Saturday, November 29, 2008

Do Blondes Have More Fun?

I'm gonna have to let you know on that one.

The downside to having a hair stylist for a stepmom, who also happens to have her own salon in the home and lots of willingness to play the beauty game, is that lots of trouble can be had when the hair science experiments begin.

After the week we've all had, a little lightening up, particularly with the tresses, seemed very sppropriate. Four hours and four color applications later, I am blonde. Very very blonde. "You're hair looks like the dog's," my dad commented. Nice.

We won't talk about the orange phase that must be passed through on the journey from brunette to blonde. I didn't follow my stepmom's command of "Don't look!" I think I'm forever scarred by that image.

Nonetheless, my hair didn't fall out in the process and I came back home feeling like a whole new girl. Putting on my make-up for work this morning, I decided that the right description for my appearance would have to be "porn star from the chin up."

As luck would have it, I took the dog downtown for a walk and ran smack into an old boyfriend. "Whoa, your hair," he said, taking a step back. "I like it???"

Better reaction from the gym folks: "Wow, you look like Nicole Kidman," said the male client. "No, no, honey," said his wife. "She's much prettier than Nicole Kidman." I think they were being nice because we were headed into the pilates room and they know that physical torture, vis a vis the Reformer, was immiment.

In any event, I'm going to refrain from posting a picture up on the blog until I can safely walk by a mirror without startling myself.

And I'll let you know if life starts to get any more fun.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Oncology, Optimism & Oprah

Today I took my mom to see an oncologist. Pray that you never have to do this.

I made two good decisions this morning: I applied waterproof mascara instead of my regular va-va-voom stuff AND I found a sub for my evening yoga class. Even at 4:00am, I knew that the day would be filled with emotions and that I did not want to walk around with raccoon eyes, nor did I want to face a class of 20 yogis, all looking for spiritual and physical inspiration. Mascara in place and class covered, I faced the daunting task of accompanying my mom to her first oncology appointment.

The trip to Sutter Roseville was quiet and I found myself attempting to fill the silence with small talk, which is not like me. I’d never seen my mom in such a worried state. She may deny that she was worried but her eyes told a different story.

When we arrived in the waiting area, I immediately did what I always do in public places that require waiting…I started trolling for magazines. As my mom checked in, I lapped the reception area and struggled to contain my disbelief and outright anger: There were no good magazines to be had!

In a waiting area where people are on pins and needles with outcomes, chemo treatments, test results, etc, I found it appalling that there was nothing in the way of reading material except for issues of “Cancer & You”, an old issue of “Reader’s Digest,” and a semi-current “Men’s Health.” What are these people thinking??? Of all the waiting areas, you’d think that this would be the one to have an endless supply of super distracting and current trash like “Us Weekly,” or “People,” or hey, I would have even been happy with “Newsweek.”

I settled on “Men‘s Health” while my mom took on the mountains of paperwork. As I thumbed through the magazine, I snuck some glances and noticed that this was the place that people actually came for chemo treatment. As patients would finish treatment, they’d either walk out or be wheeled out in a wheelchair. Several loved ones were being denied entry as the “chemo room” was too full before the long weekend. It was sobering.

While we were waiting, a bald woman was wheeled out by a nurse. My mom leaned over and said to me, “I don’t want B to see me without hair.” “MOTHER,” I gasped, “Please, please, please don’t go there.” I may have said a curse word or two.

Then we started talking about treatment. “I just need another five years,” she said. “I need five years to baby-sit B.”

That’s when I lost it. This had been my plea for the last week: “Please, God, just give us five years. Five years so that B can remember his Grandma Ghee.” Let me say again that the waterproof mascara was a good, good decision.

Once we were in the examining room, I noticed a stack of magazines in the corner. The only magazine that had any female appeal whatsoever was a 2006 issue of Oprah. A super-svelte Oprah, with a super-tight sparkly dress adorned the cover.

“Look, Mom,” I said, holding up the issue. “I actually found a decent magazine.” My mom gazed at the cover, squinted a bit, and said, “Who’s that?” It was a much needed light moment.

We met the nurse practitioner, Laura, who took a lot of time talking with my mother about her history. We then met Dr. B and I knew immediately, that whatever the diagnosis, my mom was going to be in great hands.

Dr. B was profiled in Sacramento Magazine last year as one of the area’s best doctors. She looked like she had just stepped off the cover of Nordstrom’s latest catalog and her personality was that of an insightful professor and a caring therapist. My fears of dealing with a stuffy oncologist who talked above our heads were quickly abated.

My mom’s lab/radiology report indicated a high likelihood of cancer, as was explained by Laura and also by Dr. B. However, the “picture” of my mom’s lungs was not consistent with what would normally be seen in a lung cancer patient. Her nodules are widespread and not localized which led Dr. B to theorize that the cancer could have spread to her lungs from a “primary site.”

