The Dog And The Bell And The Butler

Beware of smart dogs

House training a puppy is a lot of work. Loki is 11 weeks old. It feels like we are letting him outside constantly, but he still has a couple accidents a day. I know it is going to take time. We’re trying to be consistent as possible. Honestly, we’re just grateful he sleeps from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. without asking to go out. He is a good boy. And so very handsome. Still, I’ve been reading advice online to determine if I can help the house training process along because, as darling as kids are when they are young and energetic and funny as they experience the world through fresh eyes, every parent just wants to stop talking about pee and poop all day long.

In more than one place, I’ve seen it suggested that you attach bells to your doors to house train your dog. When you take them out, you ring the bell and then when they go potty outside you praise them like crazy. Supposedly, this teaches the puppy to associate the bell with needing to potty outside. Eventually, at some point your dog learns to ring the bell when they want to go out. It’s all very Pavlovian.

I haven’t decided how I feel about this. On the one hand, many people have said it works well, so it might be worth trying. On the other hand, I have to say that with a dog as smart as a corgi is (and man…he is smart), I fear Loki will learn that when he rings the bell, I come running. So, maybe he does learn to ring the bell to go outside, and my house training problem is solved. But then he starts ringing the bell all the time, and I become his butler, running in every time he summons me. Then I have a different problem. I’m conditioned. He’s become Pavlov, and I’ve become the dog.

I might just give him a couple more months grace period on this, time for his tiny bladder to grow while I learn to be more consistent taking him outside. That way he can remain the dog in this scenario, and I don’t start running to open a door every time a bell rings.

The Best Job I Never Had

A funny thing is happening in my life. People are suddenly deeply interested in my career choice. For twenty years, I have been a homemaker and 24/7 support staff for my children. During this time, when people would ask me what I did for a living and I would respond as I just have, they would immediately lose interest in their line of questioning. I figured that was either because they didn’t want further elucidation on my career staying with my children, perhaps hoping to avoid what they assumed would be inevitable potty talk or presentation of myriad baby photos, or because they figured that I had no intelligent things to say because I was only a homemaker and caregiver with no perceivable goals, accomplishments, or interests. There were many times at parties and social events when I felt ostensibly invisible. In this country, you are only as important as your job. Taking care of children and a home is undervalued when held up to other careers.

Recently, however, it seems many people I know are curious about my future plans. I’m assuming this sudden concern is because our youngest is finishing up the first quarter of his last year of high school. The question posed is always the same: “What are you going to do with yourself once both boys are off at college?” After decades of no one having any interest in my daily goings-on, I have found myself at a loss for a response to this question. I assume most people pose the question because they are wondering what work I will do now that my current employers no longer need me. Some people have asked if I will go back to my previous career as a scientific and technical editor. Some people have asked if I’m planning to go back to school since I have been out of the work force for so long and might need some retraining. Other people suggest maybe I could work at Starbucks or Walmart because my resume is a little lackluster what with the twenty year hiatus I’ve had. Their concern for my future is a little puzzling given their previous lack of interest in the goings on in my life.

So, I am going to take a minute to demystify my plans so people can stop worrying about what I will do with the extra hours I’ll be saddled with once Luke graduates next June. My plan is to retire. My tour of duty is over, so I am going to find myself again. Maybe I will work on writing. Maybe I will practice a lot more yoga and ride my bike. Maybe I will travel and visit friends I haven’t spent time with in far too long. Maybe I will work on creating new recipes that fit my old lady diet. Maybe I will play drums in a garage band. Maybe I will make a bunch of AARP friends and play pickleball. Maybe I’ll get weekly massages. Maybe I’ll get bored with all that and find a part-time paying job or volunteer at an organization that feeds my soul. Maybe I’ll do a little bit of all of it. I have no idea. But after twenty years of having my life schedule filled in with other people’s plans, I’m looking forward to making plans of my own, whatever that might look like. And the beautiful thing about retiring from a non-paying job is that I won’t be missing a paycheck. So, win-win.

I’ve been lucky and I’m still lucky. I get to retire from a non-paying job no one thought I was doing all these years. At least now I’ll have an answer when someone asks me what I do. When I meet someone new and they ask me what I did before I retired, though, I’m going to have to tell them I had a classified job with the US government so the conversations ends there. Life is funny sometimes.

