2016 Was Not So Terrible

2016 was the worst, right?  I mean, everyone died, and we elected a Cheeto for president.

img_4652
Civic Responsibility is important!

Except that it really wasn’t.  I mean, 2016 was pretty good on a personal level.

I got a new job, and we moved to Milwaukee.

Tenutas

 

We rented a house with a yard, one of the things I wanted to do before I was 30.

img_4649
We spent a lot of evenings in this backyard, much to Daisy’s joy.

We had friends come to visit for long weekends of fun.

We decided to get married.

img_4646
Eventually.

These two kids GOT married on a beautiful day in November.

img_4653
And I get a sister in the near future, which is the most important thing.

I traveled all over the country.  I am a pro at planes now.  And at drinking in airports.

img_4651
Denver is beautiful.

Herself remains alive, though she has defied death in more ways than I care to count.

First walk in Milwaukee017
I’m gonna go swimming in this big lake!”  NOPE.

Bad things have happened, too, but what’s the point in dwelling on them?  They will have less hold on us than the good things in no time at all, especially if we choose to let the good things that make us happy define us.

Bad Dog Daisy

Here’s the thing about Daisy:  I can tell that people get tired of us apologizing for her behavior and calling her a “very bad dog.”

img_4430
“Is this the face of a Very Bad Dog?  Of course not. I’m ADORABLE.”

 

She is, of course, just a dog.  She is really not oh-so-very-bad, except that when we “talk for her” in the privacy of our own home, one of us will say, “Are you a good girl?”  And then the other will reply in the Daisy voice (a low, rough, man voice, for some reason) “Nope, I’m a bad girl. Very, very bad.”  (And now you know that we’re insane people.)  It’s something of a joke, though to be clear, Daisy has:

  • Climbed through windows
  • Gotten on the counters in every home she’s ever been in
  • Stolen bacon out of a pan
  • Knocked over and opened more than one dog-proofed trash can
  • Lunged at people
  • Utterly subjugated other dogs
  • Jumped up in the wheelchair of an elderly woman
  • Proceeded to give elderly woman kisses
  • Stood on the shoulders of various family members
  • Attempted to chase various children
  • Nearly gotten us kicked out of our apartment
  • Escaped a kennel at the boarding facility
  • Escaped my parents’ fence
  • Escaped our fence
  • Escaped through our front door

And these are just the ones I can think of right now. There are almost certainly more. When I leave in the morning, I remind her to “Be Sweet Daisy Jane, not Bad Dog Daisy.” She usually just looks at me like, “Lady. Get out so I can go get in your bed.”

img_4402
It’s this face. This is the “go away” face.

Her biggest issue remains “people at the door,” though, and since this was our first Halloween with trick-or-treaters, I was so worried.  Freak outs + escape tendencies + children in costume could equal total disaster.

But I was wrong.

Oh, sure, she whined and barked when she heard people walking up the front steps, but after I got up and opened the door, she just stood on her side of the gate and waited.

She didn’t lunge.

She didn’t try to escape.

She wasn’t particularly happy.

But she was not an oh-so-very-bad dog.

fullsizerender
“Right, but only because I had already used up all my bad for the day attempting to steal your pants.”

And then when my law school buddy Brandon stopped by the house, she was totally cool with his presence.  I didn’t even have to make him wait outside while I leashed her up.  He was just a new person.  Apparently we’re cool with new people now.

“Who are you?  What are you doing in my house?  Don’t you try to touch my new toy!  Here are some kisses that you definitely don’t want!  I’m GOING TO JUMP ON YOU NOW!”

As always, we apologized for her. She’s a very bad dog.

But she’s a very bad dog who’s made all the progress in the world, and is starting to like newcomers to the house.  Even her alarm bark has changed for the most part from, “GET OFF MY STEPS” to “There’s someone here!  Who’s here!  MOM GET THE DOOR!”

And that’s a Bad Dog Daisy I’ll snuggle every single day.

img_4441
She hates it when I use her as a head rest.  So I do it all the time. Fair’s fair. She sleeps on me, too.

Locker Room Talk

Well, by now I’m sure you’ve all heard about Trump’s misogynistic and somehow-not-campaign-devastating remark he made back in the 90s to Billy Bush about “grabbing women by the p***y.”

If you haven’t, I’m going to assume you’ve been living under a rock somewhere without the internet.  (You should leave. I bet there are bugs under the rock. Squishy ones.)

