Sunday, October 30, 2011

Maybe old dogs can't learn new tricks, but apparently old cats can.

Lucy has been an ideal pet for the last 12 years, but one thing that always bugged me about having a cat was the litter box.

Having a box of pee and poop just sitting somewhere in the house was never that I came up with a brilliant solution: a doggie door to the garage! Instead of having that stinky, portable outhouse indoors, we could keep it outside!

In a matter of days, my plan was being put into action. The little door within the bigger door had been installed.

I showed Lucy and was met with a less than enthusiastic "meow?"

It took 3 weeks, 5 boxes of fruit roll ups and countless accidents in what she had designated her new toilet: the guest room...but we did it.

Lucy who was already 8 years old at that point, learned how to use a doggie door.

I was thrilled. Everyone told me it couldn't be done, but I proved them wrong!!!

There was just one small snafu: I forgot to put any time and energy into training my husband to close the garage door consistently...

I wasn't worried about Lucy leaving...that was not an issue. Lucy is not motivated to venture out into the unknown. She got out once when she was a kitten and I think the memory of being stuck in the rain with fleas was enough to scare her straight.

The thing we had to be worried about was the opposite. We had to be vigilant about the other animals in the neighborhood who were motivated to do some exploring.

The first time I realized that closing the garage door was important was on a lazy Sunday...

Aaron and I were napping on the couches in the living room when I sat up straight.

"What a weird dream. That baby wouldn't stop crying, and I couldn't figure out where it was coming from." I shook my head reaching for my bottle of water.

I was just about to take a drink when I heard it again. It was the baby from my dream! I put down my water and stood up. The sound of the baby was getting louder.

I walked into the kitchen and found the source of the crying. It was no baby. It was a large, fierce-looking black and orange cat. He was howling as he circled a cowering Lucy.

"AARON!! HELP!" My husband jumped up, looking bewildered. "THERE'S A CAT IN THE KITCHEN!!!"

"Lucy?" He asked.

I shot him an exasperated look and said, "ANOTHER cat!!!"

We used a two pronged approach. Aaron grabbed the feline intruder and I grabbed Lucy, checking for wounds.

In a matter of minutes, the frenzied panic in the kitchen was over.

"We have to remember to close that garage door!"

Aaron nodded. We didn't have another incident for at least two weeks...until Jonathan decided to stop by.

It was a Saturday afternoon. I was in the living room doing paperwork and Aaron was outside pulling weeds.

I looked up from the computer just in time to see Lucy sprinting down the hallway toward our bedroom which was weird because Lucy never sprinted...anywhere.

I got up and headed into the kitchen to investigate, and I found him.

A small beagle was standing in the middle of the room. When I entered, he ran right over to me, trying to lick my face.

"What the...?"

I glimpsed the doggie door and noticed an inordinate amount of sunshine peeking through. Not again...

Of course, we had left the garage door open again and another little guy had decided to pay us a visit. I checked his tag and saw that his name was Jonathan.

I scratched his ear and said, "Well, hello, Mr. Jonathan." Under his name, was a phone number. I grabbed my cellphone and dialed. No answer.

I waited until I heard the voicemail click on and left a message, letting the person know we had their dog.

As I hung it up, I noticed that Jonathan was sniffing Lucy's food bowl. Could dogs have cat food? It must all be the same. I poured some of Lucy's food into a bowl and offered it to Jonathan.

He sniffed it and looked up at me.

I guess not.

Wanting to be a hospitable hostess, I opened my refrigerator, looking for something more appealing.

My eyes landed on a leftover steak from a meal we'd had the week prior. I opened the tupperware container and sniffed. As I did so, Jonathan licked his lips. I guess he could smell it, too.

"Is this more to your liking?" I cooed at him. He wagged his tail. I cut it up into bite sized pieces and set the bowl in front of him.

He gratefully wolfed it down.

I was sitting on the kitchen floor watching him eat when Aaron walked in, finished with his yardwork. "I'm starving. I think I'm going to make a quesadilla with that leftover steak."

I looked up at him. "It's gone." Jonathan barked.

Aaron did a double take. "Where did that dog come from?!"

"Someone forgot to close the garage door again."

Aaron looked sheepish. "Oops. Does he have tags?"

I nodded and told him that I had already called and left a message.

"You didn't give him that steak...did you?"

"I..." The sound of my ringing cell phone cut me off.


"Hi. You called about Jonathan?"

"Oh, hi! Yes, I did. He came through our doggie door. We have him here at our house. He's fine. I'm sure you were worried." (actually he didn't sound worried at all...)

"Thank you for taking him in. I'm not even sure how he got out."

"It happens." I heard a sigh on the other end of the phone and waited for the man to tell me when he was coming to get his dog.

