A bit more about Otis



Last week, we had a rough time with our newest pack member, Otis. He has epilepsy and we had been working closely with our vet for several months to get him down to the lowest level of medication possible. Unfortunately, we hit a rough patch.

Over 24 hours, he had 16 seizures. We gave him as much medication as we could (until the vet told us we couldn’t give him any more) and still he had seizures. We were at the point of not knowing if he was going to make it. Ben and I both knew a hard decision was looming.

But, he pulled through. The seizures stopped and now, a week later, you’d never know anything happened to him. He’s the happy little cuddlebug we fell in love with in November. Otis is a living miracle and a true example of the power of love and a positive attitude. If Otis can get through the day with a smile, there’s hope for all of us.

Here’s a bit more about our Otis.



• He’s a one-trick schnoodle. Otis knows how to shake. It’s my favorite trick in the doggie playbook, but it’s the only one in Otis’ repertoire. If you ask him to sit, he extends his paw. If you ask him to lay down, again the paw. He’s mastered the shake and I believe he sees no reason to accommodate requests for lesser tricks.

• He’s a great conversationalist. Otis loves to talk. Sometimes, he chuffs at me and I chuff back at him. Other times, I speak for him (in a high-pitched baby voice, of course) and myself, carrying on long, elaborate dialogues about politics, current events, art, or who’s mama’s best boy. He maintains unflinching eye contact and appears very interested in everything that’s said. He may someday run for political office or write books on how to snag women. Either way.

Adventure Hound

Adventure Hound

• He’s a great kisser. Perhaps “great” isn’t quite the word for it. I believe it’s the poodle influence in his DNA, but Otis is a French kisser. The only thing fast on this low-riding fluffball is his tongue. He loves to give French kisses and they’re so fast, you barely know you’ve been hit until you feel a bit queasy. But, what can I do? He’s French.

• He has Old Man Butt. Otis’ physique is truly amazing. He’s a long sausage with super-thick, stumpy legs and a droopy old man butt. Watching him walk is one of life’s great joys. He’s surprisingly athletic, a great walker, and completely adorable. He won’t win any awards for best physique, but his body is a genetic miracle.

• He’s a midnight pooper. Actually, he’s more of a 2 a.m. pooper, but midnight pooper has a Steve Miller ring to it; I couldn’t resist. Otis has pooped only once on walks or hikes. He prefers our yard and he has a very delicate constitution. His prime pooping time is 2 a.m. and, if I don’t wake up in time, he will go on the carpet by the back door. We’re trying to retrain his bowels, but all he’ll do is shake hands.

We’re so grateful to have our funny little guy. His health is tenuous and every day with him is a gift…which we occasionally find on the office carpet. Long live Otis!

A bout of intestinal malaise, but a fantastic movie

For almost a week now, Ben and I have been doing the Whole30 Challenge, a 30-day healthy eating challenge my brother told us about a few weeks ago. My brother, who looked like a bobble head when I last saw him, lost 25 pounds and claims he’s never felt better in his life. The Whole30, which is a paleo-style eating plan with no dairy, legumes, or grains, is especially strict, but claims to heal your body, stop cravings, and put you on the path to lifelong health and wellness.

Oh, and there’s that bit about my brother losing 25 pounds. If you’ve ever seen my brother, you may wonder where he got those 25 pounds. Hence, the bobble head comment. It’s amazing we’re related.

The first few days went really well. I was on track, felt great, and both Ben and I noticed a significant reduction in the amount of…er…gas being emitted at our house on a daily basis. A nagging headache was my only complaint the the first two days. I had tons of energy. On Saturday, however, four days in, I felt horrible. I spent most of the day near a bathroom.

Then, Sunday, we went to the movies, where I ate my bodyweight in popcorn. (Popcorn is not on the plan.) Whether fortunately or unfortunately, it didn’t stay with me very long. It was traumatizing. I may never eat popcorn again.

Thankfully, the movie was fantastic!

We saw The Grand Budapest Hotel. It is Wes Anderson’s best movie, in my opinion. I loved every minute of it. I may go see it again next weekend. I highly recommend!

A much-needed TV retreat

Life has been really crazy the last two weeks. My grandfather died, I had a birthday, and Otis had a 24-hour seizure episode that left us wondering if we might lose him.

In the words of Dale Cooper, our path has been a strange and difficult one.

In times of great stress, I find comfort in the mysterious world of classic ’90s television. Yep, I’m on another Twin Peaks kick.

The show is such a wonderful break from reality, which is rarely spooky or mysterious. I want to believe owls aren’t what they seem and there are alternative realities full of doppelgangers, dancing midgets, wise giants, and creepy grandmas eating creamed corn. (Real life might actually be full of that last one, but they’re rarely so creepy as I hope.)

Other good breaks from reality:

Mad Men It’s back! Don Draper is looking especially handsome this season. I don’t know if it’s due to his foray into semi-sobriety or his recent career setback, but I’m so happy to see him looking well. There are rumors he’ll be killed off this season (the final one of the series) and I really hope that’s not true. I love Don. He’s a wounded bird and I want him to win.

Lagertha in action!

Lagertha in action!

