When I was a little girl, I was obsessed with helper dogs: Seeing-eye dogs. Therapy dogs. Service dogs. I had this sense that helper dogs like Labradors, and Golden Retrievers, and other such majestic, helpful breeds could save the world.

But I didn’t personally know any such magnificent dogs. My parents were not Dog People.

I remember being small and asking my dad how blind people drove.  I assumed that being a grown up meant you drove – end of story. At the time, I had also probably just met my first seeing-eye dog. So my father told me, with a straight face, that blind people had the dog sit in the front seat and bark out the directions: One bark for “turn right;” two barks for “turn left;” a yelp for “this way to Grandma’s house,” and so forth. And I remember thinking – Brilliant, I want a dog just like that when I grow up.

I shudder to think of the number of times I repeated that information about seeing-eye dogs throughout my childhood.

But this story is not about helpful dogs. This story is about lightbulbs.

On Saturday, I was at home doing all sorts of domestic things that get lost in the shuffle when you’re terribly busy during the week – like changing the light high above the bathtub in the master bathroom that had been burnt out since I’ve lived in my apartment. (Which, in my defence, required more effort than anticipated, including Sugru, a ladder, and multiple trips to Rainbow Hardware.)

At some point in the afternoon, I got a message from my friend John, and after exchanging pleasantries, I asked him whether he had plans for the weekend. He responded that he planned to go out on a jazz club crawl in the West Village. This was intriguing to me. He then posed the same question to me: What do you have on this weekend?

Without thinking, I replied, I’m changing hard to reach lightbulbs.

I immediately regretted my honesty, and I said as much, because I still have some dignity, and didn’t want to be seen as a) The Biggest Loser on the Upper East Side (which I might have been), and/or b) angling for an invitation to join (which I was). But John is a nice person, and his reply to me was some variation on You should join me doing cool people things instead of changing lightbulbs!

A few hours later, I was showered and changed and on my way to the Village. As I was pulling up, I got a message:

Crazy stoned guy outside this place…

I greeted John and as we waited, a man threaded through the crowd, preaching crackpottery. Remind me when we get inside, there’s a story I want to tell you! John mentioned. I nodded, keeping my eye on our stoned friend telling his stories to the assembled jazz-lovers.

When the bouncer finally let us in, we snagged two seats about midway into Smalls Jazz Club. The crackpot had managed to get in as well, and I heard him behind us inside, telling a foursome about how he could confirm the existence of mermaids, who he found to be all lesbian bitches. He further assured the foursome that he wasn’t a homophobe, it was just science – he was a Marine Biologist who understood and had personally encountered/been severely assaulted by hostile lesbian mermaids in the wild.

The ceiling was low inside Smalls, and the atmosphere was perfect for a night of jazz and gin. We were watching the Fukushi Tainaka Quartet and sipping gin-and-tonics John had gotten us from the bar. Way better than domestic drudgery.

What story were you going to tell me? I asked.

The stupid dog ate another sock, he said. He had two labradors, one of whom had a habit of eating his children’s socks and needing to have them surgically removed.

So that’s like a semester’s worth of school fees in sock removal surgeries this year? 

Yep. 

He then called up a photo on his phone of the removed sock, which made me laugh. It was hard for me to reconcile the image of majestic, helpful labradors I had from childhood with John’s idiot dog.  But having already humiliated myself once that day, I opted not to try to make him feel better about it by offering up a story about how I once thought seeing-eye dogs operated by barking driving directions.

After the set had finished, we decided to grab dessert. John had once lived nearby, and I had lived in Tribeca and gone to grad school at NYU, and yet we still had to pull up Googlemaps to navigate to the sweet shop nearby. There was something oddly bittersweet about not being able to find our way unaided past the yuppified alleyways and storefronts where even the cheesy sex shops were upgraded from a decade before.

