Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The First Mow of the Season...

Today, I'm ashamed to admit, I gave in to neighbourhood peer pressure and I am not pleased with myself.

It was a beautiful day today, you see. It was over 70 degrees, the sun was shining and it was even hot in the sun. While we've had some lovely days recently, this was, by far, the warmest of them all. It's the type of day on which you wish a squirrel would eat through the power line so you can go home early; it's just too nice to be inside.

Still, I made it through a busy day of work. When I got home, it was like an orchestra of lawn mowers was echoing through my neighbourhood. I sniffed at the sound. Since I dislike mowing, I took a look at my long-ish grass and shrugged. It could wait.

Then I went into my back garden and noticed that not only had the Dog Whisperer mowed his grass but so had the new resident behind me. My lawn was the only one I could see that had not yet been spruced up for spring and it still bore the marks of winter.

My grass began to look long. I began to notice that the dead leaves were ugly when, in the Autumn, I'd love the classic touch they added to my yard.

I took Sookie and Rory for their first real walk around the block. I noticed that all over the place, lawns were being mowed or had already been.

By the time we got back to our house, the grass of my front lawn seemed to have grown another inch. There was no point arguing, I was going to have to mow the bloody lawn.

So I did. I also managed to terrify the puppies who promptly ran into the house at the sound of the mower where they cowered until it was all over. Sookie still hasn't forgiven me and she's nervous to go outside in case the terrifying lawn mower starts up and chases her.

On the plus side, my lawn looks very nice. On the down side, it's the start of a very long lawn-mowing season. Also, it traumatizes my puppies. In addition, I hate mowing. I'd rather shovel snow. I like shovelling snow.

Still, despite the now-regular need to mow my lawn, Spring definitely has its merits. My herb garden is coming to life although I really need to train Rory not to go for the thyme. Thyme doesn't grow as fast as my other herbs and I really want to cultivate the little piece I have now. I have a ton of oregano coming in as well as a plethora of chives. Yet, Rory, being Rory, seems to go straight for the thyme. I think my neighbours probably think I'm mental as I often shout, "not the culinary herbs, Rory! No! Not the thyme! Here, have some oregano!"

That's a true quote too.

Unfortunately, Rory doesn't like oregano. She likes thyme and sage. Naturally, I only have a tiny amount of sage too. I did notice the first miniscule piece of mint popping up tonight and provided that spreads as much as it usually does, there's another new herb Rory can try. As long as she stays away from the thyme.

There's no denying that Spring isn't a great time of year. Tonight, the puppies and I took advantage of the Dog Whisperer's absence as i pulled out my little camping chair, had a beer and studied Puppies for Dummies while the puppies themselves played. I learned a lot from the book though it doesn't say anything about culinary herbs.

It also doesn't say anything about lawnmowers and puppies. I looked. I suppose, for now, the puppies will have to learn to deal with the noise. Or...I could just not mow.

The thought is tempting.

Until I give in to peer pressure. Sigh.

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Reality of Being a Foodie...

I think Spring is actually here now. Today, the temperature warmed up again and it's only going to get warmer. I think this is really going to force me to have to remember which of my giant tupperware-like storage containers holds my Spring/Summer clothes. Of course, this is all assuming that my clothes will still fit. Given my obsession with the Food Network and my devotion to Mario Batali and his highly caloric though delicious recipes, I might have an issue there.

Weight is a funny thing. I was a skinny little thing through most of my life until I got to about age twenty-seven. Then I realized that being skinny was starting to take work. Now, some years later, it's definitely taking work. I'm no longer skinny. I'm not overweight, not by all those Body Mass Index thingies they insist on having you participate in at health fairs. Still, I know, compared to the Captain Monkeypants of ten years ago, I'm no longer skinny.

I go back and forth on that. I see friends and coworkers who are gung-ho for Weight Watchers. They count their points. They exercise. They deny themselves of all things tasty and truly delicious, replacing them with low/no-fat substitutes that try to convince us taste exactly the same as the naughty versions but, in reality, taste almost like nothing.

Quite frequently, at work, I'm pouring a cup of coffee in the kitchen and a coworker will come in to make toast. They use that healthy bread that's low in calories. Then they spray it with some generic "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" type of spray. Then they leave, excited to eat their breakfast.

I think it's the 'non-butter' spray that gets me. That's not butter. It's a sprayable form of margarine. Butter's bad qualities are saturated fat and cholesterol. Margarine's bad qualities are trans fat.

Also, in the Butter vs. Margarine battle...well, honestly, have you ever had a good slice of toast with butter and then tried one with margarine? If not, try it. You'll realize that while margarine might be more Weight Watcher's friendly, in some ways, there's no comparison, namely...taste.

I suppose I do admire those Weight Watchers who actually do keep track of their points and their trips to the gym. I've tried it. I like my yoga but, currently, trying to do yoga with two puppies running around is pretty much a complete loss. If I tried to do a downward-facing-dog, I'd have an upward-facing-puppy trying to lick my nose nip at my trousers. I could crate them but I'd have a cacaphony of puppy-whining to accompany my 'relaxing yoga music'. When they're older, it'll be easier. In the meantime, given that I crate the puppies for 8 hours, total, a day (with a one hour break for lunch), I can't deny them their evening freedom.

So I think what I'm trying to say is that...I'm not a Weight Watcher. I can't be. I like food too much. If I was on Weight Watchers, I'd be forbidden from going to Jungle Jim's and trying all the delicious things I see on Iron Chef America and want to try for myself. Cooking is so much more fun when you don't have to really substitute for calories. It's far less limited to have everything on hand for which a recipe calls and then not have to read the labels to see if it's ok to use the ingredient to meet a diet.

I'm not saying I'm being a glutton but if a recipe calls for bacon, I tend to use...bacon. I've tried the turkey stuff and, well, it's not bad but it's not bacon. If it was, it wouldn't be called TURKEY-bacon. It's hard to substitue a recipe and have it taste as good. Take, for example, Mr. Batali's recipe for Fettucini Alfredo. His version has four ingredients: Egg noodle fettucini pasta, parmagiano reggiano cheese, butter and water from the boiled pasta. Oh, and salt and pepper to season. It's simple. It's absolutely delicious. It's not as healthy as a Lean Cusine meal, that's for sure. Yet if you try to substitute any of the ingredients...it's not the same dish, no matter how optimistic you are. You can replace the pasta with whole wheat noodles, the butter with margarine and the cheese, well, you could try to replace it with any low-fat cheese you find, even that bagged "parmesan" that you get in the pre-shredded cheese section. When you try...you get...pasta and cheese. It's not Fettucini Alfredo anymore. It's...something else.

I think that's the reason I'm getting heavier and can't necessarily fit into those thinner-person clothes I own. I've learned that for pure taste, there's no substition. You can cut corners in some places but when it comes down to it, taste is the best part of any meal.

Still, just like any normal woman, I admit, I'd like to do something about that excess weight that arrived somewhere between the last of the summer salads and the end of the winter comfort food. I may try to work in some exercise time at work. I'd like to be able to wear some of my older clothes even if I know that some of them will never fit me again.

I think, though, what it really comes down to is self-perception. Isn't that always what it comes down to, when we really look at it? Several years ago, the skinny Captain Monkeypants prided herself on being healthy and being able to avoid sweets. Now, in present time, Captain Monkeypants still exhibits good self-control over sweets and temptations but...she's learned to cook. Not only has she learned to cook but she's learned to cook from chefs who would smack her with a wet towel if they heard her considering to substitute margarine for butter. Stupid Food Network.

I suppose when I try on some of my Spring wardrobe, I may decide that drastic dieting and exercise are in my future. Yet, knowing me, I may try it for a week and then realize that I can't do it. The way I look at it is that while I might have gone up a size in clothing, it's not a hard size to find. I can still find clothes on sale in my size without too much bother.

I think most importantly, I just need to ask myself if I'm ok not being a skinny little rake and, instead, being a more realistic woman with curves, a little too much celluite and a taste for real butter.

As much as the fashion magazines encourage me to be a rake, there's a reason that I don't subscribe to any of them and, instead, subscibe to Food Network Magazine: It's much easier to cook a meal from a recipe in Food Network magazine than it is to try to look like a fashion model. Also, it means I can eat without calculation or having to do maths of any kind.

Of course, when I try on my Spring wardrobe, I might just change my mind.

I'll keep you posted.

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Days of Incompletion...

Today has been the kind of day in which I had a lot to do but very little has been done. I think we all have days like that- days where we intend to check of a 'to-do' list but end up just staring at it, wondering what we were thinking being that ambitious.

It was like that at work and it's been like that this evening. This morning, I discovered that the book that I've been so proudly selling is actually a previous version, far from the nicely-edited one I'd sent for publication. This means that I have a lot of little mistakes sitting out there, thinkgs that I know I once fixed but are now back again.

So, tonight, I planned to edit the book. I managed to get it done on the hard copy but I have yet to get the electronic, uploadable copy done.

I could stay up until 1 a.m., trying to get it done but I have puppies and they need a routine at the moment.

Speaking of puppies, I'm learning that Mondays are hard for them. They have a weekend with me, limited crate time, unlimited love from their mum. Then Monday comes and the hours in the crate are longer. They get angry with me and try to 'punish' me for leaving them. It doesn't help that I feel guilty about it already.

So, in the end, I've had one of those unproductive days. It was gloomy to begin with, never quite getting sunny, rain always on the edge of the clouds. Fortunately, I have no deadlines at work at the moment. I'm working on my own schedule. While I like being so busy, the time flies, there is something rather nice about having some days in which I have work to do but I can work without feeling like I may not get done.

As long as there aren't too many of those days, I think it's going well. I've come a long way in the past few months. I've moved from a place where I very nearly hated my job to actually coming close to liking it some days. I've learned to distance myself from the office cliques that caused so much of my dislike in the first place and I've learned to leave the job behind when I go home. In addition, I've managed to publish a book- albeit one that now, again, needs editing and adopt two puppies. All in all, it's been a busy couple of months.

