Singing at the top of my lungs

For almost all of my 60 years I have been a painfully shy singer. I think I’m like that because singing, like dancing, feels very private to me. Almost carnal. You may know what I look like, you may know how I write or what I think—but you don’t what I sound like when I sing. It feels so private to make sounds that one doesn’t usual make in public. (Because in this country, people don’t sing much in front of others, unless it’s at church.)

My inhibition runs deep. Even around a campfire, I’ve had a hard time joining in with others. And there is nothing that sounds worse than a voice constricted by embarrassment. It’s so shaky and feeble.

Don’t think I don’t like to sing. I do. Choral music is my favorite genre, and I love sacred masses. I can sing the entire Messiah, not just the highlights. I know every note of Bach’s Magnificat and Verdi’s Requiem. In fact, I even sang with the Hampshire Choral Society for a few years because I love that music so much I wanted to be completely surrounded by it, engulfed by the harmony. But choral singing is not intimate. It’s about blending many voices together so they sound like one. To me it feels like anonymous singing.

The only other time in my life I used to sing in public would be at the Passover Seder. For two nights each year of my life, my family would sing the same dozen songs. I never heard them sing otherwise. But on Passover, my father would adopt a surprisingly robust baritone and sing Echad Mi Yodeah (Who Knows One?), a call-and-response piece which goes all the way up to thirteen. Think Twelve Days of Christmas. When my father boisterously sang “who knows one?”, “one is god!” we all sang back. It was the only time each year when I would sing at the top of my lungs, fueled by four glasses of wine built into the ceremony. The rest of the year, I might sing alone in the car, but never in earshot of another person.

And then something changed. Kevin had always kept his guitar out, but about two years ago, he started picking it up more frequently and polishing old favorites. I found myself humming along quietly while I read. I don’t know when it happened or why, but one day I asked him if he could play a song I liked. When he played it the first few times, I sang it quietly to myself. I don’t even think he could hear. But as he got more confident in his finger-picking, I felt more comfortable singing a tiny bit louder. And then even louder.

Soon I started sending him more songs I wanted him to learn—because he actually sounded good and I actually liked listening to him play. And then, to my surprise, I started liking listening to myself sing And the sweet thing about music, is that when you feel bolder, the sound is sweeter. And when the sound is sweeter, you want to sing even more boldly. Before long, we were sitting there, belting out Willin’ and Angel from Montgomery and Jolene. Soon Kevin began harmonizing with me and I with him. I could barely believe it.

And then this year, my stepdaughter, Kevin’s daughter Corrina, returned to the Valley after having been gone for seven years. When she left she was a child of 17. She returned a woman, almost 25. In those years, she too had gotten interested in playing the guitar and Kevin bought her a starter one. He also helped her put together a playlist of songs she could learn. Slowly she taught herself a few numbers, but they had never had a chance to play together during her visits home. It’s hard to do that when you’re trying to fit in family and friends in just two or three days.

But when Corrina came back for good last week, the guitars came out immediately. Turns out she had developed quite a repertoire of her own. While her singing started out tentative, after only a few minutes her deep alto voice emerged, rich and interesting, and the harmonies she produced with her dad inexplicably made me weep.

In the beginning, I just sat back, away from them, a little daunted by the unexpected beauty of their blended voices. Within days, though, I started adding songs to their playlist. Songs that that I always wanted to sing and that I wanted them to learn. I leaned towards simple spirituals and others songs that had their roots in the South, just like Kevin and Corrina. When they began singing my songs, I got choked with emotion. I closed my eyes and sat down to listen to this beautiful live music coming from my livingroom. Very quietly, I began to hum.  Then I felt this loud joyous sound emerge from the depths of my soul and heard my own voice join theirs.

June 1, 2017

 

Words of wisdom to Yesenia and Adam on their wedding day

You’ve asked me to share some words of wisdom on your wedding and I’m going to give it my best. I’m not sure I’m any kind of expert, although I will admit I think I married well. Both times.

So for what it’s worth, I’ll share my little formula because it’s held up for me. Here’s how I see it:

I think there are three prerequisites to good coupling. Good companionship. Good sex. And mutual respect. With my system two of the three have to be great. One can be good.

I don’t need to explain good sex. You can define that for yourselves.

And companionship is pretty easy too. It’s really about enjoying each other’s company, more than you enjoy hanging out with anyone else. It helps to enjoy the same type of activities, although good companions pull each other into new arenas. But it’s more than just having a good playmate. You should enjoy talking to each other and sharing the day. You should be interested in each other’s opinions and thoughts. You should have good pillowtalk. You should laugh hard together.

