Dog Ownership: An Eight-Foot Love Triangle

We’ve all heard it: a dog is “Man’s Best Friend.”

This is never more true than in my own house. We have an eight-foot triangle. See, I love my dog dearly, but she has made it abundantly clear in her almost twelve years that she doesn’t love me. She loves him, my husband.

And not in a oh-he’s-alright kind of way. In an I Dream of Jeanie I’ll do anything for you, master and may I lick between your toes for 25 minutes now, master? kind of way.


I get a lot of shots of this, her rump.

Rejection on a professional or creative level is hard to take; rejection in relationships is torturous. But rejection by your dog, the one you’ve had since puppyhood, is the worst.

Sure, she wags her stubby tail and flops her ears back when I come home. For a minute. Like as a favor to me. After a few seconds, I see in her eyes a glimpse of Good enough? We done here? before she trots off to find him.


And another rump.

If she sits by me on the couch (see how nice I am, she can sit on the couch!), the quickest way to have her leave is if I pet her. And who does she roll on her back for, showing her fuzzy tummy every morning? Him.

It’s not like my husband loves her more. In fact, I think I love her more, but he gives her more treats and more steak off his fork and well, she’s basically a cold-hearted food slut.

She’s so obvious about her preference that it’s possible I’ve gotten a tad resentful. It may be true I no longer fill up the water dish immediately or restock the dog biscuits. I have to protect my own heart, you know.

I hope to start anew some day, wipe the past clean and have my dog lavish me daily with affection.

Yes, some day I hope to get a new dog.

Does your dog show favorites? Tell me I’m not alone!

Top 5 Tips for Blackberry Picking

blackberry pickingWe’ve had a sunny summer on Bainbridge Island (sunsunsunsun! we shall now call it “sunner!” instead of “summer”) and the blackberries are already bursting all over the place.

That means all over the island people are picking berries and whining and getting pricked by those spiky tendrils.

I grew up in Dallas but I’ve lived here over a decade time, where do you go? and have whined a LOT learned a few things in regard to this delicious and evil (a winning combination!) fruit.

1. Use protection. Never fails, every year, I forget to wear enough protective gear at first. I cannot overemphasize this probably, I could! Blackberry bushes are Satan. They don’t just prick you *ouch!* but they deposit some lingering, fizzy evilness, just like stinging nettles do. To get nettles like Langdon Cook taught us, I wear gloves and use scissors, but you cannot do the delicate act of berry picking this way. The most I can do is layer up, long sleeves, long pants (extra thick, sturdy old jeans are great, not the stretchy, thin stuff of fashion departments!), closed-neck shirt, maybe even a hat, or at least pull back long hair. I have not found gloves that protect me and still allow me to pick gently. So I just send my hands in there carefully, like a game of Operation.

2. Deploy child labor. Not only will this lower your odds of being injured (although living with a suffering child is a whole other kind of pain…), but the picking will go faster and you’ll get more berries unless your child labor has become like mine–a lazy whiner quitter girl. Tell them “it’s fun!” and that’ll buy you a few seasons.

3. Bigger is not necessarily better. I know you want to haul out your biggest buckets for this project, but with fragile berries, don’t do it! Unless your planned use for them is a berry compote, you’ll want a wide, flat container so you’re not making a berry high-rise and smushing all the goodness. Don’t smush the goodness, people!

4. Look down. We’ve discussed clothing, but I personally have marched off dressed appropriately except for my feet. Guess what, the bastard branches twisted around my feet and up under my pant leg! Do you want sizzling stinging sensations on your toes? your ankles? I think not. Wear solid shoes and socks.

5. Timing is everything.
Don’t get all excited and head out right after a rainy night. It sounds silly with these sunny days, but wait ’til fall is almost here and you see little black fruits still dangling! Take a breath. The berries hold that moisture and more times than not, get mushy. Let them dry a bit before picking. Also, make sure those little “pockets” as the Kid calls them, are large enough. That’s where the juicy, sweet goodness is. I, too, hate patient, but you’ll be glad later. Who needs an unplanned pucker-fest of unripe berries in their mouth?

So far, we’ve eaten some berries, frozen some and I believe have many, many more to harvest. Here’s to pain-free berry picking!

Do you have any tricks for picking? Favorite berry recipes?


Story Slam: A Chat with a Storyteller

field's end story slamLast week we held another Island Story Slam, presented by Field’s End at Treehouse Cafe on Bainbridge Island. It was our third, and once again drew a standing-room-only crowd.

Every one has such a good time at these, watching and participating (yes, I told a story!), that I felt it was worth a discussion. So I interviewed Kate Walton, a repeat storyteller who’s placed first and second at our last two story slams.

Here’s our conversation with Kate:

story slam storyteller1. Had you ever been to a story slam before? What do you think people like so much about these slams?

