Saturday, May 28, 2016

Requiem for a Dane

Once upon a time, like five years ago, my mom lost 100 pounds. Not 10. 100.

Obviously, you have to celebrate big for a thing like that. So Allison and I agreed to meet up at Party City and go buy some of those special number balloons. I walked, since it was right behind my apartment, and she drove.

So we went in, got the balloons (huge shiny things!), and went back out to her car. Whereupon I discovered that she had filled up the ENTIRE back seat with Pete the Wonder-Dane. (Because Pete, I guess, but mostly because Al.)

That was when we discovered that Pete was deeply, deeply not okay with balloons. (We thought nothing could possibly be scarier than plastic bags and empty pizza boxes. We were wrong.)
So I held the balloons out the passenger side window while Allison drove at like ten miles an hour. Picture it, y'all: a tiny white Toyota clown-car making its own parade route down the street, sharing its bobbly silver "100" joy with the world while our harlequin Marmaduke farted anxiously in the back.

But despite our best efforts, the balloon strings broke and we lost them. So we went back to the store to buy new ones.

And I guess when you're a professional party-balloonist and the same two customers come back in the space of twenty minutes to order the same three balloons, you wonder about it. And when you ask, and we tell you the story, and you immediately have to rush out to meet the dog in question... well, when the dog in question is Pete, apparently there's nothing else you can do but give us a new set of balloons, free-gratis. It's probably just as well he didn't know that his own adorable melty Dali face prompted that second round of helium anxieties.

And that was Pete the nebbish adventure-dog. He walked parades and went shoe-shopping with Dad. He hiked and man-bonded with Alex. He moved up to Oklahoma with Al, and commuted back home with her every weekend like gassy clockwork. When she rescued Ripley, Pete helped teach him how to dog. And when she got married, Pete ran down the aisle after her, two rings secured in a drool-proof silk sachet around his neck.

Pete went on his last adventure today. 8 is a pretty good number for a dane, although of course we wish it were another shiny silver 100. And the thing I keep thinking about is something that Al and I decided a few years back: that pets are exercise for your emotions – especially the ones that don't get enough play in your everyday life. It's good that we remember how to roll in the monkey grass and run away from the vacuum cleaner and greet our favorite people with a full-throated, vociferous moo. And even though we don't enjoy it, it's good for us to invite this great, inevitable sadness into our lives – to know that the price for that big-footed puppy in the laundry basket will be a tremendous, piercing grief, and bring him home anyway, because we've already decided that we would rather lose a friend than miss out on one.

So here's to Pete, the Rick Moranis of dogs. Here's to Al, the greatest dog-mom I know. And here's to the love and friendship and carpet-stains that live on beyond our earthly tenure, and bring out the best in all of us.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Sisterhood of the Unravelling Plans

It's a hell of a thing, having a sister.

First you fight like cats and dogs, and if you're not getting in trouble for knocking her teeth out, you're yelling at her for eating all of the (insert literally anything here) even when you'd told her not to. And you just know she'll be your annoying, exasperating nemesis forever.

Then she turns fifteen and she's dating boys and gone ALL the time, and one time you stay up literally all night long to keep her from sneaking out of the house, and she's wicked pissed at you. And you just know that as soon as she's out of high school, she'll be gone for good and you won't be a family anymore.

Then at twenty-three, she decides she's going to be a vet. She gets a degree in biology. She takes all of the classes, gets all of the grades, applies to all of the vet schools – and keeps getting rejected. For four years.

Then she gives up on the dream. She says she's not going to be a vet, and you wonder what she could possibly do instead, because you've never tried and failed that hard at anything in your life. And you just know she's never going to make it.

Then – by which I mean now, yesterday, this weekend – her charming ubermensch of a husband drives your whole family up to Oklahoma to watch her walk across the stage and receive her Masters in International Agriculture, which is officially becoming a PhD in Veterinary Biomedical Science. She's not going to spend her life neutering cats and dogs. She's going to cure equine diabetes. She's going to replenish the oceans with tuna. She's going to save the goddamn world.

And this is why I don't believe in happily ever after – because it implies there's no more story left to tell. It erases all of the messy middles, the hard, unrewarded work, the life-changing chokepoints that force you to revise yourself and move forward.

Give me long enough and I'll find a new thing to worry about, a new reason why everything is hopeless. But I won't wish for a straight, easy road. When you're related to Allison, there's no such thing as happily ever after. There is only boldly forward – usually in a cloud of dog hair and fruity shampoo. And I just know it's going to be a hell of a ride.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Running Up the Down Escalator

All I can say is that it seemed like a good idea at the time.

It was the first night of DFWcon, and there was nothing but a downward escalator standing between me and the party upstairs. Who's going to let a little workout get between them and cake?

Here's a little-known fact about escalators, though: they don't stand still. And when you get about three-quarters of the way up and your thighs catch wise to your cardio-treachery, your oxygen-starved brain starts thinking, "hey, that's all right - I'll just rest for a second."

And that's when true cost of your little escalark becomes clear.

It wasn't pretty, but I made it. #noregrets
That's about where I am these days. I've been charging hard up the stairs for a couple months now, and I'm so ruinously tired - but I'm not there yet, and there's no quitting without losing the progress I've made so far.

I got Kristen's Patreon launched, but still need to find another $450/month to cover her bases.

I did DFWcon - maybe better to say that DFWcon did me - but still need to turn that momentum into finally, actually running my own classes.

I got the Writers Bloc started (with a whole lot of help from my partner in organizational crime), but still need to find it a permanent home, and a new set of speakers for the summer.

I turned in Dreams of the Eaten, but still need to revise it, clean it up, and add the various bells and whistles (map, index, etc) before the end of the month.

I made this great plan to promote it when it comes out at Christmas, but none of that is going to mean bupkis if I don't actually start submitting, applying, and travel-planning pronto.

(And if you're wondering what in the hell is the Writers Bloc, or since when Eaten got a release date, that is because I am doing a lousy job of promoting any of this.)

And man, you guys. I am just so tired. It's mostly happy-tired, of course. None of these projects are disasters or tragedies; I threw myself at all of them voluntarily, and so far they're all bearing fruit.

I just miss the other parts of life. Cooking and going for walks and catching up with my friends. Doing things with the Dude. Sleeping through the night. Some things really are backsliding down the escalator - diet, physical therapy, all that good stuff - and I really need to pick them back up before they hit bottom.

So I'm sitting here at 4:30 on a Sunday morning, eating a reheated cheeseburger and writing this tiny little testament to the overclocked life. No, it's not healthy. No, it's not long-term sustainable. But there's party-cake waiting upstairs, and damn it, I'm going to get me some. Onward and upward, y'all.

You don't find your calling. You fight for it.