Vikings You might guess this is a show I watch for the handsome Vikings. But, to be honest, they always have their shirts on and I’m sure they have terrible breath (a diet of salted herring and no toothpaste does not a smoochable man make). Instead, I watch this show for Lagertha, the coolest, toughest, most beautiful woman on TV right now. She is independent and strong, and she doesn’t take BS from anyone. She’s a great role model for women. If I had a daughter or a Girl Scout troop under my tutelage, I’d be filling their heads full of Lagertha. Down with the Bratz dolls and those pithy American Girls! Let’s encourage more Viking warrior women!

Bates Motel This show is pretty awful, but I’m hooked. It’s in the same vein as American Horror Story; it’s intentionally shocking and weird, and a wee bit annoying. Ben won’t watch it, so I indulge alone on the weekend. It’s a guilty pleasure best paired with homemade onion dip and a huge bag of chips. Pajamas required.

Right now, Ben and I are doing the Whole30 Challenge, a paleo-style eating challenge for 30 days (I’ll discuss it more on this blog another time). We’re toying with the idea of other challenges, as well, including a 30 Day No TV Challenge. I’m okay with that, so long as we’re between seasons of all the good shows. There’s so much great TV right now.

What are you guys watching?

Day Eight: A Song For Pop

My grandpa definitely embodied the “Don’t Fence Me In” spirit. His cayuse was a lawnmower, but the sentiment was the same.

Thanks to all who’ve posted such kind words about my grandpa’s passing. It’s very comforting to share a little bit of him with you in this space. I know you all would have loved him.

The funeral is Friday, so I expect to be back to regular postings this weekend. In the meantime, I hope you straddle your own saddle underneath whatever sky you’re under and take a minute to think of my Pop and your own.

The best of all of us

My grandpa in 1987.

My grandpa in 1987.

My grandpa was an incredible gardener. He spent so much of his time planting, trimming, and tending plants, mostly flowers, that it’s hard for me to imagine him without a golden tan and dirt under his fingernails. He was always outside, often on all fours in the dirt with a half-full weed bucket by his side. Growing up, that’s always where I’d find him…and I was always looking for him.

He was my closest friend, even as a kid. The hours we spent together as I followed him from one garden plot to the next, hauling hoses or buckets, or waiting intently at the faucet for his loud “Okay!” He’d sit on his lawnmower, watering by hand when a sprinkler would have done well enough, and I’d stand there next to him, day after day, hour after hour, talking about plants or school or his childhood or mine or anything at all. In the summers and on weekends, I was with Pop every day. Just tagging along, pulling weeds, running tools, hanging out with the coolest guy I ever knew.

My grandparents in the garden.

My grandparents in the garden.

Sometimes, it felt more like he was another kid. I’d run over to his house (a short walk from mine) and yell through the open screen door at my grandma, “Where’s Pop?” She’d point and tell me his last known whereabouts and I’d run off in that direction, never quite sure where he’d turn up on his 20 acres of woods and hills. I’d find him eventually and we’d talk and work, then head back to his house for a cookie or a dozen tiny black plums. He’d make monkey faces when my grandma wasn’t looking and sneak me extra cookies, whispering that it was our secret. Then we’d head out again to “change the water” or get the mail. Some days we’d just take a nap outside.

On exceptionally hot days, we’d watch “Little House on the Prairie” together and whine about Nelly Olson over a cold root beer.

Through the years, Pop was still my best friend. He knew things about me I didn’t know about myself. He’d tell me what a good person I am, how people like me, and how great I’m going to do in life. It always sounded so biased. “Of course, Pop thinks such nice things about me,” I’d say through rolled eyes. But, he was actually pretty right about a lot of it. What I chalked up to bias was just wisdom and the experience of so many incredibly hard and wonderful years. He knew that as long as I stayed honest, kind, and good (like him) life would turn out fine, maybe even better than fine.

As an adult, we fell into a comfortable familiarity. We saw each other much less often once I moved out of state, but he knew me and I knew him. Not much needed to be said; our communication was done through shared looks and giggles. I knew his face as well as my own and his heart even better. If there was ever a problem I didn’t know how to solve, I could just run it by Pop. The real Pop or the one in my heart, whichever was available at the time, and the problem would resolve. I carried him with me and I always felt he knew that.

Now with him gone (he died Wednesday, April 9), really and finally gone, gone-gone, he doesn’t feel gone. He’s everywhere, just like he always was. He’s out there, hunched over a rhododendron (he has them hidden everywhere, you know), waiting for me to run up on him too quickly and give him a scare, or, hiding from me, waiting to catch me with the hose. He is here and everywhere, tucked into my heart, where he’s always been, from the day I was born to forever.

Day Seven: A Song for Karaoke (Solo)

Before I begin, let me assert the fact that I’m not a karaoke person. I sing constantly in my home and car, but I would never get on stage and sing karaoke in front of friends or strangers. I’d rather get an internet colonoscopy.

That said, I love to sing to those who love me and can’t escape. My whole life is essentially karaoke.

“Santeria” is not an obvious karaoke choice, but consider this:

• Voice quality is not important. It’s all about style and attitude.

