Monday, September 28, 2009


At the dog park on Sunday morning, I watched a group of older men form in the soccer field that stands between the park and the middle school nearby. It was 8am, and slowly the team members arrived, most already dressed in random, mismatched soccer uniforms, their movements slow in the early morning quiet.

One of the men took a solo lap around the field to warm up; another did toe-touches by the farthest goal. They greeted each other while nearby a few women set up lawn chairs, an umbrella, and ice chests.

I sat on the bench with George and wished I had the motivation to get up early and exercise. Sure, I do get motivated sometimes, but the least small thing will get me out of the notion. For example, right now my bike riding is on hold because I’m angry at my bike. I had gone on an early ride recently, with my new bike that seems to be temperamental, and in the middle of an intersection when I stood to increase my speed, the gear slipped and I almost had a huge crash. I don’t know how I didn’t fall to the ground, but I did end up with bruises and a horribly stiff neck the next day.

Motivation to exercise should be in my blood, because I have some extremely athletic family members. My half-sister runs marathons, and so does my cousin Dan, who even moved to a new city just to train in the best location possible. And my Uncle Jim used to get up super early every morning – no matter how early it had to be – just to get a run in before work every day. He's in his late 60's now and plays on a hockey team with his son.

When I performed for a living, I stayed in shape because my job gave me exercise every day. And boy, was that nice. Now I take a ballet class now and then, or walk George for a couple of miles, or ride my bike when it doesn’t piss me off. But I sure wish I were one of those athletic types who doesn’t feel slightly out of place when wearing cycling gear.

There is another dog park nearby where recently I saw a group of senior citizens running a 5K race. I happened upon the finish line, where one at a time a runner crossed the finish to the spattered applause of a couple of race workers. I couldn’t help but be inspired by these motivated seniors – they obviously were out there for the personal accomplishment, not for the glory!

I have professionally-fitted running shoes, a new bicycle, drawers of ballet tights and leotards, and if I dig hard enough I might find my old rollerblades. But still I sit at the park and just watch the other more motivated people run by in their jogging gear or sweating out on the soccer field nearby. So if any of you see me sitting there, would you please tell me to get off my a--?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Some people might see me with George and think that he is spoiled. But have caution in saying that to me, because I absolutely hate that notion - and the actual idea of “spoiling” someone. So, today I present my case for having caution when using that phrase.

Recently someone saw George lying on the back of our sofa, from where he likes to monitor the happenings in the house, and she laughed and said, “Boy, he sure is spoiled!” So, I guess she thinks we are bad “parents” and he is a bad dog? I had to bite my tongue from a strong response. I mean, George is on the sofa because we allow him to be - because we like for him to lounge around with us and get snuggly. It’s not because he makes it that way. We allow him to do whatever we’re comfortable with - not what he dictates.

And for the record, the definition of “to spoil” is to impair, damage or harm. I know we aren’t hurting George by allowing him on the couch, or by giving him an extra treat now and then, or by making him occasionally wear a sweater. And it’s not hurting us, either. So how, then, is he spoiled?

And since I am an only child, people have often assumed that I am spoiled, which I hate! On the contrary, I feel that being an only child allowed me to mature, and because I didn’t have siblings at home for social activities, I learned to meet others more easily. My home life taught me to be independent and comfortable being alone. To this day it drives me nuts when people don’t have the confidence to do things by themselves.

And why is it that people find it so easy to tell someone that their child (or pet) is spoiled? Can’t they see it is an insult, to the child and to the parent? And if you don’t mean it in the true sense of the word – that the child is being damaged or hurt – then what is the reason for the label? How did it become such a negative thing? Was the “spoiled” label started by kids in a big family who were jealous of the kid who didn’t have to share? Hmmm…

So, why the big rant today about being spoiled? Maybe it’s because this week I created a facebook page for George. But that doesn’t mean he’s spoiled – it just means I thought it was a funny idea. And he’s so damn cute, how could I resist?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Playing It Safe

I wear grubby clothes to the dog park – pants that can withstand muddy paws, shoes that don’t mind a little poop. It’s a good place for people to learn not to be so uptight.

Today a pretty, curly-haired lady wheeled into the dog park with her tiny dog and two small children in a jogging stroller. The kids were completely zipped in, protected from the world by a roof and walls of plastic and mesh.

The mom unzipped the front, allowing the kids a glimpse of the dogs and an occasional pat on one of their heads, but she told them, “No, you can’t get out. You can get out later at the kids' park.” What was she afraid of? Getting their clothes dirty? Being knocked over by a chihuahua? Running and playing in the grass?

I saw the older boy – about four years old – looking wistfully through the back window into the face of a friendly beagle. What was he being taught - to play it safe, at all costs?

In less than five minutes, the mom zipped the now-crying children back into their safe cocoon and headed for the kid’s park, where I wondered what safe activities they’d be allowed to do. George and I walked through the grass toward the car.

