Saturday, February 25, 2012


Back in the Spring our pup Little Joe met with an early demise via school bus. It was a horrific experience seeing as how our two youngest kids witnessed the whole tragic ordeal. After that awful business we solemnly and vehemently declared we would never have another dog again, or at least not have one we liked so much. And trust me, we have had our share of unlikeable dogs around here, so we figured the chances of getting another miscreant mutt was highly likely.

And then Paul's brother called one night and said his female German Shepherd was on the nest and offered us pick of the litter. He said they'd be born around the end of June and we could come get ours six weeks later. While I've always thought German Shepherds are beautiful dogs, I didn't have high hopes for liking one or welcoming it into our family. I figured it would be just another dog, something to feed and then leave us gigantic dinner-plate-sized piles of poo in the yard. I was less than excited.

But the kids were thrilled and not a week went by through the spring they didn't inquire about the puppies. We received a call when they were born which only served to up the anticipation level by oh....about six hundred and thirty seven gazillion. Then lo and behold the blessed day came when the brother-in-law called and said, "Come get your dadgum (okay, he didn't say "dadgum", but you can probably insert any expletive and it would be close to correct) dog. There are a bunch of 'em and they won't stay in the pen anymore." Squeals from three kids promptly ensued. Paul probably squealed inside. I was less than excited.

My brother-in-law's dogs are vicious animals. The male, so large and so mean, he has to be kept on a logging chain. Yes, I said logging chain. A mere dog chain will not hold the beast. The female is mean, but less so. The puppies had to be carefully procured by my brother-in-law and brought to us, two at a time, to cuddle and partake of their cuddly, fluffy, skunk-breathed puppy-ness. The kids narrowed it down to four. Then three. Then two. And two is where we stayed. So with a sigh I said, "Okay, fine....take them both," while thinking Lovely. More elephant-sized piles of poo to keep Conner from stepping in. We labored over names for days and eventually settled on Boo for the female (after Boo in Monsters Inc)  and Bolt (from well, Bolt). Yes, we Disneyed our dogs.

Bolt didn't come off the porch for four days. He cowered in the corner by the front door and wouldn't eat, would barely drink, it was awful. Boo, however, would nearly mow you over with skunky kisses and whines all while piddling at your feet. Finally, Bolt came around and while he's still the more calm and collected of the two, his sister still remains highly neurotic and extremely rambunctious. She has literally sat on her brother's head to keep me from petting him and has on more than one occasion nipped just a little harder than I'm sure she intended in a fit of jealousness. She has, fortunately, stopped piddling at our feet. That's a blessing.

I'm afraid we've become the pet owners who will defiantly and adamantly defend the honor of the breed of their choice. Pit Bull owners say it's not the breed, it's the owner and the care. Rotweillers will say the same. Chihuahua owners will say the same, too, but folks, we all know those dogs are just a half a bubble off plumb and there is no fixing those overgrown mice. (I kid, I kid. Please don't send me hate mail. I've known one really cool Chihuahua. He wears an elf outfit around Christmas time. Any dog that can pull that off has my admiration.) But yes, we defend our Shepherds and their precious demeanors. Yes, their parents are nasty and mean, but heck, there are a lot of people I know who have nasty parents and we don't keep those folks on a logging chain just because their parents need a swift kick to the tail end. We have never hit our dogs and their faithfulness and loyalty reflects that. Well, we're still trying to convince them that pooping that close to the front door doesn't make friends with their human counterparts.

I guess what I'm trying to say with this whole post is this: We have fallen head over stinkin' heels in love with those dadgum dogs. There. I said it. We love them. *sigh*

Wednesday we took them to the vet to be fixed. Paul had to build a giant dog box for the back of the truck because they are the size of small Tyrannosaurus Rex. This dog box looks like we should just strap ol' Granny Clampet to the top and take off for Bev-er-ly. Hills, that is. I told him it might have been a bit much considering if he had built it in town we'd have needed a zoning permit for it. His justification was that now they have one seriously cool dog house for the back yard. Kady asked if she could have it for a playhouse. It's that big. We looked ridiculous driving to the vet and I was just glad we brought them after general business hours and no one we knew saw us.

