Category Archives: Love

Sunday Self-Care: Four-legged bed warmer

Since the temperatures started dropping a couple of weeks ago, Ron has started doing something that lifts my spirits: When he goes to bed, he brings Lillian with him and lets her sleep on the bed with us.

His motivation is largely selfish: Dogs have higher body temperatures than humans, so Lillian is basically a space heater with feet. But she’s also very sweet, and very cute, and very good at making me smile every time I wake to find her snuggled up against me or curled up like a cat at the foot of the bed.

I have to stifle an “awwww” when one of us rolls over or moves the covers, and Lil whimpers softly in protest.

I laugh, remembering our late retired racing greyhound’s morning routine, every time Lil tells us she needs to go out by simply staring at one of us until we wake up, our subconscious apparently having realized we’re being watched.

I laugh again when Ron gets up, and Lil — who loathes him but cannot abide the thought of being left out — sits up, watches him intently for a moment, and then scrambles off the bed and dashes out after him.

And on nights when I’m tense or sad, I stroke the fur on top of her little head, soft as a baby rabbit’s, and feel my blood pressure dropping and my mood settling as my sweet little Chihuahua-Italian greyhound mix soothes me to sleep with her presence.

I love our whole pack, of course. Song is a big, sweet goober. Riggy is a funny little ball of irrepressible energy. And Walter is Mungojerrie and Rumpleteaser rolled into one. They are our world, and we love them all immensely. But Lillian is the only member of the pack who can and will sit still long enough to cuddle with me on a regular basis, and that’s a Very Important Job.

If you don’t have a snuggly little dog in your life, I highly recommend adopting one. They’re worth their weight in gold.

Emily

Loss

The world lost a good man this week.

I met Darian several years ago, when he was a round-faced sophomore serving as a quiet beacon of sanity in a class full of outrageous cutups. He was a sweet kid, unfailingly polite, and so quiet and unassuming that when I went through my archive of classroom photos in search of a photo of him doing something ridiculous to post on Facebook, I came up empty, because Darian wasn’t the kind of kid who craved attention. The only photos I have of him show a young man with a sort of bemused smile on his face, enjoying the antics of some of his more gonzo classmates during a group project at the conclusion of a unit on Hamlet.

Somehow those images, shot by one of his fourth-hour classmates, capture the essence of Darian as I knew him better than anything I could write about him. He was one of those kids every teacher looks forward to working with because he was so good-natured and reliable.

Sometime during Darian’s junior or senior year, he was diagnosed with cancer. He battled it — seemingly successfully for a while — graduated in spite of the distractions it dealt him, and last year, married another of my former students, a funny, confident young woman every bit as sweet and bright as he was. They seemed a perfect match, and smiling at their wedding pictures on Facebook, I fervently hoped they’d get their happily ever after.

Cancer doesn’t care what anybody hopes, and this week, it assigned Chelsey a title nobody her age should have to carry: widow.

The word sounds wrong when I think of her laughing in my classroom or beaming, radiant and beautiful, in her wedding pictures. It feels wrong. It weighs too much. It tastes strange in my mouth when I try to say it, remembering Darian grinning at whatever outrageous thing the class cutups were pulling this time.

Chelsey is a strong, compassionate woman. She’ll need that strength, and I pray that compassion will be returned to her — amplified exponentially — in the coming weeks and months and years. I suspect it will. I know Webster, and I know southwest Tulsa, and if there’s one thing kids who grew up together on the west side of the Arkansas River know how to do, it’s love and support each other through rough times. They’ve had to do it before — far too often — and I wish with all my heart I could stand between them and the world and absorb the blows so they’d never have to do it again.

If you can spare a prayer, a thought, or a good vibe for my kids — and especially Chelsey — I’d appreciate it.

Emily

Sunday Self-Care: Family time

I love summer, but it puts a serious cramp in my style when it comes to spending time outside. Spring, fall and even winter are much safer times to take the dogs out for a walk or let them romp around the park, and after an exceptionally hot summer that started early and overstayed its welcome, I’m making a concerted effort to enjoy autumn.

To that end, we take the dogs for several walks a week, and when time and weather allow, I like to join them on their trips to the backyard, too. Part of this is of necessity (if I’m not out there to supervise, Lillian refuses to leave the porch, especially at night), but it’s also nice just to be out there with my four-legged family members.

Riggy, left, and Lillian hang out on the deck, waiting for me to let them back inside the house. Songdog was busy playing in the yard.
Riggy, left, and Lillian hang out on the deck, waiting for me to let them back inside the house. Songdog was busy playing in the yard.

