Friday, November 30, 2007

My Dog Will Always Come Through

I'd never really even heard of an English Mastiff, but when I entered all my canine preferences into the online Dog Finder Quiz, this giant yellow dog kept popping up at the top of my list as a 100% match.

The Mastiff Rescue coordinator described the dog then named Goliath as "bulletproof," the dream adoptee, because of his sweet, calm temperament and better than average obedience. We drove six hours to a fosterer's home outside of Knoxville to pick him up, sight unseen. During the drive home, we decided to name him Finn, after the giant. And then he was ours.

I always told people who marveled at our 160-200lb. dog that our house was too small to have a dog any littler, that Finn was really more furniture than pet. But he was, of course, much more. You don't live with a man-sized dog because he matches the rug. He was our friend and protector, our babysitter and security system, our napping companion and neighborhood ice-breaker.

I'm not one of those people who would call a pet my best friend, let alone my "baby," but Finn was a loving, faithful member of our family. He could have easily killed us all had he ever taken the notion to, but instead he used his size to keep us warm and happy and safe.

We'll miss him very much.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Snowflakes In The Air

Continuing on the holiday theme ... this past weekend marked our earliest ever effort to Christmasify our casa. We usually push it off until the week before we leave town, scrambling to mainline the holiday spirit before it whips right by us. But we got a headstart this year, pulling all the various seasonal geegaws out of the attic just days after Thanksgiving. We made a go of it, putting out the tiny tree and the Dickens village and the sadly crapping-peasant-free nativity, but I have to admit that I still have trouble acknowledging the season when there are green plants on the porch. How can it be Christmas time when I can still go outdoors without socks? I don't even know where my mittens are!

We were watching the compendium of Charlie Brown Christmas specials tonight and it suddenly occurred to me that, as a native of St. Paul, Charles Schulz documented the childs-eye view of Minnesota winters. The snowscape is constant, endless and always right at about shoulder-height. Although if he were really being accurate, there would be at least six inches on the ground while Linus waits for The Great Pumpkin.

So I guess that's why it's hard for me to accept that I should be gift shopping while The Admiral is mowing the yard. It just doesn't feel like Christmas to me without icicles hanging from the gutters. Or at least a remarkably dexterous beagle.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

And This Is My Thanksgiving

It only took eight years of restrained pouting, but we finally scored an invitation to a real Thanksgiving meal. Three of them, actually, although we only managed to squeeze in two. I guess the extra child must have made us look extra pitiful, because our "traditional" low-key Thanksgiving was replaced with two days of full-on feasting thanks to the friends who are just like our extended family, except for their silly accents and uncontrolled drinking (my real family's, I mean. Maybe.).

On Wednesday night, we reconnected with Patrick and Nancy, our former duplex-mates and very first Memphis friends. We originally met as engaged couples, and coming together for the holiday with our five kids among us really emphasized how much has changed in the time since our displaced-Yankee days.

On Thursday, we celebrated the more recent additions to our social circle. Steph and Chip went all out, despite my reassurance that, after nearly a decade of pizza, it wouldn't take much Thanksgivinging to impress us. They're just show-offy like that. And we are ever so grateful for it.

Both evenings reminded us of how lucky we are to have met and held onto such great friends during what have been some of the most tumultuous years of our lives. We moved down here without knowing a single soul on this side of the Mason-Dixon, and it doesn't take much effort to remember those first months when I often went days at a time without talking to anyone outside our apartment (except people I knew online; hi, Stacey!). It's overly simple to say I wouldn't have made it without friends, because it's not just about friends in general, it's about these specific, irreplaceable people who have become my daily diversion and long-standing support. I hope you know who you are, and that I thank you, thank you, thank you.

Photo by Chip, of course.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Chapter One, We Didn't Really Get Along

As we were winding down our weekly Cocktail Hour (everyone who reads this invited, by the way; just remind me to tell you where it'll be on any given week), we started discussing our top five books and, briefly, albums. Kristy said she only had one American author on her list, which made me realize that my list is comprised entirely of Yanks. Caleb listed a bunch of works I've never heard of but which I'm sure have massive indie intellectual cred, which made me realize that my list is quite prosaic. So I didn't say any of my list out loud, but here in the safe confines of my prosaic American blog, I present you with My Top Five Books, Plus Bonus Tracks.

1. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. Bluebeard, Kurt Vonnegut
3. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
4. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
5. To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee
6. Slaughterhouse 5, Kurt Vonnegut
7. My Antonia, Willa Cather
8. The Nick Adams Stories/The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories, Ernest Hemingway

Yes, I know it reads like a 10th grade summer book list. But those are the only books I can think of that I have voluntarily re-read multiple times, thus pushing them into the small category of literature I remember. There are a lot of things I've read that I know should be on this list but I've left them off just because I can't remember anything about them other than that I liked them. There are also the books that I know have a justified place but just can't put up there because, much as I appreciated them, I just didn't love them. Lolita falls into this category, along with The Sound and The Fury and pretty much the whole of pre-1950s British literature (this entire last sentence written at the risk of Kristy never speaking to me again). And yeah, I wish there were more women on there. And I'm sure I'm also leaning towards publicizing the more respected works, because it seems entirely unbecoming of a Northwestern University English-degree-carrying writer to admit that she found High Fidelity more moving than For Whom The Bell Tolls.