It's also been a fast couple of months. It seemed like only days ago that I was taking down the Christmas tree and thinking that I had quite a few more snowy weeks before I had to pull out the Spring clothing. Now, already, they're predicting temperatures near 80 degrees. All my Spring clothes are still put-away. My winter clothes won't do. I think I may have to delve into my boxes to find something to wear.

Still, the changes of the seasons are what make life fun. It's one of the reasons that Southern California became too much. All that sunshine without a break makes a slightly dark and twisted person like me a little unhappy. As I've said before, I need my precipitation. I need my clouds, my thunderstorms and, most of all, my snow.

I think the snow is probably done for now. Now, on the week of Easter, it's looking like it's going to be a fully-fledged Spring week. I caught sight of the first forsythia today- the yellow glow stunning against the grey backdrop of an almost-rainy day.

So, even though I didn't get much accomplished today, I can't say it was bad...it just has no sense of closure. But it's only Monday- there's a whole week ahead to get things done.

Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Inevitability of Mondays...

It's been a very English sort of Sunday out there today. When I say English, I mean in the sense of a traditional English Spring day. It starts out grey and then rains. Then, out of nowhere the dark gloom of the clouds break and the blue sky above is revealed, the sun streaming down making the water shine on the grass, illuminated.

Then the sky closes and the rain comes again.

All day, it's been like this. Currently, the rain is coming down hard but it's oddly bright outside. It's not terribly cold but the rain brings a chill. The daffodils are ducking away from the heavy drops. It really does make me feel like I'm in England for a few seconds.

It's the time on a Sunday that I dislike. It's mid-evening. The day is done, the night not quite here. Yet it's the time in which the realization that the weekend is quickly fading away hits and you know that no matter what you do between now and tomorrow morning, there's no escaping the inevitability of Monday.

I'm not a fan of Mondays, as you probably know if you read my blog. I am, however, a fan of weekends. This one, while mostly uneventful, has been very nice in its pure laziness and escape from routine.

On Friday morning, the puppies woke me at 5:30 a.m. I ended up decided to just get up and go to work early; since we had a scheduled lunch with my boss, I knew that if I got to work by 7 a.m., I could still got to lunch and still have time to swing by home and let the puppies out.

It seemed a good idea in theory. In reality, by 4 p.m., I was ready to go home to bed.

I spent Friday evening watching reruns of Top Chef: Masters on my DVR and watching the puppies run. By 9:30 p.m., those puppies were exhausted. They promptly crawled onto my lap and passed out. It was blissfully peaceful. We all slept hard on Friday night.

Saturday was nice too. I spent the day with the puppies, only leaving to run to Jungle Jim's (thanks for still having quail eggs!) and the attached pet store. I was a little worried that the Beneful I was feeding them was not agreeing so I splurged on some more 'natural' food that cost more but was supposed to be better on their digestive system. The only bad part is that they don't seem to like it. I think they'll get used to it though.

I did manage to seek out some human company. I had a very pleasant evening playing Harry Potter Clue with my friend and her son and then going out for a spectacularly delicious dinner than included lamb patties, sauteed spinach and pumpkin cheesecake for dessert.

I'd say it was a good day.

Unfortunately, I can't boast that my Sunday was fantasically productive. Ok, so I did clean, I did do laundry and I even managed to make my first ever batch of ratatouille which was rather delicious, if I do say so myself. I just didn't get terribly far with the writing I planned on doing. I'm working on a 'challenge' with a friend of mine who is also a writer. We're going to use the same premise but since we're wildly different types of writers, see what we come up with. I did manage to get a good thousand words written, I'm just not sure if I like it or not.

Nevertheless, I tried and, to me, that's something on a rainy Sunday. On the plus side, I did get some wonderful feedback and a review from friends who read my book. That's enough to make me feel fabulous. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Having good friends who are willing to pay for your book AND give you a review/comments is a valuable thing indeed. I thank you all. You're making me feel like a real writer. I even signed my first book on Friday. It felt...weird...

...but good.

Now, the Sunday evening light is fading and the rain is coming down slowly and steadily. The puppies are in their bed, curled up for warmth after playing in the rain. As for me, I plan on spending my last hours of this weekend's freedom, watching TV and being glad for the warmth of two little dachshund puppies, curled up beside me.

Sometimes, life is good. Even when the next day is a Monday.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Danger of Geese....

It's a wet night out there. It's raining the type of rain that's settled in for a while. It's wet and soggy and the puppies get soaked every time I let them out. On the plus side, once they're done with their business, they come right in and play inside nicely. It's quite nice.

I was supposed to get my estimate for my fence tonight and even came home early to do so. Alas, that's what I get for finding an independent contractor on Craiglist. My thinking is that in this economy, there has to be a lot of people out of work and maybe they can build a fence. The quote I got from him was excellent. Unfortunately, it seems that he's unable to use a phone or even send an email to tell a potential customer that he's not going to show. I hope nothing horrible happened to him but I will say that he's now lost my business. I'm a little unforgiving that way but, in my view, if someone is offering you their business, a little more consideration might be nice.

I'll try again. If not, my dad's promised to come down and help. Unfortunately, when my dad offers his help, it generally has to be on his timetable. Since I'd like the fence sooner than later, I was hoping I wouldn't have to wait.

Nevertheless, on wet nights like this, it means the Dog Whisperer will not be leaving his dogs out for long either so the 'windows' of time when Sookie and Rory can go out to play are a little wider.

The Canadian geese seem to enjoy the rain. The female has now made an official nest on her room. She has three eggs in it. I'm hoping the custodian doesn't remove them. We only have to wait 28-30 days before they're supposed to hatch. I googled it today- the gestation period of Canadian geese. I was quite surprised as to how quickly Google came back with a response but I suppose a search for "gestation period of Canadian geese" is really quite a specific thing to search for, isn't it?

Anyway, I'm not-so-secretely hoping the eggs make it and cute little goslings hatch out. I have discovered I'm completely alone in this hope. For some reason, everyone else seems somewhat intimidated by the geese. Some people have taken to parking around the other side of the building to avoid crossing their path.

In their defence, the geese do seem a little territorial. Today, they were literally guarding the doors from our building, sentry style. My coworker was going out to lunch but when he saw the geese, he decided to take an alternate route to his car. Apparently he's quite afraid of being pecked.

When I left tonight, one of the geese was still playing sentry. I moved a little more slowly than usual but greeted it with a "hi, goose!" It left me alone though it did follow me with its eyes. That is a little alarming, I'll admit. But then when I think about it, even if it does chase me and peck me, it's not like it's that far to get to my car and it's a goose- it's going to nip if it manages to catch up with me but it's not exactly a fearsome creature...is it? Now, if it had fangs or giant teeth or even stingers or tentacles, I might get a little worried. However....it's got a beak.

Maybe I'm underestimating the geese. Maybe it would hurt? Has any of you readers been attacked by a goose? Is there really something to fear?

Until I hear otherwise, I think I'll move slowly around the geese but not avoid them completely. I'm rather enjoying the new company at work. They keep things interesting.

And anything interesting at work is a good thing.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Oh, for a Privacy Fence!

It's almost the weekend. At least, this is what I keep telling myself. Today, I had to crate the puppies. I've been an irresponsible pet-owner and allowed them to run free in the kitchen/family room area, restricted by a gate. Today, I put them in a crate and kept them there until I could come home for lunch and for good, in the evening.

I felt horrible. All morning, I kept imagining scenario's in which the cage collapsed, in which they killed each other, in which they tried to fight their way out until their paws were bloody.

When I came home from work at lunch, panicked at what I'd find...they appeared to be fine. While slightly stiff and rather sleepy, my puppies didn't seem to mind that I'd shut them up in a crate, that they couldn't run around as they were accustomed to doing.

Even so, I still feel like a bad mother/pet owner.

I'm blogging about the puppies again, a fact for which I apologize. I think it's because that's what my life is all about at the moment. They need constant attention. We're still working on the housebreaking thing which is made far more difficult when the neighbour lets out his army of yappers every time one of them gets ready to do her business.

I keep complaining about the neighbour. I think it's because he annoys the crap out of me. It's always him who goes out to the dogs, never his wife. And he doesn't go out and shout at them. He goes out and tries to, seriously, talk sweetly to them. Unfortunately, they're so noisy, they can't hear him.

The, inevitably, he scoops the noisiest dog up and holds her over the fence. He wants the puppies to get to know her, you see. Well, my puppies have sniffed her but she growled at them and scared them. Now, they just want to go off and play.

It used to be me in the puppies' position. When I'd go out pre-puppies, it was ME that got barked at, ME who had to go pet the blasted dog so the dog whisperer would go inside.

Still, I have someone coming to do an estimate on the fence today. We'll see how it goes. It's going to be worth it just to be able to go out without getting barked at quite so much.

In the meantime, we're playing rounds of, "Are the yappers out there? They're n0t, let's go!"

At least the puppies keep life from being boring!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Couple of Canadian Geese...

I promise not to blog too much about the puppies today. They're currently sleeping in their basket as I write this- I think there's hope for them to be trained as good 'writing dogs' yet. They wore themselves out this evening, tearing around the garden. Only once did I have trouble with the Dog Whisperer's beasts. My puppies yapped a couple of times and then went about their business of playing. Meanwhile, the Dog Whisperer tried to control his dogs' incessant barking.

I think we can safely say that the dog issue is not on our side. I do try to wait to go out until the large beasts are inside the house but, inevitably, someone lets them out. Since my puppies do not really react beyond the initial alarm and he can't control his dogs barking, I feel slightly superior that my dogs are so much better behaved.

It's nothing a privacy fence isn't going to cure.

Ok, moving on from the puppies, since I promised. Work has been good, lately. I don't know if it's the arrival of Spring as a break from the doom and gloom of the lurking winter months but things definitely seem brighter lately. I'm busy with projects, I've been allowed to do some training and, all in all, I don't hate being at work. Well, ok, so I'd rather be at home with, uh, my pets but I'm making the most of not being able to have that luxury.

It is nice that Spring is here. We have clusters of daffodils scattered around all the trees in our office park. It's lovely, particularly when the morning chill fades and the sun brings a warmer breeze.

