Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sweater Boy

During our Christmas trip to Virginia, Moose had the chance to run with a pack. There was Seven, the Italian Greyhound, Bagel the Beagle, plus Lilly and Sandy. I would tell you the other dog breeds, but unless they are really obvious, like Dachshund or German Shepherd or Chihuaha, frankly, I just can’t keep them straight. It’s kind of like identifying cars when I was young – there were vans, station wagons, Corvettes and everything else. And by young, I of course mean “until about last month.” And the only reason I know about Italian Greyhounds is because best gal pal Stacy had one.

But back to Moose. His new dog buddy Seven gave Moose a sweater – a smart looking green and charcoal knitted piece. The gift was transacted through a human – Paul, the Cesar Milan of the Virginia Beach pack. Moose frolicked in his new sweater with the other dogs. He seemed proud. Confident. Wade commented that Moose now looked like the breed of overly styled young men obsessed with fashion and grooming. You know, a Metrosexual. And indeed, he does.

For Christmas, Paul gifted Moose and Seven with matching orange and brown sweaters. Twin Metrosexuals. And I didn’t get a photo of the sweater boys. Errrrr.

Last Thursday, I was bored. Wade was working. I was too lazy to deal with the real life tasks like laundry and housecleaning, so instead, I decided to take Moose for a little ride. It was too late to go to a park, so we went to PetSmart, where it turned out the sweaters were on sale for half off. And they had dozens of styles, which I got to study because Moose kept crawling under the rack and knocking the stuff from the lowest rack onto the floor. I think he was nervous about the large barking dog at the front of the store and was trying to hide, but that is just my best human guess. And I became swept up in the excitement of dog sweaters, so Moose now has a smart looking gray and red sweater (my high school colors!) with a subtle cable pattern. Oh, and the same sweater in navy and green. Half-off, remember? That means you can buy twice as much, right?

Evidently, I have transferred the fruits of my previous recreational shopping affinity to the dog. Once upon a time, before grad school, photography, stained glass, jewelry, World of Warcraft or belly dance, I shopped for something to do. It was my way of avoiding dealing with an unruly husband and a miserable marriage. I would buy things I couldn't afford and that didn’t fit just so I could go out a day or two later to return them (I needed something to look forward to). If I found something I really liked that came in multiple colors, instead of making a decision, I’d buy the same item in two (or more) colors. ‘Cuz if one is good, two or three are better, right? Which is why I had the same sweater dress in black, olive and camel.

So, you see where the dog’s sweater collection is coming from, right? Soon he’ll need his own dresser or closet (and the house will need an addition to accommodate it), because shopping for dog stuff is quite possibly my new way to avoid doing the stuff I should really be doing. Stuff like organizing the house, tagging products for sale at my space at Artifacts, laundry, setting up my stained glass bench in the recently partially organized basement, finishing organizing the recently partially organized basement, making jewelry, etc., etc. But my little boy needs sweaters, because even though we live in the South, it still gets danged cold.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Broken Resolve

My New Year’s resolutions for 2010 included the following item:
Ride 25 miles per week on bike at gym

Yeah, right.

Back in a (now misty, watercolored) spell when I lived in New England, I rode 50 to 100 miles a week. In a later, now mentally-romanticized phase in Tennessee, I worked part-time and rode 40 miles a week. Some of it was at the gym, and the rest was on a nice stretch of roads in North Clarksville and the “back area of Fort Campbell” that don’t have the lethal roadside drainage ditches I am blessed with in the part of town where I live now. My riding was divided into 10 miles sessions, four times a week. Back then, I had the added luxury and convenience of going to the gym on weekday afternoons.

Back when I first joined the gym I was married and X-Man had a fit, claiming “only vain people workout at gyms.” Recently retired from the Army, he was holding steadfast to his stance that since he no longer needed to exercise as a part of his job, he was “never going to do another sit up or push up again.” He kept that resolve, and his once six-pack abs assumed a more keg-like look and he earned himself prescriptions for high blood pressure and high cholesterol because he believes science exists for a reason, and the reason is so people can be as lazy and neglectful of their bodies as they choose and correct the neglect with a daily dose.

I do not share this philosophy, partly because I hate taking medication and cannot even count on myself to remember to take a daily multivitamin. I would speechify about how I prefer to avoid health problems through fitness and diet but too many people (including my coworkers) know all about my sweet tooth and my chocolate addiction. I try to offset my bad food habits with fitness.

Around four years ago, I was inspired to join the gym after climbing two flights of stairs at my part-time job and spending the next few minutes leaning in a co-worker’s office doorway panting to regain my breath. This was me – the person who always danced, rode bikes, skied, skated and hiked because it was fun – nearly felled by a tiny flight of stairs! I had become a prime example of the concept that just because a person is not overweight, it does not necessarily mean they are healthy. Heck, I nearly threw my back out every time I put a five-pound bag of potatoes into the grocery cart and my shopping was dictated by what I could get into and out of the cart without injury. This was unacceptable to me.

