Friday, October 21, 2016

Church of Zumba

I just went through a big change. My husband and I bought our first house. Just a few months after marrying, Steven and I moved to the little town of Lockhart, an up and coming spot 30 miles from Austin, We kept our jobs and he lengthened his commute. We packed up our belongings, six canoes and three bikes, two pets, a U-Haul and many, many boxes, and I cried a lot. I was nervous about living in a town of 13,000 people. And I hate moving. And change. When we went to unload we found that the utilities had been shut off, so after depositing a couch and chairs and clothes and bedding, we trucked back to Austin for another week. We kept our bed, our crappy tv, and ate meatloaf and green beans and potatoes from the prepared foods section of the nice grocery store, while we watched Rick Steves reruns on the bed with Milton and Guthrie.

Now that we are settling in our new town is immensely charming and hospitable. We have a chorus of frogs in our big back yard, and can see the stars at night. There is still a lot to adjust to, a lot of work to be done at the house, but possibility seems to surround this new move.

One of the Austin treasures I was most anxious to leave was my Zumba class.

The fall after I finished treatment, I felt too tired to do much more then walk around the block at night. Though I handled chemo with as much spunk as I could muster, and my body worked brilliantly and beautifully for me, it all took the wind out of my sails. I still haven't quite felt the same since then. I felt upset that the steroids that combated nausea and hormone treatments to preserve fertility led me to gain weight. I didn't like the chemo curls that grew into my hair. I think mostly, I wanted to feel like I had more control, like things had never changed. But they had. And different people's grief wants to eat different things, and mine wanted carbs. A lot of carbs. Good, thick rosemary bread with salt crusted on top. Mama lil's peppers marinating in olive oil- hunks of goat milk feta, glasses of wine, sausage and sauerkraut. Soul food. My grief did not want to eat salad.

So it has been a slow and confusing process, and it turns out the part after the hard part can feel just as hard. And my (now) husband was, and continues to be, an endless well of patience and kindness, even when I come home in a small tornado of sadness and fear, blowing that wind through all the cracks in the house.

So I decided that staying home every night wasn't helping. And walking wasn't enough. I needed community. And some cardio.

My parents helped me get a gym membership at an LA Fitness close to me. When I signed up they offered a free hour consultation with a trainer, and like a real dummy I went for it. It was terrible- the guy would have been nice enough if we shared beers at a bar, but as he tried to educate me on my body mass index and how I was overweight and different ways I could workout to get fit, I completely shut down. He wasn't trained to hear real truth from women, and I think this is probably a common experience. It was not the place to disclose things like- "Actually I am depressed because not too long ago I was bald and can't make sense of this experience, and no, I don't want to lift weights, but do you have any fun dance classes? And fuck off."

Well, it turns out, they did. I went to a few Zumba classes that were lacking a certain spark and level of quality, and then on a fateful Tuesday night I walked into Priscilla's class.  And she was a force. A gorgeous dancer, and a beautiful human being who radiated confidence, joy, and positivity. All qualities that seemed to be in short supply in my own life. The music was loud. I sweated and I stayed the whole time, and I didn't fall over, or feel pain in my chest. I could do it. I tried to go every Tuesday and Thursday. One week we did a song she loved and she had us bring flags from our home countries. It was amazing. On her birthday someone brought cake and we ate it right after class at a table next to all the treadmills. I started to recognize the other women who came every week, and there was a whole die hard crew of us. I swam laps a few times, and tried some of the machines (they all made me feel motion sick after awhile, so I stopped using them.) But the only class I wanted to go to was Zumba.

There was no way to really convey to Priscilla what her classes meant to me. It was the first time I had felt confident in my body after going through some serious trauma. It hammers home that just by being who we are in the world and sharing our gifts, we may offer strength in ways that we may never know. By sharing that light within you, you truly help others find their own.

And Zumba helped fulfill a lifelong fantasy of mine. In another life I would have loved to be a dancer. I envy their grace and their athleticism. Maybe even more then being a dancer I want to be in a dance MOVIE. On my best days in Zumba, I felt like I was in that scene in Center Stage when Jodi goes to the dance class in the city, the co-ed one, and she just lets loose. I felt just like that.

