Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Unpredictable Days...

Today was a very unpredictable sort of day. It was the type of day where I have the intention to get projects done and nothing can quite be finished. For example, I had to fill out a PDF form for one of our software products. It was actually my bosses' job to fill it out but he's learned I'm efficient at projects like that so he tosses them my way. I don't mind; it's something to do.

The only problem was is that the PDF form was in a format that couldn't be saved once it had been filled out. It could only be saved as a blank form.

Which mean that I had to keep it open on my computer until my boss approved it.

He never approved it. This means, tomorrow, I have to fill the form out all over again. Exciting stuff. I don't mind projects the first time but I tend to get impatient when I have to start over. It's kind of like when you leave your house on a trip and you get that excited feeling that you're going somewhere and you realize you forgot something at home so you have to go all the way back. You feel almost like you're treading water for a time instead of going somewhere.

Aside from that, there were a ton of other little projects I had to do that never quite got done because of something out of my control. Thus, I got very little accomplished but I was busy all day.

I also ended going out for lunch which was also spontaneous. One of favourite coworkers/friends is leaving our company on Thursday so we took her out to lunch as a farewell. We went to Skyline Chili which is a Cincinnati institution. I've lived in the Cincinnati area for almost 2 years and have never tried it. I've tried their competitor's chili- Gold Star- but that was nasty. It tasted like someone dropped a pot of cinnamon in the chili by accident. Skyline, on the other hand, was rather tasty. Cincinnati chili is different to other chilis. It's very smooth. It's ground beans and spices with no big chunks. It's not something I'd want everyday but for something new, it was definitely worth tasting. It actually reminded me of my grandmother's 'mincemeat'- a dish she'd make us as a child. She used tomato puree and curry to season ground beef (or "mince" as we say in England). While I don't think Skyline has any curry in it, the hominess of the dish was familiar.

After lunch, I had to make my usual stop to let the puppies out for a bit. Poor Sookie is having tummy troubles again and I came home to find a very soiled crate and two unhappy puppies. Sookie was feeling very sorry for herself. I had just enough time to clean up the crate, clean up the pups, cuddle Sookie Sue and go back to work. I spent the afternoon stressing about whether she's ok. I'm sure she just ate something. She seems to have a very sensitive tummy whereas Rory, eater of everything, is a bit like a goat. She'll try everything once with no ill effects whatsoever.

The afternoon also turned out to be a washout at work. I continued to make no progress on several projects, had a bit of a useless meeting and then spent the afternoon being distracted by my coworker who didn't feel like working. Sometimes that's nice. Sometimes it's a pain. She can be very chatty.

By the time I got home, I was feeling a bit muddled as one is wont to do after a day of not getting much done. Fortunately, Sookie seemed to be better. She's still a little clingy but she's no longer moping around. That's always good. I didn't take her for her usual walk though; it was hot outside and it seemed like a bad idea. By the end of the evening, she's back to chasing Odie, The Interloper around the living room so she must be feeling better.

That was pretty much it for the unpredictable nature of my day but, I suppose, when you're a creature of habit like I am, unpredictability tends to show up in unexpected places and in small doses. I didn't really do anything unpredictable this evening unless you count giving the rather stinky puppies a bath but I'd planned that so it didn't really count. I did, however, bath Odie, The Interloper and I hadn't planned on that so...maybe that counts?

Tomorrow, I'm hoping for less tummy troubles with the puppies, and more accomplishment at work. So far, my day, at least in my head, is going to be pretty predictable.

But that's what I said about today.

Ah well, as Scarlett O'Hara says, " After all, tomorrow is another day."

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Irresistable Lure of Self-Knowledge

So I don't think it's anything new to mention that I don't find my job...terribly fulfilling. I try hard to make it so but, for the most part, I find myself going in, getting my work done but lacking that little burst of excitement I get when I'm enjoying doing something.

I do my work and I think I do it pretty well. I'm just a little bored. So, I find ways to make it more interesting. I mentioned some of these methods last week. I also have been on a quest to figure out what job I should have.

There are all kinds of methods for figuring this out. Just google "free career personality test". I've taken a few of them. They don’t take very long. They're a bit of a waste of time when you've been working for a while. For example, mine tells me I have a very strong creative drive and that I should be either an artist or writer.

I don't find this helpful. I already knew that. I think what I'm secretly looking for is a test that not only tells me that I should be a writer but also has a secret password that makes it suddenly possible for me to make a living as a writer. Really, they're a bit of a waste of time when I know, by now, what my skills are and how I can best apply them. The problem is we're in a sucky economy so knowing what you want to do or what you'd rather be doing isn't helpful when there simply aren't that many jobs out there.

As you can imagine, I got bored with these personality tests. So I decided to take another more personality…personality test. It turns out that I'm an INFJ. This means I'm apparently Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling and Judging.

Actually, I can't argue with that. I probably didn't need a test to tell me that but it's always nice to learn about yourself, isn't it? It's a human thing. At heart, I think we all want to know more about ourselves and who we are. It's the reason that personality tests exist in the first place.

I like what they say about us INFJ personality types:

"INFJs have a rich, vivid inner life, which they may be reluctant to share with those around them"

I definitely cannot argue with that. As you've probably figured out from my thought processes during meetings, I have a very vivid inner life. I tell you readers more about it than I do the people around me. This is mostly through fear that people will think I'm seriously insane as opposed to the cultivated air of British eccentricity I'm going for.

They also say:

"INFJs have vivid imaginations exercised both as memory and intuition, and this can amount to genius, resulting at times in an INFJ being seen as mystical. This unfettered imagination often will enable this person to compose complex and often aesthetic works of art such as music, mathematical systems, poems, plays, and novels"

I rather like that my imagination can amount to genius. I'm not sure how you find out if you're a genius but it's rather nice that I'm staying true to my personality type with the creation of novels and plays and things.

All in all, if you're bored or you want to know more about yourself, I highly recommend taking any of the free Meyers-Briggs type personality tests that you can find online. Just google it. Even if you think you know yourself, there's something nice about having what or who you are be affirmed by a clinical test.

Or, you know, maybe not if it tells you that you're a raving lunatic or something.

I don't think I'm a raving lunatic, fortunately. At least, none of the personality tests have told me so. Then again, I haven't found one that is called, "Are you a raving lunatic? Take this test and find out!" I'm sure there's one out there. If not, maybe I should create one. This would, however, lead to a philosophical dilemma. Are the factors that I feel contribute to a case of raving lunacy the same as everyone elses? What if what I consider to be lunacy isn't really…lunacy. I mean, in my opinion, anyone who thought Breaking Dawn, the final Twilight novel was actually good is a bit of a raving lunatic.

(side note, speaking of Breaking Dawn, here is a video that sums up exactly how I feel about it. It's short. It's funny. Go ahead, watch it!)

Seriously, though…I think that personality tests are a lot of fun although many of them are relative. Also, so many of them are so obvious that if you want a certain outcome, you can guide your answers that way. The thing I like about the Meyers-Briggs types of tests is they're really long. After a while, you realize you're being asked the same questions over and over but you get so braindead in answering them, you sometimes don't answer them the same way. This is actually good, I think. It helps you be more honest.

Anyway, for the record, I had no idea this is what I was going to blog about today. I had intended to sit down and write about the miracle of garlic. I was looking at a bulb today at lunch when I went home and realizing how amazing it is we have things like garlic. First off, who was the brave soul to think "Hey, let's try eating that?" How did garlic get to be garlic? I mean, it's such a nifty little plant thing. It's tasty, nutritious and..it's useful. It's just a tiny little miracle in a little white bulb.

I bet you're glad I didn't spend the whole blog just rambling about garlic, aren't you? I probably could. Maybe I'll save that until tomorrow. Unless I find a personality test that's called, "How Do You Feel About Garlic?"

Just kidding.

Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Spontaneous Weekends...

This has been a nice weekend. It was one of those weekends where I didn't have anything planned but I managed to fill my time with a mix of relaxation and productivity.

I spent Friday night out with a friend from work. We had a nice time talking and just talking about things other than work. Normally when I go out with coworkers for a social occasion, we end up discussing the office and everything to do with the office. This time, we didn't let ourselves and it was nice to talk to my coworker as a friend rather than just as a coworker. That's always a nice surprise. Of course, when I got home, even though it wasn't late, I had two rather unhappy puppies and a cranky old chihuahua to deal with.

My puppies are a little spoiled. When I go out in the evenings after work, I usually come home, let them run around after being in their crate all afternoon and then I give them a rather nice chew treat to chomp on while I'm gone. Since I don't want to put them back in their crate, I trust them in the living room without being properly confined. They do well with it. At the moment, since The Odious One is staying, he has the family room to roam in and I gate it off so he's not chomped on by the pups.

You'd think this wouldn't be bad of an arrangement. After all, I was only gone two hours. Nevertheless, the puppies greet me as though I've been gone for months. Then they proceed to give me the cold shoulder until I've fussed over them enough that they forgive me for leaving them.