Good companionship should feel natural, like enjoying a sunny day with a mild breeze. But it does require some work. You need to be willing to go out of your comfort zone and try new foods and new activities and new ways of thinking. You need to be committed to growing yourself and share that growth with each other

From what I can see you really have that one covered. From the very beginning I’ve watched you both bring your love of learning to this relationship — whether you’re taking a class in fermentation or bicycle repair. Whether you are looking at art or hiking in the woods or exploring the world — or in Adam’s case, the end of the world. You are such great friends and travel mates.

The last category, mutual respect, is the trickiest to define. It’s tied to good companionship but it goes beyond that. Sometimes it can erode over time, subtly, without even noticing. A little thing bugs you about the other person.  Maybe they’re messy. Maybe they’re rigid or judgmental or overly neurotic. I’m sure you probably know what those things are already,

But loss of respect,  if it continues steadily, turns into disdain. And disdain is the ultimate relationship killer. Psychologist John Gottman contends he can predict with near certainty whether a relationship is going to last strictly based on the contempt he witnesses in the couples that come to him for counseling.

It’s OK to feel frustrated, even negative at times. But disdain is about feeling superior. And while I think it’s inevitable to feel that every so often, don’t let it build up. Confront it, tease it out and examine it. Don’t be afraid to fight every so often and clear the air.

But I’m not really worried about this either because I can see you have enormous stores of respect for each other – as well you should have given what amazing people you are. You have both made your decision to mate with thought and not out of fear. You are both compassionate, and appreciate the art of working hard and playing hard. You take care of your bodies and eat well. You love family and are both committed to making the world a better place. You both have such natural curiosities and are constantly enriching yourselves and each other with your ideas and observations. You share political and ethical values.  Personally, I think you’re one of the most natural couples I’ve met.

So those are my two cents. And with that,  good friends, good lovers, good citizens of the universe, I wish you so much love and good fortune and am so grateful to have you both in my family.

 

When Things Fall Apart

[Disclaimer: I come from a place of privileged innocence. I was born a mere 11 years after the end of a horrific global nightmare, to two parents who were teenagers in Hell. I’m a child of the Sixties who avoided the draft by virtue of my gender and age. When the Bronx burned around me, I was shielded from its flames. When we were mugged in the city we were gentrifying, we fled to the country where we knew not of locks. I write about my despair fully aware that it’s still far more abstract or removed than so many others less fortunate.] 

I have never seen things fall apart—and now they are about to. Big Time. My anxiety gets higher everyday because I know that it’s coming, but I don’t know what It is. No one does. But the more I learn, the more I know these fears are justified. I’m like a child that wants to be comforted, to be told that everything will be alright; that the foxes who have been hired to guard the hen houses are good people, even when I know they’re not. I crave a parent to comfort me, when there are none to do so. Even worse, I have not been able to comfort my own children.

And yet I know I cannot continue to live at this level of despair and anger. Sometimes I get so mad at the abounding reckless ignorance and racism that I can feel my temples pulsing and nerve pain shoots down my arm and leg. I am letting the terrorists win, as Kevin is fond of saying. This can’t be sustained if I want to avoid a stroke.

But the more I read, the more I freak out. It’s like a Reverse Dayenu. It would have been bad enough if Trump had picked just conservative advisors. But no, he put in the most extreme ones, the most inexperienced, the most hateful and racist, the most corrupt, the most wealthy, the most powerful. How can I not hold my head and wail around the clock?

Here are two ways I am coping.

First, I have decided that this extremism must be embraced. (Here again I must apologize for this approach, because I know I will only barely feel the impact of the Trump Era compared to many others who will lose their health, their safety and even their lives.) The direction being taken by Trump’s cabinet is a formula for disaster, spawned by lust for money and power. The outcome will benefit only the ultra-wealthy, fueling an already growing and dangerous divide; one that will only worsen exponentially.

While the flaming Tower Tarot card looks cataclysmic, the card represents renewal and the recognition that full collapse is sometimes the only prescription to a rotting foundation.  There is so much systemic dysfunction in this country that has been masked or ignored for too long. We have allowed masters of greed and consumption to drive our actions; we have been connived into distraction and powerlessness.We have been tricked into the old divide-and-conquer mindset, quick to blame brown people and not the 62 people in the world who own as much as the bottom half of the world’s population. (And yes, if there are any Trump supporters among you, this has been fact-checked. Remember facts?)

