Daily Habits

28 Portfolio Whirling Dervish The pugs hear my approach and began to rattle the wire door of their x-pens. Time for our nightly ritual. A bone and venison snack delivered to them once we all have settled on the sofa. They squeal and do concentric donut circles—smaller Waffles spinning inside bigger Alfie’s trajectory in uninhibited anticipation. I grab my water bottle and computer, sometimes a snack and make my way to the sofa, careful not to trip on these whirling dervishes.

I think perhaps this is why dogs and humans originally clicked, those wolf pups coming in from the cold and into the caves, because we are both creatures of habit in love with the familiarity of our rituals. The bone at night, a warm nose nudging our cheek in the morning. Forget the rooster or the sun, we set our time by each other. We crawl into the do-it-again moments of each other’s lives, wearing away uncertainty, creating lives as comfortable as an old shoe.

My pugs and I curl into each other on the sofa becoming one heartbeat as their bones are chewed and finished. I rest in their snores at day’s end and think, I remember this, it feels right.

Facetime with the Pugs

facetime I enjoyed a productive and fun-filled weekend that unfortunately for my pugs took me from home. I left them in the good hands of my mother, and though she spoils them perhaps more than she does her two-legged grandchildren, they seemed to miss me. Facetime is a great invention for keeping connected, but you've never done Facetime until you've done Facetime with a pug. You know all those little pug quirks—the snorts, the snuffles, and the spritzes they do, as if they are checking you out, examining you and ruling you okay with one final spray of spritzy drool? Well, if  you don't know what I'm talking about you never met a pug. Those that do can just imagine how these cute  characteristics translate to Facetime. Does an iphone have Windshild Wipers? It should. My pugs heard my voice and approached the screen as if to come inside. Maybe this is how the pug earned its flat face? From my point of view all I see are gigantic eyes and a hint of a nose before the screen is obscured by the residue of a snuffling snort.

"Hey, Alfie, hey Waffles," I say. "How are my girls." A final sniff and I see the two running the other way, turning their heads toward the door in the silly, naive hope that I'll come wandering in.

New Shirt, New Hair, Same Old Me

photo2 A few weeks ago I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed when I came across the ad for this shirt. Those of you who follow the blog know just how apropos it is given the fact that I've been known to not only kiss a pug a time or two, but I've also won a contest doing so. In homage to Katy Perry, I think it's only fitting to pair my new tee with my new blue-tinted hair. Somehow both seem to shed a little light on who I am.



alien We all have had times when we’ve felt our pets are alien to us, species very different in their thoughts and actions. In this photograph, my pug Waffles is definitely showing her alien side. I’ve written how she reminds me of Golem and how her grandmother, Tar Baby, reminds me of the Creature from the Black Lagoon. I even call her “Swampy.” When I showed this picture to my friends and family, they immediately confirmed both descriptions, calling Waffles both a swamp creature and Golem. Regardless, I love my little alien.

Writing Prompt: Where Do You Live or Our Town: Where Waffles and Alfie Live

Our Town Mostly Waffles and Alfie look at the world from the window by our front door or the passenger seat of my car. Sometimes they get to see the towns around them when we take a walk. Although they  never get out and about on their own, there is a context to their story, a place where we live. Today, the pugs took their perch in the hat-and-glove basket near the door where they can peek out the window and watch me drive away. I was headed to the neighboring town of Randolph, Vermont where my office is located, but I stopped on my way to get gas. The gas station is across from the community theater, recently saved from oblivion by a campaign to raise funds for the required digital equipment. Next to the Playhouse is Village Pizza, one of two pizza places in the downtown (the second sits across the street), where I ate dinner tonight after putting in a day of writing at the office. I have four articles due in the next week.

photo 5

After dinner, I planned to return home, but I caught the sign on The Playhouse, Citizen Kane, a classic. Since putting in the new digital projector, The Playhouse now occasionally plays a classic or two on a Wednesday evening. Although the forecast predicted a winter storm, I decided to forgo work for the evening and give Citizen Kane a try. It was as good as I remember it, even better getting to see it on the big screen. I came out to a snow-covered car, however, and the trip home was perilous. As I pulled into the driveway and waited for color to return to my white knuckles, I caught a glimpse of Waffles and Alfie waiting for me at their same window perch. It was as if they had never left. They greeted me with sniffs and snorts, reading me like a diary of the days events. They may not have let the house, but they knew the scenery. They could tell where I'd been and they knew w hen I came home.  One of the things I love about dogs is they same to live wherever we are.

photo 2

Writing Prompt: Where do you live?

