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.



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.

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.

“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.)

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.

“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.

“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.

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.

“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.

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

And neither are you.

Forecast: 100% Chance of Beer (And Fun)

The last 72 hours have been a blast, even if they’ve been a little stressful.  Grant’s birthday is coming up on Wednesday, and since I won’t be home due to work travel (AGAIN), we decided to have some people up for the long holiday weekend.  Of course, like any other moment in our lives, our timing wasn’t really ON.

So first, I did a lot of cooking.  I made ice cream, cake, and taco meat (had to use up some ground beef) between Friday night and Saturday morning.

Ice Cream
Totally ate bourbon ice cream for breakfast.  Then put bourbon in my coffee.  Because.

Then I took Daisy for a LONG walk, before her new trainer came.  More on that in a bit.


So the new trainer.  Daisy has gotten considerably worse about letting new people into our home.  It used to be one or two bad experiences–now she is consistently reactive, lunging and barking at any strangers who dare to enter her domain.  After much searching and consulting with Laura to make sure we found the right guy, we hired Steve Terwilliger of Rogue Dog Training here in Milwaukee.

Our behavioral training treat arsenal–The usual sweet potatoes and coconut cookies, but also smelly cheeses and smoked salmon–super gross, but super effective rewards.

Grant had to miss the first session (Cubs tickets with his dad and brother) but I was pretty impressed with the way Steve handled Daisy.  He was so respectful of her space, refusing to bully her or take things faster than she was ready for, but also doing small things that reactive dogs tend to freak out about, like leaning over to tie his shoes, or putting on a backpack.  We’re supposed to start training “leave its” hard, having her run across the floor and making her stop in the middle and come back.  I’m excited to see what the next steps in the process are.

Of course, in true Daisy fashion, she decided to pick THAT day to do a good job and make a total liar out of me.  About halfway through the session, she stopped lunging at him and started pointedly ignoring him, and by the end, she was cautiously optimistic about her new acquaintance with all the beef livers.  Regardless, by the end, she was TIRED.  (She also ended up BLOATED by the end of the day from all the extra food and treats she received from our guests.)

Of course, with all this exhaustion, she could not be BOTHERED to care about all of our company.  Usually, she’ll pick one person to hate and we have to restrain her until she decides her greatest foe is suddenly a friend.  This weekend, she was handing out the kisses.  (Again, making a total liar out of me, as I had to explain to our friend Desmond that Daisy is a LEETLE bit racist and ageist.  Which is to say, she hates old people, and has never seen anyone who is not white.)  She insisted on sitting in laps and begging for chin scratches for 48 glorious hours, and honestly?  That was just fine with me.

So we did some fun things with our friends, showing them the place we live now in between bouts of beer pong and board games.  We went to Cafe Corazon for brunch, which was delicious.  We also went to the South Shore Beer Garden, where we had some Big Eddy’s Royal Nektar.

Grant is never in pictures–He’s always taking them.

Of course, we found out later that Big Eddy’s Royal Nektar is 9.4% ABV, which may explain why we climbed this tree.

I didn’t get off the first branch–I am TERRIFIED of heights, and standing on a four foot high branch was already too much for me.

It was fun having company to grill pizza and watch Game of Thrones with us.  But at the end of the weekend, I was relieved that it was just the three of us again!  As it turns out, we’re not exactly party people.

Somebody else was pretty relieved too.

Everybody Leaved Me
“Don’t worry, Daddy.  I still love you best.”

More Pictures Than Words, Really

Sometimes family is a word that just triggers every stress response we have.  Especially when you’re from a big family.  They’re in your business.  They just “drop by”, at random. (Not really a problem, just a thing that happens.) And it’s loud.  Dear God, it’s loud.

But more often than not, it’s great.  This past weekend, my parents came to visit for my cousin’s graduation.  We did some mundane things, sure.  Dad fixed our dryer and I had to go buy new tires for the Prius. (Never own anything. That’s my new motto. The upkeep will kill you.) But as always, when family gets together, there were fun things too.

Like trips to get the most delicious butter pecan frozen custard.

Dad and I have been digging the same ice cream flavors for years.

And making babies laugh by holding them up high.

Please note, I did NOT throw this baby into a ceiling fan, the way that my Aunt Julie (pictured here) tried to murder me.

A quick timeout to take in the local beer garden.


And laying in the warm grass with your people.

“This is my ‘I love Grampa the best’ face.”

I can’t wait for summer to really get started.  I don’t think I’ll ever go indoors.

If You Give a Dog a Cookie…

She’ll learn where the cookies live in the kitchen and sit by the drawer waiting for you to open it again and give her another one. She will do the same thing if you keep “spare” toys in your nightstand. She will also apparently do the same thing if you change up her food and she REALLY REALLY LIKES IT LIKE WHOA GUYS.

