Thursday, April 29, 2010

Playing Hooky....

So, I have a confession to make. I played hooky from work today. In my defence, I noticed yesterday that my left eye was red on one side. As the day progressed, my eye grew redder. Prone to eye infections, I assumed that the redness was exactly that: A visual clue that my eye was infected.

This morning I was awoken by the puppies at 5:35 a.m because they needed to go out. My eye was a little sore and gummy. I examined it in the mirror and saw that it was an alarming shade of red. It didn't, however, hurt and wasn't light sensitive as had been the case with previous eye infections. After I'd taken the puppies out, there was just enough time for me to go back to bed and get comfy before my alarm went off. By the time the alarm kicked on, I had talked myself into not going to work.

So I called in sick.

In my defense, my eye is still red. It looks pretty bad. Yet because it is only a little sore and not light-sensitive, I'm now wondering if I have an infection or I have a burst blood vessel. Either way, it doesn't matter. I didn't go to work today.

I've complained in the past that my company is stingy with Paid Time Off. They combine sick time with vacation time so what you earn...you earn. I get one day every month, to be used whether I'm sick or in desperate need of a trip to Napa.

While I'm psychologically in need of a trip to Napa, I know it's not likely in the near future. I don't have much time off work anyway.

Yet, even though only earning one day off a month in vacation/sick time means a slow accumulation, it also means when you don't go to work, no one can say, "You don't seem sick!"

After all, if I'm pulling my vacation time from the same bucket I'm pulling my sick time, what right does anyone have to question if I'm really sick or not?

Granted, if I hadn't had the sore and blurry eye, I would have gone to work. Yet, by mid-afternoon, it felt fine and it enabled me to not only watch a few Gilmore Girl episodes on DVD but it let me get outside into the garden. As a result, I ended up pulling up an awful lot of weeds. I got some things planted. I got some mulch put down.

Best of all, I got to spend the day with the puppies. This was quite a treat. While I know they're not humans, that they can't talk, that their thought process currently consists of: "treats!" "need to go to the bathroom!", "need to sleep" and "need to be cuddled," I can't help assigning them just a few more thoughts. It was nice to be able to spend time with them at home. It was nice to not have to rush home at lunch, feed them, take them outside and them crate them back up for the afternoon.

All in all, even though I did check my work email a lot, I didn't do any work. I felt no need, I felt no guilt. Way back when we were owned by a university and we had a separated supply of sick time and vacation time, I would have felt bad for saying, "I won't be in the office today."

Yet when the supply is combined and you no longer have the advantage of being allowed to get sick because, if so, you no longer get to take any time off for anything fun...then it stops making you feel so guilty. After all, a day off is a day off. My PTO is there to be used. Therefore, no matter how I use it, it's mine.

I won't say that my eye isn't uncomfortable and that I may have an eye infection, under most normal circumstances, I probably would have dealt with it and gone to work. Except, lately, work has been nothing but monotony. You can see why calling in 'sick' may not have been a challenge.

In the end, I think today ended up being a Mental Health Day as much as anything else. My eye is still red. It's still sore, as if bruised. It still doesn't like contacts. Yet if I'd have had the desire, I could have gone to work.

It's just, sometimes, when you wake up in the morning, you just know that if you were to go to work, you'd be absolutely useless. That's how I felt today. I mentally checked my calendar and knew I had nothing scheduled. I mentally checked my list of projects and realized that the one, lone project I am working on would not weep if I missed a day...and thus, I decided it would be ok if I missed a day.

I know I'm not the only one in need of a Mental Health Day. One of my friends/coworkers was out Monday, two were out Tuesday, my boss was out yesterday....there are just some weeks that feel as though they shouldn't be spent in the office but, rather, should be given over to real life- not just the way you earn your paycheck.

So there you have it: Captain Monkeypants skivved off work today. She had a red, sore eye but she could have sucked it up and gone in to do her duty. Instead, she surrendered to the little warm puppy bodies that pressed up against her on her bed this mornign and realized how nice it would be to not have to leave the puppies today.

In the end, I spent quality time with my puppies. I got to watch TV. I got to make soup. Overall, I got to rest my mental health without having to contaminate it with the politics of the office.

I know, in the long run, I should have gone to work today, to let my time off accumulate faster so that I could, if I so desired, take a real vacation. Yet...when you wake up in the grey light of dawn and realize that lying in bed, flanked by two adorable puppies is a far more appealing image than getting up, going to work and working on the same thing for eight more hours...the idea of playing hooky is ridicously tempting.

I recommend it to everyone...anytime.

Happy Friday and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Reflections on Writing...And Other Stuff...

This week feels like it's moving very, very slowly. Perhaps it's because work isn't as busy but it seems like Friday is definitely taking its own sweet time in coming.

Still, the weather has brightened up and that definitely makes a huge difference. Tonight, for the first time in several days, the puppies and I got to spend some time outside this evening. I decided to start weeding a particularly weed-infested area of my garden. I meant to spend half an hour doing it but I ended up spending an hour and a half. On the plus side, the ground is looking good. On the downside, my hands are a bit cramped from the effort.

I did take the girls for a walk tonight and for the first time since we started walking almost nightly, they both walked well. I'm hoping this is a sign of things to come although it could have been a fluke. Sookie doesn't like the walks as much as Rory but I've discovered if I carry her through the door, she seems ok. She has a phobia about walking through the door. Of course, I did accidentally shut her tail in it last week so that probably does a lot to explain that. I think I felt worse about it than she did. I felt like a terrible mummy to her for doing it but she recovered nicely.

I also found out that the newspaper in my parent's down- my former 'hometown' published the interview they did with me last week about my book. It's not much but it's the first step in my efforts to do my own publicity. I wanted them to publish a blurb, they wanted an interview. It's a tiny little newspaper, not particularly journalistically brilliant, but it feels rather nice that I'm in there as a 'local author.'

My book sales are not going that badly. Although I have discovered that on Amazon, there are quite a few copies of my book available for sale 'used.' Given that I have my sales figures, I'm finding this curious. Part of me is a little offended that someone is trying to earn a profit off my book that's higher than my royalty payment but part of me is actually a little flattered that someone is going to the trouble to do so. Slowly, but surely, I'm starting to sell copies. I'm starting to get mostly good reviews and each one makes me feel like a real author.

It doesn't take much, I suppose. But each tiny thing is a step forward, no matter how small a step.

As I said the other day, it helps when you get rejections to know that you've got something out there. I got another rejection tonight for a story I submitted to an anthology. I didn't think it would bother me but it did, a little. I try not to look at the mounting stack of email rejections I've accumulated over the years and feel like I've failed somehow. I've always heard that everyone gets rejections at first. It's been a while now and all I have is rejections. I try not to listen to that little evil voice in my head that says, "you only have a novel published because you did it yourself." It's hard to ignore it sometimes because sometimes it gets meaner and says, "you can't really write, you know. You're just not good enough."

Thoughts like this are dangerous. I don't think they're true but they're an echo of the self-doubt that's so easy to feel when you constantly hear 'no' instead of one, simple 'yes.'

Still, I always said I only wanted to write to entertain and people seem to like my book so somewhere, I might be doing something right. It's nice to see yourself in print, at the very least. It happened first when I was nine and I wrote a story called "How the Sheep Got its Fleece." I wrote it after we got back from a choir concert in about ten minutes. My teacher liked it so much she typed it up and laminated it for everyone to read.

It was a thrill, especially for a nine-year-old who'd originally scribbled the story in royal blue Beryl pen ink in a blue covered lined exercise book. I felt like a writer then. I feel like a writer now, even if I'm not getting as much writing done as I'd like. The puppies are being a little difficult. They're mostly housebroken but if I ignore them and try to write, they decide to 'punish' me by going to the bathroom on the carpets I shampooed this weekend. I know it's their way of telling me I should be paying attention to them, I just don't know how to stop it. If anyone has advice, I'd greatly appreciate it.

Still, I am getting ideas all the time on my book and sometimes, that's just as good as writing it. When I do get it finished, I think it's going to be good...or, at least I hope so.

In the meantime, I do need to start doing more publicity for my book. I need to outsell the person who's selling copies of my book used, at least. I'm not in it for the money but I'd like to at least get what I'm due for the copies I'm selling.

I suppose when you find yours work being sold by a third party, it means you're doing something right, right?

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Facebook: The New Wave in Passive-Agressiveness

Today was another quiet day in the office. At least it wasn't too gloomy which makes a big difference. When I came home this afternoon, the sun was actually shining and I got to work in the garden for a bit. I had some asparagus roots to plant and this required digging a trench. This may not seem too huge since it only had to be about 7 feet long and eight inches deep. It actually didn't take too long to dig it although since my garden is hideously infected with tree roots from trees that are no longer standing but will forever leave their legacy, it took a while to dig around the roots, snapping them when possible.

Of course, it didn't help that the puppies also wanted to help. They were all about the trench and wasted no time jumping down and having a dig. It was actually quite useful. Well, it was until they spotted the asparagus roots that were ready to plant and decided to try to run off with them. Then, after I'd done the planting they tried to dig them back up. I put a little fence around the area but I'll have to play close attention to make sure they don't try to sneak around the fence.

The nice thing about gardening is that it's a great way to clear your head. When the sun is shining and there's a nice breeze, it's a nice thing to kneel in the dirt and go to work. It's a good way to work of frustration and stress.

Not that I feel too much of either at the moment. I'm in a contented place. I know that, like with everything, that's subject to change at any moment but I'm quite thankful that things are going fairly quietly in life at the moment.

It doesn't seem that way for everyone though, especially for my Facebook friends. I've been on Facebook a while. If you go back in my blog, I've written about it before and how it's a good way to have a reunion with old friends and unite all aspects of your life. However, even though I love Facebook for this reason, it's also a fantastic way to be passive-aggressive.

If you don't know what I mean, you're either very lucky or you don't go on Facebook much. I have quite a few 'friends' on there now and I get the feed of all their status updates. I love this because you get to know what they're up to but don't have to actually call them to talk or email. It's a great, quick way to stay in touch without having to, you know, be in touch.

Except no everyone uses this to say things like, "Captain Monkeypants is having fun shopping at outlet malls," or "Captain Monkeypants just made lettuce wraps." No, a lot of my friends use the status as a form of venting.

