January 28, 2011

My turn.

Dear readers, I intended to write today about Bubba, to say my piece about the wonderful family member we just lost.


I was going to talk about how he, with one "get-me-outta-here!" look on our first meeting, stole our hearts. How he saved Murray and, really, his daddy too, from their grief over losing Hobbes. How his gentle, I-love-everyone-and-I-really-mean-it attitude made him, in my eyes, the perfect dog for kids, and how devastated I am that he'll never meet ours.


But leave it to my husband to show me up.

T asked me several months ago if he could be the first person on my blog to talk about Bubba. Since he never asks me for anything, of course I said yes. I'm ashamed to admit, I never dreamed he'd do quite that amazing of a job of it. It's true, he isn't a writer. But he captured perfectly what kind of dog Bubba was, and just what he meant to our little family.

There's really nothing I can say that's any better than that.

So instead, I'll say this:

Thank you.

To all of you who've reached out to me/us this week via e-mail, text, Twitter, Facebook and this blog, you have no idea what it meant to me. Just knowing you guys were thinking of us, and that you really GET why losing a "pet" means something more to us than just that -- it's sustained me, it really has. And I know it's meant the world to T, too.

********

I'm sitting here in my home office, with Murray snoring at my feet, wondering if he really knows his brother is not coming back. He shows us in little ways that he does, but he isn't showing the overwhelming depression he exhibited when Hobbes died. Part of that, I'm sure, is that he's nearly eight years old instead of one. But I hope part of it is that we're handling it better ourselves this time, too, and really focusing on trying to make sure he's OK.

One thing's for sure: We all miss Bubba, and the house just doesn't quite feel the same.

Last night, I had a dream. In the nonsensical way of dreams, I was at my parents' old house with Bubba (someplace he'd never been in real life), trying to feed him pizza crust, one of his favorite things EVER, even when he was sick. He took a piece, spit it back out, then somehow sprouted human hands, enough to show me in sign language: "Tummy hurts." Just as I did on the last day of his life, my dream self said, "I know, buddy. It's OK."

And, you know? It is. As much as it hurts, we still have peace.


********

Thank you, again, for indulging both T and me as we come to terms with our grief. Back to regularly scheduled programming next week, just as we're trying to get back to normal life. Have a great weekend, y'all.

January 27, 2011

Bubba (featuring guest blogger T)

This is Guest Blogger T. Shannon’s T, not just a random T. First off, all apologies for the length of this post, but I feel no need to be concise. I should also apologize for the grammatical errors that are sure to occur. I am far from the writer my wife is. I am clueless as how to add pics, so S might do it in edit. Nothing groundbreaking or awe-inspiring will be said here. This is just the story I want to tell.

(For all non-dog lovers please go elsewhere, what are you communists? Click on the next blogger, I’m sure their drab introspections on life are a hoot.)


Doggies

In 1997 I lucked out in the dog lottery with the greatest dog that ever lived, Hobbes, a brindle boxer. Yes, he was the greatest dog that ever lived and your dog does not compare. I have never even met your dog and I know that to be a fact. You’re, of course, arguing with me, “No, Sir Barks-a-lot was the greatest dog ever,” “No, P. Doggy could run circles around your dog,” “Well Kim Kardaschund is the bestest ever." You’re all wrong. My dog, not yours.

Hobbes-y


Obviously, I’m joking a little (no I am not at all). My point is you had better be arguing with me. Of course, our own dogs are the greatest ever and we’ll all defend them. Hobbes was the greatest joy in my life. (Besides Shannon.) I could legitimately write scores of chapters on Hobbes, but that’s not my point for this story. Just know that Hobbes was my dog and the thought of ever replacing (I hate the use of that word in this case) him was not happening. When he passed away, we still had Murray, another brindle boxer, decidedly Shannon’s dog. Murray was extremely sad. Hobbes was his world, his big brother, playmate, protector, best friend.

Hobbes and Baby Murray


But, after some cajoling we decided to get another dog; this was to be “my” dog.

We were definitely set on getting another boxer, no other would suffice, love boxers. We showed up to a house with boxer puppies. First off, whoa lady, clean up some, your house is not intended for the sole use of a doggy outhouse. Seriously, 17 dogs lived in the house, NONE were house trained. The stench and her two teeth aside, one cute little boxer was hiding behind a couch and wanted nothing to do with his then-brothers and the other madness going on this house. That’s my dog, right there. He wants out as badly as I do. OK, so he’s covered with fleas, has a HORRENDOUS cough, he’s a fawn not a brindle, seems to be shy and doesn’t have that boxer spazzy hyperness that I love. This was “my” new dog. He was born on Dec. 17, 2004, was now 6 weeks old, and was going to be named Bubba. Bubba Ray to be precise, a nod to my hillbilly upbringing and since Shannon would never allow me to name my firstborn that, he would have to do.

We brought him home that day, after a quick stop at our friends' work to show him off. (They had asked us, oh, about 3 hours earlier if we ever thought about getting another dog. I guess we’re impulsive. Ooh, shiny.) Yes, indeed, the cajoling I referred to was just one of our friends asking if we had ever thought about it. (I dare you to walk into a room full of puppies with money in your pocket and not walk out with a new best friend.) Anyway, just like that we have a new addition to our humble home, Bubba. We get Bubba home and introduce him to Murray. Cue the string quartet. (HEY SHANNON!! Here would be appropriate place for the pic of baby Bubba and Murray meeting) :


Love at first sight does exist. Now if Shannon puts up the pic I’m thinking of, it doesn’t look like love. It looks like we’ve invested in a Devil dog. Bubba told Murray, “You might outweigh me by 80 pounds, but your ankles are in striking distance, Charge!!” Later on that day:


With our assistance Bubba got up on our couch and immediately went and laid down on Murray. A scene that has repeated EVERY day for 6 years. Buddies. It was readily apparent we had made the proper decision, the fleas went away, the cough left, the worry of 17 other dogs running over him passed. Another overwhelmingly obvious fact was Bubba was not “my” dog, he was Murray’s dog.

