Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Why I Like My Dogs More Than My Teenagers

Next month I'll have two teenagers in my house. When my 4 kids were little, I used to dream of how different things would be when they got older. No diapers to change, no cowering over the edge of the bathtub to bathe them. I wouldn't step on the sharp corner of legos buried deep in the carpet anymore. Grocery shopping would become a solo event without my entourage of munchkins clammering for that sugary cereal I never buy. Day to day life was going to get easier. Of course, I was dead wrong.

The following are the reasons why I like my dogs more than my teenagers.

MY TEENAGERS: Don't like anything I cook.
MY DOGS: Love when I cook and beg me for just a taste, they'll even eat if off the floor.

MY TEENAGERS: Are embarrassed to be seen with me.
MY DOGS: They'll go anywhere with me, hell, they'll even kiss me in public.

MY TEENAGERS: Whine for an hour about doing homework, complain while doing it, then, forget to turn it in and get credit for it.
MY DOGS: They don't have homework. Thank god.

MY TEENAGERS: Leave their crap all over the house.
MY DOGS: I happpily bag their crap because I don't have to nag them to do it. Because they can't because they don't have opposible thumbs or speak English

MY TEENAGERS: Don't look up from the computer screen when I come home.
MY DOGS: Jump up and down when they see me, even if they just saw me a minute ago.

MY TEENAGERS: Are interested in the opposite sex and my Women's Health magazine.
MY DOGS: Can't unexpectadly make me a grandma.

MY TEENAGERS: Stay up until the wee hours of the evening and find it hard to get up the next morning.
MY DOGS: Wake their asses up and threaten to wee wee on the carpet if the kids don't take them out at the crack of dawn.

MY TEENAGERS: Always want to go hang out with their friends.
MY DOGS: Are content to stay home and snuggle with me.

MY TEENAGERS: Are never content, no matter what they have.
MY DOGS: Only need a $2 squeak toy. Actually, they only need a stick. And that's free.

MY TEENAGERS: Think I don't know what I'm talking about. Ever.
MY DOGS: Don't give a shit.

Don't worry, it's reciprocal, kinda like chasing your own tail. My teenagers like the dogs more than me too. But let's call it a truce and just let sleeping dogs lie, shall we?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Halloween Alter Ego

I have always held this belief that we dress up like our alter ego on Halloween. So this year, Craig is a jedi. Yup, that fits. Sky and River are secret service agents, which shouldn't be a secret to anyone. Jade makes a kick ass Katniss. It shouldn't surprise anyone Ember is a witch. And me? I'm a Robert Palmer girl. You know, one of those vacuous models from his music videos in the 80's. Prone to moments of extreme ditziness.

It all started the morning of our annual Halloween party. I had worked out the menu, purchased all the food and was cooking the meat for a beef chili and a chicken chili. Then I remembered I had a vegan and 4 other vegetarians coming. I panicked for the better side of an hour before I realized I could just make the beef chili into a vegetarian chili. Duh!

When the guests started to arrive, they brought cool Halloween wine. I tried to get this picture of the cool label several times, but it kept coming out blurry. So, my friend, Nacho Libre, set my camera to the appropriate setting. It didn't stop there. Later, when I tried opening that bottle of wine, I couldn't get the cork out. Nacho Libre to the rescue! Again.

I tried to get everyone at the party in this picture, but they just didn't fit. And again, my camera was on the wrong setting.

When we planned the party, the scavenger hunt wasn't meant to be done in the pitch dark. But, it gets dark early in October. Oops.

Maybe you shouldn't send people over to your neighbors house who has a No Soliciting sign posted.

Cause maybe they'll be mad. (Which will score you an extra point in the game, by the way.)

Oh my god, they're flying! How'd they do that?

I got a palm reading by a gypsy. I just don't know how she knew I liked smiley faces? It's kinda freakin' me out a bit.

During the party, Bonnie and Clyde (our dogs) were safely tucked away in my bedroom. Except, they totally outsmarted me and escaped. They are Bonnie and Clyde after all. And they don't like to miss a party.

This is when I could've had the perfect photo of a flying nun, you know, if I had it on the action setting of my camera. But, again, I don't know how to do that. And Nacho Libre was nowhere to be found.

