When Life Sends You a Fur Ball

Meet Sushi Woodman.

Meet Sushi Woodman.

Miles run Saturday: 8.5

Loads of laundry completed today: 4

Walks I have been on in addition to running in the past two days: 4

“I think she’s gifted. We may need to have her evaluated.”

There I sat in the exam room with her on my lap, legs curled up cozily on my work skirt. My husband looked on adoringly, not sure whether he should play along.

“I mean, she already knows so much. She’s special,” I said, petting her head.

The vet tech nodded and smiled and tilted her head to the side, trying to assess how to approach us. “She does seem very special.” Nod. Then we get the kind of look one gives a wild animal when you want to help them but are unsure if they will bite you if you reach out your hand. “Let’s just get her up here on the table.”

“We love her. We think she’s amazing,” my husband said. He stroked her head and talked super-silly baby talk while she lapped at his cheek.

There was a long pause.

“We do have children. I mean, real children,” I said. “Two.”

The vet tech raised her eyebrows. “Are they… jealous?”

 

I had a vague plan to get a dog. One day. The day when the house seemed too quiet, the kids had moved out, the hours stretched in front of me as I read the paper and planned my next trip to Tahiti.

But for the past year, our son had been campaigning. Pleading. Cajoling. Telling us in agonizing detail about every dog he met.

I really didn’t need another thing to take care of. I have trained two children on how to use the potty. And they have done it without my help for many years now. I’m not going to lie: it’s blissful.

This summer I realized that it wasn’t fair to get the dog only after the kids left. So I started researching dogs. I showed my husband all manner of dog: big, small, furry, hyper and barky, strong and silent. He was unmovable. Nope. No can do. No dog.

But then I brought up a German shepherd. He loves them. Then I mentioned a German shepherd/lab mix. “Perfect!” he said. It was a theoretical “perfect.” He just didn’t expect that a rescue puppy would turn up THE VERY NEXT DAY.

The kids and I sat on my bed and oohed at her and her siblings on the doggie rescue website. My husband walked in, and I turned the laptop screen towards him. “That’s our puppy.”

He didn’t believe it.

A local police officer had rescued three puppies from behind a church. They had their first shots, they were free; he just wanted to find them good homes.

Four days later, we picked up our puppy.

Guess who is her biggest fan?

Yep.

We are all proud to welcome Sushi to our family. She may be a doggie-school dropout (more on that later), but we love her anyway.

If you think you can handle the cuteness, drop by my work Facebook site and vote for Sushi dressed up for Halloween as SuperGirl. Vote for her animal pals demoralized by their owners. And “Like” our Facebook page just for fun.

Drop on by and check out the Boo Crew. Vote for your favorite. Then share your best dog/cat/rabbit story with me. http://on.fb.me/1clw6PO

I hope you and yours have a happy, safe, fun Halloween!

My Lifehacking Life

Jelly-Side Down Lifehack

Jelly-Side Down Lifehack

Miles run today: 4

Emeril’s coconut cake made yesterday for my BFF’s b-day: 1

Lifehacks on YouTube: 498,000

Did you know you were a Lifehacker?

I didn’t, either.

In case you’ve missed it, YouTube is full of what women’s magazines used to call “Quick Tips” or “7 Steps to an Easier Life” or “How to Make Your Day 10,000 Times Better.”

Ever threaded a screw? Home improvement store Vine videos show you how to use a rubber band to coax the screw out. Some guy shows you how to fold chip bags down and push the bags up to make a handy-dandy “chip serving bowl.” Ever had fruit flies? Lifehackers show you how to make a fruit fly trap with fruit, plastic wrap and a chopstick in your little Tupperware container.

YouTube is trying to give “Quick Tips” street cred and bring these meaningful life lessons to a broader audience, perhaps one that doesn’t care much about using white vinegar and newspaper to clean windows but one that is more concerned with how to keep your straw from bobbing up in your soft drink can.

Yesterday, I made a coconut cake because my best friend said she really wanted one. It was a totally Lifehack-free undertaking in which I used a real oven, a bag of sweetened coconut and actually left the butter out on the counter to come to room temperature (which took all of about 10 minutes in the 92-degree heat).

But there have been times, my friends, when I have been an unknowing Lifehacker. I bet you have, too.

Setting: our minivan

My son: Yeah, mom, you’ve told me the thing about the threaded screw about 15 times now.

Me: But aren’t we all Lifehackers? Why is this a thing?