It was heady and strange, the feeling of walking through a past life. Andrew and I used to walk our dog Lilly up to the Village from our place in Tribeca on weekends; we’d have brunch, go shopping. But then I got sick and Lilly died, and a few short years later, we were divorced. Everything was different; little had changed in the Village.

But the walk was short and Googlemaps quickly got us to Sweet Revenge. There, we gobbled our way through a cupcake and a mini-cheesecake, laughing about the specifics of our night.

We parted ways after dessert, and I headed home to my own disobedient dog; curled up on the bathmat on the floor next to the expensive dog bed. The bathroom was ablaze with all four lightbulbs finally lit for the first time since I’d lived in the place.

As I put myself to bed, Roo trotted over to sleep next to me, bringing what I thought was his stuffed hedgehog along, but instead was a balled up pair of my running socks that must’ve missed the bathroom hamper when I’d stripped them off earlier. He didn’t do that very often, but occasionally, he would carry around a sock or two of mine, and I would find them thidden in his toy box under the legless Piglet stuffie that he’d once nicked from a baby gift I was wrapping.

I looked down at him, and sighed, and said aloud, If you even so much as think about eating those socks, you are a dead dog.

It didn’t dawn on me till later that sometimes, it takes trying to replace what seems like a burnt out light to find out that it’s broken at the stem and needs a more serious repair. And dogs will still be dogs, no matter how helpful they seem. That might have been helpful to know ten years ago in Tribeca.

That said, I’m still awfully glad to be a Dog Person. Seems much safer than being a marine biologist.

#Reverb14 is the opportunity for us to reflect and project throughout 2014.   Each month, Kat, Sarah and I will be posting on a new prompt.  Please check out the #ProjectReverb main page and join in.

Luck: Is luck what you get?  Or is luck what you make?  When have you been lucky?  When did you create your own fortune?

I have had this in draft since mid-March.  When I did Sarah’s podcast, we talked recovering from perfectionism (a topic on which Sarah muses frequently); tinkering with writing; me having over 250 drafts in my drafts folder on WordPress.

I’m not kidding about that — I do write a lot, and often, but it seems I can’t gather my thoughts as well as I used to.  I’m pulled in a lot of different directions, and my life is very different than it was a year ago; two years ago; five years ago.

That said, here’s how I’ve been lucky this year:

1) A few weeks ago, I ran the Rock & Roll DC half marathon with some of my best girlfriends.  I’m so lucky to have such amazing friends, whose interests are so similar to mine, and who have been there in the trenches with me through everything these past few years.  Love these girls (and Bethany’s wee babe on the way!).

RnR DC

2) Having the chance to see Witness Uganda in March.  Matt and Griffin’s show was gorgeous, moving, and generally incredible, and I’m so grateful to have Matt in my life and to have spent some time with Griffin.  We are going to be watching their shows for generations, I think.

Griff Matt Mere

3) This great spa Paul took me to in February.  I generally feel pretty lucky we live a charmed life.

monart

4) And finally, this boy.  Every day I remember how lucky I am that he chose me.

roo in montauk

Do I think we make our own luck or take what we get?  I think it’s probably a little of both.  But I think, overall, I’ve been very, very lucky.

Ketchup (ketchup)
Soup and puree (soup and puree),
Don’t get left behind (get left behind)…
-Paul McCartney, Monkberry Moon Delight

It is a weird time of scarcity and abundance.  It is a transitional time.

It is one of those weird points in my life when I suddenly observe I have run out of condiments.  Gone are the chutneys and mustards.  The pancake syrup is empty.  The honey is gone and the agave is a distant memory.  That Newman’s Own Light Honey Dijon salad dressing with which I have a borderline obsession was finished off last week, and the Heinz squeeze-bottle of ketchup spluttered dry last night.

Running out of packaged sauces seems like a failure, or a failing, which is the theme of late.

Condiments are those weird sorts of home goods that you think you’ll never finish.  Which is weird, but true.  You never think you’re going to need Worcestershire sauce, until you need it (unless you drink a lot of bloody marys, I guess).