We have a love affair with billionaires, with gilded livingrooms, with reality TV stars. We’d much rather watch Cops than think about how law-and-order policy is tied to filling for-profit prisons. We’d much rather get incensed about a student burning a flag than about the likelihood that we’ll be sending our sons and daughters to defend Mobil’s oil profits. We’ve been conned big time.

But given that those who elected Trump are not swayed by facts, they will actually need to suffer before their misplaced beliefs are shattered. No doubt, for a while they will be unwilling to acknowledge their mistake; their fake news bubble will keep them insulated for a bit. But when this horrible experiment begins to fail, when food become scarce because of global warming; when the jobs don’t magically return and things get even worse, when they lose their healthcare  or when they can’t breathe the air, it will be harder and harder not to connect the dots. Especially when they watch the excess of those who rule them. When shit makes contact with fan, there won’t be much that even Breitbart can do about hiding the food lines and desperation. I think a massive failure, so big that people can no longer pretend their esteemed vulgarian has any clothes, will probably be the only thing that can get our country on the right track.The old must fall away before anything new can be rebuilt. And I am not a religious person, but I pray daily that this fail is not apocalyptic; that we avoid a nuclear winter or ethnic internment or a climate catastrophe as part of this mess.

Second, I have faith in Middle America. I know that is a term that hasn’t been used much recently. I’m talking about the folks who voted for Obama or Bernie but switched to Trump this time or didn’t vote at all. It’s the women who love Ellen and Oprah. It’s the people who don’t like to talk about politics because they want everyone to get along. It’s the folks who just wanted to disrupt the status quo and voted in anger without enough information.

These are the people who need to speak out. Because sadly, I don’t think us Humanists (let’s get rid of the terms Left or Liberal) hold much clout among those about to take over. The Middles are our hope. And here’s where I truly feel optimistic. I actually think they will come through. Eventually.

Because Americans come from so many different backgrounds, we don’t have one dominant trait, like being warlike or nomadic or methodical. Because we are essentially mutts,  I don’t think that the Trump ‘mentality’ can  endure. We’re just too heterogeneous and come from to many divergent experiences to be swayed en masse.

But this is where I get sad again. Because in all of this I see my mortality. I realize now that I may never see the change I thought was close. I understand I may be a witness to a phase that may not change in my lifetime.Because when things fall apart as violently as they will have to, it will take time to rebuild. Because real change is like that. But even twenty years is not that long in the scheme of things, especially if we are heading in the right direction.  Especially when we really get to drain the swamp.

Onward.

When Politics Became Personal

The minute I tuned into the early election results, I knew things were not good. I hopped from Twitter to Facebook to 538 to MSNBC to the New York Times, to charts and maps and pundits. I searched hard for good news but the numbers were incontrovertible. I thought I was going to throw up. I looked for solace but there was none.

Alone in the dark with my lit screen, I watched in horror as a deep collective mourning laid its heavy mantle on my community. At one point there was an eerie lull. No one seemed to be posting or tweeting. I think we were rendered speechless as we watched the nightmare unfold.

Exhausted, I finally crawled into bed next to Kevin who had gone to sleep before the results started coming in. I envied his innocence. I stayed awake for hours. I could not cry but I remember groaning and sighing all night. When Kevin pulled me close I felt myself relax and I must have finally slept. Within moments of waking it hit me immediately, the nausea rendering me fetal for hours. I had not felt such despair since the night I realized my first marriage would end. Politics had suddenly become very personal.

It’s not that I was naive. Both my parents were concentration survivors. My mother’s sister was torn out of her hands and perished in an oven in Auschwitz. It’s just that up until now I had felt safe. I thought I lived in a predominantly sane country. For the first time, I understood in my gut, not in my brain, what people of color had been talking about forever. I apologize it took this long.

The next few days passed in a dream state. I could not work. I felt hungover and my stomach was upset. I sought comfort being outdoors. I played with my dogs. I barely ate. And I grew angry. From the start I had been furious that the DNC had shoehorned Hillary as their candidate in the hopes of maintaining a status quo that was not working for others. I grew angry again at the #ImWithHer loyalists who pushed for a flawed candidate, blindly resistant to her unelectability. Yes, the reasons she was disliked were largely misogynistic in origin, but we needed a clear winner and we didn’t get one. I have no doubt Bernie would have captured  a sizeable bloc of the “disruption” vote, and he would have also drawn out the many young people who stayed home instead, uninspired by what they were offered.