In addition, we now have geese living in the office park. They're Canadian Geese. I know this because I heard them honking at one another the other day and it instantly gave me a flashback to all the years I lived in my parent's house and how I'd sleep with my window open in the hot summer months. Across the road, since my parents live in the country, was our neighbour's house. He had a very large pond that was infested with Canadian Geese and ducks.

I'm not sure if he meant for the geese to live in his pond. I know he liked ducks but I was never sure about the geese. All I know is that for years, in the sultry summer heat, I'd hear this obnoxious "HONK" through the night.

Since the sound is embedded in the recesses of my memory, it's only natural that a flashback would be inspired when I heard the sound at work the other day.

I'm not quite sure why the geese are there, though. Eventually, we're supposed to get a pond in our office park. It's not there yet though. So, I'm thinking that the geese are a little early for that- either that or they're squatting, holding the best spots for when the pond is built.

They seem quite happy. They're always together. Some of my coworkers are a little alarmed, afraid that they'll be chased. I've heard stories from my mother about how she was chased by geese as a little girl. They never bother me much though. I've taken to saying, "hi, geese!" when I see them. They never say hi back though- which is probably best because if they did, it would be a little weird.

I actually was going to go say hi to them the other day. We had a meeting outside since the weather was nice but my coworkers pulled me back, afraid that I'd inspire the geese to chase them. I admit, that might have been funny. Would that have been a wild goose chase?

Ok, that was bad.

Yesterday was the most interesting day with the geese. We have these pieces of roof that extend out from our windows. They could be balconies but I don't think they're secure enough. Yesterday, as I was coming back from the bathroom, I passed by one of these windows and saw, to my surprise, that one of the geese was on the roof.

Not only that but she seemed to have a large tennis ball. I feel confident saying, 'she', because on further inspection, I realized it wasn't a tennis ball...she'd laid an egg.

Naturally, I was a little...surprised. I went back to my desk and told my coworkers. Two of them ran to look, fascinated. Another one casually sniffed and said that our resident custodian had already been 'moving' eggs from all over the office park. By 'moving', she naturally meant 'throwing away.'

I instantly felt bad. I know that the geese would be a nuisance and that we don't want them infesting our office park. Let's face it, Canadian Geese make a mess. They 'eliminate' all over our car park- a greenish poop that looks nasty.

Yet, I still felt bad for them. Here we have this rather sweet, joined at the wing, loving couple of birds. They wanted to raise a family. They found a nice office park where they heard that there would eventually be a pond. So they made it their home, sort of like getting into a housing development in the early days. They decided to pop out a couple of goslings...

And then our custodian took them away.

I ask you, is that really fair? From the human angle, I can see the logic, I suppose. But if I'm thinking like a goose, I'm thinking that's just plain unfair and cruel.

Still, the geese don't seem to be bothered that much. If they were, they would leave. They would probably stop laying eggs. For now, though, they tend to just wander up and down, occasionally chasing each other with flurried "HONKS!"

Personally, despite the nasty poop, I think they're fun to have around. Some places have swans, we have Canadian Geese.

I proposed adopting them as our company mascots. I got some funny looks at that
But that's nothing new, really, is it?

Happy Wednesday!


Monday, March 22, 2010

Celebrating Triumphs through Facebook....

I've been distracted by puppies lately. I've realized I'm in danger of becoming one of those people, the ones who gush and show pictures every time someone asks me how the puppies are.

I never thought I'd be like that. I thought I'd have a dog or dogs for companionship and while I loved them, they would just be my dogs. I think I might have been a bit unrealistic about that.

Instead, I think I'm becoming one of those insufferable pet parents. If someone asks me how the puppies are, I always have a story, how cute they are, how clever Sookie was because I finally got her to go to the bathroom on the puppy pad I put in the corner or how sweet Rory is because when she's scared, she runs straight to me for protection, letting me know that she knows who her mummy is.

Even when I type that, I feel a bit like Hagrid from Harry Potter. The big, scary man was a big softie when it came to animals and I think that might just be me and the puppies. I can't got to a shop with a pet section without seeing if they have any good squeaky toys because those girls, they love their squeaky toys.

I don't think there's anything wrong with being a good pet parent. I just have to be careful not to make the puppies the only thing in my life.

Take for example, last week. My book was published and up for sale on Amazon.com. I sold my first copy.

That's huge, really. Yet, I let it pass by without taking in the fact that I am now a published author. It's been a dream of mine for a while and it finally came true.

That's something I think I should stop and enjoy, really, don't you think?

The nice thing is that thanks to Facebook, I have a little pep squad, some friends who ordered the book the minute I told them it was available. There was no hesitation, no "I'll do it later," or "I'll wait until I get paid." No, they put it straight in their Amazon.com cart and it's already being shipped. That's also something to celebrate.

It's nice to have friends like that. Some of them are close friends, others are simply friends I went to high school with and found on Facebook. Some are in the U.S., some in the U.K. It's a strange, humbling thing to realize that people believe in me that much that they don't stop and wonder if it's worth the money, they just buy it.

It also goes to show how much a part of our lives Facebook is these days. I don't go a day where I don't at least check people's statuses on my phone, to make sure they're all ok and there's no catastrophes at hand and to see what everyone's up to at that moment.

It's ironic, really. People say technology is forcing us apart, making us reliant on computers and gadgets and less on each other. To some extent, that's true. It's easier to do things online than go do it in person. It does cut down on our interpersonal interactions.

But I don't think it's forcing us apart. For me, Facebook has become almost a virtual scrapbook of my life. My first very best friend in England is my friend on Facebook and even though we haven't seen each other for years, I can see her children's photos, her husband, her parents. I have friends from my first days in the U.S., friends that I enjoyed in high school but didn't think I'd see again once we graduated. I have other friends from high school who I wanted to see again but we all went our separate ways. I have close friends who I email outside of facebook or talk to on the phone. I have friends from my many jobs...

You get the idea....for me, Facebook is a way of pulling the social history of my life together and laying it out for me to see how my life has evolved. These are people who all knew me at different stages of my life, from my evolution of being a slightly scruffy little bookworm to becoming someone who actually writes books.

As a writer and as a human, I have to say, Facebook is a great invention. I don't use it the way many people do- I have yet to ask ANYONE for a cow or a barn in Farmville and I intend to keep it that way- but I love that it lets me connect with my many friends.

As a published writer, it's a wonderful way for me to realize how kind people are. They're taking a chance on me as a writer and as a friend and it's a pretty darn good feeling.

So, for anyone who knows me, has bought my book or is my Facebook friend, I thank you kindly for your confidence and belief in me. That means an awful lot to me.

And, also, if you want to see any puppy pictures, just let me know.

Just kidding. Mostly.

Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Plenty of Sunshine (and Puppies Too)

I know I say this almost every Sunday but I can't believe that's it, that the weekend has gone by already.

It probably doesn't help that it was the first real spring-like weekend we've had since winter came. Friday came and went with temperatures in the low '70's. The sun was shining, the air was balmy and warm and it was the perfect evening to play outside with two very excited puppies.

I spent much of the weekend playing outside with two very excited puppies. They love it outside. They like to sniff everything. They like to play with leaves. The especially like to play with leaves when it's in the possession of the other puppies.

They also adore sticks. I've never had a dog that actually plays with sticks. You see that on the television a lot- the adoring pet is easily amused by a stick. Well, granted, my puppies don't bring it back but they certainly are easily entertained when you toss a stick their way.

It's fun to watch them. I'm actually to the point where I can let them outside without having to watch their every move. It gets a little hairy when the Dog Whisperer's pets come out but we're managing. In his and his wife's defense, they are trying. I know they try to make sure the puppies aren't out before they let the dogs out. We've spent a fair amount of time trying to get their dogs and my puppies to the point where they can acknowledge each other without barking.

There's been no luck. I'm proud to say that while Sookie is the one with the bravado, yapping back, Rory is the one to approach the fence to say, "hi, noisy dogs." Then she runs away. Shortly afterwards, she and Sookie will run away, completely ignoring the barking from the other dogs as they happily continue their quest to sniff every part of the garden.

I like that they're ignoring the next-door neighbour's dogs. I'm proud of them, actually. I still think that privacy fence might be necessary but I like that they're getting used to the yapping and are able to ignore it.

I wish I could say the same.

Still, we spent a very nice weekend, playing in the yard. I managed to get some work done too. I've found that when they're sleepy, all I have to do is put one of their dog beds in my office and they'll curl up. It seems to be that they're ok, just being able to see that I'm nearby.

The worst part is that tomorrow, I'm back to work and, tomorrow, they're back to being alone a lot. I know they won't like it. It's days like today where I'm able to work AND have puppy time that I wish I could work from home.

It's days like today where I wish I could make a living as a writer so I could have the luxury of my puppies by my feet all day, able to cuddle them when I want and play in the garden when the weather's nice. However, the way it's going at the moment, that's not likely to happen. Still, I can hope and dream.

And, to me, dreaming is s what makes life fun, anyway.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Nostalgic Wistfulness of Wanting a Recess....

It's only a few days shy of officially being Spring but, for all intents and purposes, at the moment, here in our corner of the Midwest, it already is Spring. Even though it's supposed to snow a little early next week, no amount of snow, no matter how much I love it, can stop the progress that is the transition from Winter to Spring. The crocuses are blooming, the daffodils are nearly there. It's warm outside... breezy and the smell of warmer days yet to come scents the air.

I'm feeling poetic, obviously. This morning, at work, our office was freezing. Outside, it was chilly, a nip of frost to the early morning air. Even though we're supposed to accept Daylight Savings Time, I don't accept it. To my body and my circadian rhythms, it's still the same time as it was a week ago. Just because the government stipulates we move our clocks forward, doesn't mean my natural sleep cycle will concur. Thus, when I get to work at 7:30 a.m., my body AND my brain knows it's only really 6:30 a.m. It also doesn't help that our phones, on a centralized network, somehow revert back every night so that they tell us the real time, not the phony "Daylight Savings Time." So when I get in the office at "7:30" a.m., my clock even tells me it's 6:30 a.m.

It's no wonder it's chilly in the morning. It's practically night when I have to get up at the moment.

Still, by afternoon, the air warmed up and our office did too. One of my coworkers opened up the door to the fire escape and let the balmy, fresh, Spring-scented air flow in. It made me happy, particularly as I'm in the best position in our area to feel the air as it blows in; directly in its entryway.