I realized that I had a run in my panty hose and no idea how I got it. And now I have a picture of it. But, what I don't have is a family photo of us all dressed up. And at this point in the evening, I'm not going to get one.

As I sat watching karaoke, I realized why I never sing in public. Because, I'm simply too tall to do this. So then, really, what would be the point?

The evening ended in a cake war in my kitchen. Which seemed like a good idea at the time...

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Culture Shock

I've done this re-entry into American life before. However, the first time I did, I moved back from living in Germany for three and a half years. Trading in schnitzel for chicken nuggets, which I wasn't real thrilled about, by the way. Of course, it's a bigger transition to transition back from Africa than from Europe. In general, that is. You see, we moved to Germany 2 weeks before 9/11. So I returned to a different America than I left.

We arrived in Colorado in 2005, back in the olden days when you paid your AOL bill by time spent on-line. So, after being overseas, we returned to the states filled with all these celebrities we didn't know. People that we didn't know how or why they were famous. Like Paris Hilton. At first, I thought I was the only person who didn't understand how someone could be a household name for doing absolutely nothing. She even had her own tv show aparently. Fast forward seven years and our return from Morocco and Paris has been replaced by Snooki. Still as vacuous, just tanner. I still don't know what show she's on. Nor, do I care. I just wish I didn't know she had a spawn. It will probably get it's own show now.

When I got back from Germany, I was so excited to listen to American music again. And I got this cd from one of my favorite bands, Live. Immediately, I fell in love with this hauntingly beautiful song called Overcome. I played it over and over again. Until I saw a video of it. The powerful words combined with even more powerful visuals of 9/11. While we were gone, this song was the anthem for the nations grief. I was so overcome with emotion, I couldn't listen to that song anymore. Things weren't nearly as moving coming back from Morocco. That's when I discovered the song International Love is an international hit written by an American. Cause dude, that song is so stupid, I was sure it was written by a non-native English speaker. And unfortunately, there's a whole slew of others that fall in this category. Crap.

Moving from Europe where people are smartly and elegantly dressed, to Colorado where people are warmly and comfortably dressed, didn't take much of an adjustment. In this respect, I'm completely American. So, I jumped on the crocs bandwagon like everyone else. Although, I did get the black mary janes to, you know, keep it classy. I admit, I still have them in my closet somewhere. Why would I get rid of a shoe that's comfortable, easy to slide on and clean dog shit off of? Damn. I need to find those shoes cause really, how likely is it I'm going to step in dog shit? Extremely likely. And now, the stores only seem to sell ugly AND uncomfortable shoes. In really, really bright colors, so you can't ignore their hideousness. Which, is another reason why I shop at thrift stores. The shoes are already broken in, even if they make me break out in a fungal infection. That's just part of the adventure, that's all.

This one has always pissed me off. I will never understand how crappy books become movies. One of the worst written books I remember reading many years ago, was The Notebook. Don't get me wrong, it's a nice sentimental story. But the writing? Total crap. Granted, it was the guys debut novel and maybe he didn't have an editor back then, I don't know. But, when we got back from Germany I was shocked that they had made it into a movie. I guess when the lead is played by Ryan Gosling, no one went for the writing. I boycotted based on principal. It only grossed like 80 million, I'm sure they feel the sting. As does it's modern day replacement, The Twighlight series. I admit, I haven't read it. I haven't seen the movies. And I don't have any desire to. I went through the whole vampire craze back in the 1990's with Anne Rice's The Vampire Lestat. Both the book series and the movie where fantastic. So, why would I want to go back and bleed the whole vampire thing dry?

These days, I'm the girl at the party who misses cultural references. But, I just like to think that I spared myself the embarrassment of wearing jeggings and feathers. And that I've saved countless hours by not reading 50 Shades of Grey. Not to mention, being spared the auditory assault of that stupid Pop Pop Americano song. What the hell does that song mean anyway? Oh right, we no speak Americano.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Thrifty Nickel

You may or may not know that I love getting things second hand. Like the vintage Africa map I have from the 1950's that isn't even accurate anymore. Or the antique crank pencil sharpeners. The school desks I got at Goodwill that we painted and my girls still play school with. My grandfathers old fiddle he got at a pawn shop in 1926. I love knowing these thing had a history before I came along and that somehow I've become part of that.