Daisy is not really a picky eater. Nor does she have a delicate stomach. (Thank God, because that dog has eaten her way through a couple trash cans.) She does, however, get bored easily. Our fault, really, as we have had her on Purina One Turkey and Venison for a couple years now. I always meant to change things up a little but I never got around to making a decision on a higher quality pet food. I get that a lot of people are very devoted to raw feeding, or a specific brand of pet food, but my philosophy is you do what you can with what you have. The Purina One was a reasonably healthy food that we could afford and she did really well on. There was no need to change. Except that she got bored.

“I am just a very cultured doggy with refined tastes, you see. Now read about Broadway to me, Mama.”

Mealtime became a chore. Daisy would get her medicine, if she felt like taking it. I would pour a cup of food into her bowl, she would sniff it twice, and then go, “Meh. I’ll get to that later.” We tried puzzle toys. They were fun for a while, but they had the same old kibble in them. It got to the point where unless we actually mixed something indog-rm-duck_27-pngto her bowl, she would wait hours to eat. It was annoying for everyone.

But then, on a whim we went to Mac’s Pet Depot Barkery on KK in Bayview. Great place. The owner knows exactly where everything she buys is sourced from, and made clear that if  she didn’t feel like her 10 year old black lab Mac could have it, it didn’t come into her store. (Mac is a handsome dude, for real, too.) After Daisy told Mac in no uncertain terms that she did NOT want to be friends (still really sorry about that) we grabbed a couple kinds of treats and paid. The owner gave us a free sample of Avoderm’s Trout and Pea recipe, part of their rotational feeding line. Maggie at Oh My Dog reviewed Avoderm a while back, and I was intrigued by it.

Daisy got to try the sample that night and HOOVERED her food down. I thought she was going to be sick she ate it so quickly. Naturally, for her Gotcha Day, I stopped in at Mac’s and bought another small bag, this time the Duck recipe, since it’s what was on the shelf. Guys, she now tries to convince me that it’s suppertime at 1 in the afternoon, and tries to follow me to where the bag of dog food lives so that she can grab any “lost” kibbles.

“Leave no kibble behind!”  (Also, those Kyjen maze bowls are great. Daisy will only eat out of the orange one though. The blue one was summarily rejected.)

As far as Daisy is concerned, it’s a win.

And for me, it’s great. I know she’s eating, and her coat (always like a snuggly cotton ball) seems to be getting even softer. And if the ultimate test of any food is when it comes out the other end, let’s just say that things are….moving along better than ever before.

I’m really psyched about this food, guys, if you couldn’t tell. The best part is that the whole line is designed so that your dog can move through recipes without digestive issues. (This is probably a feature for more “delicate” doggies.) So for dogs that get easily bored with their food, it’s a great way to keep changing it up.

“If I sit real pretty, will you put more kibbles in my wobbler?  Pleeeeeaaaase?”

And if you need any more entertainment today, here’s Daisy with her first pig ear. The owner at Mac’s sent it home with us last week when she heard it was Daisy’s gotcha day. You can see the high levels of excitement.

*Avoderm had no idea I was going to review their food. I’m not getting compensated for this. I just like it a lot so far and wanted to tell everyone about it. Link to Avoderm’s Revolving Menu Duck Recipe is here.


A Post Without a Daisy

For those who know me, it is probably no surprise that I am sometimes sad.  It may be surprising, however, that I can count the number of friends I communicate with regularly on my fingers.  On one hand.  (This is not surprising to whoever reviewed the psych eval I had to do for work, which showed that I can analyze data, make awesome plans, and come up with big ideas, but am not great at “working in groups.”)

Nevertheless, I actually enjoy time with people.  An hour once a week spent enjoying a glass of wine with a friend is a necessity for me to feel even-keel and happy.  Adult friends, though, are nearly impossible to find when you are a childless almost-30 year old who tends to pack up and move away.

Moving is hard, y’all.  Being an adult is hard.

And I’m sure that for Grant, knowing that I am sad and that there is very little he can do about it, is hard.  (Bless the man, he does try, but he would rather rent a movie and get takeout than go out. It takes all sorts.)

“Is okay.  I sleep on your feet forever. No new friends.”

I’ve found myself saying more than once this week, “I just wanna go hooo-oooome,” while crying in my car, or in Grant’s office, or on the couch.  Of course, I’m not even entirely sure where that is anymore.  I mean Batesville, but that didn’t really feel like home either.  (Though I would love to have Tuesday wine nights with Laura back in my life.)  It can’t mean Ft. Wayne.  Even though that’s where my family is, it’s certainly not where any of my friends are.  It’s probably not Chicago.  My life there was good, but it was the life of a student.  It wasn’t home.

The people I know and love have scattered to the four winds as much as I have.  So how do you do it?  How do you make new friends as an adult?  At my age, it seems like everyone has kids, and that runs their lives.  How do you meet people when you don’t know where to go or what to do?  And how do you keep them with you, when you know your location is only temporary?

Because you can only drink so much wine alone before you’re just a wino.