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Black Friday, Indeed.

Okay.  I’m back.

Now, maybe life can return to some semblance of normalcy (BOR-ing).

Or, maybe not.

It seems my days are filling up insanely fast, and for someone who’s not used to having any type of social calendar — or any type of calendar at all, I’m a little overwhelmed.

Some people are good at this.  When presented with large lists of to-dos and schedules and time frames, they immediately jump in — tackling the onslaught like taking a sledgehammer to a brick wall.

Others, like me, become paralyzed with indecision.

There are too many choices.  Where do I start?

My time is valuable, you know?  And I want to make the most of what I have.

Which is exactly why I opt out of Black Friday every year.

What?

You heard me.

Black Friday.  That horrendous day that used to be reserved solely for nursing tryptophan hangovers and detoxing the cranberry sauce from our systems and reflecting on the thanks we gave yesterday for all of the things we’re fortunate to have has somehow, via very deliberate media and marketing ploys, turned into a day of dragging our food-filled butts out of bed in the middle of the night to stand in line and then fight with perfect strangers over all of the things we still want.

Sure.

Makes perfect sense.

Of course, if you’re a Black Friday fanatic, I’m not going to change your mind.  You’ve heard it all before — it’s turned into a high-stress, competitive day of finagling and bargaining and deal-gettin’, the likes of which you only witness en masse but once per year, and you love it.

And there’s no way I’m going to convince you otherwise.

But.

For me, at least, beyond the traffic and the frenzy and the gimme gimme attitude, there’s a bigger reason why I opt out of Black Friday.

The deals aren’t worth it.

At least not for me.

And probably my definition of “cost” is different than your definition of “cost.”

What??  I could save 40% off a flat screen television?

Don’t care.

And 25% off a new washer and dryer?

Whatevs.

And if I buy one Magic Bullet with the complete accessory kit, they’ll throw in another identical bullet plus the kind that makes baby food in baby-sized portions for free?

Meh.

You see, it all comes down to what you perceive as a deal.

Bu– but– a deal is a DEAL, you say?

Not so much.

What if I did need a new dryer?  What if I really could save $200 off the ticket price if I woke up at 2 a.m., stood outside in the cold for 2 hours in a squishy line of tense people, rushed mob-style through the department store doors, dodging angry women with flying purses and pepper spray and competitive adrenaline, jumping over the bodies of those too weak to handle the pressure, pushing slow-moving children and the elderly out of my way like some maniacal greed-driven beast, jumping through the air and splaying my body across the last dryer in the store because it’s MINE, all MINE — and get-back-you-bitch-because-I-WILL-bite-you, and finally — finally – I get home with my new dryer.

And get this:  it only cost me $400, 6 hours of sleep, the flu from standing with germy people outside in the cold, 2 years off of my life from the stress of the ordeal, and, oh yeah, my dignity.

But at least I saved $200.

See my point?

 

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I’m Still Alive. I Think.

*In case you’re wondering, no. I did not reach Miami and just keep on drivin’ — cruising along 1A with its bars and beaches and bars some more, dancing a jig along the twists and turns of this country’s southeastern tip before winding my way to Hwy 1, then following it across actual oceans of water, the highway like a big strand of drool dripping off the goatee of Florida, passing Key Largo and Islamorada and Duck Key and maybe stopping in No Name Key before reaching Key West because, let’s face it, No Name Key is probably more my style.

Not that I would know.

I did not do any of those things, though I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted.

I wrote this post last Wednesday. Today is Sunday. I’m posting it today because I finally have some internet access on a computer. Travel, while awesome, isn’t always convenient for blogging. And I do believe this is the longest I’ve neglected the blog in… ever.

Many things have gone down since I wrote this 5 days ago, but we’ll start here:

I drove to Florida yesterday — a trip that, theoretically, should have taken over 12 hours to complete, but instead only took around 11, including the 45-minute pit stop to catch up with an old college buddy off of I-95. It is for this very reason that I cannot bring myself to shun social networking; while the number of Facebook “friends” tallied on one’s wall has little to nothing to do with one’s real life social circles, it really is a fantastic way to touch base with people you would otherwise probably never see again.