Dear readers, please forgive me, as I have never read this blog before, but I am sure that Shannon has frequently put up pics of their “companionship,” well Shannon, put the one where they’re spooning. And, no, we did not pose them for this pic.


We did, however, pose Bubba for this pic:


Hopefully, the previous pics illustrate how close they were. They never slept apart, always one on the other, and 9 out of 10 times it was Bubba on Murray. Let’s face it, Murray can handle it, he’s svelte. (Svelte means fat, right?) Point is, they have never been apart for 6 years.

We were lucky enough to be able to move to the country shortly after pairing the two and they went crazy. Acres to run around on and play with each other. Anyone that knows boxers know the 10-minute-long “run”: Run as fast as you possibly can in the most possibly random directions ever, stop, then repeat. This was also done inside of our house. This was Bubba’s favorite pastime. That and to attack Murray’s ankles, never got old. They loved to chase the random bird, curse the stray cat, find out what a snake is together, run away from butterflies (yes they did that), get lost in snow drifts that are taller than them, play “King of the Deck,” and of course their favorite, catch the bunny rabbit. Happiness.

Bubba was the quintessential happy dog. Never met a dog or person that he didn’t like and in return didn’t like him. Bubba was gentle versus Murray’s brute strength. Bubba had a clipped tail that we lovingly call his ‘nubbin. Wagged the live long day. It only stopped when he slept and even sometimes when dreaming it kept going. And Bubba loved to sing. Engage him with a staring contest and he would sing to you and break your concentration. He always won, cheater. Leave the house for 5 minutes and you were greeted the same as if you were gone for days. Have a bad day? He knew and you should be prepared for an hour of kisses. Have a lap? He’s in it. Hide Shannon in an unknown room with a blanket over her, he’s your man to find her. (Most times.) Put him in funny poses with different clothes and accessories, and he’s patient enough to indulge you. Bliss.

On June 12th, 2010 Bubba was diagnosed with Lymphoma, cancer. F**k! What do we do? What are the options? Chemo? Medicate? What do we do? He’s only 5, this can’t be. How did it happen? How long do we have? What will he go through? Will he understand what’s happening? What’s best for him? What’s the vet’s advice? Who does the procedures? What will it cost? What do we need to do? If we do this how long does he have? What are the success rates? Will he suffer? How will we know when its time? Do we want to put him through that? Will this hurt him? What should we feed him? These are the scores of questions that came up.

Unfortunately, our normal vet was out of town when we took Bubba in for diagnosis, and the new vet started him on steroids and antibiotics. We did not realize at the time, but if you were to consider chemotherapy for your dog do not start them on that course of treatment. The success rates are exponentially decreased if they’re started on steroids and antibiotics before chemo. This made our decision easier, along with our vet's eventual advice of not going through chemo. We were given 2-3 months with the steroid/antibiotic treatment; the vet said he’s seen it last 6 months, max.

Day one of treatment and every subsequent day we started out with meds and my telling Bubba, "We’re fighting this, you and me. We’re not giving up. I’m not letting go and neither are you." Day one was June 12th, and with an unlikely prognosis of 6 months at best we set our sights on Dec. 17, Bubba’s 6th birthday. That’s the goal. 6 months and 5 days away, no problem we can do it.

Bubba’s first surgery, our first hope: With lymphoma there are different types, one being beatable and one not, or it possibly could be lyme’s disease. To find out the type Bubba needed to have a lymph node removed from one of his legs. We did it. Took a week to determine. Fingers crossed, prayers flying. The scar was huge and ultimately the hair never grew back. Type was not beatable, back to the fight.

Several weeks later we were dogsitting for one of our neighbor’s dogs that happened to have fleas. Now Bubba has fleas. Apparently, Bubba is very allergic to flea bites and received a “hot spot” right on his ‘nubbin. (A hot spot is when green ooze flows out a dog’s skin. Not a pretty sight. Imagine his tail sneezing while battling a sinus infection.) Anyway, we had to scrub harshly with Dawn and a dish towel, which removed all the hair from the ‘nubbin. Again, the hair never grew back. Gave him a pill to kill off the fleas. Back to the fight.

Aug. 12th: 2 months, done. Sept. 12th: 3 months, toodles. The initial 2-3 month timeline laid to the wayside. Good appetite, good nature. Bald ‘nubbin wagging at full force. Beginning of December. Fight, fight, fight. Dec. 17th, still standing! Happy Birthday!! Bil-Jac and Frosty Paws all around. OK, let’s get to Christmas: Got it. We can make it to the New Year: Passed it. Bear with me here, Elvis’s Birthday, you can do it. MLK day, no problem. Groundhog day’s next, c’mon Punxsutawney Bubba.

Bubba became very sick this past weekend. The appetite left, the ‘nubbin slowed, movement was gone and so on and so forth. It wasn’t a struggle to make the ultimate decision. We love Bubba very much and knew it was time. We were prepared, but not ready. I didn’t want it to have to come to this, but here we are. My fight chant went from "fight, fight, fight" to "you don’t have to fight anymore." "Never give up" was replaced with "it’s ok to let go." Bubba was much more the fighter than me. I attribute that to his not wanting to leave his momma, Shannon. Not wanting to leave Murray alone one more time. Not wanting to see me sad.