I live alone.  I almost never run out of condiments.  In my house, things are much more likely to expire than get used up.  In fact, over the weekend, I tossed out a bottle of malt vinegar that had expired in 2010.  It had never occurred to me that vinegar might turn, but it smelled funny and had gone cloudy.  (Consider that — vinegar smelling funny!)

And so, living alone amongst an abundance of side-sauces, and suddenly, a scarcity of the same, seems a failure — both the fact of having them, and then not.

More fundamentally, why do I feel like a failure?

I feel like a failure because the dog got sick in the night — he’d snarfled crumbs out of a shag rug and consumed strips of the rug itself — and in the interest of my sleep, and sanity, I’d comforted him; made sure he was okay; but never cleaned up the vomit.  And he was restless, still, at daybreak, so I pulled him up on to the bed (and how many times have my parent-of-small-child friends warned me against doing that same thing?!); left him there snoozing when I got into the shower, then had to run out from under the steamy stream, dripping with suds, when I heard him retch all over my duvet halfway through my shower.

I feel like a failure because there are still dog vomit stains on my rug, and all I’ve done is toss the duvet in the hamper.  I know I have some Resolve…somewhere.

I feel like a failure because I’ve all I’ve done is cram the duvet in the hamper but I realised I haven’t done laundry since Christmas; because I feel like an idiot that I have so many pairs of underwear that I can actually make it this long without doing laundry; that I keep spending money on clothes I don’t need.  Furthermore, I feel like an idiot because my sweaters pill and my tights run and I would like to look perfect all the time, but reality sets in and I don’t.

I’m not perfect.

I am awash in dog vomit and dirty laundry, and completely empty of condiments.

What a day.

Does everyone feel this way — defeated by the mundane?  Brought to their knees by canines and ketchup?

Maybe not.  But today, I feel this way.

When things were really shitty when I was in college or law school, I’d talk to my grandfather — to Bop — to my mother’s father.  I keep a picture of him, and me, and Chachie (Chachie being my lifelong stuffed monkey companion) above my desk, so that when I write, I remember.

My grandparents lived just outside Philadelphia for most of my life, but had moved down to Florida in the ’90s — outside of Orlando.  When they’d call, 352 was the area code that would show up on Caller ID — because even when we were impoverished law students, we’d pay for Caller ID, which was a Thing That You’d Pay For back then.  Back when land lines were a thing people had, and it was how I always knew to pick up for Bop.

(NB: I am a notorious call-screener, and yes, I still have a land line.)

And then the other day, either I was calling Paul, or Paul was calling me and it occurred to me that 352 is the country code for Ireland, and that’s the identifier: 352.

It’s silly, isn’t it?  But I suppose what I am saying is that I am always looking for symbols and signs that make things familiar; that remind me that things are going to be okay.

The duvet will be sent to the laundry; the rugs will be cleaned up.  I ordered ketchup and syrup and chutney and mustard and agave and even that amazing Newman’s Own Light Honey Dijon salad dressing that I love so much from Fresh Direct, and it will come this week.

The things that seem like signs of such grave failure will fade in time.  There will be less dog vomit.  There will be more ketchup.

I will catch up.  Eventually.

These tiny, beautiful things were on my mind…

– Having a very good surgeon;

– Growing out my wild blonde hair;

– A sale to the tune of >60% off on those J Crew boots I had coveted (and as a result of said sale, am now wearing);

– The WoWs, without whom, I would be lost; I would be nothing;

This beautiful essay by my friend Amanda;

– The roasted duck ramen from the noodle place I like on the Upper East Side;

– That this is Week Three, or the first time Paul and I have gone longer than two weeks without seeing each other since August;

– Finally being approved for Global Entry (don’t ask);

– Pictures of Yosemite;

– Watching the dog romp in the snow;

– Being constantly reminded that I am not the first one to ever go through this stuff; that I will not be the last; that I am not alone.

