It’s Not About the Dog Food

I walked by the SPCA on Fillmore again yesterday.img_7468

Through the glass door I looked at the three gals and the front desk. But I didn’t go in.

Last week I went by. And a couple weeks before that, scoping the place out. Once I even opened the door, but then thought better of it.

I am not trying to restrain myself from getting another dog. Greta and Marlowe are quite enough for me in the dog department.

What I am trying to do is apologize.

Rewind six months to last June. Alicia was really sick and I was spending most of my time in Sacramento with her.  Best dog helper ever, Kayla was graciously flexible with scheduling. A couple of times I texted her, “know I’m supposed to leave in two days, but I need to leave now.”    “Do whatever you need to. I’m here.”

For three months everything was an emergency. Alicia got sicker. Appointments, hospice, chemotherapy. The news was always bad. We did our best to make sure that the time Alicia did have was a pleasant as possible. It was hard to be there. And harder not to be there.

For a rare couple of days I was going to be home, so I could breathe, take an exercise class, hug Greta and Marlowe. Breathe some more.

Opened the cupboard where I always keep a spare bag of dog food. Nothing.

I hyperventilated. No more dog food??  Geez. How long have I been away? I was about to go to Pilates and after that, dinner time. I scooted into a pet store near Pilates and picked up a bag. ARG. Realized a few minutes later it wasn’t the right kind, which is Science Diet for Toy and Small Breed dogs. Pet Food Express doesn’t sell it. The day was ending, and my panic was increasing.

Someone suggested the SPCA, which has specialty foods and a vet on staff. So I walked in. And the fellow behind the counter gave me a whole sheaf of forms to fill out. “I just want to buy dog food.”

“We have to start a file.”

img_7468I explained about their stomachs. And the last thing I want is to change foods now. And then….

I started to cry. Really crying. Not just the catch in the throat, but the where-is-a-tissue kind.

The crying was not about the dog food. “I can fill out the forms for you,” he said. He was maybe 25, with a tattoo on his neck, a little square. And he was the soul of kindness.

“I just need a little dog food!” They didn’t have the kind they eat. “Something that won’t make them sick. What”…more crying….”am I going to DO?”

“Clearly you are going through something,” the guy looked around for help, but there was none to be had….just like for Alicia…. “give me a second.”

I stood there, crying, like my dog food was the end of the world.

He dug in a cupboard and handed me a can. “Wet food is easier to digest. This is a sample. Good luck to you…”

“How much do I owe you?”

“Nothing. It’s a sample.”

For the last six months I’ve been trying to apologize to that man. Also have wanted to apologize for the late-cancel appointments, for the shortness of temper, for being presumptuous at so many turns.

Since then, whenever I see someone behaving strangely I think….maybe her sister is dying.

And that day when I got home from the SPCA, I opened up the fridge and realized that dear Kayla had refilled the dog food box with my extra bag of food.img_7468


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Animal Magnetism, and Human

It’s the time of year for sparkles. I’ve got the Kate Spade knee-highs with silver threads and the

cat-eye nail polish

cat-eye nail polish

body lotion that twinkles just a bit.  A couple Christmases back I had a necklace that blinked, but the battery pack went the way of all battery backs.

I usually don’t go for sparkly nail polish, but Tootsie Toes had some that looked perfect for the holidays. “Brand new colors for us,” said Vi.

So here I am sitting in the little chair, relishing the few moments with Vi when I’m not thinking about how many Christmas cards there are yet to address. Not thinking about whether I can get the puppies out before the rain starts. Not thinking about the shopping list that I haven’t gotten to yet. A white-elephant gift that everyone will like? Really??

And then I notice that Vi is holding a little square something up to my just polished nail.

“What is that?” I ask.

“It’s a magnet. That’s what brings the sparkles to the surface.”

Now I am really not thinking about those Christmas cards. “It’s a magnet that does it?”

“Yes.” She demonstrates on the next couple of nails. Immediately after application the color is matte. With the magnet there is a subtle and beautiful sparkle. And after curing it’s even prettier, like a subtle tiger’s eye, that sparkles this way when you turn your hand to the right, a little different if you turn it to the left.

How is that for a metaphor for life?

Hold a magnet up just so and sparkles appear.

What is my magnet?  What is yours?

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$20….And what to do with it?