Perhaps after that, you watched the most recent Presidential Debate, thinking, “Surely, he will apologize. You can’t just say things like that.  You CAN’T.”

Turns out, YOU CAN!  Provided you

  1. Are a man, and
  2. Call it “Locker Room Talk”

You don’t have to apologize for Locker Room Talk! It’s just stuff guys say, you know, when they’re hanging out together, being all macho, and there’s no women around! You can say whatever you want about women as long as they’re not there! NOTHING COUNTS IF THERE’S NO WOMEN! WE CAN LIVE LIKE CAVEMEN! THERE ARE NO RULES!!!!!!!

Bull.  Shit.

That’s right.  I’m calling bullshit, America, and I’m going to tell you why.

The things we say have meaning and weight no matter where you say them or to whom they’re said. When you use violent, demoralizing, degrading speech, it matters. It matters, because it says something about your character. It matters, because when someone else matters so little to you, that you can make their safety, their boundaries, and their bodies a joke, it says that you consider them beneath you.

Dear Women:  Unless your name is Ivanka, Donald Trump thinks he and other men have the right to harm you and be violent towards you, because you are less than human.  You are a joke.  Sexual assault is hilarious. Here’s your rape.*  (If your name is Ivanka, you are his daughter, and he apparently wants to date you. This is, quite frankly, uncomfortable for a myriad of reasons.)

Dear Men:  By calling this kind of speech “just locker room talk” and by acting like it’s no big deal, Donald Trump is perpetuating violence in your names. He is literally saying that “all men” think like this, speak like this, and indeed act like this, as long as there are no women to police your actions. You should be insulted. You should be outraged that this is the example he is setting for young men and women. That the idea of men violating women is so underwhelming that it is just “locker room talk.”  It is no big deal. It is not worth an apology.

This is a man who does not value at least fully half of the people of this country. He is running to be your President. He is running to represent us all.

And he thinks that two tic tacs will be enough to make the words coming out of his mouth any less disgusting.

 

*If you have time, I recommend clicking on the “Here’s Your Rape” link. It goes to a YouTube video of a comedy set by Ever Mainard, and if you are a woman alive today, you will probably laugh with that uncomfortable “been there” feeling. It is probably NSFW without headphones or a private office.

An Open Letter to White People Who Are Upset About Marvel’s Luke Cage

Hello Fellow White People!

I read recently that some of you were upset or confused about the lack of white faces in Marvel’s Luke Cage, recently debuted on Netflix.  At first, I was like, “REALLY, GUYS?” but then I remembered something—sometimes people are awful and I should not be surprised.  Now, fellow white person reading this open letter, I am not saying that YOU, personally, are awful.  You probably do great things in your community!  I’m sure that you are a great mother/father/sister/aunt/cousin/friend/fairy godmother/etc. ad nauseum.  But you seem to be uncomfortable about a television show and we should talk about that.  I’m here to address your concerns.

1. Where are all the white people?

Great question!  The answer is, they’re somewhere else.  Doing other things.  With other people of (maybe) various backgrounds.  Luke Cage is an African American man.  Most of his daily life’s cast of characters are also African American.  They live and work in Harlem, a traditionally black neighborhood.  The reason you don’t see a lot of white people is because that’s just not where the white people are. It will be okay. And remember that people of color often wonder where all the POCs are in every other movie!

2. I just can’t relate to this experience.

From what I’ve seen, and I’m only three episodes in so NO SPOILERS PLEASE, Luke Cage is a rollercoaster of a story.  There is sadness, and loss, and revenge, and the need to protect the things you love.  Those are all human emotions to which most people can relate.  I am willing to bet that you, too, have felt extreme emotion before.  You say you can’t “relate” to the experiences on your screen, but you can surely empathize with the emotions of the characters. Saying that you can’t relate at all to what’s going on is like saying that people have different kinds of emotions based solely on the color of their skin. That seems suspect.  If you don’t like it, just say you don’t like it.  Don’t make up excuses.