As the afternoon wore on and the fresh air revived us, the quiet began to be punctuated by the sounds of screaming voices. They were happy screaming voices, those of children who are on recess.

There's a daycare next door to our office park. I think it's a kindergarten. Every afternoon when the weather permits, the kids go outside to play.

In our office, it spurned conversations about the nostalgic, long-forgotten joy of recess. There were jokes about milk and cookies, naps and being able to run around in the sunshine. Yet beyond the jokes, there was always a wistful hint of days gone by.

I think we all wish that recess would continue beyond the school days. In England, we called it 'playtime' rather than recess. For me, as a shy, insecure child, recess was either fun- if I had a friend to spend it with- or it was a dark, dismal place in which I had to find a way to spend 15-20 minutes alone without attracting the attention of the bullies.

It wasn't that I didn't have friends. It was just that sometimes, it was far more appealing to take a book and go sit on the wall and read, avoiding the games of football (or, to my American readers, soccer), hopscotch and 'it'. I never minded playing 'it'. I think it's called 'Tag' over here. Basically, you run around chasing the other kids who are playing and if you touched them, they were' it' and you then had to run away to avoid being double 'it-d'.

When we played 'it', I was part of a team. Even back then, the politics of the playground were a natural deterrant in being able to make friends. There was always some pariah, someone who'd done something as awful as telling a teacher on a troublemaker or someone who had an 'accident' in the cloakroom.

Still, there were games that involved everyone, pariah or not. Games like 'Red Rover' where it was important to have as many players as possible. I always loved 'Red Rover'. Ok, so it was slightly violent and not terribly tame and, well, yes, kids did break bones playing it but it was a full-on, team-based, playground competition. Everyone played, not everyone won.

When I heard the sounds of the kids running around today, punctuating the spring air, I had flashbacks to games of Red Rover. And, naturally, I had to picture playing the same game with my current coworkers. It was an amusing, if slightly barbaric, picture.

I like the idea of having a recess, of being able to get away from our desks to run around the car park, arms flapping like wings and having a good scream of "AAAAAHOOOOOOOOOGAHHHHHHHH!" I think it would be fantastic stress relief.

I also admit, even before we started hearing the sounds of recess, I've often pictured myself running around the building, arms outstretched like wings screaming "AAOOOGAHHH!". Personally, I think if we got to do that, there'd be far less tension and far less need for optimistic pictures in the bathrooms.

Of course, I don't do it. While the idea appeals, the reality does rear its ugly head; My coworkers would probably think I was nuts. They already suspect it, having it confirmed might be a tad too much.

Nevertheless, when I hear the sounds of children running wild, enjoying the freedom of a life without adult responsibilities, part of me longs to join them. I do wish we had recesses where it was perfectly ok to run around like a loon to expend our energies. We do get work breaks but they're not quite the same. On those, we get to drink coffee, leave our desks to make a phone call even, gasp, attempt to make a run to the Target across the road in 15 minutes or less.

Yet we never take time to treasure the fact that a break is, in fact, a break from life. Perhaps we should all run around pretending we have wings and screaming or squealing or just admitting that we're enjoying ourselves.

That's the thing with kids, you see. They never have to stop and say, 'wait, does this count as my break? Oh dear, what if I'm a minute late? Will anyone see? Oh, crap, there's no coffee....now I have to make coffee and that will take a while. If I wait for the coffee to brew, is that my break? Or is it my break when so-and-so comes to ask me a work question and we end up chatting about her kids/my puppies?"

You get the idea. Perhaps if we called it recess and we all got to go outside and run around; I bet things would be different then.

Of course, we might also make a run for it, escaping into our cars and running off into the freedom of a non-working delusion. That's the thing with being a kid. They can't drive. To them, a recess is the span of the playground into which they're released. For us, the whole world is our playground or, more realistically, a vast expanse of places to run errands and 'get things done.'

Even if we had recess, we'd probably find ways to avoid it.

Still, I like the idea of it, don't you?

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Discipline Issue and Publishing Doubts...

It's over halfway through the week and I don't know about you but I'm exhausted!

It hasn't been a bad week though. Work is slower than it has been for the past couple of weeks but I'm still finding ways to keep myself occupied. The only danger in being less busy is that you notice things that usually prickle in your mind as annoyances during a busy day but, in a more relaxed day, really start to bother you.

Still, what is work when things in life are going so interestingly? While I'm experiencing a slight case of puppy frustration- one of my little girls will NOT listen to me, even when I raise my voice (as the reading materials suggest). Even though I take them out regularly, they still like to 'have accidents' inside. I bought them puppy pads, just so they had somewhere to go that was easy to clean. They've decided they're chew toys instead. Never mind that they have a ton of chew toys scattered around the dog-proofed area. Anything they can sink their teeth into is fair game.

I know, I know, they're puppies. That's part of their charm. It's just hard. Sookie is very willful and stubborn. One of my coworkers was generous enough to give me a 'puppy shower' gift- a magazine all about Dachshunds. There are tips in there for everything including housebreaking. It says that Dachshunds, by nature, are willful and stubborn. I'm seeing that first hand. Yet the problem is I'm trying everything they're suggesting and still Sookie ignores me. Rory is more manageable. She's a sweet soul with a mischievious streak but she does listen and she does know when she's done wrong. Sookie, on the other hand, glares at me when I firmly tell her 'No' and slinks off. I love them both, equally but I'm not sure how to handle the differences in personality. While I'm glad I have them both for the sake of them being able to keep each other company, I also worry that they won't need me so much. That I'm just a third party to their little puppy world.

I think part of it is that they're both a little afraid to go outside, thanks to the beasts that live next door(s). This morning, I was trying to encourage them to relieve themselves so I could go to work and just as I feared, my neighbour let his three noisy dogs out into their yard. Pandemonium ensued. In the darkness of Daylight Savings Time, my girls were terrified. They didn't relieve themselves because they were too worried by the barking. I was angry. While I know my neighbours have every right to let their dogs out, it would be nice if they would be slightly more thoughtful and at least look to see if we're out there. I only put my back yard, outside light on when we're out there. It wouldn't take much to be thoughtful.

But I've lived here since August. Thoughtfulness is not in their reportoire. Before I got the puppies, I'd be out in my yard, working. I could hear the neighbour's dogs bark at me from inside. Clearly, the neighbours got fed up of the barking and so they let them outside. Never mind that I was enjoying my peace. Never mind that they don't control the annoying creatures. They just didn't want to hear the barking.

I think my only solution is to build a privacy fence. I've done the estimates and if I get the materials myself and build it, I can afford it. It should be my responsibility but, in truth, I do want the privacy and so I think it's our only option. I don't expect it to eliminate the problem entirely but at least I'll be able to set foot in my own garden without being besieged by a platoon of yapping dogs.

Puppy/dog woes aside, this is a big week for me. My book is published. It's for sale. I'm now in that stage where I'm wondering if it was the right thing to do. I published because I had a ton of people say they'd buy my book, mostly on Facebook. So far....there's not much follow-through. I know, again, it's a question of the impatience of Captain Monkeypants. I want instant results. People don't give instant results. They'll buy it if and when they're ready. If they don't, well, I gave it a shot. I'm going to try self-promotion next. I have some ideas. I have some support in good friends who either have already bought my book or have pledged to buy it. Other than that, I'm in a scary stage where I've put myself out there. Readers will either like it or politely abstain from giving feedback.
In my heart, I know it's a good read. I won't say it's a good 'book' because, let's face it, I don't intend to win a Pulitzer with it. But I think if people gave it a shot, they might like it. The worst part now is that I'm reliant on those sales, on that feedback. And, as a self-professed control-freak, I'm not sure I like having that reliance.

The thing is, I do now have that reliance and I have to accept it, even if I don't like it. It's part of the writing process, for better or for worse.

And, if it gets to me, I still have two puppies that keep me entertained. For example, I have one of those small animatronic "Fur Real" pets that's a pig. If you press its back, it grunts and snorts and wiggles. The puppies are fascinated and...slightly worried. If an animatronic pig can get their attention, there's hope for me yet.

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Eventful Spring Days....

It was another Spring-like day today. The first crocuses in my garden are blooming, one purple, one white, one yellow. I planted a ton of them because i love to see them spring up out of the faded green, yellowish grass, up from the leaf-covered dirt and surprise us with their chipper-colours. My daffodils will follow and then I can truly say Spring is here.

While I love winter, I'm ready for a change. I'm ready to start thinking about my garden, being about to walk the puppies without needing a coat, finding ways to explore the outdoors. It's supposed to be nice all week, which should make even more flowers bloom.

This is turning into an eventful week. For one thing, there are puppies. Each day is a new adventure with them. Tonight, it was bath night.

My experience with dogs and baths is that, generally, they don't like them. Then they get angry with you and either try to make you as wet as they are or they run around, rolling in the grass, trying to dry off and then proceed to let you know they are NOT happy with you.

Well, my puppies clearly hadn't had a bath yet. They cried in the sink as I washed them. Then I wrapped them in a warm towel. They cried. They ran around whimpering for some time. Then when I was done bathing them, I had to wrap them in the towel and cuddle with them. Then they followed me, crying. So I put them in their bed wrapped in an old sweater and they finally stopped crying.

Ironically, it wasn't cold. I think they just hated the bath experience rather a lot. I can't blame them. I suppose if I were a tiny puppy, someone showering me with warm water would be a little traumatizing.

Then when they were dry enough, I let them run around outside since it was a balmy spring day. Well, as soon as they got out there, my neighbour unleashed his hounds (or rat terriers, at least). They immediately barked. My puppies gave a fight and yipped back but then the neighbours on the other side of the Dog Whisperer let his dogs out and they crashed through the fence into the Dog Whisperer's yard. All of a sudden, the three dogs became six and my tiny puppies trembled while the two men laughed.

I, personally, don't think it's cute though, in their defense, they did try to scoop up their dogs. My puppies were both fascinated and terrified.

I'm not sure what we're going to do about this. I only hope that either my puppies can bark back or the neighbours stop letting the dogs out whenever they see me outside. We can only hope.