They cried when we left them. We cried, too. Well, at least Kady and I did because we adhere to Truvy's strict policy of "No one cries alone in my presence" and we apply it to dogs as well. I called Paul for something on Thursday and in the conversation asked if he was having a good day. He sighed and said, "Yeah, I was just sitting here thinking about Boo and Bolt. Do you think they're okay?" We're all so dang smitten it's ridiculous.

Thursday they came home, minus a few gonads and happy to see their people. Bolt immediately attacked a cat and announced his presence on the place by peeing on every tree and blade of grass with 100 yards. Boo, who had a hernia repair on top of it all, was a little less than rambunctious. She's still hobbling around today and the vet said she'll take awhile longer to heal. I did, however, lure her out of her barrel with a slice of pepperoni pizza yesterday, so I have no doubt she'll be back to normal in no time, terrorizing cats and sitting on her brother's head to keep us from possibly loving him more than her. Note to self: Call vet about puppy Prozac.

Kady, Bolt, Abby, Sam and Boo
November 2011

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Very Scary Valentine

Okay, so we just survived yet another Valentine's Day once again. In the past, I have spent the few weeks prior to this not-so-momentous day in a funk of epic proportions, grumbling about love and romance and resisting the urge to shoot arrows (and not the cute kind that cherubims are often depicted as carrying around to lob at big pink puffy hearts, but real live broadhead, deer killing arrows) at real hearts (the organs, not the symbol), but for some reason this year I didn't. 

This year I was almost nice. Maybe even radiated with happy. It was kind of disgusting. 

I have never, ever, EVER liked Valentine's Day. As a kid, it was merely another day to have a school party and eat more chocolate and junk, as evidenced by my prepubescent pictures in which I was a bit on the chunky side. I loved me some cupcakes back then. Oh, who am I kidding, I love me some cupcakes now. As evidenced by my adult pictures.

I guess I was a cynic early on. As a child it never excited me to spend Valentine's Day getting little slips of paper from kids who taunted me and called me names on the school bus and on the playground, yet their pre-printed messages of love insisted they'd "Choo-choo-choooooose me" and that they'd "Love me owl-ways." Sorry, buddy. I ain't buyin' what you're sellin'. Your momma made you write that out and I know that to be the truth because I was forced by my momma to write one out to you, too, big guy. As I got older and infinitely more boy crazy, yet still painfully dorky, I only ended up with my hopes dashed catastrophically every stinkin' year. I had a propensity to crush on guys so far out of my league there was no realistic hope, even though my heart told me we would overcome all odds. It didn't matter to my silly 13-year-old heart that it would have been highly illegal for my 7th grade math teacher, Mr. Spencer, to leave his young wife, steal me away in the middle of the night so we could run away together and be magically, mystically in love and probably even French kiss. I just got my hopes dashed when he didn't steal me away -- and gave me a C on the test we'd taken just days before.

As a 16 year old, having a boyfriend was going to for sure make things better, I just knew it. Having a solid, steady boyfriend to regularly hold hands with and kiss and whisper mushy, gushy things in my ear, write me notes, spend hours and hours with on the phone and write our names together over and over on every piece of paper I came in contact with was going to make Valentine's Day a total turnaround for me. The groundwork was laid already. He knew my likes, dislikes, phobias and dreams. He knew what my ideal Valentine's Day would be (well, minus the statutory rape charges involved in that 7th grade math teacher fantasy) and he was surely going to deliver. I was a bit on the emo side back then, wearing lots of black and writing dark poetry even on my happiest of days. I didn't want anything traditional. I wanted weird and odd and possibly a little macabre. I envisioned black roses and maybe a new black eyeliner pencil.

He gave me a box of chocolates. And a red rose.

I hate roses. And boxed chocolates were offensive to my desire to buck the norm. The embodied everything I abhorred about romance and love and ugh...Valentine's Day.

