5 Things My Chihuahua Taught Me

puppies

My little chihuahua Goliath (the brown one on the left) died last week. While he was only about six pounds, the impact he’s left on my life much larger. I lost my father to cancer in September 14, 2003, as the leaves were just boasting their autumn colors, setting the Arkansas countryside afire with color.

Those first days — I have little recollection. The fog of grief is powerful, and it’s able to obscure many details. One thing I do remember is waking to find a tiny puppy on my chest. My husband knew I was lost–and wanted me to be found again. What better way to come back to the land of the living than to have a puppy to take care of?

Little did I know how much he was taking care of me.

Here are 5 things my chihuahua Goliath taught me.

1. Size bears no importance to authority. Even though he was the smallest of our three dogs, he was definitely the Alpha. The other dogs listened to him and obeyed his commands to check the yard for intruders, to get OFF his pillow, to let him go first at the food bowl. I remember this as I rapidly become the shortest in my house!

Goliath as Study Buddy

2. Sometimes just being there is enough. There are so many times I was upset or sick and Goliath would join us, sitting on our laps or nearby. It’s not as if he could sing me a love song, send flowers, or convey words of wisdom to help me with my problem. But he didn’t have to–his warm puppy presence cheered my heart and slowed down my manic mind.

3. Resting is important. I’m a type A personality and find it hard to just relax. Even if I’m in front of the television, I’m often writing, grading, planning, researching, returning emails–long into the night. Goliath was the King of Comfort. He would always find the fluffiest pillow, the coziest blanket to lie on. He had to keep up his strength as Alpha in case the family needed his help barking. He learned to do this in power naps–VERY powerful naps sometimes lasting 22 hours out of the day. He was like a bully baby.

G resting

4. Protecting the family is a duty. Goliath took this job seriously. Well, he took the job of telling the other dogs to take it seriously seriously. This is how it works. Rocky will perch on the top of the recliner, peering out the window into the dangerous neighborhood, scanning for gang activity or potential killers (or postmen). If a threat hovers, Rocky will sound the alarm, waking Goliath, who will join in the warning call. Lucy, the German Shepherd and self-proclaimed Family Police Force will burst out the doggie door with enough power to shake the house, teeth bared. Usually it’s just a squirrel (we call him Henry and he loves to mess with Lucy–but one day…). Goliath was more of the Police Dispatcher.

5. Dogs (and pets) are irrevocably part of the family. They accept us in any manner we present ourselves: grouchy, unshowered, whatever. That day when he just rested his head on my hand for the last time–I knew that would be forever seared in my memory as a day I lost a dear friend.

Goliath enjoys a puppy cone

Rest in peace, sweet friend. In my heaven, I’ll see you there–and I’ll bring the softest pillow in the world, and a puppy cone.

Treme: An Awesome Show You Should Be Watching

Treme: An Awesome Show You Should Be Watching.

Treme: An Awesome Show You Should Be Watching

If you haven’t heard of “Treme” (on HBO) let me tell you this: it’s awesome.

I recently stumbled across it while aimlessly searching for a new show, and it’s captivated me ever since.

Beginning 3 months post-Katrina “Treme”(a French word for neighborhood), follows the lives of the stubborn people of New Orleans as they struggle to put the pieces of their lives back together. It has a all-star cast: John Goodman, Steve Zahn and Wendell Pierce among others.

It’s dramatic but not depressing–and I cared about the characters right away. Many are musicians (Steve Zahn is a lovable stoner/musician with no filter) and the music of New Orleans is packed into every episode. I want the soundtrack! I must get it immediately.

John Goodman plays Creighton Bernette, an angry English professor/writer/vlogger who curses a blue streak but has a heart for the city and its people. His wife, Toni (played by Melissa Leo) is a tough-as-nails attorney working tirelessly for the people of New Orleans, especially in her search for LaDonna Baptiste’s brother who went missing after he was arrested just before the storm. Will he be found? Will anyone take responsibility for the inmates who are lost in the system after Katrina? If anybody can make them, it’s Toni. She’s kicking butt and taking names.

I’ve only watched the first four episodes and I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

To Kill A Gentleman: The Murder of Atticus Finch

folders

Let’s play a game called What’s Wrong With This Picture.

Atticus Quotes from To Kill A Mockingbird

“Scout,” said Atticus, “nigger-lover is just one of those terms that don’t mean anything—like snot-nose. It’s hard to explain—ignorant, trashy people use it when they think somebody’s favoring Negroes over and above themselves. It’s slipped into usage with some people like ourselves, when they want a common, ugly term to label somebody.”

“You aren’t really a nigger-lover, then, are you?”