Hopefully Not Sleepless In Denver Forever

When my husband and I were first together, we shared a full size bed, and we were totally happy with it. Young love, am I right? When we bought our first house, though, we upgraded to a queen size mattress because we were asserting our adulthood and buying a grown-up bed. When we bought our second house, we stayed with the queen size frame we had purchased, but bought a Sleep Number bed because I was pregnant and realized that I needed a softer bed. We would no longer have to argue about a mattress that was too firm for me but not firm enough for him, or so I thought. But when that bad wore out after ten years, I let hubby talk me into a memory foam mattress that showed up at our house like a big taquito. We cut the plastic off it and let it slowly unroll into a plain tortilla in square shape. Oh, how I hated that mattress. It was way too firm for me and made my hips fall asleep when I laid on my sides, which as a side sleeper was highly problematic. To fix my pins-and-needles hips, I got an egg crate topper, which he hated because he thought it was way too hot. So we went back to another queen size Sleep Number bed, hoping that would solve both my need for a softer bed and his need for a cooler bed.

And that bed was fine until we bought a bigger house. Then we decided we should get a king size bed to fit the bigger room. We agreed it had to be a Sleep Number bed, so that was good. But, twenty-five years into marriage, we had learned some things about each other. Other than the fact that we both want the bedroom to be cold year round, we are not similar sleepers. Steve is one large exothermic reaction who emanates heat. Like, you can feel it coming off his body under the covers. It’s like he’s melting. It’s spooky. He also doesn’t stay in one spot when he sleeps. He is expansive and likes to travel. And despite his complaining he is always too warm, he tends to move a lot in his sleep and take the covers with him. I sleep cold in every season except summer. To combat his cover stealing and stay warm, I sleep with extra blankets (yes, blankets, plural). I remain in one spot all night, rotating like a chicken on a rotisserie. Despite my taking up very little space, I want to be surrounded by a lot of it. I do not want to be crowded. Cuddling is for warming up for exactly three minutes on a cold January night. After that, I want to be left alone under my cozy covers in my space. You stay where you are.

We’d solved the space issues when we bought the king size bed. But now we had cover issues. The king size bed means Steve has even more room to move around, which means he can steal even more covers. So now I am cold all the time. For winter, we bought a dual side comforter, cooler for him and warmer for me, but you guessed it. He steals the warmer side and then complains he is too hot. And he only lets me have it on the bed for six months, and I need it to be there for nine.

Tonight we decided it is time to pull the emergency lever. We’re going full on Scandinavian, which is something Steve talked about doing after we spent a week in Norway in 2009. I ordered us each our own twin size, down comforter, lightweight for him, mid-weight for me. Hopefully this solves our temperature and cover thieving problems. If it works, I promise to give him all the credit for the solution I wanted no part of for 12 years because it involved more damn bedding. If it doesn’t, I hope he likes the queen sleeper sofa he recently got for his office because that is where he is headed, where he can spread out and steal all the covers he desires from his own self.

And if anyone mentions getting twin beds for our twin comforters and putting that ensemble in our bedroom ala I Love Lucy, I will lose my mind. I am finished analyzing, talking about, and problem solving sleep. I would just like to get some damn sleep already. Please. I’m begging.

When “I’ve Fallen And I Can’t Get Up” Meets the 21st Century

TikTok. Two tiny words (or is it one medium word?) that represent the biggest time waster in my life right now. When I don’t want to clean the house or cook the food? TikTok. When I am waiting at school pick up? TikTok. When I can’t sleep? TikTok. TikTok is there for me 24/7. When I am down, TikTok always makes me laugh,. Sometimes I think TikTok is the best friend I’ve ever had.

I fall down an endless TikTok hole at least once a week. My sister told me that there were people who will pop into your TikTok feed and tell you that you have been on the app too long and it is time to find something else to do. I thought she was joking. Until it happened to me. Because I have PTSD-level anxiety from my childhood about behaving and staying in line, I try to get off TikTok before I get scolded by one of those random people. I can’t handle being caught. It brings up too much shame and remnants of Catholic guilt.

Recently, though. I’ve started a new game with myself. I’m becoming a TikTok risk taker. I’ll be on for like an hour, watching funny dogs running around while a sound clip from The Office is playing a bit about parkour, and in the back of my mind I start wondering if I am about to be called out. But then I decide to push my luck. This is how I live on the edge these days. I flip up one more time. Certainly the next video won’t be the one. Maybe I’ll watch another four, five, or even six videos, tempting fate. Sometimes I see how long I can go before one of those videos comes on to tell me to get a life. Most times I get tired of videos before that person appears, but it’s fun to see what will happen first: will my stamina give out or will I get chastised?