Bubba lost his fight today, Jan. 26th, 2011. He made it 7 months and 14 days, when he was given 2-3 months. We showed ‘em. It wasn’t enough. I wanted more. Years. Having said that, I’m thankful for every extra day that we somehow stole. Not one of them was taken for granted.

In 2004 when we lost Hobbes my mother asked our preacher a childlike question, “Do dogs go to Heaven?” He answered, and I believe rightly so (paraphrasing), “No, dogs don’t have souls and therefore don’t go to Heaven.” I believe his answer is correct and who am I to judge its accuracy. But will I be spending my night dreaming that Hobbes and Bubba finally meet in Heaven and play all day long? You’re damn right. I will dream that sweet dream every night. Right or wrong the thought of them being together is a beautiful thought and makes the pain all that much more bearable.

Bubba’s ‘nubbin. Now throughout this “ordeal,” Bubba did slow down: no more running, no more attacking Murray’s ankles, no jumping on your lap. That part of Bubba was gone. But the ‘nubbin remained the same. If the ‘nubbin was the measuring stick, Bubba was healthy as a horse (save the last few days). Today’s trip to the doctor I had to carry Bubba in. When I sat Bubba down and the doctor came in, it was classic Bubba, ‘nubbin flying saying “Hello friend!” When we said our good-byes, my boy let me know everything was ok with a little ‘nubbin wag.

My prayers at the beginning of this were for spontaneous remission. It’s happened before so why not for Bubba? It didn’t happen and my prayer tonight will be a simple one.

Bubba, you fought well. You did so good. I’m so very proud of you. I hope we did good by you. I miss you. I will never forget you. I love you.

Good Boy.

January 21, 2011

I.O.U.


Oh, yes, it's one of THOSE posts again.

Wherein I tell you "I'm so busy" and "work is crazy right now" and "here are all the things I'm GOING to write about when things slow down."

(You're probably reading that in a sarcastic, whiny tone. But I prefer the quiet, sincere, regretful, staring-at-my-shoes tone I'm adopting in my head. Your choice.)

So, yes. I'm so busy, and work is crazy right now, so here are all the things I'm GOING to write about when things slow down. Don't give up on me, 'kay?
  1. Music challenge update! Yes, it's true: I asked and you delivered. AND HOW. So far, including the 10 bands I put out there for feedback in my original post, I have 65 recommendations to spin through. SIXTY-FIVE. Y'all are committed to your music, and I love that. I've been taking my assignment seriously and have spent time with 10 of those 65 so far. My (honest) opinions will be forthcoming.
  2. Crafty fun times! I made a few things for Christmas gifts and am working on a few more. And you get to SEE THEM! Yippee!
  3. Poo: A conundrum! It's a problem, people. I know some of you feel my pain. (And before you get really skeered, this is a doggie post, so you aren't going to be getting all up and personal with me. I would never do that to you. Probably.)
  4. The garlic story! Finally! It's a classic.
  5. My most treasured possessions! It's like a tour of why I am a sentimental weirdo. I have a lot of treasured possessions. In fact, maybe I need to make this a series... (And if you're worried I might be opening myself to thievery by sharing my most treasured items on the Internet, never fear -- they're all worth less than $5.)

See? How can you abandon me when all that amazing stuff is just RIGHT around the corner?

(Please don't leave me.)

Hugs.

January 19, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Making Me Laugh Today

www.icanhascheezburger.com

I know. I'm a dork.

January 18, 2011

Well, it's one more than 299, I'll give it that.



No, I'm not about to tell you about my three-day weekend adventure with shirtless, six-pack-toting, sword-wielding warriors. ("And then I said, 'Can I pet your stomach?' and he was all, "RAWRRRRRRRR!!!! I must avenge SPARTA!!' and then we laughed and laughed.")

And I did not dine in hell yesterday. Although my cooking IS extraordinarily bad.

Nope.

This is my dubiously-clever way of presenting...my 300th post! Hooray!

***

It still amazes me how many times I'm asked, "So...what IS a blog, anyway?" (Apparently, even in 2011, I run in techologically-challenged circles.) My standard answer is, "It's kind of like an online journal." To which the reply is always, "Weird. So, what do you write about?"

And, you know? It's kind of not an easy answer. Because my blog doesn't have a theme. I'm not campaigning for a cause or debating heated political issues. It's not a mommy blog, and it isn't about cooking or crafting or dogs or family or friends, although I talk about all those things.

So when I'm asked, "What's your blog ABOUT?" I usually say something like, "Just...kind of... whatever I'm thinking about at the time. Things that happen to me. What I think about things. Pictures of things in my life. My life -- it's about MY LIFE."

At which time they eye me suspiciously, noses wrinkled, and say, "And...people want to read about that?"

Shockingly, yes; a few of you do.

For which I am both unbelievably amazed and incredibly grateful.

My friend Maura at 36x37 beat me to the punch a bit with her post yesterday about the mentor we both share, the woman who made both of us better writers and editors. Both of those women have factored so greatly into my journey as a writer -- I can never adequately express to them how grateful I am to have learned at their sides.

But all of you? You have and are continuing to help me become a better blogger.

And as a professional writer/editor, I'm here to tell you: There IS a difference.

When I was in school, I lived for creative writing. I wrote long, fanciful stories and plays, creating colorful characters and even starting a novel or two. My imagination knew no bounds, even when I drifted toward and eventually graduated with a degree in journalism. I was sure that, amidst my articles and columns, I would still pursue writing creatively.