“I certainly am. I do my best to love everybody… I’m hard put, sometimes—baby, it’s never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name. It just shows you how poor that person is, it doesn’t hurt you.”

Atticus from Go Find a Watchman

“Then let’s put this on a practical basis right now. Do you want Negroes by the carload in our schools and churches and theaters? Do you want them in our world?”

“They’re people, aren’t they? We were quite willing to import them when they made money for us.”

“Do you want your children going to a school that’s been dragged down to accommodate Negro children?”

***

“Atticus, I’m getting out of this place fast, I don’t know where I’m going but I’m going. I never want to see another Finch or hear of one as long as I live!”

“As you please.”

“You double-dealing, ring-tailed old son of a bitch! You just sit there and say ‘As you please’ when you’ve knocked me down and stomped on me and spat on me, you just sit there and say ‘As you please’ when everything I ever loved in this world –you just sit there and say ‘As you please’–you love me! You son of a bitch!”

“That’ll do, Jean Louise.”

That’ll do, Harper Lee. In a time when the South is struggling to overcome a few ignorant racists, this long-awaited sequel could not have come at a worse time. I’ll never understand what Lee was thinking when she assassinated Atticus Finch’s character so.

But enough of the moral hand-wringing. I want to talk about character development.

As a writer, it’s important to maintain consistency of character. If a character is a moral compass in one book, and inexplicably becomes a villain in the next, this is simply bad writing. It doesn’t matter if it’s dressed up in pretty bows–it is more than sloppy–it’s damaging. There are no clues in To Kill a Mockingbird that suggest to us that Atticus is not who he seems. Even considering Scout’s childish point of view doesn’t explain it–she’s writing from an adult view looking back at the past.

What other explanation do we have? Was Scout somehow too slow to catch on to her father’s true character? I don’t think so. She’s sharp enough to spar with Atticus, quoting constitutional law with her daddy.

Atticus, don’t worry. I’m going to pretend this second book NEVER HAPPENED.

Harper Lee, you’ve broken my heart, and I wish I knew why.

Pretty in Pink: Rethinking Elle Woods

Love this.

The opening sequence of Legally Blonde is all pink products and blond hair. We cut between scenes of college and sorority life – a girl being catcalled by frat guys as she bikes past their house, girls in pink workout gear on treadmills, those Tiffany’s heart bracelets everywhere – and Reese Witherspoon’s silky hair and perfectly manicured hands surrounded by beauty-products and markers of traditionally recognizable, material femininity: Herbal Essences “True Color” Blonde hair-dye; nail polishes; dried roses on a stack of Cosmopolitans; a Homecoming Queen banner; a lovingly decorated “President” sorority paddle. Everything that could be pink is pink, from the bedspread, to the glitter pens used to write on a pink card in a pink envelope, to the doggy-sweater for Bruiser, Elle Wood’s chic Chihuahua.

Just four minutes into the movie, a salesgirl sizes Elle up the way many viewers – my thirteen year-old self included –…

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I Looked At A Rapist In The Mirror And Saw Him Smiling Back.

Compelling story told from an unexpected point of view.

RaceBaitR

*This piece has been published with permission of the referenced ex-partner. Other relationships may have been slightly altered to protect specific identities.*

The first time I was sexually assaulted I must have been 9 or 10 years old.

I was violated by two family friends who were brothers and who would have been about 14 and 15.

Or maybe that was the second time.

The first time might have been by an older female cousin around the same time. She pressured me to go into a closet and make out with her. I think we may have done more, but I don’t like to think about that.

I didn’t object to any of these interactions. I was too young for that to matter, of course, but it was difficult for me to make sense of the fact that I consented without having the agency to do so, thus I had…

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The Power of Water

“With one sigh of the Spirit, the waters could come crashing in and around the earth, drowning its inhabitants in a moment.”–Rachel Held Evans

The power of water is undeniable. Ask the survivors of Hurricane Katrina. 80% of New Orleans was flooded by the storm, and more than 1,000 people died because of it.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/23/us/hurricane-katrina-statistics-fast-facts/

What’s worse than too much water is too little. Ask the 358 million people in Africa who live in fear that they or someone they love will die this year from thirst.

840,000 people will die from bad water (Water.org). People are so desperate for water they will drink anything. People are thirsty–their children are thirsty. But water that is poisoned is worse than no water at all.

We need it so much–it’s essential to life, but too much of it is deadly as well. The Bible talks of water at least 722 times, depending on the translation you use. The necessity and power of water cannot be understated.

A few drops of water can quench a thirst, but too much can overwhelm us and kill.