So, I cried when I told Priscilla I was moving. Traffic in Austin is too horrendous, the timing was not right for me to drive back into the city for her classes. I couldn't stop crying, in fact.

 And yet. This is where the story keeps getting better. Steven, without my asking, looked for Zumba in Lockhart. And there is a studio. With a teacher named Ariana. She has four kids, and the first time I went to class there were so many fun ladies there, including her 74 year old Mom, wearing sparkly silver sneakers! And she shines in a different way then Priscilla, and just as brightly. And I got to thinking- these classes, when they are done well, is what I imagine church should feel like. Fellowship, feeling safe, singing and sweating and dancing, and at the end you leave cleansed, and with new energy, and maybe you still carry tiredness or brokenness, but you were surrounded by love, and you left feeling capable and whole again. And sometimes there is twerking.

So, I don't go to church, But I do go to Zumba. And I am starting to feel like myself again, little by little, My old self, funnier and more confident and wanting to be creative and take more risks. And I hope I will find lots of places for new community, and lots of hidden treasures, in my new town of Lockhart. And I will do my best to keep you posted.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Saying Yes

I have lived in Austin, Texas for 5 years, a fact that would have seemed impossible to me before I arrived. A friend told me recently she knew I wasn't coming home when I flew away to Europe, and then came home to pack my bags for Texas.

I decided to travel because I was lonely, I was stuck. I had a sty in my eye that wouldn't go away- like a canary in a coal mine it dogged me until I finally worked up the courage to leave. Leaving home, and my family, and my comfort zone, took me most of my young adult life to find the courage to do.

My grandma, Nanny, had died of lung cancer, and our family was bereft, swimming in loss and the empty space she left behind in all of us. I dated a man, briefly, who flew away to New Zealand, and I was so jealous of his adventure- I yearned to be away.

Friends told me to go. They collected money and hid them in plastic Easter eggs, and gave them to me for my birthday. I cried, cracking open their brightly colored shells as dollars spilled out. I deposited the money in my checking account, walked to the travel store up the street from my house in Seattle, and sat on the worn out carpet. I had a stack of books: Eastern Europe, Turkey, Germany. I decided I wanted to see where my grandmother Ruth was from. I wanted to go back to Poland, to see the land my family was from, before they were killed in World War II. One of my best friends was working as a clown in Germany. A friend of our family was an artist and lived in southern Turkey. My trip came together. I bought a ticket.

My roommate Kyle, who had sort of acted as a surrogate partner, sans any kind of romance, had been my sidekick. He bought me beers at the bar, protected me when I was too scared (always) to go talk to guys at parties, even set me up with an arborist friend of his. When I finally left the blue house I had shared with him and Samm, one of my very best friends, he picked me up and swung me around and hugged me. I fought back tears, got into my sister's car, a house plant on my lap, all my treasures, clothes, and thrift store mugs safely wrapped up in boxes in the back seat, and we drove off. I felt terrified, and I felt free.

When I was in the bookstore in Seattle I remember pulling out a book on Texas. I flipped to Austin, looking at pictures of beautiful green trees and water in this far off place, descriptions of hot sun, tacos and brisket, a thriving art and music scene, and I imagined what a life might be like there.

This was in my mind when I arrived in Frankfurt, Germany, to stay with the brother of a friend. He was a teacher at an international school in the city, and he played in a Tiki Band. He loved rockabilly music, and Austin, Texas. In this little apartment in the middle of Germany, there were Austin bumper stickers, bats, and cowboy boots.

I knew that romantic love was hard for me. I am independent, strong willed, sensitive, and sometimes anxious. I am sentimental, stoic, and careful. I was worried I would never find someone who was a good fit for me. I was worried I would be alone, that dating was too hard for me. I left Seattle in large part because I had to shake myself up, push myself to date and reinvent myself.

I went to Berlin, and stayed in an empty apartment that belonged to a friend of mine. I drank wine, read paperbacks, walked to cafes and cried as I wrote long emails to my closest girlfriends and my Mom, convinced that even in a foreign country I was doomed to be beholden to my fears of putting myself out in the world.