"Do you think you could just keep him overnight?"

I was stunned. " Sorry. We have a cat, and well, we don't really have any food for him." (I didn't mention the steak.)

The man sighed again. "Alright. It's just that I'm right in the middle of know?"

"MmmHmm." I waited. The man on the phone waited. After an uncomfortable silence, I asked, " you want our address then?"

He sighed again. "Yeah."

I gave it to him, and he said he'd be at our house within the next few hours.

As soon as I had ended the call, Aaron was all over me. "What did he say?"

"He wanted us to watch him overnight!"

"What?? Was he relieved that we had his dog?" I shrugged. "That's told him we couldn't keep him...right?"

"Of course."

"Ok. Now, back to this steak...what made you think it would be a good idea to give a strange dog some strange meat? What if he gets sick?"

"Oh! Blah! He's fine." I crooned, scratching Jonathan under the chin.

Aaron shook his head.

We both looked up in surprise when the doorbell rang. That was fast.

Aaron opened the door and immediately told Jonathan's owner that I had fed him steak. What a tattle tale!

Luckily, Jonathan wasn't on any sort of special diet. (Seriously...why does Aaron have to be such a boy scout!?)

The man thanked us and that the was the last we saw of Jonathan.

Since that time, we have moved to a new may be happy to know that it is a house with a non-functional garage door opener.

So...we can't park our cars in the shade, but on the bright side, we haven't had any more uninvited four-legged visitors either...and I'm proud to say that Lucy has not forgotten how to use the little door that leads to her toilet.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween is fun when you have kids or pets to dress up in embarrassing costumes...

Halloween is a holiday built around candy and costumes...and for some...humiliation.

My mother was not the crafty type when we were growing up....until a morning show called "Home" came out.

My brother and sister were lucky enough to have outgrown trick or treating by the time she viewed the "make your own costume" special...but alas, I had not.

Every year, we had a choice for Halloween. We could be a witch, a clown or a tiger. Those are the 3 costumes we had at the Orth was boring. It was predictable. It was comfortable....but of course, being the true original that I am, I had to balk at the idea of wearing my sister's hand-me-downs.

It's true what they say. Be careful what you wish for...

It was 1987....a simpler time, a simpler life. There was no "Political Correctness" or "Children's rights"...people were inappropriate all the time, and no one ever batted an eyelash.

I was 9 years old, wanting a new, original Halloween costume, and luckily (or unluckily), my mom had an ingenious idea-r.

I remember sitting in the passenger seat of my mom's Chrysler, listening to her excitedly talk up the costume idea she had for me.

"...I saw it on that new show I know the one...Home, I think it's called? Anyway, they dressed this kid up in an outfit, using only things they had around their home...get it?? Because the show is called Home?? Isn't that clever??"

My mom was so excited, I thought she might eat her own tongue in the process of jabbering about this new costume.

When I was able to get a word in, I asked the most important question about a detail she failed to mention. "Well, what is it? What am I going as?"

She paused to build the anticipation and then said dramatically, "A hobo."

I stared at her. This is what she had been so excited for?? Tommy Gillihan dressed like a bum every year!

I felt duped. This was nothing new.

BUT...being the awesome daughter I was back then, I didn't want to hurt her feelings so I plastered on a fake smile and said, "Sounds good, Ma."

She could sense my lack of enthusiasm.

She tapped my leg and whispered, "I haven't told you the best part yet."

I raised my eyebrows. "What?" I was expecting her to tell me I got to have a cool accessory like a live dog wearing a bandana or a life-like shank.

"You get to have stubble!"

At age 9, I had no idea what "stubble" again, I just stared at her. I was wondering if "stubble" was another word for "shank". (Why I knew what a shank was at 9 is a whole other story...)

The enthusiasm with which my mom relayed this last bit was contagious.

I was finally getting excited. I get to have stubble! Now THAT is something Tommy Gillihan did NOT have....and also, considering it was Halloween morning, I didn't have that many options...

We got home and my mom and I scavenged the house for "homeless looking clothing" (Like I said, PC is not something that even existed in the 80s...)

An hour later, I had my getup on. I was wearing my brother's "garbage" jeans that had holes and grass stains in the knees, a tired looking flannel shirt that my dad had put in the Goodwill bag that was so big on me we had to roll the sleeves up 5 times and a stocking hat (it was the midwest...Halloween was usually so cold that I had to cover my costume with a hat and a coat anyway...but this year, my costume was so versatile that I could wear my jacket underneath.)

I stood in the kitchen waiting for my mother to reveal how we were actually going to get this elusive stubble on my face.

She smiled broadly as she took out the syrup and some coffee grounds.

As a kid with some major sensory issues (I ate only Lipton soup for breakfast and lunch for 3 years for Christ's sake!), I couldn't believe my eyes.

