Friday, June 29, 2012

you'll have a song stuck in your head after this

I’ve been struggling.

Some days it’s like a thumb-wrestle. Carbs, no carbs?

Other days it’s like sumo-wrestling. I will prevail and ethics will win.

Struggling. Wrestling.

It’s a brutal fact of life and there’s this notion that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Well, it should, if you’re a life-ninja and can thwart off the jaded cynicism that what’s-trying-to-kill-you wants to impart on you.

In the words of Dora, just keep wrestling, just keep wrestling.

It will pay off, because while you’re (I’m) running the gauntlet of crap, we’re getting faster, more muscle-toney, and yeah, a bit breathless. What doesn’t kill you might make you stronger, but you’ll be a worn out son of a bitch after you survive.

That’s where I’m at right now. I’m tired, out of breath, sore, want to sleep every day at precisely 4 p.m. I’m disappointed in the (little bit of) weight I’ve gained, the (little bit of) sleep I’m getting, and the decisions made about me, for me, that I don’t particularly like, but will control my reaction to.

But. (there’s always a but).

Across a bridge and under a wrought-iron sign there’s a little gravel driveway, and the little gravel driveway leads to a little Cottage surfaced with multi-colored stones and tomato plants lined up neatly in buckets near the front door. There’s a bike leaning against one of its sides and colorful scarves keep peering eyes from looking in the double plate-glass window.

Inside the little Cottage there are two big dogs and every morning and every night they’re walked by their woman, and sometimes down to the little lazy river. There’s music playing and farm fresh veggies on the counter, the grill might be fired up, or apple crisp baking in the Crock pot. There’s a handmade dining room table and homegrown green beans. There are books to be read and shelves of ones already devoured. There’s always writing and talking and silence and musing. There’s yelling at dogs and cuddling. There’s herbal tea with honey chilled in an antique pitcher in the fridge.

So, to all of the What Doesn’t Kill You bullshit…yeah, I might be tired and you’re making me feel old, and you might be temporarily kicking my ass, but you’re messing with the wrong chick. See, you’re not making me stronger, because I am already strong and I have an arsenal of life-ninja skills to toss right back atcha. And I’m gonna.

After my nap.       

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

snapshots from my camera phone

No, he's not chewing my shoe. He's resting his nose on it and looking at me.

Police sirens get him howling. Pardon the bra in the background.

Nothing like hanging out in the back of the car with a ratchet strap.

We're the road trip queens. It's unusual for her to be in the backseat, but she was still horny so had to keep her separate from Tuck.

Skye kisses!

This is really her bed, just like every other piece of sittable furniture in the house.

Me in a dress.

Me and Tuck. Yeah, we're chillin' in the back of my car.

Me in the newsroom on Breaking News Sunday.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

the life of a breaking news story

The exhilirating part of my job is that it's so dang unpredictable, and nothing makes breaking news faster than a dumbass and weather.

But how does a breaking news story get from the scene to your computer screen? Or smart phone or tablet? The answer is simple: a team of people dedicated to their jobs, whether it's on a Sunday morning or not.

I thought I'd give you a behind-the-scenes look on the real time life of a breaking news story, and what could be more perfect an example then the news of today.

My phone rings at 9:30 and I'll admit: it woke me up. Seeing it was one of our photographers, I cleared my voice a million times, tested it (can you tell you've been sleeping? Nah, you're good), answered the phone.

"I'm sorry I woke you." Dang it. I have yet to nail the "you just woke me up but you'd never know" voice.

Something big's going on at O'Reilly Auto Parts - cops, SWAT, dogs, highways blocked. OK. Now I'm more than awake. I have details, all the information she can give me, all the information I need to abruptly hang up with her and make other calls.

{Here's the thing about breaking news. It's breaking. You don't have time to lollygag and speculate. You've got to move. In these situations, I've been known to hang up on reporters/photographers - you give me the necessary info and pleasantries are discarded for the sake of the news.}

I call the reporter on duty - she's about an hour away. I don't have an hour to wait. End that call. Take about 20 seconds to analyze my staff, mentally running off names and reasons why they're not available. I land on the one reporter who I'm counting on being available on his day off and more than capable of handling the story with me. I was right on both counts.