There’s something soothing about hanging out with dogs. Their worldview is so different from ours, and they notice things I’d miss. Each dog teaches me something different.

Songdog is one of the most affectionate beings I’ve ever known. No matter what’s going on, he looks up at me like I’m the most important creature in the entire world. Give him even the slightest opportunity, and he’ll teach you what it is to experience unconditional love.

Riggy is utterly irrepressible, as rat terriers tend to be, and it’s a joy to watch him stride confidently through the world despite having lost his eyes to a genetic condition several years ago. Every walk with him is a lesson in perseverance and resourcefulness.

Lillian — who was part of a breeding operation but ended up in a shelter for nine months after her owner got sick and had to give up all her dogs — is almost heartbreakingly neurotic. She responds to things differently than any other dog I’ve ever had, and she forces me to slow down and think about how my actions might look to a six-pound Chihuahua mix who is trying hard to trust me but hasn’t quite figured out how to be a dog and needs a little help understanding what’s going on before she can be OK with it.

Together, the three of them are helping to buff off my rough edges and soothe my frazzled nerves.

Emily

Munchkins

Ron hadn’t driven my new car yet, and I hadn’t had a chance to see what kind of mpgs I could coax out of it on two-lane highways, so we took it to Mom and Dad’s today and spent the afternoon hanging out with the kids. Here are a few photos:

Grandma helped Ollie fill the hole with water before planting his tree.
Grandma helped Ollie fill the hole with water before planting a tree.

Hazel helped Papa push the dirt up around hers.
Hazel helped Papa push the dirt up around hers. I love this picture. Projects like this are how I turned into a hippie.

Jamie is getting the hang of using the back of the rake to shove dirt around the trunk of the tree.
Jamie is getting the hang of using the back of the rake to shove dirt around the trunk of the tree.

Hazel and her daddy played Frisbee.
Hazel and her daddy played Frisbee.

Frisbee!
Frisbee!

Hazel tie-dyed that T-shirt during my last visit. It turned out really well.
Hazel tie-dyed that T-shirt during my last visit. It turned out really well.

The boys wanted to show off their new bunk bed before we left. Hazel liked climbing up and touching the ceiling.
The boys wanted to show off their new bunk bed before we left. Hazel is now trying to convince her parents to get her one. There appears to be a little monster under the lower bunk. 🙂

For the record, the mileage meter was showing about 18 mpg when we left town. I’d driven about 20 miles on that tank — all of it in town, which is full of hills and stoplights. It’s about 60 miles to Mom and Dad’s house, and it was showing 28.4 mpg when we got home, so I’m guessing on a long road trip, we could get at least 30 mpg if we did a little hypermiling. I’ll probably drive the Dreamcar in town when the roads are clear and reserve the Subaru for weekend lumberyard runs and days when there’s ice in the weather forecast. I really enjoy driving a station wagon, so it will be a nice treat to offset the general crappiness of having to get out of bed on winter mornings.

Emily

Why I moved

Yeah, I know. I haven’t blogged in weeks. Cut me some slack; there are some logistics involved in moving 450 miles. Totally worth it, though.

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I had two main reasons for moving. The first was that I desperately needed to get back into journalism and simply wasn’t likely to be happy doing anything else.

The second was that I missed my niece and nephews. Living nine hours from my family was fine for a while, but every time I came home to visit the kids, it got a little harder to leave, knowing they were growing and changing so fast that they would be completely different little people the next time I saw them.

I see a lot more of them now. Last weekend, I went to visit Mom and Dad, and all three of the kids came to play. We spent a happy evening chasing fireflies through Mom’s yard.

This morning, my sister and brother-in-law brought Jamie and Ollie to see us. We went to Discovery Playhouse, which is in downtown Cape and well worth the visit, and then we had lunch at Watami, which has the big hibachi tables where the chef comes and entertains you while he cooks your food right in front of you. Jamie didn’t like his chicken, so we brought the dogs some leftovers, and then we went geocaching, took a walk along the floodwall, and had ice cream at Port Cape.

The slideshow above contains your recommended daily allowance of Vitamin Cute.

Emily

Remember when?

This post is an open letter to the Daniel Webster High School Class of 2013:

Dear Seniors,

I love you with all my heart and wish I could be there to celebrate with you, but life — as you are learning — is a vibrant, glorious parade of unexpected adventures that help us grow into our potential, and like you, I am still growing and learning and moving forward. My adventures have taken me to my mom’s hometown to work for the newspaper there.

