What Ava wants, Ava gets (10/28/15)

Ava my German shepherd is quite verbal.

Really, she is.

She may not have all the consonant sounds down but she’s got her vowels.

We discovered she could ‘talk’ when we brought her home and I told her she could lie down, that she was home.

She looked at me, all ginormous ears and said, “Ro ram?” She promptly jumped up in the well-worn recliner that had cradled three German shepherds before her and went to sleep.

Now, she’s using her words to be vocal about other things.

Like treats. Ava likes to eat and isn’t ashamed to tell you when she’s hungry.

“What do you want?” we will ask when she paws at us.

“Onnngry,” she will bellow.

“You’re not hungry are you?”

“Ro ram.”

She is so serious about her food that when Lamar opened the big container we store the food in to show her he needed to go to the feed store, she wailed a repetitive, “Roh no, roh no, roh no,” before flinging herself dramatically on the floor as if her greatest fear had come upon her.

She’s quite the drama queen, too.

She gets extremely emotionally – ranging from joy to despair, depending on the status of her treats. If the cookie jar is low, Ava will grab my hand in her mouth to lead me to the jar as if telling me, “Hey, girl, do you not see we are low on the treats here!”

When I return from the store, she checks each bag until she finds her treats, then sits and looks at me impatiently until she gets the first one.

She’s the jive talking treat hustler, blocking the path to the bathroom until you pay the potty toll of a treat. We have since moved the cookie jar into the mudroom, where now she paws the door to indicate what she wants.

She usually wakes me up by nuzzling my face gently in a gesture that seems precious but I have learned her ulterior motive is to just wake me up so she can hustle on. I’ve told Mama it takes me a good 15 minutes to get my coffee in the morning just because Ava is trying to persuade me for a treat.

In an effort to be fair, we always make sure the other two gets treats as well, even though Ava requires twice as many. But, we reason, she is twice their size. Even the vet made several comments on her size, saying she was an extremely large girl. I countered with, “She’s just big boned,” but I’m not sure the vet agreed.

The big-boned girl doesn’t mind sharing the treats but she does have an issue about who gets to be next to Lamar.

Doodle, the pittie mix, is the biggest Daddy’s girl in the world and thinks her designated spot is curled up beside Lamar or on his lap, when she can get her chunky self up there. This infuriates Ava to no end, to the point she will bellow for Lamar to “Oooove Ooodle!”

Lamar is torn. He’s always been a German shepherd guy and he never imagined he would fall in love with some little parking lot pibble who has wrapped him around her chubby paw. (To the point he calls her, his ‘baby girl.’ I’ve even gotten a tad bit jealous.) But he can’t make Doodle move, it would hurt her feelings and she would go behind the couch to pout and cry.

Doodle, instead, handles the situation for him, putting her paw on Ava’s big head and pushing her away, never making eye contact with the big dog.

The two otherwise get along famously, except when Ava overzealously sucks on Doodle’s ears. We haven’t figured out why she likes to suck on Doodle’s head but she does. She’s even done it to Pumpkin, who considers the shepherd her arch nemesis, and was not amused. But what’s a dog to do?

Ava relaxing by her arch nemesis, Pumpkin

Ava relaxing by her arch nemesis, Pumpkin

“Mama, these dogs are running things here. And Ava thinks she’s boss just because she’s bigger and can talk.”

Anyone else would think I was a ditzy dog lady, claiming my dog was verbal but Mama and I both knew her cat, Bennie, could talk.

“Are you letting Ava have her way?” she wanted to know, and I told her for the most part, yes. She’s quite persuasive, persistent, and well, she works those puppy eyes, putting her ears back to show them off to their full big, brown adorable effect. She knows how to work it.

It’s hard not to let her have her way; before she came to us, we had been broken hearted, losing three of our dogs – two German shepherds and the evil beagle—within a month. She had come into our life at a time we needed the peace only she could give. The Border Collie was glad to have her here, even if she won’t admit it.

