Archive for July, 2011

Dogs Will be Dogs

Friday, July 29th, 2011

DSC_0407This is one post I never anticipated writing. Ayla, my 95-pound Alaskan Malamute, who habitually protects her personal space with a vengence, was attacked during our morning run today. Those who have been at the receiving end of one of Ayla’s nips should feel free to pick their jaws up off the ground. Granted, Ayla did weasel her way out of both her Martingale collar and Haltie combo to charge at what looked like a giant black Lab, but she stopped a foot away at my “No!” and held her ground – mouth open, but teeth not bared.

“Keep walking!” I yelled at the dog’s owner as I jogged across the street toward Ayla. Unfortunately, the woman did not follow my “marching orders.” (If she had, Ayla would have undoubtedly turned tail and returned to me.) Nope. She backed up against the brick wall bordering the sidewalk on her side of the street and yanked “Big Black” back, pulling up so hard on the lead that his feet left the ground. Naturally, Black lashed out, biting Ayla on the head. The resulting brawl featured Black twisting violently the end of his lead while Ayla tried in vain to take him down with a series of variations on the classic mouth-paw combo.

“Walk!” I yelled at the owner again. Then, “Just let your dog go!” I said, as I reached out and grabbed the fur on the back of Ayla’s neck. “Let’s go!” Head down in submission, tail wagging ever so hesitantly, Ayla turned and held still so that my daughter Reiley and I could get her collar and Haltie back on. I noticed Ayla was bleeding from a bite or tear just above her eye, and turned to ask about Black. His owner was still standing there, watching us and muttering about “my God” and her inability to “believe this.” She did not respond to my inquiry.

“Whatever,” I thought. Reiley, Ayla, Cooper, and I continued on our way up the street.

I certainly wouldn’t sanction this morning’s melee, yet I do understand it. Our mid-morning run was accompanied by the excited barking and yapping of the many neighborhood dogs let into backyards when their owners left for work. No doubt, touchy Ayla’s anxiety level was high, and she bolted. Poor Black. His owner literally didn’t provide him with the space needed to assess and respond to Ayla’s advance. I am reminded of Ted Kerasote’s query, “How well would you behave at the end of a leash?”

Kerasote, author of Merle's Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog, is among a growing number of dog lovers and behavioralists who understand the vices of pervasive leash laws. Dogs simply behave more sociably – both on and off lead – when they are allowed to, well, be dogs.

The Meaning of a Self Portrait

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

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My daughter Reiley now takes most of the photos we use in our ebay store listings. On more than one occasion, she’s included a photo of her little sister or Cooper when he’s being a pest. Wishful thinking, I’m sure. So I was a little surprised to find this photo in the download file. I know Reiley wishes she had a big sister, instead of her very own “mini-me,” or that she could have escaped to camp all summer…but has her life become so unbearable that she’s decided to look for a new home on ebay?

“Do one thing every day that scares you”

Monday, July 25th, 2011

Eleanor Roosevelt was right about the virtues of conquering fear. Then you are able to tell yourself, “I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.”
Surviving the Supreme Scream at Knott’s Berry Farm once emboldened me to go through with a divorce. I lead honors students to the top of 10,831′ Mt. San Jacinto each year by way of convincing them that they can complete a thesis.

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Yesterday, I climbed a 180′ canyon wall. It took everything I had to “trust my feet” over a practically flat stretch where all I had to hold onto were “crimps,” or granite protrusions less substantial than the tips of my fingers. My belayer swears that he looked down from above straight into (my) “face of fear.” I guess that means I can do anything now.

“I am woman; hear me roar!”

Riding in the Rain

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

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Recently, while visiting my brother, sister, and nieces in Colorado, I took my nieces horseback riding at the Academy Riding Stables in Manitou Springs. My mom had treated the girls to horseback riding as gift for Christmas. When we started out, it was hot and sunny;  yet we were warned that it would rain while on the one hour ride.

To be honest, I didn’t think much about it. I had already been caught in Colorado rain storms several times during my trip. I thought that, as long at the rain wasn’t ice cold and the size of golf balls, I could handle it. The girls were so excited riding that they didn’t care about the rain.

Then it started sprinkling, almost as soon as we started to ride. About twenty minutes into the ride, it was pouring, and didn’t look like it was going to let up. Half of our party decided to turn back.  When we were asked if we wanted to continue, my nieces scream, “Yes!” they wanted to continue; they were going to finish the ride. Unfortunately, their horses did not agree; they turned to return to the stables. The girls couldn’t control the horses and started screaming. The poor remaining “cowboy” didn’t know how to respond to horses heading the wrong way and girls screaming, so she asked us to dismount and return with our horses to the stable on foot in pouring rain.

Okay…but just before reaching the stables, we had to cross what looked like a river. It was actually a drainage ditch. At first, there was only a stream of water, but soon the water was raging. We held onto our horses with all the strength we had and crossed. Of course, as soon as we returned to the stables, the sun came out?!

My younger niece said, “What luck! The sun is out and now we are done with the ride; this stinks!” She was ready to go again. I think it’ll be a very long time before I go horseback riding again.

With Child

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

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That’s me with “baby Avenarius” on board. Clearly, there is a “baby bump”; yet people persist in telling me that I am “so small” and don’t “look pregnant.” Believe me, if I weren’t pregnant, I’d be in pilates class 24/7.

