Monday, May 25, 2015

The Cockapoo and the Kayak of Death

“Just give it a try,” I said. He looked dubious. “You enjoyed it last year.” He tried to walk away.
“Ok, now you’re just being ridiculous.” I picked him up and plopped him into the kayak. He strained to climb out. “Knock it off!” He climbed over the side. I pushed him back in. “Get your furry black cockapoo butt back in there! Good Lord, dog! Give it a rest!”
He stared at me reproachfully.
I shoved the kayak into the water.
Dog overboard.
It was clear he was not a good fit in my kayak, Clementine, which was a river going kayak, all bumps and no place for a dog to sit comfortably. So we put him into my husband’s ocean going kayak, M2379L. And shoved it into the water.
Zack the black cockapoo considered his options, stood briefly, and then sat down morosely.
Clearly an abused animal.
I did not plan to abuse him. I really did not. Last year he was the Dog Masthead, standing at the helm, or stern, or whatever, tail wagging, giving what for to the lily pads as we sailed through them majestically. I could have practically carved him as a figurehead, a sort of dog mermaid. For a cockapoo, anyway, he almost looked dignified.
Well. Almost.
But this year I have to stuff him onto my kayak and he’s turned into colloidal dog mass, spreading his limbs in different directions simultaneously. He’s a dog amoeba, spreading his body passive aggressively.
He weighed 42 tons and had 45 limbs.
He looked sorrowfully in my face and wonders what he’s done to merit the Kayak of Death.
I was pitied by the mother of a whiny toddler.
That’s just sad.
When we got out into the water Zack sat morosely, as only a depressed dog can, hanging his chin on the side of the kayak, sighing deeply, puffing out his cocker beard. “Pffft,” he said, rolling his eyes at Michael.
“Yeah, yeah,” he replied. “Never again, ok? We’ll leave you home next time.”
“Whatever, dude.”
Zack settled in at one point and cast me a long look of resentment over his shoulder. The sun was hot on his black fur but he refused all offers of water. Splashing water on his fur earned me a dark look.
When we returned to shore, he commiserated with a half-dingo, half German shepherd rescue dog over the evils of mankind and then he retreated to the blanket to sulk. I was surprised that he had made friends with that rather scary looking dog so quickly. They’d given each other a quick sniff and an obligatory tail wag and seemed mutually satisfied with each other.
Then, when Zack was settled on the blanket, the unleashed dingo approached Mike and the kayak for another sniff.
Zack stood up. “ROWR!!” he barked. “Grrr….ROWR RUFF ROWRRRR!!”
“Good Lord, Zack! That’s the dog you just sniffed! Lighten up!” I said.
But he would have none of it. It was one thing for HIM to get within biting range of the off leash monstrosity. It was something else to allow his master to go near him. It. Whatever.
Zack barked. He growled and carried on with every fiber of the cocker spaniel and poodle and the last vestige of wolf lurking down within that dog-designed-by-a-committee deep within him.
Kindle, the dingo/German Shepherd-really-not-such-a-bad-dog-huge-beast, glanced at our overwrought cockapoo, and wandered off to his own blanket.
“Whatevs,” Kindle seemed to say. “Dude, switch to decaf. It’s a beautiful day.”
A good day to die, Z dog…. I’ll go get the kayak.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Making Up

My 17 year old daughter went on the customary, almost mandatory pre-collegiate uber-feminist rant about how cosmetics, and by extension, the cosmetic industry, is a vast, right wing conspiracy. The goal, apparently, is to make us feel really bad about ourselves unless we sex ourselves up with gobs of whatever the company is selling. She feels very strongly about this. “Face it, Mom, just look at the magazines, with the skinny people and the perfect lips and eyes and stuff. It’s all a big conspiracy to make you feel ugly if you don’t buy their products. And use it just the way they want you to.” Massive eye-rolling. “Plus they photo-shop everything anyway. Nobody actually LOOKS like that.”

I sort of nod and go about my mascara’d life. I know what she means. I know that in my 20’s I wrote a mean-spirited piece mocking my mother for wearing make up.  I jeered at her for having a drawer full of bits of eye pencils and rouge, and lip sticks, exactly like the drawer I have now.

I called her shallow. I called her a fashion victim, I think, and said a wide variety of nasty things, convincing myself I was clever and witty and above all that. In my half-assed defense, I was living in central Maine, the part of Maine that mostly heated with wood stoves. This was not coastal, lobster eating Maine. This was the part of Maine where to have a teaching job meant I got up at 5:20 AM to be in the classroom, ready to teach at 7:10 AM. And the school was 45 minutes away.

So wearing eye liner was just not a priority.