Whether that’s good or bad, I’m not quite sure. But at least it’s interesting.

See, while most people don’t mind letting acquaintances slip away, I have this very odd way of wanting to hang on to people — of wondering how they’re doing, of what’s happened in their lives since we last intersected orbits — and Facebook provides that lost connection.

It keeps people neatly tucked inside my radar screen.

You think that makes me a stalker. I think that makes me… curious.

Okay. I have to interrupt myself for a second. I just took a bite of one of the most delicious items I’ve ordered from a menu in a long, long time. My sister has to work today, and my mother and brother don’t arrive until tomorrow, so I’m finding myself inexplicably untethered for the first time in a while.

And what’s a girl to do when she finds herself in a strange city with an entire day to indulge in whatever she chooses?

Head to the apartment pool? Nah… there’s plenty of time for that.

Walk one of the many miles of gorgeous ocean shoreline? I’m pretty sure sand is overrated.

Lie out, relax, and attempt to expose some of this pasty whiteness to the miracle of UV rays? For my skin, I’m afraid, the situation is hopeless until next May.

Plus, I think I may have divulged by now — I’m not your average girl.

So. Instead of celebrating what Florida is best known for — that brilliant, white-hot sunshine — I plopped my ass back in the car and headed 40 minutes north to West Palm Beach in search of a cafe I read about on Urban Spoon.

Why?

I had a feeling it would be worth my time.

Casper's on Park on Urbanspoon

And it is.

When I finally arrived at Casper’s on Park after many turn-arounds and indecision about whether I should really drive this far, I no longer cared about what I might be getting myself into. I didn’t care, when I pulled up, that the restaurant was nowhere near the water or any of the more fashionable areas of West Palm. I didn’t care that there wasn’t a single other patron in sight, or that they don’t have wi-fi (the owner/chef, Giuseppe, informed me he hopes to change this soon), or that it was too balmy for my northerner-at-heart self to sit outside on the dog-friendly patio.

Casper, by the way, is the name of the owner’s dog.

I was so hungry by the time I walked in that I asked Giuseppe to bring me the best item on the menu. After debating out loud between the gumbo and the jambalaya, he selected the slightly higher-priced (though not expensive at under $10 for the bowl) pasta jambalaya.

Alex, the co-owner, poured me a glass of sangiovese while I set up shop at a corner table facing the patio. He also brought me this:

Photo taken with iPhone.

And I think that maybe a part of me fell in love.

Some dreamy French music was playing when I arrived, but after multiple issues with skipping CD’s, they switched to something — a sultry almost-techno slow dance something-or-other — that was significantly less palatable, but who the hell cares because here comes my jambalaya.

I originally felt slightly ridiculous as the steaming bowl of bowtie pasta, hot sausage, shrimp, Parmesan cheese, and other New Orleans delicacies was brought to my table on this balmy afternoon, but now I feel like I am probably the most brilliant person anywhere with an 100 mile radius.

Photo taken with iPhone.

Another couple has just arrived and is sitting on the patio with their cocker spaniel. They ordered sandwiches. And while I’m sure he sandwiches are delicious, it’s taking all of my willpower to not run out there and tell them how crazy they are for not ordering Creole from a transplant.

Seriously.

Do I sound like a snob?

I’m pretty sure I can’t help it.

If it’s any consolation, I don’t look like a snob with my nose running from the not-spicy-but-not-not-spicy jambalaya.

It kind of sneaks up on you.

But I finished the bowl.

And now there’s no way I’m squeezing myself into a bathing suit.

Well.

If there’s anything I learned about travel, it’s that you should never rule anything out.

But for right now, I’m perfectly content to finish my glass of wine, watch Giuseppe lovingly pet the couple’s dog out on the patio, and wash everything down with the complimentary shot of espresso (looks like it’s been softened with something like cream — thank God) they just placed in front of me, which is exactly the motivation I need in order to plant my butt back in the car and head to Hollywood.

Hollywood Florida, that is.

P.S. It’s not espresso. Giuseppe informed me that it’s chocolate wine. Cocoa di Vino. Which pretty much tastes like a shot of Bailey’s.