“I don’t have much of a choice, do I?” I said. “What Ava wants, Ava gets.”
And really none of us would have it any other way.

The habit of worrying (10/21/2015)

“Worrying is just praying for what you don’t want to happen,” is an often used quote about worrying.

An English proverb describes worrying as being like sitting in a rocking chair; it gives you something to do, but doesn’t get you anywhere.

My friend Ginny told me when we were still in high school that worrying didn’t take away tomorrow’s sorrow, but robbed us of our joy today.

Did you catch that? High school.

I was worrying and stressing over something in high school.

I had an ulcer in 12th grade, and trust me, it wasn’t because I was worried about my grades.

“What are you so worried about?” Granny asked me one day as she snapped peas into a big metal tub.


She snorted. “Everything, my tail. You ain’t got the first thing to be worried about.”

“I just feel like my nerves are worn thin,” I said.

Had Granny been one to roll her eyes, she would have. But she was not an eye roller. She was an eye bulger, however, and she bulged her eye out at me and pointed a long, green bean at me and declared for me to, “Stop it.”

“I don’t know how,” I replied.

Granny was quiet for a while, probably thinking I was a fragile thing to be so worked up as a teenager that I was on a higher dose of Zantac and Tagamet than she was.

“Let me ask you this, old gal,” she began. “Is worrying going to change the outcome?”

I shrugged. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was specifically worried about, other than I was just a worry wart in general.

“Do you worry?” I asked her.

“What good will it do?” she answered.

How could she not worry? That seemed like such a foreign concept to me – not worrying.

“You know when I should have worried?” she asked. “When your uncle was sitting on a tree stump, by himself, in the middle of the jungle of Vietnam, waiting for his platoon to come along and tell them which way to go.

“But I didn’t then and I didn’t when your mother’s one good kidney shut down when she was pregnant with you and had to have emergency surgery. The doctor said neither one of you may make it – gave you both 1 out of 100 odds.”

“You weren’t worried then?” I asked.

Granny kept snapping peas. “No. Them odds was better than the 100 percent chance you both were going to die if her kidney wasn’t fixed. I didn’t worry. I told the doctor to make her kidney work again.”

“I wouldn’t have been able to make that decision. How did you not worry about Uncle Bobby?”

“‘Cause, I knew he was going to be OK,” she said simply. “I prayed every day and told him when he left he was going to come home. I couldn’t worry about him. I just kept waiting until he came home.”

“I couldn’t have done that,” I said. “I would have gone crazy. I don’t understand how you couldn’t worry.”

Granny looked up from her lap of beans. “Then you don’t have a lick of faith, old gal.”

Maybe she was right. During the course of her 90 plus years, Granny went through a lot of things, but I never saw her really worry. Part of me likes to think it was because the old woman was so darn stubborn she knew things would work out in her favor – and if they didn’t, she was determined enough to change them.

“Now, you stop this worrying,” she scolded. “The doctor said you can’t have any of my fried chicken until you get this ulcer healed. So stop it. And I mean it.”
That was over 20 years ago. I am still worrying.

Mama is the consummate worrier, calling over the craziest things, and coming up with unimaginable worst case scenarios.

“What if the bears come into the house?”

I tell her I hope they pick up a broom and some Pledge and clean.

“What if Cole likes skateboarding and he decides he wants to be a professional one? They go up something called a pike…”

I tell her Tony Hawk has a net worth of $140 million; if Cole could make that much and be happy, I would be thrilled. It would mean my child had done incredibly well for himself and I may have done a little something right.

“What if..?”

“What if what?” I asked. “Please, stop worrying – trust me, I worry enough for the both of us. Heck, I worry enough for the world. But worrying doesn’t help.”

It doesn’t help. And I wish I could stop. It has become almost a habit – if I am not worrying about something, I wonder what is going to go wrong. I think Mama does that, too. Maybe she started worrying because she didn’t understand how Granny couldn’t.

But I’ve worried about things that never happened. I’ve worried about things that happened that worrying didn’t change. I’ve worried about things that turned out better than I thought. Worrying didn’t help. Instead, it made me not enjoy the present because I was worrying about something I had no control over.

