Mars Sunrise

I am mind-blown by the photo of the sunrise on Mars. I stare at the photo and imagine it could be the album cover for the band Sunrise On Mars. I imagine what the band would sound like. Pink Floyd Dark Side Of The Moon but more upbeat and HOT.

I Think My Dogs Dig NPR

My shelties, Perle and Coco love to bark. I open the sliding glass door to the deck and they attack it and snarl, trying to sink their teeth into the glass door. I’m like, “good luck with that sucker.”

Coco is the biggest barker of the two. I considered changing her name to Bob Barker.

Coco regularly comes out to the deck and immediately runs to the corner of this lattice and barks incessantly. 


Everytime I see it I think, “That’s really fucking stupid.” I love my adorable Shelties. They are the bees knees, but barking at lattice is weird.

I read an article about the calming effect music has on dogs. Reggae and soft rock have the biggest effect.

I would take Get Up Stand Up any day over Christopher Cross – Sailing but who knows? Maybe if I was a Beagle named Buffy I would go for Sailing.

I recently turned on NPR before I leave for work so the pups have something to hear. They seem much calmer now. I call it the Lakshmi Singh Effect.

I’m going to search Google, “how to get your dog to stop voraciously barking at the lattice on the deck.” 


Christmas is my favorite holiday. For years I made gifts because I was poor. Good thing I enjoyed being crafty or I would have told my family at the annual Christmas gathering, “Sorry, once again you are SOL. Good thing you own so much stuff you have to use your three car garage as a storage unit.”

Come to think of it I probably could have gone shopping in that garage on the sly. I’d throw the unopened set of mugs in a gift bag and VIOLA. “I got you a set of mugs. They’re vintage. Found them at a garage sale.”

When I was thirteen years old I made my first homemade gifts. My three sisters were coming home and I couldn’t wait. 

On Christmas morning we gathered in the living room. Mom read aloud the Christmas card from her parents. “Merry Christmas, All. We just received your gift of salad toppings and they’re almost gone.”

My sister Sara says, “What the heck. You got them salad toppings?”

Mom says, “Goodness, they must have thought the potpourri was salad toppings.”

Everyone laughs. My mother looks worried.

It comes time for the grand presentation of my homemade gifts. 

I ask my brother to help. “I made each of you a cheesecake. The fancy kind in a springform pan. It comes with a jar of praline topping.”

The three large cheescakes take over the coffee table. Gift wrap and ribbon fall to the floor. My sisters say in unison, “Wow, that’s a lot of cheesecake!”

I look at the cheesecake display and agree with them. The oversized National Geographic coffee table book looks much better than the three big ol’ coffee table cheesecakes that should probably be refrigerated.

Later, during my struggling twenties I’d buy Good Housekeeping for homemade gift ideas. I made jam. I made vases with colorful marble stones and wire.

One year I decided to make sachets of dried apples, cinammon sticks and cloves. 

I pull out the apples that have been drying in the closet for weeks. They’re moldy. My project is ruined.

The annual family Christmas gathering is fast approaching.

I buy high quality paper from Ben Franklin.  It has a gold frame around it. I type up a certificate with fancy lettering. It says:

“I’ve been volunteering at the Keep The James River Beautiful club. I’m Donating Ten Hours Of My Time In Your Name.”

Cringe-worthy stuff. A friend of mine told me his brother gave him a video of his brother and wife frolicking around Hatteras Island with their dogs. It makes me feel better about myself.

Richard Simmons Is Inside My Head

Sometimes my head is like a Richard Simmons workout. “HEY, I want to dance with somebody!” Sometimes it’s like the scene where Forrest Gump stands over Jenny’s grave and weeps. There’s also an in-between.

It’s no day in the park to feel deeply. There’s not an off button. There’s an attorney I work with who resonates kindness. I’m pretty sure he has never raised his voice his entire life. But what do I know? He walks around the office like nothing could ruin his day. I aspire to be like him. 

My former boss used to let out guttural screams in her office. It was when we worked in a satellite office. She probably read a case where a two year old was used as a punching bag. I would sit with her and we would yell, WHAT THE FUCK? 

Now that I work in the main office no guttural screaming is allowed. At least not out loud.

I think about life in a less emotional head. Not being moved to tears by a Bach Concerto. Not being devastated by the child abuse cases. Not being regularly disturbed by CNN. Not being overcome by the awe-aspiring beauty of the Scottish Highlands. I’m not sure I would trade it in.

When two year olds throw a fit we wrap them in our arms and comfort them. Hopefully.

When adults are emotional it’s a burden to some. As though it’s a conscious choice that has an off button. 

