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A Dog’s Life

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My cousins and sister with the Weimaraner puppies

 

My uncle David has a dental practice in Rangeley, Maine. He’s been there since the late 80s, and when he first moved to Maine and began the practice, lived in a cabin in the woods right on a lake with no electricity. An environmentalist an avid outdoorsman whose credentials include a Public Health Service Externship Program after dental school treating native Eskimos in rural Alaska, this cabin in the woods was no real surprise. Later came a generator, electricity, and another house closer to his office “in town,” as they call it in rural Maine.

 

My cousins and I loved visiting him in Maine growing up; there were lessons in fishing, canoeing, campfires and stories and lots of fun times with family. And one particularly memorable summer…a litter of cute puppies. Rangeley is a vacation spot for many people, including a good friend of my uncle who owns a summer home there, an artist and photographer known for his photos and work with Weimaraner dogs. You’ve probably seen these somewhere before-Weimaraners dressed as Little Red Riding Hood, Marilyn Monroe, in trench coats driving cars, or wearing boots or roller skates. This artist gave my uncle one of the original dogs from the litter of puppies he did much of this work with, Crooky. And my cousins and I met the whole litter of cute Weimaraner puppies on one summer visit to Rangeley. Crooky and my uncle were inseparable, except, of course, when she was on photo shoots or filming commercials in New York City.

When my uncle would visit his siblings and nieces and nephews back in Massachusetts, or when we’d visit Maine and notice Crooky’s absence, we’d ask David, “Where’s the dog?” “Oh, she’s in New York on a photo shoot,” or “Oh, filming an episode of Sesame Street and a Honda commercial.” My cousins and I already thought my uncle was cool, but a cute semi-famous dog increased the coolness factor significantly, if that was even possible. Since the rest of Crooky’s life involved hanging out at a lake house with picturesque scenery chasing a tennis ball and wide open space everywhere to run around, we determined the life of my uncle’s dog was probably the best you could ask for.

After Crooky came another Weimaraner, Ben, and when Ben injured his leg, my uncle, (who majored in physics in college), fashioned some type of device using a rope and pulley system to help him heal, (I’d explain it better if I understood it), and now there’s Drayco, a rescue lab mix. Crooky and Ben were hunting dogs, and could sniff out a ball from a mile away. My uncle and cousin Sam, his oldest son, told me the other night, “We’re not sure Drayco has the best peripheral vision, and I don’t think his sense of smell is that great either.” We then watched him try to find a bone that was less than a foot away from him for about 15 minutes, unable to control our laughter. Even still, if given the choice to start over as anything, I’d choose the life of my uncle’s dog.

The man himself: http://www.rangeleydental.com/Biography.html

 

 

“Fun Run”

 

“I’m not certain the words “fun” and “run” should be used in the same sentence, but I’ve met some people who seem to enjoy running, a lot of them at the company I worked for in Georgia. Running races and participating in community 5Ks was part of the culture of the close-knit place, and on my interview I was asked, “Are you a runner?” Instead of answering “Fuck no,” immediately, I thought about it for a minute, since it seemed important and lied, “Not really, but I’m thinking about starting.” This wasn’t a complete lie, as I did think about running sometimes. I hoped this answer would be sufficient and we could just move on and never talk about running again, but as I learned, there were A LOT of 5Ks in the community, and participation was strongly encouraged. I couldn’t think of much I’d rather do less than get up early on a Saturday, hang out with the people I’d been with all week, and fork over money to do it, but I was polite enough to wait awhile before I said this out loud, (which I eventually did).

I started my job there in June, and there was a Community event and race on the Fourth of July. It was a holiday and my boyfriend and I were going to hang out and he was going to make a bunch of homemade biscuits, this seemed like a much better idea to me, but people kept encouraging me to participate, it seemed like the thing everyone was doing and I was new, so I obliged. There were two parts to the race you had the option to register for, the 5K, and the shorter, 1 mile race, titled the “Fun Run.” In typical underachiever fashion, I thought, “Well, I can still do this, smile and show up, but not have to run three miles at 7am on a holiday in blistering heat.” Seemed perfect, what could go wrong?

Here’s what: I showed up a couple of minutes late, but The “Fun Run” started exactly on time, and since the participants were mostly 10 years of age or younger, and the fun run consisted of what looked like one lap around the park, by the time I got there, it was over. “Shit,” I thought, but I spotted a group of my co-workers-the real runners-in the distance, and decided I’d walk over and say hello and just pretend I’d completed the fun run, I figured nobody had seen me yet so nobody would know the difference.