I get that. I mean, when I'm upset with friends, I do occasionally have the urge to post a Facebook status update that quietly points the finger at the friend and say, 'hey, you- you hurt my feelings."

I don't though because I know that this is childish and, also, most of the time, whoever I'd be aiming the update towards wouldn't get it and I'd have wasted the typing. But I do understand the urge.

I think the trick is not to give in to it though. Otherwise, you post something like, "I am furious- one of the people I trusted most has hurt me beyond words. You liar!"

(Which, by the way, is taken from a post I read not too long ago.)

Now, while that update might be aimed at someone specific, chances are that while that person may know they did something wrong, no one else knows who did it. Thus, all the people who read that status process it as, "was that me? Did I do something?" without knowing. This is, of course, assuming that the intended recipient of the update is a Facebook friend in the first place. Also, it makes everyone who knows you and many of your friends try to guess who you're angry with and what they did wrong and gossip starts to form and spread.

Granted, it's not a big deal- much like high school when you'd fight with your friends in public, Facebook allows a way to show the world that you're pissed. It lets everyone talk about you being angry and trying to guess what's going on. If they don't find out, they make something up.

I'm not condemning. I'm just seeing it more and more. Some people use song lyrics, some people most cryptic, intriguing little teases that lets you know something is wrong but never, what exactly. Some people just keep it light and fluffy.

No matter what though, this type of status update does what it's intended to do- it gets your attention. It lets someone know you're angry with them but doesn't require you picking up the phone to scream at them or sending them an angry email. As I said, I've been tempted. It's just not worth it because it's just not fruitful. Back in my younger days, I know I would have done it. I was shy and not very confrontational. But, with age comes less patience for games. If someone upsets me, I try to tell them about it or solve the problem myself. I find this works. If I weigh the problem and discover it's not large enough to bother with, I move on.

Everyone's different. For some people, Facebook is a tool for therapy. It's an outlet, a way of showing the world how you feel. I can't say I always salute that because I think some things should just be kept between you and your offenders but that's just my opinion.

Facebook has many uses. It's a communication tool primarily, a point of contact also. It also seems to be a great place to go farming as so many of my friends status updates imply. I still haven't figured out the point of Farmville or whatever odd little virtual world you're trying to create on there but I do consider that a far healthier way to spend your time on Facebook than calling someone out anonomously in front of everyone you know to scold them or chide them without direct confrontation. Of course, I do find it odd that people are trying to plant nachos but, as I always say, to each his own.

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Puppies and Mondays...

It was, as expected, a rainy, dreary Monday today. The sun didn't come out once and the skies threatened drizzle all day. It didn't drizzle much but it was enough to make it a soggy day, nonetheless.

Still, as Mondays always do, it passed. Work was pretty uneventful which is not a bad thing at all other than the fact that I continue to experience a little ennui and tell Time Buddy rather more than it really wants to know.

The funny thing is that I think, a few months ago, I would have been in a different place, mentally. I probably would be complaining that, once again, I got bumped off a project I really wanted to be a part of in favour of my coworker being put on the project instead. This now means that since I joined my company, I've now been a part of...zero project teams. Not a one. The ones I've been on, I've been bumped off and I don't really know why. Well, I do- it's office politics.

In addition, my boss continues to ignore me and I'm working on the same thing day after day. It's nothing I have complained about in other blogs.

Yet, the interesting thing is that even though it bothers me while I'm at work, for the most part, the minute I leave the office, it fades from my mind and I don't even care.

I've been moving towards that place for a while. I think it's the puppies that pushed me over the edge, though. I was resistant about getting a dog because of the responsibility. I didn't want to be tied down; I wanted to be able to do what I wanted, when I wanted.

Then, somehow, thanks to my friend Ms. P, I started really thinking about getting a dog. So, I ended up with Rory and Sookie. Even though I do find that I have far less freedom, the interesting fact is that I don't care. I think, perhaps, I know, just a little, what it's like to be a parent. It's not nearly as bad. After all, if a parent put their child in a crate for four-hour time periods and let him/her out at lunch for just a little while, they'd probably get in serious trouble. I, however, can crate the puppies with no guilt because they really don't seem to mind and all of the books say it's a ok.

But still, I find myself missing my puppies whenever I leave them for any length of time. Even when I've had a miserable day in the office, I come home and their silly, adorable little faces stare up at me, not knowing or caring about where I've been, just that I'm home. I love that when I let them out of their crate and Sookie has done her business, she wants to come up on my lap and lick me and give me 'kisses' and sit with me. Then, Rory will try to join in and they'll start to bicker. It's a nice routine, even if it doesn't sound like it.

I'm no longer the footloose and fancy-free Monkeypants who can hop a plane to L.A. to visit friends when she has the time and resources, I don't mind. It's peculiar how natural it feels to think of the puppies before I plan anything. My routine has changed. We go to bed early and get up early. Even though I've never been a late sleeper, my earlier weekend hours mean that I can get out and about before places get crowded and then come home to spend the rest of the time with the puppies.

Of course, just like with kids, the puppies can be trying. Rory has figured out how to push open doors that don't latch right. One of them is my bedroom. If I turn my back for any length of time, Rory has led Sookie into the room and they've found my shoes. My new Crocs have a little imprint of Rory's teeth in them already. They also like the laundry basket and take pleasure in scattering my clothes across the room.

Tonight, I took a shower, leaving the door ajar to let them know I was in there. They tend to get upset if they think I've left them. I left my underwear, theoretically, out of reach and yet when I got out the shower, there was no underwear. It was in the living room.

Rory, obviously the troublemaker of the pair, has also figure out how to jump up onto the sofa. Sookie still can't do it. This means that even when I try to keep them down, Rory will take a flying leap and suddenly be right there. This leads to Sookie looking as though she's been spanked, a sorrowful pair of eyes staring up at me, hurt that I let Rory up and not her. So I lift Sookie up and then, Rory gets upset now Sookie is violating her space. Bickering ensues that ends up with wrestling and lots of groaning and moaning at one another.

Sookie is very good at looking sorrowful. She has a way of making me feel guilty even though I haven't, to my knowledge, done anything wrong. That's a dangerous gift she has. Rory, on the other hand, is quite vocal when I've done something wrong- barking and groaning at me so I know I've erred.

Even with all of the 'drama of puppies', I feel...happy. It's nice to have company, nice to have two little personalities who constantly keep me busy. Even though I'm having to adjust my habits and routines to fit theirs, it doesn't matter nearly as much as I thought I would. I've had a couple of rejections from agents/publishers, etc. since I've had them and even though it still stings a little, it doesn't leave me with the gloomy feeling of failure with which it used to leave me.

Of course, every now and again I do, just a little, miss being able to go in here, to my 'office' and blog without interruption. For example, Rory just came and sweetly tried to jump up so I put her on my lap. Then Sookie came in and gave me her reproachful, "hey, what about me?" look.

Now Rory is trying to get into my bedroom, inevitably to hunt down some laundry or shoes.

There's never a dull moment with puppies.

Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Rainy Weekends, Ramps and Other Food Geekery...

It's Sunday evening already and the weekend is passing by far too quickly, as usual.

It's been a very wet weekend. The rain held off for most of Friday and Saturday but when it came, it really poured. We had torrential rain on Saturday night and now we're having a steady downpour that's been going on since about 2 p.m. On days like today, the only thing that seems right is to sit down on the sofa and enjoy a rainy evening.

The puppies don't care for the rain. I feel bad that they have to go outside to do their business. They try to resist quite hard but in the end, they're mostly willing to run out, do their thing and then come inside, soaked and ready to roll on the carpet to try themselves off.

Of course, at one point, during the beginning of the first torrential downpour on Saturday night, I realized they'd dragged all their soft toys outside and if they remained outside, they'd get so wet they couldn't be saved. So, silly Monkeypants that I am, I dived out into the downpour, retrieved their toys and ran inside. I did not roll on the carpet to dry off, however.

It's been a nice weekend. My parents came down to visit which is always fun. I got to make them lunch and spend time with them which is always a treat. It's a treat for the puppies too- I think they probably get sick of seeing just me all the time.

The nice thing about hanging out with my parents is that we don't have to do too much to be entertained. We spent a portion of the afternoon at IKEA. My dad had never been. I think, as most people are on their first visit to an IKEA, he was rather overwhelmed. He was also not keen on IKEA's stealthy way of making you pretty much have to navigate through the entire store to get out, therefore ensuring you will buy something. My mother bought a tea strainer. That's it. I was quite impressed. Of course, I didn't buy anything but then again, I did go last weekend so I didn't need anything. Not that I ever really need anything at IKEA but you know what I mean.

Of course, no visit from my parents is complete without a visit to Jungle Jim's. I never mind going there. I went last weekend but I can always find something to get excited about. At the moment, to my extremely geeky-food-lovin' joy, they have ramps. Most people don't know what a ramp is. I didn't until I saw Mario Batali use them on Iron Chef America. It merited investigation. A ramp is a wild leek that only grows, literally, for just a couple of weeks in the spring. As far as I know it's either hard or even impossible to cultivate. Since I've seen them used in several of Mario's recipes as well as in other places, I had the urge to try them. So, imagine my glee when Jungle Jim's had them. I got some last week and, I'm sort of embarrassed to admit, I squealed a little...only to realize that I was by myself and squealing over ramps was a bit strange. I cooked them using a Batali recipe for Spaghetti with Ramps. I used Linguine. It was delicious. So, this week, when I saw that they still had ramps and they'd lowered the price, I was extremely happy. I can't wait to use them.

Jungle Jim's, thus far, has proved to me that they pretty much supply everything a pretentious foodie like me could want from fresh quail eggs to cippolini onions to ramps. They've even had truffles and morels and different times. Alas, these are far to rich for my lowly salary but it's nice to know they have them. The one thing I haven't seen is fresh chanterelle mushrooms but I have no doubt that, in time, I'll see them. That's an ingredient I'm still longing to try.

My parents left a little while ago, the puppies are quietly chewing on their puppy teething rings I gave them and the rain is pouring outside. It's a pretty peaceful way to ease into the Sunday evening and a nice end to a quiet weekend.

