Monthly Archives

May 2011


portfolio take 2


portfolio take 2, a set on Flickr.

I got it down to 25! If I can cut five more I’ll be in the pink. If there are comments now on flow, transitions, order, or any you feel now stand out as bad choices, I will take any and all input.


Crowdsourcing: Do you have a service dog puppy for us?


Ginny doing a service task. Yes, she carried personal toiletry items around for us. Just kidding.

I have been trying to write this post for a couple of weeks. I keep stopping. I can’t write this post. I can’t imagine writing this post. Ginny was supposed to be here until Honour was done with college. Even starting this paragraph I am already crying. However, a puppy for Honour is not a luxury and it’s not something I can wait for until I’m ready. It is an absolute necessity. Without a service dog, Honour has a very difficult (often impossible) time in social situations and regular family life isn’t easy either. As the rest of us have cried over the loss of a dear family member, she’s cried over the loss of joy and stability. For weeks she said, “Ginny taught me how to get through things – I feel like I’ll never get through things again.”

We waited for a long time for her to be ready to do this again, and she is. She really is. She’s starting to get excited and I’m starting to get worried about money, but I’m going to trust God to dump a job on me and we’re going to get this sweet girl a service dog puppy. We have good training available, a good support system, and we’re committed to doing it right. With Ginny we stumbled into it because Ginny knew her job before we did. Ginny was taking on responsibilities at least a year before I even realized what was going on. With a new puppy we need to be much more rational and careful and deliberate, which we are prepared to do.

We have feelers out to a few breeders but nothing solid yet (I am not on any lists or anything), and a few things that have felt solid have fallen through. So I am asking you, the whole gorgeous group of you, to find me a dog. When you visit your friends’ litters, keep Honour in mind. When you visit your shelter, be looking for her. I have so much faith in FAITH right now. There is something very right in asking everyone who loved Ginny and knows how much she meant to us to be thinking of the right dog, all over the country and even the world.

Here’s what we need:

– Under 20 lb at maturity and enjoys being toted around and touched – Being carried a lot is part of the job. Something around 12-15 lb would be ideal, enough to give Honour the therapeutic pressure she needs but still able to be carried for hours. When I say “enjoys being touched” you need to realize that I mean constantly and continually. A lot of dogs get touched-out after a while, which is perfectly normal and good, but in this case we need one that loves it.

– Very, very physical/oral/won’t take no for an answer. The dog’s main job will be to snap Honour out of panic attacks and give her deep pressure when she needs it. Ginny used to scratch her out of corners, climb on her shoulders, leap into her arms, tug her feet. In bed she’d wiggle under a crying face and lick Honour until Honour could catch her breath. Ginny never sat beside you – she sat ON you, and usually tried to wrap herself around you too. I need a puppy who wants to do that already, so we can shape it. I need that puppy you call imperious, demanding, sweet but egotistical.

– Friendly but sensible to strangers, willing to go everywhere. Job #2 , the one that Doug and I can’t live without, is to interpose himself or herself between Honour and an approaching stranger, so the approaching stranger greets the dog and not Honour. I would love a puppy who already combines friendly and sensible, but I can always train sensible in. I can’t train friendly very easily. So one that is outgoing is a must, but that “Of course you all adore me; I am the ruler of everything” kind of outgoing and not the “AHHHHH! Love me love me love me!” type. This dog will be going literally everywhere we go, every day, every vacation, every shopping trip, everything. It’s not hard physically but it can be mentally exhausting for a dog. So one that takes it in stride will be a lot happier with us.

– Pretty enough (or maybe ugly enough?) that people want to talk to the puppy and not Honour. In other words, something that looks approachable and won’t scare museum workers into thinking that we’re going to be a problem in the exhibits. They always used to start saying “I don’t know; let me get my manag…” while I started rummaging in my bag for my service dog literature, and then they’d catch sight of Ginny and start baby-talking incoherently.

– Silly. Please, please, a silly dog. We need to laugh.

– Healthy. Long-lived and unlikely to develop some bizarre thing and break Honour’s heart again. Please understand that I am not talking about health testing. I mean that if it’s a rescue it needs to be a breed or breed mix that doesn’t have too many things that go pear-shaped; if it’s a purebred it needs to come from a history of longevity.

– A bitch, preferably. An exceptional dog would be OK but it would be harder for Honour to bond with.

– Young. Under a year. A beautifully socialized puppy would be the absolute best; a socialized adolescent would be second. A rescue is not out of the question but it would need to be one of those rescues that shows up and acts like nothing ever happened. Not one that we have to overcome a ton of vibes or issues with.

We do not need:

– A specific breed. I will not, WILL NOT, pay anything beyond an adoption fee to a reputable shelter or pound for a mixed-breed or poorly bred purebred, though. I would love to say we’re going to do this through rescue but I know what a bolt from the blue it was to get a service dog like Ginny and I don’t really think I can do it again. I don’t want to rule out rescue either, but it would have to be an astoundingly perfect fit. Because of Honour’s tactile issues the dog needs to not be smooth-coated or poodle-coated. Spaniel or drop coats are fine. For a long time Honour wouldn’t consider a Papillon or a Cavalier but I dragged her to a show with me and she was able to realize that they won’t really look like Ginny. So those two breeds are back on the table. We are also thinking about Lowchen, Pekingese, Tibetan Spaniel (our first choice looks-and-size-wise but we would have to be very careful to pick out the right one personality-wise), Japanese Chin, etc. The large Toys and small Non-Sporting breeds.