Then, I graduated from college. I spent years as a newspaper reporter and editor, and then as a corporate communications writer and editor for a global corporation. And with guidance from my mentors, my writing became polished, tight, efficient and clear: Exactly what you want from a bank. Not necessarily what you're looking for in a novel.

So by the time I started this blog...I'll admit it: I was terrified. I hadn't written creatively in YEARS. Did I remember how to do this? Had I EVER known how to do this? Would my writing sound sterile and stilted? Did I remember how to use adjectives and create metaphors? Would I panic and end up talking about banking and website usability?

I still feel like I'm learning, and I'm still figuring out just what I want from this here space on the interwebs. And there are many, many days when I wish Written Permission DID have a theme, so I wouldn't have to think so hard about what to write.

But it's starting to feel more like home. And believe me: I am fully aware that I owe most of that to you -- you who read and comment and interact (or don't).

So: Thank you. And I hope you don't mind if I stick around for another 300 posts (or so).

January 14, 2011

The best and worst thing I've seen all week

Those moments, they come on out of nowhere.

The moments when I realize: I love living in a small town.

I was giving blood at the hospital earlier this week, and upon exiting my car, I was instantly stopped in my tracks by a truck parked adjacent to my unassuming little Honda.


I know -- at first glance it doesn't look like anything unusual. Black Dodge 4x4, lawn-care sticker on the gate, not-obnoxiously-oversized tires.

But such everyday, run-of-the-mill vehicle accoutrement were clearly not enough for this driver.

Upon closer inspection:


Oh, yes, ladies. Hold on to your girdles.

Awesome.

January 13, 2011

Let's play a game: Music! Challenge!



So, I have a confession to make. A really embarrassing one.

And no, it has nothing to do with tequila. Well, this time.

It's about music.

Aside from a brief flirtation into the world of grrrrl bands and indie rock in college, I...am kind of a music lame-o. I blame New Kids on the Block for starting me down this run-of-the-mill, frothy pop/rock road. I was an impressionable young 7th grader, and their fresh-faced questionable harmonies just roped me right in. Before I knew it, my bedroom was plastered with life-sized pictures of Joey McIntyre and that other one with the girly voice, and they were the only music that ever graced my giant boombox.



And even when Nirvana came along and yanked me out of the boy-band doldrums, it was a short-lived victory before I was peer-pressured away by my friends' love for mid-90s country music. (Yeah, I know. I still have a soft spot for Collin Raye, though. Leave me alone.)

But here's the thing: After college? Music wasn't really on my radar -- at least not cutting-edge music. As a lifelong singer and music lover, this probably seems like a travesty of epic proportions, but...I was busy. I had my first job, my first apartment. I moved to the city, I met my husband, reality TV was invented... Before I knew it, I hadn't purchased a CD in years and I found myself listening to middle-of-the-road Columbus pop mush and classic rock stations on the way to work. Then I started listening to Bob and Tom.

(Let's please pause for a moment of silence while I regret this phase of my life.

...

OK. Moving on.)

With the advent of satellite radio, it's almost gotten worse. There are too many choices, so I fall back on the old reliable pop stations. Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, the Black Eyed Peas, Beyonce -- it's all there. And it's fine. I guess.

But there's some part of me that's longing to recapture a little of that college indie rock phase. Or at least listen to something that isn't played in my trying-to-be-hip dentist's office and replayed on pop stations every 15 minutes to the swooning of pre-teens. Justin Bieber and his stupid, stupid hair make my soul cry, and I don't think I'm alone in this.

Recently, I started listening to a satellite radio station that plays some old faves from the '90s (The Verve, anyone?), but also throws on some folks I've never heard before. I'm intrigued by these new (to me) bands, but aside from looking them up on Wikipedia, I know nothing about them. And, more importantly...I don't know if they're really any good, or if I'll just like that one song.

So here's where you come in. I trust you much more than Wikipedia, after all, and I know some of you are serious music junkies/aficionados. So I'm asking you, please: Help me? Help me stop being a middle-of-the-road, music lame-o? Broadening my musical horizons means that, somewhere, Ke$ha (ugh) loses a little bit of her dubious magical powers.



Working together, we can make a difference.

So. Your challenge is twofold: First, I've listed some of the bands I've recently discovered below. Familiar with them? Tell me, in the comments, what you think. Are they worth my time and, possibly, cash? Or just a flash in the pan and/or into devil worship? (Now, before you get all up on your too-cool-for-school musical high-horse, all, "WTF, woman, {X Band} came out 15 years ago! Where have you been?!" -- I get it. I'm lame. That's kind of the whole point here. So just humor me, OK?)

And second, do you have a super-great indie hipster band in your back pocket that I just HAVE to know about/listen to/follow obsessively around the country? Tell me about it. I promise to listen with an open mind and report back to you. Don't worry about what I may or may not like, music-wise -- my tastes are pretty eclectic -- but if you're concerned, the bands I've listed below should give you a reasonable idea of what I enjoy.

Let the challenge begin! (And thanks, in advance, for your help.)
  1. The Black Keys: I'm listing them first because I just saw that they hosted SNL last week, which means they probably are more middle-of-the-road than what I'm going for here. But I want your opinions nonetheless.
  2. Cage the Elephant: I thoroughly enjoy "No Rest for the Wicked." Anything else?
  3. The Decemberists
  4. Ray Lamontagne: I have a sneaking suspicion he's one of those "This guy has been around FOREVER -- HOW have you never heard of him?" dudes. (And I'm pretty sure he sings that version of "Trouble" that's in the commercial about the dog hiding his bone.) But I like the guy's voice, so...he makes the list.
  5. The Midway State
  6. Spoon: I swear I've heard of them before, but I don't know why. Help?
  7. Coconut Records
  8. Eric Hutchinson: Not exactly the most badass rocker name, but I'm willing to give him a try if he's worth it.
  9. The Thrills
  10. Imogen Heap: Now, I'm not completely dense; I HAVE heard of Ms. Heap, and I've thoroughly enjoyed what I've heard. But I'd like your thoughts -- is she worth an extra look? Any of her stuff better than others?