And on a broader note, people of color have been watching movies populated solely with white people for over 100 years.  Look at Hollywood.  It is a white, blonde, green-eyed bunch.  Ever notice that the same POC actors play the same POC-designated roles over and over again?  It’s because we will only allow so much color into the upper echelons of High Hollywood Society.  Did you know that Alfre Woodard is playing her second role in the Marvel universe in Luke Cage?  It’s true.  She was just in Civil War as a completely different character.  We can afford to dig a little deeper and bring in some new talent.  But to bring in new talent, we have to have plenty of roles to fill—rather than just one or two token ones.  There’s room for everyone here.  (No disrespect to Ms. Woodard, who kills it every time.  Please keep showing up on my screen.)

3. It makes me uncomfortable.

That’s okay.  It’s okay to feel discomfort.  It’s an opportunity to ask yourself why you feel that way.  The thing about culture is that when you’re in it, everything seems normal.  When you are watching the culture of another it is much harder to suspend your disbelief and watch passively.  You have to actively confront your discomfort and your own knowledge gaps.  You have to think critically.  Thinking critically is not comfortable.  And you need to make your peace with that.

But feeling uncomfortable and then sweeping those feelings under the rug so that you don’t have to face them is not healthy or helpful.  The media we consume should be more than just Tim Allen making the same jokes for twenty years.  It should stretch our boundaries and horizons.  Discomfort is just part of the package.  Growth begins at the end of your comfort zone, and other trite sayings.

4. But it’s racist, right?

No.  That’s not what racism is.  You can read up very basically on racism here, but this Netflix superhero show is not it.  And it’s certainly not reverse racism which is not a thing, guys. Stop trying to make reverse racism happen. It is never going to happen.

Seeing people who don’t look like you in popular culture entertainment is not racism.  There’s room for everyone on our television and movie screens.  As white people, we are used to seeing our experiences play out on our screen.  When everyone looks like you, you don’t have to try for deeper understanding.  You’re in on the joke.  You’re used to the scenery.  You’re comfortable.  But just because something is not made with your cultural background in mind does not make it racist.

However, calling something racist because it is strongly acculturated to the “other” and that makes you uncomfortable is probably racism in action.

Watch.  Don’t watch.  But accept that the television landscape is changing, and if you can’t do that, at least you still have television’s last bastion of whiteness–Network Sitcoms.  Just stay there and don’t bother the rest of us.  We’re binging some good stuff over here.

Regards, Best Wishes, &ct,

Amanda

 

Friday Pupdate

Fall is settling in here in Milwaukee—it hasn’t gotten out of the 60s in a week.  We have put the big comforter back on the bed, which has led to more night time Daisy Snuggles.  (She likes the comforter even more than we do. It is soft, and she can dig in it.)

IMG_1588
There is a reason that this is the main image on the blog. Because this is a face of true Daisy bliss. She is an excellent relaxer.

You may remember that we hired a trainer, Steve Terwilliger of Rogue Dog Training, to help with Daisy’s reactivity with strangers.  He had us practice “Leave It” and work with Daisy on how to get away from the door when people were coming into and going out of the house.  The good news:  It’s Working!

First, herself is much better behaved on walks. We can even get by squirrels and bunnies now without her doing more than looking at them. (Fine, about 80% of the time. She’s still a dog.) She can also ignore other dogs while on her walk, sometimes even if they’re carrying on and lunging at her. (She is much more apt to react when said other dog is giving off a lot of play signals. Positively, but it’s still hard to move her along.) Buses aren’t even a thing anymore. Yesterday, a city bus stopped right next to us to discharge some passengers and she stayed right next to me at the corner. Walks are so much easier, over all.

img_2293
“I am very good girl on runs. I don’t notice nothing but Mama yelling at me to stop tripping her. And I don’t care about that!”

Second, we’ve had lots of visitors over the summer. Friends and family mostly, but she’s been cool with it. She demands attention, and wakes them up in the morning if the fools leave their doors open, but that’s on them. We even had some people fixing the furnace, and while she was not happy about her confinement to the upstairs bedroom, she wasn’t losing her mind at the sound of strange voices.

There are some tricks to this other than “Leave It.” We put her behind a barrier when people enter so that she can see that we want them in the house, but she’s not being restrained. We also have new people give her a cool new toy to play with to distract her. By the time she settles down, the new people are friends and she has a squeaker to kill. Killing squeakers > Biting strangers. It’s good math.

img_2625
“I am the best. Now give me a cookie. I’m standing right by the cookie drawer. I even just sniffed it!”