– Crazy levels of obedience. Like, for example, if there’s a puppy that you say wow, this girl puppy has a great brain and a great soul but she’s going to be a total failure at obedience because she can’t hold a sit to save her life, or a breed that is not a classically “trainable” breed – that’s actually better for me. I need a dog who can think on his or her own and make decisions that may go against what a human is saying. If Honour says “Go away” because she’s feeling miserable, I need a dog who will say, get up, pick me up, I won’t go away, I am more important than your crying. The “command” training will be safety-oriented normal puppy stuff, and a limited number of SD tasks involving finding an exit door, finding specific people, giving pressure, and finding the car if Honour gets panicky. The rest will all be tricks training just for the fun of it, for which the puppy will be lavished with turkey and not punished for not obeying. The bulk of this dog’s job will be self-directed. A happy, willing attitude; play behaviors; and the ability to be rock-solid on a few commands, yes we need those. Sits for days, no.

– Perfect behavior with other dogs no matter what. Don’t you have other dogs? I hear you say. Yes, but a SD will be with Honour all the time and won’t necessarily be with the corgis constantly. Honour’s bedroom is on the second floor, where the corgis are not allowed. We never go to dog parks. 95% of the puppy’s job will involve behaving well with humans, and dogs can be worked around. I can’t have a genuinely dog-aggressive dog. Nothing that says “I want to remove other dogs from the earth.” But I can have “I am so far above you in perfection and loveliness that I resent you looking at me like that.”

Do you know our puppy? Do you know someone who breeds this breed? Did you read this and someone came to mind? I hope you can help.

Thanks – from all of us.


Breaking up is hard to do.

One of the great things about the fact that everybody in the world has a blog is that you can get to know your favorite authors and artists in a way that feels very real and personal. And one of the worst things about the fact that everybody in the world has a blog is that you can get to know your favorite artists in a way that feels very real and personal.

I’ve had this Favorite Author since… forever. And I KNEW that if we ever met we’d be instant chums and link arms and go drink tea and chat about all the glory that was Rome and every other good thing. I just KNEW it. Every book spoke to me; even her critical clunkers were objects for my fierce evangelization.

And then I found her blog.

Joy! Bliss! Now I’ll really GET her; all those little references in the books will make sense. When she comes around on an author tour and I go to a Borders to see her I’ll be able to say “cable knit!” and how merrily we will then laugh together in the true sisterhood of People Who Are Awesome Together.

First the honeymoon (so THAT’S what she named her dog!) and then the first time I read a reference that made me think hmmmm, she’s obviously having a bad day. And then the second. And the third. And then there was that extremely cutting remark about that guy, and that oh-so-funny story about the church social that wasn’t so funny if I imagined myself being a socialee.

And now, months later, I realize that we are not besties. We are, in fact, people who would stare at each other extremely critically over our respective glasses and make pointed sighs, and instead of “cable knit” I would say “barn door” and she’d hit me with a potted begonia, and I’d retaliate by chucking a hooked rug at her, and then we’d have a middle-aged scrum that would end in me sitting on her and ending her aggression forever, because she’s about a third my size (and mentions it often).

I’m off to finally unsubscribe. Her dog will continue his adorable antics without me. Her church socials will fail without my eyes on them. And I will try to forget before her next book comes out.

But if you hear an infuriated squeaking noise from within a Borders, look under my ample bottom.


Happy Mother’s Day!

To all who are moms, grandmothers, great-grandmothers – and to those who long for children or have lost dear ones – we hope for a joyous and giggly day. ¬†This morning a grosbeak woke up right under my window and sang to me for twenty minutes. It was a lovely gift; here’s hoping I get a nap in as well!


The phlegmy month of May, and Tabi

My dearest, most lovely, most sweetest and wonderfulest Tabitha is turning seven today. And she’s in bed coughing and totally unable to enjoy a thing. Emergency present swap-out resulted in Wii games replacing the trip/event we were planning, and as long as we can find the nunchuck we’ll be all set.

Seven years ago Doug and I were in West Virginia at the deathbed vigil for his mother, who was not expected to last more than another few hours; I was three days overdue. All week we’d been with his family as everyone gathered for the end. The older two girls were stashed in Massachusetts. We stumbled home and fell asleep in the kids’ bed because we honestly couldn’t even make it down the hall. I woke up 90 minutes later in labor.

We drove the two hours to Baltimore hoping she wouldn’t arrive in the front seat. I was so tired during the birth that most of it is just a blur, aside from the fact that I knew I was bleeding pretty badly and they were starting to freak out. When they handed me a fat little red-headed baby it was the first good thing that had happened in what seemed like a thousand years.

Baby girl, thank you for being a good thing ever since. And when the robitussin kicks in I promise we’ll go to the Children’s Museum and you can blow bubbles for three hours.


Work in progress

I am supposed to add more “fine art” photos to my portfolio, so I am staring moodily at abstracts and trying to decide what to do. I am NO GOOD at this.

Family, General

Her middle name is Danger.


Yes, she cut off her hair again. This time it’s staying short, because I cannot deal with another shiver of despair as I come into a room and see chunks of golden hair strewn around. She loves it this chopped, so I guess the Eurotrash hair is going to be long-term. She’s looking cold and windblown here, because she was, but she was willing to show me her eyes so I was thankful for the shot.

She is as three as three-year-olds can be – I will take two over three any day. At three, my kids suddenly decide that they own the world, and daily prayers for sanctification and patience become the norm. I really, honestly thought Tabitha would do me in, a process that I am now thankful for because it turns out that she was just a warmup for Zuzu. Thank God that three-year-olds still love to snuggle and hear stories, because I am pretty sure the little moment of pure sweetness is the only thing that saves them from being thrown into the river.

I love you, baby girl – now please turn four quickly.