In retrospect it seems to silly- I do remember crying and writing epic emails, and I also remember feeling so at peace and at ease, in love with my solitude, my chance to be in the world without attachment.

There are so many more stories I want to tell about that trip- milking goats on a farm in Poland, finding magic and friendship in Bodrum, Turkey, getting stuck for days in Frankfurt while the snow piled on the sidewalks . . .

Eventually my few months of adventure came to an end- I remember thinking that I could choose to extend my trip and stay, or use the money I had left in savings to make a new start in Austin. Texas called to me. My old job tried to get me back and I said no. My friends threw me a goodbye party at Ed's Korthaus on Phinney Ridge. We drank beer and whiskey, played arcade games, and said goodbye.

I flew to Austin with two suitcases and a guitar, like a character out of a Portlandia episode. I wore a lot of sunscreen. I bought a bike. I found a funky rental house in a neighborhood called Cherrywood. I decided to stop acting- something I had loved and worked at for much of my young adult life, and I adopted a dog instead. I got a job working from four to midnight at a hip bodega in downtown Austin. And then, I met someone. He was adorable, and polite, and worked as a pedicab driver on the weekends. I was still stinging from a breakup, but surrounded by a vibrant city full of eligible bachelors I hadn't known since high school, unlike Seattle. My co-workers Tim and Dan (thanks, guys!) encouraged me to ask out this young stud.

His name was Steven. Steven Markowski. I found out later he used to bike around to the different Royal Blue Grocery stores downtown (I worked shifts at all three) until he found me. I started to give him leftover deli food, broken cookies, and looked forward to seeing him. I finally worked up the courage to ask him out.

I stammered and blushed and asked if he wanted to hang out, then scribbled my name and number on a yellow post-it note. He said yes immediately. Steven, thank you, thank you, thank you, for saying yes.

We went on a date, then another, then another. Weeks turned to months, and flowed into years. We drove to the far reaches of West Texas, to New Mexico, to Colorado. We watched movies, went to restaurants, walked around all the parks in town. He showed me all the beautiful places in Austin. He bought me a new bike light so I would be safe riding home from work. He bought special dog biscuits, and was very kind and gentle, and convinced Guthrie to love him.

I got diagnosed with cancer. I had open heart surgery. He brought me a basset hound puppet, and my favorite blanket, and refused to leave my side for the week I was in hospital. He never wavered. He said yes to being my partner, to not turning away from fear or the unpleasant months that followed.

We have had happier times since then, and healthier times, too. We watch PBS at night, we eat Chinese food from Trader Joe's, and we have made our little house a home.

We decided to get married. I found a turquoise ring that I liked. He flew to Seattle to surprise me on Christmas and I got the stomach flu. He waited til we were back in Austin. He made me a scavenger hunt in the house, with photos of our life together, and letters. It led back to a little yellow post it note from years ago.

We are getting married in June, next to the San Marcos river. I am so grateful for my life here in Austin, I so thankful that I had the courage to say yes. Not only to love, but to change, and risk, and moving away from home.

Big things can come from small risks, y'all. And despite sickness, and loss, we never know what beautiful roads are ahead, just waiting for us to take that first step.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Needle and Thread

In the middle of a challenging, hot, interminable summer, my sister Shelley came to visit. She stayed for three weeks- took me to the pool, made me smoothies, watched bad TV with me, and cooked us big pans of pasta primavera. From Virginia, my youngest sister Melissa sent me gifts, cards of sad, perfect dogs wearing t-shirts, and long, rambling letters. If I had ever needed the house that sisters built, this was the year.

I was at loose ends- summer in Austin, as you may well know, is HOT. I was lacking some important things, like hair, and a job, and one day Shelley looked at me and said, in a way only she could- "Dude, you need a hobby. Seriously. How about sewing?"

I've enjoyed other pursuits in the past, like photography, singing, and playing guitar. As it turned out, watching Netflix every day and weeping is not actually considered a hobby, so I took her advice to heart.

