so he wasn’t actually alone. But he sure felt alone. I could tell by all the barking.

Saturday morning I got up early to run before the heat set in. By seven-thirty it was already seventy-six degrees and rising. Mike was in class, and rather than run alone, I thought I’d bring my back-up. Normally when Mike can’t run, I’ll go with Valentine. If there is one thing that little yellow mutt loves, it’s running. She can go and go and go and go, and I swear to you, there is absolute joy on her face all the while.

Smelmut is another little dog who loves to run. My brother is always talking about how fun it is to take him running, and since he’d seemed so sad and lonesome, I thought a nice run would be just the thing to cheer him. So I leashed him up and off we went.

Read the rest here…

Go Fetch

fetched

The last couple of days have been particularly windy in the NYC. And when I say windy, I mean that even with an extra ten pounds of meat on my bones I am having a hard time keeping my feet on the ground. It’s been several days since the dogs have had any real exercise because, lets face it, I’m a lazy slob. Or else I just don’t love them. I do, after all, let them fish their food out of the litter box. Hey, you know? Poop is like their chocolate. Who am I to deny them such a decadent pleasure? If that’s not proof of my interest in their well-being, I don’t know what is.

This morning I was feeling livelier than usual so I decided to peel myself off the sofa and take the dogs to the park to throw a tennis ball around. Of course I forgot our tennis ball, so I was forced to throw one of the matted, feces speckled tennis balls already in the park. You know the kind. It’s been slobbered over and chewed on by so many different dogs it’s hardly recognizable as a ball anymore. It’s lost it’s circular shape and most of it’s green fuzz. If it were a velveteen rabbit, it’d be real. This seems to make the ball all the more appealing to Valentine, and she’s jumping around in circles, eagerly anticipating my throw. I draw my arm back and Valentine races towards the other end of the park. She likes to get a head start on the ball. I swing my arm forward and release the ball. But the thing is, not only do I throw like a girl, and not only has the chewed on lump of rubber lost all the qualities that once made it aerodynamic, it’s really windy out. Really windy. The ball does not head in the direction I’ve thrown it. Instead, it launches right for Valentine and conks her in the back of the head. She reels forward and all four legs go out from under her. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” I cry out. I jog over to her and crouch down to make sure she’s all right. She responds by wagging her tail and nibbling my nose. Let’s try that again, I think. I pick up the ball, she does her happy dance. I hold the ball over my head and she races to get her head start. I launch the ball into the air, the wind picks it up, carries it right to her, and she gets another smack in the head. “Baby, I’m so sorry!” I call out, as if she understands English. I rush over to her and stroke her face, scratch her ears, apologize. She nibbles my nose and my ears and wags her tail to let me know all is forgiven. I reach for the ball slowly, not sure she’s still up for the game. The tail-wagging doubles in time. I stand up and bring the ball over my head and this time, she hangs back behind me. Girl catches on quick. I raise the ball over my head and launch it. She stands about a foot behind me and watches as it sails through the air. “Go get the ball!” I say, excitedly. And then she turns and looks at me and I swear to God, if she had the proper equipment she’d have said, “You get the ball, Bitch.”

Originally posted February 13, 2009

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.

HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO DRY MY LETTUCE NOW, MIKE? HOW?

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**.)

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…