It's actually quite entertaining to see their initial reaction as excitement to see me, to realize that I am coming home and that they haven't been abandoned. Then after their 'kisses' and puppy hugs have stopped being so enthusiastic, they subcutaneously give me a hurt look as if to say, "How COULD you leave us like that," and they they run off outside and won't come near me until I've petted them to their satisfaction.

With the Odious One, he just seems pleased to have someone around. He tends to be pleased when I come home but he's not terribly enthusiastic, that one. On the plus side, he seems to be doing well. I have to confess, he's a very old chihuahua, The Odious One. When my parents left him with me, I had a disclaimer that if he, you know, keeled over or anything while they were gone, it was NOT my fault, I did not kill him.

I think Odie has some life in him yet. He gets around pretty well considering he only seems to have use of three legs. He's a bit lopsided. He also walks around panting at me all the time. Still, he seems quite able to take care of himself. He acts helpless when the puppies try to greet him with their usual enthusiasm but if I'm handing out treats, he's right there, shoulder to shoulder with them as if he's always been their very best friend.

The rest of the weekend was rather nice although I spontaneously decided to go see that new movie, "The Last Exorcism." I decided that since I'm writing a book about demons, even if it is a comedy, it never hurts to see what's going on in the fictional world of Hollywood demons. After all, I did get the idea for The Reluctant Demon from watching that "Paranormal Activity" film.

Well, let me tell you, "The Last Exorcism," was rather daft. It couldn't decide if it wanted to be a 'documentary,' like the "Blair Witch Project" or it wanted to be a horror movie like, say, "The Exorcist." As a result, we got a documentary/movie. Except it didn't make much sense. Also, it was not scary which was a disappointment. In the end, I was left wondering exactly what happened which I think was the point but it wasn't even slightly thought-provoking. Instead, I was left wondering why I paid $7 to see such a silly film. I think I'll stick with "The Exorcist," thank you.

After the movie, I did my usual Saturday errands (grocery shopping and the like) and then I came home to spend the rest of the day with the dogs.

On Sunday, I got up after having let the puppies play outside while I attempted to get a little extra sleep. I discovered that now the tool shed is off limits as far as burrowing goes, they've decided to burrow under the large propane tank I have in the back yard. This meant an impromptu trip to Lowes for some paving stones. I'm now familiar with the paving stones at Lowes. They make an excellent barricade against digging.

Of course, once I'd blocked up the burrow that the puppies have made, they were, naturally, not happy with me. I ignored them. They forgave me. It's pretty simple psychology, really.

All in all, we had a pretty nice weekend. There's just something nice about weekends where you don't plan on doing anything but you end up doing something anyway. Next weekend is a three day one. The puppies and I are escorting "Uncle Odie" home and we'll stay at my parents for the weekend. I'm planning on having a mini writing retreat so I can do some work on my novel. It should be nice. Hopefully it won't rain.

And, if it does, we'll deal with that as it comes.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Day of Weird Observations and Reflections...

Today was another day of observation and thinking at work. I'm not sure I'm observing the most useful things to my actual job or even thinking about the right things but they definitely kept my brain alert.

Today, I noticed that the hookah was still in the kitchen. I'm still not sure why. Someone finally moved it to a cupboard. Nobody has really explained why we now have a hookah in the cupboard but everyone's got something weird in a cupboard, I suppose.

It also occurred to me while I was in the Most Optimistic Bathroom in the World that it's actually quite weird to have the bathroom be optimistic, isn't it? I suppose it's a nice, private sort of place but it's not always that cheerful, is it? First thing in the morning it's ok but as the day goes by, it's not terribly aromatic or clean.

Still, our bathroom continues to tell us to have "Faith, Hope and Love," and to "Live." Also, "Live for Today because your life is NOW!". Sometimes, I'd like to replace "Now" with "Tomorrow," just to see what people would say but then that wouldn't be very optimistic, would it?

The bathroom manages to fascinate me though. Although, I'd like to state that I don't spend all day hanging around in the bathroom. That would make me Creepy Stalker Monkeypants and while a little twisted (in, hopefully, a good way), I don't strive for creepy.

I also had a rather long meeting this afternoon. It was one of those departmental ones where we have to go around the room and tell everyone what we've been working on. I can't speak for anyone else in my department but it's all a bit boring. I mean, it's ok if you find that sort of thing interesting but because we all, you know, work together, we tend to know what each other is working on if it's something we need to know about. I suppose it's a good that we get to keep track of one another but we all work in cubicles that are either next to/behind or in front of one another. It's not a big mystery.

However, we meet bi-weekly anyway. I try to listen but often find myself either doing strange doodles (although no more Strawberries of DOOOOM! lately). Often, I think about food. Today, I managed to come up with nine levels of Hell for my character from The Reluctant Demon. That was good. It's nice to have a productive meeting.

I also observed that a coworker was wearing a t-shirt that had a high school team called "The Tomahawks". I found that fascinating. It's an interesting name for a team. I suppose it's more politically correct than the "Indians". But…isn't the tomahawk a weapon? Isn't it the native American version of something like our shotgun? You don't see teams called the "Bergville Shotguns," or the Plainview "Axes" or anything, do you? The Tomahawks is just a weird name.

I also observed that someone's watch was making a shiny spot on the ceiling. I had a catlike urge to swat at it which is an odd thing to think considering I'm not a cat person. I like kittens but I found cats not to my taste. They're ok if they're someone else's cat but I find them to be hairball making creatures of extreme selfishness.

This, of course, led me to think about my puppies. Lately, Rory has been more finicky with her treats. She used to eat everything. Now, she's turning her nose up at the Boots and Barkley Target brand treats in favour of the Cesar dog treats.

I hate the Cesar dog. I can't explain why. It's a big headed West Highland Terrier. My dislike for the Cesar dog is a little odd since I have nothing against other West Highland Terriers. I find them quite cute. I just have this rather unpleasant urge to punch the Cesar dog in the head.

This sounds rather violent, I know. I'm not, by nature, a very violent creature. Most of my violence is imaginary and is fictional. I would never really punch a dog. For one thing, I imagine it's quite hard to actually punch a dog. Secondly, I like dogs and wouldn't ever want to hurt one. There's just something about that Cesar dog.

Then I began to ponder the evening walk I take with the puppies. I've figured out if we go out by about 5:15 p.m., we can avoid Larry the Potential Serial Killer who appears to not get home from work until right before 6 p.m.

At some points during the meeting, I did listen to what people were saying but most of the time it sounded like "blah blah boring product that isn't as interesting as the people who work on it think it is blah" or "blah blah database characters, blah"

I also had to fight off a case of case of Song-Stuck-In-My-Head. In this case, it was Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance". It made me want to sing out loud. It's not the type of song you want to sing out loud in a department meeting. Or, actually, it is but you know if you do, you'll be in some hot water. Or…people might be amused. Either way, I fought the urge.

I'm finding it disturbing that my musical tastes have suddenly and inexplicably evolved towards pop. I still like Green Day just not as much. I've become much more open to other music. I suppose that's not bad per se but it's just..different.

By the time the meeting was done, I was quite hungry and glad for the meeting to be done. My feet were cold and I wanted to get back to my desk because I was starting to get drowsy. This usually manifests as an extreme case of the yawns which becomes contagious. I know when I've got at least the people on either side of me yawning that I probably should try to cut back.

All in all, it was a very productive day as far as thinking goes…maybe not so much as work goes. But, at the moment things are pretty quiet in the office and I have to keep things interesting, somehow.

Especially when I have meetings.

Happy Friday and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Interlopers in the Office!

This has definitely been a week of Interlopers. We have had three Interlopers from our 'west coast' office in the buildin. Our 'west coast' office is actually the company with whom we merged. They've been here for the past two day and are leaving tonight.

I actually haven't had to deal with them much more than a perfunctory hello on the day they arrived. They've been meeting with the software team who develops the product that I, personally, consider to be our most useless, even if it is the most developed. I shouldn't really say that since it's quite popular but it's the sort of product that does what it's supposed to do. It could always do more but, to me, there comes a point when I think it's time to back off and put some of the resources into our other two products. I mean, the team who works on it spends hours in meetings to talk about improvements and tweaks. Last week, I sarcastically asked if they were going to make it sing or something because it just seems a little…excessive.

Still, I guess they're all dedicated. That's…good. I'd like to say I'm dedicated but, well, Captain Monkeypants doesn't lie. She's not exactly dedicated as much as dependent upon her paycheck. I do my job and I think I do it well but nothing about my company makes me feel like I want to work harder than I do. Some days, I work harder than others. Most of the time, I get my work done but I don't go above and beyond. It's not that I don't like to go above and beyond. I do when I feel like it's worth it. With this job, if I do any work, it basically gets muddled with that of my coworker who, somehow, always ends up with the credit. There's no room for upward climbing in my current position. I'm stuck. It would be ok if I got any fulfillment out of what I do all day but most of the time, I'm looking for things to do.