I didn’t even have the excuse of being 17 and still figuring myself out. I was just being a really, really smug, all-natural fiber, Birkenstock-wanna-wear asshole. (Sorry, Mom.)

Now, at 50, I wear make up most days. It’s not that I need to, or feel bereft if I don’t. But I feel that when I line my eyes with a very thin marker, I don’t look tired. I don’t FEEL tired, so
why should I LOOK tired? The thin line of dark brown makes me look the way I
feel. The puff of white powder above my eyes makes me look more awake, too, and the smudge of dark brown at the edges of my eyes – ok, well, that just makes me look a bit thinner.

I tell myself that, anyway.

It’s the same effect as coloring my hair. People perceive me as young and energetic when I get rid of that skunk like white stripe on my head. How do I know? I hear comments about how great my hair looks soon after I get the color retouched, and usually people can’t quite put their finger on WHY it looks …different. Good. Young. It doesn’t look wild, or unnatural… just...younger than my age.

It wasn’t too long ago that 50 year old people were right there on the crumbling edge of retirement. I’m looking for a full time teaching job, and I plan to look like I could swing from the chandeliers. If I have to chase after some kid who’s at the top of the monkey bars, no problem.

I have my Taser right here.

So…make up. There are days of second guessing. What exactly is age appropriate for me? 

Do I HAVE to wear some dull pinkish thing? Or, God forbid, some puke-brown color that looks like the cockapoo pooped it back out?  It’s a quandary.

That evening Xena the 17 year old warrior plasters on the rouge, the eyeliner, and the truly scary orange lipstick, and charges forth.

That's a lot of conspiracy spread all over that 17 year old face.

Who am I to judge, though? I did the same thing, exactly, but more cruelly, to my mother, and here I stand, staring, and at my naked lips, and think....

Victim of the patriarchy, are we? Pitiful soul, buying the tawdry snake oil in Nude Beige in pale hopes of holding on to fleeting youth?
Wellll, that'd be a nope.

Um, and nope again.

Make up, I think, is possibly the only truly victimless crime.
I'm more of a Medium Beige, really, folks.So just shut up, and hand over the Killer Crimson lipstick and nobody gets hurt. I need a job, one that helps to pay for two, yes, two college educations. I shall sally forth, equipped with my blood-red lips.  

Amy 1, Patriarchy 0.

Monday, July 7, 2014

A 20-something guy nearly dropped his Mac and deftly caught it on the way down. We caught each other’s eyes as he exhaled in relief. 

“Nice catch,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said. “My parents would not have been happy with me if that had hit the ground.”

“It would have been a bit chilly for a while,” I agreed.

He stood up, all nicely muscled six feet of him, and said, “So – how are you doing?”

I looked up, startled. “Me? Not bad, all things considered. How are you?”

There was moment  of recognition when he suddenly realized I could easily be his mother – the one that would have been upset if he’d dropped his laptop – and he said, “Oh, I’m – fine!” and he fled.

Poor boy was confused. Perhaps terrified.  The young woman sitting next to him – the one his age – looked a little bewildered.

...vanilla cappuccino with an extra shot.
Score one for the not-wanting-to-be-but-clearly-mistaken-for-cougar variety. Yay? Ok. Yay.

This little scene reminded me of the refrain my dad would sing at random moments, before my mom got to be a certain age, “She could easily pass for 45 in the dusk with the light behind her.”  I think he  stopped before she hit fifty. He was smart that way.

I hope never to be one of those women desperately striving to keep the light behind me. Not long ago, though, I put on a favorite blouse. It’s sheer, hangs beautifully; it has a lovely black and white pattern. And then suddenly I thought: nope. Nope nope nope. I cannot rock puffy, elasticized sleeves at 50. That girlish, almost Anne-of-Green-Fucking-Gables wannabee thing?  There’s a date stamp on this sucker, and I, alas, have passed it. I mourned a bit, but I did take it off, and put it in the casket reserved for the Salvation Army donations.

When I glance in the mirror and suddenly have that slightly foolish feeling, that outfit goes to the Salvation Army, for the woman who will snatch it up and wonder who the hell let this one go? Me, honey – enjoy it with my blessing.  The Salvation Army, in wealthy areas such as Ann Arbor, is a great place to find good designer clothing, sometimes with the labels still attached.

 I was there recently and held up a hat with one of those cute little bows on it, the front pinned up, like something out of The Artist, and, again, thought that nope thing. I commented on that to a nearby woman, a slender blonde, who looked just past thirty.

...working it much better....
 “Oh, I think that’s not really true,” she said. “I mean, if you feel like you can rock it, wear it!”