Earlier this week, my mom had a scan of her ovaries, which came out clean and she has had regular mammograms and colonoscopies. Given the fact that the blood work-up came back “perfect” and also the fact that my mom has no symptoms of any cancer, Dr B came to the conclusion that we might be working with something else.

Sarcoidosis runs in my mother’s family. Both my grandpa and my aunt had it. Often times, as Dr B explained, sarcoidosis can present as lung cancer. Although this was very relieving to hear, my mom will still undergo two key tests to rule out cancer in a primary site. They are a PET scan, which basically illuminates any area of the body that has cancer activity and a biopsy of her lungs. Dr. B promised to push the tests through, aiming for a diagnosis in two weeks.

As my mom was getting dressed, I looked Dr. B square in the eye and said, “Please be straight with us. You’ve heard the facts, what is your suspicion?” Without hesitation she said, “I think it’s sarcoidosis. I don't believe that we're dealing with cancer here.”

On the eve of Thanksgiving, I took this statement as a glimmer of hope and a huge reason to give thanks. If it is indeed cancer, I know for certain that Dr. B and her staff will make certain that they fight as hard as they can to give my mom more time with B. And if it isn’t, I will have so much more gratitude and appreciation for the love that my mom brings into our lives.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Not Another Blog!

At last, I have a place to dump all my healthy living ideas. Here it is:

I even managed two posts in one day. I must be missing B. Seems like all the crazy projects are started when he's away on long trips with his dad.

No complaining, no whining, and possibly no five-year-old tales, antics or pictures. Just some good adult material (no, not THAT type of material!).

Check it out.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The C Word

The C word...there, now I've got your attention.

I wish it WAS that C word that we were talking about around here. Unfortunately, it's not. The other C word, as in CANCER, has once again entered into our home and into conversations this week and has prompted me to share with you these tips on how to deal with the fact that your beloved mother is on her way to a first visit to an oncologist:

First, when the call comes in, be in a place where food and beverage are plentiful, like Trader Joe's. Get call, hear news, go directly to wine, bread, and chocolate aisles. Stock up. Beeline to the samples counter. Curse the fact that they do not offer wine samples (under your breath, of course). Loop back to sample counter three times for warm muffins with butter and hot chocolate. Wonder how they knew that you'd need some comforting samples and not the usual stir fried tofu samples. Seethe at the sample lady who gives you dirty looks for repeat visits.

Unload car at home. Consider opening wine. Notice that it's only 11AM and there's the whole work thing later today. Put wine away for later. Get into B's Halloween candy instead.

Pick B up from school. Choke up when he asks to see "Ghee," (your mom). Take B to McDonalds and let him run with a school friend while you cry to a mom friend.

Get it together for work in the evening. Get super pissed off at the prospect of training the three horribly obese ladies who are horribly nasty to you. Wonder for the 513th time about your thin and healthy mother and why SHE has this disease and silently curse the three ladies who you are about to train.

Put the three ladies on notice. Tell them you need more cooperation from them. Refrain from saying, "I'm a trainer, not a magician..get your fat asses on the treadmill and off my skinny Reformers!" Take a deep breath.

Go home and bust the wine out. Remember the risks associated with cancer and alcohol and all that bullshit and put the wine back. Get into Halloween candy instead. Again.

Read B a story. In the middle of the story, fall apart when the story line incorporates a little boy wishing for his grandma to fit into the palm of his hand. Sob in B's bed. Tell B that there is something wrong with your eyes. Get the hell out of there.

Go climb in your own bed and stare at the ceiling. Toss and turn for hours. Then get up at 3am and take a sleeping pill.

Awake at 4:30am in a stupor. Get up and drink 3 cups of coffee.

At 6am, put a (long) movie on for B. Hold your head. Do not cry. Be strong. Get into Halloween candy.

Cheerfully welcome the four ladies who will be taking a yoga class from you in your home studio for the next month of Saturdays. Somehow get through the class. Have no recollection of what you've taught them.

Head to Starbucks. Begin daily Frappuccino ritual.

Pick up B from mom's house. Head to an open house for a client. Take in the dozens of decorated trees, the amazing train, and the super annoying Christmas music. Feel your eyes well up.

Go home and hand B over to your mom for some afternoon playtime. Go to your room, put in ear plugs, turn off the lights. Try to find some peace.

Get up and make a big bowl of broccoli for dinner. Throw some tomatoes in. Wonder how in the world you can clean up your diet any more than it already is. Notice mom chomping on a carrot stick and wonder why diet would matter anyway. Re-consider the wine. Get into Halloween candy instead.

Have a heart-to-heart with your mom. Tell her you'll take care of her no matter what. Assure her that she can live with you, that you'll all be OK. Don't cry. Be strong. She needs that.

Review your own god-awful health insurance plan. Move funds into account to finally pay deductible and get into the doctor. Curse the health care system. Loudly.