My son: Um. How are you a Lifehacker, exactly?

Me: When I know I’m running at 5:30 the next morning, and I don’t want to wake everyone up, I put all of my running clothes, shoes and toothbrush in the downstairs bathroom, all ready to go. Running Lifehack!

My son: Yeah. I don’t think that’s a Lifehack.

Me: Isn’t Lifehacking about doing something that makes your life easier?

My son: Yeah… but…

Me: I’m a Lifehacker. Fear me.

My storied Lifehacking career began when I was 2 years old, and I began arguing with my father in the legendary Toast/Jelly Kerfluffle of the ’70s.

Setting: our kitchen table

My dad: No, Anne, the jelly goes on THE TOP. See? [exaggerated conventional toast eating commences]

Me: No. [with the jelly-side down, the best part (jelly) reached my tongue first, making my way far superior]

My dad: Anne, the jelly is going to drip everywhere. Turn your toast over.

Me: No.

And voila! My Lifehacking Life began, _____(fill in the blank kindly) years ago.

Today, there is even a guy on YouTube touting the best way to eat a burger so the fixings don’t make your burger bun soggy. Guess what? You turn it upside-down! I was way before my time.

How have you been Lifehacking lately? I bet you’re amazing, just like me.

Where There’s Smoke

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Neighborhood triathlon I volunteered at this weekend: 1 (so fun!)

Number of smoke detectors in our home: 6

9-volt batteries we usually have on-hand: 0

The people who install smoke detectors have a twisted sense of humor.

1:30 a.m. A shrill beep pierces the silence of our home.

1:31 a.m. I feel my husband lying awake but motionless beside me. We have an unspoken resolve that if we don’t make it mad, the smoke detector will leave us alone.

1:45 a.m. We are still awake. Our hearts are beating faster as if the smoke detector is not only a warning that the battery is low but a threat of imminent disaster.

1:52 a.m. Nothing. There are no more piercing beeps.

1:54 a.m. “Which one do you think it is?” I ask, eyeing the hallway.

“How should I know?”

Neither one of us wants to bring up the obvious: the next step is standing on a chair underneath each one of the detectors wearing not very many clothes, trying to detect which one is making the offensive sound. Only homeowners with dog-sensitive ears can distinguish the near hallway detector from the master bedroom or the master bedroom from the guest bedroom detector.

1:57 a.m. “Is it safe to go back to sleep?” I whisper. I wonder if I can turn over without the detector sensing my movement (because it has paranormal powers) and setting off the ear-piercing alarm that could probably alert our fire department three miles away without a 9-1-1 call.

My husband grumbles and rolls over. “It can tell when you’ve gone back to sleep. It knows.”

Back when I was nine years old, the house burning down was my worst nightmare. Firemen came out to the school and gave us lectures about all the ways we could prevent a horrible, fiery death.

I carried the propaganda home to my parents and sat at the kitchen table with them, Family Meeting Style. Only… we didn’t have Family Meetings. I think my parents were allergic.

“So. We need to buy a rope ladder for my bedroom and maybe one for yours, too,” I said, whipping out a stick figure diagram of a person escaping a burning building by handily scooting down a ladder.

“Mmmm-hmmm. No. I’m not buying a rope ladder,” my mom said, as she got up and started chopping vegetables for dinner.

My dad sipped some ice water and looked out the kitchen window.

Clearly, my parents had not figured out how destructive, even deathly, a force that fire could be. They had only survived to this point in life by luck and a double-check system for making sure the iron, stove and curling iron were turned off… as if that were enough.

“I think we should put a rope ladder on our list to buy. Also: we need a First Aid bag, packed and ready to go. I can keep that in my room.” I flipped the brochure over and made some official-looking check marks.

“How about this,” my mom said. “If there’s a fire, just make some knots with the sheets and fling them out your window.”

I looked at her in horror. “Have you seen my window? Have you seen the hill that topples right down into the creek?” I imagined how I would have to rescue my sister and evacuate her out my window, using my own body on the ground as a sort of pillow to soften her fall.

I looked at my skinny bones. I wasn’t going to make much of a pillow.

In the present day, we have six smoke detectors in our house, the majority of them upstairs. What the Installers of Smoke Detectors think goes on in our bedrooms is clearly quite colorful.

We slept that particular night. The errant beep was forgotten, and we went about our daily lives without fear.

But the next evening, we were sending the kids upstairs to brush their teeth.

Beeeeep. Beeeep.