Water is symbolic of birth: “Except a man be born of water and Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom.” What does that mean? If you’ve ever seen a baby born, you know the magic that happens: it’s pain and pushing, blood and water, tears and joy. We must experience this spiritually–and share the experience–to truly call ourselves Christian.

Jesus talked about water. He told the woman at the well that only he had the power to fill her thirst forever.

What happens if we keep all the water to ourselves? What happens if we refuse to share with those who are thirsty?

We can’t call ourselves believers then. Not really. Too much water in one place is disruptive, dangerous, deadly.

But the sharing of water–the sharing of life: that is what we are here for.

Women of the Bible: Caught in Adultery

“And your accusers? Where are they? Who is left to condemn you?” He asked me, his eyes gentle, compelling. His hands, still dusty…I could not take my eyes from them. It was something about his wrists.
“No one, my Lord,” I said, my voice hardly a whisper.

***

It was no use denying the truth, to proclaim her innocence: she had been caught.

It was folly to point out the obvious: that it’s impossible to commit adultery by oneself.

Inside her chest, her heart beat wildly. She knew that if the eyes of the law, married was married. There was no divorce and remarriage, covering it all over and beginning again.

She knew the law said, “If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife–with the wife of his neighbor–both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.”

For a moment, her mind pictured her mother–how shamed she would be viewed when she went to the temple, the market. She pictured her father–how he would turn away and deny her existence. She had broken both their hearts.

But still, her lover was not present. He would not be punished, and would gladly send her in his stead. The one she loved–and thought loved her back–was nowhere to be found. All those stolen nights seemed to flow through her fingers like so many grains of sands. Though equally guilty, he would remain innocent in this crime.

How did those who came for her know where to find her? Why did they leave the man untouched, unknown?The shouting, the many hands upon her–she was lucky in her nakedness to have grabbed the sheet from the bed so she wasn’t completely nude in front of these men–in front of THIS man, whose eyes seemed to penetrate to her very soul.

“Teacher! This woman was caught in the act of adultery. What say you? You know what Moses taught.” The men crowded around them, demanding justice, their faces contorted with judgement and haughtiness.

So this meeting was less about punishment for the woman and more about a transparent trap set by religious leaders for Jesus.

It’s likely the first the woman saw of Jesus was his feet. The men had thrown her at him, and she probably lost her footing between the sheer force of their shoving and her attempt to keep covered. Some scholars believe she was fully nude in front of the men and the Savior. In that case, she’d have been trying to cover herself with her hands.

Those feet–they didn’t seem like the feet of any messiah she’d heard about. Dirty, calloused, they showed the wear of many miles of walking those dusty desert roads. These weren’t the manicured feet of a rich man.

Jesus began to write in the dirt with his finger. Many interpretations of this action are out there–that he wrote the verse about adultery in the dirt itself–to remind many of those standing here that technically many of them were guilty of the same offense. Some believe he was writing nonsense, praying to the Father for guidance. Some think he was just stalling–purposely making an awkward moment last–so these men could feel the gravity of their accusations.

I wonder if he wrote her name–reminding her that no matter what, she was loved.

She was treasured. She was his.

We know what came next–Jesus flipped the question. “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Some interpretations say that the word used actually means “without THIS sin,” meaning, “Those of you haven’t done the same thing–y’all can go first.”

Soon, as always, it was just the two of them. I like the think of the story in her place, coming from her thougths.

“And your accusers? Where are they? Who is left to condemn you?” He asked me, his eyes gentle, compelling. His hands, still dusty…I could not take my eyes from them. It was something about his wrists.
“No one, my Lord,” I said, my voice hardly a whisper.

“Then I’ll not condemn you either. But go–and sin no more.”

Jesus wasn’t offering her a free pass, but what he was offering her was unconditional love and forgiveness.

Who of us is without sin? Then let’s go ahead and put those stones away and remember to love one another. We are all just one stone away from judgement.

My First Gender Reveal Party

The happy couple! Can you stand it?

Yesterday, I attended my very first gender reveal party.

It was a HOOT.

First, let me explain a couple of things. I hate baby showers. I don’t mind giving gifts or eating cake, obviously, but it’s never just that, is it? Usually, there are embarrassing (or disgusting!) games in which my socially awkward/phobic self is asked to identify melted candy in a diaper (THIS IS REAL!) or to estimate the width of my pregnant friend’s belly using yarn (this never ends well!). Baby showers are the WORST.

So a gender reveal party? Puleese.

I only went because my sweet friend Regan asked me to. I would have probably begged off if she hadn’t actually HUNTED ME DOWN and made me promise to come.

I’m so glad I did.