Later that night, take off your make-up and study the frown lines between your eyes. Notice that they are, possibly, 100 times worse than they were a week ago. Wonder if Botox would be considered frivolous at a time like this.

Go to bed. Lay awake for hours. Get up, find a different sleep aid. Take it and drift off for 2 hours. Wake up at 4am and consider taking another pill. Decide against it and get out of bed instead. Vow to get a high octane sleeping pill as soon as possible. Brew coffee. Drink 4 cups. Polish off the Halloween candy.

Pass B off to his dad for the week. Experience a weird sense of relief over having him gone (a new emotion for sure!). Know that you can lose it freely now without having to censor your emotions in front of B.

Hit up Starbucks for the daily frap.

Go to church. Nod off during Prayers of the People. Decide that Sunday School is not a good idea for today. Come home, crawl back into bed, and stay there for four hours without books, magazines, movies, music, or phone.

Notice that the new dog is pacing the house. A lot. Feel guilty for not interacting with her. Pack dog up and go to McKinley. Do four laps at her speed (sniff, sniff, squat, pee, sniff, sniff,) and wish that you'd gone to yoga instead.

Come home and research lung cancer on the Internet, telling yourself that you just want to know what to ask the oncologist this week. Freak out.

Make a note to self to stay the fuck off the Internet (may have just lost some readers there) and to replenish Halloween candy immediately.

Start praying. A lot.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Follow Me To Norwindia

There is a place on the Internet, a lovely place that blends the cultures of Norway and India into one fabulous mesh of goodness. That place is called "Norwindia."

Norwindia is a blog that was (is) the brainchild of my dear college friend, Kirsten. Kirsten met and married her post-college sweetie (known as "Jay" in the posts) and they've together they've created a wonderful family life in the suburbs of San Francisco.

Kirsten is a born and bred Norwegian; Jay descends from India. She is Lutheran, he is Hindu. The result of this convergence, as you will see in her pictures, is absolutely stunning children.

I guess it's customary in the blog world to invite guests to post on your blog site if you're on vacation or if you're just stuck in a writer's block.

In any event, Kirsten opened up her Norwindia blog home to me and you can read my guest post today by clicking here:

Bookmark her blog URL and check back as often as you can. I think you'll be very entertained and moved by the many experiences of the Norwindians.

I'm actually relieved to be sending you to Norwindia today as we've had some news in our home that has me stunned and at a loss for words. I need to take a day to figure out how to blog about cancer. And my mother. And the unfairness of life.

For now, go have some laughs in Norwindia.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

No Bribery Was Used For This...

This morning, I came out of my quick shower to find B on the floor of the family room, struggling to assume a full backbend.

Imagine my surprise and my excitement...after five years of trying to get him to take the tiniest bit of interest in yoga and here is was on the floor in one of the most difficult of yoga poses!

Now, I have to admit this: I've been teaching yoga in his class every Friday. The kids love it and we do a full array of poses for over 30 minutes (this topic is going to be discussed at a later date as there is some pretty great material from the kindergarten class).

The first time I walked into the classroom, all the kids exclaimed, "B's mom is here! Hi B's mom!!" My child was mortified. He rolled his eyes down to his nose, turned his head, and refused to make eye contact with me.

Over the last couple of yoga sessions, he's showed much more interest and has even called out the names of several of the poses. One of my clients who is an elementary school teacher attributes this to what she calls "classroom peer pressure." Basically, all of the kids are following me and B is feeling like he needs to, as well.

We've even started watching a kids yoga DVD at home every afternoon. So much for Speed Racer; B's first request for after school television time is the same kids yoga DVD. This has gone on for the last two weeks.

As soon as I walked in this morning to find him in "Bow Pose," as is the English translation for full backbend, I immediately began praising and congratulating him to which he replied (or yelled, as the case may be), "DON'T LOOK AT ME, MOMMY!"

So I did what every good mother would do and I hid behind kitchen wall to spy on him. I managed to grab the camera and zoom in on the action, all the while darting behind the bar area and the wall. After several failed attempts at backbending, I watched him cross his legs and begin to chant, "OMMMMM." I swear I am not making this up!

Next thing you know he'll be asking me about Krishna and Ganesh. I'll have to tell him about my own personal favorite Hindu goddess, Kali, and then we can practice the chants together and really freak out the family.

In the meantime, I had a small, yet very smug revelation pertaining to B's dad. After all pressures with soccer...the bi-weekly practices, the weekly games, the daily pep talks...blah, blah, blah...the one sport that my son is most interested in is the one that's also nearest and dearest to my heart. Jai to that!

Jai is the Hindu translation of "Joy!" or "Hallelujah!"

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Yellow Hair Machine

We did not get a dog. We got a hair machine.