Not only is this a great way to recycle, but living like this, is also a whole hell of a lot cheaper. Not to mention, funkier. Exhibit A: In the below picture everything I'm wearing, I bought at a thrift store. (Ok, besides the hat. I crocheted that myself. Ok, no I didn't. I actually bought it new several years ago.)


Jacket in cool eggplant color $10
Green sweater $ 3
Levis jeans $ 5
Old lady purse $ 2
Old lady shoes complete with left shoe that squeaks when I walk $ 4

The feeling I get when I wear this outfit? Priceless.
The feeling I get after having just used that lame outdated overused phrase? Suicidal.

So last week, someone who doesn't know me that well, knows someone else who has something they want to get off their hands. And she thought of me. Now, I didn't even think I was in the market for one. I'd just never thought about owning one of my very own before. But, when she said it, immediately, I knew I had to have it. That I must be the one to bring it's past and my future together to create a revolutionary present.


My kids think I bought this fitness pole (as we refer to it, in front of the kids) as a present for them. They spin around like monkeys on it. And my husband, well, he'd like to think I got it for him. Me? I know the truth. It's an investment in my future. Because in the near future I may be working the pole to help pay the bills to fix up my jacked up house that's sinking into the Colorado soil. But what a great 2 for 1 bargain that would be, getting paid to work out!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Doggie Style

Yesterday I had a whole different post lined up for today. I was not going to write about the dogs for the 3rd time in a row. Lest you start thinking this is a dog blog. Which it's not. But, then last night the funniest thing happened. Unless it's the grossest thing. You decide.

It was a night like any other, making dinner, carting the kids to activities, interrogating them about homework, making sure the dogs got walked and the kids brushed their teeth and got to bed. Getting them to bed is one thing. Getting them to sleep is a much longer process that usually involves several trips upstairs to shush them. And as our kids get older, they stay up later. But as we get older, we want to go to bed earlier. Which doesn't leave us a lot of *ahem* alone time together. If you know what I mean.

Last night was one of those rare exceptions. Sure everyone was asleep, we snuck upstairs to our own bedroom for a little adult time. Careful not to make any loud noises that would wake anyone on the way up. We started with a little foreplay. In the form of brushing our teeth and taking that last pee before bed. After that, it was all on. And we were getting busy. Quietly, of course.

Then things got crazy. In a moment of intense passion, I felt a wet nose on my leg. Clyde, the dog, had jumped up into bed and wanted in on the action. But, I am not that freaky. And I'm not into three ways. The whole thing was a little shaming. And I couldn't look him in the eye when I banished him from the mattress. I thought the worst was over. But, of course, it wasn't.

With Bonnie, his companion, asleep in the other room, feeling a little frisky, I guess he felt like he had no choice but to go it alone. By licking himself. Loudly and furiously. My bedroom sounded like a porn set, as my dog gave himself a blow job. I called his name and begged him to stop. But, that just made him lick faster. Until finally, he was done and dozed off. I guess that's just how it's done, doggie style.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Dog Training

I haven't had a dog since I was a kid. My brother and I found a stray on the way home from school one day and begged my mother to let us keep it. We made all the promises that kids make to lie their way into getting what they want. Yes, of course we'll feed, water, brush and walk him. And although my mom was a tough cookie and didn't usually fall for that kind of crap, she did that time. Boots turned out to be a horrible dog. He wasn't friendly at all and he constantly ran away. About the 50th time, it was for good. Cause this Boots was made for walkin'.

So now, about 35 years later, I'm starting over with Bonnie and Clyde. Except now I'm the mom. The one who is in charge. Of weeding out the truth from the lies. Of training the dogs. And the children. Oh, and everything else too. Luckily, they aren't anything like Boots. I mean the dogs of course. The kids, especially the teenager, have a lot in common with that dog. The moments of unfriendliness and the threats to leave home. Somedays we count the days. And hours. Or even break it down into minutes and seconds.