I didn’t expect to leave Tulsa quite so soon, and I certainly didn’t expect to find my way back home, but life has a way of sending us where we need to go at that moment, whether we’re expecting it or not. Some of you will end up exactly where you thought you’d be in 10 years. Most of you probably won’t. All of you will change the world, just as you’ve been doing since the day you put those protest slogans on notecards and stapled them to the bulletin board in sophomore English.

As your time at Webster draws to a close and you head out on your own adventures, I’d like to look back with my own set of “remember whens.”

Remember when Alex made that Venn diagram comparing and contrasting Chewbacca and Sasquatch?

Remember when Gabbie talked me into participating in Day of Silence? I didn’t know it was possible to disrupt class without making a single sound, but Keyonna managed to do it.

Remember when we came back from Christmas break to find a mysterious stench in my classroom, and Chasity decided the ghost must have spent the whole break eating Mexican food?

Remember Carmen’s crush on Coach Williams?

Remember when Dionne, Kalynn, and Keyonna translated Hamlet into modern English?

Remember breakfast in the classroom?

Hey, Jasmine — remember Jerome in advisory?

Remember Meeyotch the class fish?

Remember Chris and Ricky’s “that’s what SHE said” jokes? (Why would she say THAT?)

Hey, Anthony — remember when Daryl was “fit’nna rag”?

Remember Fernando’s ironic hat?

Remember the Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything?

Remember That Guy?

There are not many things I am sure of in this crazy world, but here is a thing I know: No member of the Daniel Webster High School Class of 2013 will grow up to be That Guy. You are some of the smartest, sweetest, funniest, and most passionate people I have ever known. I love you all, and I am ridiculously proud of you.

Love,
Ms. Priddy

Thanks, Mom

mommy

I got up this morning, made myself a cup of coffee from Sumatran beans purchased in Makanda, and stood sipping it on the deck as I looked out over the little organic garden in my backyard.

I spent the afternoon working at a job I adore and then drove home with an album of Bob Dylan covers pouring from the speakers in my tie-dyed artcar.

I am complicated and eccentric and outrageous and confident, a latter-day hippie with a social conscience, a DIY streak, and a taste for vinyl records, historic preservation, and irony, and it occurs to me that my mom had almost everything to do with that.

Here are some things Mom did for me, without which I would be a different person:

* Taught me to read at age 2. That pretty much set the tone for everything that followed.
* Let me read Mother Earth News and Organic Gardening over her shoulder when I was 3. I think I knew the recipe for thermophilic compost before I knew the recipe for oatmeal cookies.
* Matched my donation to Greenpeace to save the baby harp seals when I was 4.
* Exposed me to great music — Neil Diamond and the Beatles and most of the ’60s folk revival — and looked the other way while I was wailing into a hairbrush about having “two kinds of lovers, one on each coast” at age 9 or liberating Diamond’s Tap Root Manuscript and Joan Baez’s David’s Album from her vinyl collection at 15.
* Loaned me her copy of Jonathan Livingston Seagull — and encouraged me to fly.
* Never, ever allowed me to own a Barbie.
* Tipped me off to the story that more or less cemented my reputation as a journalist and led to my first paying freelance gig when I was 14.
* Bought me my first espresso machine. (This may or may not have been a ploy to get me to quit cutting class to hang out at Longbranch, but the end result was a taste for good coffee that remains part of my life all these years later.)
* Set aside her personal tastes long enough to let me dye my hair when I turned 17.
* Scoffed — frequently and always within my earshot — at people who are afraid of aging.
* Never accepted “I can’t” as an excuse.
* Encouraged me to express myself, whether she agreed with the sentiments I was expressing or not.

Thanks, Mom. I love you.

Love,
Emily

Something’s gained in living every day

I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still, somehow,
It’s love’s illusions I recall;
I really don’t know love at all.

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say, ‘I love you’ right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I’ve looked at life that way

But now old friends are acting strange;
They shake their heads and say I’ve changed.
Well, something’s lost when something’s gained
In living every day

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose, and still, somehow,
It’s life’s illusions I recall;
I really don’t know life at all

— Joni Mitchell

Once again, I find Joni Mitchell’s masterpiece resonating for me in a new way.