I think my dad was the one who originally coined this expression as he also has a yellow Lab. But he also has a housecleaner who visits regularly and light tan tile throughout his house.

I, on the other hand, am the housecleaner. Earlier this year, I put rather dark wood flooring into my family room. It was cheap and it seemed like a good idea at the time. Now, five days into yellow lab ownership, there is a constant dusting of yellow fur on the floors.

To gain some control over this problem, I have instituted a nightly vacuuming ritual whereby I chase B with the hose and make a big game out of an otherwise mundane and all too frequent task. And, to no avail...I get up in the morning and am greeted to the site of fresh yellow hair. Everywhere.

This morning as I was in super high gear, getting us out the door at 8:00am for school and work, I had my first wardrobe malfunction that I can only blame on the dog. Black yoga pants, black shirt, black scarf...need I say more?

My best friend, K, would have the dog packed up and out the door by now. She really, really leaned on me to get a cat instead of a dog. Now I see why.

Don't get me wrong here...everyone (including me but maybe not K) loves our new dog. She doesn't beg, bite, lick, or bark. I'm not quite sure if she's all dog. She seems far too docile to be a one-year-old pup and way too well-behaved to be of the Labrador breed. But the hair...

I know I'll get used to the nightly vacuum-fest. And I can certainly carry those sticky dust rollers in my car, my purse, and my gym bag. But when the hair makes it into my dinner - like it did tonight - then I know that I'm really in this for the love of the animal.

I'm sensing that I'll be complaining about this issue for awhile. So tonight, I looked at my vacuum cleaner with quite a lot of gratitude. And amazement...who knew that a canister could be completely full after just one quick sweep of the floors?

Only a Lab owner.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


For the last four years, my dad has taken us (me, my sister and my step-mom) to see Trans Siberian Orchestra (TSO to those who are "in the know"). This event has become, by far, the highlight of my holiday season (yes, it even trumps Christmas morning with you know that I'm a huge scrooge!).

TSO is a fabulous musical extravaganza. The show assaults all of your senses in the best possible way...lasers, fire, and loud, rockin' holiday music (along with some great classics with a very contemporary spin. I think that to be a part of TSO's group, you have to have four basic things:

Incredible, yet very eccentric musical talents

Great looks, particularly for the females. In fact, long, straight and very blond hair seems to be a "must"

A smokin' body and the ability to fit into a very slinky and short black dress.

Energy! The show lasts for over three hours - last night was without an intermission - and the performers generally perform two shows in one day.
It's unbelievable.

This combination creates for quite an eye-candy event. And speaking of eyes, we sat on the floor last night for the first time and there were times when I couldn't even look at the stage because the light show was so wild!

The window to see TSO is very limited. They do a short tour during November and December each year and good seats sell out FAST. This year, the tour started early.

The truly magical part of this experience - for me - is sharing it with my Dad. The first year we went, he didn't stop talking about the show until Easter. And now he's on the TSO VIP list so he's right on top of ticket sales each year.

We always meet in downtown Sac for dinner prior and this year's pick was a clear winner. Tuli Bistro, Sacramento's newest darling on the restaurant scene, did not disappoint. We sat outside on the heated patio and enjoyed great wine and a ton of fabulous food.

I'm a little sad after TSO comes and goes each year. But now there's a new, slicked up concert venue in downtown Modesto that my dad is loving so maybe we can find a couple more events during the year to make the wait for TSO a little more tolerable.

In the meantime, I'm grateful, as always, for the chance to go to see another repeat TSO performance. Go if you ever have the chance! You will not, in any way, be disappointed.

And thanks Dad! Until next year...

p.s. Here's the "big reveal" of my Amber Shimmer locks!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Winning Family

Apparently, we didn't blow our dog interview. The owner called last night and tearfully told me that the dog was ours. Today, we picked up Venus (not too sure about the name, but B says we need to keep it so she's Venus for now) and she's spent the last two hours seemlessly transitioning to our family.

We can't believe how docile and sweet she is. I truly believe that this dog found us at a great time. B has been following her around and treating her like a new friend.

The owner cried as she told Venus goodbye and packed her into the car with us. I was sad to be taking Venus from such a good family setting but we're all feeling pretty blessed to have her here!

Tonight, I'm Amber. Amber Shimmer.

Written on Friday afternoon, posted on Saturday:

I am either crazy or stupid. I colored my hair last night, at home. Again.

For those of you following my blog, this is Round 3 of self-administered hair color. Yes, my hair does grow very fast.

Only this time, I didn’t stop at the roots. Oh no. While slumming at the local Wal-Mart, I stopped into the hair color aisle to pick up another Root Touch-Up Kit with every intention of staying with the tried-and-true.

Allure Magazine just listed its beauty product picks for the year and of course that's like gospel to me. Among the hair color recommendations, they listed Clairol’s Natural Instincts line. The reviewer promised great results in less time and the best part? Semi-permanent color. That means no permanent damage unless you’re trying to take your hair color from Cher black to Marilyn Monroe blonde.