Now that we have dogs, we'll have to train them how things work around here. Oh, crap. Things don't really work around here. The kids are supposed to pick up after themselves. But instead, the kids leave their ear buds, bouncy balls and the soggy remnants of their cereal lying around. And they can't do that with the dogs, cause they'll eat them and get sick. So, they just can't leave their shit lying around anymore.

Speaking of shit, my kids have been potty trained for many years now. Well, truth be told, half of them are partially potty trained. Two of my kids pretty consistently do not flush the freakin' toilet. I didn't think anything could be grosser than that. Until, you add dogs into the mix, who pretty consistently drink out of the toilet. And that is grosser than gross.

Now,the kids are very adamant that we feed the dogs organic dog food with all natural ingredients. They are also careful not to overfeed the dogs, as we got them a bit overweight. Because they want them to live a long time and be healthy. Which is great, because that's consistent with how I feed the kids. However, it's not consistent with what they do when I'm not looking. Like sneaking ice cream sandwiches out of freezer in the garage right before dinner. Or the dryer lint trap reveals the evidentiary wrappers of their latest covert candy binge.

Bonnie and Clyde didn't get a lot of exercise before we got them. They had never gone up or down stairs. And they are completely baffled by what to do with a ball. So I think it goes without saying that they are oblivious that they are programmed to retrieve. They had a much more laid back Hotel California kind of attitude and thought they were programmed to receive. So they're a bit lazy. Wait, I know some kids who'd rather play their i-pods than ride their bikes.

We got the dogs some rawhide rolls to chew on and to help clean their teeth. Because they can't brush their teeth after all. On the other hand, I have 4 kids who are perfectly capable of it and don't. Oh, they always claim to have brushed their teeth. Until I check. Then they suddenly remember they forgot. So, I was totally scared to go to the dentist last week after they hadn't seen a dentist for 2 years. Shockingly, not one of my kids had gotten a cavity. Which is totally bittersweet. Because now they can validate not brushing. I wonder if they make cotton candy flavored raw hide.

It occurs to me that maybe we got the dogs so they can train the kids.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Puppy Love

You never get over your first love. Crushing on them from afar. Hoping beyond hope that they feel the same way. And finally, when they return all the gazes you've sent their way, you melt. There isn't anything you wouldn't do to be together. It's puppy love. And although we've got that going on over here, I can't actually blog about that because the kids would kill me. So, today I'm actually talking about dogs.

My kids have wanted a dog forever. They have cajoled. Pleaded. Guilted. Shown us countless websites of cute puppies. But, when this all started, the kids were young. And then we moved to Africa and were traveling constantly. Before we left for Morocco, I may have bribed the kids by promising them a dog when we returned. I'm not exactly sure. But the kids remembered. In fact, they could tell you the color of the sweater I was wearing when I said it. And what we ate for dinner that night.

The thing is, we already have enough going on with our own four kids who chew on things, shed and poop all over the place. And we just got this new sense of freedom that comes once you don't need to have a babysitter watch the kids anymore. I don't want to have to make arrangements for a dog and find a dog sitter when we go on vacation. As if we don't have enough to do. But, I promised.

So, we went to the Humane Society to look for a dog. However, we soon found that getting a dog who needed a home from the shelter in Colorado Springs was much harder than it seemed. Because, Coloradans love dogs. So, if we wanted a shelter dog, we would need to sit in the lobby and dog stalk. We might even have to fist fight other dog stalkers. Which I was totally committed to. I've been doing a lot of kick boxing lately. But, it's totally creepy and I really don't have time for it. Otherwise, I would totally be in.

The question is, where else could we find a dog who needed a home? Voila. Craig's list. Were we could cyber stalk and still be in our pjs. Perfect! So, we found two dogs, increasing our chances for success, and made appointments to meet them on the same night, one right after the other. Hopefully we'd end up with a dog by the end of the night.

The first one, Roxy, was an adorable, mild mannered lab mix. All of us thought she would be a great fit but, we had another puppy to meet. An hour later, we met Armani, who turned out to be a lab/pit bull mix. And that didn't mix so well with us. So, when we got back into the car and unanimously voted for Roxy, we called immediately and left a message. A very love letter of sorts. When the kids went to bed and we still hadn't heard anything, we texted. Roxy was gone. The next morning Jade was brokenhearted and cried for an hour. And I sent her to school with big puffy eyes. Puppy love sucks.