Pug Findings

photo 3 So the day did not get off to a good start as my last blog post suggests. I decided to make the best of it by going to my office and finishing up an article on Rutland Magazine, promising myself the reward of stopping in town to look around at craft supplies in Belmain's for my St. Paddy's Day Poster (which I already spoiled by inadvertently writing St. Patty's instead of St. Paddy's, though I hope to fix it) and the local clothing store. I was lucky at both locations. At Belmain's I walked down the Easter candy aisle and found Pug & Kisses chocolates. Not only do they have a pair of pugs on the box but each heart-shaped chocolate is wrapped in pug-themed tin foil. At my next stop, Blue Moon Boutique, I found a pair of black socks, decorated with fawn pugs. I had to scold Jan, the owner, however, for not calling me as soon as she found them. She did admit she thought of me, however, when she saw them.

Pug-wrapped chocolate candy


Pink Piggy

alfie and pink pig As I've mentioned before Waffles loves her toys. Actually, she loves anybody's toys and somehow she is able to sniff them out no matter where you hide them. She and my niece actually seem to have a hide n' seek game going with each other's toys. So, tonight when I saw a big, round pink piggy toy in TJ Maxx I decided to buy it for her, knowing how much she loves Ellie's big fluffy toys. When I took it home I decided to place it out of reach and see how long it would take for Waffles to find it. I didn't have to wait long. I let Waffles out of her x-pen and like a missile zeroing in on its target, she went immediately to the chair where pink piggy sat, stood on her tip toes and began pawing at the toy trying to get it to drop to the floor. Soon, Alfie was there helping her. It's hard to imagine what drew Waffles so quickly to the toy. I don't think pugs have the best of vision, so it must have been her sense of smell, but it's not like she even stopped to sniff. She just shot like a bullet out of her pen. Whatever led her there the result was pure bliss.

two kids

Pug Salad

Blog Waffles as Salad It was one of those weeks when the earth beneath you crumbles just enough to start an avalanche, when it's hard in the end to recognize the ground on which you stand. Rather than give in to it, I've been trying to remain rooted. I found two things help me do so -- creating and playing. I did both today when creating this shot of Waffles. There seems to be a campaign on Facebook to counteract some of the tragic images of abused and homeless dogs with happy images of our beloved canines. Not in protest, but instead to remember why we love them in the first place. A fellow blogger offered this challenge on Facebook, assigning words to those who accepted to take a picture of their dog that somehow represented this word. The first word "Smooch" seemed easy enough so I signed up. So did many others. They received easy dog words such as "sit" and "stay." I received "salad!"

I have to admit at first I was dismayed, but no more than Waffles when I tried to stuff her in the salad bowl, yet, the word was the perfect challenge in taking my mind off the worry around me and transforming this energy into something creative and good. I drove to the next town over and visited the local craft store where I purchased this pink presentation board and markers to create my bistro background, stopped at the grocery store last night for some lettuce, and raided the fridge for the salad dressing. The wine? Pug wine, of course. And, yes, there is such a thing.

I have a few outtakes from the shoot -- Waffles, bored between shots, and our assistant, Alfie, surveying the scene for the best camera angle and to make sure the light was right. Actually, I think she may have just wanted a taste of that wine.

In the end, the pugs once again seemed perplexed by my actions, but happy that I was spending time with them and I was happy to disappear into their world and turn my troubles into pug salad! Thank you Garth Riley for your assignment after all.


Salad 2

salad 3


A Mission Statement of Sorts

IMG_4568 It was easy starting out. I began on Blogger and Posterous, posting photos and a few simple lines to explain them. Then came the  move to Wordpress. A place to write whatever I wanted. I wanted to share about my friend Joan and her pugs and her unorthodox life and how it had influenced me. I had a lot to say. I was part of a writing group. I was going to share my stories. And, then the question came, "What are you going to do with your blog?" It stopped me cold. I thought I was doing it. But, what was it? And, if I wasn't doing it, how would I start?