And this just became my favorite place ever.

Here’s the Beef

You want to know where the beef is?

Well, here it is.

I have it.

With you.

Yep, you heard me.

I have a beef with some of you.

Want to know what it is?

I’ll tell you anyway.

Too many of you now, after I share a delicious recipe post, have left comments about them here or on Facebook.  And while many of the comments are thoughtful and nice, others are not.  Not nice at all.

Comments like, “Wow, that looks amazing! I know I could never make something like that myself, but wow!”

or

“Hey, that looks like another delicious recipe. I’d love to try it, but I’d never make it for just myself.”

What?  You think those comments sound nice?  Well they’re not.  Because think about it:  Saying you can’t do something a Domestiphobe can do, is like admitting you weren’t potty trained until you were eight.

Yep.

Those comments are mean to the people who wrote them.

And my beef is, whenever you deny yourself a pleasure simply because you think it’s too difficult to do or because it’s not worth the effort if no one else is around to enjoy it, you are doing YOURSELF a disservice.

And I have a beef with that.  I can’t help it.

First, basic cooking is not difficult.

I didn’t learn this fact until I was 25-years-old.  Until then, I’d thought of cooking as this mysterious kitcheny task with which only certain people were burdened gifted, and that I was a soul relegated to takeout, convenience foods, and depending on my husband’s sporadic cooking spells for sustenance.  (Justin enjoys cooking, too.  Just not with vegetables.  Ever.)

Knowing that I was a quarter-of-a-century old and thereby not getting any younger, a diet based on meat, potatoes, boxed meals and restaurant food was not the best thing I could do for my body.  Or our budget.

So I started looking up recipes.  And following blogs with step-by-step cooking photos.  And looking up things I didn’t know on Youtube, like “how to blanch asparagus” and “how to dice an onion.”

I had to look up everything.

But, once I saw someone else do it, I realized it wasn’t nearly as hard as I’d thought.

The mystery had made it seem unattainable.  But once that curtain was raised, it was like an entire slew of mental obstacles were removed and finally, I was able to try.

Just try.

And really, that’s all you need to do.  Will you (or I) ever be a gourmet chef?  Certainly not.  That takes a natural talent and passionate dedication I know I’ll never have.  And will I mess up?  Certainly.  Many a meal has turned out less-than-savory or completely inedible due to mistakes on my part.

But, just like anything else, mistakes are how we learn.

What bothers me more, my friends, than a lack of desire to try (after all, that’s your prerogative) is the lack of desire to make an effort for just yourself.

The military takes my husband away for the occasional week or 6 at a time.  And, when he’s gone, I live like a single person — a single person who’s not allowed to date or have sex with anything other than a battery operated device.  So.  You think I’m just going to keel over and subsist off of nothing but Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and Tuna Helper for the duration of his absence?

Heck no.

I mean, I keep those things around.  Don’t get me wrong.  And sometimes I do resort to making them, especially on nights when I’m feeling particularly lonely and nostalgic for the simplicity of the boxed meals of my youth.

But the truth is, the nights I feel the best are the nights I take the time to do something for myself. When I get home, pour myself a glass of wine, turn on some music or the news, and set to work.

For me.

Work, it turns out, isn’t so bad when you get to enjoy the fruits of your own labor.  And the process itself is a great wind-down from the day.  Start boiling the pasta; set a pan of bacon sizzling on the stove; mince up some garlic; grate some Parmesan; saute some frozen corn; toss it all together with some egg yolk and pasta water, and we have a creamy, satisfying pasta carbonara for one.

It sounds like a lot of work, but this can be done in 15 minutes.  Just buy yourself a decent knife and take the time to learn the basics — like how to mince a clove of garlic and how to boil a pot of water.

Trust me — if you can learn to follow directions, you can learn how to cook.  That is to say, if I, Ms-how-much-water-do-I-need-to-cook-pasta-and-what-pray-tell-is-a-”pinch”-of-salt? can do it, than you most certainly can do it.

If you want to.

So.

Go to the “Living and Learning” tab at the top of my page.  Click “Down the Hatch.”

Then, pick one.