Everything's in place. The photographer's already on the scene; the reporter's on the way and I will be too. And then I wonder momentarily if I can do the work I need to from home. Nope. But that means your whole day's thrown off. Yeah, so? And it means you're not going to finish the projects you had planned. And? And it means you're not getting the full weekend off you'd been waiting for. Shhhh.

I put the dogs away, throw on some clothes, pack a lunch, which thankfully I'd cooked the night before, just hadn't planned on eating it at work, and received a text message from the photographer on the scene that police said we were dealing with a possible hostage situation.

After I contemplated for a second what to do with the information - I put it on our Facebook page. That was the first our readers were hearing about it, approximately 25 minutes after we arrived on the scene. But we had information and we had it from the source we needed it from: the police spokesperson.

{Sometimes that's the most frustrating thing about breaking news. We may know what's going on, but we have to wait to confirm it.}

I stopped and got a cup of coffee. At the exit I take to get to the paper, traffic was backed up for miles. My second Facebook status was warning readers about the obvious traffic problem.

I get to the newsroom about 45 minutes after the intitial phone call from our photographer. At 10:31, I got a phone call from the reporter on the scene who fed me the information he had from police. By 10:38, I've typed the information and put it on our website and linked to it from our Facebook page.

At 10:57, the reporter calls again with our first description of the suspect. I update the information on our website and Facebook page. At 11:05, I hear from the reporter again who says the suspect is no longer in the building; it's over. I again update our website and Facebook page.

The reporter and photographer return to the newsroom. Our adrenaline's still pumping and this is when they tell me everything they saw at the scene, how it all happened in incremental details and how we were first on the scene, first to break the story. And yeah, we're a little proud.

The photographer edits the photos; the reporter makes some follow up phone calls and writes the story. He leaves, I edit it. I talk to the page designer about where the story should go and four hours after I was woken up on my Sunday morning, I'm leaving the newsroom.

Friday, June 22, 2012

date day

Could I organize a date for us?
And then you would say, of course. I’m sticking to you like glue. 

Good, because I want you to be. First let’s wake up at 6:30 because one of my dogs dictates it. While I’m groggily yelling, you can laugh, but only for a little bit.

I’d get out of bed and start the coffee, but only after I let the dogs outside. We’d sit down over oatmeal, fruit and coffee and a highlighted piece of newspaper. It’s our garage sale list, of course. I’d be planning our route.

And then we’d leave the dishes dirty in the sink and the dogs would go where they always do when I leave them, and we’d strike out. Just the two of us in search for cheap shit that I can either refurbish or use to build other stuff.

We’d conquer the maze of garage sales before it gets too hot and I have a meltdown in the car. We might meet a friend for lunch.

We would spend the afternoon refinishing two steel vintage tabletops that have been sitting in my kitchen for a month. We’d blare music and I’d furtively read the directions I printed off of Google. You could laugh at me again. The dogs would mill around, panting and trying to stay under my feet. I’d probably step on one of them when I back away from the kitchen sink. While I’m fixing our afternoon snack, I’d start defrosting the freezer and preparing excess veggies to freeze. Or I might take my book and sit outside in the sun.

I’d want to move the bookshelf from the nook into the bedroom where I want my new flat screen TV to sit on top of it. I’d recruit you to help me move it.

In the evening, we would cook and take the dogs to the river. We’d watch a TV show on my laptop and engage in silence.

How does that sound, me?
It sounds just fine. Remember, I’m sticking to you like glue.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


I'm alive, and I will be good.

People have asked me a lot this week, "Are you OK?" and the honest answer has been, "No, I'm not. I'm not OK."

Don't worry, it's nothing you've done.

I follow that up with, "But I will be. And in THIS moment, I'm choosing to be."

Sometimes that's all we can do, right?
Be honest, breath deeply, take a moment and make a choice.

I choose today's blessing. And today's blessing is peace. And grace. And expectant anticipation.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

after the day, night

At the end of the {long} day, after all the {meticulous} planning, organizing and {tedious} editing; after the {rude} phone calls and the {pleasant}ones; after {friendly} texting and {heart-to-heart} conversations; after {begrudgingly} walking the {rowdy} dogs and {gratefully} playing in the {refreshing} river; after watering my {growing!} garden and {impatiently} checking for fruit; after {needlessly} worrying and {ferociously} reading; after {shamelessly} procrastinating and {absentmindedly} grilling; after this and that and sweeping and tidying and washing the dinner dishes and filling my antique pitcher with fresh water ....