Then, of course, to top it all off, I get a call from my friend and fellow writer. My book is now for sale on Amazon. I've already sold a few copies. It's a good feeling. I can now say, "I'm a published author."

In all honesty, it hasn't sunk in. I feel like I should do something to celebrate. Then again, having two puppies is a pretty good way of celebrating. They're currently sleeping after running around like maniacs all evening. I plan on waking them up before bed, to spend that last spurt of energy before they crash for the night.

In the meantime, while they sleep, I get a chance to blog. I can check my email and look up stuff that I've been meaning to do for a while. It's a nice sort of peace.

For now, I'll take that when I can!

Happy Wednesday!

By the way, if you want to check out my book, click here:

Monday, March 15, 2010

Double the Trouble....

I missed a blog today. It's the first one I've missed for a reason other than vacation in quite a while. I had a very eventful weekend which culminated in some rather unpleasant stomach bug/problem.

Nevertheless, the rest of the weekend is good. I have puppies. Not just one...but two. Sookie Stackhouse Monkeypants has a sister, Lorelie (Rory) Gilmore Monkeypants. I did just mean to get Sookie. It's just that when I went to pick Sookie up, I met her sister. I felt bad about tearing the girls apart but Sookie came home with me or, rather, she came to my parent's with me.

It became rather obvious from the time Sookie came into their house that she was used to playing with other dogs. She spent the whole of the first few hours trying desperately to make friends with my parent's three dogs: Dudley the Demented (a Yorkie), Odie the Decrepit (a Chihuahua) and Oscar the Brave (a mini Yorkie).

Well, let me just say those three boys were terrified of little Sookie, even Oscar who, until now, has been brave enough to stand up to two large, female German Shepherds who belong to my brother. In fact, he was brave enough to try to, uh, 'mount' them. If you want to see comical, it's seeing a mini Yorkie think he's got a chance with a German Shepherd. One kick, and Oscar lost that battle.

Yet Oscar was terrified of Sookie. All she wanted to do was play but none of the other dogs would play. I realized that she was used to playing with her sister and, in fact, having her sister around might make it easier on me to leave them alone while i was at work. At least they could keep each other company.

So I called the people from whom I adopted Sookie but, alas, the sister-dog had been promised to someone else. I was a little disappointed but I knew that even if it wasn't Sookie's sister, I was going to have to think about getting her a companion. While the lady from the rescue centre in Ohio had been a little weird, what had stuck with me is that Dachshunds need a companion.

So, I went to my Writer's Conference on Saturday. It was an interesting conference although, once again, it made me realize that I'm not sure where I fit in the world of writing. I realize how jaded I am when I'm in a group like that. The speakers, one fiction writer and two non-fiction writers, gave lectures on how to get published, giving the list of what you have to do to get an agent and get published.

And, as I listened, I got a little frustrated. I've heard that list over and over. I've read it in books. Every published writer who likes to give lectures makes it sound easy. Yet it isn't. Time and time again, I've tried almost every suggestion they've given. Nine novels later and I'm publishing myself because nothing works. Truth-be-told, what it takes to get an agent is either to meet the agent and persuade them in person that a book is worth considering or to know someone. The first method would be nice but I have to face facts, I'm not good at that type of thing. The easy answer is to get good at it. Yet, I'm in my mid-thirties and about fifty-times less shy than I was twenty-years ago but I know that I'll never find it easy to chat to strangers out of the blue. I'm ok if there's something to talk about but when it comes to selling myself...I stink. It's why I'm a lousy flirt- I have no idea how to do it and if I try, I get embarrassed and can't follow through. The second method, to know someone, would be nice. Yet I don't know anyone. Any leads I've ever had haven't followed through. So, I'm self-publishing.

Of course, we also got a lecture from a non-fiction author on the statistics of self-publishing and 'why you shouldn't do it.' Of course, she was talking about the type of self-publishing where you pay a ton of money upfront for a set number of books and it's up to you to sell them. My self-publishing is Print on Demand where I pay nothing, all costs come out of the sale of each copy. Also, while it sounds a little snobby, I wasn't wowed by the non-fiction author, anyway. Her claim to fame is publishing one of those books of photos you see in Barnes and Noble, Historic [insert name of city/town here]. While I think it's great she's getting her book published, writing non-fiction and fiction is like apples and oranges, just as getting it published is a completely different process. Many times with non-fiction, you just submit a proposal to an agent/publisher. You don't even need a book. You promise to write the book. Then they agree to take you on as a client provided you follow through. Fiction doesn't work like that. You have to write the most amazing query letter ever. Even if you do, you still get rejected. Then you send a partial manuscript. If they like it, they request the whole thing. If not, you get rejected. I've sent a couple of partials...that's as far as I've got.

So, when it came to self-publishing, I'm taking the plunge because I think I have a book worth reading and I want people to read it. I can't get an agent to give me the time of day because most of them say "we're not looking for this kind of material," even though it says quite clearly in their submission requirements that they are.

Anyway, what I took from the writer's conference is that while I still have a lot to learn, I'd like to learn something new from someone who's going to be honest and admit that even though they might be published now, you can't follow a checklist to do so: It's all about timing, connections and finding a way in.

However, it wasn't all bad. During the conference, I got a voice mail message from Sookie's former owner telling me that the people who'd claimed her sister hadn't picked her up. They really wanted the two girls to be together and so if I wanted her, I could have her.

Well, I was there as soon as humanly possible. I picked up little Rory and reunited her with her sister. Sookie was a changed puppy. The two of them are like peas in a pod. They look almost identical. Rory is a little shyer but also a little naughtier. Sookie is a little feistier but also a little less obedient.

I love them both. They're currently napping on my couch, watching House while I write this. Rory was crying for my attention but I let her cry. I'm trying not to go running every time she whines or it'll get out of hand. I do plan on sitting with them shortly though because there's nothing better than curling up on the settee with two sleepy dachshund puppies who just want to know you're there.

Today was hard though. I didn't leave my parent's until this morning since yesterday, I didn't much feel like driving home feeling rather cruddy. The puppies were very good during the trip with minimal crying. Yet I had to dash almost immediately off to work, only spending enough time with them so they could get to know the house a little before I shut them in the kitchen.

I spent the rest of the afternoon worrying about them. When I came in, they'd managed to break through my barricades and...they were missing. I searched everywhere, my calls more and more panicked. I finally found them cowering behind the couch, afraid they were in trouble.

They weren't. I was so relieved to find them and find the house completely undestroyed that I fussed over them. They are already mostly housebroken and as long as they have lots of toys to chew, they're pretty good about not chewing things they shouldn't.

It's already changing my routine. Tonight my boss told me I was crazy for getting two dogs and that I'd regret it because it's more than twice as much work. He's probably right but I can't tell you how nice it is to know that they'll never be alone because they have each other when I'm gone. It's nice to see them sleep together, sit on each other's heads, steal each others toys and, best yet, chase each other around the living room until they're so tired, they actually sleep at night.

It's going to be a long road until they're more mature. In the meantime, I'm trying to adjust to sharing my home with two new friends. It's nice to have the company even if I'm not fond of having to get up in the night to take them out.

And there's nothing nicer than being greeted when you get home from work with wagging tales, attempts to maul me to death by licking and a warm body sitting on my lap.

I think I can live with that.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Commitments: Puppies and Writing....

Today was my Friday, as far as work is concerned. It's nice to have a 'bonus' day off, even if I am using valuable PTO hours.

Still, I think, sometimes, it's ok to squander time off. If we don't, we forget the value of a stolen day, here and there.

For me, tomorrow, I get to pick up my puppy. Tonight is my 'last' night of being a responsibility-free Monkeypants. From here on out, I have a puppy to look after.

I admit, I'm now getting terrified. I'm used to being unattached, able to hop on a plane to L.A., Las Vegas, Washington D.C. when I feel like it. Now, I'm going to have to think about it, make sure I've arranged for puppy-care and consider another being within the equation of my life.

Oh, who am I kidding...it's time. It might not be a husband, it may definitely not be a child but a puppy is a good first step. I've enjoyed my life thus far: I've been able to explore new places, take a running leap into the great unknown and just float in the oblivion of not having any commitments.

Yet there comes a time when maybe it's time to rethink the world I've known. Maybe floating in that oblivion isn't so good when you're my age. Maybe it is time to prove that I can, in fact, commit to something and decide that it's time to settle down, at least with something.

If I can settle with a puppy, it's a good start. It's all about the little things...right?

Puppy aside, I'm glad it's the weekend. I'm going to my very first writing conference this weekend. I'm not even being dragged. A friend and fellow writer asked if I was interested and, when I contemplated for a moment, I decided I was.

For me, this is another milestone. Until now, I've been a little afraid of writer's workshops, conferences and gatherings. I've had a fair amount of 'friendly criticism' that has masqueraded as unhelpful complaining. I've been in a few writer's groups and learned that sometimes, when your ideals are different, there's just no way to get a 'literary' writer to understand that sometimes people just write so people can enjoy what they read. For me, that's always been a slight problem. I'm not condemning literary writers at all. I just think they're a little full-of-it. They get so bogged down with making their work 'mean' something that they forget that a writer's job is to entertain, to lift someone out of their everyday life and make them forget it for a while.

It might be that I'm saying this because I've realized I'll never be a 'literary' writer. I've tried. I end up using flowery phrases, long words, dialogue that means nothing. When I'm done, I feel like I've cheated on myself because I haven't produced anything but an empty story that doesn't feel like it's finished.

Yet, these are often the books that win the awards and the critical acclaim of the press. They're rarely the books that make the bestseller lists but that doesn't seem to matter. Instead, they serve as a way to measure if you're 'literary'. If you haven't read it, well, then, you're not worth much, are you? It won the Pulitzer!

Yet, to be honest, I've read a few of those novels and... they bore me to tears. The one that comes to mind is "The Shipping News". It's by E. Annie Proulx. I read it a few years ago, before the movie with Kevin Spacey came out. I hated it. I felt so stupid when I turned the last page. Here was a novel that had won amazing critical acclaim, had won a Pulitzer, was supposed to be amazing...and I hated it. It was dull. It was boring. The characters were whiny and pathetic. I know they were supposed to be 'gritty' and 'realistic' but in my world, I just despised them. I kept waiting for something exciting to happen. It never did. It was just the story of a sad-sack of a man who managed to find a semblance of a life.