Go back to Sex and the City, Cynthia, I thought.  You and your Jimmy Choo Who’s or whatevers.  Wait twenty years and about fifteen more wrinkles, then come talk to me.

I handed her the hat. “Try it with the bow on the side. It’s a cloche, so it works in several ways,” I suggested. “Like in The Artist.”

“Oh, I love that movie!”

I hated that movie. I smiled and went over to look at the purses.

I have a closet full of purses. You don’t ever have to “nope” a purse. Or at least, I haven’t had to so far. Then there's my Bugs Bunny purse. But nobody messes with my wascally wabbit. 

Different Mountains

5,270 feet of prime, wind-blown mountain.The northern end
of the Appalachian Trail. It starts in Georgia.

My 20 year old daughter Alice mentioned that she was going to climb Mount Katahdin on the Fourth of July this year.  “Are you going with a partner? You shouldn’t hike alone. Have you ever actually hiked a mountain? I mean, not just a big hill. Don’t forget to take extra water and flashlight. Be ready to cancel if the weather starts to turn,” I texted.

I spoke with the condescension of one who had lived in central Maine for eight years. I had skiied the back woods, and heated with a wood stove. I was on a first name basis with countless carnivorous woodland creatures. Ok. Lying. But anyway, the girl goes to college in Florida. She may know alligators, but a mountain? Really? She puts on a sweater when it dips to 75.

I could sense her repressed sigh as she texted back.

No, I'm climbing it on my own. But I am doing it on the 4th so there will be a lot of people around. My supervisor is doing the same thing at a later date. I will have my emergency SPOT with me so I can call for a LifeFlight helicopter if I need it. I'll also have a lot of water, a jacket and water purification tablets, as well as a first aid kit and my GPS.

It's an easier trail than most, only 4 miles round-trip and the least steep of all the trails that reach the top. I am prepared and Evan has my float plan so he knows when to expect me back and when to get worried. I'll do the same for him. It's not that uncommon for people to hike Katahdin alone.

I have no idea what a float plan is. I think that refers to what she uses when she goes on out a rescue call.

Alice is a first mate – well, now a lead officer – on the search and rescue team at her college, which is on the Gulf of Mexico. She’s one of the people who goes out, sometimes with the Coast Guard, to search for boats that are lost, people who have been swept overboard, and that sort of thing. 

She made it. The last hour in the pouring rain.

Back in the late 1970’s, EcSar, for Eckerd College Search and Rescue, was the first rescue crew to show up when the Sky Way Bridge collapsed. I am utterly horrified at the idea of my daughter, who is permanently 12 in my head, searching through the water for bodies is.  But I am also extremely proud that she’s capable of this sort of work.  She’s grown up, and is an incredibly responsible person. 

Right now she’s in northern Maine living in an RV, getting up at 4 AM, slogging through the woods, warding off mosquitoes the size of vultures, using a GPS (no trails for HER), to get to a research point. Then she spends four hours alone in the woods, taking down data on songbirds. By herself. In the woods. Did I mention there are no towns there? No wifi reception, unless the loggers are around? No phone reception?

No Starbucks?

So – how do I adapt to this? In a month or so, my next, and last, daughter, Caroline, will take off for four years in Scotland. She’ll come back now and then for holidays, and for summer, but essentially, that’s that. Four years at the University of Edinburgh for her degree in music. Caroline spent six months at a high school in London a year ago and fell in love with Great Britain. Edinburgh had the kind of music degree she really wanted, so why fight it? She’s one tough cookie and has shown she can handle it. 

Throwing myself at her knees and keening NOOOOOOO would just show a lack of class, I think.

And would not work.

But it’s not just the my kids that are moving on. My mother-in-law is too, and in a good way, really. She has made her peace with moving to an assisted living home, where there will be people to talk to, and folks to eat with. She can go out to visit her farmhouse when she wants to; it’s about 30 minutes away from the assisted living 

home. Her memory is slipping a bit here and there, which is not exactly surprising, as she’s 85. She’s got the old days down fine, but now and then the recent past gets slippery. 

Last week Caroline and I went down to visit and help clean out the garage, evicting all pre-Carter administration Campbell’s soup cans. At one point Caroline borrowed some shoes from the attic to go through the muddy fields.
We got a phone call the following week from Grandma. “Tell Amy she left her leather shoes here,” she told my husband. He passed the word to me, still on the phone.

Puzzled, I said, “I don’t bring leather shoes down there – I’m cleaning the garage. Why would I?”

“She insists they're yours. They’re not hers. She’s mailing them up here,” he said. “I’m not going to argue.”

I shrugged. And that’s how I got her dead husband’s shoes. 

They fit pretty well, actually.