On the plus side, I do find creative ways to engage my mind while I'm working. I often plan meals, as I've mentioned before. Sometimes, I make up stories in my head. Sometimes, I just observe. Which leads me back to The Interlopers. There are two and a half of them. The 'half' is actually going to be our president when our current one leaves in December so, for the time being, he's only half an Interloper. I'll take away the half when he becomes our president. Either that or I'll give him full Interloper status, depending on how he behaves.

The Interlopers are interesting. They flew in on Monday night and are leaving this evening, as I mentioned. For the two days, one of them brought his guitar in an airline-proof carrying case.

He left the guitar sitting in one of the spare cubicles in our area. It's been pretty much sitting there for two days. I have to walk by it every time I go to the bathroom or I go to the kitchen to get coffee or when I go back to the kitchen to wash my coffee mug or when I go to the kitchen to get some ice for my water. Yes, I go to the kitchen a lot. It's one of my methods for keeping my mind engaged.

Anyways, this guitar has been disturbing me. For one thing, I'm intrigued as to why it's in our office. I keep wondering if the Interloper to whom it belongs is going to suddenly start serenading us, troubadour style. So far, he hasn't. I admit, I'm quite disappointed.

So, that leads me to wonder how attached he must be to that guitar since he's here for just over two days and he brought it with him. This lead me to wonder if he was one of those weirdos who slept with his guitar next to him on his pillow because he liked to know where it was at all times.

That gave me a funny mental picture of a guitar tucked up in bed. I laughed. I couldn't share it with anyone because sometimes, my mental field trips are not as entertaining for my coworkers as they are for me.

Yet, when I came in this morning, the first one in the office, that guitar was still here. So he couldn't be that weird that he slept with his guitar. So, now I'm back to wondering why he brought it with him. I started to wonder if he was like Desperado, carrying a gun in there to protect himself. Then I realized that he'd never have been allowed a Desperado guitar case on a plane.

But he did bring it on a plane. Me, personally, when I'm going on a trip, I try to minimize luggage. For one thing, it's a pain in the bottom. Secondly, these days, you have to be so careful how much luggage you take otherwise you're stuck with exorbitant fees for extra luggage.
He must really like that guitar.

My coworker- one that I like- said he was playing it yesterday. He was sitting outside strumming, not troubadouring. I stand by my opinion that it's quite a dedication to the art of guitar playing if you bring your instrument 2,000 miles each way for two days of travel.
In addition to the Mystery of the Guitar, the Interlopers also have a hookah.

Yes, you read that right….a hookah. They left it in our kitchen while they worked. I'm sure they have a jolly good reason for having a hookah but, well, it just seems like a bit of an odd thing to leave in the kitchen of a place you're interloping, don't you think?

Then again, after doing a minor bit of research, it seems that there are some hookah bars here in Cincinnati. Perhaps it's because I've never been a smoker but I just don't see the appeal of them. I always thought they were for more, uh, illegal substances than tobacco but according to Wikipedia which, as we all know, is always correct, they're used for tobacco. In some cities where smoking is illegal in public places, a tobacco substitute is used.

Regardless of what is smoked or where it is smoked, it's just odd that there's a hookah in our kitchen.

Also, in our kitchen, as a result of The Interlopers, is a whole lot of leftover pizza. It's not even cheap pizza from Papa Johns or even Costco, it's from a local New York style place that charges a lot more per pizza than a chain. It's good pizza but I personally don't think it's as good as some of my coworkers do.

Regardless, there's a lot left because it was ordered for the Interlopers as well as the people with whom they were meeting. There were nine of them, altogether.

They ordered four large pizzas and an enormous amount of breadsticks.

That's a lot of pizza. Their large pizzas are large, if you know what I mean. That's almost half a pizza per person. That's a lot of pizza.

There were quite a few leftovers but not as many as I would have expected. They ate two and a half pizzas and a lot of breadsticks.

Those Interlopers are keeping my mind engaged. In summation, I now have this mental image of troubadours who smoke the hookah and eat an enormous amount of pizza.

Then again, depending on what was in the hookah, the pizza might just go with the territory. The guitar too.

I have to admit, I can't wait to see if they come back. They're keeping me entertained, at least. They just don't know it. It's probably best that they keep it that way.

But I'm still curious about that guitar…

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Neighbourhood Dangers!

It has come to my attention that walking in my neighbourhood with puppies is actually relatively dangerous.

The most usual common danger is usually minor. It's just more inconvenient than anything else. It's usually just Larry-the-Potential-Serial-Killer laying in wait for the girls and I as we round out our walk by trying to dash past his house with some trepidation. He lives on a corner, you see. I've actually tried to avoid his corner by taking a different route home but my little puppies can be rather stubborn. They don't like to go in a different direction to what we're used to. Either that or the smell of squirrel isn't strong enough in the new way for them to feel like going that direction.

So, usually, I resort to walking by Larry-the-Potential-Serial-Killer's house at a bit more of a rapid pace than usual in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, we won't be spotted.

Nine times out of ten, we're spotted. It looks like Larry isn't home. His garage door is closed. His car is not in the drive. His back door is closed. I heave a sigh of relief and start to tell the girls that 'yay! we made it!' in a quiet whisper and..then…

Larry-the-Potential-Serial-Killer appears. Out of nowhere.

Well, actually it's from his back yard but that doesn't sound so dramatic. Either way, unless we want to look horribly rude which, as an Englishwoman, is not something I like to do, I usually have to at least say a polite hello.

Unfortunately, it's never just a polite hello. I try to keep walking and he's there in his usual up-too-close-and-personal manner, wanting to either talk about the Dog Whisperer's beasts or ask me about a plant or something. Silly me made the mistake of joining in a discussion with him about his yard which revealed I had Gardening Knowledge. I usually get my Gardening Knowledge from my mother. But I do have some.

Larry, it seems, does not have Gardening Knowledge. Or, if he does, he pretends he doesn't just so he has an excuse to talk. Last time, it was his shrub rose-bush. He didn't know it was rose. Or he pretended not to, anyway. Personally, the presence of roses and thorns should have tipped him off but what do I know? Maybe in Larry's world, roses aren't the same as the roses I know. I didn’t ask. It would have taken too long to get an answer. Larry is rather detailed, you see.

So, normally, we try to skip talking to Larry since it usually results in the puppies getting bored and restless. Actually, it results in all of us getting bored and restless but, not being a cute puppy, I can't exactly lie down on the ground and pretend to sleep like they do.

Yet, Larry isn't the only danger in the neighbourhood. Now it seems we have to look out for mad male dachshunds.

Last night, you see, we decided to leave The Odious One in peace for a while and go for a walk. Well, I should say, I decided to give him some peace. Rory and Sookie are attempting to be good but they still can't resist giving Odie an enthusiastic greeting every time he moves. Giving that Odie won't sit still and enjoys either following me everywhere or trying to find an escape route, he's making himself a moving target.

So, I decided he'd be fine if I left him home alone and took the girls for a walk.

Well, he was fine. The girls, however…well they had a scare.

It began after I decided to extend our normal walk to the longer version which is three blocks instead of one. The girls like walking now, ever in search of bunnies and squirrels, so they don’t mind the extra distance.

We met a new neighbour last night. He was sitting on his front lawn, just relaxing. He was very nice and very excited to see my pups. It turns out, he, too, has black-and-tan, sibling dachshunds, just like me. He wanted his dog to meet my girls so he brought out Odin, the male sibling. Odin has quite a story. He escaped not too long ago and went missing. The owner put up fliers all over the area and advertised in the newspaper. Odin was missing for three weeks and then, one day, his owners got a call that his dog had been picked up by a repairman in a van and rescued. Apparently, Odin had two rows of puncture wounds in his side and a deep gash on his throat. The repairman found out that Odin was missing and he was able to reunite owner and dog.

Odin's owner took him to the vet for the puncture wounds and the vet told him that he'd actually been picked up by a bird of prey. The punctures were talon marks and the gash was from the beak. Obviously, Odin had been too long and bulky to go far but the attempt had been made.

I was fascinated. Who doesn't like a good "Dog gets Lost and Makes it Back Home" story? It's even better when a ferocious and ambitious villain such as a hawk is involved.

The trouble is that Odin didn't appear to be a very nice dog. Rather than greet my girls nicely, he immediately tried to bite them. His owner scooped him up but Odin did NOT want to be held. He wanted to snarl. His owner finally put him in the house. I was glad. I was happy that Odin had found his way home but rather glad Odin was not my dog.

We went on our way. All of a sudden, after we were halfway down the street, I hear the shout of "Odin, No!"

Odin was running towards us, having escaped again. At first, he seemed to be friendly, as if curious about my pups. Then he started to growl and before I knew it, he was lunging for Rory. His owner, not far behind, was yelling. I stupidly reacted from instinct and grabbed his collar. I know that's a no-no for breaking up a dog fight but, fortunately, I didn't get bitten. I did, however, managed to hold off Odin from Rory and Sookie who were now whimpering and terrified.

