Secrets from my diary

My friend Haley had a very funny post today where she shared pages from the diary she kept when she was nine. It is delightful, especially the entry about her dead bird.

I like Haley’s idea so much I am following suit with a page from one of my diaries. It’s about to get deep in here, deep with the tawdriness that is my every day life. Prepare to blush.


Just kidding. Nothing tawdry here, unless you count my grammar. Books I’ve read in ’05? No, me from 9 years ago, it should be Books I read in ’05.

Looking at this list, there are some books that jump out at me.

Catch-22 remains one of the funniest, darkest, most savage books I’ve ever read.

Me Talk Pretty One Day was my first Dave Sedaris book. Years later, he came to our town on his “Evening with Dave Sedaris” tour and Brent and I went to see him. It was a good time, but we had to leave early. Hours later, after the performance and book signing were over, Brent was back at the theater peepin’ and creepin’ on Mr. Sedaris, all to get an autograph for me. Brent may have looked like a stalker/possible murderer to Dave Sedaris, but Brent looked like a wizard-hero to me when he presented me with the autograph.

Rich Dad, Poor Dad – ugh, what was wrong with me? I probably wanted to play the Rich Dad Cashflow 101 board game, too. Also, why did I start to write it out again on the right side of the page? It looks like a sad attempt at fancy cursive. While your eyes are drawn there, be sure to note the complex mathematical operations.

American Gods -  I have heard many say that it is Neil Gaiman’s best work. I prefer Coraline and the Graveyard Book myself.

Little Women – I hate you, Amy March.

Truman Capote (biography by George Plimpton) –  an old neighbor of Truman’s and Harper Lee’s tells a story about the real-life Boo Radley! How freaking cool is that. The story was verbatim from the neighbor being interviewed so one could presume the story is at least partially true, but really, who cares. It was a great story.

5 People You Meet in Heaven – in a weird coincidence, I tossed out a Mitch Albom reference just today. It was part of a joke that fell very, very flat. I even chuckled at it myself to try to help it catch on, but that didn’t work.

Jaws – the movie was better.

One last thing, you might have noticed that the page itself has Samantha and Jake from Sixteen candles as a sort of watermark. Diaries don’t get much cooler than that.

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Dog Birthday Party for Humans

The subtitle of this post is The most ridiculous thing I have ever done intentionally. Or, The destruction of dogs’ self esteem

Today, April 1st, is Swoozie Louisa’s 8th birthday.

swooze1You’re probably thinking, dang, Swoozie looks so much like Lassie right here. And you are right.

Just in time for Swoozie’s birthday, inspiration struck. I jumped on Pinterest and looked up dog birthday cake. Pinterest didn’t let me down. Imagine it, pictures of adorable dogs staring intently at their very own birthday cakes.

Ah, anthropomorphism, how I love thee.

Naturally, I wanted such pictures of Swoozie, on this, her 8th birthday. Then I thought that the births of Ebby and Baby MertMert should also be celebrated on this day. We don’t know their real birthdays, so we might as well make April’s Fool’s Day a gala. That is how Swoozie’s party came to be known as Pug Birthday.

I scoured the internet to find the perfect cake for the dogs. The company I ended up going with was really great. I even got a text asking me when I wanted my dog cupcakes. My response was something along the lines of “As early as possible, but this is not urgent.” I wonder if there are ever urgent dog cake situations?

My only complaint with ordering the dog cupcakes online was that when they came in the mail, they were clearly marked as such:


I would have preferred the kind of discretion you get when you order other embarrassing items, like sex paraphernalia.

Regardless, the cupcakes turned out adorable. 


Of the three dogs, Ebby was the most stoked about his birthday party.



Mertle was less thrilled than Ebby. She might have been scared of her birthday, actually. I guess she didn’t get the memo that this was a party.




And Swoozie. Swoozie hated her birthday. She wouldn’t even look at her dog cupcake, let alone stare at it intently like the Pinterest dogs. Darn it, Swoozie, stop crushing my Pinterest dreams.



In the picture below, notice how Swoozie, on the left, is turned away from the cupcake, as though she can’t bear the sight of it. Mertle looks completely depressed. At least Ebby is happy.

thethreeAfter I was done torturing the dogs at the table, I moved the party to the backyard.


brentmertBy this point, neighbors were coming out to stare, so we did not decorate Ebby with balloons. Next year, Ebby, next year.

Considering that today is a holiday around these parts, I wish you all a very merry Pug Birthday.







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Pastrami Takeover and Giveway!

Happy birthday to the Pastrami Basket! That’s right, today is a very special day over at the ol’ PB. As you can see, the pugs and Mertle are already over there, partying it up.

pastramidogs_2But this isn’t just a celebration for Brachycephalic dogs.

Jon, master of the PB domain, is here today to invite you to the party and to offer a very cool giveaway. This will be open today and tomorrow only. So read on, and don’t forget to check out Jon’s blog and Facebook page. Happy Pastramiversary, buddy!