Make a half batch of this chili.  Bring the rest to share with co-workers, or live off of the leftovers for days.

Make yourself a Grilled Veggie Sandwich.  The flavor will surprise you in a very, very good way.

California Grilled Veggie Sandwich

Feeling daring?  Make this pizza.  Six ingredients never tasted so good.  Your tastebuds will thank you profusely.

Or, do like I did last weekend and make yourself a mini appetizer plate — mine had mixed olives, smoked salmon, dill cheese, and chocolate.

Best. Dinner. Ever.

The point, dear friends, is that you really are worth it.  So much more than shampoo, feeding yourself well makes you feel good from the inside.

You only get one body, and consistently stuffing it with processed junk isn’t doing it any favors.

Besides.  If YOU’RE not worth the effort, then who is?

It’s SAD, but true.

It’s happening again.

Every year, when the telltale signs of inevitable changes start appearing outside of my window — the deceptively warm-colored leaves trying their damnedest to pull a hood over my eyes to distract me from the dull winter browns and grays to come — when it seems like everyone else is excited about holiday shopping and knit sweaters and roasting chestnuts (do any of you actually roast chestnuts?), I get SAD.

I do.

Don’t let the beauty of these trees deceive you.  They serve to tell tales of menacing things to come.

In fact, the only thing I really like about this time of year is the smell and taste of mulled cider.  If I could sit in front of an infinitely fueled fireplace with a never-ending cup of mulled cider and the superpower of not needing to pee for 4 months (which would require stepping onto the cold, tile bathroom floors), there is a possibility I could remain content throughout the winter.

But probably not, because there’s only so much perfection one can take before it gets old, you know?

Like an awesome apple pie with vanilla ice cream.  I love it, but could I eat the whole pie in one sitting?

I think not.

So 4 months of this is a little excessive.  If winter lasted a week, maybe we’d have a better relationship.

But it doesn’t, so I get SAD.

Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Yes, I diagnosed myself.

Yes, I do this a lot.

Yes, I’ve sought professional help.  It didn’t go well.

Normally, I am a morning person.  I willingly get up at 6:45 — maybe 7:00 or 7:30 on the weekends — just to have my coffee, do some morning reading, and maybe write a blog post, all before showering and heading to work.  (When you’re dependent on coffee, like me, you don’t drink it — you have it.  Like it’s a part of you.  Is that wrong?)

However, come the chilly months, I just don’t want to get out of bed.  Like… at all.  And not just because stepping outside of the warm covers means my body temperature will instantly drop 20 degrees, and not just because it’s still dark outside, but simply because I don’t want to face the day.

Seriously?

How SAD is that?

It’s like one of those horrible depression commercials where they talk about it physically hurting (and sometimes it does), except I know what is happening and why it is happening, which, I think, somehow makes it a little less depressing.

Because I know it won’t last forever.

Which is good, but not good enough to make it go away.

So, like last year, I’m taking a bit of a reprieve.

It’s time, once again, for the beautiful people of Miami to squint — not against the ever-present God of the Sun, but against the phenomenon of my blindingly pasty skin, pure and white as the freshly fallen snow.  Well, maybe snow that’s been sitting for a day and has a light coating of freckled sand from the trucks that stop the streets from getting slippery, if we’re going to be honest.

And you know we’re nothing if not honest here.

This year will be different, though.  Interesting.

See, this is going to be a reunion of sorts, which is exceedingly rare for this brokedown family.  My little sister Kelly, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, is not only going to be hosting me for Thanksgiving, but we are also cooking for our mother on her first trip to the Sunshine State since my sister took up residency, and our brother, whom Justin and I recently visited in Cleveland.

The last time the 4 of us were together was about 4 years ago, when we decided to visit Kelly when she was living in Savannah, Georgia.  So apparently, if we want to continue having these little get-togethers, my little sister needs to keep moving.

Joel will be getting a hotel room after the first night, which is why we usually refer to him as the intelligent sibling.  Because with my mom, sister, and myself holed up in a tiny apartment for an extended amount of time, there’s no telling what might happen.

It could be a really interesting study for any burgeoning sociologists out there.

Anyone?

No?