We turned to each other, the memory of the previous night coming back in a flash.

And we scrambled into the kitchen to check the supply of 9-volt batteries.

One left.

We kissed it, and my husband trudged upstairs to begin the discovery process. Chair. Battery. Beep. New position.

The House Inside Each of Us

My little sister and me, rockin' it old school, circa 1981-ish, in the backyard of our new house.

My little sister and me, rockin’ it old school, circa 1981-ish, in the backyard of our new house.

Miles run today: 3.5

Bunnies spotted on my run: 4

Apple pies made yesterday: 1

Happy Fourth of July weekend, my friends!

Back on the Fourth of July weekend in 1981, my family moved to Atlanta.

It was hotter than three shades of you-know-what, and the new house my mom had fallen in love with sat perched up on a hill of red clay covered with straw to protect what little grass-lets existed underneath.

I would be entering fourth grade in the fall, so most of the rest of my summer was spent in daycare, going to roller-skating rinks that played Beatles songs interspersed with the Steve Miller Band.

Our new house was a classic four-up, four-down. I often wonder if the current owners have knocked out  the wall between the front living room and den/family room in favor of a more trendy open plan.

I only started getting to know our new house that first summer: my front bedroom that looked out over our creek with the weeping willows, the big picture window in the kitchen where my mom sat to drink tea millions of times over the years, and the scary basement that held boxes of our old shoes… for what purpose, I never knew. (The basement had an egress window, which I kept in mind in case someone or something tried to attack me down there.) We saw baby owls sitting on tree limbs not far from the window over our kitchen sink, snakes slithering through the woods in the side yard, and chickadees (the cheerleaders of the bird world) visiting the bird feeder near our kitchen table.

My friends and I danced to old Coke commercials and Cyndi Lauper songs in my parents’ bowling alley-like bedroom. My mom and I watched Friday Night Videos on one of the four stations we got, since it was certain we were never getting MTV. And I drove my sister crazy by littering our shared, brown-butterfly-wallpapered bathroom with discarded clothing options each day before school.

Our old house has haunted me over the years.

Every now and then, I still dream about it. People I used to know drift in and out of it, sometimes late for school, sometimes chasing me through it, sometimes mixing up the different areas of my life into one big, confusing mish-mash of fun of a psychoanalysts’ conference.

The house wasn’t perfect by today’s standards: there was no granite countertop, the windows weren’t double-paned and let in terrific drafts of cold in the winter, and my mom’s hanging pot rack over the kitchen peninsula clocked me in the head on multiple occasions.

But it was the house that set the tone for the rest of my life: close friends nearby, easy access to the pool, my own room, sheltering trees, a salmon-pink pantry that my mom and I painted just for fun. Our driveway even weeded out the faint-of-heart: its hilly curves and bridge over the creek turned away all but the ones who truly wanted to visit.

When a friend called attention to Miranda Lambert’s song, “The House That Built Me,” years ago, I understood. I wish everyone had the chance to grow up in a house with such a strong foundation. We carry these houses with us through life, the rooms and their memories still intact.

What about you? What are your memories about the house where you grew up?

Down the IKEA Rabbit Hole

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Miles run today: 3

Unnecessary items purchased at IKEA: 4

Scary moments we were sure we were lost in IKEA forever: 12

“I’m just telling you right now that I don’t approve of this kind of furniture,” my husband said as we approached IKEA yesterday for the very first time. 

“Got it.”

“Really. I’m not interested in expensive things we feel pressured to buy.”

“OK. I completely understand.”

I didn’t mention that IKEA is known for being low-cost or that I wasn’t looking to purchase any furniture. We had dropped the kids off with my mom a couple of hours earlier and were making the drive back home. We now had wide swaths of free time at our disposal. We could wander around the side of the road for hours. Or peruse convenience store shelves without hurrying back to the car. The free time was problematic. Had there been a time when we did stuff and had free time? I couldn’t remember. Back when we may have had free time, I wore black a lot and went out for coffee to talk about Big Things. But what those things were, I’m not really sure.

Now, heading towards IKEA, I was looking for An Adventure. And come on, people: IKEA has an entire boulevard named after it. A boulevard!

We followed large groups upstairs, a route we were directed to follow without question. There were yellow bags and carts at the start of the route, but my husband walked past them with his nose in the air. “Ha. They think they can make us buy something,” he said. Two seconds later: “Oooh. Yes. We need a vase like this. Seventy-nine cents? What? I thought this place was expensive. Think about all the flowers we could put in a vase like this.”