I got to thinking, "I need a little change. I'm feeling drab, drab, drab and Thanksgiving with my step-mother who just happens to be a great (and free!) colorist is way too far away."

I agonized for way too long over which color might be the best. I finally settled on a golden hue, with a great name: Amber Shimmer. “Amber” sounded so much more interesting than how I would currently describe my hair color which would be, “dull brown with some leftover highlights.” And who doesn’t want some shimmer in their life?

Upon further reflection of the product color, I began to think that “Amber Shimmer” would be a very fitting name for an adult entertainment artist (read: porn star). This girl next door could definitely use some of THAT appeal. Let’s face it: yoga pants and clogs are not exactly synonymous with a woman called “Amber Shimmer.”

The applicatoin process went off without a hitch. The only mistake I made was deciding to mop the bathroom floor before I applied color. If you’ve ever applied color to a full head of hair, you know that globs upon globs of dye are flung to the far reaches of the bathroom. I even found a suspicious stain near the toilet which made me wonder: “B’s mess or hair color?”

I’m pretty happy with the color. It’s even, the grays are covered, and there is a hint of shimmer. I’d definitely purchase this product again.

Tonight, me and my amber shimmer locks are meeting D for dinner. It’s our fourth date. We met over the summer, then I let him slip through my fingers so that I could date several superficial and somewhat stupid guys from the online dating service. Luckily, D is giving me another chance.

And the thing is, D is the type of guy who wouldn’t care if I was an Amber Shimmer type of girl or a tired, single, drab brunette mom. But, I have to admit, it’s kinda fun to try on a new identity once in a while. Especially when the cost is just $9.99!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

How To Ace A Dog Interview

We went to interview today with the owner of “Venus,” a beautiful, sweet, and extremely well-mannered Labrador. Venus was a dream dog…affectionate yet not overbearing, playful yet not hyper, and calm but still engaging. It was love at first sight. At least for me.

The owner had met with several other interested families and had other meetings set up for the rest of the afternoon and throughout the day tomorrow. At the end of our interview, she promised to circle back with us by the weekend to let us know of her decision.

Based on today’s experience, here is what I now know about being the winning candidate in a dog interview:

Do not, under any circumstances, take a cranky 5-year-old to the dog interview. If the 5-year-old whines and cries all the way to the dog meeting, said child is too tired or simply too out of sorts to make a good impression on the dog owner. Turn around, take the child home, and reschedule the interview.

Do not look shocked when the dog owner tells you that she just met a woman who offered $400 in cash for the dog. When the subject of money comes up, look as blasé as possible.

Do not take a cranky five-year-old to the dog meeting.

And, when the issue of spaying the dog is broached, do not immediately tell the dog owner that you will have the dog “fixed” as soon as possible. There are reasons - who knows what they are - that the owner has not done this yet. Honor those reasons and keep your mouth shut on any chatter regarding the dog’s reproductive organs.

Do not take a cranky five-year-old to the dog meeting.

If at all possible, do take Obama to the dog interview with you. Particularly if it’s a “shady” area of town and you know by the lingering election signs in the neighborhood that he would be strongly supported and received.

Do not threaten time-outs or deploy any other punishment tactics for cranky five-year-old at the interview. This could be mis-construed by the dog owner. After all, the owner is watching to see how YOU handle the behavior issues of those in your household.

And above all, do not beg for the dog. Do not call an hour later to see if the owner has made up her mind. Do not try to convince the owner to come see what a great home you have and how comfortable her dog would be. The owner probably knows, just by looking at you, your car, your son, and your mother that you are a decent person and that you pay (most) of your bills on time.

Do believe that the owner sees you as a genuinely good person; one who will lovingly care for her pet and provide it the best possible home. And hope like hell that you’re right.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Truth In (Dog) Advertising

I am learning, in my quest for a family dog, that people will tell you just about anything to get their pet adopted. Here are just some of the conversations I’ve had with dog owners this week:

Dog #1: “The Whiner”

Me: “Will your dog bark if someone comes to the door?”

Owner: “Yes.”

Me: "Good, because I’m looking for a protective dog. I’d like a dog that is on alert, at least at nighttime.

Owner: “Well, the dog won’t actually bark. She goes to the door and whines. But I’m sure that you can train her to bark.”

Dog #2: “I bite small children”

Me: “How is your dog with children?”

Owner: “Um. Um. Hmmmm. OK, I guess. Of course, I wouldn’t leave the dog alone with a child. He has been known to snap. But I’ve heard that if you take a dog to obedience school and also take the child along, that the dog can learn that the child isn’t his equal. I’m sure it will be fine. Really.”

Dog #3: “I’m an unhealthy mess and a huge financial liability.

Me: “How healthy is your dog?”