I cried that year, too. Probably harder than I had in any previous year.

From then on I loudly and defiantly declared that soul mates didn't exist, true love was a fantasy and romance was a farce. Oh, we didn't break up and I still really liked him -- I just hardened myself to any more heart ache via a trumped-up commercialized "holiday" that was no more a holiday than I was a bikini model.

And then I got married. Our first Valentine's Day we were broke. As in, we had no money. We were madly in love, young and stupid, only recently employed after an unexpected lay-off and very new to the whole marriage thing. We had been married all of 45 days on our first Valentine's Day. That morning I woke him up as usual at 4am, fixed his lunch, kissed his adorable little face and sent him on his way. I spent the day cleaning house and doing laundry and basking in the glow of our new love. I knew that there would be no flowers or chocolates or jewelry and I was okay with that. I set about making as romantic a dinner as I could with a pound of ground beef, commodity cheese and a loaf of Wonder bought off the bargain rack at the bread store. 

He hopped out of his truck that evening, lunch bucket in hand, a smile on his face. He must've really missed me! I opened the back door for him and he kissed me like he meant it. Then he said, "Here, baby. I got you something!" as he fumbled around with his lunch bucket. He excitedly pulled out a jewelry box and I immediately began with the protests. "But we don't have any money!" I exclaimed and he said, "You're right! We really don't -- I spent my whole check on this for you because I want you to be my Valentine." He was barely 30 years old, looked barely 20, and he was so excited for me to open that little felted box. Standing there in the entryway of our living room, I opened up the most beautiful heart necklace ever made. I immediately began bawling like a baby.

The tears were partially because he had just announced that he had spent every penny of our money for that week on a necklace for me and I had no idea how we were going to pay the bills due that week. But the tears were mainly because he had done that for me. Me! The one he loved. The one he had abandoned a life of confirmed bachelor-hood for. The one he had given up Crest toothpaste for when I told him I would never brush my teeth with that nasty blue stuff and would only use Colgate. The one he stayed up late playing Super Mario Brothers with until 4am on more than one occasion even though the game made him cuss and throw the controller. The one he had said "I do" to a month and a half before.

I still have that necklace and the girls wear it every now and then on special occasions. I'm not much of a necklace wearer these days. I got out of the habit when our little family of two began growing to three, then four, then -- surprise! -- five. I got tired of being choked by curious little fingers wrapped in gold chain. Since that first Valentine's Day back in 1993 he has given me a  few more pieces of jewelry, three amazing kids and a few minivans. He bought me a house, has become a better husband (I'd like to think I'm a better wife), an incredible daddy and a true man of God. He puts up with my moodiness, my obsessive-compulsive need to alphabetize the canned goods in our pantry, he taught me how to make gravy (because my first attempts were pretty bad) and lets me put my cold feet on his legs even though it makes him jump at first. We've weathered great loss, experienced great joy, found our version of comfortable romance, passion and enduring love, nearly called it quits and found our way back.

This year, as in many many years past, there weren't any mushy gushy cards or boxes of chocolates exchanged at Diva Ranch. I made a pan of Slutty Brownies, we kind of snacked around for dinner and spent the evening huddled on the couch watching recorded episodes of "American Horror Story." We don't get too excited over this not-holiday around our place and I don't see that changing. We'll forego a romantic comedy any day for a good old fashioned ghost story. Because that's just how we are. We aren't fancy and we like it like that. While Abby and Sam each have a “love interest” (and Abby's gainfully employed boyfriend gave her some mushy gushy roses and a giant stuffed dog I'm pretty sure we'll have to claim on our taxes next year because it's as tall as a preschooler and she takes it everywhere with her), we're trying really hard to keep our kids from buying into ridiculous notions of store-bought romance by just being together, doing what we like and scaring the poop out of ourselves while eating some of the most amazing brownies on the planet.  

Some may call that boring. Some may call us jaded. Some may call it weird.

We just call it love.

We....the people

Originally published in The Miami News-Record, July 2020 Everything is different now. I’m not just talking about masks and social distancing...