Now I think I'll go and ponder what to do with my ramps and relax for the rest of the day. Tomorrow is Monday which means back to routine and back to work. However, I think that I'll take Scarlett O'Hara's words of wisdom about thinking about that tomorrow. Tomorrow is, after all, another day and why waste a perfectly good Sunday thinking about tomorrow.

Happy Monday (tomorrow!)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Fighting Ennui....

I'm very glad it's Friday tomorrow. I know I say that every week but this, by far, has been the longest work week in a while.

The problem is that while I no longer feel seething resentment towards my job, it's also stopped being as busy and hectic as it has been for the past two months. I have a project I'm working on and I like it. It's just...boring. I don't mind having the project to work on during downtime and slower periods but it's the kind of project that when you work on it for eight hours a day, you start imagining different ways to beat yourself repeatedly in the head.

I've been working on this project for three days without any other projects rearing their heads to give me a welcome distraction. Yesterday, I honestly felt I was going to split in two with insanity and start running through the office, waving my hands above my head and speaking gibberish. I felt as though I were trapped in a cage and there was no escape.

Of course, the end of the day came and I did escape. It was fine until today. I didn't feel so insanely trapped today but I felt the waves of ennui start to sink in and I found myself finding ways to distract myself.

I can't surf the internet like I used to before we became a CORPORATION. When we were a not-for-profit, owned by the university, we had freedom. These days, they log our internet useage and block a lot of sites. Last week, I googled for an answer to a Microsoft Access/SQL query question that I had. I clicked on one of the sites that came up and I was given a blank screen with "This site has been blocked because it contains pornographic content."

I found myself having the urge to shove myself back from my desk, stand up and put my hands in the air and yell, "I'M SORRY! I WASN'T LOOKING FOR PORN, I PROMISE!"

Apparently, I'm not the only one. Two other coworkers have had the same experience when searching the internet for a work-related issue/question and they, too, had the same response.

Anyway, with messages like that when searching for Microsoft Access information, it does add a certain level of control over us humble employees because you never know when you're accidentally going to find a site that contains pornographic content.

So, because my time to surf is limited/curtailed, I'm having to find other ways to amuse myself when I simply can't work on My Project any longer. My Blackberry comes in handy. I can access the internet on there. I've noticed that several coworkers are bringing in their little mini laptops to surf/do web-stuff. I could do that except my Dell Mini currently lacks memory and if I try to do anything, it crashes and refuses to let me. I need a new memory stick for it. It's on the 'to buy' list when I become a wealthy woman.

Since that's not likely to happen in the near future, I have to do away with the Dell Mini idea and rely on the Blackberry. This is a fine way to surf the web except it's quite hard to be subtle with it. Of course, I often walk in on my boss when he's playing with his phone under his desk. I don't quite know why he plays with his phone by holding under his desk so we can't see it since, you know, he is the BOSS. However, I have to admit, a couple of times I've walked in and he has his hands under the desk and he's fidgeting and, well....it looks like he's doing something else. Use your imagination. If it goes to the right place, you should be getting a "this site contains pornographic content" type of message.

Anyways...my other way of amusing myself is through our time-tracking system. It's a newfangled device my boss and fellow programmer modified that pops up every 20 minutes and says "So [Captain Monkeypants], What are you doing now?"

It's supposed to be a way for our boss to see how much of our time we devote to the different areas of our job. We enter in issues that we're working on or, in my case, components of the software I'm testing or documenting.

Except, my boss should have known not to put a program on the computer that says "so, [Captain Monkeypants], what are you doing now?" Because, I tell it. Oh, yes, I do.

Most of my coworkers enter in mundane things like "testing issue X" or "Working on documentation for X software."

Not me. I tell the software, named Time Buddy, exactly what I'm doing at that time. Not every day but, on days like today when my brain is leaking out of my ears with ennui, I do.

Today's entries contained things such as "Hi, Time Buddy! I'm currently pondering why they just posted a placard featuring a picture of a fire extinguisher above the real fire extinguisher because, well, it's baffling me. Also, I'm working on X".

And, "Time Buddy, you are very glad you don't have ears because they're currently sawing so much that my teeth are hurting and it turns out they're sawing to make a hole to put up a placard that features a picture of the fire extinguisher. Also, I'm still working on X."

I use Time Buddy as my outlet. Today, I told it that I was annoyed because it always asks me what I'm doing but I never get to ask it a question. I said "Knock Knock, Time Buddy!"

Time Buddy, obviously, did not answer.

I feel bad for my boss if he ever logs into the web site to where my entries on Time Buddy are fed. Some days, I seem like a normal employee and other days... I have days like today. Sometime,s I tell Time Buddy what I'm currently drinking- usually coffee, tea or a soft drink. Sometimes, I share the music I'm listening to on my iPod. Sometimes, I tell it that I just walked down the hallway in a zombie pose- arms outstretched and a lurching gait- which is, actually true for the record. No one noticed. It felt right, somehow. I did feel like a zombie. I walked like a zombie today.

I don't think my boss is likely to read my Time Buddy entries. If he does, I think he'll probably be rather entertained. I did warn him that I could be quite literal so if Time Buddy asks me "what I'm doing now," I will tell Time Buddy.

It's not like I don't tell it the work I'm doing. I also share some of the other things that I have going on because I'm big on multi-tasking. For example, if it comes up while I'm eating my rather naughty once-a-week breakfast of a Chick-Fil-A chicken biscuit, I'll tell Time Buddy what my thoughts on the sandwich are. Note to anyone- don't leave a Chick-Fil-A breakfast sandwich wrapped up in it's foil package for long because the heat from the chicken tends to steam the biscuit and make it go soggy.

Time Buddy knows this because, well, I told Time Buddy. It was bothering me and, well, Time Buddy did ask what I was doing then. Since I was internally grumbling as to the dampness of my breakfast sandwich, I made sure that Time Buddy knew it.

I have a feeling my ennui may stretch through tomorrow. I think tomorrow, I will continue my overly-honest answer to Time Buddy's question.

Hey, if it doesn't want to know what I'm doing at that moment, it shouldn't ask...right?

Happy Friday and have a good weekend!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Memories by Music...

So, last night, I was watching the new episode of Glee that aired on Fox. I don't watch it live anymore because it's on at the same time as Lost and given that Lost is in its last season and on the last few episodes, there's no way I can not watch it live.

Anyway, for those that don't watch it, Glee is a somewhat dark comedy mixed with an alarming degree of perkiness. It features people breaking out into song but usually it's songs that are contemporary, that you hear on the radio. Well, in my case, I haven't heard most of the songs because, well, I'm a rock music/punk music fan and they tend to skew a little pop/hip-hoppy for my tastes. However, I still enjoy the show because it caters to my dark sense of humour and my odd love of musical theatre.

Last night, the entire episode was devoted to the music of Madonna. I wasn't sure if it was going to work or not because it seemed a bit gimmicky. However, it actually did work quite well. One of the songs they did was a combination of Madonna's "Borderline" and "Open Your Heart." If you're familiar at all with Madonna, you'll know those were from the 1980's. They were some of her earlier hits before her constant reinventions.

For me, it was almost like a time-travel experience. The minute I heard "Open Your Heart" being sung, I was immediately thrust back into my childhood. That song was popular when I was around 11 years old and still lived in England. My good friend and neighbour- Sarah- had purchased Madonna's "True Blue" and Wham's! "Make it Big," albums. We spend countless hours rotating the vinyl 33" lp's on her turntable. We used to pay board games as we listened to the music or we'd try to find ways to stop Sarah's little sister from trying to interrupt us. We tried to play Barbie's but, well, neither of us were really Barbie girls and we always ended up giving up on that in favour of board games. She had this peculiar game called Yeti that I'd never seen before or have seen since. We never did know the rules because they were extraordinarily hard to decipher so we made up our own rules. It had a plastic yeti that you would load up with plastic disks that had footprints printed on them. Every now and again there'd be a different disk with some other symbol on it.

We'd listen to Madonna a lot. Sarah also had the "Like a Virgin" album so we'd sing along to that too.

For a moment, last night, while watching Glee it occured to me how music really is like a time-machine. It thrusts you back into your past as if you're really living it. For me, for a few moments, I was back in Sarah's bedroom, playing Yeti and singing along to Madonna.

It's not just Madonna who has that power. Every stage of my life can be documented with the music I listened to at the time. Wham! was a huge part of my childhood. Convinced that I was going to marry George Michael (go ahead, mock all you want), my friend Sonya and I would obsessively watch the "Careless Whisper" and "Wake Me Up Before You G0-Go" videos every lunchtime before we'd go back to school for the afternoon session. Madonna followed soon after. Then, when I moved to the U.S., a friend introduced me to Richard Marx and I still can't hear "Right Here Waiting," or "Endless Summer Nights," without remembering the months of culture shock I experienced after we moved to Indiana.

The same friend discovered heavy metal or, as we now call them, hair bands. She was obsessively into Poison. I still can't hear "Talk Dirty to Me" without thinking of her. She soon became obsessed with Guns and Roses and fell in love with Axl Rose. I still can't hear "Welcome to the Jungle," without thinking of her caterwauling along in her absolutely awful singing voice. We parted friends soon after as she went a little crazy and, as far as I know, still is but the memories invoked by the music we listened to remain.

Then came my own foray into 'hair bands' or 'heavy metal.' My new group of friends were into bands like Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Skid Row...all of the bands which are now featured on compilation albums from the 'hair band era'. To this day, I can't hear "Love Bites" by Def Leppard without thinking of that group of friends and how we'd hang out playing Uno, trying to stay up all night to watch terrible horror movies that used to scare me and eating junk food.

I know I've said some of this before so I apologize for re-blogging.

I changed direction after my heavy metal days. I switched to Broadway and had a new set of friends, very theatrically inclined. My best friend and I eschewed the rock concerts I'd previously attended- my first one, for the record, was Motley Crue during the Dr. Feelgood tour- and started to seek out performances of Cats. We were fans of the tours of The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber and I remember one concert in which we were running late after being at a band function (I wasn't in the band but, if I recall correctly, was there to cover the performance for the school newspaper). We drove to Indianapolis at the speed of light, well, over the speed limit by a long-shot, anyway, to try to make the show that featured Sarah Brightman. I think we made it, only a little late. I can't hear Sarah Brightman without thinking of our harried drive to try to make that show.