We need to do some brushing up. Her response to the command is fading a little bit. Going from a complete jump away from whatever caused her to react to a turn of the head, or a twitch of the ears. We need to build the dramatic response back in, so that she can’t try to ignore it. We also need to have more strangers over to condition her to be cool with anyone we want entering.

But for the most part, we’re happy with her progress.  As the weather gets cooler, she gets even more chilled out, content to snuggle into some blankets or lay in her sunny window. I already have plans to put something soft for her to lay on up there when the snow flies. We’ve come a long way from not allowing her near the windows for fear of causing an unstoppable reaction, so a reward is in order.

img_2339
Not even on neighborhood watch. Just chilling in “her” window. We thought this would be a huge problem, but it’s clearly just a place to rest. It’s more progress than I thought we’d ever see.

Reflecting on Vanity

I stare at myself in the mirror every day. And I’m usually naked.

It’s not as provocative as it sounds.

I’ve spent a lot of my life with what I believe to be a bit of body dysmorphia, due to refusing to look at myself in the mirror. When I did see pictures of myself, or catch a glimpse of myself in a shop window/unexpected mirror, I wouldn’t recognize myself. Is that me? Is that how I appear to the world? I would then panic about whatever body part I found completely unacceptable in that moment. This would naturally lead to me refusing to look at myself in the mirror, and distancing myself further from the skin I was in.

It was (and is) a never-ending cycle. And I don’t think I’m alone. In an age of selfies, I know I’m not the only one who tries not to notice the space I take up in the world.

About three years ago, I caught a glimpse of myself in the huge bathroom mirror in my apartment, and rather than running from the room, I deliberately undressed. I looked at myself as subject, not object for the first time. This is mine. This is mine. This is what I look like. These are my hips. These are my fingers. These are my cheekbones. This is my stomach. This is all mine.

This practice is hard. It is hard to look at yourself and hold no judgment. It is hard to love yourself as a sum, rather than by subtracting bits and pieces. It is hard to look at all of the parts that make up your physical frame and not compare them to one another. And for some of us, it’s just hard to look without holding our breath and waiting for the room to explode in flames of self-loathing.

The secret that no one has told you, though, is that it won’t. The world does not end because you recognize your own reflection.  In these moments, there is no requirement to love or hate or pity what I see, merely to accept what I behold and to commit myself to my own memory.

My self is housed in this body. My self is contained in this skin.  When people look at me, this is what they see. It is not offensive. It is irrelevant whether I find it “pretty” on this or any other day. I do not need to justify my body to myself. It just is. I take up exactly this much space in the world. It is not too much.  I do not need to pretend I am only a floating head with a killer personality.

If you hurry by the mirror, run past windows, try to get into the shower before you have to see what you look like, I invite you to join the club. Stop. Look at yourself without passing judgment. Just stand there and accept whatever thoughts and feelings come your way. Do it again the next day. It gets easier every time. This is what you look like. How long has it been since you’ve seen you and not run away?

You are not offensive, either. You do not need to justify your body to yourself.

This is mine.

img_2608

The Un-Glamorous Dream Life

“Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life!”

It’s such a beautiful sentiment, isn’t it? Of course, it’s also total bs, a fact I was all too starkly reminded of as I sat in a hotel conference room at 1:00 am after having slogged through the end of a long (although relatively pleasant) negotiation day. The room was freezing all day and I’d barely left it, getting updates on economic packages and drafting last minute language for review and presentation. Most of my food consumption came in the form of twizzlers and hot wings, and I was walking the floors of the hotel to stay awake.  I was getting snippy and cranky, and I was exhausted.

I have my dream job. 

But sometimes the things we love are not glamorous.  The things we love are tiring, and long, and miserable, and they make us crabby.

anigif_enhanced-buzz-27568-1369162542-10
We should all listen to Amy Poehler. She is truly wise.

We do ourselves a disservice to go around saying that the things we love will always make us happy and fulfilled. I mean, sometimes they do.  And sometimes they just make us hangry.  And I think that we, as humans, need to make our peace with that.

And I think even more, that we, as women, need to make our peace with that. We need to make peace with our own ambition. With the fact that it makes us tired, with the fact that it means that we don’t make dinner, and with the fact that a day full of miserable, exhausting accomplishment can fill us with pride. It’s okay to love work, even if it’s work. And it’s okay to chase work that you love, even if, at the end of the day, it feels like work. Work should feel like work.

