Monday, October 28, 2013

Striking Out In New Directions

Treat YourselfThe other day my cousin was catching me up on a big transition his family is planning. As I grilled him for specifics he answered patiently, concluding, "And, if it isn't what we need then we'll change it."

My breath caught in my throat. I couldn't speak. Finally I choked out, "That's absolutely true. You're a lot better at seeing that than I am."

To my great chagrin he agreed. Immediately. I can't blame him, though, because it's true. I didn't arrange the furniture in my apartment for weeks after I moved in because once I did it would have to stay there FOREVER. (It has been moved. Once. At the insistence of an expert.)

Many years ago I decided that I wanted to volunteer for God's Love We Deliver on Thanksgiving Day. I signed up and found out that, rather than the full day, grueling commitment I'd expected, it was a light, fun couple of hours early in the day. I loved doing it. Over the past three years or so it's become clear that I'm not the only one. Floods of people enjoy this volunteer opportunity and those floods have made it possible for GLWD to adjust the way they operate their deliveries to make things go even more quickly. When I got the notice to sign up this year I thought carefully and decided that I wouldn't. The locations and assignments weren't well suited to me and I know, with certainty, that they will have plenty of help on this day.

They don't need me.

Good Thing When I began this tradition (and I did begin it with the idea that it would, without a doubt, become a tradition) I had it in the back of my mind that I would eventually expand the time I volunteered. I knew that a few hours of help on one day a year was more than nothing but still less than I was capable of giving. Yet, with everything so neatly packaged, I loved the routine and I kept it. I like forever.

Forever, as my cousin likes to remind me, is all smoke and mirrors, though. I know that. So, even before I formally decided not to volunteer with GLWD I had been rolling over in my mind what I would do to replace that small contribution to society. I wanted it to be a larger time commitment than my one day a year. I didn't want it to be a solely monetary donation. I had trouble committing to a three hours per week or one day a month thing because, you know, what if I'm not available on that day every time for ever and ever? Right? What then?

I keep up with Family to Family on social media. They were the chosen charity for Listen To Your Mother NYC this year and, since I'll be a part of the event again next year, I want to keep in touch with organizations that made our show so memorable previously. Today, by chance, a tweet they sent about Thanksgiving caught my eye. The head of the local chapter told a story at LTYM about cooking Thanksgiving dinner in a microwave on her bedside table after her home was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy. Since my GLWD volunteering was Thanksgiving-related I thought I'd see what they needed.

I could have donated money for a turkey and side dish. I could have sponsored a family. I could have done a lot of things but a button on the right hand side of the home page was filled with books and I clicked on that. They have a program where you sign up for a minimum 12 month commitment to send a book and a letter to a child once a month. They encourage the child to write back to you.

I found my thing. I love books. I love to write letters. I love kids. It's both more time and more money than I was giving before and it's the perfect amount of both as far as I'm concerned. I can't wait!

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Big Reveal

Pencil It In

The Great PUPkin is an event that once featured a dog dressed as Joe the Plumber working on a replica of a particular fountain in our park that actually spewed water at the judges. When the bell curve has that at one end the costumes I make don't seem nearly as elaborate as when I explain them to someone who has never joined us for this particular loony party.


This year, though, I put a lot of thought and work into Ed's costume and it came out much closer to the picture in my head than these things traditionally do. I have to thank Leah for providing the perfect fabrics and notions from her personal stash. Without her this would have been both much harder and taken much longer. You know how I hate shopping. The idea for our group's theme came from my friend, Rachel, and she asked us to keep it under wraps because we're pretty sure no one has represented this classic movie before.


I'm sharing now for two reasons. 1. I can't wait any longer! 2. I don't think anyone who reads this can or will duplicate my effort between now and when the judging starts at noon tomorrow.


Rachel's dog, Izzy, will be Princess Buttercup. Ed's buddy, Ben, in all his black dog glory will be The Dread Pirate Roberts. Ed, if you haven't guessed by now, is a master swordsman.


Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.


I don't know about the rest of it but I am prepared to meet my maker after this. Just look at the stinkeye I'm getting.