I pondered this question and I pressed on, finding it challenging to blog, take pictures, draw, work on my own writing and my work writing. Oh, and did I mention living? Had to work that in. I struggled with all that in my writing and behind the scenes and tried to remain faithful while the writing class went on. But, then it ended. I didn't need to write everyday anymore. I felt discouraged Sure, there were people reading, but what did I have to say? What was I doing with my blog?  How did I maintain it and keep up with everything else. Some days it was a relief that the class had ended. Mostly it was disheartening. I need goals and deadlines. I was floundering.

The beautiful design of my blog felt suffocating, closed-in. To make changes and additions I needed to ask a designer, that required money. I found myself wishing I had called the blog something else and then glad I hadn't. I wondered if I could create another to have more freedom and questioned what that would accomplish, making lists of things to add and rearrange. All the time studying what everyone else was doing and coming up short. I wanted to be as ethereal, funny, open as all these blogs I read, but I was too practical, sometimes too happy, sometimes too angry, always too practical to sound so easygoing. Perhaps I had been writing magazine articles too long? Maybe I had lost my individual voice? Perhaps I had an individual voice and it was all wrong. My blog felt too red and heavy, the pictures too small. I came up short.

I struggle with a niche. There are people with cute dog blogs, beautiful photography blogs, funky art blogs, simple, clean writing blogs, open, revealing memoir blogs -- mine is not one thing. Neither am I. I wondered if anyone was listening. There's a verse in the Bible where Jesus asks "Who Do You Say That I Am?" I want to ask that, to gauge the responses. I'm afraid of the answers. But, I like that Jesus asked the question. I mean if Jesus was wondering if anyone got him, I am in good company, right?

I'm taking a blogging course called Blogging from the Heart with Susannah Conway and she tells us to develop a mission statement - what is our intent, what are we trying to say? Who is our ideal reader? I'm beginning to think that blogging is not about asking these questions, but discovering them along the way. For the last few months, behind the scenes, while my blog postings have seemed sparse or not-even-there, I have been compiling my posts on Joan to see what I have for a book, working on a short story, taking first a publishing class and then a blogging class. I'm moving forward, but I'm not sure of the direction. My teaching life is changing. I can't see the path quite yet, but I'll be damned if I die anchored to shore. I'm pressing forward.

The other day someone asked me "What do you know about yourself?" It took a minute.  I felt too embarrassed to reveal anything and then I did. "I know I'm kind," I said. Here's what else I know about me and the blog.

Some days I'm happy. I enjoy simple things. Going to the movies, my pugs, my friends. My art. I could work on Photoshop for hours. Taking pictures. I love being in a moment, but I hate wasting time. Taking pictures of life around me allows me to do two things at once and satisfies both requirements. I love my friends and my family. I know being a mom isn't easy, but I would love more than anything to have any one of my nieces and nephews for my own. I love nurturing things.

Some days I'm lonely. My heart aches for someone to love, to be part of a pair, to be a mother, to have a home.  Some days I'm lucky. I may be single, but I am loved. I have a complex relationship with a Boy, whom I will never marry, but who sends me a pink Keurig on Valentine's Day and knows how to make me laugh. Love is love, my mother tells me and she is right.

I love to smile and have fun and although everyone says writers have to write, and I suppose they do, I would always rather be doing something than writing about it. Writing is my way of understanding life, not living it. It is hard for me to balance it all. I love my pugs and I write about them. I am tattooed with them. They are my tribe alongside my family and my students and my friends. I find pugs funny. I write about them and draw them because it makes me smile. It makes other people smile. There is more to my life than them, but few things that bring a quicker smile.

I want more than anything to be understood -- through my pictures and my drawings and my words. I don't like being labeled though. I may not always be right, but that doesn't make me wrong. Take me as I am.

I want my blog to somehow reflect this. I want to take you into my world. I want you to know that  although I may not always be happy with every aspect of my daily life,  I am happy with me. I am single and a writer and a teacher and an artist and a photographer and a blogger and a pug owner and a daughter and a sister and an aunt and a friend. That's a lot of things and it's hard to show them all at once. I'm not sure if the blog illustrates this. I'm not sure that I've figured out yet what I'm going to do with  it. But, be patient, I'm getting there. And, you're witnessing it here.