I wandered over to the group who were doing stretches and lunges and whatever else it is runners do, thinking I’d say a few hellos then be free to go home and eat biscuits, but before I could successfully escape, I was spotted by the President of the Company, who was attractive, soft-spoken and kind, and had a sexy foreign accent; I realized I’d reached the point of no return since smiling, nodding, and saying yes in his presence is what I think everyone did. “Hello Doria, he said, so glad to see you here today, do you need a Tshirt for the run?” “Yes,” I nodded and smiled.

So there I was, in blistering 100+ degree weather on a holiday, having “fun.” I found a group of fellow slow-pokes to stick with and we stuck it out, mostly walking at a brisk pace, dripping with sweat, and praying for it to be over. After working there for awhile, it became kind of a running joke when people would ask me about the upcoming weekends event. “Are you coming?” Blank stare from me. “But there are T-shirts!” Since I’d often spend part of the week watching grown men have meltdowns over selling frozen fish or getting stuck in strange airports in the middle of nowhere USA, a T-shirt seemed like a crappy consolation prize for giving up part of my Saturday.

“That’s great,” I’d say, “I have pancakes and a bed at my house, that’s where I’ll be Saturday morning.”

The 5K race was an official  timed race, so now a google search of my name shows that I completed a 5K in 48 minutes, like any real competitive go-getter would. My hope is anyone looking for any information will just assume, “Well, it doesn’t look like she’s very athletic or especially talented, but maybe she’s fun…”

Skin Salve

If you’ve ever struggled with acne or other skin issues, I’m sure you can relate to the embarrassment and feelings of self-consciousness of facing the world with your face, or hiding your face behind your hair (I became an expert at this, which I’m sure only exacerbated the problem). I had skin problems for years, from the time I was 14 well into my thirties. It was frustrating, and nothing seemed to provide a long-term solution-prescriptions, creams, I tried everything and spent a lot of money in the process. A few years ago, after research, experimenting, and being completely fed up, I became determined to find a solution that would incorporate using more natural products and methods to address the issue from a more holistic approach.

Consumerism and the pharmaceutical industry tell us we need to buy or subscribe to the latest and greatest, but I figured, like most things, there’s probably something that works better and costs less that people don’t tell you about. Finding and sticking to an all natural skin care regime has changed my life (and my skin) for the better, so I feel compelled to share some of these discoveries with anyone else who might be interested.

I discovered this soap at a craft fair on Jekyll Island in Georgia, it’s homemade, all natural, and costs $8. I still order it, and probably pay more in shipping than the actual cost of the soap, but it’s worth it! https://asparagus-soap.com/products/anti-acne-soap I also feel good about supporting a small business rather than a big corporate entity. This exfoliating soap works well to use on occasion as well: https://asparagus-soap.com/products/spicy-oatmeal-scrub

Shea Terra Organics also has an all natural African Black Soap that’s great at evening skin tone and clearing skin. https://www.sheaterraorganics.com/Rose-Hips-Black-Soap-Deep-Pore-Facial-Wash-_p_299.html

Homemade toner-after reading and learning more about the benefits of apple cider vinegar, I came across a recipe for a homemade facial toner. Apple cider vinegar can balance pH levels in the skin, and has antiseptic qualities. Take a 3 ounce bottle, add a solution of half apple cider vinegar, half water (use purified or distilled water, not tap), and add 10 drops of tea tree oil. This can be a little strong and drying if you have sensitive skin, so I usually only use it a few times a week but have noticed a huge difference in my skin.

Andalou Naturals-While catching up with a friend awhile back who’d previously had some skin issues, I noticed how clear and glowing her skin looked and asked what she’d been using. She told me about Andalou, they use certified organic and nature derived ingredients, and I’ve been a big fan ever since.  This moisturizer works well if your skin tends to be on the oily side: http://andalou.com/index.php/acai-kombucha-oil-free-moisturizer and I’ve liked everything else of theirs I’ve tried. You can purchase some items on Amazon or in natural health food stores, see this link to locate:

http://andalou.com/storelocator

Oil- I was skeptical, as my skin already seemed to have plenty of oil, but I read this and decided to give it a try. http://www.livestrong.com/article/155700-jojoba-oil-for-acne-prone-skin/ Since my skin is already oily, I only do this once or twice a week.  After cleansing at night,  I rub a few drops all over my face. Use sparingly, and make sure to buy pure, cold-pressed jojoba oil, which can be found in most health food stores.