I was no longer a New Englander with access to a variety of dance classes for adults and great biking roads (that don’t require racking a bike and driving a half hour by car first) and proximity to mountains to bike, hike and ski upon. I was living in a town with no sidewalks and where only the hardiest dare to walk on the sidewalk-free streets with 40 mile per hour speed limits, where only the truly motivated are willing to drive across town with a bike on the car rack to ride someplace without five lanes of traffic and no shoulder. I shelled out some cash and joined a gym.

Gyms can be interesting places. My old gym was conveniently located and affordable – a mere $20 a month for a full-time membership which included full access to classes the weight room and cardio equipment any time the place was open. When I started working full-time, it was even on my flight path and I would go after work and sometimes even on my lunch hour. The guilt of passing by the place or sitting in traffic trying to ignore it was a powerful motivator to go. In addition to the many fitness benefits, the place also provided a front row view of behavior that assumed an aspect not unlike a soap opera.

The behavior I refer to was sometimes delivered directly at my feet. I’d be minding my own business and suddenly some dude would be standing in front of me saying, “Hey, you got a boyfriend or a husband?” My “Yes,” which to me indicated I was not available for anything more than idle chit-chat, usually got them even more interested. The next comment, heard more than once, totally floored me the first time. “Cool. So you wanna hook up?” Uh, that would be a NO! Seriously, did that really work? Did any woman ever respond with “Sure, let’s book one of the private tanning rooms and make out right now!” Is that how things work here in the Bible Belt? (Or just at this gym?)

Over the years of my membership (until the place suddenly closed) I watched from my perch on the treadmill or bike, as the same dudes approached girls with regularity. One guy, after chatting with a series of other females there that day, came up to me to say he heard I was a dancer. When I said I had danced ballet, he walked away with a saddened look. Apparently, he was on the hunt for a stripper. (Maybe the mindset there was affected by its location next door to Hooters?) Whatever. It was clear he wasn’t going to waste his time chatting to a ballerina when there might be strippers on site, which was quite fine by me.

But let’s get back to the present.

My new gym is completely different. Nobody invites me to engage in extracurricular relationship activities or even speaks to me there, except for one British lady I chat with in the hallway while we wait for yoga class to start on Saturdays. It’s more expensive, so $25 a month gets me a weekend-only membership good for Fridays after 4:00 through closing time on Sunday. I scaled back from the much pricier full-time membership after the first year when a few months had passed and I hadn’t gone there once during the week, Of course, scarcity breeds desire, and now that I can’t go Monday through Thursday, guess which nights I am free and thinking about the gym? Yeah, you got it.

In any case, my fitness resolution includes riding more mileage because my legs are turning to jelly, but that is probably too much info. Since the year started, I have been to the gym twice – to change out my photography show in the hallway (non workout) and to one yoga class. I haven’t even gone near the bikes.

All day Friday I had every intention of going to the gym after work, but instead, opted to move two bookcases up from the basement, audition them in three different spots in two different rooms and then move one back downstairs again when it didn’t fit anywhere. I also moved some small tables in a feeble attempt to make them more usable and clear a path in the basement for the furnace and duct system installation taking place beginning Monday. (An expensive story for another day.) Then I blew off Saturday’s yoga class for reasons I can’t even recall just one day later. I considered going at night after Wade had gone to work, but instead, I spent six hours parked on the couch playing a game on xbox. You read that correctly - six hours. THAT’s some resolve for ya. Sheesh.

Maybe I should have resolved to NOT work out. Since I made my declaration, the opposite seems to have happened and I’ve been there less than usual. Even now, it’s Sunday, a gym-available day, but the place doesn’t open until noon, by which time I’ll be thinking about other things including lunch. It happens every Sunday – I spend all morning waiting for the place to open, and by the time it does (four hours later) I am on to something else.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Sibling Rivalry

The cat (Merriwether) and the dog (Moose) had been dancing around each other for weeks. Although initially openly hostile, Merriwether stopped hissing at the sight of Moose after a week or so (at least in front of me) and there had been no further (known) incidences of attacks by hissing.

The dog, seemingly perpetually hungry, was still trying to eat the cat’s food, usually around 2:00 a.m. when the noise of the plastic bowl nudging across the kitchen floor can have maximum impact against the backdrop of the silent, sleeping house. No big deal, and remedied by putting the cat’s bowl up onto the counter. The cat, perhaps in retaliation, had begun messing with the dog’s water bowl (perhaps to spit in it, but that’s just my theory).