His owner caught up and was clearly mortified and upset. He was extremely apologetic. He finally took Odin and left us in peace. I managed to pick up each puppy and cuddle them which seemed to settle them down. I think, in the end, I was more alarmed than they were.

We managed to finish our walk and even avoid Larry which was definitely welcome after such a traumatic interlude. Rory and Sookie seemed recovered by the time we got home. I, however, find that I'm more wary of male dachshunds than ever. It doesn't help that Possibly-Joe the plumber's girlfriend also has an older male dachshund and he sometimes brings him to our shared fence to meet the girls. This dog inevitably snarls at my pups and snaps at them. Combined with the rather scary violence of Sausage, I think I'll definitely stick with female dogs. My puppies are very sweet and have great temperaments which is why I don't understand why the two other dachshunds they've met have been so rude to them.

All in all, I think for now, we'll be a little more careful around the neighbourhood, just in case Odin the Mad Male Dachshund gets out again. Perhaps I'll take my little squirt bottle with me next time, just in case.

Hmm….I wonder if that would work on Larry.

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Odious Mondays...

Today has not been a bad Monday. It's still very much been a Monday but it managed to go quite quickly and productively which, compared to some Mondays, is a lovely thing indeed.

Also, today was just an ordinary Monday for me whereas, around these Midwestern parts, today was the common back-to-school day for both local universities and school systems. As I drove in to work this morning, I passed by the group of neighbourhood kids waiting for the school bus. They were all dressed in what looked like new clothes, standing unhappily together but not really interacting. As the school year goes on, they'll become more familiar with each other and the dynamic will change but this is a new year and thus, a new thing for some of them.

For me, the newest thing in my life currently is the Interloper. He's managing just fine. For a somewhat disabled dog, he certainly can move when the puppies are in pursuit. I've taken to gently squirting the pups with water from my pink spray bottle when they try to use Odie as a chew toy. It's working…slowly. More than anything, they're simply fascinated by him. They watch to see what he's going to do. When he does ordinary things like eat and poop, they just..watch. Poor Odie seems to have no dignity. The minute the poor dog squats to do his business, Rory is there, about a foot away, watching with her head cocked. When he eats, both puppies sit side-by-side, watching. I've also discovered they're rather possessive of me. They make a point of making sure that they are sitting on my lap and the space is thus occupied. Odie doesn't mind though; he's not much of a lap dog anyway.

I like to call Odie the Odious One. I think it suits him. When I'm feeling Greek, I call him Odysseus. Don't ask me why I sometimes feel Greek. Sometimes, I feel Italian and I call him Odio but that doesn't sound as fun. No matter what I call him, he seems to know I'm calling him.

Though I have to say, I might tease and poke fun at him but he's not having such a bad stay with us so far. He's in his crate, just as the girls are in their crate. The Odious One is not used to this. He's used to being allowed to be free. Usually this translates as sitting in his 'den'- the bottom shelf of my parent's bookcase- for about 8 hours. His den here is a fairly good sized crate with a bed, food, water and snacks. And he gets to run free with the girls. He gets treats like they do and I'm making a conscious effort to make him feel welcome.

He's always going to be Odious the Interloper though.

Aside from the Odious One, this Monday has been fairly run of the mill. The most exciting thing was trying a new pizza place for lunch with some coworkers. It was pretty nice. My life is very exciting, I know. It's very, uh, food centric.

In some ways, I guess it's good that this Monday is pretty routine. It's good that the most exciting thing is a visiting dog and a new pizza place. Things could be far worse. I could be having a bad day at work. The most I really have to complain about is that I'm feeling a little stuck in a rut.

The problem is that I feel a bit trapped in my job. This happens fairly routinely as I've mentioned before in my job. In a non-bad economy, I job hunt. The problem is at the moment, I'm just not sure what I'd even hunt for. So many of my jobs have been supplements to help fulfill my dreams of being a writer. Now I suppose I can call myself a writer but…well, it's not what I really imagined. I want…more.

It's greedy. After all, I'm lucky enough to be able to write in the first place. It's hard for a lot of people to write novels. For me, that's the easy part. The hard part is accepting that reaching a dream sometimes takes a bit of reworking. I used to dream of getting a book published. Well, I took that bull by the horns and dealt with it. I got my book published. My current dream is for the right person to read it and see that I have potential.

That's a lot to ask. It's the type of thing that doesn't really happen in real life and, if it does, it doesn't happen to 'Middlings' like me. I can keep dreaming. There are a thousands of inspiring quotes about dreams out there. There are millions of success stories. There are posters proclaiming that dreams are vital.

So, I just need to believe it. After all, there's not harm in having a dream, is there? No one says it happens all at once. If I take a step back, it's been a succession of achieving a dream already. I used to dream of finding out what I do best. I think that is writing. I dreamed of doing something with it. I wrote nine novels. I dreamed of getting one published. So I did it. I dreamed of people liking my work. I've got fan emails to prove that people are enjoying it.

So, why am I so unsatisfied? Why, as humans, is it so hard to accept what we have and not at what we don't have? Is it just me who can't feel satisfied? Is it because the picture in our heads never actually becomes the reality of our lives?

I don't know. I just know that I need to figure out where to go next and how my dreams fit in with that.

In the meantime, I'll keep plodding along. At the very least, having The Odious One as a houseguest is keeping things from feeling completely routine which on a standard Monday is actually quite a good thing indeed. And, if all else fails, he'll be good writing fodder.

I just have to keep the dream alive.

Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Odie the Interloper!

It's Monday again tomorrow. I'd complain about the weekend flying by but it wouldn't be anything I haven't blogged already. Time just simply moves faster on the weekends, that's all.

I did have a nice weekend, even if it turned out to be a little different from what I had in mine. I headed to my parents this weekend. It was the weekend for a local Herb Festival. Mum and I went last year and had a lovely time. This year we went and...it rained. It was ok when we got there, mostly just drizzle. Sadly, probably due to the rain, there wasn't as many vendors as usual. We still had fun walking.

And then it really began to rain. We tried not to mind and we continued trying to browse the stalls but, well, there comes a certain point when you're literally dripping and you can't help but be a littler miserable. We ended up giving up in search of lunch and some hot coffee with the hope that the rain would subside. It actually did end up stopping so, frizzy-haired and rumpled, we headed back to the festival. It was fun just not as fun as last year. Still, getting to spend the day with my mother while my dad puppy-sits is a lovely treat.

As for the rest of the weekend, much of it was spent in preparation for Sookie, Rory and my new house 'guest'. My parents are off to England on Tuesday so I'm dog-sitting for their elderly chihuahua, Odie.

Odie is over fourteen years old. He's very...old. He's had a couple of strokes and can't really move well. He's half-death and has no teeth. He's quite mean and horribly bad tempered.

But he's a big part of the family. He's also surprisingly able for such an elderly beast. Sometimes I joke that He's the Dog that Will Not Die but I don't wish that on him. Odie is part of our dog history. We found him at a flea market in Daytona Beach in my early days of high school. If he were a man, he would be one of those very neat and orderly men that liked fine foods, fine wine, got manicures and listen to show tunes. Odie loves show tunes. When I lived at home, I would caterwaul songs like, "The Sun Will Come out Tomorrow," and "My Favourite Things," and Odie would stare up, blissfully as if truly grateful that someone got him. He's horribly ashamed of his background. My dad used to tease him and call him "Flea Market Dog," and, as if he understood, Odie would growl and 'shout'.

In my less politically correct moments, I would shout names of Taco Bell items at Odie. This was during the days of the Taco Bell Chihuahua. Odie would get rather upset with me, again as if he understood.

Odie is a force to be reckoned with, even now. We no longer tease him because he's an old man and deserves respect. Yet he still manages to hold his ground with the young pups. He's the only one of my parents' three dogs that the puppies cower from and won't bully a little. It's interesting.

Now Odie is here to stay for two weeks. So far, he's done very little but be nosy and look around the house. He's also had his dinner because Odie is a creature that Needs to Be Fed. If you don't feed Odie on schedule, he has this rather infuriating woofing thing he does and he just goes on and on and on and on and on until you cave and feed him. Sometimes, this is at four o'clock in the afternoon. He really is an old man.

Still, he's here to make life interesting. It means the puppies routine is going to be a bit different for a while. It's hard because we have a Circle of Trust in our house and we aren't used to Interlopers. Odie is an Interloper. I'm hoping the puppies adjust. Actually, I'm hoping I adjust. So far, things haven't been too bad. I just have to keep an eye on the old dog just because he's quite sneaky. Last year when my parents went to England, my sister Odie-sat for them. Odie managed to find his way out of her fenced in yard and even with his hobbled legs, he managed to sprint off down the street and my sister had to run to catch him. He's known as "an escape artist". For an old man, when he wants to, he can certainly move.