.... this strong heart lays in bed.

I lay in bed and the tears come and there's nothing I can do to stop them. They're coming faster than they can fall and the hurt that starts deep in my soul rises to the surface in merciless waves. My head is screeching for it to stop, but my {strong} heart {bravely} marches forward with {surgical} {firm} {gentle} precision.

You will remember.
You will feel.
You will cry.
You will mourn.

But I don't want to.

But you must.
And you will.
And you should.

So I do, until 2:30 a.m. when somewhere between the thousandth tear falling and the gulp for new air, I fall asleep.

Monday, June 11, 2012

You want a relationship? Ironic. So do I. Did I just say that?

It's time to get down and dirty. You'll need to pop a bag of cheap light butter popcorn and put your cellphone on phone calls only. Check, and check. And then occasionally look out the window where your sexually frustrated dog is digging a hole by a tree. Check.

And now curse me for bringing up my dogs again! in a post that has nothing to do with them.

I joked to one of my friends last weekend that if I had to secure a date to save my life, I would die, in much the same way that running for my life is an oximoron because in no universe could I ever run fast or hard enough to save myself. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't try. I would stop, assume the fetal position, cry and maybe beg for mercy. I say maybe, because my tears would probably convey begging for mercy and we wouldn't want to be renundant now, would we? Besides, who wants to deal with a crying woman? Alright, maybe a bear, or a mountain lion.

So, you know, I'm single as the day is long. And I love my life. I genuinely absofreakinlutely love my simple bleach-the-dog-bowls-fill-the-bird-feeder-water-the-garden-walk-two-miles-work-my-ass-off life. It's the one I want.

And then, maybe two weeks ago, I decided I wanted something else. A relationship. You might wonder how you decide you want that. Are you ordering Starbucks and think, "Eh, I'd like a relationship with that." Are you on Craigslist one night and it dawns on you, "Who cares about vintage lamp shades and retro dining room tables - I want a relationship!" Or are you grilling salmon and veggies and as quietly as the breeze floats by, something stirs...hmmm, it'd be nice to share this with someone.

I don't remember how it dawned on me, and before you think this has a predictable ending, I can assure you this story does not. But there it was one day. This awareness that perhaps after all these years (and yes, I'm old enough to use that expression) and all this time of growing emotionally and healing spiritually and discovering life's journey and Googling a bunch of shit that I missed out on because I was a nomad most of my life - "so you have no recollection of, like, Michael Jackson?" "My first memory of MJ was during his trial and then when he died." Shocked silence - that now feels like the right time to add another human to the mix.

That sounds like I'm having a kid. I am not.

Operation Holly Needs a Date launched a long time ago.

"Holly, there's this guy, his name's Greg. You have to meet him."
And then two days later, "Oh my god, Holly, remember that guy Greg I wanted to hook you up with? Turns out he's a con artist, he's embezzled a bunch of money, and he's gay."

"Oh, I know who you'd like. My cousin Justin." I'd prefer no one in your gene pool.

"I've got it. Todd. Great guy, he lives with his mom."

The operation's been a semi-covert one for awhile, but now I've boarded that choo-choo train.

After-work dinners with friends have turned into episodes of Tough Love.

I've been instructed. "Okay, when you're on your way to the bathroom, you have to walk through the bar area. Walk with your shoulders straight and your head up. Make eye contact."

Scolded. "Holly, that guy totally checked you out, but you weren't paying attention."

Admonished. "You have to look approachable. Be friendly."
"But I am friendly."
"You're unapproachable."

Critiqued. "The boy sitting next to you was so into you, he was doing everything he could. But you were oblivious."
"I was talking!"
"Yeah, but not the right things. The problem was you were both too shy." 

Advised. "Playing with your dogs in the river is great, but the people you might meet there are most likely undesirable old fishermen."

So I've been thumb-wrestling with myself, because let's face it. Finding a date is like digging a ditch. It's manual labor and it sucks. Plus, I'm a traditionalist in many ways; women shouldn't be digging ditches, men should. Translation: you should ask me.

(Possible) Roadblock #1: You are afraid of me. I'm bossy, sarcastic, unintentionally rude sometimes and shy.