January 12, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Waiting



January 10, 2011

Classic WP: That time I jumped out of a flying thing

It was the summer I turned 18. I had just graduated from high school, and was still adjusting to the idea that, in just a few short months, I would be leaving my parents' house for a scary college campus. No matter that it was only three hours away and I was rooming with one of my best friends; it was a change, and change = scary.

As a kid, I wasn't usually one to take risks. I'd had the same friends nearly my entire life. I didn't like trying new foods, I watched the same movies over and over and over and over (oh, Dirty Dancing).

Any physical risks, especially, were out. I was that kid at summer camp who watched from the water's surface while her friends scaled the ladder to the high jump, then vaulted themselves into the lake in a perfect cannonball, with nary a desire to try it herself. It took me forever to learn to ride a bike because I was so afraid of falling. I couldn't even manage a decent cartwheel as a pre-teen because I was afraid kicking my legs up that high would make me fall over.

True story.

That's why, when my friend P said, "I think we should go sky-diving when you turn 18!" I just laughed.

And laughed and laughed.

Because, hello: P had been my best friend since age 5 when we discovered each other at Vacation Bible School. P had vaulted herself off many a high jump while I waited and watched; she knew better than anyone what a fraidy-cat she was dealing with.

And yet.

As I went off to college, started meeting new people, taking new classes and getting into the social scene on campus (sort of), it kept needling me. Jumping out of a plane. Who would expect it from me, the girl who never tried anything new? What a great way to show everyone the new, improved, one-quarter-of-college-educated, RISK-TAKER Shannon?

I called P before I could change my mind. "Let's do it."

On a chilly weekend in October, we headed to Canton, Ohio, and spent a day taking a different kind of course: How Not to Die When Jumping Out of Planes. We studied the planes we'd be jumping out of, learned the basic moves and techniques and watched videos of unsuccessful jumps. (After watching a tandem jump during which the instructor landed on top of the student, grinding her face into a pile of gravel, we immediately decided we were jumping solo.)

And then, it was time to practice. How do you practice jumping out of a plane? For starters, you have a cardboard replica of the actual plane inside the hangar (demonstrated here by my little brother, who'd come to support his big sister and hopefully not watch her plunge to her death):




Here was the plan: A cable would connect our rip cord to the plane, so when we jumped, it'd pull our chute for us automatically. No instructor to possibly land on us, but also no chance of newbie panicking and forgetting how to deploy the chute. We'd ride up in the plane, Step out onto a tiny platform attached to the wing -- first one foot, then both hands, then the other foot -- and then hang from the wing, letting our feet dangle. When the instructor (from inside the plane) gave us the OK, we'd let go. And fall. And hopefully not die.

It was finally time. We suited up, looking most spectacular...




...and a little like we were headed for an expedition in deep space:



Then it was time to board the plane, which looked so very much smaller and more rickety than we'd imagined:




Only three of us could go up at a time. P's boyfriend hopped in first, followed by P and then me. As we readied for takeoff, I suddenly realized: Last one into the plane jumps first. Gulp.

We took off into a lightly-clouded blue sky, with freezing-cold wind pouring into the plane. I noticed again how rattley the plane sounded. Please, God; please don't let the plane crash before we can even jump out of it.

In what seemed like three seconds, we were at 3,500 feet and the instructor was opening the door. There was literally no turning back now; the other two couldn't jump if I didn't, and there was no way I was making the pilot land the plane so I could march, humilated and un-sky-dived, into the hangar.

So I got onto my hands and knees, said a quick prayer (OK, who am I kidding: I was praying the ENTIRE time) and took the first step. Right foot onto the foot-long platform. Right hand onto the bar. Left hand on the bar. Left foot onto the teeny-weeny platform. OMG, I am OUTSIDE AN AIRPLANE THAT IS CURRENTLY HURTLING THROUGH THE AIR.

It was now or never. I let my feet go, so I was literally hanging from the airplane by only my fingers. I looked at my instructor. "BLARGH!" he yelled.

Wait. What?

"GOOOOOOOOOO! Let GO!!!"

Oh!

I closed my eyes.

I let go.

There were a few moments of gorgeous free-fall, during which I felt completely weightless and terrified and exhilarated all at once. And then I felt my chute deploy, and catch, and I remembered I was supposed to do something. Look up, see if your lines are twisted, if they are don't panic, kick your legs and grab your steering toggles. The day's lesson came back in an instant. And after 30 seconds of kicking and untwisting...

...I was flying.

Oh, friends. If you have never done this, I don't quite know how to describe it to you. All I can say is that I was immediately brought to tears by the sheer beauty of the earth I was now floating gently toward.

In those first few moments, my breath was taken. I didn't know what to do. I was alone up there; no one next to me for me to turn to and say, "Oh. My. God. Are you seeing this?!" What is the proper response in those moments of breathless silence?

Me? I started to sing. And I sang and I sang, up where no one could hear me except God Himself, in a moment that was unlike anything I've ever experienced, before or since.


What, you can't see me? Here I am, still singing:




I don't remember now what I sang, but it really isn't important.