This process of determining what works best for your skin can be lengthy and involve a lot of trial and error, everyone will respond differently to different products and methods, but sticking to an all natural regime has worked better and been much more cost effective than any pill, cream, or drugstore product ever has. There a big connection between the ingredients in what goes on (and into) our bodies and our overall health, so take some extra time and care to make sure they’re high quality.

Here’s a scary picture of me wearing no makeup, I even occasionally leave the house without makeup, something I wouldn’t have even considered just a few years ago. Now to address wrinkles….:)

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Sponge Worthy

My ex-boyfriend, Chris, lived by a very stringent set of rules; unfortunately I didn’t have a copy of his rule book so I learned the rules as I went. This book by David Finch was very helpful in learning how to understand and communicate with him effectively, since any signs of emotion or anything not rooted in straight logic or reason were not part of his rules.
http://www.npr.org/books/titles/146344369/the-journal-of-best-practices-a-memoir-of-marriage-asperger-syndrome-and-one-man

One evening, as he was preparing to make dinner in the kitchen at my apartment, Chris looked at me very seriously and sternly, and it was clear I’d broken a rule. “Do you know what I find very upsetting?” he asked. The question was delivered without any trace of humor or lightness, and it seemed very important to him. I’d become used to this sort of thing, and I believe love should be unconditional, as mine for him was, so I’d spent a lot of time reading, learning, and understanding how to communicate with someone who viewed the world so differently.

“I don’t,” I answered as calmly as possible.

“You left a wet, water- logged sponge in the sink, I touched it, my hands smell like wet sponge, it’s going to take forever to get the smell to go away, and I FIND THIS VERY UPSETTING.”

Previously, I’d been prone to emotional outbursts when I was instructed to water plants a certain way, shouted orders about cooking, or lectured on knife-washing hygiene, but I came to recognize these things as part of his rules, so I learned to be patient.
“Okay, I said, I’m sorry that happened; there are new sponges under the sink, maybe just throw that one away and get another one.”

But breaking this rule seemed more serious, and there were some moments of silence and exasperation on both ends.

I started to lose my cool on this occasion, but tried to remain calm, “I mean, I’m sorry, but can’t you be a little more lighthearted about it, is it really that big of I deal?” I asked.

It was, as evidenced by his response, “You know how you’re trying to decide if you could live with someone, and you’re taking everything into consideration, well, that’s what I’m doing.”

On the outside, I nodded and said, “Okay.” On the inside I screamed,” I MOVED MY LIFE TO ANOTHER PART OF THE COUNTRY, I LIVE IT AROUND YOUR SCHEDULDE AND YOU’RE DETERMINGING OUR FUTURE TOGETHER BASED ON MY FUCKING SPONGE ETTIQUTTE?”

But as someone who hyper-focused on minute details regularly, he very often missed the big picture. This was a living hell for both of us.

I learned some important things though during our time together, I can chop vegetables safely, tell you the most important difference between crocodiles and alligators, and make
killer homemade lemonade and pies.

In the end, I wasn’t sponge-worthy, and our life together would have been hugely challenging, but he was right, leaving water-logged sponges in the sink is disgusting and makes your hands smell gross. And I haven’t done it since.

The Blender Story…

In its prime, the blender story became a favorite among friends. My ex, I’ll call Chris, and his friend “Ally” worked together at a bar in college, and became reacquainted in the area we lived where she was living and working nearby as a high school teacher. Since he was living separately, in a very remote location, and pretty unavailable in every sense of the word, and Ally didn’t know many people around, I started hanging out with her and introducing her to some of my friends and co-workers. She was free-spirited and creative, and we had some things in common, so I enjoyed her company. During the summer, when she was off work, she and Chris often hung out together on Mondays when I was working. As far as I could tell, this seemed to mostly involve them getting high and drinking margaritas at the pool at her apartment complex. Obviously you need a blender for that, so they borrowed mine. And obviously I didn’t have much to say about anything that went on, as I was regularly viewed as unstable, crazy, and volatile for any emotion above flatline, regardless of the surrounding circumstances.