Surely she was not thinking of putting that shit on my face...I took a deep breath and waited for her to make a snack out of these ingredients while she got the real stubble out.

No such luck.

I watched in horror as she squeezed the syrup onto one plate and spread coffee grounds on another.

When she felt everything was ready, she turned to me. "Ok, now all we have to do is roll your face in this syrup and then roll your face in the coffee grounds...and...wah-lah! Stubble!"

I was reluctant. I was grossed out. I was pissed.

Just then, my dad walked up behind us. "Aren't you going to get your costume on? Trick or treating starts in 8 minutes. If you want to fill up your candy bag, we're going to have to get a move on." (My dad was a bigger sugar hound than we were...he loved Halloween because it meant an unlimited supply of candy for 2 days...or less.)


I had no choice. I plunged my chin into the syrup, grimacing at the sticky feeling.

My dad watched with a confused look on his face. "What the hell are you doing? Get that shit off your face and get your costume on!" (Again, it was the dad freely cussed whenever he felt like it...except when he was singing hymns at church...)

"Larry!" My mom scolded. "This IS her costume. She's a hobo and we are making her a beard!"

My dad shook his head and said, "You're going to keep that shit on your face all night, kid?"

I shrugged. I was merely a pawn...a frankenstein of my mother's making.

I tried not to drip syrup on my shirt as my mom helped me mash my face into a pile of coffee grounds.

When she had finished, she took a step back to admire her handiwork...and burst into a fit of giggles so intense she had to lock her knees together and squat down to prevent an accident.

I opened my mouth to protest and tasted the bitterness of the coffee grounds.

"It's itchy!" I complained. "...and you're laughing! This doesn't look like crubble!"

Now both of my parents were laughing.

"It's STubble...not crubble...and of course it does. I'm only laughing because I'm not used to seeing you that way. Now go on. It's already quarter after. You're going to miss out on the big bar house."

That was enough to get me moving. There was one house in our neighborhood that was known for handing out REGULAR sized candy bars...not the fun size...REGULAR SIZE...but they only did it until they ran out and then they would turn their lights out.

Yep, this reminder snapped me back to reality. I grabbed my pillowcase and whistled for my dad to follow me. We had candy to get! There was no time to waste...itchy misery or no itchy misery.

That Halloween was rough. All night my dad would slap my hand away if I looked like I might scratch my face so I had to learn how to be a facial contortionist. I wiggled and frowned and grimaced and puckered, trying to figure out a way to get the itching to stop....but nothing worked.

I'm not sure how I did it, but I made it.

I made it the whole 4 hours without itching that damn thing off my face...all for a good cause...kid crack...CANDY.

Too bad the next day, half my booty was gone.

I was the only one who was still young enough to go door to door, but I wasn't the only one with a sweet tooth.

I thought that I had found the perfect hiding spot for all of that sugary goodness (the back of my closet...let's face it, I was no mastermind)...but my brother and sister were wise to me and had eaten more than half my stash before I caught them.

If only I had the guts to give those two "stubble" while they were sleeping.

I guess there's still time....what's that old saying? Revenge is a dish best served cold?

Those two hooligans better sleep with one eye open the next time I visit the midwest...

Actually, on second thought, I should give stubble to the instigator of this torture costume.

All I have to do is wait for her to take an Ambien. She'll never know what hit her. Hell, have you ever listened to the warnings for that drug??

(said in a soothing voice in hyperspeed: Sleep walking, talking and/or driving with memory loss for the event is not uncommon when taking Ambien...)

Yes, the more I think about it, the more I like this idea.

Watch out, Lynn.

Sleep stubble with memory loss for the event is coming your way this holiday season!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Did you have the big box of crayons when you were a kid?

I've really been slacking on the upkeep of this blog lately....and today is no different. Well, actually, that's not true. It IS different because I am creating a new post....but I have to admit, I'm merely recycling an old blog I wrote back when blogs were made out of paper and were called 'columns'.

I originally wrote this column in March 1998. I was a sophomore at Purdue University and I had a gig writing for the school newspaper.

I wrote a weekly column, but this one was a last minute gem. It was a result of equal parts procrastination, panic and utter desperation. I was the editor of the opinions page, and if a writer didn't turn in his work, I had to fill the hole. Without much further ado, here is what filled that hole...

Original Title:

Crayons color Orth's Memories

(Disclaimer: Information provided in this essay may or may not be exaggerated for entertainment purposes only.)

Do you stay in the lines?

Last week, a close friend of ours celebrated its 40 birthday.

First announced on the "Captain Kangaroo" show in 1958, the 64-crayon Crayola box with the built-in sharpener continues to be an icon in the elementary art community....and for those no longer of age to be considered part of this younger society, it is something that still frames many childhood memories.