After that, I have memories of college. My roommate was rotatingly obsessed with Bob Marley and Tori Amos. I used to blast my Andrew Lloyd Webber. I'm now embarrassed but at the time, I didn't realize how much she hated it. Of course, after so many listens to "Buffalo Soldiers" by Mr. Marley and "Crucify" by Tori Amos, I, too, hated her music.

Since then, I've had other music obsessions, thankfully, not so much with Andrew Lloyd Webber of late though I had a heavy period where all I could listen to was the "Rent" soundtrack. Green Day, still a current obsession of mine, ranks high on the list.

Although, on a side note, I can't bring myself to listen to or buy the new Broadway version of American Idiot. I watched a YouTube video of the workshop version and, well, lets just say that it sort of made me cringe. I love Broadway and I love Green Day but the two together...feels unnatural. I don't like the idea of Green Day, former punks, going corporate and producing theatre. It just doesn't feel right.

Regardless, I wager that every single stage of my life can be brought back into the forefront of memories if I hear the right song. It's not even just my music tastes. If I hear Genesis singing, "Invisible Touch," I think of my dad's fondness for the album and how he'd play it every time the whole family would go out on a Sunday, often to a DIY warehouse. Simon and Garfunkel reminds me of my parents when it was just them and my older brother and I, before my younger brother and sister were born. The Rolling Stones will always remind me of my mother, Marilyn Manson...my sister.

The list goes on. I think for me, as it is with so many people, music reaches deep. Some people document their lives with photos. I've never been a very photo-oriented Monkeypants. I'm not a visual person. I've tried but I tend to always forget my camera or do something stupid to ruin the pictures I do take. I do tend to observe, finding a way to capture memories in my head so I can turn them into words in a story or a narrative piece.

Yet there's also music. I don't know if that makes me an audio-person but it's one of the strongest ways , for me, of evoking memories, of revisiting moments in my life that I associate with the music. Sometimes they're good, sometimes they're bad. Yet until I hear a certain song or piece of music, they often remain locked down inside me until the music coaxes them out. I love the surprise memory, the thrusting back in time that occurs, just as it did last night with Glee that happens when a song takes me by surprise.

The power of music amazes me. In a way, for me, its the strongest evidence that time travel is possible. It might not occur physically but, emotionally, it feels as though you're right there, in the moment that passed even years ago. The power of music over memories is strong.

I'd love to know if I'm alone in this or if you all have similar experiences. Feel free to comment. I promise not to mock. After all, I've openly admitted a couple of times now that I once believed George Michael and I were destined to be together and that I thought Andrew Lloyd Webber was the coolest person on the planet. It can't be worse than that...right?

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Random Musings about Dogs, Writing and Other Things

Tomorrow is Wednesday and after that, we begin the downhill slide towards the weekend. Sometimes I regret looking ahead like that. After all, life is pretty short and not appreciating the now in favour of the more free future is not a good thing really.

Still, we can't really help it, can we? Having to work is necessary but sometimes it's hard. I run home for lunch every day to let the puppies out and having to re-crate them for the afternoon is hard. I always joke that they get to go in their crate and I have to go back to mine. I do sometimes wonder if anyone would notice if I stowed the puppies under my desk but, alas, I think with their high pitched yips and penchant for chewing, they might be quite noticeable. I still dream of one day being able to stay home and be a full time writer but with one book out on the market, I'm pretty certain that my dream is a long way off. Besides, I didn't publish The Reluctant Demon for money, I published it to get people to read it. So far, everyone I know has enjoyed it although, sadly, many of them like to point out that I needed an editor. Unfortunately, due to a mix up with files, Amazon was sending out my unedited version for a while and because I have some very loyal friends who bought my book right away, they have the 'collector's edition'.

It's nice to feel like a really writer though. It's nice to be able to answer people's "what have you published?" with a real response. It doesn't mean I'm giving up submitting in other areas but it's a teeny-tiny triumph of my own.

Still, I think being a fully time writer is pretty impossible at the moment anyway. Sookie and Rory see to that. Even when I have my weekends free, I don't get too much chance to write because I need to make sure they're behaving every so often- particularly when they get really quiet. Take now, for example...there's silence from the living room which sometimes means...trouble.

It seems I had no need to worry. I poked my head out only to discover Rory was upside down in their toy box, trying to grab a chewstick while Sookie is sitting on the floor, literally surrounded by at least five toys. Now there's the unmistakeable squeak of their unstuffed ferret-thing that they love to fight over. I've discovered that the long toys are the best- that way they can each grab an end and have a tug-o-war. It's infinitely better than them spotting my trouser leg and trying to have a tug-o-war with that.

One thing's for sure- they keep me entertained. They also confirmed that they are, in fact, the cutest dogs in the neighbourhood. Tonight we met Debbie who lives around the corner and has four dogs and Larry. He lives on the corner of the street behind mine. His parents have some type of hypoallergenic dog but he likes all dogs. He also likes to garden. I learn quite a lot about my neighbours. I'm not sure, exactly, what type of hypoallergenic dog his parents have but I hope it's not one of these . I think they're called Chinese Crested dogs. I know that some people find them adorable but, frankly, they give me the creeps. They're completely bald and I know I sound judgmental but, well, some people don't like spiders...I don't really like bald dogs.

Anyway, I'm rambling- I've been doing that a lot in my blog. I hope you're not getting too sick of hearing about Sookie and Rory. My problem is that I don't get much human company at the moment, unless you count my coworkers and, well, sometimes I do...sometimes I don't. Not some of my coworkers, anyway.

Speaking of which, my boss told me he ordered my book. I'm only slightly concerned about that. Ok, so my heroine does work for a software company....like me. She does the same sort of job as me...and she's horribly bored...like me. But...I don't speak badly about my boss. Ok, so I do compare one of the managers in the book to Voldemort and we do actually have a manager who I've always called Voldemort but that's not bad...right? It's not like I've completely copied my life...just...aspects.

Either way, he's going to learn a lot more about me than he would, most likely, by perching awkwardly on my desk and trying to make small talk. If he doesn't like it...well, at least he bought a copy.

Oh dear...I'm hearing a concerned yip from the living room. Rory is quite loudly letting me know I've ignored them long enough. She's taken to barking when she's being ignored. Mostly I ignore her but, on occasion, she's rather persistant...like now.

It's probably time to wind down the blog anyway. Thanks, as always for reading.

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Power of the Puppy....

It was a definite Monday today. It started early for me. Despite the fact that the puppies managed to sleep through a night last week without waking me up to take them outside, they haven't quite made it a routine yet. Thus, I woke up this morning at 5:05 a.m. with Rory Wrigglebottom (her official name now), edging closer to me. Rory has this routine, you see. When she needs to go the bathroom, she begins her wriggling (hence her name). During the time when she realizes she needs to go, she wriggles her way across my bed until she is sitting with her front paws on my face. I am convinced that if it were daylight at 5:05 a.m., Rory Wrigglebottom would be staring at me, her eyes only inches from mine.

However, I cannot deny the pups the need to go to the bathroom. After all, I'd rather they woke me up than go in the bed. I just wish it was a little earlier. My alarm is supposed to go off at 6:03 a.m.- I tend to believe in arbitrary alarm-setting rather than in linear five-minute increments- so a 5:05 a.m. wake-up wriggle is too late to conceivably go back to bed and get any decent sleep and too early to stay up and try to get through the workday and stay coherant.

Still, we managed and I did snatch at least another 30 minutes of sleep. The day was a Monday- quiet and slightly hectic but not enough to render it truly busy.

As always, I came home on a Monday night yawning and thinking a nap sounded nice. Instead of a nap, however, I decided to take the puppies for a walk. They had their first vet visit with me on Friday and are now immunized so that I can take them for walks. I've done it twice now and while they're getting the hang of the leashes, they're not what I'd call....good walkers.

They are, however, adorable. They have matching pink harnesses and when they walk, I have to admit, they are just so cute, I'm proud to be their mum. I, apparently, am not the only one to think so. No sooner did we get off our front lawn onto the pavement when my next door neighbours- the non-Dog Whisperer side, came out to greet us. They'd heard Rory's yipping and seen the puppies when they'd been outside mowing their front lawn and now they wanted a proper introduction. They're very chatty- though extremely nice- and it was a little hard to get away. Still, it's always nice to chat to the neighbours- particularly when they're not the ones with horribly yappy rat-terriers and a Dog Whisperer who likes to go shirtless when I really wish he wouldn't.

We eventually went along our way. I've learned that my neighbourhood is very dog-friendly. Almost every house has a dog or four that wants to greet my puppies. It's hard to know where to turn because of all the greeting barks. Still, we have our route and we carried on. I only had to deter Sookie and Rory from eating pinecones, hickory nuts and grass just a few times.

We made it around the block when we ran into the neighbour who lives in the house at the bottom of my garden. He's a new homeowner too and has done a ton of work on his house. He also has a little girl who lives with him part time who longs for a dachshund puppy. I've befriended her and let her hold Rory and Sookie any time she wants. He's a nice neighbour and he stopped to greet my puppies. Tonight, his little girl wasn't with him but we stopped to chat for a while. He let me peek my head in to see how much work he'd done on the house. He'd replaced all the carpet with laminate and I have to say, it looked pretty good. It makes we wish I didn't have my own light-blue-old-lady carpet that shows every stain...which isn't good when you're housebreaking puppies.

Anyway, after that, he told me he was a pipe-fitter and does a lot of plumbing and if I ever needed help with my plumbing, he'd help me out. He'd ever fit my faucets for free. Oh, and don't get any ideas. That's not an innuendo. He really is a plumber. That was rather nice of him, I thought. I think his name is Joe. He introduced himself to me the first time we met but my memory is horrible and I dont' know if I made that up or it's actually his name. It's not like I can say, "hey, is your name Joe?" without sounding like a dimwit.

Might-be-Joe is a nice man. He has a girlfriend who has a mini dachshund. He tells me a lot. I also met his neighbour- Bill- who lives across the street and always sits outside. They think my puppies are adorable.