At some point, my apartment and deck became a temporary home for many of Ally’s plants when she was moving from one apartment to another and going out of town in between. I wasn’t sure exactly how this happened, but as is often the case with someone programmed to function on his own terms in life, I was just along for the ride, and did a lot of nodding and saying, “Sure.” This of course meant I’d be taking care of them, since Chris didn’t live there and was more of an observer of my life than a participant, but I didn’t mind since I’d spent several years “training” him how to live on mutual terms with someone, and things like this were his version of doing so, since they involved me in some way.

Since our breakup happened rather abruptly, and without much closure, I still had some of Ally’s larger potted plants at my house on the deck, and she still had my blender from a Monday margarita session. I knew keeping in touch could get awkward, as we met up a couple of times after and I was pretty forthright with my opinions; this tends to make people in the area where we lived very uncomfortable.

As I was grieving, upset, and pretty traumatized about what was happening, I was just looking to connect with anyone who would listen. And as Ally was still in touch with Chris and they were smoking joints together, at some point she stopped communicating with me. This wasn’t unreasonable, and I sometimes wondered if they were sleeping together, this wouldn’t have surprised me based on some of his past behavior and now looking back on what came next, but really I just wanted to make a smoothie. I’d asked for my blender back at some point, and one day returned from work to find it sitting on my deck. It was missing the lid, and there had been no communication, no text, nothing from Ally. I was incredibly pissed about the lack of accountability, my MO for most of those years of my life. “It’s fine if you don’t want to keep in touch with me,” I thought, but perhaps you could say something along the lines of “Dropped off your blender,” and THEN ignore me for the rest of your life or pretend to be busy forever. And “WHERE THE FUCK IS THE LID, THIS BLENDER IS USELESS TO ME NOW!?” But I took a deep breath, and called my friend.

The most amusing part of the blender story is this: After sitting on my deck and taking some deep breaths, I heard an incredibly loud noise, the “noise” was Ally driving by my apartment, which was located on a rather main road, in her SUV that clearly needed a new muffler. I’m not sure if she noticed me sitting on my deck staring at her, but when I looked over at her car, hanging out of the window on the passenger’s side was the large plant that had still been in my care on my deck, the plant that she had taken when she dropped off my blender, mostly likely minutes before. Chris would have really enjoyed that story, were the surrounding circumstances different, and in that moment I almost wished he was there, watching Ally noisily clank by, with a giant plant sticking out her car window.

So much for “Operation Covert Blender Drop,” Ally. Nice try…Since she didn’t know the area that well, I’m not sure she realized there were alternate routes available that would have bypassed my apartment, but I’m glad she didn’t because this has become one of my favorite stories.

I never did see or speak to her again, and resisted the urge to contact her in any way, something I wasn’t always good about with Chris when I was feeling angry and grieving.

I realized I could let things like this poison me or drag me down and stay angry, and I did that for a long time and found it exhausting, so I decided to write funny stories about them instead.

“GOT IT!”

My ex-boyfriend was really into rules, giving detailed, proper instructions, and had several “systems” in place for living his life. Things were great when I could fit into his system, and when that proved challenging, he almost immediately found someone else who could. While we probably were never a great fit,  I sense he was definitely somewhere on the spectrum, and while not an impossible situation, it certainly proved challenging for both of us.

Things were often explained to me in excruciating detail, instructions delivered like a drill sergeant, and I was more often than not the audience for long-winded, one sided conversations about various topics such as a Abraham Lincoln biography he was reading, the importance of watering basil close to the root, the venomous snake population in the area, or how the lever and fulcrum operate. The lever and fulcrum lecture came prior to going to the park to throw a softball, as I was instructed to throw using the same mechanics, and asked if I understood why that was important. I usually resisted the urge to say, “NO, and I don’t fucking care,” because I loved him and found him smart and interesting and believe he was mostly oblivious to the fact that many times I tuned him out after about 30 seconds, I have no doubt he did the same when I dared approach the topic of anything emotional or serious. Naturally, as he wasn’t usually able to understand my point of view, my exasperation and annoyance with the instruction giving and being lectured to as if I was a disobedient child was perceived as me being “sensitive,” “over-emotional,” or “crazy.”

I’d foolishly try to explain, “See, no, I’m not really crazy for being upset, it’s just that nobody has ever shouted vegetable chopping instructions to me while I was cooking…”

“I mean, I’m trying not to be upset, it’s just that nobody has ever scolded me with “Sometimes, I’M GOING TO GIVE YOU INSTRUCTIONS, IT DOESN’T MEAN I’M BEING A DICK, IT JUST MEANS I’M TELLING YOU WHAT TO DO!” This actually happened once and I resisted the urge to laugh out loud.

