Friday, November 28, 2008

What Are You Thankful For?

At a whiteboard hanging in a hallway in the building where I work somebody took an eraseable marker to pose the question: What are you thankful for? Employees passing by could pick up a marker and write a reply. Despite the bad economic times, especially here in Michigan, I was amazed at the variety of responses. From the profound to the seemingly trivial, everyone found something they were grateful for this Thanksgiving. Among them were:

--Not having cancer anymore.
--Having two daughters who are my best friend.
--Having a job (couple of these).
--All of Life's Blessings.
--Good Health.
--Obama won (couple of these too)
--My car is running again.

Then there were some that would seemingly rank down there in importance:

--My haircut turned out really good.
--People who wash their own dishes and clean up after themselves in the lunchroom (well, maybe that is important to the germaphobes among us).
--Imitrex migraine medicine (again, this could be important too, especially at work).

What was the most popular reason to be thankful? You might be surprised. At least I was. It was being single, mentioned four times. Nobody mentioned being thankful for their spouse, or for being married. Hmmmmm. I pointed this out to Wendy who works in this building too.

Somebody else wrote: Job/House/Dog. So even dogs rank higher than spouses. Can't be true, though I really miss my Doogie.

And, yes, I did write something myself. What was I thankful for? Fantasy football! Yeah, baby, yeah. All three of my teams are going to the championship playoffs in three separate fantasy leagues. Even Da Blogs made the playoffs after starting the season with four losses in our fantasy league. Believe me, I'm thankful for that.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Remembering King Mutt

I almost did another blog on our dog Doogie last week. Our poodle mutt has been a popular blog topic in the past and I know my reading audience includes a number of dog lovers. I didn't though because I wanted to take a couple new pictures of Doogie to post along with my blog. But I never had enough free time to take the pictures. And now it's too late.

We lost our aging pet this past weekend. Though we knew he was somewhat living on borrowed time since he passed his 15th birthday this past June, he had been doing fine right up to Saturday night. Late that night I dreamt hearing irregular panting sounds-- two breaths and a pause, two breaths and a pause--eventually slowing down. It was like some old steam engine train slowing down as it neared its final destination.

Then I woke up and kept hearing it. It was our dog's irregular breathing. By now Wendy had heard it too. She looked over the side of the bed and saw Doogie lying there, but with his head up and his legs in a peculiar posture. I turned on the light and we could see our dog was dying.

He tried to get up but couldn't stand and fell back down. Wendy carried him downstairs as I got my youngest son Scott who was still up and watching TV, having come home from East Lansing for the weekend. Scott was always close with Doogie, even away at MSU. Once I had mentioned in an e-mail how we were forced to put Doogie down in the basement because he wouldn't let us sleep with his panicking during a night-time thunderstorm.

Scott's e-mail response included the comment, "Please don't start out a paragraph with 'put Doogie down...' from now on. That scared the *#$* out of me." So now Scott was able to gently pet his Doogie until he finally lay still. Didn't take long, but I think it brought a little comfort to them both. I never got a chance to give him a goodbye hug.

This wasn't Doogie's first brush with death. About five months ago he became violently ill, stopped eating, and had so much trouble walking I felt sure he was on his last legs. But after a couple trips to the vet, he pulled through. After that, we decided to let him eat what he wanted. That meant no more dog food, which he usually just sniffed at and left in his dish anyway of late.

In a way, he became king mutt of the house. That's what I had planned to blog about last week: how our lives had evolved around him lately. It used to be my wife would make dinners that all of us would like, including the boys. Now that the boys are no longer home, I had a bit more say in the menu. But lately when I'd ask why we were having a particular dish that night, Wendy would say: "The dog likes it." What??! The dog likes it!

Or like the other day when I told Wendy that I had eaten a leftover hot dog in the refrigerator, she scolded, "Why did you eat that? I was saving it for the dog." Couldn't even scavenge for snacks out of my own refrigerator?

And if the dinner menu didn't cater to king mutt's taste, I sometimes had to go to McDonalds. Doogie liked the double cheeseburger off the dollar menu. His ears began to perk up when he heard the word 'McDonalds.' Though our eldest son Greg, the nutrition guru, was aghast that we would feed our dog fast food, our dog had something exciting to look forward to in his golden years--dinner time. As Wendy would often say, "Lucky dog, lucky dog."

Doogie reveled in his new role. He was one happy dog, especially at suppertime, just like Snoopy. And like Snoopy he tried to get his way in everything. He'd even bark from upstairs at night, telling us it was time to go to bed. And when he'd hop down off our bed in the morning and scratch at the door, that meant it was time to get up. Hopefully it wasn't before 5 a.m.

Now the king is dead. There won't be another to take his place. We already miss the way he would lie on the couch with his front legs crossed. Or coo like a dove when he was in a particularly giddy mood. Or bark to let me know dinner or breakfast was on the table since I always shared a bite with him. Or the way he'd get excited at the word "pizza" since he'd get a few bites of that as well. He used to even watch out the window for the deliveryman. As we often said, he was the pizza hound.