For now, however, he's curled up by my feet, safe from the curious sniffs of Rory and Sookie. I think it's going to make life interesting for two weeks. I'll keep you posted.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Back to School Time of Year

It's Friday tomorrow. With that comes much rejoicing from not only me but anyone else who has the fortune to work a schedule that has the traditional reward of weekends.

I'm sure the kids who have started back at school are rejoicing too. It's that time of year. I go in Target on the way home from work and there are always harried mothers carrying their well-worn lists of school supplies. Around the specially stocked area that contains just school supplies, there's always one parent trying to reason with a kid who thinks a $20 Trapper Keeper is a necessity while the parent picks up the cheaper, regular notebook.

From my observer's point of view, it's become a tradition to watch the normal back-to-school preparation from a purely unbiased point of view.

I'm just glad it's not me. I remember the last days of summer. We'd get to buy some items for our wardrobe and for me, Miss. Lack-of-Self-Confidence Monkeypants, it would become an agonizing struggle to try to find something I liked that looked nice on me but wouldn't stand out to those who would pick on me.

Well, this is after we moved to the U.S. of course. In England, it was different. We wore uniforms. That made it easier. The hardest part was getting school shoes.

But here in the U.S., there wasn’t much guidance. My first day of school in the U.S. was probably one of my biggest fashion disasters. I wore a very bright yellow blazer over the top of a very bright yellow Garfield shirt. I wore jeans that nowadays would be extremely unfashionable. And I wore tennis shoes that made my feet feel like Bigfoots.

Ironically, I did not even like Garfield that much. I would have preferred a Mickey Mouse t-shirt. When you grow up in England and almost everything you know about America is what you see on TV, you tend to think that everyone wears Mickey Mouse t-shirts.

Also, yellow still looks rather horrible on me, especially bright yellow. I was in an awful, gawky stage of my development. In short, I probably looked like Big Bird. The only redeeming quality was that people thought I was interesting because I was from England. I think maybe they were willing to look past my fashion disasters.

Besides, back then, a lot of kids had Spuds McKenzie shirts on. I had no idea who Spuds McKenzie was. I'm still not entirely sure. There were also a lot of Hobie shirts. One boy, a very large boy, had a Hobie shirt that said, "Fat Pig," or something like that. I called him Fat Pig forever onwards. Hey, he asked for it. He was mean. He was also large.

The point of this story is that it was never easy to go back to school after summer. I'm sure it still isn't. Once you get back into a routine, once you establish your circle of friends, your activities and your schedule, things get easier.

Yet it's still hard this time of year. The butterflies were always fluttering by now for me as I'm sure they're fluttering for many a returnee. I'd hope, just as I'm sure that they do, that this would be a good year. For me, I wanted to not necessarily be popular but to not be unpopular. I wanted boys to like me. I wanted teachers to like me.

Sometimes, they did. Most often, I fell in the middle of the pack. Yet being in the middle was better than being on the bottom, I suppose.

Yet, there were things I liked about school. I enjoyed learning when the subject interested me. I enjoyed after school activities. I enjoyed the small pleasures such as substitute teachers that let you watch a movie instead of working, of having a study hall with no homework so I could read my book instead. I enjoyed getting an A on a paper and feeling that warm glow of satisfaction. I enjoyed winter mornings, laying in bed, watching the snow fall heavily and knowing that it was definitely going to be a snow day.

In some ways, as nice as it is to be a grown-up, there are some times when I miss the simplicity of the 'back to school' days where there was always a routine. I miss buying pencils and pens, new notebooks and erasers. I still do that sometimes, particularly when everything is on clearance but its' not the same. I don’t have a locker to store them in and nowadays, it's really easier to type than write.

Of course, if I went back to visit my school-aged self, I'd probably poke the grown-up version in the eyeball with one of my newly sharpened pencils just for suggesting that being in school wasn't so bad. It's always greener on the other side of the fence, I suppose.

Times have changed. I don't think kids really even use pencils any more, do they? For us, pencils were a staple. Every room had a sharpener and you used to sometimes have to line up to use it. I found one of those sharpeners under my sink the other day while I was cleaning. It must have belonged to the lady who sold me my house. I'm keeping it. I love pencils and sharpening them is another small pleasure in life. It's a simple, quick way to achieve the result you want. It sounds mental, I suppose. I get the same satisfaction in sharpening a pencil as I do when I take a letter to the post office. It's something that I've done. Something I've accomplished. It might be small but it's enough to give me a feeling on contentment.

Still, when I really think about it, I wouldn't really want to go back in time to where I had to go back to school. It might seem easier back then but it always seems like than in hind sight. Nowadays, I've traded playground politics and social circles for office politics and…social circles.

So maybe things aren't really that different. I have a desk on which to work, much as in school. I have coworkers who I consider friends. Other coworkers aren't friends and run in a different circle. I work all day and then I get to go home. I get a lunch hour. We get two 15 minute breaks we can use for 'recess'.

I even have a newly sharpened bouquet of pencils on my desk.

We're even having a field trip in September to play paintball.

Well, I suppose at least I won't need a note for my mother for that. Things have changed….a little.

Happy Friday and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

In the Doghouse...

Today was a better day. I won't say it was a running down the hills, flinging my arms out and caterwauling a happy-joy-joy song but it wasn't bad. It's the last 'nice' day before the humidity builds back up so I made sure to go out with the puppies at lunch.

The puppies, at least, have mellowed out a little. They're still frantically hunting rabbits but they're not quite as obsessed as before. They have started to listen a little more when I call them although last night, I'm ashamed to admit I had a spat with the puppies and completely lost my temper. Sookie wouldn't come near me. I felt horrible.

You should know, I have a terrible guilt complex. It doesn't take much to make me feel guilty and apologize. When it comes to the point where I've upset my little puppy to the point where she won't look at me and, when she does, it's with trepidation and anxiety, I feel horrible.

I have no real defense. All I can say is it was 11:30 p.m. and I was trying to go to bed. I let the puppies out to go do their business and then they vanished. My back garden is very dark at night. I have a light on my patio that doesn't reach to the vegetable garden/brush patch where the puppies like to play. I put a couple of solar lights back there but they don't really shine that brightly. So when two black puppies go back there in the dark, it's not easy to see them.

I called and called and they didn't come. I finally got my flashlight and went looking for them. They still wouldn't come. So, by this point, I was tired and all I wanted to do was sleep. I called them one more time and still they ignored me.

I finally got angry and I yelled. I was furious. Rory came in but I'd apparently traumatized Sookie. I had to carry her in.

I felt awful. She was upset. I was upset. I was also feeling guilty.

Thankfully, she seemed to have forgiven me this morning. I was very relived. I still feel guilty. I shouldn't have shouted but it's such a knee-jerk reaction when you're annoyed to the point of frustration. You just…snap. Unfortunately, in my case, dogs don't necessarily understand it when I apologize repeatedly.

Today, we've made up. She came to me as usual for her post-crate cuddle at lunch and it was a longer one than usual. She sought me out in the garden and we played together. I think I'm forgiven. I learned my lesson though. Just like any 'parent', I have to be careful to make sure my bad day isn’t reflected upon my charges. It's not their fault I was tired and crotchety.

And, as I said, today they seem less bunny-centric. Also, Potential-Serial-Killer-Larry (PSKL) promised me last night that if he had his way, he'd be "shootin' those rabbits." Yes, PSKL has a gun and he wants to use it.

He apparently is a good shot. He'd like to eat those bunnies. Now, when I was younger, the thought of eating Thumper was horrifying to me. I mean, it was a cute bunny! Now, after a couple of years of becoming an obsessive foodie, I would try rabbit. I hear it's tasty when cooked right.

It doesn't mean I want to eat the rabbit in my garden though. In this case, I'd rather not know the rabbits on my plate, if you know what I mean.

Also, I'd imagine shooting a rabbit isn't going to do much to preserve the, uh, meat. A bullet would do some damage, I'd think.

Still, Larry has promised that if it becomes open season, he's the first one in line with his gun. I didn't ask what type of gun he was talking about. I thought it best not get into the topic of potential murder weapons when I already call him Potential Serial Killer Larry.

Larry also told me he was going to send an anonymous letter to the Dog Whisperer because he was sick of the barking. I told him that it might be a better idea simply to try to talk to them about it first. I recommended he try to talk to Wife of Dog Whisperer though since she seems to be the boss of the family. Also, she doesn't stare at you like you're insane every time you talk to her like her husband does.

I felt a little guilty about that at first. I mean, I am enabling Larry as the terminology goes. I'm encouraging to help me do my dirty work. However, I thought about it logically. First, he was going to file a police report. Then he was going to send an anonymous letter. I managed to talk him into doing a sensible, non-cowardly thing….talking to them. Granted, no one wants to be told that their dogs are horrible annoying beasts but it's better coming from someone like Larry who may be slightly sinister but isn't an unfriendly man. Besides, I was very clear to make sure I told him that if it was bothering him that much that he should let them know. I distanced myself. The Dog Whisperer and Wife of Dog Whisperer knows it bothers me which is why they try to control the beasts when I'm outside. They don’t do a great job but they try.