We finally mosey-ed along a little further and turned the corner back onto our street. We were five houses down when two bicyclists pulled into their driveway and had to pet the puppies. The lady was super nice. Her name is Beth. She has dogs. She had a dachshund/golden retriever mix for 15 years but, sadly, she passed away not too long ago.

We finally made it home. The puppies were tired. I was amazed. I met more neighbours and talked to more people in one night than I have in almost the entire time I've lived here. They were all really nice. I mean, ok, so I do have the cutest puppies in the 'hood but, still, I think having puppies is the trick to meeting people. It was actually rather fun and the one thing I learned on this rather pleasant Monday evening is that no one can resist the power of the puppy.

Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Gardening with Puppies...

Once again, the weekend seems to have flown by and it's already time to be thinking about heading to bed early in preparation for Monday morning. It's not a feeling I enjoy. I much prefer the feel of a Friday night when you know that Monday is a far off day that will come eventually but, at that time, is easy to forget.

I think the weekend just goes too fast, no matter what you end up doing. For example, this weekend, I really didn't do anything of too much significance. I spent a great portion of it in the garden, fighting with weeds, trying to get it looking somewhat decent. Of course, I did this with the help of two puppies. Unfortunately, the pattern of this occurs like this:

1) Puppies see me digging up a weed with my trowel. They bound over to see what I'm doing.

2) They see my gardening gloves. Rory leaps upon my glove and latches on with her teeth.

3) Sookie decides that this looks like fun and also tries to grab hold.

4) I find a nearby stick/root/chunk of mulch and say, "hey, girls, look what I found!"

5) They see the stick/root/chunk of mulch and, when I toss it, they follow.

6) I return to weeding.

7) They get bored of their stick/root/chunk of mulch and come to help me dig.

8) They dig but end up filling in any holes I am making to plant things or they try to replant the weed I've just dug up.

9) They see my gardening gloves. See steps 2-5.

10). I lay down my trowel. They see my trowel and try to run off with it. I chase them.

11). I get my trowel back. I start weeding. They see my gardening gloves. See steps 2-5.

12) Sookie decides she wants a cuddle, therefore, she leaps onto my lap while I'm weeding. Rory, not wanting to be left out, also leaps upon my lap. They end up sniping at one another and roll off into the dirt and weeds to bicker it out.

13). They catch sight of my gardening gloves...you've got the picture by now.
This is not an exaggeration. Most of the time, I find them quite entertaining but I must confess, the gardening glove tug-of-war gets a little old. I even put a new pair on today because I had worn my old ones through. I gave them my old gloves. Apparently, they only want the gloves when they're attached to my hands because they abandoned the gloves I'd given them in order to try to leap upon my new gloves.

This is pretty much how I spent Saturday and Sunday. I tend to wear them out though and eventually, they get sleepy and lie down. This is usually my cue to take them inside, put them in their crate and run errands. Today, I had to go get more mulch and I picked up a few shrubs.

It's a nice routine. While I'll never get rid of the weeds, I am making progress. My only issue is with the Dog Whisperer, naturally. He continues to ignore his beasts as they yap continuously at us. I've got to the point where I can mostly ignore it but it's still annoying at times. Also, he's now stopped coming out when I'm there but, no kidding, the minute he sees the puppies out without me, he's right there, crouched by the fence, coaxing them towards him. Tonight, he did it shirtless which, as I've mentioned, is not terribly enticing for anyone. In fact, my puppies ran inside tonight as soon as he crouched towards them. I'm not surprised. It actually made me laugh because I watched them through the window.

I think, though, what it all comes down to is that I'm becoming quite settled in my house and with the puppies. I like having a routine. I like being domestic. There's nothing better than being outside on a beautiful spring afternoon with nothing more pressing than a million weeds to pull up.

I pulled a couple of thousand up today. I'm getting closer. Besides, I have the puppies to help.

I think I might have to stop wearing gardening gloves though.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Strangeness of Dogs....

It's finally Friday. It's been an odd sort of week, not altogether bad but no altogether good, either.

Weather-wise, it's been an amazing week. It peaked at 82 degrees today. It hasn't been less than 70 degrees all week. The puppies and I have created a routine: At lunch, I go home, I uncrate them and they run free, rolling and lounging in the sun. Then, in the evenings when I get home from work, they play, I sit outside, enjoying the weather.

Unfortunately, our routine is going to change tomorrow. It's supposed to rain and cool down. This weekend it's supposed to be significantly cooler. I don't mind but I know the puppies will. I have learned that while they're almost completely housebroken, if it's wet and/or cold outside, they do not want to stay out there.

It's a challenge. Short of getting them both boots to wear, I'm not sure how to deal with this slight kink in the housebreaking routine. I think, in time, they'll get to the point where they don't care but, unfortunately, at the moment, they do.

It's odd the things that bother them. Tonight, they both cowered inside on my lap while our next door neighbour- not the Dog Whisperer but the other side- mowed his lawn. Yet they fearlessly explore the garden when there are other loud noises, far more disturbing noises, carrying on.

Still, as I always say, every is an adventure- both for them and for me. It's what makes life fun, I think. Some days, I wonder how I got by without the constant distraction that are the puppies. Other days, I think I must have been nuts to get them.

Yet it takes only seconds for me to realize that I'm always going to be glad I got them. They fascinate me. I've discovered that even with all the toys I've bought them, the attempts to discover what gives them the most entertainment, they're happiest with a 49 cent towel from IKEA.

We now have a game I call "towel". We go to the back garden and I wave the towel. Almost immediately, I have two little dachshunds clinging to it with their teeth. I try to pull it away, they clamp down. It's got the point where they refuse to let go and I can literally pick them up with the towel. It's a little alarming but they won't let go for anything, waging a never-ending tug of war with me.

It always ends. They usually end up somersaulting over one another to stay gripped on the towel but it only takes a slight distraction, such as a stick or a leaf and suddenly "towel" seems far less interesting. Of course, if I try to pick the towel up to tidy up the garden, they're immediately attached to it again.

I have strange dogs, what can I say? Yet, as I've said before and I'll say again, I wouldn't swap them for anything. Besides, people tell me I'm strange so I suppose we fit together, don't we?

Happy Friday and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Updike vs. Hemingway: A Writing Retrospect

Tonight, I got to write and, let me tell you, it felt perfect. It's been a while. Having puppies around limits the time I have to sit down at my PC and just babble. Even when I try, they're there, trying to nibble at my feet, trying to remind me that they're there. They're rather hard to forget, though they don't know that.

It's not that I haven't been writing. A good friend of mine who also happens to be a talented writer challenged me to write a short story. She's the type of writer who is good at short stories. She likes flash fiction- stories that can be told or, at least, hinted at to the point of intrigue in less than 500 words.

If you've even glanced at my blog, you might realize that for me, Captain Monkeypants, Flash Fiction isn't exactly an, um, option. I'm what you'd call...loquatious...garroulous. Both are words I learned during my sophomore English class with a teacher named Hilda Studebaker who was slightly crazy but completely charming in the process. She was already almost at retirement age. She loved to write on the blackboard but, as she did so, in her enthusiasm, she'd end up getting chalk from previously written words all over her cardigan. She insisted that Hamlet's ego was pronounced 'eggo' and, when someone muttered, "Leggo my Eggo!" she insisted that the mutterer was a poet.

Mrs. Studebaker was...a character. I can't say she was a particularly good teacher but she was fascinating. She made you think about things in a way you'd never thought about them before. She did make us read Great Expectations which remains one of my least favourite Charles Dickens' novels. It's hard to not read about Miss Havisham when Mrs. Studebaker stands before you lacking all but the mouldy wedding cake.

Yet, Mrs. Studebaker taught us vocabulary. I learned the meaning of loquatiousness...garroulous..ness. These days, I know they apply to me. I'm trying to be better about being wordy but when it's your natural inclination...it's hard to fight.

In my defense, I did go through a period where I berated wordiness, sneered at it. It was all due to another English teacher. This teacher was the one that would probably go on to be the most
influential teachers I would ever have. In my senior year, I was part of a threesome of friends. One of my friends would go on to major in poetry. She was very good with description, with words. My other friends had the gift of conciseness, of being able to perfectly articulate that which she wanted to say. Then there was me, the shadow that fell in between. I liked to write but sandwiched between two friends like that, I never knew my place. I knew that I liked to write but used it as a comparison to my two friends.

Anyway, when I entered my senior year, I thought myself a descriptive writer, one who told a story and explained the whole thing. I used a ton of words, trying to capture the moment...exactly. Then we read some stories. We read some John Updike and some Earnest Hemingway. Then came an assignment: Write a story in the style of either Updike or Hemingway.

Well, if you know your writers, you'll know that Mr. Updike is Mr. Description- perfectly nailing descriptions with words, finding ways to describe the mundane in new, exciting ways. Mr. Hemingway, on the other hand, didn't mince words, not at all. He was very much a short, punctuated sentence man. Say what you mean and get out.

Well...me, I felt like I was already decidely Updike-an. I used description. I conceitedly thought that I could already write Updike.

So I decided to try Hemingway.

I got an A. I managed to change my entire writing style to short, clipped sentences that spoke nothing but fact, just like Hemingway.

It was a style that would haunt me for years. Not until I wrote my first novel did I feel the luxury of words, of knowing that it was ok to say more than what was happening, to be able to describe it without feeling naughty. In some ways, it worked for me. It taught me the ability to say much in a few words. Yet it was sparse and it was cold.

These days, I like to think I've cultivated my own style. I can use the Updike method of description to give my readers a mental picture of what I mean but at times, Hemingway comes into play and when something happens, it happens...I don't mince words.

It all took time. People say high school was the best time of their lives. I can't say that. It was an interesting time. Sometimes, it was good. Sometimes, it was just...awkward. Yet my senior English class was a cement of sorts. It showed me that there were people in my class to whom I hadn't even given the courtesy of considering who were smart, articulate people that would go on to big things. It was one of those classes which bonds you, makes you remember who recited Hamlet's soliloquay of "To be or not to be..." and did it well.

These days, I'm only in touch with a few of those classmates, mostly on Facebook. Of my two good friends, I remain in contact with both. They were both my 'rivals' back then, both good writers, my competition. These days, competition isn't a factor. We're all different people, still in touch, still friends. We're united by more than that senior English class but I'm fairly convinced that without that class and our amazing teacher, our ties beyond graduation wouldn't be quite so strong.