This week on Facebook, a friend posted a link to some website’s ranking of 200 careers. This website — employing methods of data analysis almost as credible as those used to measure progress under No Child Left Behind — attempted to quantify the “best” and “worst” jobs of 2013 and declared newspaper reporter the worst.*

Most of the people weighing in on the conversation were disgruntled journalists who agreed they had the Worst Job in the World. I read their comments and wondered why, in an era of shrinking budgets and shrinking newsroom staffs, anyone would remain in a job where he or she felt overworked and underappreciated.

Actually, I didn’t wonder. I knew, because years ago, I was the same way. Instead of savoring the moments that make journalism the best job in the world, I let myself get caught up in negativity and focused on day-to-day annoyances and frustrations, forgetting that hassles are part of the human condition.

I really didn’t know love at all.

I don’t take my life as a journalist for granted these days. I’ve been through my share of “tears and fears,” and after five years away, I look at my profession and feel unbelievably “proud to say, ‘I love you’ right out loud.”

Old friends reading this probably will “shake their heads and say I’ve changed.” I don’t care. I’m not interested in something that’s lost. I’m too busy savoring something that’s gained.

Emily

* I had to laugh when I saw “stress” cited as one justification for the low ranking. I’ve taught in two urban high schools, and if the toughest part of your job is a deadline, you really don’t know stress at all.

Folk Thursday: Springsteen

Monday night, I went to bed early, feeling a little icky. I woke up sometime around 3 a.m. in excruciating pain and spent the next twelve hours feeling like the result of some unholy union between Linda Blair’s character from The Exorcist and John Hurt’s character from Alien.

I mention this not because I want to talk about sickness, but because I want to talk about love.

No matter what Madison Avenue tries to tell you, love is not a box of chocolates wrapped in red foil, a diamond ring, or any other shiny object. Shiny objects are pretty, but they are also incredibly distracting, and they tend to pull our attention away from what they’re supposed to represent.

Love isn’t flowers or candy or cliches. Love is taking care of someone who is so disgustingly ill that she could pass for something out of an H.P. Lovecraft novel, escorting her back to bed when she’s too weak to walk on her own, pulling her close to quiet her chills, and whispering, “You are loved” until she stops sobbing and falls into a fitful sleep. Love is a cup of ice chips and a warm blanket and a thousand other little kindnesses that make the rough, scary times just a little more bearable.

Tonight’s Folk Thursday offering was Ron’s only request for our wedding. All the other music was either ’60s folk revival (“Since You’ve Asked,” “There Is Love”) or Broadway (“Love Changes Everything”).

Somehow it all fit together and worked, as our lives have done for the better end of 15 years.

I love you, Ron. Thank you for taking care of me … in sickness and in health.

Love,
Emily

See me, feel me

Riggy had a rough weekend. A longstanding problem with his eyes — for which he was undergoing veterinary treatment — declined suddenly. He was fine Friday night; by Monday morning, he couldn’t see anything at all.

Don’t feel sorry for Riggy. He felt sorry for himself for about an hour Monday. Then he got tired of pouting and claimed his birthright as a rat terrier.

Ratties may be the smartest little dogs on this earth. The average rat terrier can and will perform a cost-benefit analysis on every request you make of him. He will comply if and only if he is convinced the benefits outweigh the costs. Ratties are also creative thinkers. Scout once improved her running technique by watching our late greyhound run, and she routinely used her paw to extract sticky treats from jars if she couldn’t reach them with her tongue.

Riggy hadn’t demonstrated quite that level of proficiency up to this point, but then, he hadn’t needed it, either.

He needed it Monday.

He looked pretty depressed when we got home from the vet’s office, so I bought him a McDonald’s sausage biscuit, which perked him up considerably. (I didn’t hand him the whole thing; instead, I tore off pieces and made him earn them by finding them with his nose.) By Monday evening, he’d learned to follow our voices all over the house; figured out how to get on and off the deck by himself; used the tips of his ears as feelers to avoid bumping into things; and begun plotting a new cat harassment strategy that did not depend on actually seeing Walter.

Ratties are irrepressible little problem-solvers. It’s their most endearing trait. They may encounter setbacks, but those setbacks are always temporary; if they can’t remove an obstacle, they will simply run around it, climb over it, or knock it down on their way to whatever they want.

Having a rat terrier in the house keeps me honest. Whenever I’m tempted to feel sorry for myself, I look at the little dog bouncing around my living room like a pinball, and I remember that problems are best handled with intelligence and creativity. After all, you can’t hassle the cat while you’re pouting in your crate — and everybody knows hassling the cat is way more fun than pouting.

Emily