I felt like I was missing something. Truth-be-told, I often feel that way with novels that win acclaim. Take, for example, the novel I just finished reading: The Magicians by Lev Grossman. I'd read several reviews that called it a 'grown up Harry-Potter'.

Well, in truth, it was. It was about a drip of a boy named Quentin who is miserable with the everydayness of his life. He finds his way to a college for magic and he passes the entrance exam with flying colours. He's still miserable. He goes to the college and learns magic, albeit a much less fun and far more scientific version of magic than in, say, Harry Potter. He's still miserable. He finishes magic school and nearly drinks himself to death. He's still miserable. When he finds a way, through a friend, into the fictional world he's always dreamed of entering...he's still miserable.

You get the idea. Halfway through the book, I began to wonder why on earth Quentin was the main character. He was a complete drip. I hated him. I kept waiting for him to have the moment of greatness that revealed the reason why he was the main character. It never happened. His girlfriend ends up saving him and dying in the process. Sadly, she's no more interesting than he is.

So you get where I stand, right? Sometimes the books that become the darlings of the literary world aren't necessarily the books that the public like to read. This is why Stephanie Meyer, Dan Brown and Nicholas Sparks have fan clubs.

As much as I hate to want to join their ranks, I have to admit, I'd rather be a Stephen King or Stephanie Meyer than an E. Annie Proulx or a Lev Grossman. Yes their books might win accolades but they're not going to be popular with readers because they're boring.

So, as I approach the writer's conference this weekend, I admit I do so with apprehension. I'm not used to being around fellow writers. I'm used to being a lone wolf, arrogant in my ability to remain apart from the pack.

Really, though, I think my loneness comes from fear. What if the pack hates me, thinks I'm a hack and laughs me out of the room? I used to worry about that.

These days, I'm not so worried. The fact is, I write. I write a lot. It's not such a bad thing to find others that do so. Maybe it's good to have a 'pack.'

I'm willing to give it a go at least. It's a commitment of another sort. At least this one can't necessarily pee on my floor or bite me. It's probably not as cute either, though. It's a toss up, isn't it?

It's almost puppy-time. Wish me luck!

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Fear of Virtual becoming Actual...At Least When it Comes to Puppies...

As far as work is concerned, tomorrow is my "Friday." I'm taking the actual Friday off so I can go and pick up Sookie, my future-puppy. Once I pick up Sookie, I will no longer be able to refer to her as future-puppy. Instead, she will become actual-puppy.

I'm nervous about 'actual-puppy'. Actual puppy means...I have a real puppy. I'm responsible for another little life. It's strange how nervous I actually am about the whole thing. I've never been a single-mother to a pet before. I've only ever had family pets, never one of my own.

Well, actually, that might be a fib. I did have a small fish tank once. I managed to accidentally kill 27 goldfish, guppies and neons within the space of three weeks. In addition, I also killed two frogs.

In my defense, the frogs and several of the fish weren't my fault. My fish tank came as a kit and the heater was faulty. I set it according to the directions but it malfunctioned and, essentially, boiled the water in the fish tank. I felt rather bad about that. I still feel rather bad about it, actually.

The rest of the fish, well, I might have overfed some of them. After that, I have no idea. When I first started my fish collection, I named them after Andrew Lloyd Webber musical characters. Yes, as stated MANY times in this blog, I was a nerd. I still am a nerd, thank you very much, (although my Andrew Lloyd Webber obsession has faded to a fond nostalgia except when it comes to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat which I still love. And, at any given time, Jesus Christ Superstar still resonates with me.) Anyways, after the first dozen...or two...fish died, I stopped naming them.

I realized I was not a good fish-mama.

Since then, I've shied away from pets. I always like dogs more than cats although for some unknown reason, other people's cats seem to like me. Well, maybe except for my good friend's cat, Godzilla, who does not like me at all. This might be because I tend to tease her. In my defense, she's not the friendliest sort of cat. Even so, she does deign to sit on my head in the night while I'm sleeping, whenever I go to visit so I suppose that's some sort of peace agreement.

Yet, as for pets of my own, I've been a petless wonder for many a year. I had planned on Sausage coming to live with me but, as aforementioned, that never came to pass and the slight guilt of it will probably never leave me. He was just too old, too set in his ways and too Sausage-like to adapt to new circumstances.

So, you can see why I'm a little nervous about my future-puppy who is soon to become actual-puppy. I'm sure she'll be cute but, well, puppies aren't just cute. They're like babies who need love, attention and good parenting. What if I'm not a good pet parent? I've checked my garden for holes in the fence and possible escape routes. I found one under a gate which, when Sookie grows won't be a problem but, in her puppy-sized world might as well be an open door to the world. I plan on fixing that but I'm afraid I've missed something. Under my tool shed there's a bunny nest. I know this because I frequently leave carrot tops and parsley for the rabbit in my garden and he, inevitably, comes out in the evenings and sits in front of my tool shed, eating his dinner. Dachshunds hunt bunnies. The gap under my tool shed might be enough that Sookie might go under it to hunt for bunnies.

I suppose this is normal, right? The inevitable "what if.." panic that sets in with every new responsibility. I can't even imagine what it must be like to have a child. I only have the virtual, future-puppy of my imagination and I'm already flummoxed.

What if she doesn't like me? What if she finds a magic hole that helps her escape? What if I'm a bad pet owner?

I know, I know...I should probably hold off stressing until future-puppy actually becomes actual-puppy.

Yet time is running out and I'm very nervous. It's natural...right?

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Animal Rescue People Aren't People-Persons

It has come to my attention that people who work for animal rescue organizations are, in many cases, a little, uh, odd.

They're not people-persons (or is it people-people?). I suppose if you are passionate about animals and spend your day with them, it's probably a little harder to relate to people. Nevertheless, as a neophyte pet-adopter, I was a little alarmed after my first interaction with one. My second has be slighly baffled and bewildered.

However, thanks to the wisdom of my good friend, Ms. P, who has some great experience in rescuing dogs, I'm learning that it's not something to take personally, she has dealt with the same thing.

My first experience was with a lady who I contacted through petfinder.com. She had two female puppies for rescue, and one male. I asked her about the female and she said the one in the picture was already being adopted but I could have the other one. I sent in my adoption application, clearly stating that though I'd listed a vet, I have never had a pet and thus had never visited the vet. Instead, I would be using this vet for my future animal care.

The next day, I get an email saying that she has, in fact, given my puppy away to another person who decided she wanted both a boy and a girl. I suppose it's nice to send a brother and sister off together but it did irk me a little that one of those was supposed to be my puppy. Then she offered me the male that she had left. I politely declined. For obvious reasons, I am a little hesitant to get a male puppy, particularly this soon. I have, however, been wanting a little girl for a long time. I told her that while I appreciated the offer, I was going to pass on the male puppy because after losing Sausage, I wasn't ready for a male.

Well, rather than just say, "ok," she sent me back a rather snippy email. She was annoyed that she'd called the vet and the vet's office had 'never heard of me.' Well, when I state on the application that I've never been to the vet, you'd think she could have figured that out without the phone call. Then, to top it off, she scolded me for not wanting a male and told me that it shouldn't matter the sex of the dog, they all need homes.

I respect that. Except I have good reasons for not wanting a male dog at present. I thought about writing her an angry response but realized it would do no good. Clearly, she was someone who couldn't relate to humans and their reasoning as much as she could feel compassion for animals. It's not her fault, I suppose.

My next experience was a little more bizarre. There's a Dachshund Rescue of Ohio who are featured quite heavily on petfinder.com. I found a little dog who seemed perfect, she was a one-year old, housebroken, no kids, sweet personality. I applied for her.

I got an acknowledgement of my application and they told me how sweet the dog was. I figured "oh, ok! She still needs a home, yay!"

Well, the thing with the Dachshund Rescue of Ohio is that they don't have a shelter. All of their dogs are in 'foster' homes. So I can't just go visit and pick one out.

I finally got a call about the dog four days after I sent in my application. The lady was...odd. First of all, not a great conversationalist. Second of all, not good with people. The first thing she asked was if I had another dog. Since I had quite clearly indicated on my application that I did not, in fact, have another dog, I was a little surprised. When I restated that I didn't, I was told bluntly that the dog I had applied for couldn't be mine. She was not 'only dog' material. I accepted this. I was surprised that this information wasn't on the petfinder.com profile, but so be it.

Well, just telling me that was not good enough for this lady. She proceeded to take ten minutes to lecture me on dachshunds and how they like to have other dachshunds around. The dog I had applied for, for example, already had a best-friend-in-the-whole-wide-world and that it would be heartbreaking to seperate them. However, the best-friend-in-the-whole-wide-world was NOT up for adoption.

Do you see why I was confused?

After this, she offered me an older girl who was an only dog but, I was then told "she shouldn't be an only dog and I really should have another dog first." Then she told me about a puppy she had but she didn't say I was a good candidate and, when I asked, she changed the subject.

I was very polite during the whole thing. I finally told her that she'd been very helpful and that she had helped me decide that a puppy was the best option.

Then I got ANOTHER lecture on puppies and how I should NEVER buy a puppy from anyone because there are so many puppy mills out there and that's why there are so many dachshunds that end up being rescued.

But, here's the thing. I was offering to give a good home to a dachshund dog that, supposedly, needed one. I'd be a good owner, I think. I have a large yard (albeit with yappy dogs next door) but it's fenced in and ready for a dog. I'm also planning on spoiling it rotten, though being a good petowner and trying to train it responsibly.

Yet I was told that, for all intents and purposes, was not going to be able to rescue one of their dogs. I know I could go to the shelter and rescue a mutt but I really, really want a dachshund. I can't help it. I think most people feel an affinity for a certain type of dog and, for me, it's dachshunds. They're the only dog that make me stop and want to squeal when I see one.