In the shade of a tree, George plopped down onto his belly to cool off. He often does this on hot days, and he roots around through the grass like a gopher, getting soaked in the process. I usually just stand there and laugh at him, but today I saw things differently. As a kid, I wouldn’t have hesitated to join him in the grass, but as an adult I don’t because I’d get my pants wet and would have a wet rear end for the ride home.

How many simple pleasures of life do we miss because we have excuses? We don’t sit in the grass because we’d get dirty. We don’t get our hair wet in the pool because we’d have to restyle it. We don’t let our kids play with the dogs because they might get knocked over.

Tired of people making excuses for living, I sat down with George on the grass. Yes, my legs got wet, but they’d dry. My pants got stained, but they’d wash. Today I sat in the grass in the park with George. How many people can say that?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Yard Sale-ing

As a kid in rural southern Indiana, I was told that we lived in the second poorest county in the state. And I guessed it was probably true; houses in my northern Indiana relatives’ neighborhoods were bigger and newer, and it was harder to find trailers with couches on the porch when driving through their towns.

Yard sales were common on hot summer weekends, and sometimes I’d jump in Grandma’s big green car and we would go find the sales she had circled in the classifieds of the Paoli News-Republican. I loved going to yard sales and always saved up change to spend on little glass trinkets or new toys. Yard sales meant I could buy whatever I wanted, because it was so cheap, giving me freedom and responsibility and childish excitement.

My inner snob, however, had already begun to develop back then. After all, we lived in a town of 3,500 people, and you never knew if the sale you drove up to belonged to someone you knew. In that case, I walked around the tables embarrassed, not wanting to feel like a poor person who treasured someone else’s trash. Sometimes after we held a garage sale under Grandma’s carport, I would see a classmate wearing an old coat or dress of mine, and I felt sorry for her.

The best sales, I found, were at my aunt’s in northern Indiana, when her community held its annual sale. There, we walked from house to house incognito, and all their stuff was newer and nicer. I couldn’t help but notice the difference.

I’ve thought a lot about these sales lately, because my friend Laurie and I have initiated Yard Sale Saturdays every six weeks or so. They begin as early as we can stand to get up (usually 8am) when I jump in her bright red pickup and with a squeal of tires, we’re off. George is always left at the front door, pissed that he wasn’t able to go, too. The back seat is filled with water bottles and Ziploc bags of treats, and we follow every Yard Sale sign we come across.

We take Laurie’s truck for a reason: we often fill it up! But we don’t buy junk; we’ve found like-new patio furniture, lamps and bookshelves, novels to read on our next beach getaway, jewelry, and even brand-new shoes, still in the box, from a family whose shoe store closed. An example of what I buy, from this Saturday morning’s adventure: a book of Emily Dickinson poetry, an outdoor lamp to install under our patio, a concrete sundial & stand to put in our yard, an unopened 4th of July tablecloth, yards of fabric to make into a table runner for the dining room, and a cookbook.

I used the word “adventure” to describe our Yard Sale Saturday for a reason. It’s more about the fun we have than what we buy. High on Starbucks coffee, we suddenly swerve at random for every sale sign we see, yelling remarks to the signs we pass. “Crappy sign!” we yell at one that is written in pencil and tiny 16-point type. “Good signage!” we yell to the one that is painted on yellow cardboard with balloons attached. “Bastards!” we yell to the signs that lead to nowhere. We’ve discovered that half of the people who have sales never take their signs down afterward, leading us on many a wild goose chase.

These sales also give me the sense of community I’m always searching for in Las Vegas. What other opportunity are we given to walk up to strangers’ houses and be welcomed? And we’ve met some real characters, like the elderly man who was convinced that we needed to buy his fishing poles, and the deaf man who playfully pretended that we hadn’t yet paid him. At one sale, a woman gave us a tour of her oddly-shaped octagonal home after we complimented it. She explained that her roommate had passed away, and she gave us some of his potted plants, glad to give them to someone who cared. At another sale a group of kids sold Rice Krispie treats and a smiling chubby boy handed them to us with his sticky bare hands. Another time we went inside an Air Force pilot’s house to see a table he had for sale, and we stood in his kitchen for thirty minutes - his wife with a baby on her hip - and talked about his upbringing in rural New Jersey after I commented on a framed aerial photo of his childhood home.

Sure, my inner snob sometimes kicks in at these sales. I still can’t bring myself to buy clothes, and I’m often astounded by what people think has value. (Why on earth would I buy someone’s old electric toothbrush???) But you can’t put a price on the fun Laurie and I have, out in the sunshine, talking and laughing, filled with the freedom of a weekend morning. And by the way, if you’re in northwest Vegas on a Saturday morning, you might want to watch out for a little red pickup truck!