As I started nearing the ground, it occurred to me that I was actually supposed to slow myself down so I didn't break my legs when I landed. I grabbed the steering toggles and guided myself as best I could toward the waiting pick-up truck in the big field where we were supposed to land.

I wish I could tell you that, after my one-person concerto in the sky, I landed lightly on both feet, touching down just like an angel, beaming beatifically as the instructors drove to retrieve me.

But I didn't. My knees immediately crumpled under me and I pitched forward to land...directly on my face. After which I completed a truly ugly version of a forward roll and came to rest on my back, legs akimbo and parachute tangled around me.

Back on earth.

And with a permanent smile on my face.

January 7, 2011

Have you heard about my new lov-ah?


I was on the Droid, weeding through my junk e-mail this week, looking for an errant message from Amazon (I weed out EVERYTHING), when I saw this subject line:

"A new eCard is waiting for you!"

Ooh, one of my friends sent me an e-card. Fun!

So I clicked the link. And when the page refreshed, I saw:
  1. A little cartoon dude holding a sign that says "I Love You"
  2. The headline "You have a secret admirer!"
  3. A message addressed to "Lover"
OK, so obviously, this was a spammer of some kind. Because as much as I love and adore my T, he would never in a million years send me an e-card, much less one addressed to "Lover." (I mean, ew.)

But the message was so random and hilarious that I knew I had to share it with you here. Please enjoy with me (original message in bold, my commentary in italics, all spelling/grammar errors left in):

Lover,

(I've made my feelings about this word known, I think, but it bears repeating: Don't call your significant other this. It's just creepy. Unless you say it like "LOV-ah!" while batting your eyes and making loud smoochy noises. Then it's just funny.)

This is hard for me because I have never done anything like this.. but I have a huge crush on you. I have never been able to tell you for reasons which you would quickly identify as obvious if you knew who this was.


(In addition to appealing to the reader's vanity, bravo for keeping it juuuuust vague enough to intrigue the reader and yet say absolutely nothing. Also, kudos for using the ellipses' lesser known cousin, the double-period. Definitely under-utilized.)

To help you out with your guessing I made a few pictures and videos with "Lover" written on my body. They're kind of risque photos so I had to make a profile at My Site and post them there.

(OK, let's stop right here. If I had any doubt that this was a generic message intended to bilk something out of the recipient, it's now eliminated. No one I know would write "Lover" on their body and then record this abomination for posterity. Who is falling for this? Also, convenient that the identifying material is on a site I probably have to register for. Well-played, Mystery Lover. Not.)

My username in the members area is "LoverandME200"

(Of course it is.)

You've only got 30 minutes to signup & secure anonymous verify your identity before they expire. I only have 1 chance to find you I don't want to regret this.. Please hurry.

("Secure anonymous verify" is the newest in verbs, have you heard? This was totally written by someone I know. Uh huh. Props to the writer for assuming I would regret any part of NOT participating in this. How well you (apparently) know me. "Please hurry"? Maybe to get AWAY from you.)

Step 1: Go to "my profile" and signup. Step 2: You will be sent an email. Once you click the link in the email, you will verify yourself as my secret admirer and pay the little registration fee. Get started on Step 1 & 2.

(Wait. I thought YOU were MY secret admirer. When did we change roles? Oh, a "little" registration fee? Aha! At last my secret admirer shows his/her true colors. And, P.S., "get started" is a little bossy. Not a trait I cherish in my LOV-AHs.)

I'm shy and this is the bravest thing I've probably ever done, but you need to do the rest. You are honestly the best thing about this city.

(Oh, you're right. You wrote "Lover" on your body and posted sexy pictures of yourself on the Internet. The least I can do is PAY A FEE to see who you are, even though I'm happily married and you are in no way NOT a computer. I will say, though: For a fake lover, you are a really crappy researcher. If you actually knew me, you'd know that using the word "city" to describe my place of residence is a knee-slapping joke.)

Fraudster FAIL.

January 6, 2011

On his birthday: 20 Reasons My Dad is the Coolest

Oh, it's a very special day today, friends.

My beloved Dad turns 64 today.

64!

My mother is my best friend, but I have always and will always be a daddy's girl. Always. College speech class, time to give a speech about your hero? Boom, Dad. No thought required.

I've learned so much from him, even when, in my teenage angst, I just wanted to block out the sound of his voice. (And, oh please dear Lord, please never let me hear the words "attitude adjustment" ever again!)

:)

It's a Thursday. We're both working, and I can't be with him on his special day. So instead, today I give you:

20 Reasons My Dad is the Coolest
By Written Permission

  1. His laugh. When he laughs, REALLY laughs, it's an amazing belly laugh that makes him squint his eyes up tightly and throw his head back. I love making him laugh.
  2. His love for music. He's a fantastic singer (he's been part of a quartet for the past 20-odd years called "The Final Four," so named because they were asked to sing at so many funerals) and always sang to us. In fact, he sang ALL the time. In the mornings, getting ready for work. In the kitchen fixing himself a snack. In the bathroom doing...who knows what. Sometimes he'll break into song in the middle of a conversation. It's just part of his charm. :)
  3. His dimples. I just discovered that he had them. He's been my dad for 33 years -- how I have not noticed this before? I blame the beard. But they're adorable.
  4. His determination to make me into an athlete. Growing up, he took me golfing, bowling, to the batting cages -- you name it -- and bought me a volleyball for my 14th birthday. I was hopelessly uncoordinated and WAY too stubborn to take any of his coaching, but he kept encouraging me, spending lots of quality father-daughter time in the process. He'd be lying if he said he wasn't a little bit sad when I quit sports (for which I have ZERO talent -- sorry, Dad) for good in 9th grade, but he came to every concert, gave me roses before every play and always told me how proud he was. That's a good dad.
  5. His popularity. He was once voted "Favorite Person" in a write-in vote in the county where we lived. (He hates hearing this part, but just between you and me, he beat out "God" and "Jesus" in the polls.)
  6. His terms of endearment. I'm 33, and he still calls me "baby." How nice is that?