IKEA is like a grown-up, pre-fab Disney World of home stores. There are bright lights and circuitous pathways and maps and things for sale everywhere. Everywhere.

And they have all these nifty things that I am sure would make my life better. I wasn’t even sure I needed a pasta serving scoopy thingie. But I became convinced. It was so shiny, and just the right length, and I’m positive I had been thinking I needed one for the past 15 years.

We became mesmerized by a giant canvas world map that had lots of countries that didn’t exist when we were learning geography back in high school. Azerbaijan! Turkmenistan! Slovenia! 

We picked up 100 tea lights for our dining room table and carried them all over the massive second floor, though every twist and turn, past every corner that did not contain a bathroom, which was what my husband was seeking… desperately. The route through the upstairs became daunting. With every new vase, every granite countertop, every metal chair, my husband became increasingly concerned.

“Are you sure we haven’t already been here?”

“Well, there’s new stuff,” I said, dubiously. “I mean, we haven’t seen outdoor chairs before. Or desks and filing cabinets.”

“But we haven’t gone upstairs or downstairs. How big is this place? Is there an exit? Can you imagine if I had to drop you off at the front door to run in for one little thing? I’d never see you again! I would have to… skip dinner.”

Skipping dinner is my husband’s worst nightmare.

I was becoming certain that I should throw away everything in our house and start from scratch only with items from IKEA. Our chipped plates? Replace them with white plates from IKEA that come in packages of four for roughly 33 cents each, or something equally ridiculous. I now needed a water pitcher and large packages of Swedish faux Tupperware and even mangy-looking faux Tempur-Pedic pillows. It would be so easy to haul it all out to my car and send all of our current items to Goodwill so Mackelmore and his friends could pop some more tags.

As we emerged into the cafe area after what felt like an entire day of following twisty paths, my husband dashed for the restroom as I pondered a birdie-patterned plastic tray. I knew I could use a birdie plastic tray like nobody’s business.

We wandered some more, through aisles piled high with self-serve furniture, whatever that was. At the checkout, my husband wandered off again, and I discovered Lingonberry Preserves. I had been waiting my entire life for Lingonberry Preserves. Lingonberries have not even been invented where I live, and they are probably the best thing I’ve ever tasted.

So I bought two jars, along with the tea lights and pasta scoopy thingie. My husband raised his eyebrow at me, but I’m sure he’ll soon discover that lingonberries are the thing he has been missing his entire life. 

Our adventure did two things: it made me realize that there was a time when we used to spend time together, just wandering, and that we have probably managed to stay financially solvent because our children have prevented us from visiting IKEA. Thanks, kids. 

And That is Beautiful

And that is beautiful.

And that is beautiful.

Miles run today: 10

Weeks I’ve not written in my blog: 11

Days until the end of the school year: 1

No one in the world ever gets what they want and that is beautiful
Everybody dies frustrated and sad and that is beautiful

They Might Be Giants, “Don’t Let’s Start”

My story starts: I was grumpy.

And don’t say that I am always grumpy. Just mostly more than usual and after 9 a.m. and before 9 p.m. but not always.

So I was grumpy. My family had signed up to do a neighborhood Adventure Run, and all I really wanted to do was loll about and not speak and read my book. But we were headed for the clubhouse under dark, threatening skies.

“You don’t want to be here, do you?” my husband asked.

“Not even a little bit,” I said. I have been told that when I am not smiling, my face is not altogether attractive, just to give you the visuals.

And after a slight delay, the skies opened up. Huge, thick, black clouds let loose, and big tiger paw drops of water sprinted for the ground as we huddled under the clubhouse’s overhang with the other families.

I was not amused.

But then the rain slowed down, and all of the little kids started stomping in the puddles, and the grownups shifted about from one foot to the other.

“Let’s get started!” the leader of the race (and a friend) yelled. “We’ll have a staggered start. Woodmans? Go!”

Whoa. My husband drove to the obstacle station he would be manning… a huge catapult he built out of jeans, exercise bands and wood.

The kids and I sprinted for where we thought we should be headed.

Thank goodness I had worn my old running shoes. My feet squelched through the mud, and the trees we ran past were heavy with the damp. We stopped and balanced on boards at one obstacle, filled buckets of water at another, and scooted under ropes at another.

We had to cross the neighborhood creek six times. It was swollen with water, so jumping across was not an option; we waded, and it was wet and cool.