These days, I can call upon that memory of Updike vs. Hemingway, any time I doubt my writing style. When it comes to short stories, I'm glad I have friends who can do that better than I can. It teaches me to learn from them. I can't write flash fiction- the thought of telling a story in less than 1,000 words just seems slightly horrific and fully ridiculous to me but, because I've seen it done by a friend and, I admit, done well, I know it can be done...just not my me. I'm too garroulous, too loquacious...too...wordy. I remember the days when I thought I was an Updike so I became a Hemingway.

I'm embarrassed to even look back and see how pretentious I really was.

Still, I find, while short stories can be interesting, it's novels that I love, the idea of taking a concept and being able to spread out, stretch and find a comfort that delivers. I like having friends who also write. It keeps me motivated, it keeps me humble.

And, overall, it makes me appreciate the type of writing I love best and there's not substitute for that.

Happy Thursday.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Random Musings and Babblings...

I'm finding trends in advertising are getting slightly weird. I'm currently watching television and I just watched a commercial for the Ford Swap. In this ad, apparently families and friends of people who didn't drive Fords are secretely having their cars exchanged for a Ford for a week.

Now, these people are a lot nicer than I would be. For example, if I found out my family had swapped my Toyota Corolla for a Ford Focus, I'd be a little upset. Firstly, I'm rather pleased to drive a Toyota despite their recent flurry of bad news. Secondly, I'm a control freak. The idea of anyone thinking that it was ok to swap my car is just a little bit disturbing. It's just...not right!

Then I see an advertisement for Lunestra, the sleeping medication. Have you ever read the fine print for that? I have. Let's just say that it warns you that if you take this medication, it might cause you to do things that you won't remember when you're awake. Um, is that disturbing to anyone but me? I mean, how are you supposed to know what you did if you won't remember it? You could rob a bank and not remember it! You could eat the entire contents of your fridge and only discover you did it when you wake up and you're throwing up raw meat and eggs. Trust me, I saw an episode of Oprah or something where she talked to people who have a disorder that causes them to do exactly that. It made my stomach turn when you hear about the people who devoured whole raw steaks. I'm glad I could share it with you.

Then there's the lawyers. I think everyone has these advertisements, no matter where you are. They're the commercials that start, "Did you take this medication?" or a"Did you work somewhere where there was asbestos present?". The bottom line is they imply that they can get you a lot of money if you say yes. So...people do say yes and it creates a lawsuit that wastes millions of dollars and ends up not going anywhere.

I'm actually watching Dancing with the Stars while waiting for Lost to come on. I simply don't get this show. It's bad music and dancing. I usually quite like dancing but this is just...boring. I mean, you see one bad celebrity trying to hoof it up and you've seen it all...right? What am I missing here?

All in all, I think I'll mute the volume and watch the puppies instead. They're currently fightin over a piece of plastic they found from somewhere. I just confiscated a piece of tree that they hauled in. They really like to chew the strangest things....

This is the type of evening I've had...rather random. I did have a bird fly in my house which, again, was rather random. I have two doors leading outside on opposite ends of the family room. I had them both open so the puppies could go out. I heard this loud chirping sound and thought, "wow, that bird sounds close!" only to discover it was, actually close and sitting on top of my entertainment centre. He flew out again but he seemed quite happy. The puppies chased him outside. They haven't quite got the hang of the fact that birds can fly. They sidle up to them when they land in the garden and then try to pounce but, alas, the bird flies away. They tried that with a bumblebee. I don't think it would take more than one encounter to teach then that chasing bumblebees is not a good idea.

The Dog Whisperer also tried his nightly attempt to coax the puppies to visit. They, as always, ignored him and he sat there, crouched by the fence, waiting for them to come. It makes me laugh how they ignore him but if one of the other neighbours does the same thing, they go. I suppose I should feel sorry for the Dog Whisperer but since he allowed his dogs to yap while we grilled dinner tonight without so much as a token, "quiet!" I don't feel that bad. In addition to his dogs, the neighbours' dogs on the other side of them came to hang out after climbing through the broken fence. They have a very large black dog, the size of a German Shepard. What I find interesting is that large dog seems to go to the Dog Whisperer's garden specifically to do his, uh, business. Then he usually goes back home. And, let me tell you, he has big business.

I apologize for the randomness of this blog. I didn't have the best day at work; my boss, is, again proving that he doesn't honestly give a crap how I fill my time, just that I do it while he irritatingly actually grants the requests of my coworker to work on projects she wants to do. Given that I've talked to him about this three times, you can see why I'm a wee bit bitter. It's all good, however. I've found a new project, one that's near and dear to my geeky little heard and rather than ask if it's ok for me to work on it since it's technically not my job, I just told him I was going to do it and asked if he had a problem with that. He said no, naturally...which is why I told, rather than ask. It works better that way.

Anyway, I did think about spending the whole blog whining about the unfairness of my job but then I decided that there was no point. It's just a job...it pays for the food for me and my puppies. It lets me have the luxury of cable television and a DVR and, most importantly, it lets me go home at the end of the day...even if that means sitting through Dancing with the Stars before the good stuff begins.

Ah well...It could be worse. It could be American Idol.

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Bouquet of Pencils...

What is it about Mondays that is so thouroughly exhausting? I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that the past two days were the weekend and thus, they were fun. Just as you finally get relaxed, it's Sunday night and by Monday morning, you have to start all over again.

This particular Monday wasn't exhausting for any reason. It just was. I had far too much fun with the puppies this weekend and going back to work and having to crate them back up was hard. I knew they didn't want to be shut up just as I didn't want to be confined to my cubicle.

Nevertheless, it's part of the routine that is the reality of life. It's not all bad. By Wednesday, Monday will seem like a distant blur and the reward of Friday will lie ahead.

I signed two books today. I find myself asking if the requester is serious. I don't think I've quite accepted the fact that I'm an actual 'author' now. I have a book. People want me to sign it. Better yet, people really seem to be enjoying it- which is the whole reason I published it in the first place. There's nothing more rewarding than someone telling me how much fun it was and how they couldn't put it down- and that's now happened enough times that I've stopped thinking people are being kind.

It's just strange to sign the books. I think I need to get a decent pen. Currently, I've been signing them in a cheap-ish ballpoint pen that I pilfered from my company. Well, honestly, I didn't even pilfer it. Our company likes to give out pens. When they change design as they seem to frequently, they divvy up the pens to the employees. Thus, I have a cup full of ballpoint pens which write fine but...not well, if that makes sense.

To be honest, I prefer pencil anyway. I have a little cup with almost two dozen pencils in it. I call it my "Bouquet of Pencils". It makes me happy but I can't explain why. It gives me satisfaction to look at my pencil bouquet and choose the one I want to use. Maybe it's a regression thing; when I was a kid, I wanted no more than to cast aside childish pencil and move onto a more permanent pen. These days, I just like pencils. It's hard to explain the things that really make us happy in such a simple way though, isn't it?

So, between my bouquet of pencils, being asked to 'autograph' two books and having two little puppies to come home to, my Monday could have been far worse. These days, I try not to dwell on work like I used to because there's simply no point. I still dislike the politics of it all and there are many practices I despise but, well, as I've learned to say to myself whenever I feel slightly paranoid...it's just a job. It pays the bills, it feeds my puppies and it lets me splurge on Mario Batali cookware once in a while. When you have a Rory and a Sookie to come home to, even some of the worst days seem a little better as soon as I toss a tennis ball in the back garden and watch their little legs work to outrace the other.

As I always say, it's all about the simple things in life: puppies, pencils and Spring days...even on Mondays.

Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Never Enough Mulch...

This was the type of weekend you just want to put a lid on and keep it forever because it was just so close to being perfect.

The weather, for a start, was beautiful. It's cool at night, warm in the day with just enough of a breeze to make you sigh with happiness.

I also didn't have any set plans which means it was a free sort of weekend. Those are sometimes the best kind.

I also got to hang out with the puppies almost the whole time which was fun but I think I've exhausted them. I think they'll sleep well tonight.

I spent almost the entire weekend outside. I've realized that while I love having my own house, it takes quite a bit of work. Take, for example, my garden. Not only does it have rather a lot of lawn to mow but the part where I would like to do my planting is overgrown and weed-soaked. I think the nice old lady who sold me the house was just beyond doing too much outside and by the time I moved in, it was too far gone to save last year. This year, I'm trying to get it in order. I spent much of Friday night, Saturday afternoon and today weeding, digging and putting down mulch. I'm two thirds of the way across the vast expanse of weed country.

It's amazing how much mulch you need for a garden. I've learned this before but this year, it was reiterated. I went to Home Depot to buy mulch. I bought eight bags which cover 2 cubic feet each. I competently managed to load them into the boot of my car with no assistance, laughing a little as men with big trucks got assistance from the Home Depot employees to load up just a couple of bags. I like doing that type of thing, honestly. It's a good way to get in shape without doing anything out of the ordinary. Also, I'm proud of my car for holding the mulch. Someone did tell me to 'buy a truck' when they saw me loading but given that I managed to get all eight bags in, close the lid and still have a little room, I say that I don't need a truck, thank you very much.

However, eight bags of mulch, in reality, does not cover much. I went to Lowes and bought three more bags, this time each bag had 3 cubic feet in them. I think I need at least another ten bags. I have thought about buying it in bulk and having it delivered but I don't know where I'd store it. The truck wouldn't be able to get out back where I want it laid and I don't think putting it in my front yard would help. So I will continue to buy it by the bag.

Of course, it doesn't go as far as it should because I've discovered that my puppies love mulch. They find it irresistably chompable, carrying large pieces of bark joyfully across the garden and going back for more. They also like to dig. They also like to try to remove the gardening gloves from my hand, dig up seeds I've just planted and run away with my flowerpots.

In honesty, gardening with puppies is actually rather fun, even if it is a little harder work. They keep me company and keep me entertained.

It's nice to be able to spend an entire weekend outside and come inside and kick back for the night. Given that I also shampooed the carpets yesterday, it was no wonder that 11 p.m., I found myself snoozing on the sofa in the middle of an Iron Chef America episode. I don't think it's just the puppies who are getting worn out.