Some may look back at the big daddy of crayon boxes with nostalgia and others may not feel so warm and fuzzy about it.

Picture it. Indiana. 1984....

In what seemed to be an idyllic first grade classroom, there was a darker subtext which was mostly ignored by adults that witnessed it. It was an unspoken hierarchy governing each and every student...the Crayon System.

That's right. As young as six years old, children are able to spot designer brands and more impressive belongings...even in what seem to be the most inconsequential accessories....crayons.

The Crayon System was a good, old fashioned social schema based on material posessions alone.

It was quite simple really.

Those with the 64-crayon box were the elite.

Those without it were shunned from elementary school society.

No matter how much I begged, my mother just would not break down and buy me that beautiful box with its many, many colors and exotic sharpener built in.

In her mind, she was being economical and rational. She thought, why does any child need that many colors!? ...And a sharpener? Puh shaw! Just rub your crayon back and forth at a 30 degree angle to the paper until a point emerges or a hand cramp forces you to take a's character building!"

My mother had no way of knowing that the extra crayons in that big box not only represented a better color selection....they represented a better way of life.

FORTY more crayons could open a lot of doors for a first grader like me...

I remember pulling out my tiny box of crayons on the first day. My eyes darted around the room as I took stock of what the others kids had.

The 64 kids would hoard their exotic array of colors while us peasants tried to make the best of our paltry selection. As we were trying to decide whether to use orange or yellow for Barbie's face, they would relish in the authenticity of their flesh tone colors....but the inequality did not end with the peach color alone. Oh no, there were others.

They had all the good colors that didn't even exist in the 24-box world...colors like burnt sienna and carnation pink and cornflower and magenta. They did not just have "red", they had brick red and violet red and original red. At Christmas time, they had gold and silver...the presents they drew under their "forest green" pine trees looked tantalizingly real...and fancy.

How I longed to create such colorful images!

On most days, I was content to make up for my lack of choices in innovative ways. If I needed grey to color an elephant the appropriate color, I learned to use black with gentle the illusion of grey. When I wanted to make a tree seem more lifelike, I blended shades to represent the cornucopia of color on a fall day.

Most of the 64 kids admired my ingenuity and gave up trying to make me jealous but every group has that one jerkface that finds a new way to show off.

Bobby Smardle was my arch nemesis. He not only had the 64 box. He had multiple 64 boxes at his disposal for when his favorite colors got too run down for his liking. He was the kid who had everything.

If we were talking about Alexander Graham Bell, he'd have to raise his hand to point out that his house had TEN phones and he would be sure everyone knew that he even had one of his very own in his bedroom.

When we read "James and the Giant Peach", he had to tell everyone about the peach tree his grandma had in her yard.

He even claimed to have a drinking fountain in his own house one time! (...but I'm pretty sure he lying about that one.)

This kid had an annoying anecdote for pretty much every topic our teacher introduced.

Ok, I know this sounds cruel, but sometimes, on days when Bobby Smardle was feeling particularly mean, he would run down his crayons ON PURPOSE just so he could sharpen them right in front of us! He didn't stop there, either. He would often rally the other 64 kids to do the same, turning into a mass sharpening us 24 box kids had to suffer through. (I know what you're thinking...and I agree. They were mean little fuckers..)

Oh, we would try to shake it off, pretending not to notice; pretending not to care when our pencil sharpeners got clogged with crayon wax...but inside? DEEP down? We HURT.

A lot of kids cracked under the pressure. They would lose it and try to steal a wayward crayon when one of the 64 box kids weren't looking.

Others tried to sneak a sharpening in here and there.

It affected me, too. I became a crayon hoarder.

Because I had such a limited supply, I tended to be somewhat overprotective of my crayons.

Every crayon had its own special place in the box. In order to borrow a crayon from me, people had to first prove that they were worthy. It was of the utmost importance to weed out the irresponsible crayon borrowers...those who ate them; those who broke them; and those who tore the beloved Crayola wrapper off. (In case you are not aware: Once the wrapper was gone, the crayons were essentially garbage.

Crayon memories...there is a neverending supply of them in this rambling old mind of mine, but I've got to stop at some point.

Yes, the crayon hierarchy was, indeed, an influential piece of my history pie...but I'm proud to say I overcame this early experience of segregation and discrimination.

I may not have had the most colorful pictures to hang on the wall back then, but I certainly have a wealth of shades in my memories.

Maybe that's why my mother chose not to get me so many colors.

Perhaps, she knew that the colors I had inside of me could outshine anything that Crayola could think up...yes, now that I see it in print, that must be the reason...

Not that any of this matters anymore. I'm an adult now. Crayons are crayons! I'm over it.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a lot of crayon sharpening to do before lunch.