Owner: “She’s been very healthy but she has a bit of a limp.”

Me: “A limp? How long has she had it? Have you had her leg looked at?”

Owner: “Oh yeah, we took her in. The vet said we should amputate. Sooner rather than later. But I’m sure that you don’t need to do that. She just probably needs some exercise.

Dog #4: “My dog is like a human.”

Imagine my surprise when I called today to inquire about this dog and the owner stated that she would have to interview me before she made a decision about whom to give her dog to. Here’s how the conversation went:

Me: “Hi, I’m calling about your dog. She sounds perfect. Why are you giving her away?”

Owner: “My mother-in-law moved in with us and she’s allergic. It’s breaking my heart to list the dog but I have to let her go.

Me: “Could I bring my son over tomorrow to meet her?”

Owner: “Yes, that would be fine but I have to tell you that I am very picky about who I will let her go to. I’m going to meet with several people over the next few days and make a decision after the weekend. I will have to spend some time with you and your son to see how you interact with her. It’s very important to me that she has a great home.”

Me: “Oh, there are other people looking at her? Well, I have a huge yard, I promise to walk her every day, I won’t leave her alone for longer than five hours at a time, I’ll buy high quality dog food, we’ll brush her all the time, she can sleep indoors, we’ll take her on car rides…”

Owner cuts me off: “I just need to meet you and your son.”

OK, well. Wish us luck. We’re off to the north reaches of Sacramento tomorrow (that would be Del Paso Heights for all you local readers) for our first doggy interview. And it’s a Craig’s List dog…maybe not all hope is lost for Craig’s List pets.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Dark Side of Craig's List

I am in the market for a dog. We need a household pet. B is starting to show some unsavory symptoms of “the only child syndrome” and I would like to have another body in the house when B is with his dad. It would also be very re-assuring to have a bark on those nights when things are starting to rustle around outside my bedroom window. This is, after all, Sacramento.

I often tell people, “If you want to see how the rest of the world lives, go to Wal-Mart.” I speak from experience…our local Wal-Mart is less than a mile from my house. Before you go and judge my neighborhood, keep in mind that we are also roughly a mile from Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and Macys. It’s a rather strange tangle of good and bad.

I am at the local Wal-Mart way more than I should be. It’s far closer than Target. But I still hate it. I really do. I’m reminded every time I enter the sliding glass doors and am assaulted by someone asking for money, followed by a wretched stench that resembles baby vomit, how lucky I am to not have to shop at Wal-Mart. At least I have choices.

Now, I have yet another glimpse as to how the rest of the world lives. Two words: Craig’s List.

As I’ve done with every other used household purchase, I immediately went to Craig’s List this week, in search of the perfect household dog. What I found in the listings was eye-opening. Consider these posts:

“I don’t like my dog no mo.”

“My husband hates our dog. I have to get rid of her. It’s me or her.”

My personal favorite was the header of a post for two dogs:

“Birthday presents gone bad.”

With every Pit Bull listing, there was this warning:

“This dog is not for fighting! Do not adopt this dog with the intent of making it a fighting dog.”

Huh? People adopt dogs to make them fight? Still?

Geez, all I wanted was an adult, mixed breed dog. One with a good bark and a nice attitude toward small children. Is that too much to ask for? Must I muddle through all this garbage just to find a decent family pet?

Next step. Find decent sounding (and looking) dog on Craig’s List and secure time and place to view and meet said dog.

And so begins our foray into the deep, deep South reaches of Sacramento to meet “Goldie,“ the Labrador mix.

B and I journeyed South. And further South. The neighborhoods were beginning to look way beyond my politically correct description of “sketchy.” Let’s be straight here: we were in the ghetto.

Unfortunately, there’s absolutely no turning back when you’ve talked (mostly in a very excited tone of voice) for an hour to a five-year-old about a fun dog named, “Goldie” who we might take home. Let’s face it. The prospect of turning around would be right up there with child abuse.

B kept peppering me with questions, “When are we gonna see Goldie?” Can she ride home in the back seat with me? Will she play with me? Are we there yet?”

Oh yes, this adventure we were going to see through.

I pulled up to the house. It had a chain-linked fence around the perimeter. A heavily tattoed (and rather big man) leaned against the fence, smoked a cigarette, and glared at me. I wondered, “Is this the poster man for Craig’s List?” Beside him, was the biggest, so called “Labrador Mix” I have ever seen in my life. This was no ordinary Labrador. Oh no, this was the by-product of some sort of Great Dane breeding experiment. The dog just happened to be yellow.

We had already pulled up to the man and his beast and B was squealing with excitement from the backseat. “Is that Goldie? Is that her? She’s SO BIG, Mommy! How will she fit into the back seat?“ It was definitely too late to flip a U-turn and haul ass out of there.