In a way, I did the neighbours a favour. Which is better, a patrol car pulling up to check out the situation or a potential serial killer politely telling them to keep their dogs quieter?

Well, they don't have to know that he has potential to be a serial killer, do they? I'll keep that to myself.

Either way, I've been trying to keep my pups inside a little more when the rampaging barking starts. Given their crack-addition to rabbits, it hasn't been working so well lately but we're working on it.

I just have to remember that it's not fair to yell at the puppies when I'm annoyed about life in general.

Otherwise there's guilt and big brown eyes.

Which leads to more guilt.

It's a vicious cycle.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Messy Sorts of Days

There are days that just feel messy. I've discovered that these days are often directly related to other aspects in your life. For me, if my house is messy or even my desk at work, days have a tendency to feel messier than days where my house or desk is clean.

Sometimes, this can be as simple as just picking up the dog toys and chewsticks that are littered across the living room floor, of wiping the IKEA coffee table that, being dark 'wood', shows every speck of dust which, if you'd have thought about it before you bought it, would have been left at IKEA in favour of a lighter coloured table or, even, just running the vacuum cleaner around.

Messy days usually begin with you leaving the house in the morning ruing the fact that you don’t have time to clean a little. You should have done it last night but you either didn't feel like it or you didn't really realize how messy it was until the sunlight shines through the morning window.

No matter how much you tidy your desk at work in compensation, it's already a messy day. Your outfit doesn't feel like it comes together. Your hair feels messy even though it probably looks fine. You just feel….blah.

Today was a blah day. I tried to make it a non-blah day but things seem to be working against me. It was beautiful outside. It's a perfect late summer day even though, technically, it's not late summer. It's sunny and warm but not hot. There's a perfect breeze. It's the perfect day to just enjoy August.

Part of my blahs are probably due to the fact that I was stuck inside. Being at work, that's sort of a given. Except, in our area of the office, it isn't. As I've mentioned, I'm literally the only person without a laptop. Everyone else has Mac laptops. I don’t care about the Mac part. I would like a laptop though. Most of my department has rotated the tables outside for the past two days, working in the sunshine on their laptops. Me…I have no choice but to sit at my desk and bemoan the fact that I'm stuck in my cupboard under the stairs.

I sometimes feel like Harry Potter and how he was treated by the Dursleys. He got all of Dudley's cast-offs and was treated like he didn't really belong. As melodramatic as it sounds, that's how I feel at work. My coworkers, while nice to me, don't always seem to know what to do with me. My boss, especially, is more awkward around me than anyone. I'm not sure why. I try to be friendly. I think I'm just a square peg in a round hole, to borrow a cliché.
Most of the time, I don’t care that I have my dinosaur of a desktop. On sunny days, it's hard not to have the freedom to go outside. The ridiculously logical, expectant part of me wishes my boss would have the awareness to realize that I'm stuck inside but as always, he's oblivious. I usually have to tell him in which case he stutters and seems alarmed that I've pointed it out. I tend to be quite direct with him. Sometimes, I think he prefers that and other times, I think I surprise him.

Ah well. I get a lot done in the office when everyone else is outside. At least it's quiet.

Of course, my coworker proved that you don't necessarily have to have a laptop to 'work' outside as evidenced by her 2.5 hour meeting out there today. When I came back from lunch, she was out again. This time she took her laptop.

During lunch, I thought I'd get over my blahs by cleaning a little and moving myself out of my messy day. Then I proceeded to spill my soup all over the counter. It's the type of soup that's a rough puree so it wasn't too easy to clean up. I ended up not getting time to clean and not getting as much to eat as I'd planned. Thus, my messy day didn't feel any less messy when I went back to work.

When I got back to the office, I saw that my coworker had made a run to a fast-food restaurant that I've been wanting to try for ages. She knew I've been wanting to try it. She'd asked all the people who'd been working outside with her if they wanted anything and so it became a lunch run. I missed out.

It was my own fault. I get this. It's a choice I make by running home to the puppies at lunch. It doesn't mean that it doesn't make me feel a little left out. Given that there's already very much a social clique in the office, being reminded you're on the outside is always rough, even when you know it.

Still, I decided to ignore it and concentrate on a better afternoon. It ended up not being too messy unless you count the fact that, once again, I managed to dunk the one working earbud on my ipod into my coffee cup. Again.

I don't know how I manage to do this. I honestly don't. But, in the past year, I must have done it at least five times. I think what happens is that my coffee cup always has a few dregs in it. When I take off my earbud, I accidentally fling it and it lands in the coffee mug. I usually don't realize until I go to put it in and I realize that it's wet, sticky and smelling of cold coffee.
To top things off, it was the kind of day where you can't really organize your time. You get calls, instant messages and emails that need to be answered right away. I got pulled into a short discussion with my boss as to a future project which, actually, isn't a future project but something I've been doing all along but he didn’t know it.

So, all in all, despite my best efforts, today was undoubtedly a messy day. The trouble with messy days is they can lead to a dark, uncertain spiral which leads to a little lack of self-satisfaction. I'm not going to let today do this although I can feel the tugging at my subconscious anyway. Self-doubt is always easier on messy days.

Still, while I can't control some things in my life, I can control others. I can control the prick of hurt I feel when I realize that I've been left out of the lunch run yet again. I can control the bitterness that seeps in when I realize I'm stuck at my desktop. I can control my frustration by reminding myself it's just a job. These aren't easy things to do but I can do them. At the very least, I can clean my house and my desk. I'm not sure if I believe in the whole concept of Feng Shui but there's definitely something to the idea of tidying up your environment and having it make you feel like you're in control of your life.

So, tonight, I shall clean and organize and I know that tomorrow will be a better day. At the very least, I hope it won't be a messy day.

I just need to be more careful with my earbuds and my soup.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Doggie Addictions

Hello. My name is Captain Monkeypants and I'm the mother of two addicts.

My children are not your classic children. They have four legs, long black bodies with a soft coat, black and tan faces and the biggest brownest eyes you ever saw. They also have tails.

Their addiction is not a classic one either. They're not after heroin, cocaine, crystal meth or even alcohol.

Their addiction is something far harder to control. It's bunnies.

Yes, my two darling little dachshunds, Ms. Rory Wrigglebottom and Ms. Sookie Stackhouse have gone and got themselves addicted to bunnies.

It may sound like an exaggeration but, trust me, they are as addicted and hardcore as any a drug addict when a rabbit is around.

I realized how bad it was this morning when, unlike most mornings, my puppies did not run outside, do their business and then come back to look for me while I was getting ready for work. Our usual routine is that I get dressed then they go outside. While they're outside, I get some biscuits ready for them and then I brush my teeth. While I'm brushing they usually come inside, ready for their morning breakfast biscuit treat.

This morning, they didn't come inside. I gave them a few minutes. I had time to put on my makeup. That doesn't take long since I tend to apply makeup so it doesn't look like I'm wearing makeup. That might not make sense to some readers but to most low-maintenance women, that makes sense. The goal is to look good without trying to look good.

I digress. I finally went to find out where my little puppies were. They were in the brush at the back of the garden. Since I didn't hear yips, the squeal of a captured bunny or anything else worrisome, I went back inside and continued my morning routine. Halfway through doing my hair, I heard excited yips.

The sound of excited yips means a couple of things. It means either Rory has found a hole to dig and though she's made quite a dent in the ground, she can't get any further. She's angry. Or it means she's found a bunny and is hunting it.

Since it was still partially dark and Rory prefers to dig in daylight, my heart sank. I went outside. Sure enough, my dachshunds were prancing and dancing around the tool shed, clearly having scented something alive, yummy and ripe for the capture. Sookie began to yip too. Worried about getting complaints from the neighbours- having heard what they have to say about the Dog Whisperer- I tried to get my puppies to come inside.

It didn't work. My usual commands fell upon oblivious ears. They were on the hunt. Nothing else mattered.

Ironically, in the half twilight, I managed to glimpse something small, furry and decidedly bunny-like streak out from under the tool shed to the brush area. The puppies didn't notice. They still attempted to get under the shed.

After getting angrier because I didn't really have time to deal with this, my tone got sharper. Normally, it's the tone that has an effect on both puppies and though they don't like it, they normally obey. Not today. The bunny was more important.

Since Rory was already halfway under the tool shed, I was worried she might actually get underneath so I picked her up. She wriggled and squirmed, completely focused on getting free, on hunting that bunny. She had time to throw me a, "What do you think you are DOING?" look before she squirmed again. I carried the wriggling pup inside. Sookie, always the more obedient one, followed. I shut the door.

I resumed my morning routine. Then I heard angry yips coming from the family room which contains the backdoor that leads out to the garden. Rory wanted to go back out. Sookie sat innocently by, acting like she didn't want to go out but I knew full well that as soon as the door opened, she'd fly out with her sister.

