Gone Girl

I’m leaving the country tomorrow (for the third time this year) and it’s the same old thing: the scrambling to get things done while feeling a familiar tightening of chest muscles, the failure to match nouns with verbs.

It’s a privilege to go.  I’m aware of that.  And I’ll get on board, literally and figuratively, in about 30 hours.  Until then, I think about my kids and how they’ll get along while I’m gone.  I think about my husband.  Will he secretly watch new episodes of The Blacklist without me?  I probably would if I were him.  And will someone think to put the pink coat on our dachshund, Amy, if the weather gets colder next week?  She needs that coat.

DSC_0862Amy (left) and her husband, Frodo.

I studied in Vienna when I was in college.  I remember feeling trepidation when I boarded the plane to head overseas with a fellow American student from my university.  But it wasn’t because of all I was leaving behind.  It was because of the future.


That was years ago.  Since then I’ve traveled to five different continents (and lived on three), so I don’t feel those travel butterflies quite like I used to.  Now I head into the air trying to send one more I love you text to the people who are holding my heart until I come back home again.   DSC_0014

Ordinary Deaths

My kids got an up close taste of death yesterday.

It’s not like they didn’t know it existed before this.  We’d seen the lifeless body of a woman floating face down in the river in Nepal once.  We’d watched bodies on biers move past us on their way to funeral pyres in India.  We’d passed dog carcasses wearing blankets of flies, the smell of them slapping us in the face as we walked to a friend’s flat.

And in the US we’ve been to funerals, stared into open caskets at faces that don’t look asleep.

We’ve had to peel our beloved dog off the road and bury her before her time.

But yesterday was different.  It was a shock and, though it’s something that happens every day in the world, it reminds us that we aren’t home yet.

Take a Load Off

Sometimes, after very heavy weeks, or days, or hours, I find that all I want to do is go out in the backyard and love on these mongrels.  They are a certain kind of gift, a kind I’m thankful for.  They can’t solve the world’s problems, or make people kind, but they can wag their tails and offer a lick or two.  And sometimes, that’s just what’s called for.

20150828_133014(They only sit this still with the hope of cheese).

An Addendum

People think that if you’ve been up close to suffering, human or otherwise, that it puts things into perspective for you.  That you pick your battles carefully, that you don’t get bogged down with petty sorrows because you know how bad things can really get.  They assume that you’ve had to grow a little tough, or else go crazy.

Maybe all that’s true, to some extent.  But I’ve found that experiencing the suffering of others (in India, and in other places) along with some of my own, has given my heart stretch marks, instead.  It’s made it baggy and soft and able to hold more–more sadness, probably, but I hope more love, too.  My heart’s weaker than it used to be, and less efficient.  I cry too much about things that used to escape my notice.

But that’s ok.  It’s a price I’ve been willing to pay in order to get down low, and I don’t regret it.  And, anyway, it just means that things like this,

DSC_1452are more apt to make me smile.

So here’s to those of us with worn, flabby hearts that can’t keep things in proper proportion.  I’m trusting there’s a reason for softness.

When Things (Don’t) Fall Apart

After nearly three weeks away (first out of the country, then out of my state), I’m back home.  The first thing I did when I came through the door yesterday was to pet the dogs –I hesitate to admit how much I missed them–and to sniff the air.  Our house smelled stale, like mold, kind-of.  But the friend who cared for our two dogs and Russian tortoise while we were away had cleaned the place, bless her, and changed the sheets. She was even trying to prepare chicken for us before we stopped her.  It definitely wasn’t her causing the smell.

I’m always anxious right up to the time I catch a plane somewhere.  Not-so-deep-down, I believe that if I don’t prepare for every domestic eventuality, heading off each maybe with typed lists and Martha Stewart efficiency, things will go horribly wrong while I’m away, and I’ll pay for them in the end.  Every, single time I leave.

But, so far, things have been OK when I’ve returned.  Sometimes even better than OK.  I know that God is teaching me how to trust him, one tarmac at a time, though I’m in the slow group when it comes to these kinds of lessons.