After being shunned for a few days upon our return from the Christmas road trip in which the dog was a first-class traveler while the cat was under partial house arrest in the custody of the neighbors, the cat resumed his demands for attention by rubbing against my legs and trying to topple me in the kitchen. The dog had taken to standing on his hind legs with his (generally grubby) front paws on my thighs, tongue flapping around his panting.

Always vocal, Merriwether’s incessant meowing continues – more than I care to hear, but no matter how I tell him, he won’t shut up. Maybe he just wants to be acknowledged (don’t we all?). Sometimes I meow back at him and we engage in often lengthy conversations of which I have absolutely no understanding. As I wonder what I’m saying to this chatty cat, I wonder what he’s thinking, especially when he suddenly turns tail and haughtily struts away. “Oh. My. Gosh. Did the giant just say that? I have officially had enough.”

The dog, meanwhile, continues to silently follow at my heels like, well, a dog. Or a very quiet image of a dog. No place is sacred. He’s figured out how to push open the bathroom and bedroom doors, so I generally have a four-legged pest (I mean ‘pet’) demanding attention no matter what I am doing. He cuddles into my personal space to lay his head on my arm when I am typing, making it exceedingly difficult to accomplish the crafting of words (in English anyway). He’s so cute and sweet (and I admit, I love the attention), that I suffer the loss of one arm to enjoy the pleasure of his snuggling, at least until said arm is numb. Sometimes he jams his head into my armpit, though I cannot figure out why he’d want to do that.

In recent days, instead of camping out under the coffee table or the dining room table, the formerly independent Merriwether now climbs onto the couch to occupy (monopolize?) my lap or share (invade?) the cushion already occupied by Moose. In the absence of hissing and presence of willing proximity, I thought perhaps a Christmas-miracle truce had been negotiated between the two. Fantasies of the pets napping in a pile or grooming each other or frolicking together in the yard began to slip back into my head. Ah yes, a suburban American dream—a man I love who actually ‘gets’ me, his adorable little boy playing with our dog and cat in a white brick house with chocolate brown shutters.

Well, maybe someday on the pet frolicking part.

Although things seem to have moved beyond open hostility, it’s early in the pet cohabitation and there are lingering moments of angst and tension, like the shared moments at the front door threshold where they eyeball each other suspiciously before the cat flicks his tail and struts in and the dog tucks his tail and cautiously slips out. The cat has taken to sitting on the kitchen floor glaring with apparent disdain as the dog eats his food in the noisy manner adopted by young males of many species (yes, even human). From his stake-out in the kitchen, Sir Cat can monitor living room activities and catapult himself into the action should it appear that Sir Dog may be the recipient of a kind word, cookie or pat on the head. There will be no favoritism tolerated.

Despite being alternately ignored, hissed at from near and afar, swiped at by a paw equipped with lethal cat claws that have caused pulls in my new jeans and my silk pajamas, and chased off the couch and from the kitchen, the dog has not uttered a peep. Not a yap or a howl or whimper of bark of any variety has escaped his mouth in the weeks since we brought him home. Even his yawns are absent sound. And when running with the lively and vociferous four-pack of dogs at Thea and Paul’s house during the week of Christmas, Moose remained silent. We examined his throat for a scar that might explain the monk-like silence, but found nothing conclusive. Moose is, quite possibly, the perfect dog – cute, cuddly, affectionate, good and gentle and patient with Junior, semi-obedient, occasionally lively, and perpetually silent.

Or maybe not.

Sunday, upon returning from a spontaneous post-lunch day trip to Land Between the Lakes National Recreational Area (because it’s close, we had time and Wade had never been), Wade, who was headed up the walk in front of me, insisted he heard the dog barking from inside the house. Of course I didn’t believe him.

Monday morning, after taking the dog outside, feeding both critters and settling on the couch with my laptop and cup of coffee, I was joined, first by Moose, then by Merriwether, who chose to ignore the entire rest of the empty couch in favor of dragging himself onto the cushion where Moose was curled up, turning his back to him, and sticking his butt in Moose’s face. Butt snub aside, it seemed so domestic. So sweet. So tranquil. My pet fantasies were taking form – two peaceful pets on the couch with me. Sure, Merriwether was still crusted with blood on his head from the latest mysterious weekend outdoor altercation, but other than that, all was lovely and well.

I turned my head away for a second, spacing out, pondering a sentence I was writing, when suddenly I heard a nasty, now familiar feline hiss, immediately followed by (nay, overlapped by) an unfamiliar and surprising bark, right before the cat shot off the couch and into the kitchen. The dog, who had suddenly, miraculously spoken, looked at me like he expected to be reprimanded. He wasn’t. I had already seen enough of the cat’s antagonizing to know he likely deserved whatever he had just gotten from Moose, who I congratulated  for standing up to the cat. I haven’t heard a sound from him since. Moose, that is. Merriwether is still meowing up a storm.