She took me to a hip fabric store on South First street, where I bought a small stack of fat quarters, some buttons, the requisite needle and thread, and got to work. First I made a stuffed animal cat, for my little friend William Wolfheart. (He loved Cat Cat- I recently made him Dog Dog so he could start a collection.)

Then I started sewing pouches, bright little square bags with snaps and embroidery thread sewn up the sides. Maybe I make that sound cooler then it was- they were VERY simple. 

When my Mom joined us in Texas she bought me a machine, a simple and very easy to use Janome, and then we were really off and sewing.

I started making bags, and slowly I moved to other square projects, like pillows and pillow cases, napkins, and finally, quilts.

I had never needed a hobby so much in my life. The beauty of sewing, of taking scraps and pieces of beautiful things, putting them together to create something new, was like meditating, or praying, or spinning straw into gold. As rapidly dividing cells were being destroyed throughout my body, I was focused on creating. It turned the dark, endless hours of uncertainty into something useful- time to build something new.

This fall I took two classes at the Singer Northwest Sewing Center, literally a block away from my house, and two doors down from an adorable fabric store called The Cloth Pocket. 

My classes were peppered with the kinds of characters you cannot make up- the Vietnam Vet who asked me if I was a Mennonite because of my hat (I gave him a wide berth) my teacher Caroline, small and sassy, with a lisp and a passion for Renaissance Fairs, and my favorite student, Mac, a butch lesbian firefighter with a wicked sense of humor and a newborn baby daughter.

I come from a long line of seamstresses- both of my grandmothers, and my great grandmother, as it turns out, were brilliant and creative, though I sadly did not express interest in learning the craft while they were still with us. 

Apparently I have the knack for it, and when I sew I stick the tip of my tongue out of the side of my mouth, just like Nanny always did. I remember the sound of the machine and the cool concrete floor of the basement, where Nanny would sew during the long hot Virginia summers. I remember Bubby, her small frame at the kitchen table, gray hair done up beautifully, sewing in our house when she would come to visit Seattle. She used to mend our towels- we still have some with wash clothes sewn over the holes, and they continue to live in the linen closet, decades later. 

I wrote about my grandmothers in the previous post, and in reflecting on what they endured, it seems significant that during this difficult time I embarked on a creative journey that led me back to them.

Quilting feels similar to writing- you tell a narrative, without knowing exactly where it will go, but hopeful it will far outlive you, and serve as a way to share your heart with those close to you. 

Now, when I talk on the phone to my Mom or sisters, as we run through the events of our day we also ask- did you make anything recently? We describe the square shaped projects we're sewing, imagine beautiful quilts we can make, and through the act of sewing, stitch ourselves closer together as a family.

So thank you, Shelley, for driving me to the fabric store on that hot July day. All the great journeys of our lives start once we've had the chance to dip our toes in the water.

Quilt I made for my parents.

Bag party!

Pillow Party!

My first quilt, made in class with help from Teri :)

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Ruth and Alice

I was in Nordstrom a few days before Christmas, thinking of Bubby. My grandmother Ruth was a lover of children, gold lame, cheesecake, and most of all, her family.

When we would shop at Nordstrom as kids she would be given a plush chair by one of the sales people to relax in, while my Mom and sisters and I picked out a new sweater or dress. When we would thank her for buying us gifts she would just smile and kiss us and say, "it gives me pleasure." She always looked classy- long grey hair brushed and shined, rolled up in a neat bun, big sunglasses and a nice outfit, a big smile on her beautiful face. Sometimes she would talk to the sales girl and pat her hand as she told her stories or asked her questions.

She was a petite Jewish woman from Poland, who immigrated to Manhattan by herself in her early twenties, and lived for most of her life in an apartment in Canarsie, Brooklyn, where she and my Grandfather Barney raised my dad and uncle. A few years after her arrival in the states she survived the loss of her entire family to the terrible inferno of Nazi hatred and violence. Her village was utterly annihilated, and the letters from her mother and sisters stopped arriving.

She passed away when I was a junior in high school, and it pains me to think that I have now lived without her for as long as I lived with her, though her memory has not faded in the least.