You’re right — it’s best to stay away from a lit fuse.  Which is why we decided Justin should stay behind, as should Ed, my mother’s significant other.  (Really, the reasons were more financial than anything else, and while it’s weird for Justin and me to spend this holiday apart, we figure we’ll make up for it by spending Christmas together.  You know — fires and chestnuts and all that jazz.)

What’s even more exciting is that I’m getting a road trip out of the deal.  Yep, the Tracker and I are headed south for part of the winter, and we couldn’t be happier.

I just wish I had a little more time to do some exploring, but maybe I can still cook something up for the arrival of spring.  Because nothing is better than celebrating the return of warmth, sunshine, and — you guessed it — my sanity.

…And That’s Why “Ability to Multitask” isn’t Written on my Resume.

I have issues.

Clearly.

Not the least of which is my inability to make a decision — especially when it comes to home interiors.

While for me, spending money on things for the house is about as fun as getting a tooth cavity filled, I also think that, after 4 years, it might be nice for this place to feel like “home.”  Especially when I spend a good bulk of my time photographing other peoples’ gorgeous homes.

I just did a mental assessment, and I realized something quite shocking:  The only  room in which I’ve hung anything besides towel bars on the wall is the laundry room. The laundry room.  In there, I hung a doohickie on which I can hang the ironing board, so it’s purely functional.  Not decorative.  I also hung these kind of pretty wall hooks.

That’s it.

I did hang a gallery corner in my living room at one point, but that came down when I repainted the walls.

What does this mean?

That when it comes to decorating, I’m an indecisive, noncommittal, ball-less freak of a woman?

That’s a start.

But also, I’m pretty sure that nothing triggers my Life ADD more potently than decorating.

Case in point: I was alone this weekend.  It was the perfect opportunity to peruse Pinterest in search of simple, inexpensive and inspirational ideas for the master bedroom.

My first problem?  Why was I looking for master bedroom ideas when my office still has an unshaven armpit?

Well, I would get on the office thing, but the bedroom seems so much more pressing right now because for 4 years we’ve lived with falling-apart plastic vertical blinds, hand-me-down blonde wood furniture (which I intend to paint), blank white walls, and a popcorn ceiling.

In other words, it hasn’t been touched.

And a week ago, I bought a pillow.

The pillow was called “Crazy Ol’ Bird” and I thought it would be perfect to inspire a bedroom because I’m a crazy ol’ bird.

We can relate.

So I’ll bring the pillow here into the living room while I search on Pinterest, and wow — I kind of like that pillow in the living room.  And anyway, it doesn’t match the duvet cover which is something I’d rather not spend money on replacing, so yes.  I’ll leave the pillow in the living room.

Which gives me an almost-blank slate in the master bedroom.  And a green duvet.

And of course, if I’m going to think about the master bedroom, I should probably tie that in with the master bathroom, which still has this horrendous wallpaper border from when we first moved in.

So maybe if I start picking at that, the blank slate will give me some ideas.

Okay, I’m bored.  This stuff isn’t coming off.  And I can see into the bedroom that there are cracks in my vertical blinds, which means that anyone standing outside in the darkness can see me, so maybe I should get back to the relative safety of the living room and order some curtains.

I’ll start with curtains.

But it’s too quiet.

I’ll see what’s on Netflix and just put that on in the background while I search for curtains.

What’s this?  The Walking Dead?  Sounds like zombie stuff, which definitely won’t hold my interest for more than like a second, so that will be perfect.

Four episodes later…

I need  more wine.  But I can’t go into the kitchen because I don’t have blinds and it’s dark outside and there are woods.

And quite possibly zombies.

I really should order some shades.

Oh yeah, that’s what I was supposed to be doing.  Finding curtains for the master bedroom.

Concentrate, Katie.  Seriously.

Okay, wow.  Did you know there are like a bajillion curtains online?  Oooh, look at these from Anthropologie.  They are kind of groovy and scrolly and chic, which is exactly how I am, so these would be perfect.  I’ll get them.

Click.  Click.  Double click.

Wait.

Can that be right?

$148 for curtains?

No, that’s not right.