The Actual Stink Eye

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Two Letters


Traditionally Halloween has been a big time for me performance-wise. I do the event at the Cathedral and the dog does the PUPkin. Maybe I do another Halloween thing with puppets. Then there's trick or treat night in my neighborhood and the marathon runs down one of our streets soon after. This year it's getting so I'm having to turn jobs down! I hate hard decisions.

Last night I sang at an open mic. (Did Let Him Fly a cappella. Started a little too high and got very nervous about three notes in but felt good about the performance and had a ton of fun.)

Tomorrow night I go to the Cathedral (shows at 7 & 10, you really should come) and probably put on a devil costume (but maybe I'll be something else, you never know) and scare people FOR MONEY. I love that they pay me to do this. It's awesome. It's a long night, though. I'm going to need a nap.

Saturday I turned down a gig at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens dressing as one of the Bremen Town Musicians in order to try very hard not to scare small children. I turned it down because I opted for prestige rather than pay. Nearly every year the PUPkin is hosted by Justine (pictured above in the mint green tux). Due to a family emergency she is unable to be with us on Saturday. Kath (pictured above in the wig, drinking the illegal beer) asked me to step in. Those are big shoes to fill but, honestly, I'm just keeping 'em warm for when Justine comes back next year and it's an honor to do so.

I'm a little nervous, you guys. Here I thought I was just going to be trotting Ed across the stage in his finery (costume reveal tomorrow) and now I'm entertaining my biggest audience in years.

Ok, you're right, I'm excited, too!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Photo Challenge: PREPARE

It's a little hilarious that I used the prompt PREPARE at a time when I feel slightly underprepared for most things. (Look for a fun announcement tomorrow, though.) Fortunately photographers were prepared and they participated and that's just as pleasing as punch!

New prompt below, you don't have to PREPARE for it.

Shortly after Our Cindy arrived in Chicago this summer we strolled along Navy Pier looking for places to sprinkle some ashes. I snapped this while she prepared.

Skelly and some friends; aka poppet bowling; prepare for Halloween
Our Janet has a huge collection of poppet pictures. I love the word poppet. Why is it only used by evil people in fairy tales?

When Our Lisa prepares for a birthday she really prepares for a birthday! Yummmmmmmm. (Whose birthday was it?)

Mom's first look at Ireland
Our Cindy caught her mom observing Ireland before they ventured out into it on their recent trip.

I love this close up view that Our Bethany got of some celebration preparation. It makes me feel like lying down on the floor at a party, closing my eyes, and soaking in the vibe.

The deadline for the next challenge is Election Day. It's hard to think of something that goes with that. Conscience seems too thinky for a photo challenge. If you just let it roll around in your brain, though, you can find yourself in the place that I did. Next prompt is PRO/CON. Take that as you will!

Please enter by 9am Tuesday November 5th for posting on November 6th. Tag your photos with PHOTO CHALLENGE and PREPARE. Check out the wonderful work in our Flickr Pool for inspiration. Also, let me know if you have any questions. The new appropriate email for that is Kizzbeth117 at gmail dot com.

Monday, October 21, 2013

She Never Fiddled While Rome Burned

NyroI don't know that I believe that "these things always come in threes." They do, however, seem to come in groups.

Last week my vocal coach, Elynn, said goodbye to her beloved cat, Nyro. Before they moved upstate I met Nyro a few times. She was, in my experience, all the things we expect a cat to be. She only came out to see me when she was really intrigued (I credit my backpack covered in pet smells) and if I tried to pet her or get down on her level she usually gave me an extremely aloof stink eye before sauntering away. As time went on, though, I seemed to pass her tests and once she even let me pet her without evacuating the premises. She was a devoted sun worshipper and a beauty queen and overall a real treat.

Nyro and Elynn spent 16 years together. Elynn credits Nyro with keeping her safe through a lot of life's changes. I know, as do too many of you, that losing someone who was coded into the muscle memory of your daily life is a blow you never entirely recover from, even when it's unavoidable.

This Thursday, due to organ failure related to old age, Elynn let Nyro go. In their honor, please find the gooiest, smelliest, craziest treats you can and, as our tradition goes, give them to your pets for performing their most important trick - being here.