We'll miss playing our favorite joke on him. When Doogie would bark incessantly in the kitchen, demanding a treat, Wendy or I would run over to him and say excitedly, "What's wrong, Doogie? Is Timmy in the well? Is Timmy in the well???!!" To which Doogie would bark even more incessantly. I don't think he ever got the joke. But probably a lot of people wouldn't either.

We'll miss hearing his footsteps coming up the stairs, we'll miss him watching out the front window for us, I'll miss writing the blogs he inspired.

The king is dead. And his kingdom is in mourning.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Men Need Their Space

My eldest son Greg just a signed a purchase agreement on a home located in a village near here. Now, instead of indulging his semi-nomadic life of living from lease to lease in various apartments, he may soon become a homeowner at the ripe old age of 26.

What does this mean for me? For one, I can finally move out all his old belongings that he's stored here for years. For instance, there's a couple old road signs that used to hang in his room. They're official highway signs. One says Speed Limit 45. The other, No Parking This Side of the Street. I'm not even sure it was legal to buy them. I bought them at his request from a flea market vendor.

When he gets his house, the signs can adorn his space. I told him he must claim an area of the house to be "his space." His wife-to-be (they're set to marry next May) can visit, clean it, whatever, but he needs to decorate and furnish it to suit his taste. Probably a poster of a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model wouldn't be such a good idea. Maybe a full-sized poster of Tom Brady or something like that instead.

"Every man needs his own space in a house," I said. It could be a study, a workshop, part of the garage, or maybe a little den with a bar or poker table. Just something that says, "Guy space."

I mentioned this to my sister-in-law when we were at her house recently and she responded, "Just where is my space then?" I waved my arms to indicate that the kitchen was her domain. She didn't seem to embrace that suggestion.

Do women really need private space of their own? I honestly don't know. Not like guys do, I think. I mean, women don't have the equivalent of hunting camps do they?

Wendy has a separate room of her own down the basement, across from my study. At various times, we've both called it a sewing room but right now we use it for storage basically.

Our youngest son Scott still has his own bedroom here. Though he comes home less frequently with each passing year, it remains pretty close to the way it did when he was attending high school. It's still his space. Among his collections are posters of his favorite Simpsons characters, a baseball cap collection and various stuffed animals from his younger years.

Men having our own space is part of our nature. Look at it from a historical perspective, from the pyramids of Egypt right down to the Oval Office in the White House. When you think of it, it's all a way of man claiming his own space.

Well, it's late and I need to finish this and go to bed. Speaking of space issues, my wife has been claiming that I have been taking up more than my share of space in bed lately, I try to stay on my side but sometimes I sprawl when I sleep. I could just show her this blog to justify my need for space, even when I sleep. But I better be careful. Greg's old bedroom is empty now. I don't want it to become my new space.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Awwwww, over already?

After the longest and most expensive campaign in history, the election is over. Doesn't it make you sad?

I no longer go home to see my phone lit up with answering machine messages from various candidates. I no longer have to sort through all kinds of campaign literature in the mail to find bills and important stuff. I no longer get to see the same negative political attack ad over and over and over on television.

All in favor of a dictatorship instead of democracy raise your hand. I'm there.

Yeah, I got it from both sides. I have to give credit to the Obama people. They seemed to know that both my boys, who are still registered to vote in our home precinct here, would vote Democratic. And the Obama people also knew it would take a lot of nagging to get them to the polls. It sometimes takes a lot of nagging to get young people to do want you want them to do, right?

So I had several campaign workers from Obama's campaign knocking at the door or calling on the phone, trying to reach my two sons, neither of whom actually live at home right now. On Sunday when I explained their circumstances to a Democratic volunteer, she said she would scratch my name off their list so we would not be bothered anymore.

Five minutes later an Obama volunteer called on the phone! Again trying to reach my sons! Well, they did finally get hold of Greg on our phone. I mean the law of averages were in their favor. If they kept calling our house enough they were bound to find him visiting us sooner or later. And they did finally, right on election day.

But the GOP are no slouches either when it comes to bugging people. My work e-mail has been inundated with various Republican pitches for this candidate or that one. And ALL of them come with a request for money (I've never contributed as much as a dime to any political candidate). Towards the end of the campaign I was receiving several e-mails a day. How they got past my spam filter I don't know. And how they got my work e-mail address I don't know either. I blame a disgruntled co-worker for giving it to them.

I could usually quickly spot and delete these partisan pitches from my in-box but towards the end they were getting clever. Instead of getting an e-mail from some Republican or GOP website, it would be a real person who was sending me an e-mail, subject "Urgent: Four Days." Thinking it might be an upcoming work deadline, I would open it hurriedly only to find it to be about the election. And another pitch for money.

So now my inbox is cleared of anything having to do with campaigns. The postman at home only delivers the usual amount of junk mail. There are no messages awaiting for me on my phone at home. I can eat dinner in peace without a knock on the door.

Oh, oh. Wait a minute! What's this in my inbox here? It's an e-mail with the subject title, "Not over Yet." Let's see what it says . . .

"Thanks to your critical support our Senate firewall held up against a tidal wave of liberal attack ads and the Obama Get-Out-The-Vote machine. But the fight goes on ... as three Senate races have yet to be decided. Please donate $25 today . . . "