I cautiously approached the situation. “Uh, is this Goldie?” I stammered, while thinking, “Duh!”
Tattoos looked me up and down (creepily, I might add). “Yeah, this is her.” Then he opened the gate.

Goldie, meanwhile, was literally springing up and down. Once the gate was opened, she headed right to your’s truly and jumped up, placing her paws on my shoulders. Then she leaned all of her weight into me. This was no dog. This was a horse.

After I recovered from Goldie's welcome, I graciously told Tattoos how beautiful she was, what a great disposition she seemed to have (he looked at me in confusion over this statement - too many syllables in ‘disposition’ perhaps?), while blocking B from being mauled by the giant canine.

We finally made our exit, with me promising to call by the end of the weekend with my decision. I am such a coward in these situations. What, is he going to shoot me if I don’t agree to take his dog on the spot?

I told B that Goldie was just too much dog for us. He found this to be quite funny. I promised to take him to the pound the following day to look at more dogs. B seemed very satisfied with this decision.

I, however, was less than satisfied. My beloved Craig’s List, the source I turn to for everything from vacation rentals to used furniture, has shown me its dark side. And I really don’t like it one bit.

Someone once told me never, never, never to look at the personals on Craig’s List. Something about dirt bags, psychos, convicts, felons. Now I know.

Stay tuned for another update in our quest for the perfect family dog whom will most definitely NOT be found on Craig’s List.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Bedtime, Sweet Bedtime

I have always loved putting my child to bed. And not for the reasons that most people love to put their child to bed. Sure, I like a little quiet, adult time as much as the next parent but the detailed ritual of B’s bedtime has always been the sweetest part of my day.

Since B was a baby, I took a lot of time to unwind with him in the evening. When he was small enough to be in my lap, I would rock him for at least 30 minutes, sometimes even an hour. I would try to remember nursery songs, and always default to "Twinkle Twinkle." Those big brown eyes would fixate on me and I could feel my heart melting away.

At five, when he’s running away from me, naked and screaming, - “I don’t want a bath!” - he’s a little less sweet. But I still love our routine.

It takes us at least an hour to make our way to the bathroom, do the “Number 2 stuff,” take a quick bath (he won’t sit down, won’t play with bath toys, and insists that I only rinse his face once), run to the bedroom, naked, and detour through my room to hide, come out of hiding to pick out a pair of pajamas, struggle into pajamas, change mind about pajamas, pick a new pair, call Daddy to say good-night, convince me to bring a Zone Bar into bed (horrible, I know!), brush teeth, pick three books, change mind about two books and negotiate an additional book into the pile, read all of said books, have discussion about automatic nightlight and how long to stay in bed in the morning, and finally, settle in to a deep relaxed state with a long back rub. Truth be told, this entire ritual can take up to 90 minutes, sometimes longer.

I am always disappointed when I have to work late and miss out on bedtime. This happens more than I would like. My mom is perfectly capable and willing to deliver a similar bedtime experience but I have an empty feeling when I come home from work to find B’s door closed and to hear his deep and slumbering breathes (he can never stay awake long enough for me to come in and say a proper goodnight). Damn the work thing.

But being away for work several nights a week and having B go to his dad’s half the time makes me really appreciate those nights that I do have with him. Like tonight.

We started 90 minutes early so I could let him play all his funny 5-year-old games (otherwise known as stall techniques, toddler antics, etc), like pretending to hide (while naked, of course) and changing his mind 18 times about his pajama choice and his book selection. He even talked me into an extra book.

I took extra time in reading to him, explaining the story line of how the crocodile has a toothache and the mouse crawls into the croc’s mouth and extracts the tooth. B’s brown eyes lit up with surprise and shock; he then began to giggle.

Still laughing, we talked about the dog we visited with today.

He asked me, “Why didn’t we bring that dog home?”

To which I replied, “That’s a whole lot of dog!”

B about fell off the bed in hysterics over this answer. I began to scratch and massage his back.

After ten minutes, his eyes were closed and his little body moved closer to mine.

“B,” I said, “Here’s Great-Grandma’s blanket. Good night.”

He opened one big eye, looked at me, and said, “A whole lot of dog, Mommy.” The ends of his mouth turned up, just slightly.

Oh, how I love bedtime.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Rocking The Vote & Rocking The Boat

I just found out that my Dad is reading my blog. Pretty regularly, I think. Knowing this, I'm not going to jeopordize the chances of him taking me off his "Favorites" list by making any comments about yesterday's election. I rather like the fact that he's interested enough in our daily life to take a peek in on the blog.

I will say this though. Last Sunday, in church, the Dean of our congregation discussed how the election has caused a major divide in our country and how negative we have become toward the "other" candidate. In a country where we are already experiencing such incredible division, it's sad that at an important and exciting time, we can't come together in love and community to elect our next leader.