So, yes, while I think the concept of puppy mills is atrocious and should be outlawed, my feeling is that all dogs need a good home. I'm going to give a puppy a good home. I'm not going to a puppy mill but even if I accidentally did because I didn't know any better, would it be better to give one of those dogs a secure place to live? Wouldn't I, in essence, be rescuing one of those?

I'm not going to a puppy mill. The puppy I found, I found from another adoption site. I'm just saying that regardless of where puppies come from, they need homes. It's like saying to a young child, "we can't adopt you because you come from a really, really crappy place." You don't do that. It shouldn't matter. I know by consenting to getting a puppy from a puppy mill, you're supporting them but if those dogs aren't rescued, what happens to them? They exist. They don't just go away.

It just befuddles me that I couldn't rescue a dog even though I really, really wanted to do so. What befuddles me more is that both times, I was told off by the rescue people when, in actuality, I was trying to do a good thing.

It probably wouldn't have been so bad the second time except I felt like I was being scolded and made to feel like a school girl who had done something naughty.

Nevertheless, I learned something from my experience. I'm hoping my puppy, whom I'm planning on naming Sookie Stackhouse Monkeypants (only I'd use my real last name because, surprisingly enough, my last name isn't actually Monkeypants. I know...you're shocked), will find me to be a nice pet owner.

As long as she doesn't mind being called Sookie.

Happy Wednesday.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Yappy Sounds of Spring....

Today was a real spring day. Even though the calendar, technically, still declares it winter, it might be hard to tell mother nature that. When I came out of work, it was a balmy 63 degrees. I didn't need my coat.

It was strange driving home and still being overly warm because I'd dressed for the weather this morning when it was only 34 degrees. It was even stranger to see the mounds of snow still piled high in the car parks where it was frantically shoveled to make way for traffic. The snow piles are really just ice-piles, dirty snow cones of leftover winter detris. Yet on a warm evening, they seemed almost alien.

The snow in my back garden has finally melted. I went outside tonight to try to inspect the fence to make sure that if my puppy comes to live with me, she'll have no escape routes. I also wanted to see how many daffodils, crocuses, tulips and hyacinths were starting to push their way upwards out of the earth.

I made it outside for about five minutes. I was driven inside by my neighbour's dogs. I've now lived here since August and still the blasted things bark as though they've never seen me before. I'd take it personally but I know they bark at anything that moves. I know this because they're often outside at 6 a.m., barking loudly at a sound they heard on the street. Given that they're barking less than 15 feet from my bedroom window, you can imagine how happy this makes me.

I'm not sure what to do. Tonight, my neighbour was actually outside, grilling while the dogs were barking. It wasn't The Dog Whisperer but it was his wife. She shouted at them, once. They ignored her. She made a show of trying to get them to quiet but it became obvious that they weren't going to listen.

Given that I had a bit of a headache and was not in the mood to try, once again, to bond with the dogs in an attempt to quiet them, I ended up going in. I've tried to bond with the dogs. The closer I get to the fence, they louder they get. One of them snapped at me the last time I tried to befriend them.

I admit, I'm a little worried about getting a puppy. She's going to be very tiny and vulnerable and those dogs are big and loud. It's bad enough that I feel like I can't go outside in my own yard without setting the dogs off. What's going to happen when I let my puppy out?

I have no clue what to do. My coworker did give me a device that supposedly lets off a high-pitched whistle, only audible to dogs, when you hit the button. I tried that the other day. It actually seemed to have an effect. It's not, however, the kind of thing you want you neighbours to see you using. I don't think it harms the dogs but they probably wouldn't approve anyway.

I could rant on about how they need to discipline their dogs, teach them to keep quiet but I'm a realist. I know it won't do any good. They're dogs: They bark. They're going to bark. Short of the dogs actually going away, I don't see a solution here.

For me, when I'm outside, I will put my iPod on and block out the yapping. Yet, for my puppy....what happens then?

I'm going to have to think about that. I tell you though, on a nice spring evening, it would have been really nice to wander around my yard, peacefully taking in the signs of spring. Instead, I was subjected to the bark of three dogs who followed my every move. It did rather kill the mood and kill the sereness of the evening.

Still, there's always tomorrow, I suppose. If not, is it a bad thing to take a hose to the neighbour's dogs?

Just kidding.

For now.

Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Spring-y Weekends

It's already Sunday evening. This means that the weekend has flown by, once again and we're facing the beginning of another work week.

It's been a nice weekend. For the first time in many weeks, the sun shone and the temperatures soared above freezing. It felt like Spring was in the air. I'm not about to start acting like it is Spring because this is the midwest and while it may feel balmy out there today, it can just as easily turn into a blizzard in the next few days.

Nevertheless, I did take the time to enjoy the warmer weather a little. Yesterday, I headed down to Findlay Market in Cincinnati. I'd promised my parents some very specific sausages that can only be obtained from Kroeger Meats down at the market. As I've mentioned before, the thing about Findlay Market is not only is it a bad area of Cincinnati, it's also quite impossible to find somewhere to park on nice days.

This weekend, I thought that being that it was, technically, still winter and that the actual outdoor farmer's market wouldn't be going on, it might not be too busy.

Naturally, I was wrong. I admit, I got a spot of road rage after my (no joking) fifth lap around the block to try to find somewhere, anywhere to park. The market itself has a car park attached to it plus two satellite lots. It's nowhere near enough parking. After about 20 minutes of driving around trying to find somewhere to park, I started to get furious. I didn't want to turn around and drive home because it's a good distance from home and would have been a waste not to find anywhere. Instead, I ended up pulling up to the parking lot attendant who was refusing to allow anyone into his lot and I asked him where the heck I could park. He told me to try the other lots and when I said they were full, he said to keep trying. Fortunately, ten minutes later, I happened to go back to his parking lot and find that there were some spaces available. However, by the time I got to the market, I was still furious and frazzled. I did, however, manage to obtain the sausages.

I spent the rest of the day doing a spot of spring cleaning. The problem with the warmer weather and brighter days is that you tend to see how dusty your house actually is. I tried to remedy this but I'm not the world's best duster and so I'm sure I missed quite a few patches.

I also managed to send my book to Amazon for publication on their site. Within a week, people can start buying my book. I think I'm excited. I did worry about the magnitude of what I was doing: It's a little scary. However, as one wise friend reminded me, it's my dream to be a published writer and, at this point, it's only me standing in the way. I admit, it's not quite the dream I had. I always wanted to be one of those authors who was 'discovered' and then took took the literary world by storm.

But who am I kidding? I don't know anyone in the publishing industry so I can't get my foot in the door. It's so rare for unknown writers to get in the door without knowing anyone these days, it just seems like winning the lottery to get your stuff read.

So, maybe I am achieving my dream in the way that is right for me: There's no good sitting around waiting for someone else to make it happen. If I want it, it's up to me...I don't think there's anything wrong with that.

My Sunday was spent attempting to make Julia Child's Bouef Bourgienon from the recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I have to say, the woman is a genius. It turned out fabulous. The beef, having simmered in the wine and beef broth for three hours, fell apart in my mouth and the flavour was, literally, a taste explosion. It's worth every minute spent on preparing the ingredients.

I also may have found a puppy. She's a long-haired dachshund puppy and I think she's mine but I've had a couple of near-misses so I'm not wanting to jinx it. I'll keep you posted.

So, all in all, though it flew by, I had a good weekend. It was productive but fun. It involved good food, making a dream come true and the potential a new furry friend in my life. I would say that is was definitely not a wasted weekend at all. While there were moments of laziness, it wasn't overly lazy.

Sometimes those are the best type of weekends.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Exploring Castles...

This has been the most peculiar week. I can't say it's been bad, because it hasn't. It's actually been quite...dare I say it...good. Of course, I didn't have to say goodbye to any family pets so that's always a bonus but, even with work....things have been good.

I'm starting to worry that, as I said to my mother tonight, I'm drinking the Kool Aid. Work is starting to be...tolerable even, gulp, ok. I could go further than 'ok' but that would be gushing...for me, anyway.

Today marked the one-year anniversary of our "independence." We were sold by a University and bought by a Trust. It's been a weird year. I've gone through every emotion through raging hatred to hysterical amusement.

As far as my job goes, I've been with our company for a year and a half. I feel like over the past two weeks, I've found my real footing. Because I have trust issues, I worry that it's just an illusion but I'd really like to think it's the start of something good or, at least, better. As a good friend reminded me, when I started my last job at USC, I hated it and went through the seething-hatred-to-pure-enjoyment cycle. When I left, I loved my job. When I'd started, I hated it.

I'm seeing the same cycle here although I hate to admit it. It's possible that it really is a temporary thing but I'd like to believe it means that I've finally figured out where I fit and I'm going to do my darndest to make sure I stay there. It could, of course, mean that I'm terrified of this crappy economy and being out of work but the optimist in me really believes that it's not.

It's odd to be writing this. Less than a month ago, I was mocking my job and my company. I'm still willing to mock, don't get me wrong. I still don't like the Most Optimistic Bathroom in the World or the fact that the popcorn maker is worth more than the value of my pathetic old television. However, I do like the fact that my boss has been talking to me. I like the fact that I've managed to fight inevitable bitterness and emerge on the side of Zen. I like the fact that I can drive eight minutes from home to work in the mornings. I don't like that that I'm on the same timetable as the local school buses but I'm learning to deal with that.

I think the scary thing is it's another sign of that alarming step into adulthood. It doesn't matter so much to me that my job is everything, that I have to be happy in the hours in which I truly earn my paycheck. It's a bonus, definitely but it's not required. I'm learning that what does matter is that I can afford to pay my mortgage and drive home to see my family. What matters is that I get to see my three-year-old niece and be the person who's crazy enough to bash her head on the dining room chairs as I help her explore her "castle" which, to grown ups, translates as underneath the table but, to her, is a kingdom of wonder. I get to see her grow a little taller each time I see her. When I lived in L.A., I'd see her so infrequently that it was as though she'd swallowed some of Jack's Magic Beans and grown from a baby into a giant. These days, I see her often enough that I'm no longer the mythical aunt but a real, physical part of her life. Bashing my head is nothing- despite the pain, exploring her castle is fun.