Sometimes, I’m like a broken record.

I talk about running, travel, my dog, travel, running, my dog, and…maybe my health.

But mostly travel/running/dog.

But really…

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In a world of change, I’m just grateful that I have an awesome dog.

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Throughout the month of November, I will be posting stories of change, gratitude, forgiveness, and grace — both my own words, and the tales of carefully selected guest voices.

The WoWs went to Montauk over the weekend.  It was two days filled with girlfriends, dogs, wine, and sunshine.

Roo was pretty pleased about this.

roo in montauk

On Saturday, Bethany, Sonja and I decided to go for a morning run out to the lighthouse.  I had taken what I thought was a non-narcotic painkiller before the run, as I am coping with some end-of-season injuries, but was instead I had accidentally taken a pre-run muscle relaxer.  FAIL.  Halfway through the run, I started to get wobbly and woozy.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was going so very wrong.

The run along Montauk Highway was beautiful nonetheless.

montauk hwy

We reached the lighthouse and took some photos.

montauk with girls

It’s always strange, this time of year, to be on the Sound.  I remember, the weekend before I was married, going to the lighthouse at the top of Block Island, staring across the sound, looking out at Long Island; at all the possibilities.  The weekend before I’d filed for our separation, Jade, Clementine and I had been Out East, and we’d been at this very same spot.  I’d jumped the Sound; made it across.  But I’d had no idea where I was going or what I was doing.

And now…

Here I was, past all that.  I was back at the lighthouse, again, but with a purpose this time.

montauk lighthouse

We started on our run/walk back to the house we’d rented, and once we arrived back home, I slept for most of the afternoon because….ugh.

We spent the evening playing board games, and laughing and drinking.  It was a good night.  Good food, good friends, good times.

Sunday morning, as the weekend was drawing to a close, Roo got me up early and we snuck out for some quiet moments alone on Ditch Plains beach as the sun rose.

ditchplains

We left later that day, and it was generally a perfect weekend.

montauk 1

(Not pictured, Katka, who snapped this shot after the auto-timer failed)

I didn’t realise the weekend’s perfection until after it was done.  I was a bit caught up, at the time, in Other Things Going On.

It is easy to get caught up in the externalities.  It is easy to become frustrated by the minor slights, or become enraged by the things that Should Have Happened But Didn’t.

Why didn’t you defend me?

Why didn’t you do this, that, or the other?

Why are you still friends with HER?

The reality is, by this time of year EVERY YEAR, I somehow find myself…spent.  I find myself focusing on the things that I do not have instead of the things that I do.

Why is this?

I have:

*Sunrises
*Amazing friends
*Friends who donate to the causes that are important to me, enabling us to raise almost $6,000 for Team for Kids in just TWO MONTHS!
*A loyal dog
*A terrific partner
*A great career
*A body that works, even when it doesn’t work
* All of the things I want and need, and more that I could ever hope for

In short, I have…everything.  These physical and emotional and personal and professional frustrations are merely temporary.  The stuff that is important is here to stay.

I sent the dog out to Connecticut to Katka and Matthew’s in the end of June/most of July, as I was travelling for a good chunk of the summer.  In my mind, this was the rough equivalent of sending him to summer camp?

At least, that was how I made myself feel better about…abandoning him.

He was excited to see me when I went to pick him up.  It was not *quite* the equivalent of a “solider returning from the front” YouTube clip.  It was more “wayward yuppie asshole makes her way home from extended Western European business travel/holiday.”

But like I said, Roo was excited.  I was maybe more excited than he was, but it was a happy reunion, nonetheless.

He seized upon the opportunity and had me doing all sorts of stupid tricks.

IMG_1810

But I think even the shaggy dog was surprised by how much I had missed him.  I had missed him…ferociously.  His mere presence is calming to me.  The routine of walking him calms me; gives my life order.  Knowing I need to take care of him keeps me present.

Also…how can you resist that face?

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