I tried to calm myself down by reading. I read Michael Moore’s July piece on how Trump would win. All his predictions were on target. That didn’t make me feel any better. But then I listened to Van Jones calming and concrete words of wisdom. I realized that this wake-up call came earlier than expected, but it was lurking in the wings all the time. Maybe it’s good that it sucker-punched us in the gut. Maybe it’s good that it’s hard to imagine a greater contrast between the 44th and the 45th president. Maybe now is when people start freaking. Finally.

My yeshiva rabbis always used to tell us “when it’s good for the Jews it’s bad for the Jews and when it’s bad for the Jews, it can be good.” The same things can be said for the social justice movement. When people are content, they get lazy. Maybe they sign a petition or two. Maybe send a check. But when your emails and texts will likely be monitored by an administration with an Enemy List, you start paying attention. When a nuclear winter suddenly becomes a real possibility, you may finally turn off your x-box.

Whatever it is that we end up doing, our response needs to be twofold:

We must expose the real enemy. There are a lot of people who voted for Trump because of the failure of our elite institutions to address their concerns and needs. Their vote was less a love of Trump and more of a ‘fuck you’ to the Democrats. Many have been led to blame brown people and immigrants for what has been taken away. (Van reminds us, people of color have experienced many of the same losses.) Trump’s Make America Great caps come from China, but his supporters don’t seem to want to connect the dots about who is really screwing them. Hospital workers don’t get raises for years. They don’t place the blame on an obscenely compensated CEO whose bonus is predicated on their being understaffed but rather on poor patients with the latest iPhone. (Consumerism works so well for the power elite, generating jealousy, complacency and — and let’s not forget profit — all at the same time!) It’s time to launch a PR campaign that unmasks this Divide and Conquer bullshit. We have to get out the real story of who is actually raping and pillaging our people and our resources. #BlameTheBillionairesNotTheBrownPeople.

We  must celebrate and protect our diversity. You know what makes America Great? The richness of our differences. This is our national treasure. But in the last 24-hour period, in my area alone, one of the most progressive places in the country, there’s been at least one Islamophobic taunting (“Isn’t it prayer time, Osama?”), one sexual harassment (“I hope Trump makes skirts like that the new uniform around here.”) and some  anti-Semitic pro-Trump graffiti. Sickening as this is, it will be nothing compared to how bad it will get. When  the factory jobs aren’t miraculously restored, when the little man is only pinched harder, Donald Trump will try to remain blameless. The finger will point downwards, not upwards. If the market crashes or if there’s another “terrorist” event, the human rights fallout will be ruthless.

Van Jones explains that change comes slowly to some people. I will try and understand. But I will not be silent. Some people have started wearing a safety pin in solidarity with victims of racist, religious and homophobic abuse. I’m thinking about starting to wear a Jude patch on my coat instead. It’s bigger and in my mind a more powerful reminder of where this hate and fear can lead if left unchecked. If nothing else, it will force me to remember what it means to feel unsafe in your own country when you can’t take off the patch.

Onward.

Woman on the Edge

For as long as I can remember I have lived on the edge of every demographic to which I’ve belonged.

As a child, I was very conscious that my parents were ‘greenhorns’ and I never felt like a true American. My parents were refugees from Poland who met at a Purim party for concentration camp survivors. (I’m not surprised a veteran of three death walks might have a hard time relating to a poodle-skirted girl at a sock hop). After my dad died, my mom had a boyfriend who was born in this country. Though she loved him, I knew that deep down there was a part of her that resented his innocence. He had no clue of the hell of rape and starvation and murder she had witnessed daily. That sense of not being your typical happy-go-lucky American family trickled down to me too and I was jealous of my unscathed friends.

I hated sticking out and I winced every time my parents used words like ‘dungarees’ or ‘valise’, even though, interestingly, I only barely heard my parent’s thick Polish accents. The food we ate was nothing like what I was offered at my friends’ houses. We never had spaghetti or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. There was never soda in the fridge. My mother remembers drinking her first Coca Cola on the ship that brought her to this country and spitting out the disgusting toothpaste-flavored liquid. She was also disgusted by how much electricity Times Square wasted. She had just left a bombed out Europe. The bright lights were such a contrast. She was a fanatic about making sure we turned out the lights. We never had a toaster. When we finally got one, I ate 11 pieces of white toast smothered in butter. I could have eaten the entire loaf. I so hungered to be American.