The first thing that happened: there was a mistake on the Facebook invite. The wrong address was listed. Diligently using my GPS, I ended up on the bottom of a quiet street. A bit too quiet–there were NO CARS AROUND. It looked like the set of the Walking Dead. I swear I saw a tumbleweed roll by.

For a second or two I suspiciously thought I was being set up for some kind of horror/punk’d show where the old lady gets out of the car and is killed immediately OR is scared out of her loosely-fitting Depends while stoner 30-year-old guys in need of haircuts film the whole thing from their skateboards. But really, nobody was there! There weren’t any cars in the driveway at all!

Still, because I am an AWESOME friend, I rang the doorbell. What if she was by herself? What if nobody came to the party and I was the only one! I would immediately be elevated to BEST FRIEND FOREVER status! I didn’t for a moment think that a hottie, hilarious girl like Regan would be friendless, but you never know.

It was like on the horror flicks where you find yourself muttering out loud, “DON’T DO IT. ARE YOU STUPID OR SOMETHING? THERE’S A GUY IN A HOCKEY MASK WAITING FOR YOU.”  I realize this is a bit dramatic and would never really happen since I’m not a hot college sorority girl. It’s not as “in” to kill chubby, middle-aged English teachers.

When nobody answers, I wait for a bit, then realize I might be looking suspicious to the neighborhood watch people so I go back to my car and call my friend. Turns out the party is about 6 houses down. I think she was trying to do the “Well I invited you but you never showed” thing that happened to me in the 5th grade.

Scars run deep, my friend.

Anyway, I finally made it to the party, unstabbed.

In case you never heard of this, a gender reveal party is where a pregnant couple reveals the gender of their unborn baby. In this case, Regan had given the “top secret info” in an envelope to her BFF Cornell who managed to keep his lips sealed for over 2 weeks.

There’s a reason I wasn’t chosen for this job.

Anyway, when I first came in the house, I was handed 5 clothespins. I immediately (but not visibly) rolled my eyes at the thought of a “game.” Please God please God please God…

But turns out, all I have to do is NOT say the words “baby”,” boy” or “girl” to keep my clips, and if I heard someone else say those words I was supposed to confiscate any pins of those who repeated the offensive words. The one who had the most pins at the end of the party won a prize.

There was this adorable little boy running around taking this mission seriously. VERY seriously. I totally accused him of trading on his cuteness to trick unsuspecting adults into giving up their pins. He just shrugged his little Abercrombie shoulders and walked off. He’s already a “cool kid” at the age of 8.

After some delicious food, I had a mimosa and surveyed the mixed pink and blue decor. It was adorable. And quiche? They got quiches, my friend! If you like quiche then you are in heaven!

And then — the grand moment! The unveiling of the gender!

There was a big box, tastefully wrapped in pink and blue tissue paper, topped with about 56 pink, blue and silver bows. The silver I can only assume was a tip your hat gesture to the elderly guests (here’s one for the oldsters!). Regan opened the box and pulled out a baby doll…dressed in yellow.

This was so confusing. Yellow? What’s the deal? Did her friend forget and lose the info? It seemed in poor taste to have a gender reveal party if the ultrasound tech just couldn’t tell…or what if the baby was one of those that DIDN’T HAVE ANY PRIVATE PARTS? I haven’t actually heard of this, but you never know. Everyone looked at one another a bit uneasily. Let it be known: we all made a silent pledge to be supportive should Little Baby M turn out to be sexless.

I even had some names picked out that would work either way. Pat. Taylor. Jordan. Alex.

Finally, it was determined that to find out the FINAL info, Regan had to UNDRESS THE BABY DOLL.

This was hilarious. I can tell she has changed 0 diapers in her glamorous life. Anyway, after a few minutes of struggling with the tiny clothes, she held it up.

An anatomically correct BOY doll. We laughed so hard. I imagined that Cornell was going to have some VERY interesting “suggestions” from Amazon from now on–“If you liked your anatomically correct baby doll, you might also like…” LOL!

Anyway, I’m so glad I came. It was fun, the food was awesome, and I loved the party.

That little mini-Alex Keaton ended up with about 32 clothespins. YOU CANNOT TELL ME HE TRICKED THAT MANY PEOPLE. I feel the game was rigged, but I’m a big enough person I didn’t say anything. Yet. I’m planning to get a reporter from the New York Times to look into it. Hopefully there will be enough evidence to write a hard-hitting expose highlighting corruption in Tyler. In 15 years, I fully expect the kid to be a successful mobster OR Congressman.

I’ve got my eye on you, son.

Southern Writers Article on Christian Science Monitor

Does anyone really need to ask this question? I can sum it up in one word: secrets.

Why Southern Writers Still Captivate