• It’s not serious or depressing.

• Vocal range is minimal.

• Any song with “punk-ass” in the lyrics is bound to be a crowd pleaser.

It’s a perfect fit for karaoke. Of course, this is just my solo pick. I’ll post my favorite group karaoke song tomorrow. As soon as I think of it.

In the meantime, consider this.

Top Five Karaoke Mistakes

• Going serious. The sad alcoholics who emotionally belt out “Cat’s in the Cradle” make everyone uncomfortable.

• Being too talented. Treating the back room of a Chinese restaurant at 1 a.m. like a legitimate audition makes everyone uncomfortable.

• Going skanky. The messy alcoholics who rub themselves as they belt out “I Touch Myself” make everyone uncomfortable.

• Not knowing the words. It’s painful to see someone get up there, full of confidence, only to realize they have no idea how the song goes. Then, they spend the rest of the song mumbling and reading the screen. It makes everyone uncomfortable.

• Hogging the mic. There are needy people who insist on singing a song every 10 minutes. They also make everyone uncomfortable.

What’s your favorite solo karaoke song?

Look ahead…Day Eight: A Song for Karaoke (Group)


Day Six: A Song For Today

Today is Monday. I smelled it creeping in at about 7 last night and went into a panic. How is it Mondays always show up at the worst times? Just when Sunday evening gets relaxed and snuggly…Monday pops in and makes my colon seize up. Damn that stinking Monday.

But, Monday songs are okay, right? My favorite is this one, “Long Monday” by John Prine. This live version kicks mega-ass, and eases the pain of another Monday that came way too soon.

Best line: “It’s gonna be a long Monday, sittin’ all alone on a mountain by a river that has no end. It’s gonna be a long Monday, stuck like the tick of a clock that’s come unwound – again and again.”

To be honest, sitting alone on a mountain by a river that has no end sounds like a pretty great Monday. But, okay, John.

If John Prine isn’t your Monday bag, here are some links to other Monday songs. I consider it my public service for the week. Which is your favorite? Are there any I missed?

• Monday, Monday, The Mamas & The Papas

• Rainy Days and Mondays, The Carpenters

• Come Monday, Jimmy Buffet

• Manic Monday, The Bangles

• Blue Monday, Fats Domino

• I Don’t Like Mondays, Boomtown Rats

My Almost-Number-One Monday Song is “Come Monday” by Jimmy Buffet. Isn’t old Jimmy Buffet adorable? I can see why people follow him all over. I want to wear Hush Puppies and a parrot shirt, and rid my life of pants.

On this particular Monday…

• I’m panicking about a work project I put off far too long. I have to read a section of a terrible book and, with a partner, lead a discussion of it with my leadership group Friday. The book is terrible. A rich guy is sharing his secrets to success, which all seem possible only because he’s so damn rich. I’m not inspired. I want to get all French Revolution-y on his spoiled ass. Liberte! Egalite! Fraternite! Take this book and shove it!

• I’m looking forward to my food today. Breakfast was a fruit smoothie and, waiting for me throughout the day, is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on gluten-free bread, a lovely salad with delicious homemade dressing, and a bowl of veggie sticks with olives. It’s a Vegan Monday!

Look ahead…Day Seven: A Song For Karaoke

Day Five: It Reminds Me Of…

Last night, when I was rewatching Tommy for probably the 25th time, I glanced to my left at a sleeping Otis and saw only Roger Daltry.

Otis looking fancy

Otis looking fancy

Sure, Otis may not have the famous Daltry physique (or the tan), but he certainly has the attitude and floofy blond curls. And, if you’ve ever seen Otis run, he has the same awkward Daltry gait.

Roger Daltry may be Otis’ spirit animal. Or something like that.

Of course, if Otis is Roger Daltry, that means Dougal is Keith Moon.

What else is happening…

• It’s quite possible that sometime during the night, a sleeping pill replaced my brain with mashed potatoes. I re-read the package and there’s no indication of mashed potato brain on the warning label. I’m considering a call to the FDA. Right after I finish this cold cup of coffee.

• In light of the mashed potato brain, my goal for today is to do absolutely nothing. After the day I had yesterday, I need a break. Monday will be here soon enough. And, that brings me to tomorrow…

Look ahead…Day Six: A Song Just For Today


Day Four: A Happy Song

There is no song happier than “Groove is in the Heart.” If you need proof, consider this.

I spent the bulk of the day with my grandfather, a lovely 88-year-old man now virtually unrecognizable due to dementia. It was a hard day and the thought of putting together this “happy song” blog post seemed impossible. Until I started the song.

All sadness can be set aside for the five minutes of “Groove is in the Heart.” It must be the slide whistle.

Look ahead…Day Five: A Song for Someone Else

Day Three: A Sad Song

The day Barley died last June, one of my dear Twitter friends sent me this song. I probably listened to it a hundred times that first week. It still sets me off when I hear it. That was such a hard time, but the outpouring of love that came from it was overwhelming. So many people loved Barley.

So, while this song makes me sad, it connects me to that very emotional time and, in an odd way, it connects me to Barley when I’m missing him more than usual. (And I miss him all the time.)