*Photo courtesy of Nyro's people. Used with permission.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Mad Carlota

KittensFacesI can't find any pictures of Charlotte the cat. Maybe I have some hard copies somewhere. I'll have to keep looking. I have her story, though, and Charlotte had, for my money, one of the best origin stories of any cat I've known.

I used to live next door to a woman who rescued cats. One day on the way to work the woman saw a gorgeous white stray with black markings sucking up to people for attention but the woman was late to work so she passed up the opportunity. A week later she passed the same cat and wasn't late so she picked her up. I was between cats and after very little discussion I said I would take this cat in. I named her Charlotte to go with my dog, Emily, and we lived a nice life for a few weeks. My apartment had low windowsills and Charlotte was agile but one day I noticed that she kept missing the jump to the windowsill. Her center of gravity was off. She was pregnant.

cute max on trunk 0806 After the kittens were born and we did the math on feline gestation we figured out that Charlotte got pregnant during the week between my neighbor's first and second sightings of her. Oops. I thought of getting a kitty abortion for her but my timing there was off, too, so I let things slide. During her pregnancy her true nature came out and one night, when I accidentally backed into her while picking laundry up off the floor she attacked my bare leg so badly that I bled in several places and was so terrified I locked myself in the bathroom and called my daddy. In the following days Carmencita renamed her The Mad Carlota. It was apt.

Anna & Elvis at 112 Lafayette It was that attack that eventually led me to keep two of the kittens and send Charlotte and one other kitten to live with my mom where they could be outside. (The remaining two kittens were adopted by Pony Express.) Charlotte flourished there, going back to being her sweetest self as long as she didn't have to stay inside. She tested several spots in the neighborhood until she settled on a permanent home down the street from mom. She lived on a porch in a reinforced box filled with blankets and was free to come and go as she pleased. She was also fed by my mom and the porch owner so she lived pretty high on the hog.

Mom called last night to say that last weekend Charlotte went to the great reinforced, blanketed box in the sky. She had congestive heart failure and imminent failure of other organs trickling down from that. She couldn't breathe easily and was suffering. My mom is really good at knowing the right thing to do for animals and she knew she had to let Charlotte go, and help her along the way so that's what she did.

There are a lot of places along Charlotte's road where you might say we failed her. The thing is, if she'd stayed in Brooklyn she might have been killed or she might have been adopted by a deli and continued to pump out kittens her whole life. She might also have lived confined with me and hated it. On a relatively quiet side street in New England The Mad Carlota found some people who let her live life on her own terms and in the end my mom let her die on her own terms, too. I think we should all be so lucky.

Please follow the Treats for Everyone protocols. Feel free to ask for clarification in comments if you need it.

*Photos are of Charlotte's kittens who are now 13-years-old.

Friday, October 11, 2013


YearningIf money were no object I would get costumes and toys for everyone! I tossed the entries into The Randomizer, though, because that was easier than picking for myself. The winner is....

Our Sara!

This means that the dog pictured here, Our Bucephalus, is about to face costuming. Sara, go check out what PetSmart has to offer for dog costumes* (unless you plan to costume one of the cats or the turtle) and let me know by email (Kizzbeth117 at gmail dot com) so that our lovely contact can get something sent to you ASAP.

Thank you all for joining in. I hope we can do more of this some time.

Happy Halloween!

*You can refine that search by dog size to make life easier.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Photo Challenge: TURN

Before I get to the very cool entries for the challenge I want to remind you that the costume giveaway I'm having isn't just for dogs! Make sure you enter before midnight tomorrow night. All it takes is a comment.

Meanwhile back at the photo challenge I love the way we handled TURN. This was a prompt that could easily have ended in a gallery of (absolutely gorgeous) leaf peeping photos but it went in so many other directions. We turned another way, if you will. Enjoy and don't forget to check out the new prompt at the bottom!

66 and radiant
Our Bethany said that Rose described her recent first wedding as finally being "her turn" and she used that opportunity to gather her favorite people around for a true celebration. We should all be so confident and happy, right?