It’s $148 for just one panel.

I need 2 panels.

Yeah, I can picture that conversation.

Me:  So I bought some curtains for the bedroom while you were gone.

Justin:  Great!  We needed some.

Me:  They were $300.  Plus tax.  And shipping.

Justin:  Did they come with a hooker?

Me:  No, just 192 inches of velvety goodness.

Justin:  That sounds like they came with a hooker.

Me:  I’m pretty sure Anthropologie doesn’t sell hookers.  Or rent them.  But I can ask.

Justin:  So you’re telling me you spent $300 on curtains.  Do you have any idea how much steak we could’ve bought for $300?  That’s like… an entire cow worth of curtains.

Me:  I know.  I’m hoping they’re awesome because now I can’t buy anything else for the bedroom or the entire house ever.  And we will probably need to eat Ramen Noodles every night for dinner until February 2013.  But that’s okay because we can still budget for wine and now we have curtains.

Justin:  Did they come with a hooker?

So.  Obviously, I can’t buy these curtains.

What else can’t I buy at Anthropologie?

Oooh, a wine glass.

It’s $32.00.  Which is more than I spend on a bottle of wine.  Sometimes more than I spend on 4 bottles of wine.

Did someone say wine?

I need more.

But I can’t go into the kitchen because I don’t have blinds and there are zombies out there.

Shit.

Quick.  Ebay.  Order the same shades that are in my living room.

Done.

Now I can go into the kitchen because even though I don’t have shades right now, the thought that they’re on their way is strangely comforting.

So all-in-all, I’d call this a successful evening: Zillions of rooms perused on Pinterest, 4.7 square inches of wallpaper border removed, velvety curtain dreams developed then crushed, shades ordered for kitchen, and 5 episodes of The Walking Dead completed.

Clearly, when it comes to preaching about experiencing life, I really know how to walk the walk.

Welcome to my world.

Peace, Love, and… Who the F* is Kim Kardashian?

For the longest time, I’ve maintained the very real and personal belief that I was born sometime in the mid 1940′s, lived passionately in the ’60′s, and died of a dramatic drug overdose (is there any other kind?) sometime in the 70′s.

I came back in a hurry as a child of the ’80′s so I wouldn’t miss anything, but it turns out, unfortunately, I did.

I feel this way mainly because of a strong, inexplicable affinity for Vietnam era music and the television show, The Wonder Years.  I feel no such connection to feathered bangs and slap bracelets.  And Nick Carter couldn’t hold a candle to John Lennon.

I mean, really?

But there’s just something about the innocence of a time prior to all of the distractions of the present day — when answers came from actual books instead of Google, when entertainment came from imagination before television, and when people actually understood their cause.

Photo by Burk Uzzle.

Well… for the most part.

Photo by Burk Uzzle

The world was a scary place, for sure, but still there was hope.

And I think that maybe I would have liked to live then — when reporting still involved research and passion and integrity.  When family and friends conversed with each other during meals instead of fondling their phones.  When people became famous for doing extraordinary things — not how pretty they were or how many sex tapes they filmed or how envious they made us of their shallow lives.  When little girls were beginning to learn their intellectual worth, dreaming about building careers as scientists or writers or soldiers — not about how famous they could become for bleaching their hair, using their friends, and doing nothing of memorable note.

I realize it’s not healthy to live in the past.  Especially when, if you don’t believe in reincarnation, I never actually lived in the past.

But here’s the thing.

I think that maybe we’re forgetting ourselves here.

We’re too worried about how many Facebook friends we have rather than building real relationships.  We’re filling the empty parts of ourselves with stuff we don’t really want because it’s too hard or too time consuming or too terrifying to think about what might really be missing.

None of this is revolutionary, of course.

But think about this for a minute, the next time you look down at your phone when there’s a real, live person in front of you — the next time you tell a little girl how pretty she is instead of asking her about her favorite book — the next time you spend hours watching and envying how celebrities live their lives:

Life is built on experiences — the stimulation of conversation, the taste of good food, the reminiscing of a day well spent.  So maybe, just for a night, we should turn off our phones and experience it.