The $20 bill is still in its envelope. img_7243

It’s been sitting on the kitchen counter awaiting a worthy destination.

A total surprise–and confirmation I was in the right church–the when Rev. Ken Daigle said that they were going to do a different demonstration of how important tithing is. Important to give when it’s not expected.

And so the church gave everyone in the congregation an envelope containing a $20 bill. “And don’t forget the people downstairs helping the children.”

Seems somehow wrong to just put that $20 bill in my wallet. Or get a Peets card, although I do like my Peets. I’m not comfortable giving it to a homeless person or putting it in the Salvation Army bucket.

Thinking about this as I organize my suitcase. I’m heading to New York tomorrow for events with Charity: Water, the organization that took me to Ethiopia.  Twenty dollars isn’t so much, but I want this $20 to have a special purpose, to directly help someone the way those wells helped the people in the villages.


Twenty dollars is about how much it costs Charity: Water to bring clean water to one person in the third world. (The precise number varies, depending on location and type of well.) So I’ll pass along the $20 bill to them this weekend.

Maybe it will help the woman I saw in Tigray. Her village will be be getting a well soon. Meantime, she walks 45 minutes to a gnarly riverbed. There is nasty yellow stuff growing in the shallow water. There’s donkey poop all over the ground. Some people have donkeys to carry their jerry cans, but not these women. One of them does though have a large goiter, an eight inch swelling on the neck from a lack of iodine in the diet.

The woman and her friends squat down and dig a hole in the sand and then wait for the hole to fill with water.

She uses a small green cup to fill her jerry can, doing her best to keep the sand out of the big jug.

Of course she can’t avoid the parasites and bacteria that are in the filthy water.

And then she secures the 40 pound jerry can to her back with her scarf and walks the 45 minutes back to her village.

A worthy home for my twenty dollars.

Except of course, it really it’s mine. I’m just the vehicle for its use.




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If not me, Who?

Wouldn’t it be great if someone….meetup

Fixed the health insurance problem?

Organized a group of fun and interesting people to talk with on a regular basis?

Dealt with the homelessness?

Homelessness and health insurance are beyond me….except for the griping of course. I can gripe with the best of them….But I have been thinking about how to effectively connect with all of you interesting and interested people I know are right around me. Sitting in the City Arts and Lectures talks the last couple evenings–France McDormand on Monday and Joel Coen on Tuesday–I kept thinking that everyone in this big hall is interested in the same things I am.

How do I meet them?  I can only say hello and smile at so many people. Person one won’t stop staring at her phone. Person two looks really friendly but is already engaged in conversation.

What about a Meet Up group for folks who are also interested?

Good idea? Would you come?  Andrew Solomon is speaking tonight.

Here I am. On record. Taking the first baby step.


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Joel Coen and Frances McDormand

coenAfter a charming evening with Frances McDormand and Elizabeth Strout I expected the following night at City Arts and Lectures with Joel Coen– half of the filmmaking Coen brothers– to be an equally charming Act II, sort of an extension of the same idea, love fest and characters.

Joel Coen–famous for Fargo, The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men and others–has , after all, collaborated with Frances McDormand on many projects–the first film for both was Blood Simple–and they have been married since 1984.


“We are still trying to figure out the different audiences for the two programs,” says executive producer at City Arts and Lectures, Holly Mulder-Wollan. “The Joel Coen audience seemed very much more film driven.”

His talk was also much more specific, about the use of music in film, how he and his brother approach music, from the very beginning when they were so poor they just wanted something that was good but cheap, to how they work with sound collaborators. “There is with us a blurring of lines between scoring, sound effects, and sound design.”  He played a clip in which they used sound effects as a scoring, to help move the action along. He also demonstrated how they sometimes use music in ways counter to other filmmakers, cheerful music, for example in a tense scene, to amp up the weird factor.

“Joel Coen isn’t actually comfortable with public speaking,” says Mulder-Wollan, “so he said he wanted to focus on music in film. “And we were happy how that went, that the audience went along, even all of the questions were related to music.”

Only problem watching all the  wonderful clips, was that you didn’t want them to stop, to just keep going with the audience that cared so much.

So back home I was able to satisfy that urge by cuddling up with the puppies and watching Fargo.

Got to experience both Frances McDormand and Joel Coen in one enormously satisfying–if slightly creepy–sitting.


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