I like that. I think I'm actually liking knowing that my job isn't my life. My life is about family, friends, getting my book published and the possibility of finding a dog that will love me. It's pretty simple really. Ask me a few years ago and I would have said that I was on a quest to find that job that WAS me, that represented me, that showed the world how fabulous I am.

Jaded as it might sound, I don't need that now. Don't get me wrong, I still crave affirmation and praise, just as most humans do. However, I also know that, mostly, it's internal. If I feel confident and content then....I am.

Which is why I'm going to choose to accept the past week's contentment at work for what it is: A good thing. It may pass, it might last. Yet, for now, I'll take it, simple as that. If it doesn't work out...well, I can still explore castles and write books.

Happy Friday

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Breaking Stuff for a Living...

This week is going by quickly and I didn't even mean for that to happen. Work is still just work but it's less sinister than it has been in the past. Today, we lost our network for a good portion of the morning. Since it was an unpredictable outage- out for a minute, back for about five and then out for ten minutes- I didn't get to make a sweater vest for my bobblehead. I did, however, get to play catch with my little stress ball, grumble to my coworker across the way and do a little surfing on my phone.

While having a network outage means some fun, unproductive time at work, tomorrow might be a bad time for it. I have my first product demo in quite a while. While it might sound overly optimistic, I'm taking it as a sign that my boss doesn't feel like I'm a complete idiot. A few months ago, he would have found a way to avoid letting me do the demo. This week, he actually asked me to do it.

I admit, I'm still shocked about that. More than anything, I'm shocked at how happy I am that my boss DID ask me to do it.

Of course, now I have to deal with the fact that I now have to do a product demo to an invisible audience on the other side of the phone line who probably will have no idea what I'm talking about as I talk in terms that are familiar to me but foreign to them.

Yet, I'll find a way to get them to understand. One of the skills I'd like to think I've cultivated over time is the ability to speak both 'techie' and 'user'. This translates as being able to listen to software developers and technicians, comprehend what they're saying and then be able to translate it to someone who gets nervous when you say the word 'software'.

Of course, it doesn't always work that way. Tomorrow, for example, my purpose is primarily to demonstrate our product and what it does. It's a product built for users. My audience is going to be very technical. Thus, I'm going to have to go backwards and find a way to make it sound like a) I know what I'm talking about and b) to get them to understand what the software is supposed to do.

That's an interesting juxtaposition. I've learned that while software developers are usually extremely intelligent, they often forget that the end result of all their programming is that some user, some day is going to sit down at a computer, use the mouse and try to use their software. When it doesn't work the way they want or, at least, expect, that's not good.

Thus, it's my job to pretend I'm one of those users, to user our software in the most creative ways possible and try to break it so that if it does break, we can fix it before anyone who matters finds out it was ever broken to begin with.

I'm becoming the 'go to' Monkeypants for breaking software. Yesterday, one of my coworkers came to me, her face perplexed, convinced things were misaligned with the universe because the software she'd worked on for months was working the way it was supposed to when she'd been convinced it was broken.

You have to understand with some of our 'newer' software products, when it works the way it's supposed to, we treat that as a bug and do everything we can to prove that it is, in fact, broken because it IS working the way it's supposed to work.

You can laugh but, sadly, it's all true, my friends. When something is supposed to be broken but works anyway, that's when the developers come to me and say, "I need you to try and break this."

And, it is for this purpose, I recieve a paycheck. I'm really good at breaking software. I'm really good at hitting the wrong button at the wrong time and making software explode. It's a gift, trust me.

I'm not being arrogant, even though it seems like it. It's just one of those quirks in life I seem to have been born with. If it's going to break, give it to Captain Monkeypants. She'll find a way. Earlier in life, it was more literal: vases, bowls, plates, mortar and pestles....you name it, I could break it.

Nowadays, it's also virtual, hence the fact that I've found a livelihood in software. Just set me free on it, and I'll find a way to break it, if it can be broken.

Of course, I won't pretend I receive a parade in my honour if I do manage to break the software. More often or not, I get a loud, slightly inappropriate-for-the-workplace response. Often, I get silence and then a long, slowly-drawn out serious of fixes that require testing at every turn. If I break it again, the silences get louder.

Usually, I try not to break it again. If I do, it's more job security. If I don't, I grumble but give the thumbs up and they move on to the next bug. And then they ask me to break it...which I often do.

It's a strange job I have but....sometimes, it's fun. Sometimes.

Happy Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

For Peppy....A Slightly Mental but Lovable Chihuahua

Alas, today, we did not lose our network. Though it threatened to be a little sluggish for a while, it plodded along and then recovered itself. I was quite disappointed.

Still, I managed to get some work done. Lately, my job is scaring me. There are days when I actually feel like I could say I like my job. I won't yet though. As I've stated a few times before, I have commitment issues. In this case, I'm afraid that as soon as I say that, my job is going to go right back to being that place where I go to earn my paycheck before I get to go home and enjoy life.

Nevertheless, things aren't so bad. In general, things aren't quite so bad. A week ago, things were much worse.

I think I mentioned that I lost Sausage a week ago. When I say "lost", I mean that he had to be put to sleep.

If you've read my blog for any length of time, you'll know that Sausage was my very lazy, very selfish, very loved dachshund dog who lived at my parents but, possibly, was coming to live with me. He didn't do much but sleep and eat and, when the occasion merited it (usually when I had food or a rub on the nose), he'd show me affection.

Sausage, however, was also a little mean. He'd always been a little mean, ever since he was a puppy. I think he came from a bad home when we got him because he was always jumpy and nervous. As he got older we learned that he had very big teeth that he liked to show when he was irritated. Given that my parents had four other dogs who were smaller than him, Sausage learned to bear his teeth at the ones who irritated most. It was a scary sight which, at first, seemed harmless.

Over the years, he'd always picked on one of my parent's dogs in particular: Peppy, the slightly overweight, slightly nutty chihuahua, who looked like a mini border collie. Peppy was my 'college graduation dog'. My parents had come down to help me move home after graduation and we'd stopped at a pet store. Peppy had been so irresistible, he'd come home with us. He was very loyal to certain people, me being one of them- most of the time. He also loved my older brother and would follow him everywhere when he came home. As he got older, he started to lose his vision. By the time he turned almost13 this year, he was virtually blind. Sausage had begun to pick on Peppy more and more, attacking him when he got a chance. We worried about it but we never realized how bad it would get.

Last week, my mother came home to find that Sausage had almost killed Peppy. My dad took him to the vet but nothing could be done. We'd lost Peppy. When I heard the news, it was a huge shock. What was just as much of a shock was what had to be done about Sausage. He was getting meaner with age and in addition to the other three dogs my parents' have, my nephews and nieces are often around. Given the brutal state of Peppy, it was too much of a risk to keep Sausage around.

The next day, Sausage was put to sleep. My heart broke a little, not just for Sausage but also for little Peppy who had been the victim of a bully.

It's been a week and it's easier to talk about even if it's not easier to comprehend. It was so sudden, two dogs, two days. I know, for my parents, it was a different kind of shock. They had to deal with the physical nature of what happened. My dad had to take the dogs to the vet, my mother has been dealing with an emptier house.

I suppose, in a way, it's been easier for me than it has been for them. I got to mourn away from the scene of the tragedy. Though, I will say, it doesn't make it any easier to lose a dog. When they've been part of the family for as long as they have, it's never easy.

I think the hardest part in this is trying to comprehend what it was that Sausage did. Peppy is the real victim in the tragedy. Mauled by Sausage, he didn't stand a chance. He was a sweet dog, if a little...different. He had strange dances he did, a high pitched almost soprano squeak that he'd lift in answer to the other dogs bark when, on occasion, they'd decide to have a 'sing', raising their barks in unison to whatever invisible trigger motivated them. He would sit by my feet when I was on the computer, my 'writing dog' as I called him. He was a loyal dog who didn't deserve the fate that Sausage dealt him.

Yet...I can't help but be sad about Sausage. As my dad reminded me, Peppy is the one I feel sorry for and should mourn and I do. But Sausage was....my Sausage. In all his meanness, I loved that stupid dog. I loved the snow dance I did with him, the fact that he would manage to find a patch of sunshine even if they were few and far between. He'd recharge himself in the sun and become, as I dubbed him, Solar Sausage.

It's hard to forget those things, no matter how much I should despise him for what he did. I don't think we can help who or what we love and though Sausage turned out to be a bad apple, I still loved him. I will miss him for a long time, probably always, just as I miss Peppy.

Through all of it, I know my parents had to do what they did. I will never blame them for that. I wasn't there, I didn't see how badly Sausage injured Peppy. I didn't have to be there as Sausage left the house for the last time. I've imagined it...a lot. Each time I do, I get sad and am eternally grateful I wasn't there because, if I had been, I would have begged my dad not to take him, even though it would have been the wrong thing. I thought about it the whole night before Sausage died, thought about calling them, begging them to stop.

But I didn't because it wouldn't have been right. It's only been a week and it's still fresh in my mind. I feel bad writing this because my mum will read it and I don't want to depress her or upset her. But, as a writer, this is how I express myself and tonight, I felt like it was time to talk about it, to eulogize both dogs in blog form.

I'm not quite ready to move on yet but I've decided that when Spring comes and stays for good, I'm going to go to the Dachshund Rescue of Ohio and look for a dachshund to rescue. In my anger and shock about Sausage, I tried to find another type of dog that I might click with; I even went to the pet store with my parents to look this past weekend. In the end, it was the tiny little dachshund puppy that I kept watching and I realized that it was no good. I'm a wiener-dog Monkeypants, no matter how hard I try. I'm going to look for a little girl dog who's old enough to need to be rescued and to appreciate a good home. While the puppies are adorable, I want to find a companion who'll appreciate being rescued and enjoy the home I can provide.

In the meantime, I'll continue to miss and grieve for Peppy and, despite the circumstances, Sausage. Every time it snows, I'm going to picture him doing the snow dance and giving me one of my favourite things in the world, even though he hated snow and would cower whenever I gave the victorious shout of "Snow, Sausage, Snow!"

And as for Peppy, I'll never be able to sit at my computer without imagining him sitting by my feet, patiently waiting and enjoying the peace.

I'll miss them both.

Happy Wednesday

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