Sunday, May 11, 2014

10 things you probably didn't know about my mom

Many of you know Virginia as a valued former co-worker during her career as an oncology social worker, as an aficionado of art, poetry, or music, as a good friend, or a distant acquaintance on social media. Let me lift the lid on a few secrets behind the woman we all know and love.
  1. She can make something beautiful out of anything: shaving cream, lint, tea bag wrappers. Seriously, she can, and does.
  2. She wouldn’t even consider eating cold pizza.
  3. She knows the difference between a browser, an operating system, an ISP, and her email.
  4. She can find something beautiful in just about anything: microscopic views of human tissue, a misshapen dress made of pretty fabric, bad kid art.
  5. She can sing and play on the guitar "Leaving on a Jet Plane".
  6. She has deftly eluded dozens of deadly tornadoes.
  7. She can find the intelligence and presence in any living being: a chimpanzee, goats, a Galapagos tortoise, an old dog. She will make a real connection with each of them.  
  8. She sees the potential in things unlikely to yield positive results: an overripe banana, a geriatric dog, a surly teenage goth girl.
  9. She can put some compost and spices in a pot, add water, put on simmer and out comes potpourri.
  10. She believes there’s something good to be found at every garage sale.  And she’ll take as long as it takes to find it.    Happy mother's day, Mom!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Birthday reflections

[The following post is written by guest blogger, Lupita.]

How stunning are the changes which age makes in a man while he sleeps!  --Mark Twain

Ah, another year has passed.  And so quickly!  It seems only yesterday I was a young pup, frolicking in the back yard, learning the habits and skills of a moderately well-behaved pug.  I have picked up a few less-impressive habits as well, such as my murderous ferocity for all who deliver pizza to our home, and my persistent snoring.   But I have also mellowed a bit with age.  I am now more reflective than reactive, and take much peace in my advanced meditation practice and occasional hot yoga.  

When I was born twelve years ago.  iTunes and the iPod were announced, gas was $1.50 per gallon, Wikipedia was launched, and of course, the terrible events of 9/11 transpired.  I have been fortunate to be insulated from the quotidian trends of technology and politics.  Most of the information that I process is olfactory, and I quite prefer it to the human ways of ruminating and fretting.  

Today will be a fine spring day, and a typical day in the life of this senior pug.  I will visit the groomer (also known as "the torture chamber") to have my nails clipped.  I will enjoy a nap.  I will spend some time listening to Daddy play his horn.  I will sit on the porch to watch the sunset, the rest of my pack having an evening cocktail as we lounge together on the stoop.  It will be a fine ending to the first day of a new year.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Goodbye Jackson

Last night we said goodbye to Jackson, our exceptionally handsome, very good kitty. A while back he was diagnosed with kidney disease, when we thought we'd be lucky to have a few more months with him. Instead, he took his treatments like a champ and gave us another year and a half of bonus time together.

Jackson was reserved, but not shy of making his wishes clear to members of the household. He might not have chosen to add another cat and a pug to the family, but took his responsibility for maintaining order seriously. He quickly learned that the other cat was essentially a hot water bottle and useful for cuddling on chilly days. And he relished delivering the occasional right hook to the dog. He was fond of Greg's shoes (freshly worn), sun patches, catnip, newspapers, and was clever enough to deposit white hair on my black clothes and black hair on my white clothes. He was sweet and good and beautiful. We'll miss him very much.

Thanks to everyone who's been so helpful and supportive, especially Dr. Sherrie Crow at Elliott Bay Animal Hospital, whose expertise and compassion helped us make the most of our time with him.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Happy birthday to me

[This is a guest post by my dog, Lupita, who turns 10 years old on Wednesday, June 1, 2011. I typed this verbatim transcript on her behalf. Any grammatical or spelling errors are my own.]

On the occasion of my 10th birthday, I'd like to take this opportunity to reflect on my life thus far. As a pug of mature age, it seems appropriate to chronicle this important milestone in my life, and to ensure that some fragment of this moment in our family's history is preserved beyond our years on this earth. Writing has been an important means by which I ask questions about life's larger questions and meanings, and so I offer this brief letter to myself, and to you, my adoring friends and family, near and far.

As dogs' lives go, mine has been filled with fortune, comfort, and love. I have also experienced considerable difficulties, but I can look back and feel proud of my aplomb under duress. For example, I have, on a couple of occasions, been subjected to The Cone. Generally preceeded by a visit to one of my many dedicated medical specialists, The Cone imposes a kind of emotional and psychic blindness that exceeds the actual blindness that deadened my right eye from a very young age. Nevertheless, I have persevered and overcome this additional layer of disability, and on both occasions, found myself feeling better and stronger in the end.

In the realm of relationships, I admit to ongoing challenges with my somewhat imperious feline siblings. The cats and I have recently received a gift of a new sectional, which may signal a welcome turn towards reconciliation, given the additional space. I try to maintain a demeanor of calm, respectful deference towards the cats, although Jackson's periodic right hooks, some of which actually make contact, leave me disconcerted and vigilant about my manners.