So, yeah. This is my life now. This is what a year and a half in relative social isolation has done to me. I hope we put Covid-19 to bed soon. Otherwise, I don’t know what stage of mental decline I will be in next year at this time. For now, I will try to believe that maybe my TikTok time isn’t anything to worry about. We all need an escape from the insanity we are currently living through. I’m trying not to drink too much or to rely on THC to check out, and at least TikTok can’t nip at my liver or destroy brain cells. At least, I don’t think it does. Maybe it is a fair, if childish, pointless, and mindless, escape. But, if I ever send you a video of me performing one of those TikTok dances, please take my phone. I have to draw the line somewhere.

I Don’t Want A Stuffed Tiger Cub Or Another Stupid Canvas Bag*

Tuskless elephant

Dear ASPCA and World Wildlife Fund,

Stop. Just stop. My worldview is dismal enough without your ads about starving puppies and elephants hunted for ivory and motherless tiger cubs haunting my television set, the place I go to escape. I get that it is difficult to get a share of people’s donation cash when Covid has decimated household incomes and some people are sending whatever spare money they have to Donald Trump so he can attempt to prove he unfairly lost an election he fairly lost. But, damn. The whole heartstring thing on top of a global pandemic, a country on the precipice of democratic collapse, and the non-stop drum beat of climate catastrophes? It’s too much. You’re killing me, Smalls. We’re all fighting to keep ourselves afloat right now. Alcohol consumption, drug use, and gun deaths are already trending up. I don’t mean to imply that you are driving people to alcoholism or drug abuse or murder, but you probably aren’t helping. What if we all promise to send you $10 a month in perpetuity? If we do that, will you promise not to run even one more misery-inducing ad? Please. I’m begging you. Getting to the remote in time to change channels is becoming increasingly difficult. I’m old and not as fast as I used to be, but apparently my distance eyesight is still good.

Sincerely,

Just kidding

*This piece is tongue-in-cheek and meant to be over-the-top and satirical in nature so before you attack me, please suck some helium and lighten up**

**I don’t literally mean you should suck helium because that is not good for you. It kills brain cells when you lose oxygen, like when you put a bag over your head***

***Speaking of bags, I will take another canvas bag…as long as it doesn’t have starving puppies, tuskless elephants, or orphaned tiger cubs on it

How You Become One Of Those Dog Owners

We don’t even have the puppy yet. We are picking him up this weekend, but I have been on Etsy looking at dog paraphernalia. I have become that person. I did not plan for this to happen. I turned on the news earlier, which was an epic mistake that sent me into a negative spiral. To claw my way out of the crevasse I slipped into, I started looking at clothing items for dogs because nothing says “I need to get out more, but we’re in a global pandemic and not everyone is willing to get vaccinated” more than a puppy in a knock-off Burberry bandana. So apparently I have stopped myself from focusing on the miasmal political nightmare our country finds herself in by losing my mind in a treasure trove of puppy merchandise.

I suppose, however, if you’re going to lose your mind, indulging in puppy Burberry is preferable to going on a murderous rampage or drowning yourself in a river, right? At this point, bandanas, Halloween costumes, and personalized toys for our new family member seem like a healthy mental escape given the alternatives. At least that is what I keep telling myself while simultaneously shaking my head at the notion that this is where I am in my life.

So when you see me walking down the street with my dog dressed to the nines and cute as a button, be nice. Just remember I haven’t lost my mind. This is how I saved it.

Photo borrowed from @hughcollinsdavis on Insta with full credit to Brian Davis

Monday Haiku

I have had a long day after a night of little sleep. So I am just going to share this photo from when I woke up this morning, along with my ode to Mondays. Perhaps you can relate?

Monday Haiku

Monday, how you suck!

We just try to survive you.

Is it Friday yet?

At least the sunrise made Monday look promising for a whole minute

Wolf Spiders Are Satan Spawn — Just Saying

Writer’s note for my fellow arachnophobes: There are no spider photos contained herein. This is a safe space, unless you are afraid of large toads.

I love our new suburban home and neighborhood. When we left our house in the city to move into a house with open space behind it, close to two state parks that we adore, I felt I could breathe again. There was space and nature and wildlife. Every morning when I look out my bedroom window, I am grateful. There is only one thing about this neighborhood that I cannot abide. And that is, in the fall, there are spiders. Big spiders. Creepy, long-legged, sometimes even furry, spiders. I get the heebie-jeebies even typing the word. Shudder.