She seemed to live by a simple set of rules, some of which are as follows:

- When you are old you are allowed to walk down the grocery store aisles and fart
- Always keep a clean house, even if that means scrubbing the floor with flea dip
- Granddaughters are God's greatest gift.
- Give generously to those around you
- When your son comes home with a red haired girl who he will marry, take him aside and make sure he knows not to take her across state lines, since she might be in high school still. (My Mom was 22.)
- It is possible to still look smokin' hot in a bathing suit when you are 60.
- It is possible to survive terrible loss with grace, and maintain a kind and loving heart.

I cannot speak of one grandmother without remembering the other. Nanny was my hilarious, fast moving, delightful Greek grandma, who could fry a squid and sew a dress like a boss.

My Nanny, Alice, once sent a Christmas card to all her friends and family, on the front of which was a picture of two bears, a boy and a girl, the girl bear with a surprised look on her face. The inside of the card read "It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas." It wasn't until my Mom called from Seattle, laughing hysterically, that Nanny realized the boy bear was fondling the girl bear's boob.

Nanny was also a survivor of war, who came at the world with spunk, humor, and a personality that was vibrant, irreverent, and unabashedly all her own. Her childhood was spent in Greece, living with her Mother and her 4 siblings in Nazi occupied Athens. She was able to return to the states as a teenager, and a few years later met my Grandfather. They had 4 children and were married for 55 years.

Nanny died 5 years ago, and my Grandpa Dave has survived her passing with such strength and love- he writes and publishes poetry, practices the piano, drives across the country, swims 3 times a week, and cooks for himself. He is 85 years old, and still going strong.

There doesn't seem to be a smooth way to transition from talking about my grandparents to the next subject, so lets just get it over with.

Strange to look back and see that I have not written for almost year, and what a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year it has been.

I was diagnosed with germ cell cancer last spring, after having open heart surgery following the discovery of a tumor in my chest the size of a large grapefruit. I am not ready to write about all this yet, but I need to get it out of the way so I can write about other things- like sewing, and dogs, Texas, my childhood, and, of course, my grandmothers.

Though I am not particularly religious, I imagined Bubby and Nanny holding court at the gates of Heaven, standing watch and barring the door, refusing to let me enter so soon.

Steven's grandfather Ermine is there too- he passed last spring, and last night I heard a story about him when he worked as the manager of a 7-11 in Houston, a story which I love. A customer got angry with him once and called him a honky- Ermine, thinking the man called him a donkey, yelled back "takes one to know one!" So for the record, Ermine is up there too, drinking Pearl beer and playing poker and watching out for me.

I went through chemotherapy this summer, and lost all my my hair, but I got through it like a champ with help from my parents, and sisters, my boyfriend, my friends and family, my dog, Dr, Chadha, and of course Nurse Sharon. My hair is back now, and it's still red! So, if you see a photo of me on social media, that's what's up with the new look.

Just to clarify- I did not get sick because I worry a lot, or because I ate cheetos as a child on road trips. Cancer, and disease, and misfortune, has nothing to do with our goodness- I did nothing to bring this upon myself. I understand more about grief now, about how to adjust to a new reality after experiencing a core level loss.

The key for me is to contain the impact of that loss- to put in on a shelf with the rest of my experiences and let it gather dust while I move right along.

Bubby survived the loss of everyone she knew. Nanny survived the war. I survived this, and I have lots of work to do to reach my goal, of one day being the classy old lady in Nordstrom who can fry her own calamari, sew her own clothes, and buy dresses for her grandchildren.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Masterpiece Failure

I was planning on catching y'all up on life in Texas, including holiday stories and photos, but then I watched Downton Abbey this Sunday, so here we are instead. It's been a day and a half and I am still livid, so hold onto your horses while I get this out, and then back to our regularly scheduled programming.

I imagine the internet is raging with opinions about the second episode of Downton Abbey, Season Four, which featured a shocking and violent rape of one of the show's favorite female characters.

I was watching it at the house of the girls I babysit, once they had gone to bed, of course. I didn't see the very beginning, though my Mom tells me there was a brief note that the episode contained adult content and was for mature audiences.