Now turning it over to Jon, who has all the details:

Today marks the celebration of the Pastramiversary. What is the Pastramiversary you ask? Well it just so happens that today is the one year anniversary of when I began the cartoon/photo art style you see on the Pastrami Basket. And just how are is this being celebrated on the Baloney Bin? With a contest, that’s how! Ever thought to yourself, “What would I look like pastramified” or “What would my favorite character look like pastramified”? If you have then here is your chance. Anyone who comments on this Pastrami Takeover post at the Baloney Bin or reblogs the Pastrami Basket “Pastramiversary” post will be entered into a drawing to be pastramified. Hop on board folks! This is your chance to be immortalized via cartoon! Or you can at least post it to your Facebook and rub it in your friends’ faces that someone made a cartoon-you.

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A Love Story, Part 2

As I described in Part 1, my mom’s kidneys were failing and the doctors were not sure why. She was moved to a hospital in Topeka, which is about 50 miles from her home and 20 miles from where Brent and I live. For about a week, Brent would drive to Topeka after working his 3rd shift job to hang out with my mom in the hospital during the day, until I got off work at 5:00 pm.

On the fourth or fifth evening, I showed up at the hospital and found the usual scene: Mom was asleep and Brent was reading. Brent said that he wasn ‘t in a hurry to leave, so he and I read our books while Mom slept. Approximately an hour went by in silence. Then, my mom spoke.

“Sarah,” she said. Her voice was faint, no louder than a whisper, hoarse and rough. “Sarah, can you come here.” I jumped up and leaned in close toward her.

“What is it? Are you okay?” I asked.

She shook her head. “I think I’m coughing up blood,” she whispered.

“Oh! I’ll go get the nurse!” I was already moving to the door when she said, “No, don’t.”

I turned around to look at her. She closed her eyes for a long moment and I thought she had gone back to sleep, but then she opened her eyes and said, “Don’t bother the nurse yet. Just check for me.” She wiggled her hand feebly to indicate the bunched-up tissue in her hand.

My stomach turned and my gag reflex howled. My abhorrence of phlegm is well-documented. I believe I have also mentioned how, when I was younger, my mom delighted in approaching me with balled up Kleenexes and telling me to look at what she coughed up, and how she would laugh and laugh and laugh as I stumbled away, gagging. I wanted to run out the door and grab the first nurse I could find, grab this nurse by the lapels and say “Help me! For the love of god help me with the phlegm!” but I also wanted to be able to take care of my mother myself. I wanted that badly enough that I squared my shoulder and gave myself the pep talk of a lifetime. “Sarah, you can do it. You can do this thing that repulses you so much, you want to instantly barf just thinking about it. Just clear your mind, girl (because when I’m giving myself pep talks, I call myself girl). Clear your mind and close your nose. You got this, sister.”

The tissue was in her hand, looking so white and unsoiled. I tried not to imagine the globs of horror that were contained within, but my mind flashed to a childhood memory, the first and last time I willingly looked into her Kleenex and saw her phlegm so green and guacamole-like against the white of the tissue. The memory zoomed in close on the tan-colored cubed chunks floating in the mire, chunks that were gleaming with the luster of clear mucous.

Breathing deeply, I cleared my mind and reached for the tissue in Mom’s hand. I pinched an edge with my forefinger and thumb and pulled on it, expecting to find bloody bile. Instead, something shiny flashed at me, just as Brent said, “Careful!” I grasped the tissue with my full hand and there, peaking out of the folds, was a diamond ring.

When I turned to look at Brent, he was down on his knee, on the hospital linoleum. “Will you marry me?” he asked me.

And that is the story of how we got engaged.

I said yes and we kissed and hugged. Then I told Mom that I couldn’t believe the trick they’d played on me. She just smiled and promptly fell asleep. All the excitement, plus her fine performance, must have exhausted her.

Brent later told me that he had bought my ring months ago, but was waiting for a good time to propose. With the stress of the past week and not knowing what was going to happen with Mom, he thought that happy news would be good for all of us, and that making my mom part of the proposal would bring some much-needed cheer to her hospital room.

The story doesn’t end there, though. The next weekend happened to be my birthday, and Brent threw a surprise party for me. Friends came from out of town and I was showered with thoughtful, wonderful gifts. My good friend Cyndi, who had listened to me cry about mom and stress about money over the past week, gave me with $100.00 – $50.00 from her, and $50.00 from her boyfriend Mark (they ended up getting married because clearly, he was a keeper). My jaw dropped when I opened that card and she just shrugged and told me it should help with the stress. Ryan got me a gift certificate for a massage at a fancy spa, Jason gave me a Best Buy gift certificate, Keri and Melissa gave me Sex and the City Part 1 on DVD, and Toby and Jessica got me the movie Creeps. I was astounded at all the love I was shown that night.