Our Alisun has recently moved back to New England. We are fond of our roundabouts up there, let me tell you. I hope her merging skills are sharpened!

Turning and Standing Still
I find this shot by Our Ana to be equal parts charming and haunting, like a Stephen King novel (speaking of New England).

Flood Debris
Recently Our Lisa worked hard to turn around the hard luck of friends and neighbors during the flooding in Colorado. Here, on one of her usual running routes, she was turned back due to danger.

My little girl, Anna, probably about to turn all Kitty Dominatrix on one of her rude four-legged brethren.

The next challenge is going to be posted just a couple of days before The 15th Annual Great PUPkin. I am already a little in prep mode but need to do a lot more work before Ed's costume will be ready. I think I just convinced Pony Express to make the one important prop so my burden feels lighter, though. In that spirit I do declare that our new prompt is PREPARE!

Please enter by 9am Tuesday October 22nd for posting on October 23rd. Tag your photos with PHOTO CHALLENGE and PREPARE. Check out the wonderful work in our Flickr Pool for inspiration. Also, let me know if you have any questions. The new appropriate email for that is Kizzbeth117 at gmail dot com.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Add On!

Moose's RevengeYesterday I worked at a big event in the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. At one point in the afternoon a BBG employee and her friend came to the booth with a service dog. That dog, Beta, looked like my Emily. They weren't a perfect match physically, Beta was much closer to the full breed German Shepherd model, but their general shape and expression were unmistakeably similar. What's more she is only 3 years old so if you believe in reincarnation....

Beta's person was generous enough to allow me to meet and pet her companion and I loved her. When I asked how Beta was working the woman said that she was amazed and proud of the concentration Beta showed in a high distraction environment like the Gardens but sometimes she steals sandwiches. The more I learned the more she seemed like Emily.

Patient dogs with personality. That's my weakness.

Remember, we've got a contest going for pet Halloween costumes and I just got news that PetSmart will be including a Halloween toy when they send the winner their costume. Please head over and enter here!

Friday, October 04, 2013

Looking Sharp With PetSmart

UntitledThis is the first time I'm partnering with a sponsor formally and I'm doing it because this particular subject gives me a little thrill. You know how I am about pets at Halloween.

In July, as part of Blogher, I went to a breakfast sponsored by PetSmart and they introduced us to a number of products from their stores. (We heard a hilarious story about Martha Stewart's strict product testing that I'm dying to tell you but I'm not sure if I'm allowed to share it here.)

The main focus of the discussion was Halloween. PetSmart has recently acquired rights to some classic characters for costumes and they are expanding their inventory to include outfits for more than just your purse-friendly dogs like mine. I even got to hold a guinea pig dressed up as a pumpkin (see picture below!). Dude, that is a good way to start your day! At the end of the event we were given the costume of our choice for our pet. You can see above what I chose and how Ed regarded it as an acting challenge.

UntitledIf you've been following here for any length of time you know how seriously my neighborhood takes Halloween and how seriously I take being a part of the neighborhood. My dogs have both been amazingly tolerant of this annual requirement, thank goodness, culminating in Ed's star turn last year where he not only wore his costume but performed!

I have so much fun with this that I wanted to share the feeling and PetSmart has kindly offered to help me help you decorate your pet in the name of All Hallow's Eve. All you need to do is leave a comment here telling me how delightful my dog looks in a costume what your favorite Halloween costume (human or other animal) ever is. You'll get a second entry if you include a link to a photo of said costume. Remember this isn't just about little dogs, it isn't just about dogs, PetSmart can help you disguise your big dog, your cat, even your guinea pig so please don't be shy about entering and about passing the word.

Entries will be taken until midnight next Thursday, October 10th, and I will announce the winner on October 11th. You'll need to respond quickly so we can get your mailing address and costume choice to the folks at PetSmart well in advance of Halloween.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Throwback Thursday

Four years ago today was a very long Saturday. The vet arrived at 4:00 and by 4:30 my girl was gone. I miss her all the time and, even knowing she had a good long life, I hate with a burning fire that it wasn't longer. Extra treats for everyone today, please, because that's all I can do.