Drivers Ed

Monday, July 18th, 2011

pollo01My eldest son, Quentin, started his drivers ed class last week, and is a know-it-all “back seat” driver already. I picked him up from class tonight and, being the fabulous and accommodating mom that I am, agreed to take him to El Pollo Loco for a soda…on my way to the post office across the street. I stopped at the curb beside the El Pollo Loco parking lot to let the wanna be teen driver out, and he had the nerve to lecture me on stopping in a “traffic lane”!

Quentin explained that he’d just learned it’s illegal in California to stop in traffic (I assure you, there was none) to drop someone off. One part of me thought, “ingrate!” Confusion followed this flash of anger. I thought I was supposed to lecturing him.

npbiklan1wrongI cannot count the times my father bit his tongue and pressed down – hard – on the nonexistent back-up break on the passenger side as I attempted a right-hand turn into cross-traffic turning left. Botching this maneuver caused me to fail my first in-car driving test. My father’s wince nearly drowned out the examiner’s instruction to head back to the DMV.

In case you’re wondering, I learned that lesson well. Yep, I am the one behind the wheel of the “car” practically parked in the right lane, waiting for those across from me to complete their left hand turns.

Two Roads Diverged..

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

As long as I can remember, I’ve been a “planner” I can remember being eight years old and thinking about college. I knew I needed to get “A’s,” whatever that meant. My grades were still 1’s, 2’s, and 3’s. But I understood that I needed to do the best I could, so that I could to get into the best classes, and eventually earn the A’s that would get me to college. Then after college, there would be grad school, career, husband, home, and children – and in that order. I’m  31 years old now, and have accomplished every goal I established for myself at eight!

Although I say this easily now, in actuality, it was excruciating at times. There was a time I was working 40+ hours a week while studying for a physics degree and saving for a study abroad program. It nearly broke me.

Then there were my younger siblings. I watched my younger sister – by 11 months – Terri, skip through life. I always thought that she, as well as our “baby” brother, saw life through rose colored glasses. They both behaved as though everything would work out to their benefit, a luxury I didn’t enjoy. I used to ask myself, “Don’t they realize that if they don’t know what they’re going to do with their lives by third grade, they’ll never their dreams?!”

As it turns out, they had their own paths. Terri, in particular, enjoyed school. Her life was full of friends, fun, socializing, and average – NOT honors, NOT AP – classes. She never studied and claimed she didn’t have any homework. She went to community college and transferred to UC San Diego, graduating two years behind me. Not bad, when you consider that Terri didn’t even decide to go to college until she was eighteen, a full ten years after I made the same decision for myself.

Terri moved to Colorado after college, and soon thereafter met the man she would marry (six years after I met my husband in high school).  They were married in March, after dating for four years. (It took me six!).  We bought our first homes the same year.

Now Terri is pregnant with her first child. Assuming her baby arrives more or less on time, our children will be 13 months apart. Talk about catching up! It’s funny, all my planning compared to her slack…er, nonchalant, attitude and we arrive at the same point in our lives – college degree, marriage, home, and motherhood – right on schedule.

Isn’t there a poem about “two roads diverging…?”

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My perpetually grinning little sister, Terri, left and I (right). (Can you tell how much more serious I was, even then?)

Brothers…On the Beach

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

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I always smile when my sons find something -  other than video games – to do together. With nearly six years between them, such moments feel few and far between. Apparently, digging holes in wet sand is almost as much fun for both of them as boogie boarding. They took time out of the water to join their much younger cousin, Samantha, shore-side.

A Very Good Day

Monday, July 11th, 2011

I wish every day could be like yesterday.

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I took both dogs for a run on the trails that pass through and surround our neighborhood. Afterward, two of my children and I went climbing with friends at Frustration Creek near Forest Falls. It was our first time out to Frustration since last year and I’d forgotten how long the approach is there. We climbed on the ” steep and impressive wall” that makes up much of the upper tier at the back of a slot canyon just visible from the road. Getting there requires Jaywalking across Highway 38, a short hike, and climbing a 5.6  slab along a seasonal waterfall. It was actually six-year-old Olivia’s first time, and she did really well. Granted her entire climbing day consisted of going up, and later back down, that 5.6. She spent most of the day the way the rest of us did between climbs – sitting on the rocks in the shade, with “toes in the water.” We headed home at dusk, by way of Papa John’s to pick up pizza for dinner.

I was beat, and sun burned, by the time I showered and got ready for bed. It was the best kind of tired, though…the end result of hard, physical work, smiles and a lot of laughter, and just a little loafing.

Yes, today was a very good day.

It’s the Journey

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

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I’m thrilled to be speaking to UC Riverside’s incoming honors students this evening about the importance of making the very most out of their average four years as undergraduate students. My entre into the topic is my passion for mountain and rock climbing, and will draw on Jon Krakauer’s Mt. Everest summit in 1996, just before a devastating storm took the lives of eight climbers in just a few hours. Krakauer’s thoughts at the peak:

I’d been fantasizing about this moment…for many months. But now that I was finally here, standing on the summit of Mount Everest, I just couldn’t summon the energy to care … 29,028 feet up in the troposphere, there was so little oxygen reaching my brain that my mental capacity was that of a slow child. Under the circumstances, I was incapable of feeling much of anything except cold and tired … I snapped four quick photos … and then turned and started down. My watch read 1:17 P.M. All told, I’d spent less than five minutes on the roof of the world.

The message: “It’s the journey, NOT the destination.”