*Steps down from pedestal.*

On Wiggly Mutts and Puppy Butts

I had a dog.

I’ve pretty much always had a dog.

First, there was Muffin.

Muffin had a white triangle on her head.

She was a gift to my brother right before I was born, undoubtedly intended to lessen the blow of the impending realization that there’s going to be a baby in the house.  And a baby might mean people sometimes forget about my brother, the non-baby, but that’s okay because they gave him a puppy.

Muffin looooved Joel.

But she loved me, too.

Thirteen years later, Muffin died in my arms.

Soon after came Lexie and Beemer, named after 2 cars my parents wanted but would likely never own.

Mom, Beemer & Lexie

If you ask me, the dogs were better than the cars.

I missed them when I moved away from home, but they always remembered me when I came back.  No matter how long it had been.

Over time, the homes changed.  The people in them changed.  But the dogs were always there.  Beemer, with his incessant need to Fetch! and Lexie, nibbling my hair by way of greeting.

Earlier this week, Beemer got sick.  Ed and my mom took him to the vet, but they didn’t take him home.  They had to do what people sometimes need to do when they own a dog.  When they love a dog.

They had to say goodbye.

I said goodbye too, on the phone, trying desperately to keep my voice from catching on the lump that had lodged itself deep inside my throat.  They said his eyes lit up.  He heard me.  He knew me.  And when I hung up, I lost it but good.  Big, ugly sobs producing big, ugly tears.  That horrifically hideous cry that comes when you don’t care what it’s doing to your body, because all that matters right in that moment is the need of your soul.

And that need is release.  To grieve.  In waves with each new realization:

I’ll never throw him a frisbee again.

Ugly sobs.

I’ll never again bury my face in his fur.

More ugly sobs.

I’ll never get to see his entire butt wiggle with excitement when I give him a treat.

There isn’t enough tissue in the world, sometimes.

My dogs came to comfort me that night, nuzzling into my sides and laying their heads in my lap.  And the grief crested again, when I realized this probably wouldn’t be the last time I’d have to feel this way.

So.

I’m not sure it’s wise to admit how much that furball affected me.  And I’m sorry if I’ve made you sad this morning or if I’m only confirming the fact that I’m crazy.

If you’ve never known the undying adoration of a dog, I wouldn’t expect you to understand.

They just get in.

And when they do, they don’t ever really leave.

I’m gonna miss you, Beemer-butt.  You always made me happy.

And I hope that wherever you are, the peanut butter is plentiful and the frisbees never stop flying.

 

“Hey, Baby — I Don’t Care About Signs. What’s Your Mood?”

I was watching a show the other day that took place Great Britain in the early 1900′s where the characters wore black arm bands when they were in mourning.

I don’t know if you knew this, but people died a lot in the early 1900′s.  I’m pretty sure it’s because they didn’t have Echinacia.

Or Viagra.

Or iPhones.

But one thing they did seem to have was an inherent understanding of the fact that people can’t read other people’s minds.

Bear with me for a sec.

I think you’ll find it hard to disagree that most people, at least here in America, are pretty self-absorbed when it comes to their day-to-day business.  When we order our triple-shot-chai-caramel-mocha-latteatto from the pony-tailed, too skinny girl behind the counter at S’bucks, we’re not concerned about what kind of morning she’s having.  We’re not worried about whether or not she’ll pass her mid-term or get into law school get an abortion.  We just want our damn coffee, because WE are having a DAY.

So we might be a bit snippy with the skinny latte maker — we might be too busy thinking about how she must be thinking about how cool we are in our work skirts and ties and rushing off to a busy busy day to notice the fact that she’s actually thinking about her mother, who’s somewhere in Afghanistan and hasn’t called home in 4 days.

Or her boyfriend, who just dumped her for a skinnier latte.

Which brings me back to the arm band thing.  While politeness and compassion are virtues that we should probably practice all of the time, it’s sometimes easy to get wrapped up in our own little whirlwind wonderlands and forget that there are other people in other wonderlands that, on occasion, are actually sometimes a wee bit more jarring than or own.

And maybe, had we known that one of these little satellites within our colossal orbit was having a bad day, we would have been a little nicer.  Or understanding.  Or… equipped.