“It may not help, but I don’t know what would,” Mama said.

I thought of Granny and what she would say.

“Then you don’t have a lick of faith, old gal,” I told her. And I knew, Granny was absolutely right.

Living in the good ol’ days now (10/14/15)

My history-loving child has a new fascination – old TV shows.

“The Andy Griffith Show” and “Bonanza” in particular.

The only one I know much about that he has taken a recent interest in is “Mork & Mindy.”

He was surprised to discover my love for Robin Williams began when I was a little girl.

His recent fascination with old TV shows has generated several questions.

“Mama, was your life growing up like it was in Mayberry?”

“Well, sort of,” I answered.

The little town I grew up in was full of small-town charm and quaint little shops.

“Did you have to tell Sara to connect you to who you wanted to talk to?”

I was confused for a moment before I realized Sara was the switchboard operator on “The Andy Griffith Show.”

“No, but we had party lines when I was a few years younger than you.”

Granny had a love-hate relationship with the party line.

She could accidentally pick up some juicy nugget of information by happenstance that would make her hum for days.

On the other hand, she was careful about her own phone conversations because she didn’t want someone else to overhear.

“What makes you so interested in these old shows?” I wanted to know.

“I dunno,” he said. “There’s something so simple about those times. Like the way Opie walks around the town with his friends. I couldn’t do that now. Did you do that?”

Yes, I did.

I can’t remember how many times I would be at a friends’ house and we’d decide we wanted an ice cream cone or a pack of M&M’s and we’d cut through the neighbors’ yards to make our way to the store near the hospital.

It was one of those things we just did – everyone did it – and it was one of the few things if Mama caught me doing, she wouldn’t get too terribly mad over.

Once, we even walked all the way to the pool room to get hot dogs and Cokes and play a round of pool. We quickly realized neither of us knew how to play pool, so we took our food and left.

“Did you grow up during that the same time as ‘The Andy Griffith Show?'”

“No, but Daddy grew up during that time frame.”

“What’s the closest show to the time you grew up? “Mork & Mindy?” Is “The Goldbergs” historically accurate?”

I am not sure how historically accurate either of those shows may be for my little history lover.

“Well, “The Goldbergs” is pretty accurate – maybe not by history’s recount. The hair was much, much higher than on the show.”

Cole, who never notices hair, replied, “Why is the hair not as high as it really was?”

“Probably because the products we used then have been banned by the EPA.”

I am not sure what I used, but I only fixed my hair once a week – the ‘do stayed that way for days.

“Was the ‘80’s the best decade?” Cole asked, his face scrunched in deep thought.

“For me it was,” I said.

Of course, I may be partial because those were the years of big hair, shoulder pads and good music.

Maybe the only questionable thing during that decade was acid washed jeans. And mullets. Let’s don’t forget mullets.

“It really was just a great decade,” I said wistfully.

“I am more partial to the ‘50s -people seemed so much happier then,” Cole said. “It just seemed like life was simpler and people didn’t worry about the things they do now. Did you worry about things when you were a kid?”

No, and I guess there was plenty to worry about then – but when you are a kid, you aren’t supposed to worry about those things. That’s the grown ups’ job.

“You aren’t supposed to worry,” I told him.

“I know,” he said. “I don’t.”

I didn’t believe him. That notion came from somewhere.

“I just wonder if the time I am growing up in is not going to have the good things that yours and Daddy’s did,” he said. “You know what I mean?”

I kind of understood what he meant.

Those past generations all had their good things.

Some of those good things may have been romanticized by some to a degree, like the shoulder pads and Gloria Vanderbilt jeans. I don’t know necessarily if it was the time period, the friends, or even where I lived that made it so special or if it was just childhood in general was a special time.

Childhood is supposed to be magical. When we grow up, we are supposed to reflect back on our memories with wonder and joy. We call them the good old days, because well, they were. We seemed to be more carefree and able to enjoy the moment because right then, that moment was all we had.