(This took longer than expected to explain/justify, so the Top 5 or So albums will have to wait ...)

Time May Change Me

Well, it was bound to happen eventually. My perfect little lump of a baby is turning on me. Well, not on me exactly. More on the entire concept of physical development. He's still doing his best to maintain his happy demeanor, even when in obvious discomfort. I'm assuming it's the start of teething, perhaps accompanied by a poorly timed growth spurt, that has been causing his fussiness, sleeplessness and constant desire to nurse. I sort of blew it off the first night he woke up every 90 minutes, and then got a little annoyed the second night, and by the third night I was starting to panic a bit. I've heard of agreeable infants morphing into cranky, combustible babies at this exact age, so I started to worry that our carefree days were over. But this baby is still just trying so hard to be content. He'll have half a smile on his face, even when he's fussing.

I know I shouldn't gloat over his placid personality, and I really shouldn't compare it to Miss M's. Because of course, Miss M will end up as the CEO of a Fortune 500 company and sitting on the board of the Jolie-Pitt Foundation while I'm still trying to get a very calm, content Mr. Baby out of his apartment in our garage.

Monday, November 12, 2007

So Angry

Miss M: "Daddy's stupid."
The Mom: "We don't call people stupid. You're just mad at him because you got in trouble for doing something you knew you weren't supposed to do."
Miss M: (pause) "I'm just mad at myself."

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Time To Get Your Picture Pages

A fairly accurate pictorial representation of the current state of the mother-daughter relationship:

A very accurate pictorial representation of the current state of the sibling relationship, except that Mr. Baby has some semblance of an oxygen supply:

A totally accurate pictorial representation of Mr. Baby in his worst mood:

(All photos courtesy of our staff photographer, Chip.)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Has The Moon Lost Her Memory

So the last entry, along with the daily mental exertion of parenting a second child, has got me thinking about my memory. I've always been mystified by the things I manage to remember and what I don't, thinking there's no rhyme or reason to it. But the more I think about it lately, I realize that, while there might not be much reason, it does have to do with rhyme.

We recently got the satellite wonder known as XM Radio at our house (or as Miss M calls it, "space music"). I'm partial to the 60s and Soul Classics stations, because I'm a 57-year-old woman, but once in awhile we land on the 80s channel. And this is almost more distracting than entertaining, because I can't help but blurt out the name and artist of every song that comes on, generally after hearing the first couple bars of introduction. Not just of songs I liked or owned on cassette single, but every random Top 40 pop debacle that comes up. Just instantly recognizing Richard Marx tunes is bad enough, but it turns out I recall all the lyrics, too. And that's what made me realize that the only way for me to remember something is to put it to music.

Along with Casey Kasem's playlist, I still have all the cereal jingles, sit-com themes and playground chants of my childhood rattling around in my head. But when it comes to anything spoken, it's like I have a trapdoor between my ears and brain. I'm useless in a discussion involving past discussions because I can't remember the bulk of any conversation I've ever had. Ditto the written word. I graduated college with honors in English Literature, and yet I have a severe case of literary amnesia. There are maybe five books that I can name any characters not listed in the title, let alone any plot details. When I got involved in the music industry, it was really more as an appreciator of good writing than as someone with a discerning ear. It just happens that I'm better at absorbing good writing when it's presented with mandolins.

There are a few non-melodic things stored in my personal hard drive - the roll call of my 4th grade class, one entire Frost poem - but even these have a rhythmic base. I think I'm just going to have to accept that the only way for me to hang onto information is to have it harmonized. So keep that in mind, folks. You can tell me anything you want, but if you really want it to stick, you're going to have to sing it to me.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Where The Boys Are

It always surprises me when I hear that people resist the urge to look up old flames, because personally, I think that's exactly what those Google guys had in mind when they invented the interweb. I can pretty much do a comprehensive rundown of my entire pre-marital romantic (and not) history. Behold the power of the Boolean search!

1. The First Crush
2. The First Love
3. The Guy Who Was Always Grounded
4. The Heartbreaker
5. The First Kiss (okay, not really, but the name is too common and I can't find the real one)
6. The Last Of A Long String Of Disinterested Lutheran Boys
7. The Missionary
8. The Disgruntled Prom Date
9. The Composer
10. The Actor
11. The Welshman
12. The Secret Admirer

(The first person I looked up when I originally thought of this post was Scott, aka "The Jock," but it doesn't seem right now to slide him in there with the felons and tuba players. If anyone finds this post when Googling him, let me be one more person echoing the chorus; he was a good guy and a good friend and opened my eyes to the fact that hockey players could enjoy Monty Python.)