I've also worked up a truce with the Dog Whisperer. Well, his wife, anyway. She's very nice and we talked about the dogs. She's trying to calm them down and told me she has some of those shock-collars which they're going to try if they don't calm down. They tried the strategy of only letting one of their three yappers out at a time and, honestly, for the most part, it worked. THey are slowly but surely getting better. Of course, it doesn't stop Mr. Dog Whisperer from coming out and sticking his fingers through the fence to try to coax the puppies but I don't think there's any cure for that. You can't stick a shock collar on him.

Though I'd like to try.

In all seriousness, I might be getting the hang of this neighbour thing, just as I'm getting the hang of the homeowner thing. It's all about small steps. Cover a little bit of ground as I weed each time and, eventually, it start looking like something. Along the way, I uncover strange little pleasantries like the randomly scattered spring onions in my weed patch. They're healthy little things and I always have a need for scallions so I was quite pleased to find them. I'm not sure why, exactly, they would be there but who am I to question the nice little finds like that?

All in all, it's been a wonderful, if exhausting weekend. I even got to write, taking my laptop outside to the patio, drinking a beer and letting the puppies play. I think we call that a compromise but I'm all for compromises on days like to day.

I hope the week continues to bring nice weather. Maybe I can make some headway on my weed patch.

Although that means more mulch. Groan.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Short Blog, Long-Bodied Little Puppies...

It's chilly out there tonight. For the past week or so, we've had abnormally high temperatures and tonight, for the first time in a while, we're experiencing average temperatures for this time of year.

I like it when it's chilly like this though. That's the beauty of both Spring and Autumn. You can have warm, balmy days and then, at night, a nip enters the air and reminds you that Winter is not that far ahead or behind.

The nicest part about nights like this is the sleeping factor. I sleep deepest when it's cool outside and I can bury myself in the covers of my bed to stay warm. These days, I also have two warm, furry little dachshund puppies who like to drape themselves over me while I sleep. People have told me that I should be crating them at night but, truth be told, my bed is rather high and they've never had an accident. Instead, they have found ways to wake me up, usually by enthusiastically nuzzling my face to let me know they need to go out.

I actually don't mind. It's become a routine. We go to bed fairly early and usually get up somewhere between 2:30 and 3:30 a.m. Then, at 6:15, we get up for the day. It's an early start but I'm used to it now. I go to work early so I can take a long enough lunch to come home and feed the puppies and uncrate them for an hour.

The only problem I'm having is that, being puppies, they require a lot of attention. They're currently yipping, their way of yelling at me, because I'm in my office blogging instead of sitting with them on the sofa.

It makes it hard to write anything because I have to watch to make sure they don't have any accidents. I'm hoping when they get a little older, they'll be a little more independant. For now, I have to steal snatches of time to be able to get anything done. Vacuuming scares them so I wait until they're outside. Cooking dinner requires less clanging and banging than usual.

It's definitely a different way of life for me, the quintessential independent Monkeypants. Now I have these two, fuzzy, warm, bundles of responsibility and they rely on me for everything. I suppose I should mind, but I don't. It's hard to mind when I see them looking up at me with those puppy-dog eyes of there. I never thought I'd be such a pushover as a pet-parent but, alas, I am.

I suppose there are worse things in life.

Happy Friday and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Fast-Flying Weeks...

It's Thursday tomorrow. Somehow, the midpoint of the week passed by without me really noticing it. It's not even that it's been an eventful week; it's more that the week has just gone by quickly.

It's not been a bad week. My new strategy with the Dog Whisperer- the previous bane of my existence- is...to ignore him. I can hear you say it now, "well, duh, isn't that obvious?" It probably is but not to an overprotective pet parent like me. I used to worry that my girls were disturbing the 'hood, that their cute little yipping was going to drive his dogs to a heart attack.

These days, I'm not so bothered. I leave my back door open. That way, Rory and Sookie can go out if they need to which, 98% of the time, they do. It's great for house-breaking. Unfortunately, 75% of the time, the puppies go out, the Dog Whisperer lets his beasts out.

As you've read...I used to care. Now, I don't. Unless I can hear Rory or Sookie yapping or causing mayhem, I tend to let them run. When I look out, it seems like my puppies are running up and down the fence on our side, tormenting the Dog Whisperer's beasts. Those beasts continue to bark loudly. My girls are quiet; they're just running. The way I now look at it is that if anyone in the neighbourhood is going to complain, they're going to complain about the barking. And whose dogs are barking?

Yup...not mine. Thus, my new strategy is to let my puppies out whenever they want to go. If the Dog Whisperer's beasts are out, so be it. It isn't my fault that they can't control their rat terriers.

I'm also contemplating not building the privacy fence but, instead, doing some landscaping to block out the neighbours. I think it'd be cheaper and, also, I adore landscaping. I'm thinking if I convert some of the lawn that I hate mowing to garden and flower beds, not only can I plant trees and shrubs that block out the Dog Whisperer's house but, also, I get to have fun.

It's all in the pipeline of my mind, right now. I think on it when I have a chance. At work, those chances are rare. I've learned that the best way to deal with my boss is to tell him what I'm going to do, rather than ask him. As a rather bossy, overly control-freak-esque personality, this shouldn't be surprising revelation. However, given the fact that he's usually incapable of making any decision that's more important than where he's going for lunch which, by the way, is sometimes far more difficult than you'd imagine, it's quite a shock that my declaration of what I plan on doing is met with a hiding-the-enthusisam, "ok!"

So, I'm busy at work. When I get a free moment, it's usually around lunch during which time, I pump up the Muse music and try to make it home in as few traffic lights as possible in order to release the puppies from their crate.

I like our lunch hours, even though crating the puppies back up on a beautiful spring day feels a little like I'm a jailer. I'd like to let them run free but I don't quite trust them...not yet. Give them a couple of weeks and...maybe.

This weekend, I plan on spending as much time with the puppies as possible. I also intend to work in the garden. If the Dog Whisperer's dogs are out and yappy, I intend to ignore them.

If not, a coworker lent me this device called 'Dog Trainer' which emits a sound that is really high and really loud and, conveniently, only perceptible to the ear of a dog. I've tried it on the dog who lives on the 'good' neighbour's side. This dog has a tendency to bark. However, two pushes of the button of the 'Dog Trainer' and that little doggie is quiet as a mouse. I'm hoping it doesn't hurt them but, instead, teaches them to be quiet.

If the Dog Whisperer's beasts misbehave, I think I'll give it a go. I don't think that qualifies as animal cruelty...right? I prefert to think it as a "Prevention of Cruelty to Humans" type of device..it controls that which could be rendered cruel to our ears- i.e. Super yappy dogs that don't shut up even when you shout at them.

I think, for now, I'll keep the device in my pocket. If it makes them stop barking...I win. And, if not, perhaps the Dog Whisperer will keep his routine of letting them inside when he gets annoyed with the yapping. Since I don't intend to herd Rory and Sookie inside anymore....I win..again.

I think we call that a win-win situation. Hurrah!

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Rediscovered Joy of Cooking...

I haven't talked about cooking for a while. Mostly, I think I've been waffling on about Spring and puppies and Dog Whisperers. I apologize if I get tedious sometimes. My life is a little....routine at the moment in order to train the puppies so pretty much, those three topics are the things that are most prominant in my life.

I have managed to cook though. It took me a little while with the puppies. They don't quite get the concept of cooking. At first, they hid from the clanging of my pots, the chop of the knife and the beating of the meat. I have a nifty Mario Batali meat tenderizer with which it is remarkably fun to hit pieces of meat. It's also quite therapeutic.

Nowadays, the puppies tend to sit in the doorway while I cook. I've been slowly getting back up to speed and actually cooking proper meals instead of fast, easy stuff. Tonight, for example, I made Asparagus all Milanese as an appetizer (thanks, Mario!) and balsamic glazed cipollini onions (thanks, Jungle Jim's) with Swedish potato sausage for a main course (thanks, Sweden!).

It turned out delicious and it put me back in the mood to cook. It's not that I haven't felt like cooking but sometimes, you get to the point where it seems like a fair amount of effort to chop, slice and dice and you find ways to make dinners without that.

It also helped that I managed to get some great deals on some Mario Batali cookware this weekend, thanks to an invitation-only boutique my friend invited me to join. Mostly, the boutiques are clothes and accessories but every now and again, they have a good one. When they had a Mario Batali boutique, I was, naturally, excited. Sadly, by the time I had a chance to log in and see what bargains were to be had, I was a little late for some of them. When they sell out on the site, they're sold out.

Still, I did get a rather nice saucepan and an apron and my mum got a nice 4 qt Dutch oven. I made her buy it in chianti red since Mario's signature colour, persimmon, is the accent in my kitchen and I'm a wee bit possesive.

So, combined with new cookware and good ingredients, the urge to cook has struck me. It also helps that I've been watching reruns of Top Chef: Masters on Bravo. Unlike the regular Top Chef, the Masters version is very...classy. Instead of young chefs all vying to be 'Top Chef', Masters focuses on well-established, quite well known chefs who, if they win, will receive a $100,000 donation to their charity of choice.

The difference between the regular version of the show and the Masters version is the attitudes. Whereas the regular version focuses on competition which tends to get quite mean and snarky, the Masters version focuses on skill; the chefs admire each other already and have nothing to prove other than some friendly competition. Except Michael Chiarello who tends to remind me of a used-car salesmen, the competitors are actually really respectful of each other and pleasant to watch.

And...they can really cook. I'm not huge on Mexican cuisine. I like it but it's not one of my favourites but, I tell you, Rick Bayless makes me want to eat Mexican food.

All in all, lately, I've been hungry again. I want to learn new things about food. Since Jungle Jim's has managed to supply me with almost everything I have wanted to try- except, perhaps, Chanterelle mushrooms- I've been spoiled. I have yet to try truffles but until I get much richer, I might have to wait on those.

So, with a fridge full of ingredients and a desire to try something new, who knows what I'll come up with tomorrow.

But that's half the fun.

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Appreciating the Now...

It's actually hot outside today. It's the type of day that inspires people to mow their lawns and walk around the neighbourhood. I will not be mowing my lawn. I did that last week and I'd rather put it off for as long as I can.