(Possible) Roadblock #2: I am afraid of you and my lack of experience, which could quite possibly mess this whole thing up. 

(Possible) Roadblock #3: I'm not likely to 'get' any of your subtle advances. You're better off to just come out and say how you really feel or what you really want, otherwise we run the risk of me missing every possible clue and then you think I'm totally uninterested and I think you're rude.

(Possible) Roadblock #4: My eye is on the prize even if the prize is a green and red pepper which I will use to add color to my planned vegetable dish. I'm not thinking "Cute-guy alert in the veggie aisle." I'm one-track-minding my way to a plastic baggie to put my peppers in.

Exception to the Rule: You should ask me, but that doesn't mean you will. So I'll fill in the blanks for you. I don't do that for everyone.

Exception to the Exception to the Rule: I still think you should ask me, and the fact that you don't makes me think that me asking you could be a waste of both of our time, because don't forget - I'm shy. Asking you for a dance (because I really, really love dancing) is by far the scariest experience of my life, and I've glided before. Do you know what gliding is? It's flying in an engineless airplane. So humor me with a dance.

(Your) Solution #1: Hit me over the head with a 2x4. That's likely what it will take to get my attention.

(My) Solution #1: Read the naughty books some of my friends have. I might learn something.

And then fundamentally, at the bottom (or is it the top?) of what I've made a convoluted mess, is my mantra: live your life right now. Not the one yesterday or the one tomorrow, but the one you have right now.

The truth is that although I might be kinda/sorta ready for a relationship, I'm not in one. My life right now is single as the day is long, it's beautifully simple, and crafted to fit me. It's not that there isn't room for one more, it's that there isn't one more right now.

So, I'm ready.

Eye contact. Check.
Attention on men who check me out. Check.
Approachable. Check.
Flirty. Half-check.
Play somewhere else besides the river. Developing check.
Dig a proverbial ditch. Check.

Despite all that, you're probably still going to need a 2x4. Or at the very least, be prepared to stand in my full-steam ahead path and flag me down.

Don't worry. I'll come to a screeching halt for you, the right one at the right time to live our right-now kind of life.

In the meantime...well, I think you can probably guess.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

sexual tension

Hormones are raging at the Cottage, the least of which are mine.

Actually, mine shouldn't even be mentioned in light of the breed-me-NOW! debacle I'm managing. And by managing, I mean crating-everyone-and-leaving-the-house ASAP, because I can't hardly handle the sexual tension that's exploded in the Cottage.

So yes, as you might have guessed, Skye's in heat. Well, she's in the horny-I-thought-you-were-an-annoyance-but-now-I-realize-you-have-a-penis stage of her heat cycle, the same cycle that started nine days late and threw off my breeding plans. It's also the one that sparked dog-sex education discussions between me and nearly all of my friends.

Actually, I don't think one friend has been left unscathed from the "Okay, so a dog's heat cycle is three weeks long. The first week you don't know about it, the second week they're bleeding and the third week their vulva becomes swollen and engorged and that's when you can breed them" conversations that have been exchanged in multiple states and via text, cell phone, and over lunch in the break room.

There has probably never been a more publicized period.

And this one, like all the others, will come and go and result in no puppies. That's right, no babies for us anytime soon. That's what happens when you're late, Skye. No hanky-panky for you.

Convincing her of this (and Tuck, no less!) is a chore, and today was the first day of separation.

I could tell last night (as all responsible dog-moms can) that if puppy love were to be consummated, it would be this weekend, and since Cupid isn't shooting any arrows near our Cottage, I knew I'd have to enforce division starting today. And lasting about a week.

Let the torture begin. For all of us.

For Skye, because she's a little bit of whore and unlike some whores, she physiologically can't help it. Here's your dog-sex education fact of the day: bitches want it as bad as studs. And in the cases of every female I've owned, they want it worse.

For Tuck, because everything in him is telling him to do one thing. And he can't.

For me, because my job is to mitigate sexual emotions and make sure no accidents happen. I'm not wallowing in dog-pity because I'm a hard-ass and saying, "No, you shall not have sex!" is just another day in the life of. What I am wallowing in is self-pity because for all of their awesomeness and intelligence, no amount of screaming German commands can deter what nature's begging.