Hey, let's try that again. How about: Warning, Episode Contains a Disturbing and Violent Sexual Assault.

It has taken me a day to articulate why I am so unbelievably angry. This is what I've come up with.

I understand she is a character, and the actress was not actually hurt. That said, seems like a cheap move on the part of the creator and writers. It's widely known the show lost three lead actors last year, and now in season 4 we see an immediate escalation in violence. Rape is not just simply a plot device- and that is how it was used- to push the story forward, to create drama, to engage ratings for an extremely popular show.

This is not why I watch television on a Sunday night. I watch it to be entertained, to forget my own worries, to spend time with characters I love before starting the work week. Death in childbirth and death by automobile were very upsetting, but you have crossed a line.

Clearly I have a very high sensitivity to this content, but I can tell you I am not the only gal who had trouble sleeping after watching that episode.

Another show I love, Friday Night Lights, had a similar situation arise. One of the high school characters, Tyra, was attacked by a man in a parking lot- she fought him off, and when she and her friend Landry ran into him again at a Mini-Mart, they killed him and threw his body in the river. Now, I could have done without this story line entirely, but at least they killed the bastard and got away with it. Also, Landry goes and tells Tami Taylor, who is the high school counselor and wife to Eric Taylor, the football coach, and she goes straight to Tyra and takes her to the police and make sure she is okay.

What did I learn from Downton Abbey? That even if you are in a loving and stable marriage, you are not safe, even in your own home. That you will feel victimized and choose to tell no one. Mrs. Hughes, do you want me to call Tami Taylor for you? I think you need a compassionate, strong willed high school guidance counselor from Texas to step in right now.

We know this happens all the time, and did back then, too. You had a choice, Mr. Fellowes, to be a better writer then that, or to choose to not have it go so far. It's your television show, so you can choose what happens. Let me re-write that scene for you. Anna fights off attacker- stabs him in the eye socket with Mrs. Patmore's cooking knife. Someone comes downstairs and finds them. Mrs. Hughes goes and tells Carson, who gets Mary, who gets a gun and shoots the asshole out behind the barn.

When it gets down to it, the truth is this. Evil exists in this world, and violence against women is very pervasive, very frightening, and very real. We do not watch shows and movies to see Evil win. We watch to be given a respite from the violence of the true world, and we watch to see our favorite characters succeed, and be happy. We need to see Evil defeated. We do not want or need to see sexual assault.

Clearly I won't be watching this show anymore. Yesterday I was aware that I needed even better self care then normal, so I was especially nice to myself. I played with Mabel the baby, who I nanny, and we spent time eating Veggie Booty, carrying around a red ball, and reading books. And we laughed a lot and practiced finding our nose and mouths and making funny fish faces. Then I bought two donuts and ate them on the back porch while drinking coffee, while the steps where drenched in afternoon sunlight. Then I weeded for an hour, and took a nap with the dog.

All of this sustained me, calmed me, nurtured me. This is what we need right now. This is what's important.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sick as a Dog

I am writing from the middle of my living room couch, flanked on either side by our two dogs, Alfie and Guthrie. As of my last writing I reported that Guthrie was doing decently with the arrival of my roommate's new fur ball.  A couple weeks have passed, and now we are one big, happy family. It's pretty precious to see your dog find a best buddy, as they lay on floor, making Chewbacca noises and gnawing on each other's ears.

There are still some rules- Guthrie gets to sleep on my bed, and Alfie naps in my doorway. Pets for everyone, and no begging. And they have permission to sit on the couch together- which they do often. When no one is here they seem to take up their posts on the cushions, vigilant yet relaxed, while they wait for the return of one of their humans.

I have had plenty of time to watch them this week, as I got the poop (and the puke) kicked out of me by a nice long case of the flu.  It's like Tonya Harding took a hammer to my health, then left me there on the locker room floor, writhing and weeping.

I can't say there is much to report- I am thankful for the company of dogs while I take naps, read books, and watch dumb movies. The day after all food evacuated my body, I for some reason decided to read the post-apocalyptic novel, The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. Maybe not the best choice while I lay in bed with a fever and the aches, as a winter storm descended on Texas. Humbling to be reminded how precious our health is- and how thankful I am for amenities like hot water, heat, and a toilet.