And when we go home from a hard days’ work, we can just tell this face to stop jumping on us, because we’re going to bed now, and if it could just provide the snuggles without its usual drama, that would be great.

img_3894
“Drama? I got no drama. I also waited up for you FOREVER. PET ME.”

Daisy’s Couch

Every member of a family attaches importance to objects in the home. I take great pride in collecting wine for every occasion, Grant’s computer is pretty much off-limits to the rest of us, and Daisy owns the couch.

When we first got Daisy, we agreed that she would not be allowed on the furniture immediately, but rather would be conditioned towards being on the furniture “by invitation only.” She made short work of that rule. The first time we threw a toy for her, she took a running leap across the apartment, jumped onto the couch, and proceeded to chew. We told her to get off the couch. She did as she was told, and on the next throw, jumped right up. She eventually learned that she could sleep on the couch when we weren’t looking. (She treated the bed the same way.)

Fetch
About 5 seconds after this picture was taken, the love affair began.

Eventually, she trained us, and was permitted on the couch full time. She demands a full cushion to herself, and if we’re both up there on a lazy Sunday afternoon and I dare to touch her with my feet, I am admonished with a large “huff”, a glare, and off she goes to her own bed. Whereupon she continues to look at me as if I am some kind of evil monster who has taken her one true love.

We find her toys half buried in the cushions, she uses the backrest as a tightrope on the way to the bay window, and she requires her own pillow for her head. If there’s two of us already laying on the couch, she’s not worried. She squeezes into a space on the very edge, and wiggles until we give her space, or she just lays on top of us. It’s her couch.

IMG_1570
“Who do you think you’re looking at, chump? Get out of my space.”

In fact, when we moved, she whined and paced for the whole week we didn’t have any furniture. When she entered the house after the furniture delivery? She grabbed her favorite toy, jumped on the couch, and went immediately to sleep. From that moment, she was fine.

Nothing can stop true love, it can only be delayed for a while.

IMG_4137
“And wuv….twu wuv….”

 

 

 

The Power of NO

I know, it’s been a while since I’ve talked about the adventures of the Daisy.  But things are going so well, I don’t want to jinx them!  Country Daisy is rapidly adjusting to City Dog Life, although there was a moment when she barked at a statue in a veterans’ cemetery, and I tried to introduce her to it slowly, but she wouldn’t let up until she sniffed its butt.  Seriously.  This is my life.  The runners going by thought it was hilarious.

IMG_4086
A regular comedienne, this one.

But this is not the point.  Today, I want to talk about the Power of NO. Specifically, of saying no to people who want to pet your dog. (I don’t believe in using NO as a corrector FOR your dog, because you say “no” a lot every day, so it’s kind of a meaningless word for your precious pooch. It does not get their attention in a crisis moment. Weird sounds, hisses, and squeakers are way better for that.)

Some dogs freaking LOVE people. My parents’ lab Loki is one of those dogs. I’m pretty sure his heaven is laying on a couch with fifteen hands petting him in all the best spots FOREVER. Some dogs hate strangers, like the dog we had growing up, Ranger. We used to warn people just to ignore him: He didn’t like you. Period. Some dogs just prefer to hang out near you but not interact, that’s Daisy. But it doesn’t matter how your dog feels about people. You have the right to say no to anyone who wants to pet your dog.

IMG_3993
“Momma, I would also like a Canfora donut. Just saying.”

Let me reiterate that because it’s important. You can just say NO. To adults, to children, to the elderly, to anyone you want to, you can just say NO and keep walking. You don’t have to make up an excuse. You don’t have to tell the backstory. You can just say no. If your dog hates people, if your dog loves people, you can say no.

I find this most effective with young children. We live across the street from a park with a nice playground. We probably have kids come RUNNING after us once a week, yelling, “DOGGIE!!” with parents who go, “Awwww, that’s cute,” and do nothing. With these kids, I hold up a hand and yell, “NO.” They stop dead and go back to mom and dad.

The truth is, well-behaved children and Daisy have no problems. (She loved Mason, an 8-year-old that belongs to our friends, probably a little TOO well.) But I don’t know which children are well-behaved. I don’t know which ones will go a little too far. And I’m not obligated to invite every child on the playground, or every well-meaning adult that cries, “Look at those SPOTS,” to pet my dog.

IMG_4099
LOOK AT THEM. (I run on the assumption that it is exhausting being this cute.)

And neither are you.