I hadn’t been to a Story Slam before coming across the first one you held, purely by chance. My husband and I were at The Treehouse for dinner and we heard all this laughing, so we went in, stood at the back, and caught the tail end. I was hooked right away. I think what draws people, and what certainly drew me, is the immediacy of it. Most of us spend a lot of time in front of screens these days; there’s something wonderful about having a real, live person up there telling a story without notes. It has a rawness, and a “now-ness,” that is completely refreshing.

2. You’ve placed 2nd in the last two story slams. Do you have any tips for someone thinking about storytelling? Were you nervous? How did you prepare?

I was petrified, both times. My only real advice is this: do it anyway. It’s so much fun, and the crowd could not be kinder. You won’t regret it.

I prepared by talking to myself in the car. (Yep, I was that crazy person in the ferry line.) I timed myself, and I do think that’s important. When you’re on the stage, five minutes goes by in a flash, so it’s key to work out what you can and can’t cover in that amount of time. Also, the first time I was a storyteller, it happens that I had an upper endoscopy on the morning of the competition. But I wouldn’t actually recommend that–it’s totally unhelpful.

3. What do you think makes a good story for a story slam competition?

I think it helps to have some structure: a real beginning, middle, and end. I don’t think it matters as much whether a story is funny, serious, suspenseful, or something else entirely. Anything can work well, as long as it’s engaging, and I think that’s achieved mainly through a sense of movement, i.e. having some sort of narrative arc.

4. We’ve noticed several repeat storytellers at our events. What is it that storytellers have that makes them get up there (again and again)?

To listen as intently as the Story Slam audience listens is an act of great generosity. I think any of us who have taken the stage have felt the power of that, and it’s hard not to want more of it.

5. Did you feel different about yourself or see the world differently after going up there the first time?

It is no exaggeration to say that, after a Story Slam, the world feels a little kinder, and a little better. You have survived something terrifying, and it was actually fun. And you’ve heard all these stories, often about times that were difficult in some way, and you see that people have come through them. They have quite literally lived to tell the tale–and the tales are often heartwarming and very funny.

Now that I’ve told my story up there, too, I totally agree, Kate! Thanks for your answers!

So who’s ready to be a story slam storyteller?

Art in Life in Art: Rapture, Blister, Burn @ACT Theatre

ACT Theatre Seattle

Rapture, Blister, Burn

The Hubs and I scored an actual date night recently and went to see “Rapture, Blister, Burn” by Gina Gionfreddo at the ACT Theatre in Seattle.

I felt a bit nervous that the show’s feminist angle on a story of two old friends, one a stay-at-home mom and the other a successful professional, might not be too engaging for him, but I shouldn’t have worried. He actually enjoyed it. The play’s really funny, and the cast did a great job hitting the right notes.

As a fledgling playwright, I couldn’t help but feel inspired. The show was crisp and hilarious, but also had heart while reflecting on the question of major life choices.

Watching plays now inspires me in so many ways, from characters highlighted, using sound effects, down to oh, look! big trap doors for set changes! Maybe I could have a “big” play with lots of locations on a small stage. Hmmmm…

So, thanks, Gina, for your art which we saw in real life and now informs my art (if I can be so bold as to call it that)!

There’s something about live theater, isn’t there? What is that?

How to Calm an Anxious Child at Bedtime

jack-o-lanternI don’t give a lot of parenting advice here lucky for you, but I’m just putting this out there in case it could help someone else.

The Kid had a few bad dreams lately and it got to the point where she, a normally pretty calm kid, was getting anxious at bedtime anticipating more bad dreams.

Generally, in these sorts of cases I try diversionary tactics to get her mind off the negative and settle herself back down a tactic that hardly ever works for yours truly but maybe this next generation can surpass us, right?!.

That Let’s Talk about Good Things approach was not working, but the other night I remembered a technique I read in Why Worry? by Katherine Tristan for calming yourself down at night. It involved placing your hands on your heart, taking five deep breaths and thinking about something or someone you love.

With the Kid, I put my hand on her hand over her heart and tell her to remember a moment or person or anything when she felt good. Kids seem to do this very easily, any opportunity to imagine.

Then I ask her to remember how she felt in her body, were her toes wiggling, did her head tingle, was her heart beating harder, did her knees feel jiggly?

Then I suggest she think of those sensations and imagine that entire good experience as love flowing into all her cells in her body and growing to make a protective bubble around her.

Then we imagine guardian angels at the foot of her bed (really tall ones!), at the bedroom door and over the entire house.

It may sound all woo-woo if you haven’t ever tried any visualizations, but after the first night the Kid requested it over and over again. Do the thing, Mom!

She claims she hasn’t had any dreams at all since doing this (her preference, even to fun dreams).

Obviously, a really young child may not be able to do this but once they get to that age where bad dreams, monsters and nightmares come up, I’d give it a shot. Wish I’d started it earlier!

Good luck and let me know if it helps!