  7. His ambition. My father is an incredible businessman who's built a pharmacy chain from the ground up. He's never afraid to ask for help and never afraid to go it alone when the situation called for it. And because he's who he is, he's learned from his failures and come out successful in the end. Very inspiring.
  8. His generosity. Ask anyone who knows him: My dad is a helper. And while he's been a helper his entire life, now that he's semi-retired, he's kicked it up a notch, spending multiple weeks each year helping a village in Honduras build churches, schools, houses -- whatever they need. He gives his time, his money, his advice -- all freely and gladly. It's the trait of his I most want to emulate in my own life.
  9. His ability to "watch" sports while "resting his eyes." Sorry, Dad, but no one believes this.
  10. His better-than-average art skills. This may come as a shock to many people who know him, but he's actually pretty good with a pencil. When I was in fourth grade he illustrated a (completely nonsensical) "book" I had written since my own drawings resembled those of a psychotic prisoner.
  11. His ability to know everyone, everywhere. Anywhere we go -- in state, out of state, places he's never been in his entire life -- my dad will find someone he knows. Or maybe everyone just feels like they know him because he's such a friendly guy. Either way, the man knows no stranger, and that's a heck of a positive way to live.
  12. His love of being our Dad. I'm sure my brother would agree: Our dad loves us with a devotion and loyalty that, while it chafed sometimes when we were younger, is pretty incredible. Our parents were never those parents who defended us no matter what we did -- they made sure we faced every consequence head-on. But they were always there to hug us and tell us they still loved us when it was over. And now when we're adults and going through a hard time? Still RIGHT there.
  13. His love of being a Papa. You will never see that man's eyes light up quite the way they do when my niece walks into the room and says "Papa!" He could eat her for breakfast, lunch and dinner -- he loves being a Papa that much.


  14. His love for my mom. One year, just before Christmas, Mom was at work and Dad asked my brother and me to help him wrap her gifts. To this day I don't know what prompted it, but he said, "I love you kids so much -- you'll just never know how much I love you. And your mom...I love her most of all." At the time (I was about 12), I was silently kind of aghast. How could my dad love my mom MORE than me?! It was like telling me he had a favorite child -- betrayal! As I became a less self-centered adult (hopefully) and got married myself...I finally got how amazing that kind of love really is. And what a great example for his kids. I've never forgotten it.
  15. His cooking. My father, hands-down, makes the best scrambled eggs and grits in the entire world. I'm salivating right now just thinking about it. He's pretty good on the grill, too. And he makes a mean bowl of cereal. :)
  16. His nine lives. In 10 years' time, he totaled four cars and always emerged virtually unscathed (OK, maybe with a few broken ribs). And they were always the most bizarre stories. ("A flock of birds flew in front of my windshield! No, really!") If you could see pictures of the cars, you'd swear he has a guardian angel. I have no doubt. Drive more carefully, Dad!!
  17. His inability to act his age. Christmas this year found us all at a waterpark, and my then-63-year-old father was right in the mix, as always. Running around, scaling and then throwing himself down stories-high water slides and splashing and playing with his granddaughter.
  18. His ambiguous ethnicity. Whenever we'd go on vacation, people would start speaking to my father in foreign languages. Spanish. Italian. Middle Eastern languages I've never heard of. Even Chinese (although I think that's a bit of a stretch). And each time he was forced to say, with an apologetic grin, "Umm...I'm sorry -- I have no idea what you're saying." With his black hair and dark skin, he looks as though he might come from almost any ethnic background except his actual heritage (German/Swiss), and it is endlessly confusing to strangers who JUST want to talk to someone from the motherland.
  19. His willingness to try new things. I'm certain if I told him my new favorite food was peanut butter and pickle sandwiches dipped in barbecue sauce, he'd at least try a bite. He never wants to miss out on new experiences, and I think that's pretty amazing.
  20. His ability to always be himself. One thing's for sure with my dad: He'll always tell you what he thinks, and he isn't afraid to show what he's feeling. When my great-grandmother died 20 years ago, we sang her favorite hymn at her funeral, and my dad couldn't quite make it the whole way through. He put his arm around me and used his other hand to wipe away tears, but he made no effort to hide them. His beloved grandmother had died, and he was going to miss her, and my big, strong dad was going to show it. In that moment and ever since, I've known in my heart that that's what makes a real man.
Oh, Dad. There are so many more than 20 reasons why you're the coolest. Like the way you always have a book (and now a kindle) in your hand, and pretty much single-handedly fostered my lifelong love of reading. Or all the times you did ridiculous dances in the kitchen or farted at the dinner table (sorry, Mom) just to make your children laugh. Or the story of how you threw the hairbrush down the well when you were little.

There are just too many reasons to count.

So on your birthday, let me just say, from daughter to father: I love you. You really are the coolest, bestest, most fabulous-est father a girl could ask for. Thanks for being my dad. :)



January 5, 2011

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Christmas, Part 2

After the waterpark extravaganza, we were (OK, maybe just I was) in need of some quiet, traditional Christmas togetherness.

And on New Year's Day, I got it.