A couple of days later, there's another lead on Craig's list. And we went to sniff it out. This time, it was true love. A beautiful 2 year old black labrador retriever rescue dog, we named Bonnie.

And her accomplice and life companion, Clyde. Of course.

That's the legend of Bonnie and Clyde. As if there's another one that could compare.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Same Difference

Sometimes I think the differences between Morocco and America are gapping. Sometimes, when I think about things, I think they're kinda the same. Just in a different way. Because in the end, no matter what culture you grow up in, we're all just people. And life's challenges tend to be pretty similar the world over. Or are they?

I started thinking about all this on my drive home from pole dance class. I needed just a few items from the grocery store for dinner which I would pass on the way home. The thing is, I'm wearing short shorts and a workout bra because the less you wear, the more you stick to the pole. (Shhhh...that's a little trade secret.) Of course, I have a fleece on over this for my to-ing and fro-ing. Now, if I were in Morocco, there is no way I would have gone to the store dressed like this. So, the whole car ride home, I considered passing the store, going home to change, and then backtracking to the store. Before I convinced myself that was a huge waste of time. That I live in America now and I can go to the store in short shorts without being judged by anyone. Except by me, of course. Although I did go to the store, I ran through it like Joan Benoit, so I could clearly convey to other shoppers I-just-worked-out-see-my-dewey-brow-by-the-way-I'm-not-a-slut. I guess maybe I haven't gotten over some of the lingering effects of Morocco yet.

Every Thursday, we get our organic vegetables delivered from a local farm. I paid a shit load of money for the privilege of walking to my neighbors house to pick up my share of whatever they harvested that week. Whether I like swiss chard or not. Don't get me wrong, I actually love the surprise of not knowing and the challenge of how the hell I'm going to get my kids to eat kohlrabi. I really do. But the thing is, it's just crazy how difficult and expensive it is to eat what's essentially, grown right in my backyard. Unlike in Morocco, where I could go get locally grown produce at the local store for dirt cheap. Now, determining if something is organic in Morocco is much more arduous process. Most of it is, but some of it is sprayed with unregulated pesticides bought from countries who have banned them for being too harmful. That's how America gets rid of it, we export. A pretty hard and fast rule on Moroccan produce is, if it's covered with bugs, it's probably organic. Unless those are Teenage Mutant Ninja bugs.

I'm going to confess, I totally miss driving in Morocco. Sure, I've adjusted to the big luxurious slow moving lanes of traffic, stopping for school buses and pedestrians. You know, all that stuff. Well, most of the time. The good thing is, it's much safer and there are far fewer fatalities from traffic accidents here. But, the disturbing similarity is, the percentage of people riding motorcycles without a helmet. And the fact that it's for completely different reasons. In Morocco, people ride without a helmet due to the lack of availability and affordability of good safety equipment. But, American motorcyclists can just ride out the fact that overall, their odds of being a traffic accident is smaller. Even though 2/3 of all motorcycle traffic fatalities the riders weren't wearing helmets. It's like the helmet-less lottery, but your chances of winning are so much worse. But this is America, where we defend our freedom to make really stupid decisions. Freely.

For 2 the years we lived in Morocco, the house right next door to us was under construction. The noise didn't really bother me too much, but what I couldn't stand was constantly having construction workers being able to look into my house. Not only that, they knew our family routine or when my husband was out of town because they also lived in the house 24/7. Because that's the way construction works in Morocco. So, I was so excited to move back to my own house in the states where I would have privacy. Except, that's not what happened, because our house here in Colorado settled. Significantly. So much so that our windows don't shut on one side of the house. And with winter approaching, and open windows it's getting cold and drafty in here. My friend Jenny thought I was exaggerating the damage, until she visited me this past weekend and saw for herself. Yeah, Jenny can now vouch, it's pretty bad. And our insurance doesn't cover any of it. Fixing it is at least a three step process, involving lots of construction guys. Right outside my window. Where my heat is blowing all of our savings out to them.