Perhaps I should start a business. “Guttural Screaming Therapy.” 

The ad says, “Are you at a ten on the emotional richter scale? Guttural screaming therapy might be for you.”

I Was Hoping For A Cuica

On Thanksgiving I pulled out my $599 Dyson vacuum. It immediately spit dirt out of the back. I had a This Is Fifty Too Many Times This Has Happened meltdown. And it’s not because we don’t clean it. Maybe it’s because when I clean it I miss one of the twenty cylinders where shit is hiding.

During my meltdown I say to my husband at a volume of eleven, “From now on vacuuming is your chore. I’m done!”

My husband sits on the floor and performs surgery on the Dyson.

Yesterday my husband goes to Guitar Center. He calls me and says he got me a gift. I was hoping for a cuica, a samba percussion instrument. It’s a drum with a stick in the middle. 

You rub the stick up and down. It sounds like an Amazonian rainforest monkey if the monkey was the lead singer of a groovy samba band. 

During Carnival there are huge bands of cuica players. They look smooth as Sinatra playing the cuica.

When I play the cuica I have an “I’m an amateur rubbing my hand up and down a stick” look on my face. I play it in private.

I’m hoping for a nice cuica that I can master to the point of playing in a band. Cuica players are rare in this town. I think. I’ve never taken a poll. 

I will have to overcome the stage fright of standing in front of an audience voraciously rubbing my hand up and down a stick inside of a drum. 

Anyway, my husband comes home bearing a new vacuum. Not a cuica.

I say, “that’s going to make your future vacuuming experiences so much more pleasant.”


Thanksgiving was busy. Cooking, cleaning and entertaining friends and family. Today I’m able to relax and fully embrace gratitude. 

I’m grateful that the child who ran off into our yard after supper last night and hid while we desperately called him and set off a full-on manhunt is not my kid. It’s the little things that count, like the fact that my kids say, “Yeah?” or “WHAT?” when I call for them.

I’m grateful I’m not a missionary on a mission to convert the most indigenous tribe on the planet to Christianity, thereby falling to my death by a Spear Squad. I’d be like, “HOLD ON, HOLD ON. Drop the spears. Stop throwing spears! We need to talk. Let’s make a fire. With your spears. I brought a lighter. I will supply you with a lifetime of BIC lighters in exchange for you not spearing me to death.”

And now I’m judging my choices of gratitude.

In all seriousness I am grateful for sustenance, a home and health. I will never be able to reconcile the human condition that exists in this messy world. I know there are as many good warriors as there are bad. And the warriors that live on the most remote island on the planet are not the ones to mess with.

Ghosts, Coyotes and Bears

Before my mother in-law passed away a few years ago she and her husband spent long weekends at their house in Highland County, Virginia.

My family was visiting one weekend. I walk into the kitchen. My mother in-law, Margaret is telling my kids, who were around six and eight years old at the time, about the man that was standing on the deck when they arrived for the weekend. He was wearing a red flannel shirt. Margaret and her husband Wayne walked around the property but there was no sign of the man. 

Margaret says, “I call him the Ghost in a Red Flannel.”

She goes on:  “One time I was washing dishes and I hear loud footsteps. I look over and I see a tall man in a red flannel running across the porch. Ladybug (their Corgi) was barking like crazy. I ran outside and looked around but the man disappeared. Just like that.”

I’m thinking, “for fuck’s sake. Could we move onto discussing your flower garden? More gladiolas and LESS GHOSTS?”  

My son Charles walks around the yard looking behind bushes for a tall ghost in a red flannel. I’m worried he’s going to stumble upon a timber rattlesnake. We’re hours from a hospital. I’ll take a gang of ghosts any day over timber rattlesnakes.

The weekend is not off to a relaxing mountain retreat visit. 

The neighbor comes to visit. He’s a seventy-something year old native with an impossible to understand dialect.

My husband and I are chatting with him. I always shake my head and smile. 

He says, “the yotes got my shep.”

My husband and I grin ear to ear. My husband gives him a pat on the shoulder and takes his hand like he’s congratulating him for…I don’t know, living?

The neighbor repeats, “the yotes got my shep.”

Margaret comes over and tranlates. “HE SAID THE COYOTES GOT HIS SHEEP.”

I say, “I’m so sorry.” Then I start laughing. My husband gives me a look like I Cannot Believe You’re Laughing.

Later, we’re hanging out in the den. It’s about time for the kids to go to bed.

Margaret says, “Do you smell that? You can smell the bears when they come into the yard. They’re probably right outside this window.”

Suddenly bedtime is cancelled. “Mom, I’m scared.”

I think, “For fuck’s sake.”