Greg remains, now and forever, the primary object of my undying affection. Wherever he is, at any moment, that is always where I would prefer to be. He is not always equally appreciative of my presence, particularly when he is cooking and trying to maneuver through a rainstorm of falling food, of which I am continually vigilant, helpful cleanup team member that I am. But in spite of his occasional harangues against the impediments I place on his mobility, he still lets me sit on his lap until his leg falls asleep, and sneaks me table scraps that Emily wouldn't approve of. And on the weekends when he sleeps in, lets me under the covers to snore loudly for the last legs of slumber.

Emily is increasingly kind. I attribute this in large part to our recent viewing of every episode of Dogtown available on Netflix. There, she developed a more nuanced appreciation of the difficulties, and gifts, of being a dog.

My greatest regret, and my most promising area of growth, is in my hostess skills. I have a tendency to bark insistently upon guests' arrival. I wish to signal my family to potential harm, which I surely could avert through my imposing carriage. However, I fear I may work against my own interests in deterring affection from warm-wishers. Still, once my hackles settle a bit, I
take extreme pleasure in meeting, and exhaustively sniffing, new acquaintances, particularly those with beards.

Thank you for your indulgence, for I have thoroughly benefited from this moment of reflection and gratitude for joys, sorrows, and ordinary pleasures I've enjoyed in my many years. And as I look toward the future, I face it with an open heart and mind, and a capacity to be present in every moment beyond that of my human companions. This has been, and will continue to be, one of my greatest gifts to them.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Now that I've started running again, I'm remembering things I had forgotten about working out:
  • A good sports bra is worth every penny.
  • Pain isn't always bad.
  • Exercise changes my appetite. Instead of wanting a French dip, I want two.
  • Running makes me stop thinking.
  • Endorphins.
  • More frequent sweating requires more frequent bathing.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Adios 2010

OK, I'll jump on the yearly reflection meme, though these exercises almost always disappoint. Too much will be left out, something big, almost every single small thing. I won't even aspire to capturing a feeling, which is already gone, and might only come back after time with a smell, a song, a death.

A few things I'll remember about 2010:

  • We moved from the house where we had lived for ten years, the longest I've ever lived in one home. It was devastating, a huge pain in the ass, and ultimately the best possible thing. We love our new place, sunny and spacious, with a big west-facing window in the living room, a studio for Greg, and neighbors who regularly bring treats.
  • This was our bonus year with Jackson. After learning that he has chronic kidney disease, we didn't think he would be with us a year later. I can still hear the veterinarian say, after a brief physical exam, "his prognosis is fair to poor". But he has responded very well to treatment, which includes daily injections of subcutaneous fluids, prescription food, and tuna-flavored medication. It's clear that he's feeling great. He's beautiful, social, and full of attitude. He and Bob like our new place too, particularly the fireplace and the big heating vents.
  • Things that were awful at the moment, but that we laugh about now: Lupita with a cone, Lupita with a cast, Mardi Gras Supper Club (workplace potluck turned group food poisoning nightmare), District 9.
What's ahead in 2011 (note: these are NOT resolutions):
  • I will strive daily to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, as recommended by Centers for Disease Control.
  • I will eliminate from my vocabulary the word 'cool' as an exclamation and the word 'like' as filler. I may cut back on the F-bomb a bit as well.
  • I will put some things on the walls, write, read, run, show gratitude, and try to make some food that doesn't suck.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Jackson update

Disclaimer: this is a post about my cat.

Now that I've filtered out a few readers, I wanted to share some sad news about Jackson with the rest of you, especially those who already love/know of/are in awe of him. We learned last week that he has chronic kidney failure, and now we're just savoring this undetermined number of months caring for and enjoying his handsome self. And because he's always been in charge, we'll continue to jump when he demands breakfast, slink away from his stares that explain that you're sitting in his spot, and watch him hiss, spit, and punch full-bore on the dog.

Jackson spent three days in the hospital last week, where they flushed his kidneys to bring them back up to something like normal function. He responded well to treatment, and since he's been back home, he's comfortable, acting normal, eating his new boutique food, and working it like a pro. We have to give him subcutaneous fluids daily to keep him hydrated, which involves getting him to sit still for a few minutes while 100cc's of something (saline?) flow into him through a hefty, but sharp needle. He couldn't be more cooperative and patient, and I'm finally getting to the point where I'm not shaking like a leaf and sweating like a quarterback every time I do it.

In the picture above, Jackson's the B&W guy on the left. Bob on the right. Notice the "don't f@#$ with me" expression. That's pretty accurate. But at the end of the day, he's a sweetie, like a really hot gangster with a heart of gold.

Thanks to everyone at Elliott Bay Animal Hospital. Without exception, every person we've interacted with there has been caring, thoughtful, and helpful. I can't say enough about that team.