I"ll leave you with a picture of the pups that I took the other day, and head back to my chicken soup, ginger ale, and a more uplifting choice of literature. Until next time . . .

Friday, November 8, 2013

Dog Training for Perfectionists

My favorite sweater when I was a child was pink and purple, and covered in dalmatians and dog bones. I found it at my parents house several years ago, and resurrected it as a Halloween costume, in which I went as myself, in 4th grade. (Mom, if you find a school picture will you send it?!) Complete with my dog sweater, leggings, and gelled bangs, was a replica of a paper ribbon I received in Mrs. Ralston's 4th grade class for "Best Conversationalist."

This year for Halloween I decided to dress Guthrie up as myself. It was only for a few minutes, but here is photo proof of the results.

Dog with identity issues
We had some friends over on the big day, though Guthrie was scared by the weird costumes and kids dressed like superheroes, and spent the night in my room playing video games and sleeping.

It was a pretty classic scene- obscene amounts of sweet things and pumpkin beers, a guy dressed as Gumby fell down the stairs and there was a lesbian pull up competition at one point during the evening.

I felt a little out of sorts this week- call it a blog hangover. I've noticed this funny thing happens- sometimes when I write about something I'm working on, the behavior intensifies before I take my own advice. So I say I'm like a basset hound, and can revel in my mistakes and roll with the punches, and for a few days after I just knock myself down a lot.

I had a perfect opportunity to practice perfectionism this week, because we added a second dog to the house. My rommate Nicole found her furry soul mate, a very sweet-natured Cockapoo mix that she named Alfie. He looks like Sandy from one of my favorite movies, "Annie."

Welcome to your forever home, Alfie DeAngelis! 
Things have gone as well as can be expected between a new submissive pup and a big territorial hound mix who might have Aspergers. More then one person has commented on this, by the way. They've noticed Guthrie's quirky but loving personality, his rigidity and uneasy eye contact, his troubling social skills. In any case, he tolerates and likes Alfie, as long as the new guy follows the rules. Guthrie is territorial of space, me, and rawhide bones, and if Alfie tries to set paw in my room, Guthrie growls and snarls.

Now, this is perfect breeding ground for perfectionist bullshit because in classic form I took more then the lion's share of responsibility for my dog's behavior. Guthrie would growl because Alfie got too close to the food bowl or started army crawling into my room, and I would instantly feel like I had fucked up- that this was a reflection on my dog parenting skills or that Guthrie was a bad dog and Alfie was a good dog. I was thrown a curve ball, and before I could step back up to plate I had to go have a good long cry in the dugout and spend the day watching The West Wing. Steven was very nice though, he patted my leg and asked if I needed to take a nap, which was very sweet, and yes, I did.

This example of my reaction to my dog exhibiting normal behavior is why some people adopt a dog before they have children. I am practicing. Also, this situation is why the big deal scale was invented.

I wrote to the dog trainer folks that I work with, and this is a portion of her response:

"If you see Guthrie posturing or staring, this is a good time to redirect him and reward him for something else. If you are not able to be proactive and he growls at the other dog, realize he is communicating how he feels, which is not wrong, just undesirable."

Funny I've never come across a training book called, "Dog Training for Perfectionists." I think there could be a market for it.

Anyways, once I had calmed down a little bit I decide I needed some self care, so I biked to the store to buy a new pair of pajamas. When the going gets rough, and the weather drops to a frigid 50 degrees in Austin, it's time for new jammies. Also, the pair of pink flannel pants that my Mom bought me at Costco ten years ago has developed a hole in the butt region.

While I was perusing the racks for the comfiest pants, I came across a sweater that all but jumped into my arms. It was grey, with a print of a basset hound on it.

Call it what you will- my spirit basset hound, a gentle nudge from the universe, or maybe a throwback to my childhood fashion. All I know is on days when the spirit moves you, you may feel revelation, profound contentment, or a deep sense of peace. Then again, sometimes the spirit gives you a dog sweater, which is fine by me.