And we've come full circle. I crate everyone and leave the hormonally-crazed Cottage as soon as possible.

Monday, June 4, 2012

frustration in a shower rod and lovers in a river

My shower curtain and rod are laying on the floor of my shower mocking me. I couldn't get the damn thing back up after it fell after I tried to drape a towel over it after I'd rinsed off after taking the dogs to the lake.

I cursed and then dropped it. I don't need a shower tonight anyway. I'll worry about it tomorrow.

Perhaps this is as sexist and subsequently as offensive as a man saying, "Gosh, I'm hungry. I wish a woman were here to cook something for me," but I'm going to say it - I wish a man were here to hang my shower rod for me.

I'm tired. I'm hungry. I don't feel good. Hell, I'd even take a handy woman at this point.
And so now I'm officially whining.

But I don't wanna hang my shower rod.

And then I would tell my two-year-old self, "Life is really rough, isn't it? Suck it up."

Before the shower rod frustration, I was reflecting on what a great summer routine the dogs and I have established for ourselves.

For the past week after I've arrived home, I've donned my water shoes, shorts and a tank top, outfitted them with collars and leashes and packed their toy, and struck out for the river. Now that Tuck has learned to swim, he can't get enough of it. I tuck my phone in my bra, wade in to about thigh-deep and watch them romp and swim around me.

I have to alternate between the two of them fetching their toy or else all hell will break loose in the water. Tuck sits watchfully by my side while Skye retrieves the toy three times, but when I switch them out and she's restrained and he's fetching, you'd think I was killing her.

Tonight it was just us and then while the dogs were out swimming, a young couple walked by.

"Are they lovers?" asked one of them.

Um, heck yes, my dogs are lovers. Why else are they swimming together in the river at near-sunset?

By the time we get home, they're a bit more tired. I stake them out in the yard so they can dry off a bit, I step in the kitchen, strip my shorts off, shower off my legs, and go outside to pick my first batch of green beans for dinner. Before long dinner will be over, the dogs will be inside eating theirs, and we'll fall asleep sooner than later because this dog-momma's tired.

These are good summer nights.

Shower rod and all.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

the art of raising

I can't say I've raised children, because I haven't. Well, not in the cradle-to-the-grave sense of the word "raising." But I've done a lot of nurturing, we'll call it, so parents, don't be offended when I draw some comparisons between my 10-month old 80-pound German shepherd and your 2-year old 25ish-pound kid.

Everything Skye likes, notices, does is 150 times more interesting than anything he could be doing at any moment.

Peeing in private is nearly impossible without worrying about what he's chewing up, or having a big German shepherd head peak around the corner, or in Skye's case, come in and jump on my lap.

Little victories are occasion for magnificent celebration. "That's a good boy to come when you're called!" and you would have thought he was the first man on the moon. Or, dog. And then in the very next breath, an exasperated, "really?!" and I try to reattach the sprinkler head to the watering can that he just drug off through the yard.

There isn't a lot of down time when Tuck is on the loose. I become a human vacuum, following behind his every footstep and picking up the messes he makes.

I say "no" a lot.

I also say, "Tuck, that is TOO rough. She doesn't want you on top of her and you're hurting her."

When I think about it, I say a lot of things to him.

"Tuck, there are two bowls in this house and you can't eat out of both of them at the same time. Let her have one."

"Tuck, I know you're excited, but jumping on me is not acceptable."

"Tuck, you're such a good swimmer!"

"Tuck, do NOT chew the dustpan."

"Tuck, get that out of your mouth. And do not take any more books off the bookcase."

"Tuck, if you start that, you can go in your room."

Every dog has challenged me in different ways, and he's no exception. He's a lumbering oaf, he's (accidentally) bitten me, knocked me over and chewed a Blackberry and two pairs of glasses.

But he's a quick learner who wants to please and the bond between him and I is physically noticable. Yes, he's brash and rough and he doesn't know how to control his puppy energy inside his massive body, but when he's sleeping, he's adorable. And when he's tired, he's calm. And when he nuzzles my hand to be pet, I pet him, and when he wants to lick my face, I let him. And when he grabs a stick, which is attached to a tree branch and takes off running with it, I laugh.

And when he disconnects my Internet I might yell a little bit. And for the umpteenth time: leave my flip-flop alone.