We ate enchiladas (seriously, NO MORE HAM, please, EVER), opened gifts, bowled on the Wii my dad bought for himself (...) and just had laid-back, fabulous family time. And no one was in a bathing suit. :)

******************************

The Christmas crew, preparing to be whupped by the Wii Bowling queen, aka me.
(It's true. I am inexplicably awesome at fake bowling.)


My brother. The very focused, serious clown.


The niece.
While I was trying to get her to show off the scarf I knitted her,
she was apparently possessed by Chuckie. Or she ate too much candy.


Mmrph? Picture?
Hugging her amazing handmade doll from Couple More Hours!
She refused to put it down all afternoon -- HUGE hit.


Oh, this girl. She does love an audience.
This face killed me.

January 4, 2011

Cooking: Inspiration borne from desperation

It started out when B and I decided to have a two-person dinner party.

"Let's do Mexican!" one of us said, and the other agreed. B would make her famous cheese enchiladas, and I would make...something vaguely Mexican to go with it.

(If you haven't figured it out by now, my cooking style could best be described as "fly by the seat of my pants and hope something OK comes out of it." Or, more accurately, "This will probably work. Right? Eh.")

When the time came, I realized too late that I hadn't put much thought into my end of the menu. (Shocker!) So, as I readied for my departure for B's, I scanned my cupboards and started throwing things into a bag.

Box of Spanish rice -- that's Mexican, right? Ish? Black beans are always good. Green chiles. Frozen ground turkey. Onions. I can TOTALLY make something out of this.

Miraculously, this time? I was actually RIGHT.

Since then I've modified the enchiladas for my non-cheese-loving (GASP) husband, added optional refried beans for the very same, and the combination has become one of our go-to meals. In fact, I made it for our Christmas-on-New-Year's-Day celebration with my parents (more on this tomorrow), and it was a monster hit.

So now I give you:

Chicken Enchiladas Meal
by Written Permission

Serves at least 4 (with some leftovers, probably)

Ingredients (for the whole meal)

Six large tortillas
1 white onion
1 green pepper
2 large cans white meat chicken
2 large cans enchilada sauce (or 3-4 small cans)
1 large or 2 small bags of shredded cheese
1 box Zatarain's Spanish Rice
1 small can diced tomatoes
1/2 to 1 pound ground turkey
2 cans black beans
1 can green chiles (or one fresh green chile)
Minced garlic
Olive oil


Chicken Enchiladas

  1. Slice and saute a white onion and a green pepper until they're just shy of crisp. (I usually do about half the onion and the whole green pepper, but it just depends how onion-y and pepper-y you want the enchiladas.)
  2. Add chicken to the onions and green peppers. I just use two large cans of white-meat chicken, but I suppose if you're fancy you could cut up an already-cooked boneless chicken breast.) Saute all together for about five minutes.
  3. In a large tortilla, layer the onion/pepper/chicken mixture, a shredded cheese of your choosing (I usually use some combo of the Mexican-flavored and cheddar varieties) and a few dollops of enchilada sauce. Wrap up like a papoose and place in a baking dish *that has been sprayed with cooking spray or otherwise greased.* (I cannot emphasize this point enough.) Repeat for six enchiladas.
  4. Once all the enchiladas are in the pan, sprinkle more cheese and a generous swath of enchilada sauce over each one.
  5. Place in oven at 350 for about 25-30 minutes, but check on it regularly after the 25-minute mark. Remove when it's nice and bubbly and melty.


Spanish Rice
  1. Brown the ground turkey. (You can also use ground beef, of course, or just leave out the meat. I just think it makes the rice even better, and we only use ground turkey in our house.) Drain and set aside.
  2. Prepare the Zatarain's according to the directions on the box, using olive oil instead of butter. (The diced tomatoes go in here.) When it's ready to simmer, add in the ground meat and cover until the directions say it's done.


Black Beans
  1. Drain cans of black beans.
  2. In a pan, saute a sprinkling (no more than a 1/4 teaspoon; probably less) of minced garlic in olive oil.
  3. Add in green chiles and saute for a minute or two.
  4. Add in black beans and saute until heated through.


And, voila!

Super tasty, warms up well, takes about 40 minutes from start to finish, but most of that is just waiting for the food to finish cooking, vs. actively doing something.

Easy. Bada-bing, bada-boom.

January 3, 2011

A very furry birthday

When we found out Bubba was sick and started him on his medication course, the vet told us not to get our hopes up. "With most dogs, this will get you about 1-2 months," he told us. "Best case scenario, you're looking at six months. But I really wouldn't count on that. I'm sorry."

That was in June.

Which means we, happily, are living the best-case scenario, and then some.

Both of us know that, really, there isn't anything we can do for Bubba besides give him his meds, hope for the best and give him lots of hugs, smooches and treats. But one of our goals, however silly, was to get him to his next birthday. In June, that seemed like a ridiculous goal. Completely unreachable.

But Dec. 17 rolled around, and what do you know?

Turns out our little, mild-mannered dog is a fighter.

So it was only fitting that we give the little trooper a proper birthday party, complete with Bil-Jac (aka: Dog Crack):



...and, of course, Frosty Paws:



I don't have any pictures of the actual birthday party because, frankly, it was all kind of a blur of wagging tail nubbins and drool, but here is the birthday boy in his happy post-gorge coma:



It was a good day in the Goad house. :)

Our next goal for him was Christmas, and he knocked that one out of the park. Next up? Taking 2011 by storm. We can totally do this.
There was an error in this gadget

I'm Reading:

 

Written Permission | Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial License | Dandy Dandilion Designed by Simply Fabulous Blogger Templates