A character on “The Office” said it best in the series finale – if only we knew we were living in the good old days, when we were actually in the good old days.

Maybe that’s what makes them the good old days. We are having the best time and making memories and enjoying life so fully, we don’t have time to realize it is good times.

We don’t question it’s not the best of times either; it’s just the simple things that make us happy.

“Mama, do you think I’m living in the good old days now?” Cole asked.

I smiled.

“I have no doubt.”


The Insomniac’s Hypothesis

I am deeply envious of those who get a full night’ sleep.

Lately, I have been able to only sleep for a few hours, wake at 2 a.m. (give or take a quarter) and then lie there, tossing and turning, sleep eluding me.

I’ve taken to sleeping on the couch because Lamar is an extremely light sleeper. Or he claims to be; yet, a few years ago, when I had a 45-minute coughing fit, he didn’t even open an eye.

The worst is when you are really, really tired and you lie down, thinking how badly you need that good restful sleep. You can be so exhausted you can’t even blink. But the minute your head hits the pillow, your eyes are wide open and your mind is spinning like it’s on a hamster wheel.

Such has been my nights as of late.

As I wearily lie there, my mind tries to trick itself into slumber by thinking of the craziest things. Or perhaps the craziest thoughts come to me because of my lack of sleep.

I found a rerun of “Seinfeld” in the wee hours and was awake long enough to see Elaine’s hairstyle go through some pretty dramatic changes. I also wondered what kind of skin care she uses because she hasn’t aged at all. I spent far too long wondering about that before my mind drifted to other things.

Such as: Do dogs ever get sleep deprived? I mean, mine sleep a lot – do they ever feel like they don’t get enough sleep?

Why does Doodle like to eat my shoes? Did she have shoe envy?

Why does Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream taste so much better than other vanillas? And on that train of thought, why do the pumpkin and egg shaped Reese’s cups taste better than regular ones?

Was I the only person in the world who didn’t like pumpkin spice lattes? Or pumpkin flavored anything?

Was Facebook really going to start charging us per month, and sell all our photos?

What if Mama was right and everything in “Star Trek” would come true one day? Even worse, what if Mama was just right – about everything.

Were we out of our emergency mayonnaise? I hadn’t checked the shelf in a while. The one in the fridge may be the last one in the house.

I panic if I run out of mayo.

These are just some of the inane things running through my head as I tried to make myself fall back to sleep.

None of them worked. Instead, these random questions ricocheted through my psyche like a pinball.

I tried to remember when “Seinfeld” went off the air – it was ’90-something.

I wondered if I got a perm, if my hair would look like Elaine’s when she wore it loose and curly.

Did I have any hidden caffeine other than coffee in the morning? No.

Someone suggested it may be hormonal changes coursing through my so-young body.

At the time, I scoffed it off; at 2:30 a.m. I was wondering if that could be the case.

The dull headache of sleep deprivation began just as the realization I was not going to fall back to sleep washed over me.

“I’m just not going to fall to sleep tonight,” I muttered aloud.

Doodle lifted her head and looked at me, but was back asleep as soon as her head rested on her cushion.

I looked at the time on my phone. Another hour and 15 minutes had passed.

I played a few rounds of Candy Crush; it didn’t help.

Finally, finally, after another hour or so, I felt myself yielding to sleep. I could feel the sleep settling in as my breathing grew shallow.

Sleep, precious sleep, I was going to sleep as long as I could – it was never too terribly late, mind you, as I can’t sleep past a certain time.

And Doodle won’t let me. She’s my back up alarm clock system.

I was hoping I would feel rested when I woke up, instead of like I was a grunting, stumbling Walker in makeup.

Sweet, glorious sleep.

Just as I felt myself drifting off, it happened.

The alarm went off.

I tried to re-create the almost-sleep atmosphere, but all my attempts were futile.

I got up and pushed the “auto” button on the Mr. Coffee.

Maybe sleep would find me later. If not, I could always philosophize some more while I watched another rerun of “Seinfeld.”