I’m talking about mood bands, people.

If the dumpee at S’bucks were wearing a red arm band to symbolize just how ticked off she is at the world, we’d know to leave her the eff alone.

And maybe give her a slightly bigger tip.

And maybe hit on her, depending on our gender or sexual orientation.

Or, if our co-worker shows up to the office wearing a black arm band to symbolize mourning, we know not to heckle him too much about his losing football team.  Unless the band is for mourning that loss, in which case he’s abusing the system and should be heckled to no end.

Our waitress is wearing a green arm band?  Perfect!  She’s happy and helpful and will likely fill our drinks in a timely fashion.  But watch what you say — if you cross the line of rudeness and she returns wearing red, you might want to pass on dessert.

I’m thinking I could be on to something big here.

Here’s the Thing about the Woods.

The thing about the woods is that they can be quite beautiful and quite terrifying, all at the same time.

Photo taken with iPhone.

The good thing is that when you’re on a designated path in a state park, they’re a lot more beautiful and a lot less terrifying.

Photo taken with iPhone.

Unless you’re me, and you inadvertently lead your party astray from said path and out into the dense wilderness where every shadow is suspect, every rustle sounds menacing, and the legs of your fellow backpackers start resembling those of fried chicken drumsticks.

Extra crispy.

Photo taken with iPhone.

Fortunately, I stumbled back onto the path without even realizing I’d been off of it, and my much more wood-savvy companions were apparently aware that we were leaving the path and didn’t say anything because they, for some inexplicable reason regardless of knowing me, thought that I knew what I was doing.

Pfffft!

The truth is, I never know what I’m doing.

Like, at all.

I’m just stumbling blindly along like the rest of us.

And sometimes I can feel it when I’ve left the path, but other times I can’t.

Photo taken with iPhone

Rarely, as it did yesterday in Raven Rock State Park, does my inadvertent wandering turn into a bonafide short cut.

Photo taken with iPhone

So my lessons from our hike?

1)  Sometimes you have to look for even the most obvious paths, but wandering aside every now and again to enjoy the scenery isn’t the worst idea in the world.  Unless, of course, we’re speaking in the literal woods-hiking sense, in which case wandering from the path can be extremely dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.  (Anyone read The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon?)

2)  On my own, trekking through the wilderness, I wouldn’t last a day.

I’m just glad that no fried chickens — or human appendages — were harmed during the hike.

Photo taken with iPhone

(By the way, my comrades saw the path switchback ahead of us, so while they knew it was a shortcut and weren’t just allowing me to blindly lead them astray, I had to expertly cover my shock at stumbling upon a path when I thought we’d already been on the path.  This is why you should always bring smart people with you while wandering through the woods.)

This Gives Comfort Food A Whole New Meaning.

This morning I became sidetracked reading someone else’s blog — someone who’s poetic and dreamy and introspective and harsh — every bit the writer I’d like to be if I took myself more seriously.  A traveler.

I’d share it with you, but I selfishly want to keep it for myself.

Hey, buddy, life isn’t fair.

Don’t you hate it when people say that to you?  Like I don’t know.

Anyway, now I don’t have enough time to write a proper post before leaving for work.  And the only reason I’m wasting your time at all is because I’ve had an epiphanal moment I feel I need to share.  Are you ready for it?

 

Here it is:

 

When I can’t travel, I replace the desire with food.

 

Was that obvious to everyone but me?

I absorb myself in discovering new recipes, cooking it, tasting it, eating it, washing it down with red wine.  I hope this doesn’t mean I’m psychologically unsound.

Though, would that really surprise anyone?

Oh, and here is that blog I don’t want to share.  I’m only telling you because sometimes life can be fair, if I can help it, and I don’t like making people curious without providing answers.

It seems unnecessarily mean, you know?

And now, because I’m here (not traveling), I’m going to get ready for work and then fully embrace my culture by buying a sausage cheese biscuit on my way to the office.

I never said I’d pretend to be above it all.

(Is this post as confusing as I think it might be?  Welcome to my unedited, pre-breakfast, post-coffee mind.  It’s a scary place.)