As for my mom – can you believe that she turned out to be completely fine? The kidney specialist was able to confirm that her blood pressure medication was what was causing her kidneys to fail. So scary, but they took her off the medication and gave her one round of dialysis and she was back to her old self. As we were checking her out of the hospital she told me that she had lost 15 pounds on that one round of dialysis. “If only they’d given me a couple more rounds, I’d be really thin right now,” she lamented. I just shook my head and smiled.

My mom and me

So that is my engagement story, which turns out to be a story of many different kinds of love. Friendship-love and Momma-love. And romantic love, too, but more than that: the support and presence that Brent gave me. Is there a word for that kind of love?

Holding hands with my love
Holding hands with my love
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A Love Story, Part 1


Happy anniversary to Brent and me! Nine years of pugs, love, and Dance Dance Revolution.

In honor of this very special day, I have a story about us. It will have to be a two-parter because it’s a tad long.

This story begins with my mom’s kidneys failing.

She had been feeling increasingly ill in the two months leading up to her hospitalization. The sickness continued to intensify and she went from assuming her ailment was merely a tenacious brand of flu to wondering if perhaps she was going to die. It was at that point when she finally took herself to the hospital.

Once at the hospital, the doctors recognized that her kidneys were shutting down. Having no kidney specialist in town, they packed my mom into an ambulance that sped her to Topeka, 50 miles away.

Brent would like me to pause here and remind everyone of the SNL skit where Tim Meadows as Dr. Poop says, “I can’t do anything to help you, but I can do the Robot. That’ll be five thousand dollars.”

I was at work when I got the news about my mom. Actually, I had stepped out and when I returned, my supervisor Katie came to my desk and told me that Brent had called and that it was important that I call him back immediately. Her tone was grave. You don’t get a message like that, in a tone like that, without something being terribly wrong. I reached for the phone, feeling mortal dread.

Then Katie continued on, saying that Brent also told her that this was serious and that if there was ever a time for me to not call him back, this was not the time, because this was an emergency.

Despite the pressure storm going on in my head and the conviction that someone I loved was badly hurt or dead, the second part of Brent’s message gave me a teeny tiny reason to smile. For some reason I heard Brent saying these words to Katie in his Sean Connery voice. “Sooo dramatic,” I thought fondly, before the dread settled back in and I called him back.

The next ten days were hard. Scary, stressful, and exhausting. Mom was barely conscious and the doctors couldn’t figure out why her kidneys were failing. They decided to hold off on dialysis until they could get additional test results back. We had no idea what was going to happen or if she was even going to pull through. We were told that at the very least, she would be on dialysis for the rest of her life.

Topeka is about 20 miles from where Brent and I live, and this was my first experience with caring for a sick parent – trying to balance being there for my mom and being a good caretaker, knowing the right questions to ask the doctors and how to advocate for her in an intimidating environment, while at the same time working my normal job and trying to hold in all the stress so that I could make enough money to be able to swing rent and pay for the gas to drive to and from the hospital. Back then I drove this enormous truck and I remember the drive home from the hospital one night, glancing down at gas gauge and wanting to cry over how fast the needle was dropping.

For various reasons, it was very difficult for my stepfather to make it to Topeka to be with my mom. I had taken a couple days off work and while Katie would have given me as much time as I needed, I was anxious about money. I made the plan to go back to work my normal hours and then head to the hospital right when I got off work. I thought it was a good enough plan.

Brent disagreed. He said that he didn’t want my mom to find herself sick and alone in the hospital, even if she was mostly out of it. Brent worked third shift, and he decided that he would drive to Topeka right after work and stay until I got there after my shift. “I’ll just sleep in her room, and if she needs anything, I’ll be right there to help her,” he told me.

And he was. Each afternoon I would walk into my mom’s room, with its beeping machines and bright lights, and I’d see my mom there, fast asleep and still breathing, but so very weak. Seeing her so sick and disoriented made me feel untethered, as if in the absence of  her direct awareness and attention, I was just flapping in the wind.

You know, it’s easy to see your parents’ faults, where they messed up with you, and all that is wrong with your relationship with them. What’s not always as clear are the things they got right, that they accomplished so well and so consistently, day in and day out of your entire life. These comforts are such a natural part of our existence, that you don’t notice them anymore that you do blinking or breathing.

Or maybe that is just me. Because when I was sitting with my mom in the hospital, her being barely responsive, I saw it clearly, the extraordinary love that she has given me my entire life. That everywhere I had been and all I had done, her unconditional love was right there with me. Lump in throat, I would marvel that something as mundane as that that sterile-looking hospital bed could hold such a precious being.

And then I would look over at Brent, who would be trying to doze in this vinyl recliner that looked only a little bit more comfortable than the floor. He’d have his blanket around him and a book on his lap. Amid all the fear and uncertainty, there he was – my love, my steady support, my hero, crunched into that awful chair, bleary eyed and exhausted himself, but happy to see me.

Extraordinary love.

Psst, check out Part 2 here.

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