I told Rory "No" quite firmly and she came inside to sulk. Rather than their usual morning habit of tossing all the toys in their toy box on the floor, having a chomp on a couple, making a couple of others squeak, today they just lay there, sullenly watching me finish up.

Finally, it was time to move into the kitchen. I usually make my travel mug of tea, make the girls go out to do some last minute bathroom business during which time, I ready their crate. Then they usually come in, hop into their crate and then chomp their crate treat- a Waggin' Train chicken breast jerky piece- while I make my quiet and smooth exit out of the back door.

"Usually" is the key word here. Today was not a "usually" kind of day.

Today I reluctantly let my pups out, hoping that my scolding from earlier would get them back on track.

Silly Captain Monkeypants. I'm such an optimist.

They went back on the hunt. I don’t even know if they managed to stop long enough to go to the bathroom. All I know is when I heard excited yips, I was angry. I went out and I know that the real Dog Whisperer would have told me off but I shouted at my puppies. You're not supposed to yell at dogs when they do something bad. You're supposed to practice positive reinforcement.

Well, let me tell you, when two dachshunds decide they want to hunt a rabbit, you can say, "want a biscuit?" all you want and they don't hear you. "Want a biscuit," is usually Rory's favourite phrase. She knows what that means. Today, I might have been speaking Swahili. My temper rose. I'm the Alpha in our house and usually they know it.

It's a natural human reaction when you're angry to yell. I'm not proud but I yelled at my puppies. Sookie, thankfully, understood and she slunk inside, knowing she was in trouble. Rory, my little spunky pile of naughtiness, paid me no mind. I went to get her.

And she'd disappeared.

Yes, Rory W. Gilmore had managed to wriggle under the shed. I was alarmed. What if something bigger than a bunny was under there? What if she couldn't get out? What if….?

Then she emerged, covered with a selection of cobwebs. If she could have smiled, she would have been grinning like a loon, triumphant in her attempts to hunt down that smell. I'm not so sure she can't smile, actually. It certainly looked like it.

I'm guessing she didn't find the actual rabbit, only its scent. She finally succumbed to my command and came inside.

At lunchtime, both puppies managed to get under the shed while my back was turned. I covered up all the entrances I could find but they still kept searching. I sprayed them with the hose and they finally stopped. Tonight, I plan on getting some wood to block all the entrances to underneath the shed.

I did some reading online about my dogs' addiction to rabbits. Apparently, it really is likened to a drug addiction. When certain dogs that were bred to hunt like, say, dachshunds, catch the scent of prey, an endorphin kicks in and they basically get a natural high. Trying to stop them from hunting by offering treats was compared to trying to get a heroin addict to drink a Coke instead of shooting up. It's just not going to happen.

The only thing I can do is try to deter the hunting instinct by distracting them. However, even those that were offering this advice were pretty much saying, "good luck with that!" as they wrote it. Pretty much, I have two hunters on my hands.

My only worry is that they will get so frenzied that they'll find a way out to get to the bunnies that are always so close by. I don't want to have to resort to keeping them on a leash in the garden but that was one of the suggestions. As long as I can't see them finding an escape route, I think I'll just try to prevent any more tool shed burrowing and making sure they don't have any squealing, squirming bunnies in their jaws.

On the plus side, as the weather cools and the leaves fall, it might not be so easy for my little crackheads to scent their prey. At least, that's what I keep telling myself.

Is there a rehab for dogs?

Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Stormy Weather...

This has been a very stormy weekend, literally. The days have started, hot and muggy with a haze of smog hanging over everything. Then as the hours have gone by, the clouds have appeared and within what seems like mere moments, the wind has started up, the thunder is rumbling and the rain is pouring.

Yesterday, the storm happened as I went into Target. It had only looked cloudy for a short while and it wasn't until I walked into the store that I realized the sky was suddenly black. Moments later, it sounded as though a million drummers were pounding on the roof as the rain started to fall heavily. The thunder could be heard rumbling as though it were inside the store. By the time I left Target, the storm was over but the car park looked as though autumn had come early with the piles of leaves that had blown in with the storm.

Today, I was luckier; I was at home. I went outside to check on the puppies when I noticed the sudden appearance of the storm clouds. The thunder was already rumbling and then the wind came. Leaves cascaded over me, around me, swirling as though they were something out of The Wizard of Oz. I half expected a house to come cascading down.

The house never came but the storm did. My silly puppies who were once so adverse to getting their precious paws wet have come a long way. They now go out into the rain, hunting any wildlife that might be trapped in the storm. Consequently, they came in soaked. I'm jumpier with the storm than they are. The loud cracks always make me jump even though I love storms. They act as though they can't hear anything.

As a result, even though the storm is over, I now have two rather wet puppies on the floor. They have this rather annoying habit of bypassing the towel that I attempt to dry them with, instead they play their favourite game of "towel" with it, having a tug-of-war that only ends when they get bored. Instead, they'd rather dry themselves on the carpet, lying on their backs and squirming and wriggling until they at least feel better even if they are still rather soggy-looking.

I don't know if we'll have any more storms tonight. I do hope so. I love a good storm. My favourite are the ones that come at night when we're supposed to be sleeping. There's nothing nicer than being in bed, listening to the sound of the crashing thunder and pouring rain.

Of course, that's a few hours away and so is the end of the weekend. It's coming fast and furious, the end of the weekend, much like its own version of a storm. It's been a quick weekend, as always filled with errands mixed with relaxation. In a way, those are the best type of weekends- not so lazy that you feel guilty for not doing anything but not so hectic that you don't feel like you had no chance to relax.

And I did get chance to relax. Rory and Sookie honoured my request to let me sleep today and they stayed curled up by my side until I was ready to get up. Crocodog did not make an appearance. I'm not so sad about that. While Crocodog is amusing, it's not so amusing on my toes which still feel like they have little teeth marks embedded in them.

Now Crocodog is on the prowl again but this time she's stalking her sister and not my toes. She just finished stalking and attacking a cicada bug outside. Those things make a dreadful noise when they're caught. Sometimes, though, Crocodog comes in useful. Last night, we had a rogue cricket in the house. I'm not girly enough to be afraid of crickets but I don't really like them. Last night's was rather large and it was in a dark spot on the carpet where the light doesn't quite reach. I couldn't make out what it was until it took me by surprise and hopped right up, buzzing my chin which had leaned down with the rest of me to see what it was. I squealed because, well, that's what I do when a bug takes me by surprised. No matter though, at the sound of my distress, Crocodog came to my rescue. She managed to corner that cricket within seconds and then...scooped it up in her mouth. I managed to get her to spit it out. It's one thing to suspect your pet eats bugs but to see it happen...well, I'd rather not. So she spat it out. The cricket was dead. I put it in the bin. Crocodog saved me from the nasty cricket.

Crocodog and her sister are currently hunting prey in the wet garden outside. This means they'll come in wet again but, at least, the storm has passed. In the meantime, the weekend has not yet finished passing and I intend to make the most of what remains. I just hope it holds another storm since it's hot out there again. We'll just have to wait and see.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Days with Unexpected Twists

Well, I still haven't found a way to take a tropical vacation but today was, at least, not the typical run-of-the mill day at work which may not be the same as jetting off to Aruba but it's something.

It started when I got to the office. I noticed our HR manager was sitting in the car park in front of the building, on her cell phone. "Uh, oh," I thought. "What's up?"

I'm usually the first one in. Today, our HR manager beat me in but we were the only two. Turns out that after our power outage yesterday at work, the electric company hadn't restored power to our building. It was still out.

Our poor HR manager. She's come a long way in the past months. She still has very special moments but, for the most part, she's been doing a good job. She's the type of person who feels responsible for things when she's part of them, even if they're not her fault. Last night, for example, the power company had called her at 1 a.m. to tell her the power had been restored to our office building. She did what most normal people would do: She grunted into the phone, hung it up, relieved and went back to sleep. She trusted the power company which isn't such an extraordinary thing.

Nevertheless, this morning, she was furious at herself for not getting into work early enough to let everyone know there was no power and notify the power company. Given that it was 7 a.m., it wasn't like she was later.

Between us, we managed to let people know and our president sent out a text message to us all to tell us not to go to the office until further notice. Since I was there, I felt like I should stay to help out the HR manager. Besides, a slightly twisted part of me was reveling in the fact that I was at work and I couldn't work and that was a very small adventure but an adventure nonetheless.

When our receptionist showed up along with our tech support guy, we did the logical thing: We decided to go to IHOP for breakfast since it's pretty much in our car park and we could get there in less than 4 minutes. We left a note on my car so that stragglers could see it and we went for breakfast. A couple of others joined us but it was a pretty small group and there was a small sense of glee about us. Honestly, it was like being in school and finding out that the substitute teacher was going to let you watch a movie. Well, not exactly like that but the same sense of "we're getting away with something!"