We ran and screamed and cheered, and the weeds tore at my calves.

It was the best time I’d had in months.

Minus the tick I found on my leg in the shower a little while later, I would say it turned out to be a fun, muddy, kid-like day.

Maybe part of the lesson is that we often don’t know what we want… or what will be good for us. And that is beautiful.

These past few months have been challenging. But thank you for checking in on me!

The blogging community is a loving one. To my wonderful blogging friends who sent messages to check on me 1. after the Boston Marathon (as if I could qualify!) (thanks, Dennis!) and those who sent me Mother’s Day messages (thanks, Amy!) and those who sent plaintive comments (thanks, Mike!): thank you, my friends.

I have missed you and my wonderful little life!

Yes, I have toppled off balance, and as one of my favorite ’90s bands might say, “That is beautiful.”

Because life isn’t ever exactly what you would expect, now, is it? And the whole God laughing when you plan thing has not ever stopped me from planning… no siree, Bob.

Eight things I have learned about myself since I started back to work full-time:

1. I can actually be a fairly grumpy person, though the bubbly person might still be in there somewhere.

2. I may never again be awake to see 11 p.m.

3. I still love bunnies.

4. Twitter is a fun and productive diversion when you are brainstorming creative concepts.

5. Sometimes I fantasize about being in bed, and not in a fun, sexy way.

6. I will do most anything to keep running and keep eating chocolate.

7. Mean people suck.

8. I may be one of those mean people because I am not always a good friend.

To those of you who are still writing, I will check back in from time to time, but not for every post. I apologize in advance.

To those of you who are still reading my stuff, thank you. That is beautiful.

Scared of My Own Shadow

Me and My Shadow

Me and My Shadow

Miles run yesterday: 10

New pair of running shoes bought yesterday (post-run): 1

Time I wake up to run three times a week (Saturdays, we run later): 5:15

Two things I will tell you about running at 5:15 a.m.:

1. It’s cold.

2. It’s dark. After Daylight Savings Time started, super-dark.

Always a staunch supporter of Daylight Savings Time, I am now a hater. Well, a disliker.

Of course, I’ve done training before in the early morning. I trained for my very first half-marathon several years ago with 5:15 a.m. runs, back when my husband left early for work, and my kids were tiny. My husband ran after work, and I got the before-work slot.

That time around, it was a June-December training cycle, and early morning was definitely the way to go to avoid ghastly 98-degree heat.

But this time, did I mention that it’s dark and cold?

And sometimes, I’ll be running along, doo-de-doo-de-doo… minding my own business, and I pass under a pinky-white streetlight in my neighborhood… Psssst! Darkness!  No more light. Poof!

It’s unnerving.

Here are the people awake when I am:

1. Tired parents of middle and high school students who attend school far away. They sit in their cars with the headlights on and the engines running until the bus squeals to a stop along the main thoroughfare.

2. Tired but devoted dog-walkers.

3. People still in their pajama pants who have thrown on a fleece sweatshirt and just started sleep-walking down the street. They do not wave.

4. The occasional runner wearing a bobbing, laser-pointer light thingie.

5. Me.

Perks to running at 5:15 a.m.:

1. I never have a problem crossing a street. Never. Not once.

2. I don’t have to wear sunscreen.

3. I don’t have to breathe in car fumes, extending my lung life by .6 years.

4. I don’t have to worry that my shirt isn’t tucked in right or if my hair is sticking out.

5. Like so many people in America, I might have been sleeping way, way too much. There is no worry about that now. No sirree.

So anyway, one day in my first week of running in the middle of the night, I was rounding a corner near my favorite grocery store. The stoplights in the intersection behind me were flashing from red to green. I was on fire. Well… I was plodding along.

When BOOM! A large shadow loomed out of the towering bushes in front of me.

EEEEEEK!

Heart palpitations, sucking in of breath, fear.

Yeah. You may have guessed:

It was my own shadow, looming towards… myself.

Boy, did I feel stupid. And it brings to mind so many existential, high-brow questions…

Am I afraid of myself?

Do I have anything to fear but fear itself?

Why am I out running at 5:15 when most God-fearing people are tucked up in bed?

If I run a 9-minute mile from here to home, what time will I eat breakfast?

Coffee?

I have learned so many things about myself from my early morning runs. So many important, life-altering things.

Mostly: I like warm weather. And light.

And also: I still love and need to run.

What about you? When you’ve made a major life transition, what have you learned about  yourself?