I thought my church leaders had a good solution. Since our cathedral serves as a polling place, the clergy decided to serve dinner to everyone who came in to vote. As our Dean said, "We'll be breaking bread with everyone...Republicans, Democrats, the spirit of community." I'm proud to be a part of a church that recognizes the need to bring people back together...even in the most divisive times.

As for me, I made my way to the local middle school, which served as our neighborhood polling place, and cast my ballot. And then off to Starbucks for my free cup of coffee, where the choice was much simpler: "Regular or decaf?"

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

6:00am Play-Doh Call

Kindergartners must not be getting much Play-Doh time these days. I think the teachers are too busy teaching Algebra nowadays and have dismissed certain childhood necessities, such as Play-Doh in the Kindergarten curriculum.

In any event, it become absolutely necessary for B and myself to venture out in the pouring rain last night, just before dinner (the best time to do an errand - when everyone is on the verge of hunger and grouchiness!) and lap through our neighborhood Wal-Mart (yes, I do shop there more than I’d like….it’s a mere mile from my home!) in search of several colors of Play-Doh and a bucket of sea creature shapes. I simply could not take another whine session of,

“When are we going to buy the Play-Doh?

"Why don’t we have it yet?“

And the best…“Grandma Ghee makes it. Why can’t you make it?“

This is where the single mom cracks like a stale cookie: “Oh, get in the car already! I’m sick of hearing about the (insert favorite swear word) Play-Doh!”

So here it is, dinner time, and after dinner, comes the bath and then whole bedtime routine, and don’t forget that we’re still kind of Daylight Savings time so there's a lot of eye rubbing going on. We have an assortment of Play-Doh but things are definitely starting to go south around 7pm. Thus, our window of opportunity for Play-Doh was quite limited last night. Amidst the tears of disappointment over our shortened Doh session, I think I promised something like, “Just get in bed and go to sleep and we’ll do it first thing in the morning, when you wake up.”

Boy, those little people have great retention, even when they’re dead tired. B’s subconscious mind must have turned that promise over a hundred times, at least, because at 6:00am sharp, I hear this: “MOMMY, IT’S TIME TO GET UP FOR PLAY-DOH!”

Damn that Daylight Savings switch back anyway. Why can’t we have daylight all year long and later bedtimes and later wake-up times?

But then, I was seriously amazed when B pulled up a chair, sat himself down, and proceeded to cut, roll, contort, create, and generally, amuse himself with the Play-Doh for one hour and forty-five minutes.
What better way to spend the early hours before school? I got to sit next to him, sipping coffee, and trolling the Web. My only input was an occasional, “Nice (insert sea creature name). Very creative. Keep it up.”

I even got a short shower in, (sans shampoo of course as it's only day 4 of my blow-out!) without the usual and very repititive, “Mommy, aren’t you done yet?”

We both left the house feeling calm. No rushing, no cursing (that would be me, not him), nothing forgotten. Maybe those parents who don’t allow television in the mornings are on to something.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination

I can't take credit for the title of this post. This is the book I've just finished for my November book club. The author is Elizabeth McCracken. She has a beautiful and haunting style of writing. I thoroughly enjoyed every page and wanted to share this lovely treasure with anyone who might be reading my blog.

The subject matter is not light. In fact, the author states right off: "This is happiest story in the world with the saddest ending."

The book is a memoir, based on the author's experience of losing her child in the late, late stages of pregnancy. The story jumps back and forth from France (where the author and her husband are awaiting the birth of their first child) to the United States (where she discovers that she is pregnant again, only three months after losing the first baby).

This book is a brilliant account of an extremely sad and devestating event. Given the heady subject, one might expect a certain heaviness to the story, but the author does an exceptional job of turning her grief into a courageous journey towards healing. At least this was my "take away" of the book.

Next up is "Three Cups of Tea." I think we're the last book club in America to be reading it. I scored a borrowed copy. There ARE benefits to being last!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Date Night & Hair Color

Tonight, I'm meeting K from San Francisco at a new wine bar in downtown Sac. I am thinking that on this rainy, extra long evening (thanks to the time switch-back), it might be completely relaxing to curl up with a couple of movies. BUT, I really have no good excuse to not go on a date with a seemingly nice guy and the fact that he's driving here in this weather is actually quite attractive.

This morning, I had a brief moment of panic when I noticed lots of new grays peeking out. Sigh. So Round 2 of self-administered hair color commenced. Yes, I know...very daring on the morning of a big date. Or any date, for that matter.

And, to turn the risk factor up a few notches, I discovered that the neighborhood Long's does not carry Marc Anthony, the product from my first go-around of hair color adventures. I defaulted to Clairol since they had actual hair swatches in the store. The Root Touch Up Kit once again did not let me down.

One of these days, I'm going to have to spring for a real color job. In the meantime, I need to go file my nails, push back my cuticles and apply polish. Hey, at least I got the manicure down!