The safest place to walk on an early fall evening in our neighborhood

I am not afraid of most creatures. I have no problem with snakes, not even those that live around me and rattle. Mice and rats don’t freak me out. I will catch and release moths that make it into my home. I have picked up toads and had the poor frightened things pee in my hands and didn’t blink. I’ve saved a salamander or two from a window well, and removed a vole or two as well. Even black bear sightings don’t frighten me. But spiders? There is a place in hell for them. And don’t bother telling me how good they are at eating other bugs. Do. Not. Care. Anything with eight legs and eight eyes is straight out of hell.

Tonight as we made our way down the driveway for our evening walk with Ruby, Steve casually called out “Spider,” which instead of making me look away caused me immediately to look down and see the sizable wolf spider beastie on the ground to the left of me. And, even though I knew it was there, I still jumped in the air, squealed, shivered, and exclaimed, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph Christ!” I hadn’t even made it past the damn sidewalk. Spiders like that one are the reason why at this time of year at night I walk in the middle of the street. I try to avoid sidewalks adjacent to open space or fields or even lawns because the spiders who live there are the large ones that hunt. Wikipedia describes wolf spiders as “athletic.” Seriously? Satan spawn. I would literally rather risk getting hit by a car than be in the direct sight line of one of those devils.

As we skirted our way around the spider and walked up the block in the middle of the road, I noticed my heart was racing, my arms crossed tightly over my chest. My eyes were focused downward, looking for the next big, old, disgusting, furry, eight-eyed, eight-legged beastie I might encounter. On the next block up, we spotted a sizable toad we named Jabba. A bit beyond that, we saw a black cat a distance and I heard Steve call out to it, “Don’t you do it,” and it ran across the street in front of us anyway. Other than that, my downward gaze in the middle of the street spied only one large locust. I walked along mumbling about how I just need to make it to October 31st. We usually don’t see them much after that. I made it back home again without another incident. But now I am wondering if I will dream about spiders tonight because that is usually what happens when I encounter one with a body that would take up the majority of my palm if I held it, which I never would because ewwwwww. Shudder again.

Night zoom shot of Jabba the Huge Toad

I have never been a fan of the fade of summer into fall, but these spider sightings have me ready to put on a sweater, pull on my boots, and get a pumpkin spice latte. As for the spider I saw tonight, well, for him I want to be like Al Capone in The Untouchables when he finds out Elliot Ness has intercepted his bootlegged booze shipment from Canada. I want to stand in the street and tell anyone who will listen that, “I want him DEAD! I want his family DEAD! I want his house burned to the GROUND! I wanna go there in the middle of the night and I wanna PISS ON HIS ASHES!

Okay. Fine. Maybe that’s a wee bit dramatic. But let it be known that as they start to die off in the colder weather that lies ahead, every time I glimpse one of their folded-up carcasses on the ground, I will think about that speech, go gangster, and mentally urinate on their lifeless bodies to send a message to the other spiders who might still be lurking around waiting to ambush me at the bottom of my driveway. You’re next.

The Church Of The Blue FJ Cruiser

I like road trips. I enjoy driving, but I also like being a passenger. I like waking up in one state and going to sleep in another. This is why I volunteer for these cross-country road trips. Today, after saying goodbye to Thing One, I drove almost 600 miles from southern Washington to Salt Lake City. And I discovered something I hadn’t realized before. I mean, other than the fact that Idaho is too damn big when you just want to be home. I like to road trip alone at least in part because it is an opportunity to listen to all my favorite music, sing along, and have zero responsibilities other than arriving at my destination safely.

During the course of my day, I checked my messages at various rest stops. What I discovered is that extroverts think road trips are an excuse to have phone conversations with you. I had three phone messages from different extroverted, social friends and family members telling me that they were calling to keep me company while I drive. The first time I heard the recorded message offering to chat with me to keep me company, I laughed out loud. Do these people not know me at all? I don’t like to talk on the phone to begin with. I find talking on the phone while driving a distraction. And I especially think it’s a distraction when what you are distracting me from is the mental peace and quiet that comes with listening to my car stereo loudly enough that the speakers audibly vibrate. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to get me out of my head for a few minutes? A solo road trip day is my introvert church. It’s disrespectful to call someone when you know they are at church.

The gold of western hay fields
If you weren’t sure about the drought conditions, this is what eastern Oregon looks like right now
Snake River
Nothing but wildfire haze as far as the eye can see, which isn’t that far