Because, in the end, there is so much that is out of my hands.  I (purposely) forget that as queen of my little domain.  It’s only when I leave that I’m reminded how fragile, how miraculous, the everyday workings of life really are.  So then it’s pure, blinky-eyed luxury to walk back through the door and find that my home world kept turning without my managing it, even if the air is slightly funky.

I’m tucking these travel revelations away to chew on later, and, like some desert animal, I’ll call them up when I need them again.

But I plan to set off one of those mold bombs, too, just in case.

The Muse


This is one of those days when words don’t fit.

Sit and wait and tap and think

but silence sits under too-bright images (those blurs one sees

on the way to the beach) and there’s the painful, everything pulse,

which is less peaceful than the nothing.

What does one do at a wasteful time such as this?

She looks at dogs.

~For my niece, Maddy, who is a writer.

The Problem With Pets

I have a love/hate relationship with our pets.  I love the dogs when they’re being sweet– when they lick my hand without going overboard, and don’t jump on our friends’ kids.  And I love the tortoise’s fat legs and the way he turns his head to look at us when we make a noise near his cage (I promise, he does this).

But I HATE having to nag my kids to take care of them.

Because, in the end, we only have pets because we have kids.  To wit:  after we returned to the States our three kids united and begged us for a puppy, creating a human pleading front, a great wall that stood between us and sanity.  They fortified it daily, employing various vocal pitches, until we succumbed.  If they hadn’t begged, my husband and I wouldn’t have gotten one, period.  After all, our years in India did not inspire in us a great love of canines.

Anyway, now we have dogs. Two.

The kids gripe about feeding them, giving them water, letting them out to “use it”–their phrase, not mine.  Naturally, I find this reluctance both ridiculous and enraging and it makes me want to say things like, “Back in my day, if our dog puked on the carpet, it was First Seen, First Cleaned.”  (Then again, my sisters and I pretended not to see a great many beige-colored piles in our day.  Not necessary to mention).

And the tortoise situation is worse than the dogs’ because at least the dogs give back a little, you know?  The tortoise, on the other hand, cannot manage to be cuter than he is, and in some ways he needs even more attention.  For one, there’s the salad he has to eat (hearts of Romaine, no carrots).  Also the special lights to keep him warm and to keep his shell from cracking off.  Finally, there’s the picking out of the poo–from his cage, from his water, from his life.

And this is where the nagging really gets hot because the kids don’t want to do any of it, yet I am not going to spend one second of my life touching reptile poop, not even with gloves on.  I have done my share of disgusting things, but that’s not going to be one of them.  At the same time, I’m a decent human being who has created life in my womb and who cannot tolerate the idea that a living creature is sitting in his own…you know…under my roof.

So I nag, and nag some more.  And the nagging makes me very crabby.

I have no solution to this problem because the kids know I’m bluffing when I say we’ll get-rid-of-these-pets-if-you-all-don’t-do-your-jobs-so-help-me.  They–and I–know we won’t.  We won’t get rid of the pets.  Can you imagine poor Torty burrowing his chubby legs down into the mite-infested substrate in a Petco cage?  Me, neither.

So I suppose this particular post counts as a rant.

Maybe there’s no solution to the pet problem?  But if there is, and you happen to know what it is, please share it in the comments.

Surviving America: A Dog Tale

Somebody stage an intervention.  She’s writing about dogs again.  And reverse culture shock.  And finding a new normal.

…My husband and I didn’t want a puppy after returning to the US, but our kids had begged us for months. Living in India for three years had provided us enough adventures to last a lifetime, we reasoned, and we didn’t need to add a dog to the mix. After all, we’d visited the Taj Mahal, and piled on top of elephants, the five of us riding together. We’d celebrated Diwali with our neighbors and attended a friend’s lavish Sikh wedding. We had lived with monkeys, rats, and mongooses…

Read the rest here.