I can't tell you the amount of times people have asked me if I feel safer being back in the states now. Are you kidding me? I will take the threat of a revolution, the small chance that I will be at the wrong cafe at the wrong time for a terrorist attack or that maybe I'll be viciously attacked by a stray Moroccan street cat carrying rabies. Because the chances of any of those things happening to me are really, really infinitesimal. But, let me see, since we've come back here in the USA, we've been threatened by a wildfire and then there's always some crazy-guy-of-the-month shooting people. Did I mention that you can carry a concealed weapon in your car here in Colorado? so, while a fender bender in Morocco only results in a slap and spit fight, at worst. Here, it can result in a Clint Eastwood western style showdown. God bless America.

But, it's all the same difference. Right?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

By the Book

I've always been bookish. I prefer non-fiction, but I delve into fiction every now and again. I'm also quiet and introspective so, I would've been a good librarian. Except that I also have a very rebellious side. So, that whole following the Dewey Decimal system all the time thing might be a challenge. And on casual fridays I would want to be able to roller skate through the stacks. Casually, of course. Ok, so obviously, me working at the library wouldn't actually work. Because, I have a problem doing things by the book.

So, I really think writing is a better fit for me. I need to be creative, make my own schedule and write what I'm inspired to write. And without having to follow rules. So writing allows me a lot of independence, but that's probably just because I'm unemployed. It also makes me quite dependent. Writers need readers. Well, there's really no hard and fast rule that actually says that, but I think even Republicans and Democrats would unilaterally agree on that point right now.

I grew up in a family that valued modesty and humility. Where actions spoke much louder than words. Where substance prevailed over crap. Where you didn't advertise what you were going to do, you simply did it because it was the right thing to do. (And it usually wasn't the tasty way to do it, by the way.) After you did, there would be no accolades, just a quiet sense of accomplishment when you finished. But, this isn't how the world works anymore. Even though I still do.

So when people ask me what I do, I hesitate before I reluctantly tell them I'm writing a memoir. Then, I feel the need to justify that, further explaining I'm not a self absorbed narcissist. I babble on and before confessing that I've never written a book before and have no idea what I'm doing. And lastly, that NO I do not have some fabulous book deal with a publisher. Because I'm a just a struggling writer.

What I struggle with most isn't the writing at all. That's the one thing I'm confident about. It's all the other stuff that goes with the world of self publishing, which is most likely the route I'll have to go. It's the getting my name out there and promoting myself that I am totally crappy at. Now, shooting myself in the foot? I am fabulous at that. Seriously, maybe I should actually do that to promote the book somehow.

Maybe this whole journey isn't about writing the book at all. But having the courage to finally call myself a writer without having to validate it. And promoting myself without feeling like I'm obnoxious and annoying the crap out of people. Unless it really is about writing the book. In which case, you should buy the book. Or maybe just take a quick glimpse while you skate by it at the library. Or not. No pressure.

Monday, October 1, 2012


I've always had bruises on my body. Probably because I'm always perpetually in motion looking for the next adventure. But, I'm also perpetually uncoordinated. And stubborn. So, while grace doesn't come to me naturally, challenging myself does. Most of the time I think I do it to prove to myself that I can. Other times, I think I do it to prove to myself I can't. Both look pretty much the same from the outside. Bruised.

The thing about bruises is, you earn them. Either by not believing in yourself or by striving to do better. The former is easy, the later must be earned by commitment and hard work. It also means making a lot of mistakes, embarrassing yourself, falling and hurting yourself. Which just seems so similar to failing.

Except, you get up and do it over again. And again. And again. Each time doing just a bit better than the time before. Even though the falls are destined to get harder and the bruises get bigger along the way. Eventually, there comes a point where you can't be any more embarrassed or any more battered than you already are. That's when you stop being controlled by that thing that's holding you back. And that's you. Doubting whether it's even worth it. Or that you're capable of it. Because now, you can't deny that it is. And you are.

You bask in your new found clarity and the bruises you've accumulated are the relics of your journey. But, it's not over yet. The bruises fester and beg you to pick them. And you secretly crave the comfort that the familiar sting will bring. But, knowing if you do, it'll take even longer to heal this time, if it does at all. If you fail yourself this time, it could scar you permanently. So you keep on striving. Bruised, but not broken.


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