The Dog Whisperer mowed his lawn. I know this because I came home at lunchtime to let the puppies out and he was outside, mowing the lawn without a shirt on. Sadly, he's not the type of man you really want to see without a shirt on. Thus, my lunch hour was not as peaceful as I'd like. Also, the neighbour on the other side of the Dog Whisperer was also home. He's rather strange. In addition to also having three very noisy dogs, he just...watches. Today, he used the super-special gate that he and The Dog Whisperer open on their fence to allow the dogs to share the yards and came over to stare at the puppies more closely. He doesn't speak. He just...stares. He finally asked me how old they were. I've tried to introduce myself; he just...stares. Tonight, his wife used the super-special gate. She's much friendlier and nice, much like the Dog Whisperer's wife. They actually talk and don't stare. Ok, so they fawn over the puppies but, well, they're definitely worth fawning over. That, I don't mind. It's more of the staring that I don't like.

I suppose I am a bit of an anomaly on the neighbourhood. It's a mixed suburb with either young couples or old folk. I'm not a young couple, I'm a single woman, mowing her own lawn. You don't see much of that in my neighbourhood. It's usually the men mowing or, if they're super lucky, their kids.

I don't mind being an anomaly though. Aside from the fact it would be rather nice to have a handyman husband who could do things like, say, build a privacy fence and replace toilets. Also, it'd be rather nice to have a husband in general. However, having tried online dating and not having much luck, I think, for now, I'll stick with the puppies. While they cause a bit of havoc and require a bit of looking after, they're puppies and it's acceptable to put them in a crate. Probably not so much with a husband.

It is nice to own my own home. This past year, things have changed for me. I've made the transition to being a grown-up. I've published a book, I've bought a house. I've adopted puppies. Despite the fact that I'm not completely fulfilled at my day job, it's become tolerable. In a way, I couldn't really ask for more. Granted, we always want more but it doesn't mean we need it. For now, I think I'll hold fast to my dream that people will continue to read my book and enjoy it. I'll take pleasure in the puppies and being independent. I'll look at the things I do have and appreciate it.

Even when it involves having to watch the Dog Whisperer mow his garden shirtless. Sigh.

Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Joys of Spring and Easter...


Happy (belated) Easter to you all!

I didn't even mention Easter in my blog last week. I think I was so incensed with the Dog Whisperer that I let him get in the way of my love of Easter. Fortunately, the puppies and I spent the weekend with my parents so we didn't have to deal with him any more. I'm quite glad about that. I also spent some time with my dad, estimating the cost of a privacy fence. He did offer to come help and while I'm really hoping he follows through, sometimes, with my dad, you have to wait a really long time until he's ready.

Even so, I know that if I can get help building the fence myself, it's going to cost way less than if I hired someone so maybe that, alone, is worth the wait.

It's always nice to spend a weekend with my parents, especially Easter. Since I had Friday off work, the puppies and I headed to Indiana on Friday morning. We couldn't have asked for lovlier driving weather. It was a warm spring day. I passed so many hosts of golden daffodils swaying in the breeze that Wordsworth would have been proud. When we got home, the puppies got to frolic in my parent's large fenced-in garden and I got to spend time with my mum and dad.

Saturday was not quite so warm though. It was actually very English in its very nature. One minute, it would be sunny with blue skies and the next, the rain clouds had rolled in, the wind cooler and then, suddenly, it's pouring with rain. It was definitely an April Showers sort of day.

And then, today, came Easter and another lovely Spring day. Our drive back home was just as pretty as the drive to my parents. It seems so strange that just a little over a month ago, the roads were frozen and snowy. Actually, when I was mowing my lawn the other night, I actually did stop and marvel at the fact that not so long ago, I was shovelling the driveway, piling up onto the four-foot snowdrifts that marked the sides of the driveway. Now, not too many weeks later, I'm mowing the grass in the exact spot.

It's a strange thing but I think that's one of the reasons I love Spring. As I've said before, one of the things I missed most during my California days was the change of the seasons. While winter is cooler and wetter, there's no dramatic reawakening of the world the way there is here in the Midwest. Here, you see the trees go from resplendent Autumn colours to bare structures, fighting the winter wind. And then, suddenly, little dots of green begin to appear and Spring officially begins to arrive, greening up absolutely everything, brightening the world more each day.

It's so nice to see the little Japanese cherry tree that I planted last Autumn blossoming with white flowers. It's lovely and I managed to keep it alive. It's like a strange sense of completion. I've now been in my house during Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring. Even though it's a few more months before I can say I've been a homeowner for a year, I finally feel like a homeowner. It's my house. Sookie and Rory probably helped like that- helped it feel more like a home. Yet, still, now when I mow my grass, I do so because I want it to look nice, not because it's what I'm supposed to do. I go to Lowe's and Home Depot and I don't think, "ooh, I could now buy stuff because I have a house!", I think, "Cool. I see things I'd like but what do I actually need?"

Of course, aside from repair stuff, I don't really need anything but it's nice to look and see what I'd like to add to the house.

Though I think the first thing definitely has to be that privacy fence.

Happy Monday and Happy Spring!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

I Declare War on the Dog Whisperer!

Today was my Friday at work. We're fortunate enough to get 'Spring Break Friday' (aka: Good Friday) off from work. This is one of the things I like about my company.

It helped that today, it was over eighty degrees here. It was so warm, it felt alien. Even with the days we've had prior, days that are purely Spring- today was definitely the warmest yet.

The bad part about a day like today is that going to work is hard. It's the type of day where you just want to be at home, lazily enjoying the warmth and the sunshine and, in my case, watching the puppies play in the garden.

I did get to do some of that this evening. We had the garden to ourselves with the absence of the Dog Whisperer for a while.

I've had enough of the Dog Whisperer. He's starting to be a little...creepy. My little puppies happily frolic around the garden, amusing one another and exploring the world and then he lets his beasts out. My puppies...continue to frolic around the garden, amusing one another and exploring the world.

His beasts continue to bark.

My puppies continue to ignore them.

Then, to add insult to injury, the Dog Whisperer himself comes out. He comes to the fence. He crouches down...he tries to entice my puppies to go and see him.

My puppies ignore him.

I'm glad about this. I'm trying to train them to be ok with outside stimuli- loud noises and distractions. I don't want them to pay attention to my neighbour.

Unfortunately, I don't think he's going to give up. Two nights ago, for example, I checked to make sure that his ferocious beasts were inside the house before I opened the back door to let the puppies out. I was desperately trying to clean my house and since the puppies are scared of the vacuum, I thought the smart thing to do was wait until they were out of the way.

So I let my puppies out. I whipped around, picking up their toys, getting ready to vacuum. I plugged in my vacuum cleaner and then...I heard yapping. Yes, the Dog Whisperer had let his dogs out.

I was irritated but I realized that all I could hear was his dogs. My puppies were quiet. When I glanced out the window, Rory and Sookie were on the other side of the yard, far away from the yappy dogs.

I started to vacuum. I finished one room and stopped to check on the puppies. They were still minding their own business but now, the Dog Whisperer was crouched at the fence, desperately trying to get their attention.

This is not the first time he's done this. I know the puppies are cute but, clearly, they don't want to know him. To them, he's the neighbour with the annoying dogs and they have sticks they'd rather chew, areas to sniff...they just don't care.

I'm not sure how to take this. I find it slightly creepy that he's trying so hard to get their attention while his own loud and obnoxious dogs continue to bark like there's no tomorrow. I sound like one of those parents when I say this, one of those parents who believes her kids are perfect and it's always the fault of the other kids but, well, honestly...my puppies are being good. It's him who clearly has the problem.

Tonight, I think I've reached the end of my tether. As the warmest day yet, I thought it'd be the perfect opportunity to keep the puppies outside to help them start to realize that it's best to eliminate outside, not in the house. Even though the Dog Whisperer's dogs would continue to bark, I felt like that wasn't our problem and as long as Rory and Sookie ignored them, it was ok.

For the first part of the evening, this was fine. Then, as I was ready to settled down to watch TV for the night, the normal time when the puppies start calming and get ready to sleep, I let them out as I usually do. Then...I heard barking. I waited. The barking continued. This time, it wasn't just the Dog Whisperer's dogs...mine were barking too.

Sighing, already having problems with my DVR and knowing I was going to miss some of my show, I went outside. Lo and behold, it wasn't just the Dog Whisperer's dogs. No, he, his wife, their son and some guests had come out into the yard and were laughing at the puppies. To them, my puppies were cuteness embodied. To my puppies, the laughter and the strange faces combined with the yapping of the annoying dogs was just terror. I tried to coral my puppies...alas, they were overwrought and not sure what to do. They ran.

As they ran, the neighbours chortled and commentated on how funny it was that the puppies were 'so willful'.

No, my puppies were not willful, they were stressed. It was dark out and the neighbours hadn't even put on their porch light. I went out, desperately trying to get the puppies inside so they could calm down while the Dog Whisperer and family continued to commentate on how cute it was. I was too furious to do anything but finally herd the puppies inside.

When I was done, I was angry. I think this might be a telling reason why the Dog Whisperer cannot control his dogs. While I'm trying to be a responsible pet parent, I know I'm slightly indulgent too. However, there's a difference between indulgence and irresponsiblity. If my 11-week-old puppies can play in the yard without yipping at strangers and his significantly older dogs can't, I don't see why I'm the one having to coral my dogs to come inside.

Sorry to vent. It's been a tough evening. Housebreaking is hard enough; when you can't let your dogs out without checking to make sure the coast is clear first, it's way harder. As I've said before, I need a privacy fence. I've even put out an ad on Craiglist to solicit bids. Apparently, even with this bad economy, no one is looking for work that badly.

I suppose I can wait to see if I can get my dad to help me build one. In the meantime, I know I'm going to have to find a way to deal with the Dog Whisperer and his attempts to get the attention of my puppies. Clearly, they don't care so I'm not sure why he keeps trying.

Ah well, at least we're going to my parents' house tomorrow. They'll get a break, at least... In the meantime, I'm about to let them out for the last time tonight. Keep your fingers crossed that the Dog Whisperer has gone to bed.

We can only hope.

Happy Friday and...Happy Easter!

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