Perhaps my favorite story about following the rules happened on a Sunday when we went to the beach. We were going to enjoy the day and go throw a flying ring (like a Frisbee). As we left my apartment, it began…”Now, it’s very important, if you miss it, and it lands in the water, it’s going to sink, so you really have to pay attention to see where it went to retrieve it.” “Right, of course,” I thought. I understood the implications of not littering the ocean with plastic and not losing your belongings, but it was a $9 piece of plastic and I thought perhaps we could just GO FUCKING THROW IT AND HAVE FUN. Exasperated, but knowing full well he wouldn’t understand why, I said, “Okay.”

So we went, we tossed, and then inevitably, I missed, sending the disc flying into the unsafe waters. It’s important to note here I was wearing water shoes, but not beach clothes; I had on regular capri pants and a T-shirt. When the disc went plunging into the ocean, I did as I was instructed, and by that, I mean, I dove in wearing my clothes, got soaked, jumped down, retrieved it, and waved it over my head, yelling out triumphantly, “GOT IT!” I, of course, was being facetious. I thought for sure he’d understand the absurdity of diving into the ocean fully clothed to retrieve it. Instead, he looked at me, nodded, and said, “Good job,” as if I was a dog that had just retrieved a ball. I told my therapist this story at one point and she laughed out loud. “Oh, there’s more where that came from,” I told her.

I hesitated for a long time to start writing about this and my experience, we have several mutual friends, and for a long time I was bitter, angry about the way things ended, and resentful, and I knew I couldn’t start then. I didn’t want it to be retaliatory, or mean, or hurtful, and so I waited. I waited until I knew that this experience taught me what I needed to know, waited until I could forgive, and waited until the pain no longer felt like it would suffocate me. And in the years when it did, I found connecting with people, sharing similar experiences and being brave enough to tell many of my difficult life stories cathartic, like a weight being lifted. I no longer felt the need to conceal, or hide behind circumstances that weren’t my choosing. I realized what a gift it has been to find the courage and strength to keep going among some painful and incredibly challenging experiences, the gift of always being able to find the humor among the pain, and the gift of being brave enough to talk about it. Stories connect us, allow us to share experiences; they have the power to teach, persuade, and allow for insight and understanding. And so, at a time in my life when I needed connectivity and clarity, I started writing…

 

It’s kind of a crazy story…

I talk often about how surprised I was how common gun ownership was in the South, how I once borrowed my friend Tara’s car, which unbeknownst to me, yielded a loaded pistol under the passenger seat, or how more than one friend there told me, “Oh yeah, every time I go to Savannah, I carry.”

“No shit,” I’d say. It seemed, and still does seem, foreign to me, but in no way did I want to hop on the gun ownership wagon, though I lived alone and was encouraged to. It did start to become clear, however, that in a home invasion situation or something similar, I’d be at a disadvantage. Many Southern stories begin with, “It’s kind of a crazy story…” I learned that what followed would most likely involve a gun, an opossum or raccoon, someone’s pickup truck, and someone’s weird relative or ex-husband (who was definitely carrying a gun).

Yesterday my cat Scrappy died rather unexpectedly. I’d adopted him from a friend in the South, and it was clear the beginning of his life hadn’t been very easy, he hid under my bed the majority of the time the first few months, meowed from the hours of 4-6 am, hated most men, and figured out how to open my kitchen cabinets with his paws to hide under them.

“What a pain in the ass,” I thought initially, but life has blessed me with a great deal of patience and tolerance, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt and eventually we became best of friends.

Yesterday, after I put him to sleep, I contacted my friend Stephanie, who I’d adopted him from. “Scrappy lived a good life with you,” she said. “The first half of his life involved living on the streets of Brunswick Georgia, and getting shot…”

“Hold up, Scrappy got shot!?, I asked. “I never knew that.”

And in typical Southern fashion, she answered, “Yes, by my ex-husband.” Naturally, I thought.

I had so many questions, as usual. “How the fuck does a cat get shot?” and “What?”, “Are you kidding me?,” and “WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES PRECEDE YOUR EX-HUSBAND SHOOTING YOUR CAT?”  

“Well, I’ll tell you sometime,” she answered, “it’s kind of a crazy story…”