Given that 91% of Polish Jews perished in the war, you’d think that I would be a fiercely proud member of the tribe. But I’m not. Despite having grown up in a kosher observant home, and despite having gone to Jewish day schools from 2nd grade to 12th grade, I just never felt very Jewish. I did, however, enjoy the religious half of our Yeshiva curriculum, especially the mental acrobatics involved in studying the Talmud, the Jewish Code of Law. But it was strictly the intellectual exercise that interested me; never the religion. I think I was born an atheist. I dreaded going to shul every Saturday. I spent so many mind-numbing hours staring into the creviced necks of old men. I hated going. When I turned 15, I boldly stopped. I’ve never been back.

Going to school away from home also disconnected me from my neighborhood. I went to kindergarten and first grade in PS 102.But after my parents learned I might be at risk of being bussed to the South Bronx as part of school desegregation, they yanked me out of public school. Ironically, now I did have to go on a bus, rising early every morning to take an hour and a half-long school bus ride north to Westchester County. The commute to school was beautiful, as we fled the proletarian rowhouses and dense six-story brick apartment houses. The landscape grew greener and greener and the houses less and less dense and bigger and bigger.  Eventually I made new friends at the Jewish day school housed in a large mansion in Mamaroneck. These friends lived on cul de sacs and had rec rooms and dens. I always felt like a stranger in their homes, or more accurately, like I was strange. My parents slept in the kitchen. A rigid divider on a track separated the bed from the sink and fridge and oven. It was cozy I thought. But I could see that my new friends wouldn’t think so.

In eighth grade, I transferred to another Jewish day school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I quickly caught onto the hierarchy: Upper East Side, Upper West Side, Great Neck, Teaneck, Lower East Side, Forest Hills, Washington Heights, The Bronx. I don’t know if I experienced any real snobbism; it probably was in my own head. But kids from Manhattan didnt come up to the Bronx. The train took so long and no one’s parents wanted their kids to go through a burning borough that looked like a war zone. My closest friends were from the Bronx and Washington Heights.

A childhood of straddling group identities has left my adult self feeling cautious about adopting any personal ‘signifiers’ (as a friend of mine calls these ways we have of identifying ourselves to others or more likely to one’s self). I’ve never been a joiner. I’ve never played a team sport. I’m allergic to groups and even parties. I have a tiny family. I have no reunions to go to. The things  I like to do, I tend to like to do alone (even going to the movies). There are only few ‘signifiers’ I can comfortably call my own: I’m my daughters’ mom, my dogs’ human, Kevin’s lover and partner. I’m a  country liver and lover; a kayaker and biker. A reader. And an aspiring writer.

The Name Game

I bet that nearly all of us have named a child or an animal. Was it as hard for you as it’s always been for me? Like all decisions, it’s usually easier when you have to work around set limitations. A child that needs to be named after a dead relative, for example. But when the sky’s the limit — when you’re naming an animal, for example, and every word in every language, both proper and common, can be under consideration — well, that’s a recipe for decision paralysis, at least for me.

I’m not sure why I get so overcome with indecisiveness. For one, it’s daunting coming up with a word that will be repeated perhaps dozens of times each day for 15, maybe even 20 years with a pet, 80 or 90 years with a child. That’s quite a responsibility, especially for a wordsmith who enjoys coming up with the exact right word. It’s like a short poem. One word, one being, get it right.

20160610_231114_resizedIt was hard with my firstborn, Yesenia. I thought I’d wait until I saw her to decide. We had two names lined up, but she didn’t look like either of them. If I had to choose a name at birth I would have named her Cute Monkey. For a while, my daughter worked in the hospital in which she was born and was privy to her online medical records; she’s still officially Baby Girl at Beth Israel. Fortunately, the second daughter was born on Martin Luther King’s birthday. That didn’t leave us much choice but to name her Martina, a name that has suited her well, as she is a fierce fighter in many ways.

This week I had to name the new dog. Kevin could give me suggestions, but it was agreed that I got to pick the name — although of course he had to like it too. I knew this would be hard for me. I had struggled with Rudy’s name for a long time. I refused to consider any name that didn’t feel exactly right.

13124600_521642741355647_5017282528746631406_nThe new dog came with the name Piper, not a bad name for her. But we had had a bad experience with a dog name Piper in the dog park. Not with the dog so much, as with his parents. They thought Rudy was too rough with their Piper — oh give me a break — and that was enough to turn us off from the name.

From a Kentucky kill shelter to a foster family and then another, and now us, this little pup has been through a lot of change. Yet she is still so sweet that we decided to call her Miss Shuggah. But to call her you had to put on a theatrical tone and it felt rather affected. One daughter said it sounded a little too Gone with the Wind for her taste. That did that name in.