The power came back on within an hour. On a normal day, I would have groaned but today, I actually had a ton of work to do so having a late start to the day with breakfast was good enoguh for me.

The rest of the day past by in a blur. I had a lot of work to do in preparation for a meeting but I ended up getting it done and, as a bonus, the day moved so quickly, I forgot to keep track of time.

By the time I got home this evening, my brain felt tired. It's the type of evening where curling up with a book is a nice option. Only the slight interruptions of puppy yips has disturbed me and, while I know the yips are probably annoying the neighbours, upon investigation, I discovered that it really wasn't the puppies' fault.

The bunnies have come to take their revenge, you see. Before you picture them with their Rambo gear, taking aim at the puppies, I should probably amend that to say that the bunnies are getting their own back on the puppies. It started with one. Now there are four. The bunnies gather in Possibly-Joe's garden which, as I've mentioned, shares a back fence with mine. The bunnies stay close enough that the puppies can smell them as well as see them but far enough that no amount of noses pushed through the fence can reach them. The puppies, as you can imagine, are going balistic. They so badly want to catch themselves another rabbit but the wretched things aren't stupid. They just quietly graze on the grass as the puppies become a frenzied mass of frustrated barking and futile digging.

I feel bad for the puppies but, at the same time, I'd rather they didn't catch another rabbit. The last one was a bit of a shock. The bird the other night was quite disgusting but not as bad. I've decided that the cicada bugs are nowhere near as disgusting as they used to be. It's all relative, you see.

Yet eventually the puppies give up for a while and peace is restored. I can return to my book and relax in the knowledge that tomorrow is Friday.

It's not a tropical escape but it works for me.

Happy Friday and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tropical Fantasies....

I have this strong urge to run away to a tropical island where the waves crash gently upon the sand at my toes and where the biggest decision I have to make is would I like a chilled glass of Pinot Grigio or would I rather have a fancy cocktail.

I think my urge comes from the fact that I'd really quite like a little vacation. I'm not talking about a long weekend, extended by an extra day. I'm not even talking about a weekend that's already three days, such as Memorial Day and I tack an extra day on...I'm talking about a 100% bonafide holiday.

I think it's because summer seems to be passing rapidly by and a lot of people I know both from work and from my personal life have already been somewhere this summer. Two of my friends, who also happen to be sisters, are leaving for Alaska on Friday for a week. A couple of coworkers recently came back from Florida, on separate trips. My sister is headed to Disney World on Sunday with her husband and my niece. My parent's are off to England in two weeks.

And...I'm here in the swampy humidity of Ohio, dreaming of a tropical beach and wishing it would become a reality.

Alas, for now, the only thing I can do is take a mental break and pretend I'm on the beach. Last night, at home, I kicked off my flip flops, sat back with a cool glass of water and a good book and pretended I was at the beach.

It worked for a minute until I felt a licking at my toes and realized two twin dachshunds were staring up at me, confused. Then they tried to run away with my flip-flop. I had to chase them. By the time I had reclaimed my shoe, they'd scampered outside. I tried again. Then I felt a burning sensation on my foot. Then another. A bloody mosquito was using me as a buffet. By the time I'd tracked it down and squished it, I had no less than four bites on my feet.
In the end, I realized that no matter how good my imagination, I wasn't at the beach. I was in my house and, unfortunately, it needed to be tidied up a little. So I did that instead.

The reality of me going to a tropical beach at this juncture in my life is pretty unlikely. For one thing, our infamous PTO policy means that thanks to my air-conditioning woes, doctor's appointments and car brake problems, my time off work is pretty scarce. At most, I could manage...a long weekend and then I'd have no time just in case I had another problem and had to take a day off.

Secondly, I have these two adorable puppies. While the idea of a tropical beach is rather delightful in my imagination, I don't quite know what I'd do with the puppies. I could board them. I could leave them with my parents but, truth be told, I think I'd have a horrible separation anxiety and would end up worrying about the silly creatures.

Thirdly, and the most obvious is that...tropical holidays cost a bit of money and I just don't have it to spend at the moment. Short of winning the lottery, signing a big publishing deal or finding a suitcase with my name on it that contained a million dollars, I think that I'll have to save my pennies before I run away.

So, for now, I will sit at my desk and work. I haven't resorted to putting sand in a drawer so I can stick my feet in it like on that TV commercial a couple of years ago. I do occasionally kick off my shoes but my toes get cold since our air conditioning is quite chilly.

I'll also look for ways to capture minutes, even seconds, that make me feel for just a short time like I'm actually on holiday, tropical beach or not. Take today, for example. We had another big storm and, just like last week, we lost power in the office. We all got to leave early. For me, it was only 30 minutes earlier than usual but 30 minutes is nothing to sneeze at. I'll take what I can get.

I think it's all about the little things in life. I forget that sometimes. It's sometimes just a lick on the nose from a puppy when you're feeling blue or it's a friend who says just the right thing when you need to hear it. It's realizing that though work is stressful, no one is likely to physically suffer if I don't get my job done.
It's being able to kick my flip-flops off and be able to scoop up the culprit and know that something on this planet loves me unconditionally, preferably if I have treats.

And sometimes, that's enough.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Summer Dog Days

Well, I'd say it was a better day because at least it wasn't Monday. Maybe that's true but it could, in its own way, have been a Monday.

Our impromptu meeting today was short. There were no bagels, awkward or otherwise. There weren't even any doughnuts. I was quite disappointed. If you have to sit through a staff meeting first thing in the morning, at least provide sustenance!

Nevertheless, we ended up being in our meeting for less than 15 minutes. It was scheduled in order to tell us that our president, aka Marcel Marceau, was resigning.

I have to admit, I wasn't shocked. I wasn't even that surprised. When you merge two companies and one is dominant enough to force us to rename everything after them, you have to see where the power lies. We'll never know why our president decided to resign. He's not the type to tell us that. My guess is that, like us, he's tired of the changes and since he'd lost some modicum of power, he was ready for something new.

He then announced that he'd be staying through the end of the year. People were already crying. They continued to cry. I, Captain Monkeypants, had the insensitive thought of "well, he's not going yet! We're stuck with him for four more months!"

I am obviously not the majority, I'll admit. I think there are things our president has done that have been smart. I believe those people in our company who tell me how different he used to be. I, however, have only known the stressed-out, moody, favourite-playing president who, up until recently, barely gave me the time of day. He can be fun, I'll admit that. Yet there was this teeny voice in my head that said, "Well, maybe it's for the best. Maybe the new president won't favour the same people and things will change."

For the rest of the day, following the meeting, there was a somber air about the office. I'm not sure why since it's not like he's leaving tomorrow. The regime is changing but...not yet. We still have work to do. I, especially, have work to do since my coworker is skipping out on her project and it's fallen on me to do it. It's a lot of work to get done in two days which is why I was infuriated when the same coworker whose work I am doing hosted a loud gossip session at her desk with four people for about 40 minutes when I'm desperately trying to keep on top of 'her' work. I tried to convey that I was working but they were oblivious.

I think I'm just grouchy. That's really what it comes down to really. It's the hot oppressive summer heat. It's hard to have the energy to do anything. Everything feels stagnant and the air is heavy. Normally, I wouldn't let my job get me all crotchety like this because it's just the way things are. Yet, at the moment, it feels good to glare and snipe. Well, not good but better.

I don't think it's just me. I know lots of people who are feeling similar. Even the puppies seem to be sniping at each other more. They play but they get annoyed with each other far quicker. The annoyance lasts just long enough for one to cross the room and the other take a flying leap to pounce on her but its definitely there.

Though Sookie is feeling better. She proved this to me last night by the fact that I took her temperature and it was normal. Of course, having to take her temperature was not fun for either of us. The ear thermometer was $39.99. The rectal one was $7.99. Payday isn't here yet. You can put the equation together. Hmm...that may explain her short temper. I suppose if someone did that to me, I might be waspish.

Still, she managed to prove even more that she felt better later on last evening. I happened to look out of the window and notice she and Rory were tossing something around. Curious, I went outside to investigate. Somehow, my fearsome hunters had stalked and captured a bird. It was dead and still mostly intact. I confiscated it and threw it away. They were not happy with me and proceeded to spend the rest of the evening stalking other birds. They gravitate towards the chirping and they watch. One thing about dachshunds is when they're on the hunt, they're dedicated. They sit very still and just wait. And then, when the moment is right, they pounce.

I have to admit, I didn't expect them to actually catch a bird. After all, birds can fly. I wasn't sure whether I should be impressed or horrified. However, since the bird was dead, I settled for an impressed shudder as I put it in a plastic grocery bag, double wrapped it and threw it away.

The dogs were very annoyed for the rest of the evening. Normally, when they decide the day is over and it's time to sleepy, they get up on the sofa with me until it's time for bed. Last night, the both slept on the floor, side by side, their backs to me.

Perhaps there really is a reason why they call them the dog days of summer.

Happy Wednesday.