The next name was Birdy, then Cherry. I can’t even remember all the names we went through after that: Sasha, Pippy, Pip Squeak, Pippin, Maxie, Maisy, Maggie, Cowgirl, Dixie and Venus. Each name lasted for an hour, maybe two. Kevin was so fed up he said I could name her any name I wanted at that point. How about Zisse, like the Yiddish for sweet. He was fine with that. The next morning I wasn’t. It felt so pretentious.

We then turned to family and friends. Their suggestions came pouring in: Honey, Sweety or Sweet T, Pippy, Mitzy, Sonya, Dolce, Betty, Foxy, Moxie, Shayna, Lola and Olivia. Young Ian gave us Tonnegan after a dog in a book that he liked. These were all good names. But this caramel colored puppy was none of these names. I could almost hear her name. It was on the tip of my tongue. But the more I tried to name her, the less satisfied I grew. It was like wandering into a store filled with things you want and then getting so overwhelmed that nothing looks good. That happens to me a lot.

Then finally, yesterday, after seven days with no name, it just came to me: Freddie Sue. Really just Freddie, because she looked like a Freddie. The Sue could be pronounced silently to remind me that she was a female and to give me a chuckle.

Not everyone liked it. Aunt Bobbie from Georgia thought it sounded like Johnny Cash named her. Ian told his dad he thought he could come up with something much better. One daughter said she didn’t like it, but it was our dog to name. But Kevin said a week was enough. And I agreed. I think the poor dog could hear the hesitation and ambivalence in our voices every time we called her, because she really didn’t respond until we called her Freddie. She loves the name. I’m pretty happy with it too.

 

Second Dog

Marriages thrive on shared focal points. Children are the go-to distraction, but dogs will do the trick as well.

We’ve got one dog we adore and now we want a second one. We’ve fallen in love with the Australian Cattle Dog breed we serendipitously discovered when we adopted Rudy, the ACD mix we adopted almost two years ago from our local shelter. It’s a breed that combines a velcro snugglepuss in a feisty and handsome body. They are agile, and funny and so intelligent that Kevin is convinced we can teach Rudy how to do at least the Monday crossword puzzle. And they are OMG cute. In fact, ACD’s are the ultimate Uber Mutt, an intentional breeding of the best of sevrudy.jpgeral dogs, including a dingo. It wasn’t even considered a a breed by the AKC until 1980. One Facebook meme listed them as the #1 dog to have in the apocalypse. Always a good thing. (Their adorable facade is noted as their x-factor; I’ve watched bouncer-sized men jump back in terror from Rudy’s fierce bark.)

But getting an ACD is a little bit like acquiring a new child. They can live 18 years, just about the same amount time as we’ve ‘sheltered’ each of our daughters. For the most part, you can’t pick out your child but you can pick a dog. What a daunting decision!

What’s more, turns out you have to compete for the few ACDs (aka heelers) that make it up north. These dogs are beloved — and for good reason.

And it doesn’t help that I am very picky. I know that many, maybe even most people will drive across several states to adopt a dog sight unseen. WHAT?! I can’t just take any dog. As a converted cat person, that’s just not the way I roll. My dog has to pass the silky fur and clean breath test. I want her or him to be as small as Rudy and as cute. A red heeler would make a great match for our blue one.

Kevin says I am looking for a unicorn, not a dog. He’s more focused on the practical. Is the dog good with children? Will he want to eat the cat? This has created some friction. But I have a thing about dogs, really about a lot of things in life. When I have a strong feeling that something will happen, it will. It happened with my second husband. I’m confident it will happen with the second dog.

But the process is two-way. The Australian Cattle Dog Rescue group must also approve of us. And boy, do they vet you. They even vet you with your vet! Will we lose points because I forgo the annual stool specimen or because I did not want to pay to clean my dog’s teeth?

There’s a home visit too. Jeez. We don’t have much of a dining room table. Our kitchen cabinets look like what you’d find in student housing. And our living room is from Bob’s Discount Furniture. But our dog gets a great workout everyday. Often two. And he was out-of-character affectionate with our doggy social worker. We passed with flying colors. Turns out a well-worn house earns you points with these folks.

UPDATE: Last Tuesday we drove five hours round trip to meet Piper. She was small and red. She was soft and smelled good. She’s great with kids and cats. She played with Rudy with great delight. The foster mom loved us. I think we’ll call her Sugar or Miss Shuggah or Shuggie or none of the above.

May 11, 2016